Tales from the Road

Part 1: Red River Rally
Memorial Weekend 1980

By: Clifford Meier
August 8th, 2007


The planning started as a weekend camping trip. We didn't have much of a plan other than it was to be 4 days of riding and camping, beyond that it didn't matter.

In the process of this lose knit plan we heard about a Motorcycle Rally. It was the first year for this rally and it looked interesting, so why not? Our plan of 4 days filled with riding and camping now included a Rally.

This would be my first Motorcycle Rally. In fact, it was the first for the four of us. We had no idea what to expect really, our riding was done in small groups and nothing organized like an Event.

The cast of characters or my riding partners pictured left to right. Me on an '80 Wing, cousin John on a  '75 Wing, Mike on a '77 Wing, and Ray otherwise known as Dad on a '79 Wing.

The 4 of us had done a lot of riding together in those days. John and I for many years had ridden the dirt and 4 wheeling on the family outings. Mike, my best friend through high school and roommate between his many wives and Dad. Dad starting riding an old army Harley in the late 40's and after a long hiatus from riding took it up again in later years. We knew each other well and it was a good group to ride with.

The year is 1980, the weekend is Memorial Day weekend and the Event is the first year of the Red River Rally held in Red River NM.

We left Denver mid morning on Friday. The sun was shining, the sky a perfect blue, around 85 degrees and a perfect day for riding. We were all ready to ride and have some fun.

The ride was uneventful until Hwy 17 going into Alamosa. Just like it shows on the map, you can't draw a straighter line. So boring you can set the cruise control, lean back and fall asleep. Then we get our wake up call. A strong cross wind that lays the bikes over like doing 30 over in a twisty. That'll wake you up quick.

As we come off the pass we see Red River a quaint little town with a few bikes here and there. After fuel, with some looking around and checking in we head to the campsite to stake our claim. Finding a nice little grassy area we pitch our tents and meander over to the camp fire.

This campfire was huge! They were stoking it with telephone poles. It had to be 35 feet across and you could roast a marshmallow a block away. It definitely took the chill off the evening. Before long we headed back to the tents and turned in.

Now this is where the fun begins. You do remember I said there was a chill on the evening? Well I lied, it was downright COLD, and that's what gives me a great story to tell. To this day, the four of us talk about that night, how cold it was and the joke we played on Dad. Like any good story this has not been embellished ... much.

We all had tents and down sleeping bags. My bag was rated down to zero and our first night of camping we froze. BIG TIME! Mike, John and I get up that first day before Dad and the discussion topic was what we wore and wondering what we have to do to stay warm tomorrow night. John and I wore long underwear and sometime during the night we added jeans and shirt. Mike starting with long underwear and during the night got fully clothed including his down parka. Simply put, clothes and all, we froze.

About this time Dad crawls out of his tent, fussing, moaning, groaning and just plain cranky. Fully clothed, he's stomping around camp like a constipated bear complaining about how cold he was.

Without a word spoken and just a glance, with a little smile we were all on the same page. Mike say's, "Ray, don't you have a down bag?" The reply was yes so Mike continues, “what did you wear?" Dear old Dad said every bit of clothes I could find. All in agreement and backing each other up we say, "That’s the problem, you had too many clothes on. Tonight sleep in your long underwear. You need the heat from your body to keep the bag warm."

Saturday we didn’t ride much. We cleaned our bikes, hung out around town, and checked out the parked bikes. Later we watched the custom bike show and bike games which were the typical bike games, weenie bite and slow bike race. Later that evening we ate at their group BBQ and headed back to camp.

I swear our second night in Red River was colder yet. John and I had long underwear, jeans, shirt and coats. Mike the same plus his rain suit and gloves. Yes gloves. Damn it was cold and dear old Dad, crawling out of his tent with long underwear only, making the constipated bear of yesterday seem tame, went off again. Each of us attested to how warm we were, toasty in fact. How could you be cold Ray? "It must be the long underwear" we told him. Yep, that's it, tonight, sleep in your shorts. No way will you be cold then.

After a great day of riding Sunday up to Taos, Angel Fire and back we head to camp. We must make sure Dad understands the concept, so we tell him again. No additional clothes, just shorts and you'll be warm. Off to the tents we go.

The next morning we emerge from the tents. As usual, the three of us are up first. Each of us froze and not only did we wear everything we packed, extra shirts and pants, we used bike covers and anything else we could find to cover up with.

As we are moving around the camp and starting our morning fire we see a pair of tennis shoes on the table. An interesting thing about these shoes is that they are sitting in a small pool of water, ice now and frozen to the table. With nothing better to do we chip the ice to free the shoes.

The laughter and noise woke the bear. Out of the tent comes Dad and our first question, how did you sleep? "I DIDN'T," he swears. "It was too cold to sleep; I spent the night in the shower." You see, he was so cold he walked to the shower house and turned on every hot water faucet in there. Each shower, each sink, nothing but the hot, full open, flooding the place with hot water. Finally, he found some heat!

I don't recall this part, but John swears Ray grabbed the frozen tennis shoes out of Mike's hands and threw them at the nearby tree. A solid hit so he says and the tree, a poor little sapling about 5' tall fell over.

After breaking camp, loading up the bikes, the four of us wearing coats, rain suits and anything else we could find, put a leg over the bike and headed for home. It was about three hours later when we stopped for lunch that we were able to warm up enough to take a few clothes off.

To this day, 27 years later, Mike, John and I still talk about this ride and the joke that made the old man cranky. Ray on the other hand doesn't say much, he just glares at the kids.

Aside from the fun of our little joke, what makes this ride so special for me was that it was my first long ride with Dad. A great weekend of riding shared with Dad and friends.

Unfortunately it was also our last long ride together. John found a career, wife and child, never to be heard from again except at family gatherings to reminisce about the good rides we once had. Dad and I had a few short rides but he has since given it up. Mike and I took a few more trips, one spectacular trip to Canada in 1984 but he has found another wife and moved to Fairplay.

Great friends as they sometimes do, found a different path.

Until we ride again,

The complete photo gallery of the Red River Ride can be found in the photo gallery under The Oldies Gallery Index.