By Bob Barker email: rcbarker@woodland.net

I have a couple of stories about riding or racing in the desert you might find interesting.
The first happened when I was out riding for fun with friends. The area was called "Soggy, Dry Lake Bed" (if I remember correctly). It is near a small town called Adelanto, CA, in the Mojave Desert. The area consists of a large, very flat, dry lake bed, surrounded by hills, sandwashes and open desert.
On this particular day, we were just out riding fast and enjoying the fun of it, when another friend drove out to join us from the distant town in which we lived. He wanted to take my beautiful, factory white with red trim, -71 OSSA Stileto for a ride. Since he had been drinking pretty heavily and was somewhat intoxicated, I didn't think it was a good idea, but because he was a good friend, I consented.
He climbed on my OSSA, put on my helmet and took off, not "putting" like I suspected, but full throttle, high speed hauling across the open desert. There were times that his hands were all that were actually touching the motorcycle. His feet were flapping like flags waving in the wind. Finally he hit a series of "whoop-de-doos." The bike flipped over and he went flying over the bars, landing on his head (good thing for soft sand and good helmet!).
In those days, OSSA's used a molded fiberglass tank and seat, along with fiberglass fenders. My tank was split and premix was running everywhere. The front fender was ripped off forward of the forks and the very tail of the rear fender which was a part of the tank and seat assembly was ragged. Fortunately, my friend was sore, but not seriously injurred and in a short time the bike was more distinctive in appearance. The first thing I did was cut off the end of the back fended to remove the broken section. This gave it a slight "bob-tailed" look. Then I had the tank repaired and painted yellow with darker orange, artistic designs on the tank sides where the OSSA emblems had been. I added red Curnutt (I'm not sure about the spelling) shocks, specifically tuned to my weight and to desert conditions. I finished it off with a matching and much more pliable yellow plastic fender to finish it off. I wore light tan leathers with a yellow jersey with an OSSA emblem stitched on it. A red metalflake helmet with a football faceguard and goggles, protected my "noggin," face and eyes; Full Bore racing boots took care of my feet, ankles and lower shins, and motocross gloves and kidney belt finished off my equipment.

My OSSA and I looked sharp and were consistent "finishers," although I never was one of the real go-fasters. In a 40 to 80 mile race of 500 bikes, I would usually finish 120 to 180. I was happy if I beat my friends. Hee, hee.

I don't remember the location of the race where my next story happened. I do remember it was an 80 mile "hare and hound". Races were started by lining up all the riders in a straight line that was between 2 and 5 miles from the actual marked race course across the open desert. An old tire would be set on fire at the start of the course to mark it for the riders. When the flag dropped, you raced to the "smoke bomb" and to the marked course (lime marks on the ground), usually 2 fourty miles loops through sandwashes, up and down sand hills, zillions of rocks, huge, small, rounded, sharp and everything in between. This particular morning, all 500+ riders lined up and shut off our engines. The silence was deafening as we waited for the flag to drop and the butterflies in my stomach had turned into eagles. I was in the fortunate position of being able to see the flag clearly. As soon as it began to drop, I kicked the starter. Instantly, the motor roared to life and in the same motion I had dropped it into first gear and accelerating under full power. OSSA rated the Stiletto that year at 30 hp and claimed a dry weight of 209 pounds. It boogied pretty well. The open desert is far from smooth and I went crashing wildly through bushes, over rocks and various mounds of sand. Before I knew it, I was running full throttle in 5th gear and to my amazement, no one was in front of me.
For the only time in my life, I never rose above novice rank, I led the pack all the way to the smoke bomb. I had ridden so hard and so fast that I literally scared myself. I'd never been in front in a race before and never was again (My OSSA was famous among my friends for starting on the 2nd kick which leaves you in the dust). When I realized I was leading the race, my fear took over and I slowed down. The big boys quickly ate me for lunch. It was a very difficult race; lots of obstacles, hills you couldn't ride up because the sand was too deep to give you enough traction, miles of body beating hoop-de-doos, etc. I crashed hard a couple times and gave it up after one loop. My arms were so tired that I could no longer hold the bars in position to keep the bike in control, so a race that started out fantastically well ended in "the pits." But I will always remember the magical few minutes my OSSA beat all the other bikes to the smoke!

Bob Barker  email: rcbarker@woodland.net

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