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Old 12-09-2003, 09:16 PM   #1
Same Dog, New Tricks
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A Visit With A Flat Track Champ from the '60s

This past weekend I spent a few hours visiting with a motorcycle flat track racer who had great success in the decade of the '60s. The stories he told kept me on the edge of my seat. I'm going to start this post with an article about he and his family that was originally printed in Cycle magazine in July 1967. This is a four part story so keep checking back for updates.

"A line of pick-up trucks, trailers and vans waited in silence under the grey Carolina skies. Up front, where a gate barred the way onto the racetrack and across to the pit area, riders stood in sullen groups of twos and threes. They stared quietly at the immaculately prepared clay surface of the oval, watched it absorb the rain which had by then slowed to a steady drizzle. "Twenty minutes of sun would burn her off just right," said one of the riders. "Almost like pavement," said another, "Only more bite." The others said nothing, having already resigned themselves to ride or return home, at nature's whim.

Then with a great clatter, a brand new baby-blue Ford pick-up truck rolled up to the front of the line. It was loaded with three race bikes and pulled a trailer carrying three more. Jim Hayes, Junior, chewing on a cigar, sat behind the wheel, beside brothers Tom and Ken. The arrival of the Hayes immediately cast a new mood over the assembled riders. Jimmy climbed from the truck, shook a few hands, made a few jokes, and looked over the race course with the appraising eye of a man who Knows. Could it be that the Hayes Boys from over the mountain had brought some Tennessee sun with them?

Jimmy beckoned us over. "It's four tenths of a mile," he said. "We do it in under twenty seconds. That's near eighty miles an hour." We looked wonderingly at the tiny oval, the same Hickory, North Carolina, course over which they push two-ton Detroit Iron at similar and even higher speeds. The hard, red clay is heavily banked in the turns, although the bikes---once they're strung out---hold mainly to the "groove"down by the rail.

The track lies in the foothills of the Southern Appalachins--country known as well for its moonshining and whiskey running as for the incredibly courageous drivers spawned there. Plank-fenced tracks like the one here are sprinkled all over the south, many of them paved but more than a few still dirt. Stock car racing in the region has already risen to national prominence. What we were to find out is that a kindred sport, big bore motorcycle flat-tracking is now also undergoing a strong resurgence. This is a country that worships speed, a country where the Hayes boys tread comfortably, where they have already begun to create a legend to rival those of the great NASCAR drivers.

The drive over the mountains is about sixty miles, depending on how you choose it. There seem to be a great many choices, and the Hayes boys know them all. The roads are narrow, twisting, sometimes well and sometimes badly paved, with piles of sand or ashes laying beside the steeper grades. We were inching a rented Hertz Camaro around the switchbacks when Junior Hayes offered a recollection. "One time we were rained out at Hickory and Kenny had just built himself a new race bike. Well, he wasn't very happy and when we got up in the mountains, the sun began to shine. Kenny, he just pulled over and unloaded the bike, number plates and all. He said he thought he would break her in. That's what he did, ninety miles an hour all the way to Johnson City--without brakes! The state police, they just watched him go by.

Johnson City, tucked way up in the northeast corner of Tennessee, serves as the geographical hub for the Hayes family. Jim Hayes, Senior, is a regional distributor for the Berliner Motor Corp., handling Norton, Matchless, Ducati, and Moto Guzzi over a five-state area. Second eldest son Kenny runs the Johnson City retail shop, which also sells BSA and Honda. In nearby Kingsport, twenty miles up route 23, Junior has his own shop, handling the same bikes and bearing the same name "Jim's Motorcycles." These two brothers, Junior and Kenny, are the ones who have branded the Hayes name so thoroughly on southern flat-tracking. The youngest of the Hayes boys, sixteen-year-old Tom, is still in school, impatiently awaiting his turn to be appointed a place in the family's flourishing operations.

Jim Senior set himself up in the motorcycle business over thirty years ago, but he's no old timer in the traditional sense. He's a shrewd flint hard business-man with a disarmingly amiable manner and sense of law that would inspire awe in the best Philadelphia lawyer. Daddy Hayes' history with the motorcycle industry has not been a peaceful one, and most of those who tangled with him wish they hadn't. As Daddy says, "I don't look for trouble. I just don't want anybody telling me how to run my businness."

Back in the '30's he began as an Indian dealer. "I think I had practically the only motorcycle shop in the South," he says. "Today there must be a dozen dealers right in this corner of Tennessee. Back then there just wasn't anybody." During the early '40s when Daddy went to war, his wife kept the business going. "People keep telling you how the motorcycle business has its ups and downs,' he says. "For me, it's always been up. I never had a year I didn't sell more motorcycles than the year before."

Daddy stayed with Indian until the firm went out of business, then switched to Harley Davidson. "After awhile they got telling me I should go exclusive," he says, so he chucked his franchise. For many years afterward he continued with BSA, adding Triumph, Norton, Ducati and Honda as they became available. For several years after the war he also sold Volkswagen--until they recommended he drop his "sideline" of motorcycles. then the Triumph Corp. of Baltimore began to lean on him in 1962 for not "pushing Triumph." Daddy Hayes continued to "run his own business" and soon a new Triumph dealer appeared in his territory. The dispute that followed flamed high, eventually landing in the courts. Triumph Corp. should have know better. Daddy Hayes walked away with a very handsome cash settlement.

Meanwhile, Junior and Kenny, born before the war, had grown up and were looking for men's work. Daddy turned the retail business over to them, and helped Junior get started in Kingsport. For himself, he took on the Berliner distributorship, building up a dealer network in the states of Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. His dealers now number somewhere between eighty and hundred.

Stay tuned for part II, tonight.

DirtDOG screwed with this post 12-10-2003 at 02:44 PM
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Old 12-10-2003, 04:54 AM   #2
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Re: A Visit With A Flat Track Champ from the '60s Part 1

Said DirtDOG:

Stay tuned for part II, tonight.
Lookin' forward to it, FilthyPup. Nice job.
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Old 12-10-2003, 08:12 AM   #3
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Old 12-10-2003, 11:01 AM   #4
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Great stuff, keep it coming. Johnson City, Tennessee, wasn't there a little KKK fun there last week?
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Old 12-10-2003, 02:31 PM   #5
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Part II--All text and photos from July '67 Cycle magazine

Jim Hayes, Senior

Daddy Hayes has emerged from this background with the means and sometimes the bearing of a fuedal landlord. he does, in fact, own a nice piece of commercial property, including warehouses, several stores, Kenny's shop, his own headquarters, and a post office. Nobody runs his business for him, and virtually all the motorcycling in the South shows some marks of his influence. Like so many mountain-region Southerners, Daddy remains tough, fiercely independent, and bound by a strong code of personal honor. He was even reluctant to go with us to a North Carolina race to be photographed--because it was "out of his territory."

Today Daddy Hayes manages his business from a desk and has a pretty secretary to help with the paperwork. He shrugs at Kenny's cluttered shop and, indicating his own set-up, says "That's the way to do business." but this didn't fool us. Daddy Hayes comes to work in Sears-Roebuck work clothes like his sons. When we first shook his hand he was holding a wrench in the other. Before we left he had done some fiddling with at least a half dozen machines about the place.

Jim Junior

Jim Junior resembles his old man in some ways: just as stubborn, just as fond of a good fight. But Junior is more gregarious and more aggressive socially. Folksy, proud, irreverent, he makes friends easily, tells a lively tale, finds ways to startle people out of their defenses. The same might be said of his performance on the track. It's not that he doesn't like the other riders, it's just that he prefers to win. And win he does, with a regularity that has been earning him regional #1 plates off and on for almost ten years. His only serious rival has been brother Kenny, who is now sidelined with injuries suffered at Daytona. Jimmy rides with zeal and enthusiasm and thrives on the excitement of competition.

It all began in the late '50s when Junior was about 24. In those days, organized racing of any kind had fallen off almost to zero in the South. Riders could make it to the big extravaganza at Daytona in March, but the 250 rule had just about killed flat-tracking in an area where people were getting turned on by 400 horsepower stock cars. Then Bill France's USMC began to run a few events in The Carolinas. Junior took part in the action, would up winning the Number One heavyweight tag in 1960 and 1961. His mount was a 650 Norton Manxman.

When the USMC began to crumble internally in 1961, an independent promoter from Charlotte, NC, John Moose, sponsored a few events. A promoter of car races, he had connections with many track owners who were often leery of the motorcycle crowd. Moose ran ten races that season, with a minimum purse of $300.00 and paid-up accident insurance for the riders. Junior Hayes and brother Ken cleaned up nicely, clearly establishing themselves as the leading riders.

Brother Kenny had begun racing several years after Junior, but pretty soon the Hayes boys were battling to tooth-and-nail victories in both the 250 and 750 classes. The riders as a group began calling themselves "The Tennessee-Carolina Riders' Association." They established rules, insisted on guaranteed purses and rider insurance, and ran upwards to fifteen events per season. The battling brothers, Junior and Kenny, became a big drawing card. Race crowds at smaller events numbered anywhere from 1500 to 4000 but at large towns or state fairs could rise as high as 8000 to 13,000 or more.

Although each of the Hayes brothers rides to win, they are not above cooperating with one another when there's something to gain. Both of them, for example, work on their competitors to ride in both the light and heavyweight classes. Even when they succeed, this persuasion doesn't often last. As Kenny says, "After the lightweight main you've got exactly four minutes to get on the track with your big bike. That can mean sixty laps of flat-out racing in an afternoon. Not to many riders here are up to it."

Another ploy is to plot out a race strategy together. Once Junior said to Kenny, "If Ray Durham (a top heavyweight rider) gets out front, we've got to lay right on his back wheel. Let's worry him from each side until he makes a mistake." Well, Durham got ahead into the groove and the Hayes Boys worried him. "He didn't make a mistake for eighteen laps," says Junior. "We kept pulling up beside him on each side. Then once he turned around to see where we were. His bike went wide of the groove and I went inside."

The Hayes Boys can also play tricks on each other. Once Kenny had fixed up a 750 Norton that just couldn't be beat. He blew off everybody in the heats. Junior was way ahead in points. "Listen," said Kenny, "you can use the points more than me. Take my bike in the main. You know you'll never beat her." Junior declined, sticking to his BSA. But just before the race he changed his mind, borrowed Kenny's super bike. "He must have been leading us by three quarters of a lap when the engine gave up," says Kenny sadly.

Junior admits that racing, now that Kenny has been sidelined, is "no longer as fun as it used to be." Still he intends to keep those #1 plates. During the week, he operates their shop in Kingsport with his wife. Business is booming and the shop is litterally bursting with machines. While looking over a great mass of bikes fenced in outside the shop, we noticed a house up the hill behind their store. "Maybe you could rent their porch," we suggested to Junior. "Take a look," said Junior. We did, and found that not only the porch, but the whole house was full of motorcycles. Junior owns the building, but is hoping for a zoning easement that will permit him to add more space down at the store.

Back at home, near Johnson City, Junior keeps bees by the thousand, some times goes hunting or fishing, but mostly spends his free time in a cellar workshop, fitting up his race bikes for the grueling 27 race season. "Ken told me I'd just have to get out of the store or the customers would be at me all the time."

Although he enjoys a good blowup once in awhile, he likes it to end peacefully. Just recently, for example, Mike Berliner gave him one of the Ducati desmodronic heads that had been outlawed at Daytona this year. Junior was going to fit it to his 250 flat-tracker immediatley. But then Mike Berliner had second thoughts and asked for it back. "Junior," he said, It wouldn't be fair unless we let all the boys have them at once." Junior flew into a great flap and refused to yield. A week later he had "cooled down," as he says, and returned the desmo head to the Berliners. Junior has had similar flare-ups with race officials, promoters, fellow riders, and many others. In fact, when he's feeling convivial, he regards blowing off steam as useful and mostly harmless form of human expression. Though probably true, his oponents may not appreciate this under the heat of fire. Quote

Part three tomorrow!!!

DirtDOG screwed with this post 12-10-2003 at 02:40 PM
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Old 12-11-2003, 06:45 PM   #6
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Part III

Text and photos from July '67 Cycle Magazine

Kenny Hayes

Ken Hayes is outwardly and inwardly a quite different breed of cat than his older brother. His manner is quiet and more withdrawn. Of the two, he tends to be more reflective, more sensitive to human needs. He also has a creative streak that leads him to improvize changes on whatever bike he happens to be working. Several of his designs, such as an internal rear chain shoe and kick-starter kit, have been adopted as production modifications on factory Ducatis. Because Kenny is physically larger and more reserved, he is often mistaken for the older of the two brothers.

Kenny's racing history is not as consistent as Junior's, but it is flashier and in many ways more spectacular. In 1963, the last year that the AMA's annual spring debut was held on the beach course at Daytona. Kenny set the fastest qualifying lap in the Novice class race. He fell behind in the main itself after leading for over 30 laps when he lost second and third gear.

Later he heard that winner Ed Moran was boasting he had been in complete control of the race. Kenny opined that this was a matter that "ought to be set straight." He talked Jim Senior, into letting him race Laconia that year, even though it was a long trip and meant more than a week away from the shop. At Laconia, Kenny proved his point. Riding his 500cc Norton, Kenny won the race overwhelmingly, setting a new record time, posting an average speed faster than the winner of the Amateur race, and comfortably leading second-place, Ed Moran.

Kenny later won at Marlboro, making it two out of three. The following year, he clinched his record by winning the 100 mile Amateur race at Daytona.

For the most part, Ken has stayed out of National AMA racing, preferring for practical reasons to ride in the regional events of the Tennessee-Carolina Rider's Association. After his brilliant start in the early '60s, he has , in the last few years, been plagued with injuries. He broke his collarbone early in the 1965 season. By the time he was ready to race again, his brother had built a 250 point lead in the points race. Riding furiously for the rest of the season, Kenny was able to narrow, but not eliminate the gap in the points race. He did however, cop the 250 class crown. Last year's season was virtually a repeat, with Ken suffering an injury in a mass pile-up at the Hickory track early in the season. By season's end he had won second in both classes, but lost his number 1 tag.

This year will not be the same, for Ken's broken leg, suffered under freak circumstances at the Daytona night short-track races, will be slow in mending. The leg has been broken before and Kenny may have to give up racing altogether. Ironically, he would not have been racing the short-track events at Daytona had the Berliner Ducati road racers not been disqualified. The Hayes Boys have stepped on more than a few toes among the AMA's controlling manufacturers, and slightly-embittered Kenny is convinced that personalities had more to do with the disqualfication than rules.

So for awhile Kenny Hayes must content himself with running his large Johnson City dealership. With his wife and son he lives outside of town in a newly built house. He recently bought seventy acres of undeveloped, mountainous woodland across the valley from his home. He is scarred and already grey at 29, and in moments of bitterness his face has the ravaged look of one who has tried too hard too long. But he is in fact still strong and resourceful. As body heals, his mind will choose among the possibilities for the future. Whatever choice he makes, it is unlikely he'll do anything but add to the Hayes legend that he has been so much a part of creating.

Tom Hayes

Youngest of the Hayes Boys is Tom, who, true to family tradition, has begun to itch for competition. Already he pesters his father to let him have a dirt bike. But Daddy wants him to finish school and is still holding out. Ken's recent injury adds some power to Daddy's arguments, but it's hard to keep an impatient 16 year-old down. Tom goes with his brothers to the races whenever possilble, and he's traveled throughout most of the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. In the company of his father and brothers, Tom is quiet, but not meek, and at the track he obviously enjoys the distinction of being the brother of champions.
Recently there was a family explosion when Daddy and Mrs. Hayes Senior learned that Junior had let Tom take his bike around atrack for a few warm-up laps.

Over the past winter, the riders who formerly called themselves the Tennessee-Carolina Riders' Association and before that John Moose Promotions, reorganized as the Racing Association for Motorcycles. They adopted a set of rules and elected as their president, Joel McRae, chief road man for Florida Cycle Supply of Jacksonville, Florida.. The Rams as they call themselves will hold over twenty events this season, possibly up to thirty. Almost all will be flat-track events, although there will be some TT-type races. They have also been approached by promoters to hold road races, and may decide to swing that way as well. Track owners and promoters are more and more receptive to motorcycle events as the attendance at stock car races has been declining and the crowds growing more unruly. The gate for a motorcycle event might be considerably smaller, but the owner's risk is less and the expenses for security, crowd control, quaranteed purse, etc., are far lower.

The relationship between the Rams and the AMA has by-and-large been a peaceful one. The only significant difference between the types of events sanctioned by the two organizations has been the AMA's engine capacity limitation on short tracks, the sidevalve rule, and the size of guaranteed purses. Ram insurance protection for riders is better than the AMA's. Of course, the main reason for the peace has been that there is no conflict over territory. The AMA has consistently failed to sustain a class C racing program in the Southeastern states. When an occasional AMA National point event is held in the area, the Rams are careful not to schedule a conflicting race, and Ram riders have been allowed to join the AMA and ride.

Ram policy makers have also been careful to encourage good relations with the AMA clubs in the South, and , as far as possible, to avoid conflict with their activities.

There has not yet been enough money in Ram purses to support even the best riders as full-time professionals. To bring out the crowd and help promote their events, the Rams have tried to attract top national racers. A few of their own riders have been given "rides" by such manufactures as Norton, Ducati, BSA and Triumph. Top notch visitors don't always win, but once in late 1965 Georgie Roeder showed up for a State Fair race with a fat purse, and got away with first place prize money in both the 250 and 750 classes. Says Kenny, "Old Georgie can really ride. Junior and I were right behind him, but couldn't get by."

The Hayes boys have also tried to persuade Gary Nixon, who lives in nearby Baltimore, to race with them. But Gary, possibly under pressure from his sponsors, the Triumph Corp., has yet to come through. Until he teaches them otherwise, the Hayes Boys conclude that Gary is afraid of getting "blown off" by the Appalachian big guns.

It must have been almost noon on that rainy morning at Hickory when Joel McRae came out and called the riders together. "Boys," he said, "We've checked the weather at Charlotte and Greensboro and even up in Virginia. It's raining on all sides of us and we can't risk this track after what happened last year. The owner's given us a rain date of May 7 and it'll be a point event." Junior Hayes let our a howl. "I've been paid $200 to show up at Cleveland on May 7!" But even Hayes Boys can't change the weather, and so, after some more talk, the riders returned to their homes, often as far as 400 miles or more away.

The crowds that didn't come that day came a week later in Gastonia, where Junior put on his usual magnificent show, winning both the 250 and 500 feature events. Of the spectators, about half arrive by motorcycle, and almost all were under 30. For many of these young rural Southerners, the motorcycle represents freedom and mobility. And in their own way, each can identify with the power, skill and daring of riders like the Hayes Boys, each can participate in the awful violence of those howling 750s on a 3/8 mile track.

The parking area was living proof of the persuasiveness of victory, a fact that Daddy Hayes may find difficult to accept. There in that lot was a substantial proportion of Nortons, Ducatis, BSAs, and Hondas.

Our three days of driving around this mountain region offered further confirmation that the Hayes Boys either directly, or through Daddy Hayes' dealers, have enormous influence on the motorcycle market.

The Hayes Boys command a unique niche in American motorcycling. Their fame (and infamy) does not reach the public beyond the Southeastern States, where it will remain secure. To the industry, this mountain family is known and has been known nationally for many years. Proud, independent, difficult, and talented, they may not have the love, but they certainly have the respect of the trade--and that, for the Hayes Boys, is enough.

One of the many Southern 500 wins:

Kenny riding a TT with prof. Gary Bailey eating his dust.

Motorcycle personalities meet at the Berliner Motor Corp. Display at Daytona International Motorcycle Show. (left to right) Ted Auerbach, Jim Hayes, Jr., Martin Berliner, Jim Hayes, Sr., Floyd Clymer, Joesph Berliner and Michael Berliner. Kneeling in front of Floyd Clymer is Walter von Schonfeld of Riedl & Freede Advertising Agency who handle Norton, Ducati, Matchless and Moto Guzzi Advertising and Public Relations.

And so ends this part of the story of the Hayes Boys

Part IV will bring you up to date with Kenny Hayes.
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Old 12-11-2003, 07:38 PM   #7
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Part IV

Kenny Hayes as I was introduced to him last weekend.

Ken was paralyzed in a vintage motocross race some time ago and is now confined to a wheel chair.

He is more than willing to chat with ya about the days of his racing career. He proceded to take us to his personal wharehouse where he keeps all his old race bikes and assorted others he decided to "put up" for the museum that he hopes to build at some point in the future. Here are a few of many, many bikes in his possesion.

I only spent part of an afternoon with Kenny Hayes but what an afternoon it was. I'll never forget the day and certainly won't forget Kenny. I just wish I could have watched him race, just one time. My thanks to my good friend Jim Wagoner for introducing me to Kenny, I owe ya one!!!
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Old 12-11-2003, 08:56 PM   #8
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Very cool
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Old 12-12-2003, 09:14 AM   #9
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Great stuff DD!

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If I want an argument about Fenians, I'll pick it with Icy thanks fucko.
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Old 12-12-2003, 10:11 AM   #10
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Very Nice

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Old 12-12-2003, 11:50 AM   #11
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Wow that guy loves his bikes, what a collection!
Martin Ebdon, England,
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Old 01-18-2004, 09:28 AM   #12
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Thumb More than a champion

What a wonderful post. I had the enormous privilege of being part of the “Hayes Gang” during the last of the 60’s and the first of the 70’s and look upon that period as the very best time of my life. My career took me away from Johnson City in 1972, and never again did I find what we all had then. Jim Jr. And Ken Hayes were 2 of the most amazing people I ever had the good fortune of knowing. Tommy Hayes was a good friend and was working hard to carry on the Hayes family spirit and competitiveness. He had big shoes to fill, and from all I’ve heard he has filled them well. Jim Senior was an icon to us all. His word was law, and his magical ability to help us get every iota of power and handling from our machines legendary. I was there the day the picture of Professor Gary Bailey chasing Ken was taken. It was a great day for the “Hayes Gang”. Professor Bailey had given a class in riding Moto-Cross at the Hickory Hill track, and when Sunday came he participated in the days races to demonstrate his skills. And he possessed enormous skills. He had a hard day though, spending a goodly portion of it chasing or fighting off various members of the “Hayes Gang”. No challenge was more intense than the 250 class, where he won the first moto, with Ken running second, and running second himself in the next 2 motos behind Ken. Many tales have come from that day, and they don’t always agree, of course, but my memory tells me that after the race, when we were all in the payoff tent, Mr. Bailey asked who it was that beat him so handily in the 250 class, his premier class. Ken was standing on the other side of the tent with his helmet off, with his full head of gray hair shining. Someone pointed him out and said it was that fine old gray-headed southern gentleman. We all had a good laugh. To be fair, I do believe Mr. Bailey participated in 3 or 4 different classes that day, but we didn’t let that fact hamper our fun. Over the ensuing years Mr. Bailey and Ken crossed paths many times, and I think they became pretty good friends. Ken was and is my greatest hero. Even though now confined to a wheelchair from a racing injury, during a recent visit, I detected not one iota of bitterness or regret. He is still the same warm, friendly, outgoing, and hell yes, competitive, person I knew all those years ago. We all tell stories about our life experiences, the older we get the more we have to tell, but all of my best ones are from that short 3 year period of my life when I was allowed to be part of “the Hayes Gang”. Dog, John-John, the Bodine, Ken, Jim Jr and Sr, Tommy, Harmon, Bill Adams and others old age won’t let me recall on cue. What a time we had, what friends we were, and how I wish we could all be together again as we were. Some are gone, some are old, but we all know, we once were bold.
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Old 01-18-2004, 07:29 PM   #13
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Talking great photo section

Memory lane fantastico

Thanks for your efforts on putting this post together.

Mike Torst
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Old 01-18-2004, 08:26 PM   #14
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Re: More than a champion

Said h1stdoc:
What a wonderful post.
Thanks for checking in. How'd you know to look for this? Just wondering how news travels.
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Old 01-19-2004, 05:18 PM   #15
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What an impressive collection of bikes!

It really brought back some memories, and of course a bunch of the bikes are older than I am.

I'll get back and read the first parts when I have some time--

04 KTM 950 S
93 KTM 550
93 XT225 Adventure Serow!
00 Weber Rally Twin (
Gas Gas 270
2 Waterbuffalo's (Sold!)
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