As I was saying in part one, there was a time when motorcycles were as popular as ice cream in Trigg County Kentucky. Folks rode them on the roads, on trails and in competition. In 1970 a group of men formed an organization called the West Kentucky Trail Riders. This group was very active all the way up through 1996. The WK Trail Riders had a big effect on Trigg County. Not only did they host motorcycle races, they also brought in a lot of tourism dollars to Trigg County. The WK Trail Riders hosted several Enduro events. These were events where 95% of the ride was on trails. At one time the men had a trail cleared from Lake Barkley State Park to Linton and then on to Fort Campbell. One former member of the Trail Riders joked that the main requirement in order to be a member was that you had to own a chain saw and a machete. It is said that the motto of the group was “Just one more hollow.” As a matter of fact Jesse Thomas plans to have that saying engraved on his tombstone.
In 1974 the Trail Riders hosted a 125 mile National Enduro. There was riders that attended from all over the USA. During that weekend every room at Lake Barkley Lodge was rented and every cottage as well. On the Saturday night before the race the lodge dining room was full as many riders brought their families with them. One year there were over 400 riders in the event. The WK Trail Riders would go on to host three more National Enduros.
The WK Trial Riders also developed a motocross track at the Trigg County Recreation Complex. Many competitions and events were held at that site. As a matter of fact the group built a concession stand, put in lights and a watering system for the track. The complex motocross track also had a professional starting gate that the Trail Riders put in.
As I have said in the previous column and this one, motorcycles were in their heyday back during the time period of not only the 70’s but the 60’s as well. It is nearly impossible to portray the memories made by the men who formed the Western Kentucky Trial Riders. Mere words in a newspaper column do not do justice to all the things they did. About the only you can understand it is to take in a meal with them and listen to the recanting of their stories and notice the gleam in their eyes.
For example, when Jessie Thomas was 28 years of age and Dale Ezell was a mere 16 year old the two of them set off on quite an adventure. They rode their bikes all the way form Cadiz to Florida and back. On the way back Dale’s bike had a flat. They had to put a boot on his tire (terminology meaning a patch on his flat). They switched bikes and Jessie rode the one back with the bad tire and the young Dale rode Jessie’s bike.
Jese still fondly remembers the time Jerry Dale Tyler took on a stellar field of riders in a 5 mile Hare Scramble. The guys Jerry Dale were riding against all rode Yamahas and were winning all over the state every weekend. Ole Jerry Dale took a Kawasaki KX80 bike and beat them all.
There was also the time that Bobby Thomas, Deano Oliver and Danny Mitcheson drove to California to race their motorcycles. Then there was the near legendary motocross race where Tony Mitchell, Winston Perry and Donnie Rudolph came over the last jump at the complex and all three crashed together as they hit the ground. I am still fuzzy as to who was able to get up and push his bike over the finish line and win that race.
Different guys in the club specialized in different types of races. While Booby Thomas excelled in motocross and woods events, Dale Ezell was one of the best flat track racers around.
The West Kentucky Trail Riders legacy and the popularity of motorcycles continued for years. One such example of that was Mike Morris who hailed form here and went on to race motorcycles professionally for a while.
In closing the memories of the West Kentucky Trail Riders have become their treasures. Believe you me, they have a treasure chest full.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference Mike Wright is the former head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.