Following is a story sent to us by M. Jack Martin from Texas. It’s a very entertaining read about Jack and his brother doing a road trip from Texas to the Carlsbad GP in 1975. What does Jack do? He’s an Attorney and the significance of that fact just adds more to the story…as you’ll see!
M. Jack Martin, III,
Austin, Texas USA
In June of 1975 I was fired from my job of six years. I had worked my way up from selling newspaper subscriptions door to door for the old Houston Post to running one of its soliciting crews all over the Bayou City. Unfortunately, while I had been a decent salesman, I was a terrible manager as I could not bring myself to recruit new kids for what I considered to be a pretty lousy job. While it had funded my motocross career, including a Carabela Caliente 125, a CZ 125 and finally a CZ 250, by the summer of ‘75 both my newspaper and motocross careers had sputtered to a halt. I had $300 in the bank, two months to go before the start of my freshman year at the University of Texas and no short terms prospects. What was a boy to do?
I figured $300 was enough cash to get me to Carlsbad, California, the motocross mecca of the U.S., for the USGP three weeks hence. My brother, Gary, a sophomore art student at Sam Houston State and something of a slacker, had no better prospects than I for the summer and was easily convinced to join the adventure. Gary, who had been nicknamed “Speed” by our stepfather for his inability to get out of bed in the morning, had introduced me to bikes when he had talked our mother in to buying us a full size Honda 50 in ’69. Speed had then sown the seeds of my life long love of motocross when he convinced our older brother, Craig, to take us to an Inter-Am race the following fall at the old Cyclesports Park near Conroe, Texas. I watched enthralled and unbelieving as Sylvain Geboers and his screaming Suzuki RN 370 chased down Arne Kring and his deep-throated 400 Husky in both motos The two Vice World Champions sailed their machines over our heads, within inches of overhanging limbs, and slammed off berms so hard you could feel the concussion behind the snow fence. I had never been more excited in my life.
Preparations for the trip were relatively simple. I wrangled a half ounce of pot from a buddy and bought a case of Lone Star long necks. Those beers would last us until we got to West Texas where we could pick up some Coors, a much prized brew in Houston, which lay outside the distribution range of the Colorado Kool-Aid. Back then, it was legal in Texas for an 18 year old to drink and drive, you just couldn’t be drunk and drive, which made perfectly good sense to us. I rounded up a few extra 8-tracks from my friends, packed a cooler with water, Gatorade and cold cuts and we were ready to roll across the country to my step-sister Barbara’s house in Mission Viejo, home of the Flyin’ Freckle.
Before hopping on I-10 West, we swung by Hurst Supply Yamaha, home of a little tow-headed kid named Kevin Schwantz, to pick up the latest Cycle News and, hopefully, some torn-cover freebie back issues. Schwantz had his own miniature motocross track in the lot next to the shop, cutting endless numbers of hot laps there on his YZ 80 or whatever customers’ bikes he could cajole from the mechanics. I can still see him bending that yellow screamer into the corners and can imagine him doing the same thing at full chatter on his RG 500 at Spa-Francorchamps or the Nurburgring on the 500cc GP road racing circuit fifteen years later.
The focus of the trip wasn’t the dope or the beer. We simply had those to while away the time, which could pass awfully slow at 55 miles per hour. More importantly, we had the music; the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Willie Nelson, … The extended jams of Duane Allman’s and Dickie Betts’ wailing guitars lifted us from the monotony of the straightline west, interrupted only by the occasional thunk of a mid-song channel change.
The trip out to California was fairly uneventful, but several events and images stick out in my mind. We picked up a hitchhiker just outside of San Antonio, thinking that we would be willing to help a guy get to Ozona or Fort Stockon. After we told him we were headed to California, he happily replied that that was great as he was heading for San Diego. Speed and I quickly decided that we didn’t feel like having his company all the way to the Golden State, so I fabricated a story that we would be laying over in El Paso for a day or two to visit some friends. In El Paso, we left him on the side of the road and sped on into the night.
In New Mexico, we splurged on a case of Coors tallboys in some newfangled cans. These were the first cans that I had ever seen without pull-tabs. In their place were sealed holes, one for drinking and one for venting, that were designed to be pushed in with the thumb. We hadn’t noticed the difference in the cans in the store and felt like a couple of neanderthals with 24 coconuts trying to figure out how to get the damn things open on our own. Our homo sapien reasoning finally led us to the proper way to open them, drink hole first and then the vent, but it wasn’t ever easy. (Maybe that was a good thing!) The effort was worth it though, as there couldn’t have been a finer drink in a non-air conditioned ‘74 Ford Econoline out in the middle of the desert. To this day, although my taste in beers has greatly changed, I still don’t think you can find a better lawnmower beer.
As we entered California, we crossed the Colorado River and the road began to undulate as we rose into the mountains. It was quite beautiful, particularly for a flatlander like me who had hardly been out of Texas and thought of the Hill Country around Austin as semi-spectacular. Soon after that, we skirted along the southern edge of the Sand Hills of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. Wow! We spent the next half hour fantasizing about blasting 450 Desert Masters up and over the endless mounds of sand.
Around 9 that night, we made our way into San Diego and I was in for quite a shock. Somehow, in our quest to find a hot meal, we had stumbled into the red-light district that must have emerged over the years to service all the sailors in America’s largest naval port. I could not believe my eyes as we drove past blocks and blocks of strip joints, massage parlors, tattoo shops and streetwalkers of every age, race, size and description. While my 18 year old brain was a bit titillated, I was even more spooked by the tawdriness of it all and was quite relieved when we found our way out.
We made our way up the Pacific coast, past La Jolla and Tricky Dick’s San Clemente, and finally on to Mission Viejo. Barbara’s neighborhood was straight out of Speilberg’s E.T. Everything was so new, close and clean. We bounced around the area for a few days, killing time before the race. We were amazed by several aspects of the beach. First, the water was damn cold! The water in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston was reaching the temperature of a tepid bath by that time of year, while the Pacific took our breaths away, just like Barton Springs in Austin. Second, not only were the waves significantly bigger than the ones in Texas, but they seemed to break right on the beach. I remember feeling like I had been tossed out of the ocean on my hands and knees.
We found our way out to the Escape Country outdoor recreation area one day, hoping we might see some factory stars practicing or at least some fast locals that we’d read about in Cycle News. We found no one at the track there, so we wandered over to watch some hang gliding lessons. Speed had been dreaming of taking up the sport, but prospective gliding areas were few and far between on the Gulf Coastal Plain. As it turned out, those dreams were shattered that afternoon anyway as we saw the harm that could befall the uninitiated. We watched awestruck as one hapless pilot came within five feet of a safe and soft landing, only to shoot 25′ straight up into the air, then stall and drop like a stone, the kite collapsing on top of him and driving him into the ground. The next pilot, afraid to stall like the poor guy before him, never pulled back and plowed face first straight into the ground. Off in the distance, we could see several hang gliders making graceful arcs above the hills, but the price of admission to that beautiful world now appeared to be a bit higher than Speed was willing to pay.
When we finally headed back south for the race, we were greeted by a rather mundane, but nevertheless incredible, sight as we approached Carlsbad; a standard issue, green highway signed that proclaimed “Motocross” in reflective letters. We had reached the Promised Land!
1975 was an incredible time in the history of motocross. In 1968, Suzuki had expanded its efforts in the Grand Prix fray with Olle Pettersson, a Swedish development rider, along with a horde of mechanics and engineers, and the pace of technological change had begun to accelerate geometrically. Initially, the focus was on weight reduction. Belgian Joel Robert dominated the 1970 250 World Championship on a Suzuki that weighed only 187 lb., 23 lbs. less than Husqvarna’s works bike. After Yamaha, Kawasaki and even Honda (who had not previously manufactured a two stroke engine) had joined the competition, the disparity had grown so great between the old line European marques and the Japanese upstarts that the Federation of International Motorcyclistes, the sport’s governing body, had instituted weight minimums for each class. The focus of technological development had then shifted to suspension systems in 1973, with Maico’s engineers responding to Yamaha’s radical monoshock with a shade tree mechanic’s solution that worked; forward mounted shocks. For the next few years, engineers sought to discover the optimum configuration for their rear suspensions (forward mounted, laid down and even rear forks were tried), while at the same time attempting to address the weaknesses of their increasingly overtaxed front forks. 1975 was primarily a year of refinement, with Roger DeCoster’s Suzuki representing the epitome of the engineer’s art.
I was excited about Brad Lackey’s prospects at Carlsbad. Lackey, from northern California, was in his second year on a factory Husky, the first American to be fully sponsored by one of the traditional motocross marques in Grand Prix competition. The bike was quite competitive, having carried Heikki Mikkola to the championship crown the previous year, and had taken Lackey to his first GP moto win, in Luxembourg, earlier that season. My hope was that we would be there to see Bad Brad be the first American to stand atop a podium in 500cc competition, by tradition and by its physical demands the foremost GP classification.
I was also excited about the Texas contingent. 6’5″ Steve Stackable had graduated to a full factory ride on a Maico, which had led the European’s technological resurgence, and was a strong contender in the 500cc National class. Speed and I had first seen Short Stack on a GYT-kitted Yamaha AT-1 leaving real motocross bikes like Pentons, Bultacos and Puchs in the Central Texas dust and were thrilled to be seeing him battle with our old world heroes on nearly equal terms. Just a half step below Stackable in our opinions was Kent Howerton. Howerton had just missed winning the 250cc national championship only weeks before, garnering wins in three rounds of the short five race series, but he was considered to be a small bore specialist with little experience on the premier class bikes. While Stackable would have a fine career, earning the 500cc Super Series of Motocross title (predecessor to the Supercross series) on his Maico in ‘75 and additional factory rides with Suzuki and Kawasaki, it would ultimately be far overshadowed by Howerton’s. The Rhinestone Cowboy would go on to win the 500cc National Championship on his Husky in 1976 and then ascend to the throne of American (and, arguably, World) motocross on his 250cc works Suzuki during the ‘80 and ‘81 seasons. His battles with Bob Hannah in ‘81 are legendary.
Sadly, the details of the race have largely faded from my memory. I know that the event was won by Gerrit Wolsink, a Dutch factory Suzuki rider who would come to own the race during his career, winning 5 of the 6 GP’s held at Carlsbad between ‘74 and ‘79. Nonetheless, I remember little of his ride that June afternoon. The only clear picture I have in my head is the incredible ride turned in by Rex Staten in the first moto on a hopelessly outdated privateer CZ. Rocket Rex took the point early on and fended off the advances of DeCoster and Lackey for the first half of the race. Unfortunately, a motor mount on his archaic steed would break, and the resultant vibration raised blisters on his hands the size of half dollars as he tried to hold on to his moment of glory. DeCoster would go on to win the first moto with Lackey close behind, but both would suffer their own mechanical failures in the second race. Stackable held a respectable, though unspectacular, position in or near the top ten. Howerton, on the other hand, gave a glimpse of things to come that day, shadowing Mikkola, his world champion teammate, in both motos. In the second race, he rose all the way to fourth before waving the Flying Finn past for a few extra points in his vain attempt to catch DeCoster for that year’s crown.
We left California a day or two after the competition. On our way out of the State, we chose to loop around San Diego and happened upon the San Diego Wild Animal Park. We stopped and found ourselves standing on a plateau overlooking an African veld, gazing out at grazing elephants and antelopes, who were in turn eyed hungrily by lions and cheetahs behind a discreetly hidden fence. It was a magnificent sight.
After we left the Park, we smoked a reefer as we drove through the redwoods of the Cleveland National Forest. The road wound lazily through the hills and we dreamed of someday returning on a Z1 and an R90S. The road reached IH 8 all too soon and we regrettably began the long, straight shot home to Texas.
Not long after hopping on to IH8, we crested a hill and suddenly found ourselves behind a ‘63 Chevy Impala, filled with white-clad migrant workers, that was billowing smoke and traveling at no more than 45 miles an hour. We were right on top of them in an instant, and I quickly checked my rearview mirror to see if it was clear to pass. What I saw sent a small shiver through me; a CHP patrol car directly behind us. I had two poor alternatives available; either slam on the brakes right in front of the trooper or swing out and make a quick pass, praying that the patrolman would understand the situation and that I was not intentionally speeding. I chose the latter alternative, made the pass as smoothly as possible and immediately moved back into the right lane and slowed to 55. I checked my mirror again and there he was, ten feet off my bumper with lights twirling and flashing. Damn!
“Speed, We’re being pulled over. Where’s the pot?”
“It’s stashed on the shelf.”
We had been keeping the dope in a tray under the dashboard on the shotgun side of the van. We had it in the box that a brake light switch for my van had come in, thinking it to be a pretty non-descript container that might not call attention to itself.
I pulled over on the shoulder and then watched the lone patrolman as he called in his stop. As he got out of his patrol car, he put on his hat, something between a West Texas cowboy’s and a Canadian Mountie’s, and I thought about my appearance. My then-blond hair was past my shoulders and I hoped it wouldn’t engender the reception it would have in Texas. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself before I had to speak.
“May I see your driver’s license, please?”
I handed over my license and then tried to peer through his aviator’s sunglasses to see if I could sense any disapproval in his eyes, while he read my vital statistics. After an interminable few minutes, he finally looked up.
“Mr. Martin, Do you know why I stopped you?”
“Well, Sir, I assume it’s because I may have been speeding a bit as I passed that car back there. I hadn’t seen it before and as we came over that rise we were suddenly right on top of it. I thought it was safer to go ahead and pass rather than slam on the brakes, even if it meant I might exceed the speed limit for a minute or two.”
“You do know the speed limit is 55 miles per hour here, don’t you? You were doing over 70.”
“Yes, Sir. It’s the same in Texas.”
“Speaking of Texas, just what are you fellas doing in California?”
“Well, Sir, my brother and I came out to visit my step-sister and to see a motorcycle race, the U.S. Motocross Grand Prix, in Carlsbad.” I hoped that maybe, just maybe, the cop would be a motocross fan and have pity on some fellow enthusiasts. No such luck.
He took a few steps forward and peered past me in to the van’s interior.
“Anyone else in there?”
“No, sir. Just me and my brother.”
“Alright, gentlemen, just give me a few minutes.” He then turned and headed back to his cruiser with my Driver’s License.
“Damn, Speed, may be we’re going to slide out of this. God, I hope so. I sure don’t need a ticket.”
We sat there silently as I watched him get back on his radio. I assumed he was having my records in Texas checked, which were clean. May be we were going to skate by.
After ten long minutes, the officer got out of his patrol car again and approached the van, but this time he spoke before reaching my door.
“Mr. Martin, Would please step out of your vehicle?”
As I stepped out of the van I heard a sentence that I will remember syllable by syllable for the rest of my life.
“Mr. Martin, I am placing you under arrest for the suspicion of possession of marijuana due to the odor emanating from your vehicle.”
He then read me my Miranda rights as he frisked me, but I didn’t hear or feel a thing. My head was spinning. Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, shit! All I could think of was that we were more than a hundred miles from the home of my step sister, Barbara, who I hardly knew, and 1,500 hundred miles from home. I had no idea what the penalties for possession were in California, but I knew in Texas they were harsh. How in the Hell was I going to get out of this?
“Please turn towards the van and put your hands behind your back.” He put cuffs on my wrists. “Mr. Martin, I am going to put you in my patrol car while I talk to your brother.”
He opened the door and let me ease my way awkwardly into the backseat, behind the cage that separated the driver from the rear seat passengers. I sat there in shock, wondering who I could call and what I should say. I guessed I would have to call Barbara, but that would have gotten my step-father involved and that was truly bad news. He didn’t talk to me much, but he gave my mother Hell for anything that I ever did to annoy him. I had felt like a stranger in his house for the eight years since their marriage, which had begun fittingly enough on a Friday, the 13th. I couldn’t wait to move to Austin in August, but that was feeling like an awfully long time away now.
I watched as Speed appeared from the right rear corner of the van, the officer close behind him. As the patrolman put his cuffs on, Speed straightened up to his full height, took a deep breath and stared straight ahead. I knew he was trying his best to hold on to his senses, to not let the situation overwhelm him.
The officer opened the other passenger door and Speed slowly slid his way into the right hand seat, rolling his head backward to keep his long brown hair from falling into his face. The trooper leaned down behind him.
“You boys just sit tight for a few minutes.” There wasn’t much problem with that.
“Jesus Christ, Speed. We’re in deep shit. What’d he say to you?”
“That we’re being arrested for possession of pot.”
“Did he find it.”
“Nah, I think he’s lookin’ now.”
“What are we gonna do if he finds it?”
“I don’t know, man. Let’s just sit tight and see what happens.” We really didn’t have another choice.
I leaned forward to get a better view through the van’s rear windows. I could see him in the shotgun seat, turned to his left towards the engine cowling. It seemed he had gone to the stow shelf straight away. Damn!
“Oh, man, we’re history,” I moaned and felt my heart fall to the bottom of my stomach, waves of nausea spreading out.
The trooper got out of the shotgun seat, looked under it and then slid the side door open. He got into the back of the van and we watched his head bob up and down in the back window as he went through our bags. He then methodically moved his way from the front of the van to the back, pulling up the foam padding that covered the floor, checking the head board, looking in every nook and cranny. About the time I expected him to start unscrewing the paneling, he got out, walked back to the patrol car and opened my door.
“Mr. Martin, please step out of the patrol car. I need to have a word with you.”
As I got out of the car and followed him to the back of the van, the waves of nausea reached North Shore proportions.
“Mr. Martin, there is no doubt in my mind that you and your brother have some marijuana in your van, but I didn’t find it. I did, however, find a cooler full of beer and, as I imagine you are aware by now, neither you nor your brother is old enough to possess an alcoholic beverage in the State of California. Therefore, I am going to offer you a deal. If you will give me the marijuana, I will let you and your brother get on back home to Texas. If you do not want to cooperate with me, I will place you under arrest for minor possession of alcohol, impound your vehicle and let the boys at the shop rip it apart until we find the pot. What do you say?”
“What?”, I stammered. “You’ll let us go?”
“That’s right, Mr. Martin. If you will provide me with the marijuana, you can hightail it straight on back to Texas. If not, it’s just a matter of time until we find it. It’s your choice.”
It seemed too good to be true. I wondered though if it was just a set up, just a way to make it easier on the cop to bust us. I stood there for a minute or two, my mind bouncing back and forth between the two alternatives, and realized finally that I had little choice, that I was just going to have to take him at his word. Nonetheless, I had to check again, had to look him in the eye as he promised me my future.
“Let me get this straight, officer. If I give you the pot, you will let us go. If I don’t, we are both going to jail, right?”
The bile was now at the top of my throat.
“Alright, sir. I’ll show you where it is.”
He stepped around me and unlocked the cuffs. I then walked past the open side door and could see our clothes and other belongings all scattered about, as if a burglar had been hurriedly looking for cash or jewelry. I opened the shotgun door, leaned over the seat and peered in to an astonishing sight; an empty shelf. I hurriedly looked under the seat, in front of the engine cowling, and then at the floor on the driver’s side. The box was nowhere to be seen!
I turned back to the officer, absolutely dumbfounded.
“Officer, We had some marijuana, about a quarter ounce. We had been keeping it on this shelf, but now I don’t see it anywhere.”
“Well, you had better find it.”
I checked the shelf again, checked under the seat, in the air vent, under the dash. I checked everywhere that I had ever thought about stashing dope, to no avail. I could feel our chance at freedom quickly slipping away. I felt like laughing at the absurdity of the situation, while at the same time I was ready to cry at the futility I felt. I turned back to the patrolman.
“Honest, officer, we had some dope. It was right here on this shelf. But now it’s gone and I don’t know where it is.”
“Did your brother know about it?”
No, I thought, I’ve been doing one hits out the window whenever Speed’s head was turned for the last week and a half, you idiot.
Well, maybe you had better ask him about it.”
Things continued to get weird. Somehow I had gotten into my head that the box we used was a Mopar box, which would have been for Chrysler products. Don’t ask me why. No one in my family had ever owned a Dodge or Chrysler product, nor have I to this day.
We returned to the patrol car and the officer opened Speed’s door.
“Gary, Where is the Mopar box?” I asked as steadily as I could.
“Where is the Mopar box?”
At that point, I think Speed felt like Dustin Hoffman with Sir Laurence Olivier‘s dental drill in his mouth in Marathon Man. ‘Is it safe?’
“What are you talking about?”
“The box!” I said, emphatically.
I could almost feel the officer’s frustration as he listened to this Abbott and Costello exchange.
The box with the dope in it!” I shouted.
It’s right on the shelf where we’ve been keeping it all along.”
No, it isn’t.”
The officer then stepped forward, taking control like a referee from the corner of a boxing ring.
“Gentlemen, Here is what we are going to do. Gary, You are going to search the van until you find the marijuana.” He turned to me. “While your brother is doing that, you are going to pour all of those beers out here on the side of the road.”
Speed helped me pull the nearly full cooler, now sporting mostly Olympias, out of the van. We then began our assigned tasks, with the patrolman taking a position standing at the side of the van and leaning over the shotgun seat, watching Speed’s progress.
After about ten minutes of futile searching, with a river of twenty beers on the gravel between my feet, Speed snapped from the strain.
“What kinda game are you playing with us, man?” He screamed at the officer. “We told you we had some dope. We’ve looked everywhere for it. Just what do you expect from us?”
“I expect you to find the pot, son. Just keep looking.”
Not more than a minute or two later, as I was leaning down to pick up two of the last three beers, I heard Speed exclaim, “I found it!”
The box had been in our trash sack. Apparently, the patrolman had picked up the box and shaken it. The baggy and the small pipe that we had been using were wedged into the box in such a way that they did not rattle when the box was shaken and they were so light as to make the box feel empty. The fastidious patrolman had then kindly tossed the box in with the trash.
Upon hearing Speed, I looked up and noticed that he had the patrolman’s full attention. I quickly picked up two of the remaining beers, leaving the last Coors tall boy behind. I then threw all of the empty cans and bottles into the cooler and made a grand show of pouring out the other two beers. As I tossed the empty bottles into the cooler and loaded it into the van, I watched Speed hand the baggie and pipe over to the patrolman. He accepted them with a grin on his face.
The patrolman then stepped away from the van and walked to the far edge of the shoulder.
“Come on over here, boys. I want you both to see something.”
It was then that I noticed just how beautiful the setting was. The sun was starting to settle in the West and there was a golden hue to the air, which was cool and crisp. The shoulder dropped away to the South into a meadow that rolled gently away to foothills and then mountains beyond. It was magnificent! And as I noticed this, the patrolman lifted his hands in front of him, the baggie held at the corners, and he swept it before him with a flourish, the pot cascading out towards the meadow.
“Looks like we might have us a nice little pot field here some day.” He said with a soft chuckle. He then extended his hand to me.
“Why don’t you throw this pipe so far out there that you won’t want to come back for it?”
There was little chance of that. It was a $2 pipe we had bought at a pharmacy before the trip. Hell, I wouldn’t have gone back if it were solid gold.
“Yes, Sir.” I grinned, took the pipe and threw it as far as I could.
The patrolman tipped his hat to Speed and me.
You boys have a nice, safe, quiet trip back to Texas, all right.”
We both stood there on the side of the road and watched as he pulled slowly around us. He proceeded to the bottom of the hill on the shoulder, waited for a break in the traffic and then hung a u-turn back towards us. He gave a quick blip of his siren, a wave and a little nod of his head as he roared past us, up and over the hill.
After we got into the van and got rolling again, we were silent for a few minutes. It seemed we both needed to catch our breaths and let the adrenaline subside in our blood streams. Then I reached back and pulled the cooler forward with my right hand, my left hand firmly on the steering wheel and my eyes on the road.
Speed, Catch the wheel for a second.”
I leaned back and to the right as Speed leaned forward and to the left, grasping the steering wheel in a dance we had done a hundred times. I dug down deep in to the cooler, through the empties and into the ice, and pulled out the last Coors. And as I pushed in those silly pop tops, we began to laugh, to roar. We passed that beer back and forth between us, laughing until the tears rolled down our cheeks, laughing for thirty minutes straight, laughing as I never had before nor as I ever have since.
As the California sun set behind us, our futures looked a helluva lot brighter than they had just thirty minutes before. We were on our way home.