Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Ralph Wayne's 13th Annual Vintage Backyard Nationals

Written by  October 31, 2005

What’s the best way to describe the Ralph Wayne’s Vintage Motorcycle Backyard Nationals? You might say it’s the Mother of block parties. For 13 years, Ralph Wayne’s neighbors in a section of Raytown, Missouri, don’t seem to mind that the streets around their homes are blocked off (legally by the city) for one Saturday out of the year. The only things allowed through are the people who live there and motorcycles. And riders of all ages and sitting atop all models, makes, and years of motorcycles, converge on Wayne’s neighborhood and home for free food, free drinks, and a chance to view some of the finest vintage motorcycles around. “I used to be able to greet each biker by name,” Wayne said as he walked through the crowd in his backyard. Now, he just shakes his head. “Sometimes, I’m just overwhelmed at the number of bikers who show up,” he adds.

He, and several of his friends and fellow organizers of the event, walk through the maze of motorcycles, and hand out ribbons for various categories, from oldest bike to oldest bike rider.

Jim Parr, from Blue Springs, Missouri, who turned 86 this past August, earned the Oldest Rider Award at the event on October 1, 2005, and he’s proud to receive it. This award is one of several Jim has received at other events. “The first one I got was when I was 70,” he said. “That one was at a Goldwing rally in Salem, Missouri. Then my second one was when I was 80 at a BMW rally in LaCygne, Kansas. I got one earlier this year at a BMW rally in Crane, Missouri, but it was just before I turned 86, and now this one.”

Parr, who now rides a 2000 Yamaha V-Star 650, has ridden several makes of motorcycles in his life. His first was the 1939 Henderson 4. “I’ve had several English bikes, and Harleys, and some Indians,” he said. “One of the best I had was a 1957 Ariel Square 4. That was back before they had things to cut down the vibration, but that bike was smooth – really smooth.” Taking a moment to count, Parr said he has owned seven Harley-Davidsons, six Indians, three Kawasakis, three BMWs, a Goldwing, a Suzuki, and a few Yamahas. “If you want a good, dependable bike, something you can count on, get a BMW,” he said. “I used to ride a Goldwing, but I quit doing that when I turned 73. It’s OK while you’re moving, but when I stopped, it kept falling over. That’s when I got a Vulcan, and then the V-Star.” The V-Star’s not a Goldwing, but it goes pretty good. I can ride with just about anybody. But anything with two wheels is a good bike, especially these days. They all are made pretty good.”

Parr said he became interested in motorcycles when he was 8 years old and traveling through Kansas City, Missouri. “There was a Harley-Davidson shop on Truman Road, and we would always drive by it,” he said. “I would never go to sleep until we went past it, because I always wanted to look at the bikes in the window. Then, when I was 19, I bought my first bike.” He graduated from Shawnee Mission High School, in Merriam, which is now Shawnee Mission North High School. He has been an auctioneer for 15 years, and also owned a trucking, moving and storage business for 35 years. He’s been married five times to three women (he married his first wife three times). “They’re all housekeepers,” Parr said. “When we get divorced, they keep the house.”

There are three things Parr wants all motorcycle riders to be aware of when they are out on the road:

Never – EVER – pass a car if you can see there’s any possible place where the driver could make a left turn.
Look as far ahead as you can.
Always be on your toes.

That’s pretty sound advice, and Parr knows what he’s talking about. These are just some of the things the 86-year-old motorcyclist has learned through experience during his 67 years of riding motorcycles.

Advice No. 1 was something he learned early on. He was 19, riding his first motorcycle, a Henderson 4, when he started to pass a car. “The woman turned into a driveway,” he said, then shaking his head, added, “I went over the hood of her car and ended up spraining my ankle. That’s how I learned that lesson.” “You always have to be on your toes and look ahead to where you’re going, looking much further than you have to do when you’re driving a car. On a motorcycle, you can’t relax as much as when you are driving a car.”

Parr rides 5,000 to 7,000 miles a year. “Any nice day is a good day for riding, no matter what time of the year,” he said. Spoken like a true biker.

Story and photos by Chuck Kurtz