Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

20th Annual Ralph Wayne's Vintage Backyard Nationals - Kansas City, Missouri

Written by  November 1, 2012

Each year a normally quiet Kansas City neighborhood is the setting for a unique motorcycle event that attracts enthusiasts from all around the metro area and far beyond. It’s a combination classic motorcycle show and block party known as Ralph Wayne’s Vintage Backyard Nationals. Twenty years ago, a few of Ralph Wayne Blackmore’s friends got together to show off their motorcycles.

At that time, nobody could have predicted that the little gathering would eventually grow into an event attracting thousands of motorcyclists who would park their rides on neighborhood streets that are temporarily cordoned off for motorcycle traffic only.

Instead of being displayed in an exhibition building, about 40 motorcycles are parked under a big tent provided every year by the Armfield Tent Rental Company, and another 30 or so are displayed beside the tent in Ralph’s large backyard. When the yard is full, the street next to the tent becomes an extended display area. There are no judges, no classes, and no trophies. In Ralph’s view, every bike is a winner.

The variety of scooters, motorcycles, and trikes is astounding. There are original, restored, and customized entries built in America, Europe, the Orient, and elsewhere. Some are one-of-a-kind vehicles built from scratch. There are trail bikes, street bikes, and racing bikes of all brands and ages. The competition machines this year included trials bikes, endures, flat track racers, a speedway bike, and Sam Dakin’s Sportster-powered Bonneville Salt Flats streamliner.

There are always many show-quality bikes that have been ridden in by enthusiasts attending the show. Part of the fun is to take a walking tour of the streets surrounding Ralph’s home to view the numerous cool rides parked there.

The weather for this year’s event was quite cool but, thankfully, dry. Editor Mike and I arrived early enough to park near to the display area, and his Detroit Bobber attracted its share of attention.

My 1990 Harley-Davidson Heritage was like a spring chicken compared to many of the bikes parked nearby. People stood in a long line to purchase souvenir merchandise. For most of the day the queue stretched all the way across the yard and at least a half block down the street. The word was out that the 20th anniversary event would be the final one, and that speculation contributed to the demand for souvenirs. Ralph and his core group of volunteers are not as young as they used to be, and most people don’t realize what a monumental task it is to put on an event of this scale. Sadly, there is a strong possibility that the rumor is true.

Thanks to generous sponsors and donations made by those attending the show, free food and beverages are provided each year. Volunteers served hot dogs along with beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad. Available beverages included beer, water, and soft drinks.

There was one very special element of this year’s gathering that wasn’t directly related to motorcycling. Ralph’s son Jason and his fiancé, Abby, were married at noon under an awning in a corner of the backyard, surrounded by relatives, friends, and numerous complete strangers. It was a very nice ceremony, and everyone wished them well.

Ralph, his volunteer staff, the sponsors, the neighbors, and the exhibitors are all deserving of a huge THANK YOU. The tradition of Ralph Wayne’s Vintage Backyard Nationals is unique and very special, and we would love to see it continue. Perhaps it will be carried on by others, maybe at a different location. We’re ok with that if that’s what it takes to keep it going, but it just wouldn’t be the same. We’ll just have to wait until October 2013 to find out for sure.

Article and photos by Stripe


Photojournalist/Account Representative - Kansas City, MO

Dave Baxter, a.k.a. Stripe joined our staff in December, 2003, as a photojournalist. If that road name sounds familiar, you may have seen his photos on the pages of such publications as American Iron, V Twin, VQ, In the Wind, and Easyriders. Stripe attends as many rallies, bike shows, and charity runs as he can and is a major contributor of photos and articles to our magazine. His first assignment was our January, 2004, cover photo, where he snapped the awesome photo of a 1958 Harley-Davidson Duo Glide. A rider since the age of 14, he loves to help and encourage new riders. Stripe enjoys meeting new people and looks forward to catching many of our readers in the viewfinder of his digital camera. Contact Stripe at stripe@cycleconnections.com