Ramblers celebrate 50 years of good rides

By Hope Belli

The Californian

July 26, 1984

For fifty years, the Salinas Ramblers motorcycle club has been riding and raising money for charity, performing community service and generally having a good time. 

This weekend, the club will celebrate its golden anniversary of good rides and good times with a road rider event at Laguna Seca Raceway and Recreation Area.  The event will include bike judging, field events and games, scenic tours, motocross open events, and a display of antique motorcycles dating from 1912.

The Club was founded by Larry Ketzel in 1934.  He was the driving force behind the club's formation and has remained active ever since.  As owner of the Harley Davidson shop on north main Street, Ketzel said he did not think that he should be a club officer, but he did want to promote motorcycle riding.  "You can't tell them, You go," Ketzel said.  "You have to say 'Let's go." 

Picture from the Club's Labor Day ride and campout at Arroyo Seca in 1940.   Larry Ketzel standing fifth from right.  Other Ramblers in the picture are Ike & Fritzy Randolph - fifth and sixth from the left and Al & Leona Blakeman next to Larry on the right.  Looks like typical summer day at Arroyo Seca - hot! (Photo courtesy of Ted Ponton, IDs of other Ramblers provided by John Randolph)

The club started with six members, and the membership grew rapidly until World War II broke out.  The charter remained active, Ketzel said, but activities declined because much of the membership was drafted or enlisted.  He said that one charter member died in the Bataan Death March.  When the war was over, the club grew to its present maximum of 60 dues-paying members.  "We could be much larger but we don't want to be," said Ketzel.  Club members range from 30 to 70 (years of age) and make their living at a variety of occupations.  Their common link is a love of motorcycle riding.

Group of Salinas Ramblers in 1946 in downtown Salinas.  List of Names (Courtesy of Ted Ponton) 


Salinas Ramblers circa 1948 in front of Larry Ketzel's Harley-Davidson shop.  List of names. (Courtesy of Ted Ponton) 

There are more than 1,000 clubs chartered by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), and more than 130,000 members in the United States, but the 60 Salinas Ramblers have made a reputation for themselves.  In 1968, 1969 and 1971, the Salinas Ramblers were judged the top club in the nation by the AMA.  According to Dee White of the AMA, the award is given for the club that contributes the most to the sport and good name of motorcycle riding through community service and club activities.  She said that the Salinas club has always been active and is constantly receiving safety and activity awards.

From 1961 to 1982, the Rambler's main charity function was the Salinas Elks and Salinas Ramblers Benefit Motorcycle Raves held at the California Rodeo Grounds.  During the 21 years the race was run, the two clubs raised more than $350,000 to aid children with cerebral palsy and other orthopedic handicaps.  The race was discontinued because, as club member Tom "Lefty" Miyanaga said, they "wore the crowd out."  E&R Program Covers

Miyanaga, a Rambler for 32 years, said in the beginning the race was extremely profitable, but in later years the crowd started to dwindle.  On top of that, he said the cost of renting the Rodeo Grounds increased, reducing profits.  The Elks and the Ramblers still work together, though.  At the Rambler's anniversary celebration this year, the two groups will co-sponsor a raffle for a motorcycle.  After an earthquake destroyed many buildings in Coalinga last year, Miyanaga said the Salinas Ramblers held a benefit ride and presented the relief fund with a check for $500.  "It was just a little local club affair and we did it," he said.

The club has been a family affair from the beginning, Ketzel said.  He said women have always been in the club and children are welcome on rides and campouts.  The club's emphasis is on riding for pleasure.  Members who mention motorcycle brand names (in meetings) are subject to a 25-cent fine, payable to the flower fund. (Flowers are sent to members and their families for various reasons.)  All members must own and ride a motorcycle and several women do, but more women ride with their husbands or boyfriends.  In addition to Thursday night meetings, the club organizes a ride almost every Sunday and there are special rides about once a month.  One special ride is a poker run.  Riders pick a card at each of five check points and the best hand wins.  Another is a secret destination run.  Riders pick up clues along the way that tell them where to go.

During the early years, the club bought a 47 acre site in Prunedale across from Crazy Horse Road for riding.  "But civilization caught up with us," Ketzel said.  The club sold the land in the mid 1970s to a developer and bought 320 acres near King City.  The area, called Clear Creek, is ideal for club campouts and for members to ride off-road.

In the last two years , Clear Creek has become the location of an AMA sanctioned national enduro run sponsored by the Salinas Ramblers.  Bill Wainscott, vice president of the Ramblers, said there are only six sanctioned national 100 mile endurance runs in the country.  Riders in contention for a national title must compete in them.  According the Dirt Bike magazine, California enduros are traditionally scorned by eastern riders because they are too easy and too fast.  This year, the magazine said the February run at Clear Creek was different.  "The Salinas Ramblers put an extra effort into the 1984 Quicksilver National Enduro with countless weekends and hours of time scouting and cutting new trails and the sweat paid off."

Group picture taken at club property after Quicksilver enduro, circa 1982.  Names

The Rambler have put quite a bit of time and sweat into planning their 50th anniversary celebration as well.  Club President Ron DeShazer said he expects about 350 riders to participate in the weekend events.  the two-day package includes camping at Laguna Seca Saturday night, all events, a sirloin barbecue dinner and lumberjack breakfast. The cost to AMA cardholders is $15.  Non-AMA cardholders pay $16.  DeShazer said the cost would just cover expenses.  "We are not making money," he said.  "This is a party."