By Kippy Myers
What is the most fun that you have ever had in your life? Take a minute or few to think about it. I have been pondering this question quite a bit lately. And I have had LOTS of fun over the years, so that seemed like a good question to spend some time with. Because the next best thing to being there is to replay it with memories, right? I have had terrific joys like marrying Debi, becoming a Christian, seeing our daughters for the first time, and getting to know my grandson. But what event has been the most sheer FUN for me?
I grew up in Grapevine, Texas. It sits kind of between Dallas and Fort Worth. As teenagers, my friends and I spent a fair amount of time at Grapevine Lake, just to the north of our little town. The lake was a weekend destination for many who travelled from nearby towns to enjoy fishing, swimming, boating, and skiing. On Saturdays we teenaged guys often stood outside the pool hall and watched the parade of trailered boats making their way down Main Street on their trip to the water. But my kind of fun was not water focused. I preferred dry land and motorcycles.
When I was 14 and 15 years old, I occasionally heard rumors that there was a series of interconnecting motorcycle trails that completely circled Grapevine Lake. At that point in my life, Grapevine Lake seemed immense, sort of like the Grand Canyon. So riding around its entirety was intriguing. But the trail route was shrouded in mystery. Lots of people had heard of the trails, but no one seemed to know where the trails were located, where they started or ended, or how to access them. That lent to it elements of mystery, discovery, and the unknown. Indeed, a motorcycle adventure. For long months the idea of rediscovering and riding a series of lost motorcycle trails extending around the lake never left my thoughts for very long. I contacted lots of people about helping me to locate the trails. One source said that they thought the trails started somewhere near the lake’s dam. That was the best clue I had. At last, a possible access point. I talked some friends into going with me and trying to find the trails.
One summer’s day about four or five of us got on our motorcycles and broke out to find the legendary “Trails Around Grapevine Lake.” A most excellent exploit was in the works. As best I can recall, our group on that first day was composed of Jim Crabtree on his Honda 350, Richard Howard (aka Anteater) on a similar bike, Tim (aka Nathan) and Greg Cannon (both on a Suzuki), and me (on my Yamaha 175 Enduro). This was in the time before the average person knew much about trail riding and long before the contemporary versions of motocross and motocross bikes. Here is a picture of a Yamaha 175 Enduro, like the one that I rode around the lake.
And so it was that one Saturday morning we arrived at one end of the dam and spread our cycles out across an expansive field, scanning for any hint of a motorcycle trail. As we worked our way toward the trees that lined the area, someone said that they had found a trail. Eureka! The fun was just beginning. Off we went, having no idea where we were going or where we would end up. Old style navigation. No maps. No GPS. No phones. Not even a compass. And little sense of direction. It was all about following the trails of emprise. Sometimes a trail would run out and we had to scout around for its continuation. One of us would locate it and off we rumbled once again through the woods, across creeks, and around lake inlets.
Circumnavigating Grapevine Lake via motorcycle trails was not something that could be completed in a day or two. It took several days. At times we could go two days in a row, but at other times there would be several days between quests. So as one day drew to an end and the setting sun neared the horizon, we were forced to leave our trail route in search of a road that would take us home. We rode through dirt roads and across fields until we found a road or an address and figured out where we were. We generally tried to find a specific road name or some type of marker that told us where we were. Not only did that help to get us home, but we knew where to return to on the following weekend to pick up where we left off. Sometimes we were low on gas and needed food and drink. The excitement that those moments added to my life is indescribable and the memories are utterly precious.
In our expedition around the lake, we encountered some really neat surprises. One day, after negotiating some tough trails for several miles, the trail opened up into a gigantic clearing next to the lake. About 20 or more people were there riding motorcycles but also in cars and trucks, having driven there on dirt roads. The attraction was a rather large area of jumps and roller coaster trails where we spent about half an hour and had so much fun. Then we sought out a continuation of the trail and moved on and never returned to that place. I wonder if it is still there.
Below is a picture of Anteater and me from around the time of the great trail hunt. That's me on the left. I combed my hair into my face for the photo. I wish that I could do that now, but the hair is missing.
Each day we were trekking into what was to us unknown territory. One day as we were riding along a trail through some woods at an unsafe speed, two companions were ahead of me and one was behind me. I saw the leader suddenly disappear from sight, immediately followed by the second rider who also vanished. The mystery of their disappearance was quickly revealed to me as I sped off an abruptly ending trail, falling into a dried up river bed where I discovered my two buddies. We had landed in a bed of smooth stones. The bed of stones was deep enough that the fall hardly injured us or our bikes because the rocks formed a bit of a cushion beneath us. The guy behind me (Nathan, I think) had time to stop before joining us at the bottom of the washout. He just sat there on his bike near the ledge above us, looking down at us and laughing. These days when riding with friends, I prefer to be the last in line. So we picked ourselves up and continued to wander. What a weird cool awesome moment that was.
Just below this paragraph is a rather simplified map of Grapevine Lake. We started at the bottom right (southeast) end of the lake and proceeded up and around the lake's north side to the northwest end, then we made it around the tip and down the south side. On the map you can see that sometimes we had to go up one side of an inlet and down its other side. Like lots of things in life, we were figuring it out as we went.
One day we were traveling through some pretty rough terrain. The trail must have been nothing but a deer trail because it took us to the tip of one of those inlets and led us down onto a skinny ledge with a wall of dirt on our right and the water about six feet below on our left. The ledge was so narrow that we had to get off the bikes and with barely enough room to maneuver, walk them along that ledge to the tip of the inlet. One of the guys fell into the water up to his hips, but we rescued him and someone was able to grab the bike before it slipped away. What fun!
Any time that we happened upon a good incline that we could use as a ramp, we would compete with one another, testing each other to see who could jump their bike the highest and the farthest. Sometimes we got hurt. I was knocked out for a few seconds when my helmeted head hit the ground too hard. But we thought we were indestructible, so we didn’t allow such impediments to limit our potential. And our motorcycles were almost as tough as we were.
For some of us, being a boy in the late 1960s was hard, but it was also pretty fun. But being a boy riding a motorcycle on a voyage of discovery with other guys my age . . . guys with nicknames . . . was sublime. We were the only ones that we knew who had found and followed the legendary trails around the lake. It was like chasing a unicorn, catching it, and riding it on a magical quest. And once we had ridden the unicorn, we set it free. We never went back. It just wasn’t the same.
Since those teen years I have ridden motorcycles to 40+ states with plans to add a few more, some provinces of Canada, within a mile of Mexico (choosing not to enter). I’ve ridden Highway 1 through Big Sur on the west coast and the Outer Banks on the east coast. I’ve ridden through mountains, forests, and deserts. Sometimes I ride with friends and sometimes I go alone. It has all been a great deal of fun memory making. But the MOST fun I ever had? The lake trails. That’s a formula for fun. As I think back over my life, my mind keeps going back to those days of my youth, riding with my friends on a magical motorcycle adventure.
Well, have you thought about what event in your life was the most fun? I hope so, because if you’re like me, it’s fun to remember having fun. Think about writing it out with some details like I did. Pass it on to a family member who might have fun reading it.