Jon Kemp


I missed the date by a few weeks, but then I find myself missing all sorts of things lately.

I wish to mark the fifty years of the original Piney Woods Enduro, held in and around the Chipola Louisiana woods. The birth of the legend!! June 6th 1968.

I recall little pieces of it, but then I was 12 years old and my recollections should be suspect! I clearly recall a bunch of people at my house discussing what it would be called, and the name Piney Woods came up and was adopted. Later in the history of the event, somewhere around 1981 Chris Sellars (SERA #2 or thereabouts) suggested it be "Great Piney Woods" Enduro and that name stuck. The event is still held today by that name.

There is a long and winding history from 1968 to 2018, but the event was held more or less annually under the same name. Of course, Chipola was the original home, but as Chipola was shut down in the late eighties, the event was forced to Enon for a couple years and then to the Kisatchie National Forest, Vernon District where it has been held for 20 years or so, and is still held today.

There was a Piney Woods AMA National in 1973 at Chipola and again in 1991 on the Kisatchie.

The clubs too have changed. The original event in 1968 was sponsored by the Southern Motorcycle Riders Association. Don David may or may not have been involved. I have not run down Mr. Don David, perhaps some of the readers know his whereabouts, if he is still with us. I have Mr. Don tentatively identified in one of the photos, so it could be that he rode this event, or is misidentified in the photo.

I recall that my Dad was referee. I vividly recall him telling me the “All I got out of it was a cussin’” and he never did another one. CW Kemp was born 1918, would have been 100 years old this month. He passed at age 89.

Very few people had ANY understanding of enduro at the time. Thus the “Cussin’”. Averages? Keytime? Not a clue. As it turned out, the course was so demanding that the knowledge was inconsequential. As the article states at the first check 10.8 miles out, only 40 riders were still in their hour. In defense of the participants, the motorcycles were truly awful by todays standards. Awful might be too generous of a word.

I hope this article will get around and some others can fill in some of the blanks. I recall the "Bluff Climbers", the "Bayou Bikers", the "Morgan City Mud Slingers", all had activities in Chipola.

Mr. F. L. Leonard held SERA enduros in Chipola under the name “Lookout Enduro Club”. He called his event the “Lookout Enduro”. Lookout is an area of Chipola a bit north of Easleyville. Hmmmm . . . . . . I got bamboozled out of an overall at that race in 1983 . . . . . ah, but I digress.

I cannot find any results for the 1968 event, with the exception of the newspaper article which proclaims Mike Ray as overall winner. I was indeed able to track down Mike. It was easy, as he has lived in the same place since my childhood. All it took was a phone call and a visit to beautiful Chipola. Mike is 72 years young (if I got my notes right). That would have made him 22 years old at the running of the event.

I spent a couple of hours with Mr. Mike and his lovely wife Ms. Leota Jean. Mike married into Chipola royalty as Ms. Leota Doughty Ray’s father was one of the founding fathers of Chipola. I can still recall Mr. Leo Doughty riding his (Honda twin?) dressed in Linemans boots, blue jeans, a white T-Shirt and a white welding cap turned around backwards. This was the official (well, maybe the unofficial) uniform for trail riding in Chipola at the time. Mr. Leo smoked a pipe, and I can vividly remember the smell of that pipe and knew instantly that Mr. Leo was around. I would be surprised if Mr. Leo was not involved in some way with the promotion of the ’68 event. But I have found no-one (yet) that can verify. Mr. Leo was born 1911 and passed in 1994.

I pressed Mike for details about the event, but most of it seems to have passed from his memory as well. I did get one story though.

The course dropped down around Flukers Bluff to wind around over to the “Duckpond” which was a mountain of a hill. The event didn’t go up the actual “Duckpond Hill” (which was indeed climbable, but by very, very few), but wound around to the right to follow a way around. It was still very difficult, but was do-able by a good rider. One of those good riders was “Sugar-Boy” Keller. Sugar would ride Bultacos later on, and may have been on a Bultaco that day. He was struggling with the climb, and Mike recalls passing Sugar on that hill. It was quite an accomplishment to pass Sugar under any circumstances, and that is why Mike remembers it so well. Passing Sugar-Boy is a good example that Mike was having a good day!!

I don’t really know how to format this on Facebook, I am going to post this with the main photo, then insert individual photos in subsequent comments. We have most of the riders tentatively identified, please weigh in if you think we have anyone wrong, or if you can identify any of the ones we have failed to ID.

Indeed, please weigh in with any additional information about that 1968 event.

A lot of this history is being lost with the passing of the people who toughed it out in those early days to promote events such as this. For a Cussin’. The debt we owe these people is immeasurable. The recent loss of Ron Burks is a good example of how this history is slipping away.

Below, I have copied the text from the newspaper.

“The 71-mile Piney Woods Enduro, sponsored by the Southern Motor-cycle Riders Association, was held Sunday, June 2, at Fluker’s Bluff, Chipola, La., west of Kentwood.

109 riders began the endurance race with three riders taking off at 1 minute intervals. At the first checkpoint (10.8 miles) only 40 riders qualified to go on in the contest.

This was an extremely rugged race as the riders faced vertical hills, waist deep muddy bogs, creeks and logs across the trail.

Testimony to the ruggedness of the trail if the fact that fewer than 8 riders finished the entire race.

Overall winner was Mike Ray from Chipola, who finished the
Course in 4 hours, 26 minutes.”

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