Sunday, January 1, 2017

~ Then and Now ~

 "The mountains are calling and I must go" ~ John Muir.

The year is 1967 and I just bought the bike of my dreams, a new Yamaha 305cc.  After all, Gene Christiansen, John Lopez, and Joe Enriquez each had one and these were my good friends.  We each owned the same bike and fondly called ourselves, the "Yamaha Gang."

From left to right, "The Yamaha Gang - 1967, Barstow, California" ~ ~ Robert Griego, Gene Christiansen, John Lopez.

We rode our motorcycles everywhere, camping in such places as Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, and Deep Creek.  We loved being in the outdoors, especially in the mountains.  These would be my early years in pursuit of wildness.

At eighteen, John Lopez and I rode our motorcycles out to La Joya, New Mexico.

We did not realize how far New Mexico was, and looking back in time, we were not very well prepared.  I remember running out of gas just 100 miles after leaving Barstow.  John, with his left hand, held my right hand and towed me 20 miles to Needles.  We made it to New Mexico, visited with family in Albuquerque and La Joya.  I gave my little cousin, Benjie Moya his first bike ride, all the way to the top of the Sandia Mountains.  He still remembers that to this day.

When we got back to Barstow, we were the "talk" about town.  We didn't tell them, however, about running out of gas.  There were very few bikers back then and this trip was a big thing.

In 1969, my older brother Leo got a job in Missoula, Montana as a smokejumper.  Before that he was jumping out of planes in a place called Vietnam.

Gilbert delivered Leo's Triumph ~ somewhere out in Montana.

He owned a Triumph 650cc that was sitting at home in Barstow.  He asked our brother Gilbert if he would ride his bike up to Montana for him to use.  Gilbert would make the trip and took a very long bus ride back to Barstow.  

Both of their rides, to and from Montana, made our ride out to New Mexico look tame by comparison.

My Yamaha 305cc was my transportation for work, high school, and everything else.  It was a classic.  The official name was the "Cross Country Sport 305, model YM-1."  

Robert Griego on his new Yamaha 305cc, Barstow, California.

When I graduated in 1967 from John F. Kennedy High School in Barstow, I was lucky enough to get a summer job as a laborer in Sequoia National Park.  I lived and worked at Lodgepole and loved it.  The job was the most entry-level position in the Park.  My first summer was spent on the back of Earl's garbage truck.

Old Earl would make the rounds to the campgrounds, and said simply on my first day, "You ride on the back of the garbage truck.  When it stops, you pick up the empty trash can into the truck and try not to fall off."  I felt lucky.  I was getting paid for working in the outdoors which I loved and getting good exercise at the same time.  I think old Earl sensed that in me.  "What could be better."  Well actually, there was one more perk.  It seems that old Earl had a good reputation and when we stopped to pick up trash at the Giant Forest restaurant, we would be invited into the kitchen for breakfast.  I remember old Earl saying, "eat whatever you want Bob, it's on me."  Of course, he never paid a dime but that became my first meal of each working day with Earl.

Eventually, I would work two summers at Lodgepole in Sequoia National Park.  This job helped pay the bills while attending San Jose State where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Management.  My second job was as a "hasher" or dishwasher where I got great, hardy, and nutritious meals in exchange for my work.  I met Denise Saldivar at a girl's rooming house, yep still washing dishes, where she studied marine biology at San Jose State.  We dated my junior and senior years and after my graduation, we got married in 1971 in San Jose.

I landed my first permanent job at Pinnacles National Monument only days later.  Our son, Keith was born in 1974 in Hollister, 35 miles away.  Our daughter Lori was born in 1978 in Puyallup, Washington while stationed at Mount Rainier National Park.  Our life with the National Park Service became intertwined.  Years later, we lived in Botswana, Africa where I worked for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.

My Yamaha 305cc was my transportation for those summer jobs at Sequoia National Park, San Jose State, and would eventually follow us to Pinnacles National Monument.  In those days, everything I owned was tied to the back of my bike.

Little did I know that twenty years later, Superintendent Jack Davis would hire me as the Chief of Administration for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Many of the old timers in the maintenance division remembered in the old days that I picked up trash at Lodgepole with such passion and they were very proud of me.

Here are a few pictures of "Then and Now'" at Sequoia National Park.

Yamaha 305cc - 1969, Sequoia National Park.

Yamaha Road Star - 2015, Sequoia National Park.

Yamaha 305cc - 1969, Lake Kaweah Three Rivers, CA.

Yamaha Road Star, 2015 Lake Kaweah Three Rivers, CA.