[Photos: Bill Greene]

We’re grateful to Bill Greene for allowing us to publish these amazing family photos. Bill’s father and friends seemed to have a pretty grand time riding around desert and dunes in California during the 1960s and ’70s, competing in races, spectating at races, or just having fun with the family in the outback. These photos were taken with a humble Kodak Instamatic camera.

A Triumph at Oceano Dunes, California 1966

The location of the black-and-white shots is Kelso Dunes, in December 1963, and the slanting midwinter light makes for particularly dramatic shots. Kelso dunes is one of three places in the US which has ‘singing sands’, or more appropriately, ‘booming dunes’. When large masses of sand are shifted down a slope (as from a motorcycle wheel, or a kick from the peak), the movement produces a loud rumble which sounds like a turboprop plane or low-flying B29. This phenomenon has been described for over a thousand years in Arabian and Chinese literature.

Kelso Dunes, 1963

The dunes in this area rise to over 200m (620′), with the tallest reaching 700′, and are part of the Mojave National Preserve, a 1.5 million acre area straddling CA and Nevada; the dunes area was closed to motor vehicles in 1973, so these photos can never be repeated.

Phil Brasher at Kelso Dunes 1963

The color shots were taken with a Pentax SLR with slide film, mostly at Oceano Dunes (formerly Pismo Beach), and are still accessible to motor vehicles.  Most were taken in the mid-1960s. The motorcycles are mostly Triumph unit-construction 500cc TR5 models, with little or no modifications from stock. Riding gear consists of light leather jackets, Levi’s blue jeans, work boots, and work gloves (0r no gloves), and open face Bell or Buco helmets – classic stuff. Enjoy!

The bottom photo shows Ronn Blumke cresting a dune on his TR6 650cc Triumph. The dunes are blown continually by an eastward wind, and develop a sharp slope on the leeside (east slope); sand is often cascading down these steep slopes, which are called the ‘slipface’. They’re the best side to ride up if you want to catch some air at the top!

Unloading at Pier Ave, Oceano 1967 for Pismo Dunes riding
Kelso Dunes, 1963
Top of Kelso Dunes, 1964
Kelso dunes, 1963
At Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California – January 1967
This photo shows young Bill holding onto family friend Phil Eaton; the photo was probably taken by his mother, riding on the back of Bill’s father’s bike – another Triumph, a 500cc model, TR5 probably, in 1964.
Triumph and Dune Buggy, Pismo Beach 1967
Triumphs on the Beach; that’s Bill in his mom’s lap in ’64. Note the ‘mouth organ’ badge on these early 60’s Triumphs; both are unit-construction 500’s, set up for dirt riding, Oceano Dunes 1967
Lineup of British bikes in the Oceano dunes; all Triumph twins, with a Matchless single at the back
Below Devil’s Slide at Pt Sal, Pismo Dunes
Dick Eaton on a Matchless GC3 Trials Bike at Pismo Dunes 1960’s
Busy Weekend at the Arroyo Grande Creek Crossing, Oceano California 1971
Taking a Run at Devil’s Slide, Pt Sal, Oceano Dunes 1966
My first ride on a motorcycle – Oceano Beach, California – 1967
Related Posts

Top 100 Most Expensive Motorcycles

Our Top 100 World's Most Expensive…

The Vintagent Selects: Janus Motorcycles

Motorcycles are like architecture: They…

Bill Phelps

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter