A motorcycle Love Story part 1

I am Carbon

shade tree mechanic
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Fort Myers,Florida
I don't think this has been posted I came across this article thought some of you might like to read it.
By Tim Anderson

Everyone can appreciate a good love story. If that love story includes motorcycles, so much the better.

On November 18, 2010, Barb and Jerry Manka of Colorado Springs--two legends of Colorado motorcycling--will celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary. Theirs is quite a story, and motorcycles aren’t just part of the story, the two-wheeled contraptions are, in fact, central to this romance.

“I grew up around motorcycles,†Jerry explained. “My dad rode ‘em, everyone in my family just about. We were a biker family. I didn’t see any reason to change that.â€
Evidently, there was something about that fact which appealed to a young and adventurous Barb.

“Jerry was a motorcycle rider when I met him,†Barb said. “He had a little bit of a reputation. He was rowdy, you might say. I liked motorcycles, too. I was 14 when I started riding on the back.â€

It was the start of a love affair that’s still going on today.

From 1951 to 1954 Barb and Jerry, who lived in Pueblo at the time, dated, dodging Barb’s mother, who hated Jerry unabashedly.

“She didn’t like me much,†Jerry said, as he tenderly grabbed Barb’s knee. “I think the first words she ever spoke to me were: ’You son-of-a-bitch, stay away from my daughter.’ As you can see, I didn’t listen too well back then, and I’m pretty glad of it.â€

While they dated, and avoided Barb’s mother, the pair were making plans. In February 1952 Jerry attended mechanic’s school at Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee. When he returned to Pueblo, he asked Barb to marry him. She said yes, but they kept their plans quiet for the time being. All the while, Jerry continued to work as a motorcycle mechanic in Pueblo, including for the legendary Walt Timme, an Indian dealer and Colorado motorcycle pioneer. Meanwhile, Barb went to school.

Later that year, Jerry counted his pennies and bought a new 1952 BSA 500cc single for $495. It would be the couple’s only transportation.

Then, in January, 1953, Jerry did something that would prove to define the couple’s lives, and turn out to be one of the best decision’s he might have made.

“I gave Barb a 1948 500cc British Sunbeam for her 16th birthday,†Jerry said, his eyes twinkling. “Of course, we kept it at my house so her parents wouldn’t know, but it was her bike. She rode it whenever we went out.â€

Jerry bought the Sunbeam from a British couple who owned the movie theater across from the post office in Pueblo where he was working.

And so things went, the couple riding motorcycles, working and going to school until the fall of 1954.

“Jerry took me to Denver to get a wedding dress,†Barb said. “That’s when going to Denver from Pueblo was a big trip, so that was really something. We found a beautiful dress, bought it, and went back to Pueblo. Our plan was to wait until after I turned 18 in February (1955) to get married. And that’s what we told my parents.â€

“That changed everything,†Jerry said with a laugh. “We were going to wait, but her mother got so mad…. I think Barb was just so pissed at her mother; she was going to get married just to make a point. So anyway, we wound up going to New Mexico to get married.â€

The pair left a note for Barb’s father, explaining what they were doing, climbed into a 1948 Buick, and headed south. Barb was 17 years old, and Jerry was 21.

“They ran us out of Raton (New Mexico-just across the state line),†Jerry said. “They weren’t going to have anything to so with us.â€

“They weren’t even polite about it,†Barb added. “They pretty much chased us out of town.â€

So, the lovebirds continued south to Las Vegas, New Mexico, the next town.

“Wouldn’t you know it, that Buick died outside Las Vegas,†Jerry said. “It just stopped. No reason. It was just dead. Nothing we did could get it started. We were worried about the time because we needed to get to the courthouse, and it was going to be getting dark. It was one of those moments when it seemed like everything was working against us. We tried to start it again, and there it went, so we hurried into Las Vegas. And got there about 5p.m.â€

The courthouse was closed when they got into town, but they were told where they could find the county clerk—who could open the courthouse and issue a marriage license.

“They told us we’d find him at a bar called the Purple Parrott,†Jerry said. “I’ll never forget that. We found the town square, and the Purple Parrott was right there off the square. We asked if the County Clerk was in there, and he was down at the end of the bar. We introduce ourselves, told him what we wanted to do, and asked him if he’d open the courthouse for us.

“He says, ‘You wanna get married? Of course I’ll open up for you! Everyone should be married! It’s wonderful!’ He was really happy we wanted to be married. It might have been because he’d been drinking, but he sure seemed excited about it.â€

So, the clerk issued a marriage license, and arranged for a justice of the peace to do the ceremony.

“The whole ceremony was in Spanish,†Jerry said. “The only English I heard was, ‘Kiss the bride,’ and, ’Pay the witnesses $2 each.’ One of our witnesses was watching Superman on TV…TV was pretty new then…and the other one was reading a Superman comic. I guess Superman was pretty popular.â€

“It wasn’t really what we’d planned,†Barb said with a smile, “but we were married, and that’s what we really wanted.â€

The newlyweds took the long way back to Pueblo, touring parts of Northern New Mexico and Colorado before getting back to the Steel City, and moving into Jerry’s room at his parents’ home.

“We had to,†Barb said. “There wasn’t any other choice. It worked out OK. Actually, my dad was fairly reasonable about the whole thing, but my mother was another story. She hated Jerry.â€

The living arrangements lasted only a few months. That’s when the couple made the decision to trade Barb’s ’48 Sunbeam for a 28-foot trailer house with no toilet.

“We needed a place to live, and this was what we could do,†Jerry explained. “We paid $4 a month for a space to put the trailer and got on with our lives.â€

Getting on with life meant work for Jerry and Barb finishing up school. They also bought a new BSA 650cc Road Rocket (top of the line for $595), and they found a ’48 or ‘49 1000cc Vincent.

“Jerry would ride me to school every morning on the back of his bike,†Barb said. I couldn’t really ride myself, even though I could ride, because we had to wear skirts in school. It’s kind of hard to ride in a skirt. So I’d sit sidesaddle on the back of that bike every morning, and he’d pick me up in the afternoon, too. Let me tell you, sitting sidesaddle on a luggage rack on a motorcycle in a skirt isn’t the easiest thing to do. I was the talk of school for a while. It didn’t bother me though…I was riding motorcycles and went home to Jerry every day.â€

1956 was a big year. The couple first welcomed their first child, Ricky, into the world. Shortly thereafter, they buy their firs Harley, a 1955 first year FLH. Not long thereafter, Jerry became the first biker to break 100 mile-per-hour in the quarter-mile in Pueblo. Jerry also started working for the Harley shop in Pueblo that year.

1957 saw daughter Terra join the family, as did a new BSA 650cc Rocket Twin and a 1950 Vincent Black Lightning.

1959 brought Daughter Reena into the mix. The BSA bit the dust the year before when Jerry totaled it during an illegal drag race west of Pueblo. It seems the wildness wasn’t out of his system.

“Oh, we always had races going on,†Jerry said. “That’s just part of what we did. We’re motorcycle riders, and sometimes you race, and sometimes you just ride.â€

Barb wasn’t immune to the lure of motorcycle competition, either.

In ’59 Barb got a Yamaha 250cc 2-stroke twin with an electric starter—the first in Southern Colorado. It would turn out to be a fortuitous acquisition.

“We’d go to the field meets and I’d win a lot,†Barb explained, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying the memory. “You always had to start your bike and then do the event. I’d just hit the electric starter and go, while everyone else would be trying to kick-start their bikes. It was a lot of fun.â€

“Some of those guys would get pretty upset that a woman was beating them,†Jerry said. “But, she’s a good rider, too. I don’t think some of those guys who got mad could have beat her anyway.â€

After only a couple weeks, the little 250 developed a crankshaft problem, and Jerry contacted Yamaha to deal with the problem.

“They ended up sending us a brand new motor in the box,†Jerry said. “I put it in the bike and everything was fine.â€

Things were more than fine. Yamaha was impressed with the couple, and offered them a dealership with only 5% down, plus five new Yamahas and the usual factory support. Barb and Jerry jumped at e opportunity. In the May of 1960, Manka Motors was born.

“We opened with five new Yamahas, one Ducati 250cc 4-stroke single, a Norton 850cc Atlas, and $28 in parts,†Jerry recalled. “We sold twelve bikes the first year and thought we were on top of the world. Barb got her dealer’s license, making her the first female dealer in the state, maybe in the country. We just never looked back after that.â€

This all happened while both were working full time jobs, and raising a family…and finding time to ride.


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hi guys i,ve finished reading all 3 reads ,,,and its all sweet,,,,,,,,clearly i did marry a outright dog,,,, sorry,,, mine was evil as well ,, i have moved on to what i want now,,, regards oldbiker


XS650 Member
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Just finished all three parts.
Doesn't matter if it's motorcycles or something else, the world needs more genuine people like these two.

Thanks for posting!