A motorcycle Love Story part 2

I am Carbon

shade tree mechanic
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Fort Myers,Florida
By Tim Anderson

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

“We’d ride to work everyday, and we’d go do field meets and other ride whenever we could,” Jerry said. “It was just life to us. We never considered not riding motorcycles. That wasn’t a thought we’d even have.”

The decade of the 60’s went on like that—raising a family, and working. Barb was working for the US Postal Service, and became a letter carrier, a rarity in those days. In fact, she was the first in Colorado, maybe the country…something that made her the subject of a story in the December 23, 1962 edition of The Denver Post.

And through it all, there were motorcycles. Field meets, trail rides, gypsy tours, and making their first trip to Sturgis in 1962.

“We’ve been what, 35 years…36 years?” Jerry asked Barb.

“Something like that,” she replied. “We watched it grow over the years.”

“It was maybe 500 people at first, then 1000, then 2000, then 4000 the next year,” Jerry said. “It was always fun, and a little out of hand sometimes, but we always had a good time. I don’t know why anyone wants to go now...too many people, too many police, too much hassle. It’s just not fun anymore.”

The Manka’s did more than just go to Sturgis and race; they made history there, too.

“Our daughter Reena was the first girl to race at Sturgis in 1972,” Jerry said. “We didn’t think that much about it at the time because she’d been racing around here. So for her to race wasn’t such a big deal, but to be the first girl to race up there, that’s a pretty big deal.”

The racing was a natural extension of Barb and Jerry’s life, and what they’d done in 1968.

“We moved to Colorado Springs and took over Central Cycle Shoppe,” Jerry said. Our first year, 1969, we sold more motorcycles than we did in Pueblo from 1960 to 1968, and we doubled the previous owners’ 1968 sales. Then we doubled that in 1970, and became the number one Yamaha dealer in eleven Rocky Mountain States.”

The couple credits their success to being genuine, and treating everyone the same.

“At the time, a lot of businesses were treating GI’s from Fort Carson pretty badly,” Jerry said. “A lot of these E-1, E-2, E-3’s couldn’t get a break anywhere. We treated them just like anyone else, and helped them however we could. Word got around, and pretty soon we were doing a lot of business with servicemen.”

In 1970 the Manka’s move Central Cycle to a bigger space in the popular North Circle Plaza at the intersection of Circle and Constitution.

“Things were going pretty good, and we were working with everybody,” Jerry said. “We worked with the military, we worked with the trail riders, the street bike riders, the Sons Of Silence were just getting started and we worked with them when they came in, we loaned small bikes to people who needed to go take their motorcycle rider test, we did vehicle inspections for everyone, we helped the racers…. For us, it was all about motorcycles and taking care of the people riding them.”

It wasn’t all business though. In addition to continuing their own riding careers, Barb and Jerry’s kids were now on two wheels. In 1971, at age 15, son Rick became the youngest person to race up Pikes Peak in the annual race To The Clouds. The next year, daughter Reena made her historic debut at Sturgis. This lead to the formation of a race team made up of around 10 kids, seven or eight of whom raced with the Manka’s for years.

“They always had to stay out of trouble and be caught up in school,” Jerry said, “Or we wouldn’t let them race. That was a motivator, I’ll tell you. Seeing some of those kids grown up, and knowing they’re doing OK is really a nice feeling. They even tell us how much of an influence we had on them. It’s nice.”

Central Cycle Shoppe was sold in 1973, and Barb and Jerry dove into helping their kids, and the other kids who raced with them, continue to race. By 1975, they had formed Track & Wheel Equipment Company, with sales of Laverda and Cushman motorcycles, Honda service and just about anything else motorcycle oriented.

During all this, Barb continued her 42-year career with the Postal Service. And the pair continued to ride together.

“We’ve ridden to 49 states, and rented bikes to ride in Hawaii,” Jerry said. “We’ve ridden all over Canada, and ridden in Northern Mexico. We’ve had some great adventures. The most emotional trip we made was the Run For The Wall in 1999. That was something.”

“That was a hard one,” Barb reflected. “It was a tough ride, and then when you get to Washington DC and to The Wall, it’s a different kind of hard.”

Both agreed the best trip they’ve made was a six-week, 9000-mile journey through Canada to Prince Edward Island, and then down the New England Coast before heading back to Colorado Springs in 2000.

“That was the best trip,” Barb said.

“It sure was,” echoed Jerry.

The trip they wish they could have made?

“I really wanted to ride back to Alaska and ride up that Haul Road along the Alaska Pipeline to Prudhoe Bay.” Jerry said. “I had it all planned out. It would have been a fun one. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

Jerry’s eyesight has been giving him trouble, and he doesn’t ride anymore.

“Of all the things that have happened, and tough things I’ve had to deal with, this is the toughest,” he said. “It just kills me not to be able to ride. I really, really miss it. It’s really hard.”

Jerry’s not entirely out of the wind, though. Now, he rides behind Barb.

“I switched to a Can-Am Spider a few years ago because my shoulders were getting sore,” Barb said. “So we go out on the Can-Am now…two big butts going down the road. Oh, who cares…we’re out for a ride!”