Writer's Ramblings

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Written by  September 30, 2008

I spent my summer vacation doing something I have always wanted to do—I went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

The first thing you have to do is pre-register by May 15, 2008. This means a medical report, a membership fee and an entry fee all must be submitted to the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) by May 15. After that, the bike had to be readied to pass their tech inspection, and my leathers, boots and helmet also needed to pass the SCTA rules.

I was very fortunate to have Engle Motors, Ralph Blackmore, Slim's Cycle Seats, and Phil Oldham assist me with cash, boots, helmet, and seat. It made it easier for me to get qualified.

On August 15, my good buddy and crew chief Jeff Page, crew member Tony Fontana, and I loaded up my bike (a 2006 Triumph Thruxton), and we took off at 5:30 a.m. for Bonneville. We made it to Rawlings, Wyoming that evening. After we ate and slept that night, away we went, arriving at the Salt Flats the evening of the 16th.

We stayed at the Bonneville Inn in Wendover, Utah, where Burt Munroe stayed in 1968 with his Indian. We met two great fellows from Canada. They were staying at the same motel we were. After much good fellowship, they joined our pit crew. We were all set, a full pit crew, good friends and a desire to have fun and do well.

Sunday, August 17 we were in line for tech inspection and registration. Tech inspection was brutal. It lasted four hours, and they go over everything. They checked tires, safety wiring, shutoff switch for the engine and fuel, steering dampener, headlight cover, and entry numbers and class numbers had to be displayed properly. Wow, I passed. Now for the registration—it only took 30 minutes. Arm bands, pit crew in red – right hand wrist; rider in yellow – left hand wrist, stickers for the windshield of the tow vehicle and a 5-pound fire extinguisher and CB radio for tow vehicle. We only had a 3-pound fire extinguisher, but the next thing we know, there are two guys willing to let us use one of theirs. Everyone helps each other out at all times. Talk about great people from everywhere, all over the world, gear heads, motor heads, and speed freaks all getting together with one idea—go as fast as you can safely!

Everything was going smoothly until the tech inspectors had issues with my leathers. But after much pleading they passed (they riveted a brass SCTA button on the left shoulder). It’s still there.

Monday August 18 started with the drivers meeting. Every driver and their pit crew gathered at the starting line on the long course. We all were instructed by the course stewards of all rules and safety instructions. Then all the rookie drivers met at the short course, a five-mile course. After the briefing, we drove the course to be sure where the return road and the timing slip stand were. Then the fuel stop. If you have an empty gas tank, you have to use their fuel at $10 a gallon, and then they seal the tank, so after almost two days of qualifying, it was time to get in line to take my turn.

Here we were in line for about four hours with all those people waiting, giving advice, and telling of all their trips to the salt. I met Fritz, a Triumph dealer from Dallas, Texas, who had been to Bonneville over 20 times. He told me about air pressure in tires and shock settings for the best traction.

My turn. It’s hot, the salt looks like a different world. I take off, no wheel spin; shifts smooth, one-mile marker speed reads 115 mph – tach 6800 rpm. Two-mile mark, everything is eerie smooth, I am tucked in. Three-mile mark – time to slow down and wait for my pit crew, Jeff and Tony, to pick me up out here in a sea of white. As I wait, a track official comes by to check on me and hands me some water. He told me I made a great rookie pass. About that time, a streamliner pulls up. He was all excited and said I had a straight and perfect run. Jeff and Tony picked me up and we went to the timing tower to get my slip. WOW! 111.372 mph. The previous record for an 865cc Triumph was 106.211 mph. I beat it by 5 mph. Wally LaFond, 65 years young, just made a dream come true.

Do I want to go back? Do I ever! To race, to watch, to share stories, it’s what life is all about. And that is how I spent my summer vacation.

Story by Wally LaFond

Photos by Jeff Page

NOTE: Additonal photos are available by request by contacting Wally LaFond