Priest family boasts motorcycling history (video)
Aug. 5, 2013 at 3:05 a.m.
Local resident Bill Priest talked on Saturday about in what conditions he likes to ride his motorcycle.
Average age: 48
Average riding experience: 26 years
Gender: male 95%female 5%
Average household income: $85,300
Education, study/degree: postgraduate 16%
four-year college degree 26%
two-year college 14%
some college 26%
graduated high school or equivalent16%
Number of motorcycles owned by members: 509,000
Motorcycle usage: off-road riding 41%
on-road riding 78%
race in AMA-sanctioned competition 38%
SOURCE: Demographic information from 2012 survey of American Motorcyclist Association members.
In the 1950s, Hazel Priest and her husband, Bob, zoomed down Highway 7 in the Ozark Mountains on only two wheels.
Back then, it was a novel sight.
Priest, now 78, had a white helmet strapped on tight, even though it was not then required. People watched with their mouths agape as she pulled into a tiny service station.
"You'll have to fill it yourself," its lone attendant said, "because I've never seen one of those before."
The American Motorcyclist Association reported that in 2012 it had 215,966 members who traveled an average of 1.55 billion miles annually.
Although Hazel Priest no longer rides, she helped grow that number.
On Friday, she and her son, Bill, 58, flipped through some photographs of family outings in the 1980s.
In the photos, the Priest men gripped shiny handle bars in Port Lavaca before embarking on what would become a miserable, rainy trip to Indiana.
They all wore black shirts with white lettering that read, "Priest. Holy Rollers."
"How should I describe my first ride?" Bill asked his mother, chuckling.
The two now live next door to each other in rural Goliad County near Schroeder.
"All three of my sons rode before they were born," she replied proudly of his brothers Ray, 55, and Jon, 48.
Bill and Ray were not deterred by the unhappy trip to Indiana though. Some two years later, they decided to ride their motorcycles wherever a forecaster predicted there wouldn't be the wet stuff.
They took off from San Antonio on Highway 281 North.
"The first thing we wanted to do was just get out of Texas," Bill said.
They overshot that goal a bit and some 1,500 miles later made it to Canada, where a border patrol agent looked at the haggard men with raised eyebrows.
"Do you own any guns?" the woman asked.
The men responded in the affirmative.
"Did you bring them with you?" she asked.
"No. Do we need them?" Ray replied, jokingly.
"She didn't think that was so funny," Bill said Friday. "Looking back, I can kind of see why."
Bill had his first and only close call in San Antonio about 15 years ago.
Then, he was wearing long johns, blue jeans, a leather jacket, gloves and a helmet as he tried to get on an access road. He didn't realize a car, about an eighth of a mile away, had come to a complete stop. He rear-ended the car and rolled onto the asphalt, bruising his body and totaling his bike.
That's one of the reasons his mother preaches safety. The road was less congested when she started out, and speed limits were a tad lower.
"Just in the last 10 or 15 years, motorcycles have become very popular," she said. "You have to be cautious and alert."
On Saturday, Bill, again, undeterred by his past injuries, suited up for a morning ride. The sun is always a bit kinder then. And he likes leaning into the curves on his Kawasaki Voyager, which he purchased from Dale's Fun Center about three months ago.
"My favorite route is a new route," he said. "It's like an addiction. ... Once you've got it, there's nothing that's going to stop you."
"It's like freedom," Hazel added.