This may not be totally accurate, but best I can do with aging memory…
WeSTOC (Western – ST Owners Club) rally Pre-HiSTory and WeSTOC 96, by STeve Kelley (STOC #0077)
Before there was a WeSTOC, there was the ST LiST. Back in the dark ages, before websites even existed, folks had to communicate via physical means (face-to-face, or with writing on paper). But in the early 1990s email was invented. Some time around 1994, Charlie Woods (STOC #0002) and Derek Catt (STOC #0001) decided that email could be used to trade advice and tips about their new motorcycles, Honda ST1100s, which were introduced in the 1991 model year. Derek Catt set up a listserver, where a person could email their comment or question to a central email address, and the server would re-mail their email out to whomever had subscribed. Until that point, there was only one forum dedicated to ST1100 tips, and that was the now-infamous ST1100 Newsletter published quarterly by a guy named Grant Norman. While the newsletter was nice, the pace of information flow was never quite as soon as you needed it. Soon the ST1100 LiST became the primary method for such communication, and the Newsletter served as a nice backup to store the information in paper form. Ultimately the newsletter went bust and Mr. Norman disappeared with a lot of bikers’ money – probably not a good idea, and the ST Newsletter (later, for one or two issues, re-branded the ST1100 Magazine) is now an old, and not-too-funny, joke in the community.
The benefit of the listserver, in addition to its speed, was that it united ST owners that were geographically distributed. We had people from most of the 50 United States, a few from England (like Rob Rowe), the Netherlands (like Jaap Wessalius), and even a guy from Mexico. With the shared interest in the ST1100 and shared passion for riding, folks quickly formed bonds and relationships. Oddly (at the time), few, if any, of these folks who traded not only information about bikes and rides, but also intimate details about their personal lives, had never met face to face. In the Winter of 1995-96, a number of folks in the Pacific Northwest were mentioning their upcoming attendance at the Seattle International Motorcycle Show. Soon it was agreed that a handful of them would go on the same day, meet for breakfast, and enjoy the show. Bill Pratt and others were present. For weeks afterward the LiST was full of chatter about how amazing it was to actually meet these soul-brothers in person, and what a generally good time was had by all who participated. Soon the chatter evolved to the topic of a grander, more geographically-distributed meeting. Why should the damp Northwesterners have all the fun? Many folks suggested this place or that place, either near their homes or on favorite rides. Pretty much all of the suggested locations were West of the Mississippi. And there was no clear consensus for a location. Probably because I was maintaining a list of suggested destinations as a service to the group, a number of LiST members contacted me via private email with messages to the effect of: “STeve, just pick a good location and we’ll back you on it. Then we might actually make this happen!”
If I was going to accept such responsibility, I felt I should be fair about choosing a location, rather than serving my own preferences. I got a nice, new AAA Map of the Western States (maps used to be on large sheets of paper, folks!), and plotted the destinations. Several in spots in several states were candidates: Colorado (suggested by Greg McQueen and Tom Vervaeke, among others), New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho (STeve Beckley), California, Oregon, Washington, and even Arkansas. To my mind, the only way to get a good representation was to find a spot in the middle. The geographic center of the suggestions ended up being in Sundance, Utah. Colin DeGattis, who lived in Utah at the time, informed me that there was no suitable lodging in Sundance, but that nearby Park City had a number of good choices. So, I floated Park City, Utah (a place I had never been in a state I had never been) as a suggested destination for the first Western meeting of ST1100 owners. Momentum built quickly and the idea of WeSTOC was born. Colin DeGattis, being local, researched hotels and settled on the Olympic Park Hotel in Park City, and picked a weekend in August, 1996. Lots of folks responded that they would be there, but nobody really kept track formally.
There was a strong consensus that this WeSTOC should be different from other rallies, especially the big Honda and BMW factory-sponsored ones. Many of us felt they were over-organized, plastic versions of get togethers that resembled Disneyland more than actual motorcyclists. No T-shirts, no schedules, no information packets, and no Steenking Badges for us!!! For the record, the original invite basically said here is a date, here is a hotel, show up or not. Nothing at all was promised. Colin DeGattis told me the hotel wanted a contract guaranteeing a minimum number of rooms, and I told him quite clearly, “Don’t sign anything!” I discovered later that he ignored my advice and put his credit card at risk should the turnout fall below the minimum number. Thankfully it did not. We expected certain high-post-count characters to show up, but nothing was guaranteed. Myself, George Catt, Colin DeGattis, Greg McQueen, Ed Johnson, Jeff Bertrand, Ralph Sims, and even Warchild (Dale Wilson) – apologies to any others I omitted. Truly the idea was this: Make your own arrangements, show up, and see if anyone else is there after you arrive. No planned events, no ride routes, no BBQ, nothing. For some reason it all worked out. Clearly a few things have changed since those days!
When the time arrived, my wife and I departed from our home in Gilroy, California and made our way across central California and Nevada, dropping into the Southwest corner of Utah at Uvada. Taking back roads we made our way South through Modena, Beryl Junction, Enterprise, Central, Veyo, and Gunlock. From there temperatures were over 100F. I soon discovered that at some point going faster does not cool you off, but pounds you with 110F heat! We eventually reached Interstate 15 in Littlefield, Arizona, where it was 116F in the shade. I told my wife, if we go left about 45 miles, we will get to our hotel in St. George, and we may have good A/C and a pool. But if we go right about 30 miles, we hit the Nevada state line, where there will be casinos with massive A/C units and massively cold beers. So right it was! We took over the sports book tables at the Virgin River Casino and spread our sweat-drenched gear and helmets out to dry. We got some stares from the senior citizen gamblers there, but we did not care. It was blissfully cool, and the beer was icy cold. After a couple hours our core temperatures were back under control, and rode on to our hotel in St. George and the weirdness that is Utah – but that is a story for another time. Who could have guessed that just over a year later we would move there?
We rode for several days before arriving at the Park City location. The Olympia Park Hotel is a nice venue (no longer a hotel, now 100% condos). Great indoor pool, big parking lot, open atrium. People in biker gear wandered around asking others in biker gear who they were. I am bad with names, but some are easy to remember. George Catt, annoyingly gaunt and fit for his age (still true today), cut a clear figure of command and was easy to remember. Soon a random assembly of bikers was gathered around a long table in the bar, swapping truths and composing lies. Then there was a stir that evacuated the bar – Ron Major had turned up. Ron truly had the spirit of the rally encapsulated. He showed up unexpected, unannounced, and with a case of cold MGD beer strapped to the pillion of his bike. He just parked, opened the case, and popped a cold one in the parking lot without saying anything to anyone. Then the rally happened around him for a while. Similar scenarios played out as others arrived. I recall one couple from Arizona in the hot tub later that night passing around a bottle of really good tequila. I think someone counted 36 total ST1100s in attendance, some solo and some with pillion riders. When dinner time arrived, we realized there was no plan, so a large group trouped over to a mediocre steak place for dinner. The next day Colin had semi-planned a ride counter-clockwise around the area, going from Park City to Heber City, around the backside of Jordanelle Reservoir, up to Kamas, around the Mirror Lake Loop (US 150) to Evanston, Wyoming, then up to Woodruff, Utah and over the Monte Cristo Summit and down to Huntsville, Utah. There we stopped for lunch at the Shooting STar Tavern, the oldest watering hole in Utah. The Shooting Star was not known for quick service, but the STar Burgers were good when they finally arrived. The locals were pretty pissed that their lunch spot had been overrun by bikers. The bar also had a large bulletin board covered with military unit patches, since many uniformed personnel from Hill Air Force Base frequent the place apres-ski. Greg McQueen surreptitiously inserted a STOC sticker among them, and it stayed there unmolested until about 2008, when they finally decided to give the dive a long-overdue cleaning. Then the ride continued to Morgan, around East Canyon Reservoir, and past the backside of Emigration Canyon to Interstate 80 (where the UHP was testing out their brand-new, tripod-mounted laser speed ticket system – thankfully never purchased, and no STers were ticketed), and back to Park City. The ride started out as a big pack, but quickly devolved into several groups riding together on the same route – which actually made lunch possible. if we had really all showed up at once, I think they would have closed. In the hotel parking lot later that day, someone (it may have been George Catt) announced that such a momentous occasion should not pass by without some commemoration, and a handful of WeSTOC 96 t-shirts were produced. My wife and I were both pleased to get one. The next days some stayed for a while, some went home, some grouped together, and others continued alone. It was an awesome thing that truly worked while defying organization.
As numbers grew in subsequent rallies, we learned that some organization is necessary to preclude people from being stuck with bills, and other organization was added due to consumer demand. Even so the WeSTOC rallies retain their distinctly different flavor and character, still going strong 19 years later (WeSTOC 2014 in Fortuna, California) – and counting!