ELEPHANT HILL

Gary Martini
August 2006


Like many of my generation, my first experience on a motorcycle was tenuous at best. Similar to the opening sequence in the original On Any Sunday movie, I talked a friend into showing me the basics, clutch, shift brake, throttle, etc. Having survived that first experience in an abandoned church parking lot, I was hopelessly hooked on motorcycles. My first exposure to dirt bikes came soon thereafter in a sun baked hill side near Los Angeles known as “Elephant Hill.” The name was coined years ago due to the fact that if one looked at the top of the hills at a certain angel it resembled an elephant’s back.

Growing up in southern California in the late 1960’s, there were many small “riding spots”, dirt lots, and fields scattered everywhere. In the era before riding parks, these spots were all we had to hone our skills before a race on the week end. Of these places, Elephant Hill was unique in that it was within sight of down town Los Angeles. As the suburban population spread, most of these spots (and many tracks) disappeared, but through the years this area remained un touched. In my youth, Elephant was the “place to be”. Some summer days there were upwards of 50 people riding all manner of dirt bikes. In those early days of “open pipe” two-strokes, the neighbors, or the police, did not appreciate it much. I can remember with amusement the efforts we would go through to hide from the police helicopter. It was not until years later in the era of police chases live on TV that I realized how stupid those efforts were. My mother had recently shared with me that if I was not one of the kids riding there, she would have called the cops herself, and the noise was that bad.

I made many friends there, some of whom I still know today. We had a core group of about 20 that rode there almost every day. It was there I cemented a long term friendship with Jim West that lasted until his untimely death in 1975.

In the 38 years since I first rode there, Elephant Hill remained intact and undeveloped. It’s a rare situation when our sport “benefits” from politics, but that is exactly what has happened. In a decades-long battle between the State Of California, City Of Los Angeles, and other cities, the fate of this area has hung in the balance. Over the years I have ridden there when ever my schedule allowed. I came to appreciate the fact I had such a place close to my house. The other day I passed by on the way home and saw them, the bulldozers, lined up, ready. . . . I went by the next day and watched as they started to take the tops off the hills and fill in the valleys. As I stood there, I remembered all the people who had rode there over the years, I began to wonder where they were now and if they enjoy the sport of off road motorcycles. I wonder if they like me, still have a passion for the sport and remember with fondness a youth spent at Elephant.