Archive for February, 2011

The Jolly Rogers Motorcycle Club Race Track and Hill Climb The Early Years

The race begins at the Jolly Rogers Race Track, Kent, WA The Jolly Rogers Motorcycle Club race track was famous as being one of the best in the Pacific Northwest and races were well attended.  The notorious Hill Climb was a gut wrenching 430 feet which challenged many a rider far and near.

The sweeping 10 acre Jolly Rogers Motorcycle Club race track and hill climb was located just below Military Road, south of 216th in Kent, WA between Seattle and Tacoma.

One of the highlights of racing at the Jolly’s track was making the turn around the tree at the north end. The fastest way around was to ride well up on the 6 foot berm and then jump back down on the track. Another joy was drifting through the sweeper preceding it.

On a good day the races would draw some 500 riders and their families, and the winners would be in the local papers  (The Jolly Rogers Race Track, Kent, WA Seattle Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer) the next morning. Motorcycling was a big deal then; from Bellingham to Portland, clubs like the Barons, the Sidewinders and the Ducks held court on this track. The Jolly Rogers’ real trophy however, was their hellacious hill climb. a 430 foot high beast that only the most daring riders attempted to scale. The rise was considered formidable enough that the Jollies hosted a national class c hill-climb competition in May of 1964.

Making it to the top!In 1943 the track property was stumbled upon by old time Jollies member Woody Combs.  The acreage was owned by a local potato farmer and purchased with monies chipped in by Jollies club members for a total cost of $1,500. With just horse and plow, they carved out a small dust bowl for riding loops. Club members would go out there every night in the summer on their Indians and Harleys and ride around in the bowl.

 Looking at it now, the hill climb grade seems impossible, perhaps a 50-degree angle. It’s a plunging groove that strikes you first as the result of stor mwater runoff until you see the propped-up board that served as a starting point for the riders determined on rocketing to its 430 foot crest. Carved out of the tree dotted hillside it was argued the highest hill climb in the West outside of one owned by the Widowmakers Motorcycle Club in Utah. There had been other hill climbs, like Seattle’s Queen Anne’s Counterbalance or other in Lake Forest Park, Granite Falls and Portland but this was the won picked by the American MotorcycleGoing for the top  Association for its National Class C Hill Climb in 1964, the only time Washington state has hosted an event like this other than 1924’s national at Paradise, Mount Rainier, WA.

Folks would come from as far as Canada to see the ballsy racers lurch and bolt up the incline, with carloads of fans parked  below, honking like maniacs when the bikes would clear the rise.  Riders who didn’t make it to the top would have a hell of a time getting back down, but their bikes would fare worse if the squads posted at the climb’s margins couldn’t stop them with tightly pulled ropes to keep them from sliding down the hill.

The crowds loved it!The crowds loved it!  And so did the Jolly Rogers, for whom those 10 acres weren’t just a place to hold events but to camp and get away from it all. For them, motorcycling was a way of life.  It’s truly ashame to not only see the demise of the historic Jolly Rogers Motorcycle Club...the way it used to be... race track but of the club itself… the way it used to be.


American Motorcyclist July, 1964
The Seattle Times Scene, Sunday, February 7, 1999