About Skip's Promotions
When Skip Horne jumps on a motorcycle, he feels free to dream. He sees open roads, rolling hills and endless possibilities. "It's often hard to describe the freedom of riding a motorcycle," Horne said. "I've done it for over 40 years, and nothing compares."
His passion for the two-wheel machines and his love of people are reasons why he is considered legendary in the extreme sport of hill climbing. For the past 18 years, he has held hill climbs at the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, located 12 miles outside of his hometown of Tracy. The events, known simply as "Skip's at Carnegie," draw the best riders in the country. Some truly believe it has been Horne's hospitality that has created the success.
"Everyone knows about Skip's," champion rider Kerry Peterson said. "It's the event you would emulate if you were putting on a hill climb." More than 300 riders - and 10,000 fans. Horne, doesn't particularly like all this fuss being made about him. He'd rather things be focused on the event. Especially when, he says, he's simply doing this because it's something he enjoys. "I'm just a guy that loves motorcycles and people, and loves getting the two together," Horne said. "That's my motivation, to be able to get on a bike and dream. This is just my life, and I'm just Skip."
"Just Skip" isn't how he's described by those in the sport. The word that comes up most often is, yes, "legend." "He's certainly a legend, and it's hard to overestimate the affect he has had on hill climbing in this country," said Ken Faught, former editor of Dirt Rider Magazine. "You need someone to build the stage for performers to be on. That's Skip's legacy." Horne didn't set out to build a legacy, he just wanted to give the riders a good place to compete. He has competed in just one race, winning his age group when he was 50. He immediately retired undefeated, saying "I didn't have anything to prove." Indeed.
He never has taken the compliments too seriously. And if he did, his wife of 45 years, Lynn, would set him straight. "When people call him a legend, I tell him legend means you are an old man." she said. "He just laughs. But seriously, he has done so much for people, and it's amazing to see the affection people have for him and what these races mean to them." Horne admits he has decided to slow down just a little bit. He owned the general store at Carnegie SRVA for 22 years before selling it last month, and his son, George, has taken over some of the hill climbing duties. He misses commiserating about daily rides, but he said he'll never truly be retired because of the races.
"Hill climbers are beautiful people, and it's a great sport," Horne said. "And when you are riding through those hills, or anywhere on your bike, you feel free." Freedom is important to Horne. His idea of a good time is to jump on his 1986 1400cc Suzuki Calvacade and take a scenic ride to Alaska with Lynn in the back seat reading a book. "I can always tell when she's reading because people turn and stare at her when we pass," he said. Horne can go anywhere on his bike. This weekend, he is riding through Northern California, covering 150 miles per day as he visits Fort Bragg, Redding and other cities, and he has been all over the country.
He has tried other modes of transportation. He will travel in a car, if necessary, and 15 years ago he actually bought a motorhome. "We used it twice, and that was it," Horne said. "It was too confining for us. You couldn't go anywhere with it, you had to stay on the beaten path. That's not my style." It hasn't been his style since he was 10 years old. Horne would get on to his bicycle in Tracy and pedal the 12 miles through the twisting hills to Carnegie. "It was something I loved to do, and it was a great place to explore," Horne said. "Who would have thought I'd be back there all those years later? But I guess it was just natural that I would become interested in motorcycles."
He bought his first motorcycle, a 55cc Honda trail bike, in 1963 because he thought it would be a good way to travel to remote fishing spots. "I learned early that you could take them anywhere," Horne said. "That's what I originally loved about them. Soon, it wasn't about the fishing." He started riding frequently and owned a Suzuki dealership for several years before opening the store at Carnegie. He had returned to his childhood playground and knew some races had been held at Carnegie.
Hill climbing is one of the oldest motorcycle sports, dating to the early 1900s. The races consist of competitors riding dirt bikes through valleys and over steep hills. Races were promoted at Carnegie and around California throughout the years, but no one did it on a consistent basis until Horne fell in love with the sport. "It had been done infrequently, but Dad thought it would be a good event for the riders," said 43-year-old son George. "The main thing he's brought is consistency. The riders and fans know that we'll be at Carnegie." Peterson said the appeal of Carnegie is more than just a challenging course through the foothills. It's the Horne family's personal touch. "They've always taken a family-oriented approach and are always open to suggestions," Peterson said. "Skip and George really care, and that shows." Skip Horne does care, and he's happy to know that when he stops promoting the events, George plans to carry on. But that day seems far away. He's having too much fun meeting new people and riding to new places. "I'll ride and promote the races as long as I'm physically able," Horne said. "It's not a hobby, it's a way of life."
By Scott Linesburgh, Record Staff Writer