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4:51 AM Mon, Dec. 10th

Meet Your Neighbors: Lifelong rider keeps putting miles under bike

Joe Ballard was part of a musical family while growing up in Illinois.

At 12, he began playing the trumpet in the family band.

His father was a drummer, a brother played saxophone and a sister played the piano at dances and local events.

A year later, he became interested in motorcycles.

He bought a Cushman motor scooter in 1945 for $225 with earnings from his band work.

Ballard stayed with the band until age 17, but his love for motorcycles continued to grow.

"I had the Cushman about two years and then bought a Wyse motor scooter I had for a year," Ballard said.

"After the Wyse scooter, I bought a Harley-Davidson from Army surplus.

It had about 2,500 miles on it and I paid about $450 for it."

Ballard joined the Army on his 17th birthday and made one ride on the Harley-Davidson to his duty station at Fort Knox.

But after learning he was headed for Japan as part of the post-war occupational forces, he gave the bike to his brother, Dick, who was one year younger.

"Dick drove it around for about six months and then sold it," Ballard said.

"It wasn't really his thing."

Ballard said he has owned three motor scooters and 14 motorcycles during his life.

His favorite was a 1977 BMW 1000-cc.

"It was a good all-around bike for the highway or back roads and it was lightweight and easy to handle," he said.

Ballard got to ride a motorcycle in Japan during his four years in the Army.

He said he was injured in 1951 when he failed to see a taxi driver back out of a driveway and crashed into the cab, resulting in the loss of three teeth and a cut on his lower left leg.

Ballard got out of the Army in 1952 and held assorted jobs for a year before joining the Air Force and beginning a 16-year career in it as an aircraft reciprocating engine mechanic.

It was during his Air Force years that he met his wife, Marianne.

"I was assistant cashier at Princeville (Ill.) State Bank when Joe came in one day in December 1956," Marianne Ballard said.

"I made a point of walking from one end of the bank to the other and he said that was entrapment."

Joe and Marianne married in October 1957.

She said her father gave them $500 as a wedding present and they used it to buy a 1955 Harley-Davidson KHK motorcycle.

When a son was born to the couple in 1960, Joe gave up bike riding and did not get back into it until 1977.

He had a love for sailing and built three sailboats during that 17-year period.

A trip from their home in Loch Lomond, Calif., to visit relatives in Illinois in 1982 covered about 4,500 miles and was memorable.

"We stopped off at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, where we met my sister and her husband," Joe said.

"They were in a motor home and we camped out in a tent.

"A thunderstorm came up with all kinds of rain coming into the tent, so we spent the rest of the night in their motor home.

If there had been a dumpster nearby I would have put the tent and sleeping bags in it."

Ballard is a lifetime member of the Harley Owners Group since joining in 1988.

He also holds memberships in the American Motorcycle Association (since 1985), the Route 66 Riders Motorcycle Club and the International Brotherhood of Motorcycle Campers.

Ballard now owns a 2003 Kawasaki 1500-cc Nomad.

He said he averages about 12,000 miles as a rider per year.

"I would like to make a repeat trip someday through the Colorado Rockies and California High Sierras," he said.

The Ballards lived in St.

George, Utah, prior to moving to Kingman in January 1992.

Joe said the move was made because Kingman has a good Harley-Davidson club.

When not out riding, Ballard enjoys drawing cartoons for a motorcycle newsletter.

Neighbors is a feature that appears Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.