Less than a month after he lost his grandmother my son lost a good friend. This is his remembrance:
Reynaldo Scott Cerda
April 13th, 1977 – January 5th, 2012
Although I don’t remember the date, I was having a good day, the day I met Reynaldo “Ray” Cerda. After a couple of years of searching for parts, giving up, and searching for parts again, I had started and ridden my 1977 Husqvarna WR250 trail bike for the first time. I was excited, to say the least, and told everyone at work who didn’t run away fast enough all about it. One of those people, a dark haired charismatic guy by the name of “Ray”, wanted to know more. He asked about my dirt bike, and told me about his 1992 Suzuki RM250. I found that day something just as crucial to trail riding as a helmet, or a bike: I found a good friend to ride with. It’s more important than you think – A riding partner can show you new trails, a riding partner can tell you new stories, but in addition, a riding partner can run back to the truck for gas, and a riding partner can go for help, should you get hurt. It’s also worth mentioning, that it’s always more fun to ride with someone either leading or following.
Over the years I knew Ray, I learned of many different places to ride. We rode at Disney, where the rock crawlers go. We rode at Appalachia Bay, where there is sand, trees, and four wheelers. Our favorite place to go, however, was Hudson Lake, between Salina, OK and Pryor, OK. Below the dam, there were many miles of trails, including every type of terrain imaginable.
In the early days, we would load up either in the Ford F150 belonging to Ray’s father, or the Mitsubishi Mighty Max that I bought specifically to haul our dirt bikes. We would sometimes get started as early as six in the morning, to spend as much time riding as a Saturday would allow. We had to park at the top of a hill, due to the difficulties of getting my dirt bike to start. (Ray and I learned at a later date, that the bike had to be in neutral, hand off the clutch, before the kickstarter would turn the engine. The Husky is an odd machine.) Once we got both bikes to run, and got them warmed up, we would grab a handful of spark plugs, fill the tanks, lock the truck, and disappear into the woods for most of the day, only coming out for fuel. At first, our bikes had near constant problems, the Husky was difficult to get started, and fouled out spark plugs in an hour or two, Ray’s Suzuki only had the first three gears, but otherwise usually ran good. There were a few times, however, that we helped each other push a bike out of the woods.
Ray had other interests as well, that he felt he should share. It was Ray who was with me, and talked me into buying my first gun. It was a Remington Model 522 Viper. We went the next weekend to our favorite hang-out, Hudson lake, and instead of the dirt bikes we took Ray’s Ruger .22 rifle, his Ruger P89 9mm handgun, and my new gun, the 522 viper, which was a semiautomatic .22 rifle. Much fun was had, blasting old cans and other things we found lying around with our little rifles. For a while, Ray’s Suzuki was broken down, and we couldn’t ride, so we would go shooting instead. We found that you can get lots of glass bottles, for free, if you go look behind a bar in the mornings. In addition to our .22 rifles, we added a Marlin .30/30 (Ray’s), SKS (Mine) Mossberg 20 gauge (Ray’s) an antique Turkish Mauser (Mine) and a single-shot 12 gauge (Belonged to Ray or his father, I cannot remember) One instance with the single-shot 12 gauge comes to mind, the first time Ray brought it out. He opened it, put a shell in it, and couldn’t get it to fire. He asked if I could find anything wrong with it. He gave me the opened shotgun, I took the shell out, looked at the firing mechanism, popped the shell back in, pointed the gun downrange, pulled the hammer, aimed and pulled the trigger – and the gun fired, to my complete and utter surprise. Ray had forgotten to pull the hammer back on the old gun.
It was unfortunate, but for a while, Ray and I grew apart – not through any effort or falling out from either of us, but life got in the way, as it will. I had purchased a house, and sold my streetbike, but held on to the clattering old Husqvarna, and kept it running, just in case. Ray had sold his Suzuki, and bought a streetbike. I rode the Husky around the yard, and even hauled it out to Hudson to ride it, but without Ray to heckle and dare and cheer, it wasn’t the same, and I ended up bored and went home after scarcely half an hour.
One day, at work, I began to feel a weird little feeling around my navel, that over the course of the next two days, turned into an ache in my right side. Not a throb, but a constant sharp pain. A co-worker and I looked it up on WebMD and Wikipedia, and thought I might have appendicitis. I went to the hospital after work that day, and at 3 am December 12th, I met an ER doctor the size and build of a refrigerator who informed me I had appendicitis, and it would have to come out. I spent the next day having my appendix removed, and was stuck in the hospital until Saturday morning. My parents took me to the grocery store, and then to my house, and I had just settled in for a weekend of moving as little as possible, when I got a call from Ray! He was excited, and had just purchased a 2004 Yamaha YZ250F dirt bike, and wanted to ride! I felt terrible, having to inform him that I had just been released from the hospital and couldn’t go ride. I talked to him about his new bike for a while, and we got off the phone. What he didn’t know, however, was that I went outside into the mid December cold, opened the garage, wheeled the Husky out, and did my very best to start it. I would have happily risked a return to the hospital for a chance to ride again. I couldn’t really kick it hard enough to get it to start, and I could barely lift my leg onto the kick starter. There was no way I could throw my leg over the seat even if I could get it started, I couldn’t lift the ramps up onto the bed of the truck, and I certainly couldn’t have pushed the bike up the ramps into the truck. Defeated, I leaned on the bike for support, and rolled it slowly back into its spot in the garage.
Two weeks later, I went riding with Ray again. Twinges and pains be damned. For the first time, Ray and I both had dirt bikes that would run all day long, without having to stop and put them back together. We could start our bikes without needing a big hill. We could ride in comfort in Ray’s Dodge, or my Chevy, instead of cramming into the Mitsubishi and struggling up hills at 50 MPH. I had forgotten how fun it was. Another year or so, and I endeavored to purchase a newer dirt bike, to ride with Ray. But I had another thought. I had a son, eight years old at the time. I thought it would be a good idea to get something he could ride with me, so I bought a four wheel ATV instead of a dirt bike. The first time my son saw it, he burst into tears, so scared of it was he. He never went riding with Ray and I , but I did start taking the four wheeler instead of the aging Husky. This caused some good-natured heckling from Ray, who would remind me that it was “Cheating” to ride with four wheels.
For reasons beyond my control, I started to grow apart from Ray again. I missed riding, shooting, and hanging out with him, but my new job involved a lot of overtime, and it’s not a good idea to throw away a job if you can help it. I talked to him a couple of times, heard about his 1974 Ford truck, and his big Honda Cruiser. I told him about my new KLR650, and my new job… and my new wife. He had wanted to get married, and have children himself. There is nothing wrong with my own parents, but I can only imagine how much fun it would have been to be a kid, and Ray be the father. He was entertaining, one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, he was active in his church, He loved children, and would have been a great person to raise them.
I’m very thankful an awkward person such as my self had the privilege of being Ray’s friend. It was more than dirt bikes and guns, we took a trip to Six Flags in Arlington, Texas a couple of times, watched movies, went to eat, and we worked together for a number of years. Ray was a person who would do anything he could for someone – whether he was spending time with them, inviting them to church, or helping push a thirty year old dirt bike up hills and out of the woods in the middle of an Oklahoma summer.
I still have the old Husqvarna. It still runs. It’s as much a part of my identity as it is a motorcycle. It sits in my garage, waiting for the next ride. That machine represents some of the best summers of my life. It’s hard to see it, sitting, knowing I won’t ever stand to the side and do the magic to make it start while Ray watches, that I won’t ever chase a grinning maniac and his Yamaha up a rock-and-root rutted trail while the ancient two stroke screams it’s fury. Goodbye Reynaldo, you will be missed.