Remembering John Farmer

John Farmer racing CALVMX Flat Track. Photo by Judd Neves

A soldier of perseverance and the American way of life, this was John Farmer. Southern California Flat Track Association 2016 Bomber class Novice Champion, John Farmer had the heart and zeal to live strong and do his part to ensure others did too.

John Farmer (13), with a good start in an inter-class 2016 Bomber heat.

John passed away on October 11th, 2016. Born on December 13, 1960, John Philip Farmer, was a lifelong resident of San Diego’s South Bay city of Chula Vista, graduating from Hilltop High School in 1978. While growing up in the South Bay, John was an expert boatman taking many ski trips to Salton Sea, as well as an escapade or a hundred, on the waters near Chula Vista Marina and beyond in San Diego Bay.

Fishing with his good buddy Ken Shilling while in their teens, they were caught out in the murky waters near dusk, paddling in with water skis after the engine lost it’s roar. Continuing through the darkening night, they eventually made their way back to the launch ramp, add one to teen invincibility. John always owned boats throughout his life, never losing his love of the water.

Wrenches for hands, he went on to race Bomber Stock cars in his early twenties, at tracks like the long past South Bay Speedway also known as Speedway 117. Gaining his dirt biking experience starting with the three wheel Honda ATC he was often found at the riding mecca near the legendary Palm Avenue, which were part of his back yard. An area that inter-connected with other areas of San Diego county, largely developed or closed off at this point, it is now part of a bygone era of San Diego riding.

Ken Shilling (26B) and John Farmer (13), going into turn one in a 2016 heat race.

The past few years John had been racing motocross with CALVMX and in 2016 put his hat in the SCFTA and CALVMX flat track series. Purchasing a Chaney framed Yamaha TT500 from S&S Off Road publisher, Steve Kukla, he went to the sliding side. John completed eight rounds at SCFTA before he graced the pearly gates, winning one round and placing second in five rounds. He was posthumously awarded the Bomber Novice title at the SCFTA awards ceremony.

John was also an avid Harley Davidson rider, earning his biker stripes on a 2002 adventure with Shilling by his side. Sizzling summer heat beating down, the riders headed out on the big slab of Interstate 805 out of Chula Vista, destination, Sturgis, South Dakota. An enduring fourteen hundred mile ride ahead, give or take a few miles, the modern day vikings had some hard riding to do. The destination is just a goal, what lies between is the adventure to a true traveler.

John Farmer, on the roll in 2002 before the extension cord saga.

New to riding Harley’s and navigating the concrete path mired with crazy cagers, John caught on quickly as they powered their big Harleys on. First pit stop, Las Vegas, Nevada, and time for some refreshment, relaxation, and sightseeing. Laying down the bed rolls they quickly went to enjoying the atmosphere of the city, and paying for it the next morning. Alas, they were to meet other scooter tramps, and that they did, cranking it up in the morning the group had grown to seven riders, and back to the slab they go.

If there was a Harley having a bad day, John knew he could get it going with duct tape and a bit of mechanical how to, and back on the road they would go. After being joined by the other riders, they soon found themselves engaging in steel horse resuscitation, again and again and again. One of the riders from the joining group was having a bit of an issue with his bike, which he had just finished putting together before beginning the journey, not a good deal for such a long scoot, but it happens. As Sturgis neared and the stops to fix the ailing Harley increased, John and Ken needed to move on. They said their good byes and fast tracked it to the event with about 100 miles to go.

The first Friday in August opened the 2002 Sturgis Rally, with the reportedly over 500,000 riders showing up during the event which always ends on the second Sunday in August. The rally transforms the quiet town that normally has a population around 6500, into a plethora of bikes, people, food, and lots of cool beverages, the latter was forefront on the minds of John and Ken.

Break time for John and the scooters, on their 2002 Sturgis run.

Coming into the crowds they made their way to the Full Throttle Saloon, before it became famous with its own reality show seven years later. The two brothers-in-arms arrived and ordered up some frosty ones. After enjoying the chaos for about a day, they received news that Ken’s mom was ailing in Phoenix, Arizona. Time to roll.

John fired up his Heritage Custom to say bye on the fly, with Shilling twisting the gas on his customized 1994 Heritage Softail. The road lay ready for the trip to Mom’s house and Sturgis became history. Taking the route through Wyoming, Colorado, and then Utah where they spent the night, everything seemed on the mark with less than 500 miles to go to Phoenix. Groceries down their necks, with the heat coming on, they set out in tandem the following morning. Motoring into northern Arizona territory Ken’s sled started doing the sputter and gag routine, but as the engine seemed to lose all spark in the rural expanse, they found a watering hole. In a beer bench huddle the two figured out that Ken had an electrical issue, voltage regulator to be exact and not a replacement part in sight.

No worries. Finding a small hardware store they came up with the idea to connect an extension cord from John’s battery to Ken’s and see if that would work. Presto, the sickly sled came to life as if to bellow, “what’s the problem, let’s get it on,” and get it on they did.

Running down pavement with the wire stretched out between the two bikes, their umbilical cord of electrical deliverance got the job done. Eventually finding a shop, they repaired Ken’s steed and onward they went.

Just as in the story above, so John’s life adventures went, he always found a way to get the job done, as evidenced by his over eighteen years of working for the Chula Vista Elementary Transportation Department, eventually heading the department.

John was a loving husband, son and brother to his family. As a friend he was second to none, he was caring and compassionate and would help anyone. He was an ace mechanic, a restorer of classic cars, San Diego Bay fisherman and boatman, flat tracker and motocrosser.

The legendary Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd says it well in one line of their 1974 rock classic Free Bird: “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

John is and always will be. Godspeed Sir.

By Rodney Rutherford

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