Juan Capistrano has earned worldwide
recognition because of the beautiful
historical Mission San Juan Capsitrano.
The famed workings of father Junipero
Serra in his conversion of the Juaneno
Indians to Catholicism. Los Rios Street
proudly displays one of the oldest streets
in Southern California, which also brings
visitors from far and wide to indulge
in its old time flavor. And yet, there
is another history making event that
San Juan Capistrano harbors. It's the
story of Motorcycle Hill.
the southern edge of town, stood an
imposing hill that was often referred
to as "Gibraltar of the Pacific Coast."
This rugged terrain was conquered on
March 18, 1917 by a fearless group of
motorcycle enthusiasts who were adventurous
enough to try. And, it was done one
day before the famed "return of the
swallows." People came from all over
to witness both events. San Juan was
a beehive of activity and the streets
were alive with happy celebrators.
is recorded that 7500 people, 1070 cars
and approximately the same amount of
motorcycles that were present to witness
the siege of the notorious hill. Headlines
read "Lambert on Excelsior Conquers
'Invincible' Capistrano." Local Santa
Ana resident Calvin Lambert rode a 3-speed
series 18 Excelsior up the hill. He
was the enviable first. Even as the
crowd watched him disappear over the
top, they still couldn't believe what
they saw. Aghast, they were forced to
recognize what an epochal feat they
had witnessed. Nothing on wheels had
ever taken Motorcycle Hill before. Both
spectators and participants watched
history unfold before their very eyes.
won $25 for the "Free for All" and $50
for the "Stock Three-Speeds." Other
competitive bikes included Hendersons,
Eagles and Indians. Today's popular
favorite Harley Davidson had a single
entry that was expected to produce a
stronger effort. But it became a negligible
factor. The Thore was another bike that
was well known before the event, but
it received no mention.
left of the notorious Motorcycle Hill
can be seen from the parking lot of
Costco on Doheny Park Road. Just look
towards the Amoco shop above the freeway
and there it is. When the I-5 was built,
much of the hill was cut away. A developer
of new homes is slowly reducing what
you hurry, you can still catch a glimpse.
You too can see yet another of San Juan
Capistrano's little famous sights that
makes this town so rich in history and
old time flavor. Come join us in enjoying
the Legend of Old Motorcycle Hill.