In about 1968 he started going to the NORRA races down in Baja, and soon he was doing some prerunning with a racer friend. At about the same time the environmentalists discovered the desert and off roading. Bob tells us that they (the environmentalists) were already closing sand dune areas like Pt. Mugu, Marina Beach and Morro Bay and had set their sights on Pismo. He was by now the proud owner of a “sandrail” that he’d built and equipped with a 36 hp VW motor, so he had first hand knowledge of the dunes and what would be missing if they were all closed down.
So Bob became involved with some other dunebuggy people, and they formed the California Off Road Vehicle Association (CORVA). And CORVA teamed up with a few clubs from the Bay area and Sacramento and about 12 Southern California buggy and Jeep clubs and started to do battle with the “enviros”, BLM, State Parks, Forest Service and the Legislature. For a brief while Bob worked with Mickey Thompson helping him with “environmental/political stuff”. And then, in 1974 he moved to Sacramento to work for the Reagan Administration in the last year of his governorship. Bob ran the State Fuel Allocation program during the oil embargo and was able to ensure that there was always plenty of gas available at the old Glamis store, at Barstow for the Fireworks Race or at Pismo and wherever off-roaders were likely to need fuel.
Bob stayed on in Sacramento and in 1978 helped get a District 37 motorcycle racer named Bob Hayes elected to the state legislature. In 1979 he worked for the state Assembly as a policy consultant on energy, land use and transportation. After a few years of doing that, the lobbyist for the motorcycle industry retired and Bob was hired to replace him. At that point he put together an organization called the Off Road Vehicle Legislative Coalition which was comprised of CORVA, California 4 Wheel Drive Association, AMA National and Districts 36 and 37, the California/Nevada Snowmobile Association and a few others. Then, for the next 14 years he was the spokesman for motorcycles and ORV enthusiasts in the state legislature. One year in the mid-80s, Bob got the help of Sal Fish (SCORE’s president) to borrow a Jeep Cherokee, and he drove it in a Baja 1000 in the Safari class (which unfortunately no longer exists). He took a “fairly liberal” Assemblyman, who was about to be named Chair of the Transportation Committee as his co-driver. After a weekend of participating in a Baja 1000 he became a real supporter of our cause. Bob says the “enviros” could never understand how this guy, who normally voted their way, would always be there for the off-roaders when we needed a vote. Bob continued to lobby for Off Road causes until the mid ‘90s, when the Republicans took control of the State Assembly and he went back to work for the Assembly again. After the Democrats took over control once again, he left and decided to work in El Centro. This kept him close enough to his house in San Felipe, on the east edge of Baja, to satisfy his need for what he calls a “fish taco fix.” In March of 2002 Bob went to work for the County of Imperial. He says he still gets“to fight for the rights of off roading, since that is a BIG deal in Imperial County”. He is also on the Board of Directors of the California Off Road Vehicle Association; The American Sand Association; and ORMHOF. He’s also active in a handful of other organizations that work for our right to use the land. In 2017, Bob was named Motorcyclist of the Year by the American Motorcycle Association, in recognition for his efforts to keep public lands in California open for responsible off-road motorcycle riding, and other forms of motorized recreation.
Learn more about ORMHOF Inductee Bob Ham in this Conversations with Big Rich Podcast:
We don’t tend to think of influencers in the octogenarian stage, but Bob Ham certainly qualifies. Bob spent his career influencing people where it mattered, in land use advocacy in the California State Legislature. From forming CORVA to being on the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Board of Directors, Bob knows how to get things done and impact others. A 2006 inductee into ORMHOF, Bob Ham is why we say; legends live at ORMHOF.org. Be sure to tune in on your favorite podcast app.
3:50 – I started picking up Spanish and really getting engaged with the culture down there
8:43 – I probably went to virtually every Baja 1000 since the ’69 event
12:06 – we formed CORVA in 1971 and got involved writing bills
23:27 – there ought to be a law that allows green stickered vehicles to connect a trail – we got it, Assembly Bill 1201
32:13– most lobbyists come in just the way I did, as former legislative staffers
42:45 – it’s not the Off-Road Racing Hall of Fame, it’s the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame