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Set your sights high... Double amputee sets motorcycle record

By Ryan Hall The Daily Times

SHIPROCK -- Members of the Shiprock and Career Prep senior classes got living proof Wednesday morning that no matter what obstacles they face in life, it is possible to persevere.

Dave Barr, 54, rode his Harley-Davidson motorcycle onto the stage at the Performing Arts Center, made a slow circle, then walked to the front of the stage while students in the audience applauded loudly.

They already knew from his introduction that he rode 83,000 miles around the world during three-and-a-half years on his 1972 Harley-Davidson and was in the Guinness Book of World Records for that and other motorcycle rides.

However, they didn't know what obstacles he had to overcome before he started that journey.

"What you hear today will change your life forever," said Aztec resident Bill Claesgems when introducing his friend.

Barr told the students about his career in the military and explained how he became the first double-leg amputee to ride around the world on two wheels.

Following the presentation, Ruben John, 18, a senior at Shiprock High School, said the speech affected him.

When asked what he will take from Barr's talk, John smiled.

"(To) press on. I really admired what the man had to say. He went through a lot," John said. "I believe any obstacle, any challenge that goes in front of you, you can overcome. Look at (Barr). He's a symbol."

Barr first told the students of his accomplishments, then described his early years -- from being abandoned as a baby to joining the Marine Corps and being deployed to Vietnam on a Huey helicopter.

"I seemed to adapt to military life," Barr said.

After serving in the military, he came home with dreams of a hero's welcome and marrying his sweetheart. Instead, his girlfriend told him she opposed the war, wouldn't marry a soldier, and asked for her ring back.

"That was my welcome home. My whole world was shattered," Barr said.

Despite the rocky homecoming, Barr set out to succeed. He worked in an oilfield and eventually bought a new 1972 Harley-Davidson. Though he was successful, he wasn't happy. He decided to return to military life.

"I had plenty of money, but I wasn't happy. Something was missing," he said.

Barr moved to Israel, became a citizen and served in the country's elite parachute brigade.

He then left the military and returned to the United States where he picked up a "bad drinking habit."

The self-proclaimed "crusty, old biker" then moved to South Africa and joined the elite Pathfinder Brigade of the parachute division of the South African Defense Force.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 29, 1981, the machine-gun-equipped Toyota Landcruiser in which Barr was riding struck an anti-tank mine.

"The last thing I ever heard out of my left ear was just a pop," Barr said. He remembered watching the vehicle explode as he was thrown out of the truck. He landed in the fire caused by the explosion.

"I was getting a real good idea what hell was like, because it was hot, unimaginable," he said.

As a result of the explosion, Barr spent more than nine months in a hospital and underwent more than 20 operations.

After describing the event, Barr lifted his pants legs to show a full leg prosthesis on one leg and a below-the-knee prosthesis on the other. He then knocked his fist against the metal to illustrate his point as many students gasped and stopped chattering.

"If that's not enough, I'm colorblind too," Barr said with a laugh.

After a long bout of rehabilitation, Barr was able to regain the ability to walk.

"When I did that, I knew I had something precious back: The ability to dream," he said.

He then returned to the South African military, before retiring for good in December 1982.

After returning to the United States, Barr had his motorcycle fitted with a special braking system and an electric starter.

"If you persist, you will succeed in overcoming any obstacles set in front of you," he said.

Throughout the rest of the presentation, Barr showed slides of his around-the-world ride. It included everything from press photos to pictures of his bike broken down in the snow in Siberia. He even rode across the Sahara Desert.

"The best way to describe it is like riding on the back of a rattlesnake with handlebars," he said.

After describing every major obstacle and hardship he hit along the way, Barr left the students with a few words of encouragement.

"Life can be about winning, but we have to overcome the obstacles we face along the way," he said. "There's no obstacle you can't overcome if we meet it head on."

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An amazing story.

Made all the more amazing because the guy is a double amputee. I can relate to riding a bike as an amp, having adapted and adjusted accordingly. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like trying to ride missing both legs, especially if one is an AK as is Dave Barr. That takes a certain style of courage and determination.

Respect Dude.

Thanks for posting that Afet always good to read about fellow bikers.

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Now that dude is Salty! Much respect and well done!!! :D :D :D

Thanks for posting that, Afet!

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