Sixty-seven-year-old Billy Simpson has been running his whole life, and he finally has a couple dream vehicles to get him to the trail: a 1993 Toyota T100 with a Four Wheel Camper, and a Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycle.
“I’m thinking of naming the truck Pearl, after Janis Joplin,” said Billy.
While the stubborn motorcycle doesn’t have a name, he generally addresses it as, You Son of a Bit%h.
“If you know KLRs, you’d understand,” he laughed.
Billy grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, home to not only great music, but also a surrounding network of trails. He has been a runner for as long as he can remember – starting off with a year of college cross country, which appealed to his competitive nature, and on to running marathons. He then dabbled in adventure racing, triathlon, and eventually picked up trail running.
“I fell into a great group of runners in Memphis; they really took me under their wing,” said Billy. “I’d always been a backpacker, so trail running was an extension of that. It was the perfect combination of being out in nature and beautiful places, but you also get to run hard.”
His first 100 miler was the Leadville 100 Mile in 2001, before UltraSignup even existed. Billy described the ultrarunning scene back then as almost a different world it was so low-key. When he came home, his friends were astounded at the accomplishment.
“I’d been to Colorado, and Leadville was one of the only 100 milers I’d heard of, so I thought, I’ll just do that. I didn’t have any problems, and it was a real out-of-body experience. When it came home, it felt like I’d gone and walked on the moon — no one had ever done anything like that in Memphis. In 2003, I got turned on to the Hardrock 100, and I was just lost [in the trail running world] after that.”
Billy has since run Hardrock 11 times, placing as high as 11th. For the last 20 years, Billy has continued as a regular on the trail scene, running everything from classic races like Three Days of Syllamo and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile, to the more obscure Swamp Stomper 50k.
His entrepreneurial spirit has allowed him to continue this adventurous life in the outdoors and trail racing. Billy worked for FedEx — they even paid for his college tuition, back in the 1970s — and stayed with them for 13 years, until he started his own transportation company. He sold the company when he was 49 years old.
A few years ago, he was able to move to his dream location in Hotchkiss, Colorado, at the entrance of the North Fork Valley on Colorado’s Western Slope.
“It’s such a special place. There’s sustainable cattle ranching and organic farming. Everything is about the land: it’s right by the Gunnison River, and in every direction there’s something really special. It was one of the last affordable places I could find in Colorado.”
While Hotchkiss is gorgeous, it takes a bit of driving to get to some of the more burly trails, and takes a more rugged vehicle at that. Billy found not just one solution, but two. First, he found a Kawasaki KLR motorcycle, perfect for day trips, getting from place to place in the warmer months, and when he’d have somewhere to stay once he reached his destination.
“I’ve always liked motorcycles, wanted to ride them around the country. The KLR 650 is an everyman’s bike — not great at anything, but pretty good at everything. Back around 2017, I bought one, put some bags on it, and rode all around the country. I ran a bunch and did some races. I still ride all over the place in the summer — it’s my daily transport. It’s a great way to get to trailheads,” Billy explained.
Getting a motorcycle satiated not only his wanderlust for the open road and exploration, but gave him the ability to get just about anywhere. What it didn’t give him, was the ability to get and stay anywhere in any weather. For that, he needed, and really wanted, a truck with a camper.
As luck would have it, Billy recently came upon his real dream vehicle, the Toyota T100 truck with the perfect Four Wheel Camper attached. He didn’t feel confident enough to rehab an old Volkswagen Westfalia, and he’d always been a lover of the long-lasting Toyota trucks, so this was a perfect marketplace find. While Billy found the truck while looking for campers, this one already had a great quality camper included. Though the camper would be great for long-haul trips, he was the most excited about the truck.
“They only made these trucks from 1993 to 1998, right before they came out with the Toyota Tundra. I called the guy, and this 1993 truck was a single-owner vehicle, and only had 53,000 miles on it. It’s a four-wheel drive, five-speed manual — it will go anywhere and it won’t break down. I’ll never need another vehicle. It’s like the anti-Sprinter van. It’s old school.”
While Billy has only had the truck for eight months now — and is still deciding on a name, but he thinks Pearl will stick — he’s already driven it cross country, and is looking forward to driving it for the rest of his life.
Call for Comments
- Any other motorcycle lovers out there?
- Have you also been fortunate to find your dream vehicle, one that you’ll never need to replace?
- Calling all Billy Simpson stories! You know what to do in the comments section.