“In the early 50s, L.A. was a golden place for all things motorized,” he said. “You could go to a drive-in movie or a race track seven nights a week.”
Parriott and his family regularly attended the races, watching midgets, sprint cars and motorcycles. On Sundays, they went to the desert races. According to Parriott, it wasn’t uncommon to see people killed in those races, which gave him a healthy respect for the sport.
“There’s nothing like the feeling of flying through the open desert at seventy-five or eighty miles an hour ... making snap decisions that will literally impact your whole well-being and your life,” he said. “There’s nothing short of out-and-out warfare that makes you feel so close to living.”
As a kid, Parriott spent a lot of time riding on the back of his dad’s bike. At eight-years-old, he received his first motorcycle – a small 98cc bike that his dad helped him get running.
“I got on that thing and oh, boy. That was it,” Parriott said.
After that, anytime Parriott’s dad went out to the desert to ride, Parriott took his own motorcycle.
“I couldn’t keep up with them on the trails, so I’d ride around camp until they got back,” he said.
He also built an oval track in his backyard so he could ride whenever he wanted.
As he got older Parriott started competing in different types of races.
“I raced mostly non-sanctioned events,” he said. “My dad didn’t want me to be a race bum.”
He spent most of his time racing go-karts and stock cars, only participating in one or two motorcycle races a year, because he knew how dangerous those competitions could be.
After high school Parriott spent a few months in Moab, where he stayed with his grandma, before returning to California for college while doing a tool and die apprenticeship. That apprenticeship led him to jobs making gauges for aircrafts, as well as working on the landing gear for the B-1 Bomber.
In 1977, Parriott returned to Moab with his family, eventually opening up a machine shop where he specialized in making cylinder heads for the diesel motors used at the local mines. He also spent plenty of time tearing across the open desert on his motorcycle.
In 1995, Parriott and a group of friends went to the Secret Spire trail and spent time raking out the dozens of rogue trails that had been left by riders who roamed off the designated route. Then they delineated one route to be used in order to cut down on the damage done to the surrounding landscape. Shortly thereafter, the group did similar work on the Tusher Tunnel trail.
A few years later, Parriott started Elite Motorcycle Tours. During all his time out on the trails, he began to notice the friction that occurred between different user groups.
“All through the years, the ground was open and there wasn’t anyone out there,” Parriott said. “In the last 20 to 25 years there’s been more people out on public ground ... A lot of different kinds of uses ... When you get different user groups together, there’s always going to be conflict.”
Parriott wanted to find a way to help reduce that conflict, and in 2002 he started Ride with Respect, with the intention of creating a coalition that included all the different user groups.
That idea took off when Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands officials approached Parriott about hosting a motorcycle race on state sovereign lands to help raise some revenue. Parriott felt a race would have been too much impact, but he wanted to find a way to help.
“For 20 years I’d stayed out of the area because it was too close to Arches [National Park],” he said. “There were plenty of other places to go.”
Over the course of the next year, Parriott and Moab resident Dave Cozzens spent hundreds of hours hiking the area trying to find places to build a sustainable trail system.
“We wanted all the users to have a crack at it,” Parriott said. “We turned in ... jeep routes, ATV routes and motorcycle/bicycle/hiking and horse routes.”
After a year of scouting and working on the trail, the Sovereign Trail system was born.
“We started training people to be cognizant of each other on the trail,” he said. “We made our signs state that everyone could use this trail, but ride with respect. Or walk with respect.”
Ride with Respect is responsible for about 40 miles of trail in the Sovereign system, which is located north of Moab, as well as another 40 miles of trails in the South Mountain Trail system of the La Sal Mountains. The group is also working on rerouting single-track trails between Moab and Green River.
Parriott recently stepped down as executive director of Ride with Respect, but he’s staying on as president of the board. He’s also in the process of selling Elite Motorcycle Tours. Parriott said he now spends most of his time working on a variety of projects at home.
He currently holds four Hare and the Hound championships. Hare and the Hound races are off-road motorcycle competition events. Next year, at age 70, Parriott hopes to win the over-60 division for his final race.
“That’s all that’s going to be on my slate,” he said. “It’ll be the most effort I’ve ever put into racing.”
Parriott said he could not have accomplished so much on his own.
“You don’t do anything in this life without people helping you,” he said. “I’ve got the best kids, the best family and the best woman in the world.”