The History of
Wide Open Magazine
By Jeremy Povenmire
It all started in 1983. Ralph Roades
returned to Missouri from the sunny state of California. He had
sold his last motorcycle out west and brought his newborn son
home to raise. He opted for the simplicity of small town life
and settled in Warsaw, Missouri.
It didn't take Ralph long to grow restless;
he soon started a fishing tournament circuit and magazine in
Warsaw called The Midwest Outdoorsman. It was a success and it
brought Ralph into the world of selling print advertising and
being a magazine editor. He ran the circuit and magazine until
the fall of 1998.
His friend Michelle started The Lake
magazine in the fall of 2000. She did the fall issue 2000 and
spring issue 2001. Then Ralph took it over. He ran The Lake until
summer of 2003 when he sold it.
During the years of floating around
in his fishing boat and editing The Midwest Outdoorsman magazine
the passion for motorcycles never left Ralph's heart. He also
stayed in touch with a lot of his old motorcycle riding friends,
friends of his for more than 30 years.
Times had changed though. The people
who rode motorcycles were also changing. Many business people
around the Warsaw area were riding and one day a local acquaintance
of Ralph's made the comment that "one of the most colorful
characters in the Warsaw area didn't even have a bike."
This made Ralph think. You know, that
guy was right. My son is old enough now that he is nearly on
his own and we don't live down that long stretch of gravel out
in the sticks anymore. (Ralph had organized a group of area residents
to pave the 3 mile stretch from the highway to their houses).
Maybe it was time to get back on two wheels again.
So Ralph decided to put together a bike.
He had done this before so he did just like the old days and
started cruising around and assembling parts from old friends
and new. From his efforts his hot rod 113 Incher was born. It
wasn't the same after that.
Ralph's The Lake magazine started having
ads from motorcycle related businesses. He did a special insert
in The Lake magazine that catered to the motorcycle crowd. One
day he got a phone call from his graphic artist and she commented
that he now had over 30 pages of advertising and editorial in
The Lake magazine that talked about bikes.
So Ralph decided to explore the idea
of producing a full time motorcycle magazine. He came up with
the name Wide Open magazine. This was from a list of about 50
names originally. There was no turning back now.
Ralph began beating the pavement to
get supporters. It was a hard sell. He had no real magazine to
show potential advertisers, just a successful insert in The Lake
magazine and a dream. So he had to find a select group of people
who would share in his vision.
The first issue of Wide Open began.
Ralph went to a special group of people to get their support.
He traveled around and got the support of Gail's Harley-Davidson,
St. Joe Harley-Davidson, Jack Miller Motorcycles, Wolverine Choppers,
Evil Twin Cycles, Gasoline Alley, Robert's Bourget Bikes, Carriage
Works and Dakota Digital among others. Things were starting to
Ralph assembled some good editorial
about David Allen Coe, David Mann and lots of cool bike information.
Soon he had a legitimate magazine with 64 pages of content.
From there it snowballed each issue
and Ralph began making less calls to solicit advertising because
many of his potential clients started calling him. The second
issue grew to 84 pages. People started noticing, many amateur
writers started sending Ralph material and soon he had a great
group of reporters to choose from for story assignments. The
colorful DynaMike submitted his first of many cool stories to
The third issue ended up being 112 pages
in July. Karla graced the cover on an American IronHorse Texas
Chopper from Jack Miller. Within a month of the magazine coming
out Jack Miller was sold out of Texas Choppers. Respect was paid
to some people who paved the way for the lifestyle of modern
motorcycling and we all got to go racing at the All Harley Drags
in Kansas City.
We have come a long way since that first
year. Our issues now average 124 pages that include bike features,
rally news, bike show news, "Readers Who Ride", "Ladies
Who Ride", technical info, motorcycle events and more...
And new in 2008, Ralph added a Hot Rod section featuring hot
rods and classic cars. Who would have thought we would evolve
so quickly into the largest Midwest Motorcycle Magazine?
But wait! Ralph didn't stop there. As
a natural extension of the magazine, Ralph did his first bike
show in St. Louis in Feb. of 2005. It was an overwhelming success
with crowds that reached over 12,000. So he followed up with
adding Kansas City to his repertoire in 2006 and Des Moines in
2007. (The winners' bikes are all featured in Wide Open Magazine.)
You have to know Ralph to know he is
always thinking about what he can do next. Never satisfied...that's
Ralph. Well he came up with the idea that since his Wide Open
Girls are so popular out at the rallies and bike shows, why not
do a swimsuit calendar featuring all the girls and that is just
what he did. He produced the first calendar in 2006.
Now we ask, "Ralph, what is next?"