I've written a lot of stories in my time; everything from movie scripts, TV screenplays to song lyrics. As a Moto-Journalist, I've traveled Hong Kong to Hollywood filling pages with photos and prose. Usually struggling with traditional writing conventions, I have no plot, no theme, no storyline; just an endless ribbon of road that unfolds before me. This trip though is more of a rewrite. Yeah, we're gonna follow the basic route Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper did in the classic 1969 biker-flick, Easy Rider. Sure, we're meeting up with actress/motorcyclists Katee Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer on their charity ride from Los Angeles to Louisiana in support of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), but Easy Rider wasn't scripted; they made it up as they went along and this story too will write itself. Two thousand two hundred miles, five days, two guys, and two girls with one agenda: to ride long and hard. To quote Captain America, "Yeah, I'm hip about time, but I just gotta go."
Get Your Motor Running
In Easy Rider Phil Spector is the "Connection," but he is unavailable on an extended holiday as we depart L.A. with our tanks full of cash, I mean gas. We're anxious with anticipation for the approaching adventure (alliteration; sorry, just can't help myself) and ride east to the high desert. We journey through a very different nation than Captain America and Billy traversed in 1969. American flag's painted on gas tanks, helmets, and even sewn onto jackets is applauded and boldly displaying the international symbol of freedom signifies your allegiance. Not so for longhaired hippies of their era; donning the red, white, and blue was often seen as an act of defiance. My riding compadre is Heath Cofran, Lucky 13 marketing director, daredevil, and all around scoundrel. The red, white, and blue paintjob on his Triumph Bonneville pays homage to his American hero, Evel Knievel.
Cast of Characters
We shed our city skins as the landscape yawned wide open to big sky and barren desert. Catching Highway 62 north towards Joshua Tree, we see giant wind farms churn air into electricity, iconic symbols of America's pursuit for self-reliance from foreign oil. The first town we encounter is Yucca Valley, home of the Route 62 Diner. With a '50s décor, each booth has a Seeburg 100 jukebox and breakfast is served all day. We had the "Road Kill" and the "Panhead" for breakfast. Behind the diner is Hutchins Vintage Motorcycle Museum. To Heath's astonishment, there sat one of the bikes Evel Knievel actually rode in his movie Viva Knievel. What a great start to our story.
Back on Highway 62 we stopped at the Joshua Tree Inn. It's where Gram Parson (The Byrds music group) died in 1973. Room 8 is supposedly haunted and touted as "Home of Gram Parsons' Spirit." It was a really bizarre true story made into a movie called Grand Theft Parsons starring Johnny Knoxville that's well worth the watch. The site of Parsons' desert cremation was marked by a small concrete slab, which has since been removed by the National Park Service and relocated to the Joshua Tree Inn.
Amboy Road to historic Roy's Motel Café is a must-stop on every Easy Rider's road trip. Built in 1938, it served as a desert oasis to travelers on this desolate section of Route 66. Roy's vision of a travelers' Mecca was dashed when the I-15 freeway was built, virtually bypassing old Route 66. Over the years this gas station, motel, and cafe served many thousands and still offers food and gas today (albeit at almost $4 a gallon). This definitely would have been a gas stop for Fonda and Hopper since their Harley Sportster peanut tanks only held 2.5 gallons of gas. Heath can sympathize; his Triumph Bonneville only holds 4.3 gallons as opposed to my Victory Cross Road's 5.8-gallon capacity, which allows me an easy 200 miles between fill-ups.