Riding the Easy Rider Route
By Koz Mraz
Easy Rider changed my life, I wanted to be Captain America, a rebel without a cause, a wild one. I’m even starting a motorcycle club, a chapter; you know, a biker gang (like minded motorcycle enthusiasts) who shatter the shackles of societal slavery and ride free (go for a Saturday motorcycle poker runs after our weekly 9 to 5).
Hell bent for leather, this gang (restaurateurs, yoga teachers, psychics and city council members) will find hard riding, bad-ass places to go (on good suspensions and paved roads that lead to nice hotels).
I’m going to call my biker gang the Bells Angels. Sounds kinda edgy and tough (just like us). I will get one of my chicks (a female rider with an MBA who owns a graphic design firm) to create a really cool logo, then have one of my prospects (another like-minded enthusiast who owns the local Soccer Shop) sew our colors onto ripped up denim vests. Man we will look bad-ass on our Harleys, riding down the road flying our colors, it’s just that easy, Easy Riders.
Well, you get the picture, if I can’t really live the lifestyle I can relive some of the classic moments of the movie. Picking up a Harley Road Glide from Sedona EagleRider, I hit 89A, a wonderfully twisty ride that begins in Uptown Sedona. The red rock views here are astounding. Let alone the 2,500-foot elevation change that takes you through several different terrains and micro-climates on the ride to Flagstaff.
In Flagstaff I take the 40 freeway towards Bellemont. it’s only a ten-mile ride to Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson on old Route 66 thst’s a great stop for some free coffee. Across the parking lot is the Roadhouse Bar and Grill. Hanging in the entry is the No Vacancy sign used in the first location shot, the famous Pine Breeze Inn.
Only a quarter mile up the road from the dealership is the abandoned gas station that served as Pine Breeze Inn, that first location shot in the movie. It’s where the Vacancy sign switched to “No Vacancy” and Billy and Wyatt were denied a room their first night. This classic building still stands fifty years later, and let’s hope it stays that way.
The Americana Inn on Route 66 in Flagstaff is where the actors and film crew stayed while shooting here in Arizona. If you have the DVD, you really need tp watch the “Bonus Features.” In “The Making of Easy Rider,” Peter Fonda talks of hitting the Americana Bar after a long hot day of shooting.
He ordered a cold beer, but his arms were so stiff from muscling the ape-hangers and hardtail motorcycle, he couldn’t even lift the beer to his mouth. He also revealed that he missed out on frolicking around the pool because he’d soaked his new leathers in the bathtub to give them a more weathered look, and to his embarrassment, his legs turned purple from the dye.
Heading north on Highway 89 I swear to God there is a hitchhiker on the road; if I didn’t have my luggage on the passenger seat, I would have picked his ass up. You will see Sacred Mountain on your left, this is the point in the movie where Captain America and Billy gas up and their hitchhiker pays the tab. The building also is still here, with the Sacred Mountain sign!
Continuing north, on the 89 you will see the sign for Wupatki National Monument. This is where they camp on day one of the film. Unfortunately, camping at Wupatki National Monument, starting a fire or climbing on ruins today is completely out of the question, unless you actually do want to spend the night in jail.
We continued up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and stopped at both Yaki Point and Grandview Point for spectacular views of the canyon. Our final stop is at Grand Canyon Village for a snack, and it’s back to Sedona to finish a great day of riding. This is just one of the many day trips you will enjoy, renting your ride from Sedona EagleRider Motorcycle Rentals among the magical red rocks. It’s a 264 mile loop and easily six to seven hours depending on stops.
Whether it’s Hollywood actors like Fonda and Hopper who take roles in Easy Rider, or just average Americans spending their hard-earned money touring this wondrous country, Easy Rider captured a spirit, one that still inspires us today. Ultimately we’re each writers of our own script, defining the story of our lives, and as motorcycle riders it’s not in our nature to just watch the passing parade. We live the adventure, command the starring role and yes… we actually do ride off into the sunset.