Archive for the highway Category

Riding the Easy Rider Route and Reflecting on the film that changed America and Why

Posted in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 66, american, americana, Art, Bikers, culture, Freedom, Great Roads, Harley Davidson, highway, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 5, 2012 by The MeanStreet Riders

As our ride across the west approaches 2800 miles and we ride past the second aniversary of Dennis Hopper’s death we wandered into north Arizona to pick up Route 66 and visit the areas along this highway where Dennis and Peter Fonda and crew filmed Easy Rider. Route 66 west out of Flagstaff is spotty in many areas and hard to find. We wandered into Bellemont Arizona Harley Davidson and Mary our publicist quickly met fans that were from California and Denmark and gave out signed cds of our album “High on the Hog” and posed for a few photos. We then went next door to the Route 66 Roadhouse bar and grill which has the original “No Vacancy” sign hanging above the pool tables that appears in the film’s opening credits. The place also had great food and allows you to cook you own steak. The waitress recognized the Riders and said she enjoyed our music and asked for a signed photo of the band that she was going to hang on their ” Wall of Fame” next to some of the coolest people in the history of the motorcycle world. We appreciated that great service and food and exposure on their wall of fame.
While eating lunch we thought about the film “Easy Rider” there are many reasons that the film was a classic. Some wern’t obvious, the film basically featured 2 anti-hero’s riding across the United States in a world that wasn’t very traveled those days so it gave audiences a chance to see different parts of the US and cultures. Wyatt and Billy were basically smuggling cocaine across the country in Wyatt’s battery which is why I use the term anti-hero but the film is much more than just a movie about that. The film features music from a time when artists were real and their songs were written about a 1960s society that was changing daily. The vietnam war, drugs and art and self expression was all exploding across the country. These music artists wern’t manufactured by music labels or American Idol exposure on televison. They didnt pay professional song writers to write their music buy their clothes and work with their image, they did it themselves and wrote music based on their experiences in life. Groups The Band, Steppenwolf and The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix were some of the best music ever lived and created. The way Lazlo Kovacs photographed the bikes in Easy Rider and the terrain was nothing less than genius. His photography of the film put you on that highway with them. The movie also looked at how people were living in the country that year, from hippies in communes to hitch hikers to Jack Nicholson’s character of George who had the rich father in town so he was given a break by the local law enforcement. Many things in life are different these days although many are the same. Dennis Hopper who directed the film wanted as many local real people in the film that he could get. In the scene in Louisiana where Wyatt, George and Billy wander into the diner and are the object of local distain are actual locals that were told the actors coming in to film the scene had just raped a girl. In those days not many people knew who Peter or Jack were so the anger you see on film is real.
We then wandered down Route66 to find the abadoned Pine Bluff in where Billy and Wyatt were flashed the No Vacancy sign in the movie. The building was still very much intact with an Easy Rider poster in the front window. You could still feel the spirit of Dennis and Peter much as they filmed 40 years ago. The cabines were all right next door too. Nothing has changed in 40 years.
We were headed out of Flagstaff along Route 89 when we decided because it was too getting dark to come back into FlagStaff and sleep somewhere in Flagstaff. We cruised along Route 66 and accidentally came across the Americana Inn the place where Peter and Dennis and the crew stayed while filming in the FlagStaff area. The attendant at the front office got us some rooms and knew the story from years ago about the crew. We asked if we could stay in the room where Peter took a bath with his leather pants on in order to make them shrink tighter for the fiim and he quickly told us which room it was. You couldn’t help but feel the history of this place where the entire Easy Rider crew stayed, drank and collaborated about a piece of history.Sure there are newer hotels up by the interstate with fresher paint but they dont have the story and the history that this place had, because the history is what makes it cool….very cool.
The next morning we hit the road out of Flagstaff across what Dennis Hopper called John Ford country. This is where the sunset scenes from Easy Rider were filmed. It was incredible feeling coming across that painted dessert. Were headed to Kupatki National forrest and the painted dessert where they filmed the scenes of them around the campfire walking on the monument so stay tuned for more Easy Riding.

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