Stories 1 # Vegas to LA via the Mojave Desert

Easy RiderThe Boomtown Rats turned to motorbikes and all-nighers at The Scala in Kings Cross, movies like Midnight Express or Cheech and Chong and Easy Rider.

Posters, not of Geldof, but of Dennis Hopper and the Fonda son, dreams of Califonia; died with other shit; as time went by.

Then, 15 years of winters as a despatch rider, broken arm, broken knee, like a National Hunt jockey, the best biker of his generation; went to Le Mans once, first time with other bikers… better.

Then the Venetian Hotel on the strip, meetings at the Cannelletto cafe by the sunset dome. Drive to LA, hire a Harley, go ape and live a dream for 36 hours in America. See the Hoover Dam, drive fast away from the Interstate, drive fast and true.

Ha. Not so. Forced to ride around the compound with a blazer, convince the faded biker that I’ve ridden more miles on an island, finally given the bike. Laptop strapped to with a bunggee, last chance, new-born child at home. Last chance.

I got lost driving out of Vegas, too many grids, found the way out, ran out of gas/petrol, didn’t have it in my anymore. Drive through that canyon where Star Trek was filmed. Found the sign off the Interstate. 19 miles and the road that bent out of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mainetnace, rode so fast up that valley, rememembering freedom.

Then there was a lake, stopped for a cigarette, had a mobile phnone in my pocket to call my mate in London, revved my Harley, rode faster. Went into the 1960s, ran out of gas. Where are the cougars?

Around I think. Hitched with Canadians on their family trip to Palm Strings. Nice people, who weren’t later in London, took me to a bar like a bar in the OUtback of Australia. NUTTER behind bar said gas was available with a tent-tenant, Canadians frightened, pushed me into their family car before Charles Manson jumped in.

Arrived at a town where yellow ribbons welcomed Marines with haircuts, filled up with gas in a jerrycan, Canadians took me back. Somebody had NOT stolen my Harley, dark now, Canadians turned, bike started.

Overtook them at 90mph desert speed, sat side-saddle, laughed like Chinatown, arrived back at the petrol station where Marines would go back for Twinkkies after all THAT time in Iraq.

Turned left for LA via Palm Springs, followed signs for Palm Spring… airport. One hundred miles later, knowing ig was the wrong way, felt free, my dream, went faster and faster and faster.

Now, close to Nevada, I think, can’t see road-sighs. PUlled over, oh shit, proper bikers have followed me. Ask me if I need help, do I fuck, shitting myself. They leave with their hogs and badges and bandanas.

Then they came back. Shit, not so brave now. Ask me where I’m going. LA is obvously the other way. Do I have a roll? What? Oh, a bed-roll. No. Come with us to the desert, we’ve been folllowing you for an hour. Man you’ve been hauling ass on that Indian.

Ha, you couldn’t fucking keep up? Yeah, man, I was the best despatch-rider in Lonodon, amidst violent London bikers who never had sex.

I went with them, crossed the border in to a David Lynch movie. They had the look, but not scary like football hooligans, general nicke guys like Engoish people how go on weekends to field preventing they are roundheads or cavaliers.

So we go into the desert, it’s like a summer fete in Surrey, except it’s night. You don’t have to wear a helmet in Nevada, so we ride, we ride through a small town, like they profited from an American Midsomer Murders… and the crazies come in from the desert, in welded vehicles, with their dogs… the men in their long black coats.

In all, it was boring, they were drinking Millers, not Jack’s, I went to my motel at 5am, woke up two hours later, got on the road, No wash until LA. Ah, the breezes of the desert in a blazer, hot/cold/hot/really fucking cold; there is a casino.

Three dollars breakfast, get warm, back on the road to LA. Palm Springs now, wind turbines, end in sight, wasn’t even pissed last night, can’t believe the wind took my map.

Warmer now. almost noon, still haven’t washed, up to 100mph all the time now, they’ll never take me alive. Then, weirdness. Dante n the distance. A forest fire outside Santa Anita, from a ton down to 20mph in a minute, so hot, shitting myself again. Further and futrher into the inferno, State Troopers waving their hands, Interstate beng closed dpown as p;anes drop mega-buckets of water under thier undercarriages.

Stop, where am I? Read the local paper at the gas-garage. Serious shit. What, you’re kidding me? Of course, the Breeders Cup raceday at Santa Antia racecourse, the American Derby, I’m in the equivalent of Epsom. Huge carparks, get waved to the front because the security dude has a Harley like mine.

Don’t stop me now. Park the bike, leave the laptop bungeed to the bike, in for less than $20, I’m English, you motherfucker, English. Big row in the Tote queue with a blue-collar skinhead. I was first, MATE.

There’s an ATM, draw out 300 dollars for a bet and later gas. Two hundred on the nose on Falbrav, I know this horse, if it wints at 7/2 the trip is paid for. No American has a mobile, sort, cell. I pretend to use ti, suddenly I’nm in the member’s by the winning post necking forgotten champagne.

Wasted, really wasted. Gonzo, fuck you, this is better. Race starts, Fabrrav going like a train, it’s going to win. Led too soon, winning post soon come, collared on line by two others. Photo. I know it’s lost. Gutted.

Result called, pissed as a fart, find way out, there’s the bike. Laptop still there. Phew. Kick the bike over, hic, Leave the racecourse, where am I? No idea, LA in the distance.

Like a Hitchcock movie, know this is stupid, I’m drunk. Meander like being in a Hitchcock move, find one of those ‘cities’ in Amercia that are another name for suburb. Over the last 24 hours, NOTHING can stop me now. Find a municipal sprinkler, pour it over my head to wake up. Better.

So, wtf, an hour later I’m in Compton, straight out of Comptowdn, the hood next to the out-of-town hood where I need to drop off the Harley to get my depot back. I’ve called up Amy who works for Disney to spend the night at her gaff before economy flight back to London at 6.30 the next moorning. Apparently there’s a fancy dress party

My Compton mates think I’m ridiculous, I tell these boys with guns that it’s different in London, we welcome the melting pot. What a twat I am, but a Hummmer with bad boys come with me to the Harley office… I get my deposit back and laugh a lot with my new mates.

The rest is another fucking story…

Monty (624 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.


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About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.