Article & Photos By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The December 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Where do I start with a trip that is beyond the definition of epic? People will tell you that this is a word that is too often overused, but there is honestly not another term I can come up with to describe a trip that contained several once in a lifetime experiences. So I will tell you the story, and you can come up with the word to describe it at the end. It was the beginning of Smoke & Mirrors, for me at least. I had agreed to go to Born Free with my brother Bobby from Indian Larry Motorcycles way earlier in the year. I had almost started to believe that it wouldn’t happen as the schedule this year got crazy. Bobby saved my hopes of making this event by telling me all I had to do was grab a flight into San Francisco and I could ride one of the ILM bikes. Sweet, I thought, and happily got my poop in a group. I was met at the airport by Bobby, Seen and Military James who drove the brand new Indian Larry sprinter van with all the bikes out to the West Coast. We grabbed some tools at a local hardware store after we unloaded the bikes, and the riding began. We immediately started to hit the mustsee spots like The Golden Gate Bridge, Haight and Ashbury, and even stopped by some of the most iconic places in Frisco along the way.
We raced up and down the hills of SF getting three feet or better off the ground on the Question Everything and White Devil. It was killer! The first day ended with the four of us grabbing a room in a shitty little hotel on the other side of The Golden Gate. The room was so bad that none of the other guys would even sleep in it. I took off all my clothes in the van and went in to sleep without them. Hey, I grew up part time in the ghetto but that doesn’t mean I want to take roaches home with me anymore. The next day we wound down the coast to Salinas and ended up at the home and shop of the world famous Cole Foster. We got a complete tour of Cole’s shop, his latest projects and shot the shit for a while about life and everything in general. Cole is such a badass as a fabricator and just as a regular Moe; it’s always a pleasure to catch up with him. After a great lunch at a little Mexican joint, we loaded up one of his old Panheads and split. We still had two days before Born Free and we were hundreds of miles away from the event location.
The following day’s itinerary had all the other guys going to hang with Jason Jesse and Robert Williams. As bad as I wanted to meet these two interesting figures of our time, the PCH was calling me. Before we left Cole’s, I asked Bobby if I could take one of the bikes and haul ass. He gave me the go-ahead and I headed off on the White Devil. I couldn’t believe that my first time doing the PCH was going to be on one of Indian Larry Motorcycles’ most wicked bikes. I was like a little kid and spent the first day stopping everywhere to take pictures. It was every bit as incredible as I had always imagined. The scenic views of the ocean from turns that wrapped over shear cliffs were overwhelming. And the bike, well, you can read about the bike in the test ride article in this issue. I had noticed one major difference about the riding along California’s Coast; it was not all about the sun. At the different elevations it got cold as hell, even with the sun blaring down on me I found times where I was freezing my ass off. By that evening, I was going up over Big Sur and I couldn’t imagine the other cats I was with missing this for anything. I mean at one point I actually got exhausted of the scenic views of the ocean. It was hundreds of miles of nothing but incredible coastal highway that wrapped in and out of the mountains. I definitely put this on my top ten rides of all time.
This was where I learned of the value of the baja hoodie as it applies to California riding. I always thought this was a trend of the surf kids, but man the functionality of this garment has to be outlined here. It kept me warm in the shaded parts of the ride, kept the sun from cooking me in the open terrain and still let the wind blow through so I didn’t get too hot. If you are riding the PCH you can take your Gore-Tex, blah, blah, blah, but I strongly suggest a baja hoodie instead. Anyway, as I came out of the mountains, the first town I came into was San Simeon and it got so goddamned cold that I could literally not stay on the road. I grabbed a room and gave in to a heavy sleep for the night. The other guys were partying at L.A. graffiti legend, Risky’s place, and I was never gonna make it there in time for anything but trouble. As the sun came up, I hauled ass. I still had hundreds of miles of coast to hit before I’d be in Malibu Canyon where I was hooking up with Bobby and the crew at The Rock Store. This is an iconic spot, and as luck would have it, I made it there in time for a nice afternoon with a burger and a Coke. It was quiet relaxation until the big ILM rig pulled in, and then it was wise cracks and smartass comments all around again. God I love my brothers! After we all got fueled up at The Rock Store, we headed down into Malibu to visit Ryk Maverick who makes the jewelry at Starlingear. He had some incredible art. This was also a quick shower stop for me since I hit the bed at the hotel but never made it to the personal hygiene part of the program. As we started to pull out, there were four riders passing us and it turned out to be Sasha Kraus, and Brian Schimke of TPJ Customs. They were also on their way to Born Free so we had a little east-meetswest bullshit session on the side of the road for a bit.
From there I can’t really remember where we stayed…might have been a hotel, might have been a couch. I do remember a ride with Bobby, just he and I that would see speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour on the 405, but it’s probably best not to mention too much of that here. The next morning we were up bright and early and at Born Free 5. After being there a total of five minutes, I was ready to climb back on the bike and split. Now don’t put me down as a hater, the event was amazing and there were more great bikes to look at than I have ever seen in one spot. It’s just that if I have the option of, and yes I will use that term here, epic riding or standing around looking at bikes… well my friend, there isn’t an event in the world that wins that contest. For the official Born Fee report you can read the accounts of our man on the left coast, Greg Friend, following this article.