After a week of intense client meetings in Los Angeles I needed a break from both work and the rat race. Wanting to feel the wind in my hair and see the countryside outside The Big Orange, I made a plan to explore by bike – but not just any bike – it had to be a classic Harley Davidson.
It’s easy to arrange motorcycle tours in LA and there are a range of options available – from guided to self-guided trips, multi-day itineraries to morning outrides – you can also choose whether you’d like to ride by yourself or take in the scenery as a passenger. Unfamiliar with the roads and nervous of the notorious LA traffic, I chose the latter.
I heard my driver arrive before I saw him, the deep rumble and roar of the engine turning heads. Decked out in typical biker gear with leather pants, a studded jacket, steel-capped boots and a bandanna, my driver (who was also sporting facial hair and a few thick silver chains nestling in his plentiful chest hair) was no less intimidating. He slowed down the bike, kicked out the stand, swung his leg over and loped over to introduce himself. Surprisingly, after the roar of the engine, I found him quiet, soft spoken and polite, which made me a little less nervous about driving off on the back of a bike with him.
After a short safety chat we were ready to go. I fitted my helmet and climbed onto the bike. The only other two-wheeler with horse power that I’ve ever ridden on was a scooter and, from the window of my high SUV, I’d always imagined motorbikes to be much the same size. It was a surprise to find that this was an impressively large beast of a vehicle. Wrapping my arms around the leather-upholstered man in front of me, I nodded that I was good to go, he turned the ignition and we drove off down the driveway.
Whizzing through the wide, multi-laned LA roads I was initially nervous, clinging to the poor guy in front of me but, as we exited the city and wound up into the mountains where the buildings gave way to arid and rocky countryside, I started to relax. Even though the hot Californian sun was shining down on us, I felt the temperate drop and the wind whip past us, as we picked up speed. Completely taken by the thrill of the ride I found that I was grinning to myself.
My driver and I spent a pleasant morning exploring the mountains above LA and the highways surrounding the city. We stopped in at roadside bars and enjoyed a lovely lunch in the tranquil gardens of a country club where a live band played pleasant rock-ballads. It was hardly the Strange and Terrible Hell’s Angel Saga that I was reading about in the Hunter S Thompson book that I’d brought along to LA with me. The famous American classic, which depicts a world of fast-living outlaws in a 1960s version of the wild west, no longer seems to be the reality of what owning a Harley is all about. In fact I’ve heard it said that these days that the bad boy Harley image is being replaced with that of a wealthy motor-phile that enjoys the occasional escape from his 9-5 white-collar job.
Sadly I have not had an opportunity to ride on a Harley since that wonderful Californian spring day, but I have found that the unmistakable roar of a Harley Davidson’s engine never fails to trigger memories of that unforgettable day.