Route from the 1969 Movie Easy Rider
Captain America and Billy didn’t screw around. (click picture for more Info)I’ve had quite a few questions via email about the route that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda rode in the 1969 Movie Easy Rider, and for the last couple of years I’ve ridden and researched it. The movie cemented me as a rider for life at a young age. Anyway, here it is. Since it’s a movie, it hops around a bit, but here’s the route:
If you’re gonna do this trip, do it right. A couple of tips: First off, Don’t sell coke to finance your trip. If you do, don’t tell anyone. Definitely don’t put coke money in your gas tank, because It’ll lower your gas mileage. If you want to go to Mexico and pretend to buy coke in an old truck, knock yourself out. Put it in 2 motorcycle batteries and go sell it to Someone who looks like Phil Spector in front of the runway at LAX. Phil would probably still buy it from you, but he’s busy now with his murder trial. Don’t be offended if he fails to calls you back. That’s how Phil rolls.
Technically, you could start at LAX, but the real riding started in Death Valley. They we’re caging it in LAX. If you know the whole story of Billy and Wyatt they were headliners, baby (and for top dollar too). They had a stunt riding side show and decided to bust out, make a run for the big cash and go looking for America.
Start out by going to Death Valley. Ballarat, Specifically. Ballarat is a pretty cool place, with it’s own bit of history like the gravestone of Seldom Seen Slim, and the Barker Ranch where Charles Manson family laid low after the nights they made the history books. Tex Watson’s truck is still there.
Be sure to take your watch and chuck it by the side of the road because if you’re going on this ride, You need to disregard time. It’s Easy Rider man, don’t screw this up. Find the house, and you’ll know what to do.
Ok, Watch this. It’s gonna set the tone for this whole run you’re gonna make:
Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space brother. Lets go.
Ride on out of Ballarat and head down through Boron California (Home of 20 Mule Team Borax and the Movie Erin Brockovich). Be sure and stop at the museum there in Boron, it’s actually pretty cool. Then head to Barstow. From Barstow, head east on 1-40, staying on as much of Route 66 as possible, because that would be the route they took since 1-40 wasn’t officially designated until 1984. In 1969, it was all route 66 baby! It’s pretty well marked and If you need more mappage of what the road was like in the route 66 heyday, there’s quite a bit here. I ride it at least 3 to 5 times a year, and it’s pretty well documented on this site. Kick the tires and look around.
Anyway, head toward Amboy. Stop at Roy’s and get gas, because you know they stopped there with 2 gallon Peanut gas tanks. Roy’s is one of the coolest places on the mother road. Take some pictures of the 50’s retro sign and head on down the road. Roy’s is a route 66 original and is in the process of getting resurrected to it’s former glory. Roy’s is the Shit.
Keep riding through Route 66, stay to your right and get back on Interstate 40. head up through downtown Needles and back onto Interstate 40.
If you want to check out a cool scene from the movie get off past needles at Park Moabi. All the buildings are gone now, but you’ll recognize this scene: Ride it.
Get back on 1-40 (It mostly lines up as Route 66 from 1966 to 1974) and cross the Mighty Colorado river at the state line. You’ll notice the bridges there, even though they’ve changed a bit since 1969. If you don’t, re-watch the credits of the movie again. You should recognize it immediately if you’re paying attention. This was the part of the movie that I knew I was an Easy Rider fan for life. Bust out your Steppenwolf, and dig where you are going. You’re an Easy Rider.
Keep going on 1-40. At Kingman, get off the freeway and follow the signs to ride the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66 that still remains today. It ran from the 1920’s until 1979. It’s well marked, just follow the signs.
The place where Billy and Wyatt fixed their bike tire and had lunch was supposedly in Valentine Arizona. I’ve found no evidence of this, but it makes sense, since Valentine is an Indian Reservation (“my wife’s a catholic, ya know” – Remember that scene?) Granted, this was on Day two of the movie, and you still haven’t gotten through the movie credit part of the ride, but that’s how movies go. Valentine is on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and is on route 66. The terrain also looks the same. I’m a bettin’ man, and I bet it was there. I also have hundreds of behind the scenes pictures that a photographer took while they were filming the movie. It’s in there, somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet.
Head through Valentine, stop at the Grand Canyon Caverns (its cool), then go into Seligman. Stop at the Snow Cap at the edge of town and eat the best hamburger with the best service you’ve ever had. The Snow Cap has been there since the 50’s. It’s another route 66 icon. Don’t get on the freeway yet at Seligman, ask any local where Crookton road is and head down that instead to stay on what was route 66 until 1979. You’ll squeeze out another 16 miles of route 66 on a great road if you do it my way, when the signs told you to get back on the interstate. It’s what Captain America and Billy would have done.
Get off the freeway and ride through Williams Arizona when you see the signs. Williams is the last town to be officially bypassed in 1984 by interstate 40, so you gotta see it. It’s still got the flavor of how it was in 1969. You’ll dig it. Get back on Interstate 40 East when you’re done, and head on down the highway…
By the time you hit Bellemont, pull off. Get some free coffee at the Harley dealership, stop at the bar and grille next door and hear the pitch about it being the original No Vacancy Sign hanging as you walk into the bar. Since I’m giving you this information completely free of charge, I think it would be a nice touch for you to order a Guinness in the name of Mr Zip, flirt with the bartender and head a quarter mile up the road to the Pine Breeze Motel to see where billy and Wyatt we’re denied a room their first night. The bartender gal there is a sweetheart, and I’m fairly short and reasonably ugly. You’ll do better than I did.
Ask the bartender if you can pull out a sleeping bag at the Pine Breeze, or ask the current proprietor at the Pine Breeze if he’s there. If you want to be hardcore you’ll sleep a few miles up the road by a campfire; If you want to stay where Dennis and Peter stayed, get back on the freeway and head the 10 miles into flagstaff and stay at the Americana Inn. You have a choice: Stay where Billy and Wyatt camped in the movie, or stay where actors and crew in real life slept. Either way, I don’t care. If you’ve come this far, you’re obviously a biker I’d love to ride with. It’s ALL good. You’re goin’ down to Mardi Gras to get you a Mardi Gras Queen. Start yourself a fire and kick back.
500 biker points if you sleep by the side of the road. If you’re a rich urban biker in your new Harley leathers, playing easy rider for the weekend, stay at the Americana Inn. This is an easy Rider Journey, man up and sleep under the stars. When you get to New Orleans you can get a real room and bust out some of that cash and get a groovy dinner. Right now, you gotta start this out right.
Funny story. Peter Fonda told the story of staying the night at the Americana Inn and his arms we’re so stiff from ape hanging on a hard tail all day, that he couldn’t pull his beer up to his mouth. He’d also put his leathers in the bathtub and soaked them down to give them a more weathered look, so at the end of the day his legs we’re black from the dye.
Route 66 ends where Interstate 40 cuts it off not far past the Pine Breeze inn, so double back and head East on 1-40 towards Flagstaff. Get off at Deer Farm exit and road and ride up through Parks Arizona to get back on old 66 and ride down the main street in Flagstaff a few miles later if you really want to stay true to route. Turn south on highway 89 at Flag. When you see the sign for Sunset Crater, head east there and Ride up through Waputki National Monument, Pick up a hippie (there may be one, I don’t know for sure). Queue “I wasn’t born to follow” on your ipod for the full effect.
That part, may be the best ride of your trip.
You’ll need to ride clear through Waputki, double back and get back on 89 and head south to stop at the Sacred Mountain Gas Station. It used to be a gas station, but now it’s the home of someone. He’s a pretty cool guy. He will more than likely tell you some good stories. He may not. Not many people notice his house nowadays, and you may get shot. I don’t know. Either way, you’re on an adventure. Tell the hippie on your bitch saddle he owes you a tank of gas.
From Sacred Mountain, head north. Hit “the weight” by the band and listen to it as you ride. It’s a great song. Turn at hwy 16o and ride through Monument valley at dusk if you time it right. In the movie, that road ends up at Wupatki, but in real life it’s doesn’t. You’re probably not riding a hard tail chopper, so keep going until you hit Farmington New Mexico and crash for the night. Drink beer, laugh, do whatever. At this point you’re well into your easy rider trip.
If you want to be hardcore and drop off the hippie, you’ll have to swing a bit wide and head into the Malibu hills in California and look for a commune. Mulholland to be exact. Good luck finding one. Dennis Hopper wanted to film at the New Buffalo Commune, but Wavy Gravy and his people weren’t into it, so the re-created the commune in the hills of Malibu. Look for Dan Haggerty. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you haven’t watched the movie Easy rider and you’re a pussy. Put your Mike’s Hard lemonade down, Turn your bike around, and head back to LA. Go eat sushi and buy yourself a Vespa.
Head into Taos. There’s several scenes in Taos: Check out the Taos Pueblo and you’ll see some stuff there. They also shot the inside Jail scenes in Taos, even though I’ve never found the location. The opening scene where they bought the drugs was shot here as well (not in Mexico).
From Taos, head into Las Vegas New Mexico. You’ll see the jail if you’re looking. Parade without a license here, because thats where that scene was shot. The outside of the jail, and the spot where Jack Nicholson (George) took his first drink of the day was here as well.
Take some Jim Beam With you, for obvious reasons. Toast to ol’ D.H. Lawrence (the crew supposedly slept on his grave the night before in Taos) NIC NIC NIC FUT FUT FUT!…… INDIANS! That’s right, you know what I’m talking about. Dream of the finest whorehouse in the south at Madam Tinkertoys House of Blue Lights. These are no porkchops, these are Grade A Prime…
The “If you wanna be a bird” sequence by the Holy Modal Rounders was filmed through Coyote New Mexico.
Remember, stop somewhere while listening to “don’t bogart that Joint” and pee on the side of the road. Anyplace will work when you’re riding. Also: You better not be wearing fingerless gloves and assless chaps man, not on this trip.
The rest of the route is a bit Hazy until you hit Morganza Louisiana. In 1969, the film crew was advised against being a long hair in the South, but Dennis Hopper was determined to do whatever he wanted film wise, so they went anyway. Not much is filmed in Texas as far as I can see, so head toward Morganza. If you can find the Cafe in Morganza where the young girls and the sheriff and rednecks we’re, you’re a better man than me, because the locals who knew the place said it got torn down a couple of years ago. In October 2010 they put up a plaque at the site of Melanchon’s Cafe to commemorate the making of the movie and the locals that were involved. Keep riding, it’s pretty easy to get a feel of 1969 Morganza.
The rednecks in Morganza were real locals. Dennis told the crew to tell them that he, Jack and Peter had raped a girl outside of town before they started filming to get a real reaction of hate from them. One thing to remember, is other that a loose premise, Easy Rider wasn’t scripted. They made it up as they went, and most of the cast would tell you that Dennis Hopper was generally insane in those days. Dennis later said when they rode off from the Cafe scene that was the one time they were scared and wondered if they pushed it too far. They’d heard stories of long hairs getting whacked in Texas and Louisiana. You shouldn’t have the same problem, unless you get way out of line. Head south.
Head south out of Morganza, Hit the 190 and then west till you hit Opelousas, then south. If you’re ready, you’ll have Jimi Hendrix Queued as you hit Franklin Louisiana. Remember the song? Thats right old-schoolers, if a six became a nine. Find the bridge, stop, and queue that puppy for proper listening.
I want to thank my Cajun Friend Johnny for the modern day pictures of Franklin. You sir, are the man. I owe you a round of beers Man.
One more Shot.
Then head on into New Orleans. Go to where Mardi Gras is. Now its time for Madam Tinkertoy and Groovy Dinners. Its Mecca man! You’ve reached the Glory Hole. Party like a rockstar, do whatever you do, because tomorrow you’re going to get shot by a short redneck with a Goiter on his neck. I’m not trying to be a downer, I’m just sayin’. It could happen. You’re almost there.
The scenes in Mardis Gras we’re filmed a month after Mardis Gras had ended. The parade scenes they shot with friends and some stock footage. Watch the movie again and you’ll notice. They also shot these scenes first. You may have better luck with Mardi Gras then they did if you time it right.
While you’re in Nawlins, pull out your 80’s CD of Tony Basil singing “mickey”. C’mon, you know you have one. In 1969 she played a prostitute in Easy Rider. In the 80’s, she was a one hit wonder with fat cheerleaders. Hey Mickey!
Once you had your fill of New Orleans, Double back and head towards Krotz Springs Louisiana. You’ll notice the Levees on LA 105. Hit your odometer, and the final spot is almost exactly 3 miles up the road. That’s where this great movie ends, only you’ll survive. Now’s the time to bust out a cigar if you have one, because you made it to the end of the movie. Call a loved one and tell em you’re coming home. Queue the ballad of easy rider and head on out of town. You’re gonna retire in Florida Mister! If a man with a goiter shows, get the hell out of there.
This thread is over. Im going to end it all of a sudden, just like my favorite Movie, Easy Rider. Don’t blow it.