Retracing Easy Rider with Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackhoff

I’m going to follow the basic route Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper did in the making of classic 1969 biker flick Easy Rider. Riding with two Hollywood actress/motorcyclists on a Charity Ride from L.A to Louisiana in Support the Gulf Restoration but the film Easy Rider wasn’t scripted, they made it up as they went, and this story too will write itself. 2200 miles 5 days, 2 guys, 2 gals, Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackhoff, with 1 agenda, to ride long and hard. To quote Captain America “Yeah, I’m hip about time but I just gotta go”.

Tricia Helfer Koz & Katee Sackhoff
Tricia Helfer Koz & Katee Sackhoff

Heath Cofran Evel Kinevel
Heath Cofran Evel Kinevel

Get Your Motor Running

Phil Spector won’t be meeting us at LAX for an illicit drug transaction so we depart Los Angeles early morning with our tanks full of cash, I mean gas. We’re anxious with anticipation of the approaching adventure and ride east to the high desert. We journey through a very different America than the one Captain America and Billy traversed in 1969. Today, wearing American flag’s sewn to jackets, painted on gas tanks or helmets are applauded and boldly displaying the international symbol of freedom signifies your allegiance. The general public of their era scorned long haired hippies donning the red white and blue, that was seen as an act of defiance. Our first hundred miles is filled with nods of approval and thumbs up by the passing cagers. My riding compadre is Heath Cofran; Director of Sales and Marketing at Arch Motorcycle (owned by Keanu Reeves). The red white and blue paint job on his Triumph Bonneville pays homage to his American hero, Evel Knievel.

The first town we pass is Yucca Valley, home of the Route 62 Diner. With a 50’s decor each booth has a Seeburg 100 jukebox selector they serve breakfast all day. We had The Road Kill and the Panhead for breakfast. Behind the diner is Hutchins vintage motorcycle museum. To Heath’s astonishment there sat one of the bikes Evel Knievel rode in his movie Viva Kinevel, what a great start to our story.

acting outlaws

So far this has been a fun 220 miles but the ride has just begun; another 377 miles await us to our first nights stay, the Americana Inn in Flagstaff. This is where cast and crew stayed while filming Easy Rider in Arizona. We get back on 1-40 (Route 66 from 1966 to 1974) and cross the mighty Colorado River at the state line. You will see the bridges in the beginning credits of the movie, hit play on the iPod cued to Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf. We ride 1-40 to Kingman, get off the freeway and follow the signs to ride the longest un-interrupted stretch of Route 66 that still remains today.

The Americana Inn on Rt 66 in Flagstaff Arizona is where the Easy Rider actors and film crew stayed while shooting here and true to our mission we booked a room for the night. Refraining from slanderous remarks or expletives I will reprint a few reviews posted on Trip Advisor by prior patrons.

“Sleeping in your car is a better idea”
“The absolute worst hotel experience one could have”
“The America Inn should be shut down”
“Well… it’s cheap”

The next morning it’s breakfast with Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Gallactia, 24, Longmire Another Life) and Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Gallactia, Dark Blue, The Firm, Killer Women and Lucifer). They met on set and found a common bond motorcycling. Katee, from Seattle and Tricia born and raised on a farm in Canada are both wild spirits, strong willed and adventurous women. Both own Harleys back home and truly love to ride. They formed the Acting Outlaws.org and this 2500-mile trek is in Support the Gulf Restoration Network. GRN is the only environmental advocacy group exclusively focused on the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Their ride into flagstaff was fraught with fierce wind and rain the weather hasn’t been kind to these women. I know, because I was there.

Katee Sackhoff Tricia Helfer Heath Cofran
Katee Sackhoff Tricia Helfer Heath Cofran

Katee Sackhoff Tricia Helfer

Katee Sackhoff Tricia Helfer

Heath Cofran Keanu Reeves

Sacred Mountain

NO VACANCY AT THE PINE BREEZE INN

Only 10 miles from Flagstaff is Bellemont. Pull into Grand Canyon Harley, get some free coffee and across the parking lot is the Roadhouse Bar and Grille. Hanging in the entry is the original No Vacancy Sign used in the first location shot. Only a quarter mile up the road is the Pine Breeze Inn where Billy and Wyatt we’re denied a room their first night.

We 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 turn north on highway 89. I swear to God there is a hitchhiker on the road, if I didn’t have my luggage I would have picked his ass up. You will see Sacred Mountain on your left, this is the point in the movie is where Captain America and Billy gas up with their hitch hiker who pays the tab.

Continue north, when you see the sign for Waputki National Monument. This is where they camp on day one of the film. Unfortunately camping at Wupatki National Monument, starting a fire or climbing on ruins today is completely out of the question unless you actually do want to spend the night in jail.

Heath Cofran in jail

Katee Sackhoff in jail

Tricia Helfer in jail

JAILHOUSE BLUES

The 40 takes us past Santa Fe into Las Vegas New Mexico, the location of the exterior jail shot. Las Vegas NM harkens back to the 1920’s and on Sunday it’s literally a ghost town and feels like a Hollywood movie set. This is where Captain America and Billy were arrested for “Parading” without a license and the exterior jail scene was shot. This was also the spot where Jack Nicholson (George) took his first drink of the day as well. Nicksons comedic “Nik Nik Nik Fuf Fuf Fuf” routine came from the film crew member who maintained the motorcycles. The crew member would imitate the sound of the bikes as he kicked started them. Kick, Kick, Kick Fire!

It’s our last day riding with Katee and Tricia and we all face 40/50 mile per hour gusts. Quite honestly my windscreen is flexing like rubber and the girls look like biker bobble heads. The Big Rigs are devouring three foot tumbleweeds like a Pac-Man game leaving us in a wake of their shards. After several hours of this brutal beating the girls removed the motorcycle trunks reducing their footprint and kept forging on. Believe me these last five days have been no picnic looking at the pretty flowers, we’ve all been getting our asses kicked and I truly commend these two women riders. Heath and I head toward the mountains for relief while the girls head south toward Texas, they have another four days of riding through Texas to New Orleans. We have to get back to the grind and besides everyone knows how this movie ends for Captain America and Billy.

EPILOGUE:

The song remains the same; the story doesn’t change and were all players in the game. Whether its Hollywood actors like Fonda and Hopper who take roles in Easy Rider, Acting Outlaws Katee and Tricia actually riding 2500 miles for a charity, or just average Americans spending their hard earned money touring this wondrous country, Easy Rider captured a spirit, one that still inspires us today. Ultimately were each writer’s of our own script defining the story of our lives and as motorcycle riders it’s not our nature to watch the passing parade. We live the adventure, command the starring role and yes…we actually do ride off in to the sunset.

READ THE FULL STORY IN MOTORCYCLE MYSTERIES

Tricia Helfer Katee Sackhoff

acting outlaws ride movie trailer


Available on Amazon

Motorcycle Mysteries: Twisted Tales on Two Wheels

Motorcycle Mysteries is an entertaining and irreverent journey in search of El Chupacabre, Big Foot, Energy Vortex’s, and UFO Domes; Chasing stories of Alien abduction, Skinwalkers, the ghost of Graham Parsons, and a be-headed prostitute; Finding “Here” in Pink Floyds “Wish You Were Here” and “Champ”, America’s Loch Ness Monster; Following the trail of Easy Rider and riding Route 666.

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