A dry sweltering Arizona evening in June I see a post pop up in my news feed from Aaron (Brimhall). We’d met briefly in Mexico a month earlier and we were both ready for another adventure. I flew him a text and it was done, we were to meet in Vegas in a weeks time, no plans other than we ride to the coast in search of adventure, surf and new experiences.
Loading my Triumph up for the trip on the morning of departure in the 115 degree weather (45c) wasn’t an ideal start to the journey but I knew it was only going to get hotter as I rode further into the desert, which was nice.
I had packed a camera, one prime lens, a couple of pairs of jeans and some t-shirts. The aim was to spend more time riding, experiencing and creating than lugging around gear and worrying about what to wear. I strapped my half full Wolfman dry bag to my luggage rack, snapped my bubble shield onto my silver glitter open face helmet and mounted up.
I decided to take the fast route to Las Vegas from Scottsdale, basically because it was just too damn hot to take my time. I rolled along the 101 North to join the 93.
Somewhere along the 93
I wanted to stop at the Hoover Dam on the way so I took a slight detour and drove across the dam for a couple of shots before carrying on to sin city.
While pulled over at the dam I met a racist which was interesting. He had some really interesting points such as giving all ‘my people’ (as he put it) their guns back and ‘kicking all the Muslims out of the U.K.’ Because even though gun related crime in the UK had greatly declined since doing so, he really disliked education and equality and really liked guns, Fox News, white people and being completely wrong about pretty much everything. When he told me he liked triumphs and how they were made in Britain I didn’t have the heart to tell him they were made in Asia by real Asian people. It might just have sent him over the edge.
I arrived in Vegas an hour or so later and headed on up to the room. As I opened the door I was greeted with the smell of stale cigarettes and damp towels, I could tell this was one classy spot. There were two beds and one of them had someone in it. I knew there was another guy joining us but I hadn’t met him so I assumed it was him, brushed my teeth in the bath, (the sink taps didn’t work) dropped my bags and headed out to park my bike. As I was in the elevator back down I started wondering if it was the right room or if I had just dropped my bags off in some random persons bedroom and if they would wake up and see someone had been in there like goldilocks.
Arriving on the strip
Luckily it was the right room and when I got back the sleeping bear had awoken and I got to meet the Kevin. Kevin is a tall man with boyish good looks and a great eye for photographic composition. He has a modern vintage style about him and doesn’t feel uncomfortable rocking a Canadian tuxedo.
When Aaron finally returned to the room we all showered (separately, grow up) and headed out for food and fireworks. It was the 4th of July.
Vegas had a weird vibe, straight off the bat. Everyone, like EVERYONE looked miserable. We couldn’t believe it. We were like “These people are on vacation and they don’t know how to celebrate?!”
After chowing down on some delicious yet overpriced pasta, we hustled to a packed walkway off the strip to watch the fireworks. Everyone was pushing for a better view. After a few minutes and a couple of polite “can you stop pushing me mate” requests I called a big guy a cunt, which didn’t go over too well and nearly got in a fight with another guy ‘protecting’ his wife who had stood on my foot then slammed her purse into my balls trying to get a better view, they were cunts too – in case you were wondering. In all my time in the USA I have had really great experiences with the people. I’ve been welcomed into people’s homes, had food cooked for me and even had people show me around. Vegas, however, seemed to bring out the worst in people (or just the worst people). This manifested itself in what is in my opinion humanities biggest downfall, our entitlement. Everyone had decided their view and their experience was more important than anyone else’s, and didn’t mind trampling over their fellow people to get there. When someone stood up to them the only solution to the conflict was violence. It probably didn’t help that that person happened to be an Englishman on independence day but we gave them their country back and decided the fight against the French to defend our tiny, rainy, overcrowded cold island, was more important so we should be welcomed with open arms And besides, I love calling people Cunt here because it sounds so much better in an English accent.
Independence fireworks – Las Vegas
We were over the crowd so we hit a casino on the way back to our stinking hotel room. Kevin and I got in a flow and we seemingly couldn’t lose. We had gambled and won enough to pay for our room and dinner and hit the hay, we were heading to Cali at 5am.
No losers here
We checked out and walked down to the bikes. My Triumph Thruxton was sandwiched between Aaron’s Harley Sportster and Kevin’s BMW R90. there was an air of excitement floating around, the road was calling us and we could all hear it.
BMW Triumph and Harley Davidson
Shitty hotel, shitty attitudes and shitty town out of the way we headed down the 15 into California. There’s an actual line one crosses that lets you know you’re in Cali, not the state line but there’s a feeling. It’s like it’s lighter and more mellow. Excitement and opportunity magnetises the opportune and willing towards the ocean like a mermaid siren.
Kevin and Aaron fisting each other while crossing California lines.
We ended up taking a detour at barstow and heading onto a stretch of the original route 66. The traffic was pretty heavy on the freeway so it seemed like the perfect time to switch it up. I had seen the bottle ranch online and I lead the group there for some pictures before joining back with the traffic.
Kevin at the bottle ranch playing with his rusty weapon.
Old beauty on the 66
It got so hot at this point that we had to pull over in an abandoned town. We took shelter in this run down apartment building and grabbed some snaps.
Aaron is happy cooling off. Photo by Kevin
Sweating it out in the heat for your viewing pleasure
We split lanes through the southbound traffic on the 15 and decided to take a detour – cross mountain style. Freeways get pretty old pretty quickly, on a bike especially. Just after exit 131 we took the 138 towards Angles National Forest. It lead us onto some of the best riding roads in the world.
These roads were epic, full of bikes (and a few cops).
The road takes you straight through the mountains. We had no idea how long it would take and we lost cell phone coverage once on the road.
Ziggy Stardust was a big influence on me as a child. Me by Kevin.
A couple of hours in, aching backs, wrists and basically everything started kicking in and we wanted out. We couldn’t get out, there’s one way in one way out (like mad max in the thunderdome) we were exhausted by this point! An hour later we get out, but if you’re planning this ride I would learn from our mistake. Take water, snacks and leave plenty of time to stop for breaks, oh and don’t do Vegas the night before.
Photo of Aaron by Kevin in one of the tunnels in the Angles National Forest
When we finally made it out of the disenchanted forest, we grabbed some zaa and headed on over to meet up with Zach (@zachiatrist) a guy who had messaged us through Instagram, offering us a place to stay for a couple of nights. We rolled down to Deus to meet him and his lady Drew and cruised to his spot in Playa Del Rey. We shot through golden hour, grabbed dinner and a couple of beers up in his bar (he has a bar in his house – that he made – with man strength and brawn) and passed out to the sound of his roommate’s (Josh) dog Rocky slapping the sofa with his tail as he chewed on a tennis ball.
Shot by Zach of us cruising through Playa Del Rey
The next day we cruised to a brekky spot and discussed plans to journey and shoot, our life purposes, shit like that. We grabbed our bikes and cruised to the LA river to shoot. We were getting some great stuff then Zach decided he was over it and threw his bike down on his ankle. He made it look like an accident but Im pretty sure he just wanted lunch.
Zach losing his shit in the LA river
Me running terminator style. Photo by Kevin
Kevin and Aaron had places to be that night and I met up with the great José. José is a legend, I wrote about him on my Mexico post on my website www.aestivalknievel.com/mexico. We chatted philosophy and drank a load of beers. Before I knew it we were cruising around LA, me riding bitch on his sporty with no seat carrying a bag of beers we had bought from the barmaid we had charmed earlier in the evening, she even gave us a couple of extras for free.
While I was hanging with José the boys were sleeping here. Working on my FOMO. Photo by Kevin
The next day I met up with Kevin for some sushi with his friend Josie. She invited us to crash at her place that night. It was down in the Orange County so after the hour ride south we hung out with a couple of her friends, Matty and Jessica, ate pizza and drank Bourbon till the wee hours.
Setting off alarms in L.A.
The following morning we woke up to a text from Aaron so we mobbed over to a brunch spot to meet him and his bros Dallin and Jon from SLC. We had some laughs and messed around, bridge jumping onto palm trees was involved and then we headed to the Agenda show at the convention centre where I ran into my buddy Mike from Vancouver who invited us out for drinks with his friends, mostly English and Canadians. After we got kicked out of there for not having wrist bands we headed over to Manhattan beach and jumped into the ocean for some cold crappy waves but it felt amazing to get back in the ocean. We all split that night to stay at different spots and arranged to meet up in San Luis Obispo the following day. Jess (a great photographer) showed me and the guys around the OC and we had a great night, I’ve missed the English banter!
Jess fixing my ride before I headed north to SLO
The slightly hungover ride was long, like 4 hours long. I was staying down in Huntington so I had to ride straight into the LA traffic, through it and out the other side to get onto the PCH. When I finally got there I was tired and hungry but we met at a beach and shot James @the_barkman pier jumping to surf.
James stepping out for a while
After Pismo beach, we rode out onto Oceano beach for sunset shots.
Sunset sons by Josie Farrior (@josie_elle)
I got nabbed trying to surf my bike on the road by a cop who decided to drive off just as he was pulling us over. He probably realised fun actually should be allowed. Then Aaron got pulled on a beach for not wearing a helmet. This fuzz left on a call too, either we’re very lucky or, no we’re lucky.
Aaron getting a talking to by a copper. Shot by Kevin.
Shot of Kevin by James (@the_barkman)
Aaron in SLO grabbing riding fuel and playing footsie with Kevin
Kevin and Aaron were leaving the next day but we decided we would take on Cuesta Ridge as a send off gift to ourselves. An offroad track on on-road bikes. No big deal. The potholes were huge but all our bikes made it up there, and man was it worth it! We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a better trip.
Cuesta Ridge view, half way up, last sunset with Kevin and Aaron
Kevin set up camp at make out point while Aaron sorted the mood lighting. Photo by Kevin
Aaron scoping the area while Kevin set up camp and I took care of dinner
I drove south the next afternoon. The side winds were howling and trying to blow me off the cliff. I was going 40 on the freeway with a 45 degree lean on at times just to keep myself on the road. I had a convoy of one behind me in a car and when we got half way back we pulled into Santa Barbara we stopped for coffee and warm food. I had forgotten what it was like to be cold on the road. Too much time in Arizona had tainted me. Its exhausting trying to keep warm, awake and concentrate while fighting wind and unaware drivers.
Pulled over to check out some surf and caves the next day. Photo by Jess
I stuck around Cali for a few more days and caught up with some friends and shot some pieces. The night before I left I watched the show at the Santa Monica pier.
Thursday show. Live band at Santa Monica Pier
On the way home I ran out of gas for the first time on the entire trip. I had got pretty good at working out when I needed to look for a gas station and always carried a spare bottle. But as I said this was a relatively short trip, just 2500 miles, so I was travelling light. My gauges had all broken a few days earlier so I was doing the Steve McQueen fuel tank wiggle every now and again to judge the reserves and it didn’t work out. At about 70mph the engine began to splutter. A few second later silence. Just the sound of wind. I dipped the clutch and dropped down to neutral as I coasted over to the hard shoulder. I must have made it about half a mile before I completely ran out of momentum. I started pushing the bike down the freeway towards the nearest exit ramp. I was thankful for the cool coastal air. I managed to get my scoot round the offramp without being taken out by the flying cars and down the hill in front of me stood a petrol station. It was like seeing heaven. I filled up my tank laughing at myself thinking well I’ve done it once, never again… little did I know I would do the same thing the next day…
I decided to head East on the worst day possible. Sand storm Friday. That’s just what I called it but it was pretty gnarly.
In a sandstorm on a Friday somewhere around Palm Springs
Imagine being under a perfect blue California sky, not a cloud in sight and then, out of nowhere appears a dense wall of orange. The wind farm blades of the palm desert whirling full speed and me in a glittery helmet with no idea what I was riding into. The winds picked up pretty quickly, vision was down and there was a taste of dirt in my mouth and a smell of earth in my nose instantly. Everything turned from a blue hue to thick burnt orange. It looked like something out of Fury Road. Even with the hecticness of it all, it wasn’t half beautiful. The once purple shadows of the surrounding mountains, now ochre, framed nature’s scene. The sun would momentarily pierce through the dust clouds only to be swallowed back up a few moments later. I was in the storm for about an hour or so. It was sunset when I broke through and the remaining sand in the air acted as a giant softbox over the road ahead.
Moments after clearing the storm
A couple of hours later, around 11pm, in 32c heat my fuel light came on. At this point it was the only working bit of my gauge cluster. I pulled over at a pitch black turn off and shone my phone light into my tank. About 20 miles I think. I jumped on maps and checked for gas stations. There was nothing around here as far as I could see. The nearest station was 15 miles back the way I had just came, so 30 miles extra, round trip. The next nearest was 40 miles the direction I was going. My insurance ran out at midnight and I was still an hour from my stop for the night. If I ran out of gas and the cops pulled me over I was done. On the other hand If I rode back the way I would never make it back in time with all the extra miles. At that point my gas light flickered off and I took it as a sign. I fired her up and continued on. About 3 miles later I started having serious doubts. I decided I should turn around but there were no off ramps, I began to sweat as the glow from the gas warning light lit up my face in the warm night air. The first off ramp was another 10 miles down the road so I had effectively fucked myself. I was half was between two gas stations I couldn’t make it to. I decided the only thing to do was to slow down to 50mph (on a 75mph dark freeway) to keep my revs as low as possible in the hope I would make it. Trucks and semis flew by me flashing their lights as i pointed to my gas tank. A couple of cops came by having a look but carried on, thankfully. It was the longest 45 minutes of the trip. I was yelling at myself and calling myself every name I could think of. I felt like such a dick. I stopped at a rest area 10 miles out from the gas station and asked if anyone had gas. A sweet old Mexican man walked to his car and came back with cash. I politely turned him down and told him I had money, it was just the gas I needed, a kind gesture either way, but about as useful as translating a book on how to learn French into French. I saddled up and carried on, this time at 30. There was now maybe a fingers worth of gas left in the bottom of my tank. I could see a faint glow in the far distance and i tucked in to get as little wind resistance was possible. I pretty much rolled into the gas station as the tank emptied and hugged my bike thanking her for conserving her thirst for that last couple of miles. After a coffee and a laugh, I carried on and made it to my stop just after midnight, parked up, relieved and exhausted. What an adventure!
Words by: Murray Ash (aestival Knievel)
Murray Ash (aestival Knievel)
Kevin Bennett (@kvbnntt)
Jessica Clough (@iamstilldreaming)
Josie Farrior (@josie_elle)
James Barkman (@the_barkman)