Indian Riders
Header image



Motocycle Club
Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last
Route 66 Part One


“If you ever plan to motor west….”   Bobby Troup 1946.

Well I did and I did.  Chicago, Okalahoma City, Winona, Amarillo, New Mexico etc., all names lodged in my brain since my youth. These places dotted across eight States seemed an interesting and obvious route to travel through America.

The forties, when the song was written, was part of an era when 66 was in full swing. Many parts of this famous route had been up-graded for the war effort so had improved this fast and direct route down to the west coast. I was fascinated to see for myself the reality now. Would it be like visiting the Crystal Palace towards the end of its’ existence, having been through its’ busy and glorious days, left semi-abandoned and sad.  Wallowing in memories.

Route 66 still winds through some stunning scenery, past vast natural shapes and colours. It leads almost to the Grand Canyon, past abandoned dwellings, out into desert, scrublands and vast vistas. The tumble-weed still blows across the unmarked dirt road ahead of the bike.

Part way, you have to use the freeway or interstate, but I found this provided a fascinating contrast. One minute you are riding a narrow bumpy road winding through a wedge of rocks, then onto the freeway which has been blown out of gigantic rock formations.

The power of man over nature seems impressive, but out in the desolate desert you can sense the latent power all around, almost waiting for the moment to rise. The soft blue sky becomes dark and heavy with clouds. The storm hits like a wet cold hand, so that you desperately seek some kind of shelter, watching the torrent wash past.

Up in the mountain the power of this onslaught washes away, and closed roads. People can only wait until this natural strength subsides.

Mike deBidaph and myself leave Chigaco, after having collected our bikes from the freight company. We head south west on the journey through Illinois. Through Joliet, the first town on 66 to be mentioned. Stop in Wilmington for that night. Enormous spaceman stands along-side The Launching Pad Café. Corny I suppose, but it’s the first Route 66 sight to encounter.

Route 66 6.jpg (141488 bytes)

Going solo for the last leg of the trip

Route 66 5.jpg (68804 bytes)

Dymchurch on sea or Route 66?

Route 66 4.jpg (132379 bytes)

Boy the roads are worse than in Kent

route 66 1.jpg (232003 bytes)

Mike and myself on old section of 66. Sign becomes reality for Mike                              the next day.

route 66 2.jpg (218076 bytes)

Mike posing on old section of the road

spaceman2.jpg (159993 bytes)

Spaceman in Wilmington. First real 'sight' on 66.

Route 66 7.jpg (246958 bytes) Route 66 Chris and Chief.jpg (108881 bytes)

At last, civilisation and someone to take a picture of me!!

Route 66 3.jpg (117034 bytes)

Next afternoon and we find ourselves parked in a no-horse town, Mount Olive. Mike’s bike is now deceased. Plumes of smoke from the rear pot.  Mike’s not feeling too great anyway, (caught a bug on the flight), so he decides to get the bike back to Chicago and return to Miami where we had been staying with his friends.

Which day did God send forth the rain?  I can tell you, it was the next two days!

Driving through this torrent the Chief did not stop, and I did not stop. I rode with my leg tight against the distributor to keep off the rising tide.  I once checked the map which turned to mush instantly. So, no stopping, no photos, no sights.

Into Missouri, past St. Louis, distant grey condominiums through the blinding rain.

Through Rolla, Lebanon and past Springfield, the State capital, not the home of Indian, that’s in Massachusetts.

The foul weather follows me into Webb City, one of the many route 66 by-passed towns. A rain soaked empty town-ship, which squinting at through blurred vision, could have produced visions of bygone days, huddled;  drawn and soaked figures ambling along the empty wooden walkways alongside the road.

Loud Harleys barking along the Interstate, back from the Milwaukee celebrations. Must have seen two hundred. Many on trailers. Talked to some HD riders, say Milwaukee was a ball. One complained that he had  lined up to enter the hospitality tent with his  ticket only to find after a two hour wait that he was given a cake and soft drink! Not very impressed.

Told how in the evening everyone had heard the whisper that the star act on the main stage was The Rolling Stones. People were praising HD, saying they had really scored top organizer to arrange this. Really wound up for a great gig. On strolls, faggot Elton John! Nice act but a lot of people slowly walked out during the set. Nothing personal he said, just that an English faggot playing to several thousand ‘ruffty-tuffty’ bikers was not really the pinnacle of the weekend!

Stopped for petrol in tiny hamlet, heard deep rumbling noise and rushed outside to witness end of the world or similar, only a Santa Fe goods train rumbling past the crossing.

Past Oklahoma City, El Reno, Hydra and on to Elk City. Fine 66 museum here. Well worth a stop.

Find and ride older 66 sections. Overgrown and narrow, have to keep ducking to avoid the over-hanging trees and shrubbery. Hard work!

Amarillo and visit HD dealer, recommended by ranch owner during chat in eater. Has collection of HDs. Expressed surprise that my old Chief is on such a long trip.

“Don’t see many of these around these days1”

Actually, I didn’t see any old bikes on the road at all during the whole trip.

New Mexico border and find Glenrio, genuine ghost town. Died as the Interstate opened.  I notice that alongside the ‘abandoned’ buildings are Keep Off signs.

I continue on old 66 that is red dirt. Looking behind the bike leaves a vast dust cloud that blocks out the view. Thinking about this remote trail makes me think of Easy Rider, and how if some red-neck were to take a dislike to me, I could just disappear. Just then, in the far distance, I see the dust trail of a pick-up (same as in Easy Rider), coming towards me! As it passes I see the driver:  a red-necked hill-billy! Several minutes later I stop to take a photo and see the truck has stopped, U-turned and is heading back!

Now I’m not prone to irrational thoughts, but for a moment I did wonder what to do. As it turns out, the truck pulls up alongside the Chief, the chap jumps down and with a large toothless grin says:

“Wow wee! Ain’t seen one of these here machines fer a long time! You had her long?”  Etc etc.

I see his companion in the cab is a twenty something Mexican girl, who stared through the broken dusty window with big eyes through the glass.

Gets mighty lonely in them thar hills!

Santa Fe, and I find and try to drive old 66. To rough, turn back.

Albuquerque. Stop to take cable car to mountain top. Good to let someone else do the driving. Leave the town, vast second-hand car dealers, and breakers yards line the road for miles. Spot several old collectors cars amidst the piles of jumble.

The freight railway line is often in sight, running away to the left, following the same direction. Notice that the maintenance is continuous. Large road trucks mount the tracks at crossings, riding the line checking the condition of the rails. Miles away I see mile-long trains pulled by up to four locos and pushed by two more. Giants. Like oil tankers in the English Channel. Must take miles to stop, God help any car stuck on a crossing.

One snake-like train across the distant skyline looks like a zip on its’ side. Each separate wagon is one raised piece of zip.

Chris Ball............  More to follow.  

For full report see next Indian Riders Magazine. Out autumn.   

Back Button           


Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last  
Disclaimer:  Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided, neither the Indian Riders Motorcycle Club, it's officials or any individual shall in any way be liable for loss, injury or damage resulting directly or indirectly from reliance of such information.  The inclusion of adverts  does not mean  that the advertisers are in any way endorsed by Indian Riders Motorcycle Club or it's officials.  Any disputes or claims must be taken up with the advertiser.