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Thank you Peter Fonda

Peter Fonda died in the 50th anniversary year of "Easy Rider", his death propelling us all right back into the times when it all began. That Harley thing.

When we first tried to escape the stifling stuffiness

of the small town where we lived, we used any old moped that was handy. When our mother shook her head when we grabbed our helmet and, mumbling "got a key, don't know when I’ll be back.”, started out the door, we felt a little wild, on the fringe of society, or at least, our family.

And then came this movie.

Remember the times when anything important and world shaking could only be seen at the movies? Most of us will still remember the first time they went to watch this film.

It was easy enough to ignore

the fact that these two guys financed their outrageous choppers with a lucrative drug deal. We were hooked to Harley line, sinker and all in that epic pan across those never ending chrome forks, when Peter Fonda hid his gas money in a tube that went into the gas tank. Which was – and here we go full on meta – painted with the American flag. As was the matching helmet. The leather jacket he was wearing over his folksy shirt carried another star spangled banner on its back. This was Captain America. No wonder his name was Wyatt, and that of his pal: Billy.

The classic New Hollywood Western

looks us in the eye here, the genre that killed off classic good vs. bad clichés. Wyatt takes a long last look at his gold watch (cut in an almost quaint way by today's standards) and throws it into the roadside dust. From now on, their only compass will be the wind in their hair, and the direction their headlights are pointing.

Empty roads, iconic, sweeping landscapes, freedom.

To be untroubled by others, that was the promise. Only to be fulfilled in the saddle of a Harley-Davidson. Everything in those few minutes after the opening scene, the film is a mind-boggling commercial for freedom, the seamlessly integrated music of Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" taking over from "The Pusher". Wild and easy, the message came trough loud and clear. That was a concept of a life worth living. "I never wanna die…"

All this would of course work best

if there was a real Harley to ride on. So we started looking for unloved, rusting Milwaukee iron, to be resurrected with our own hands and ingenuity, slowly morphing into an "Easy Rider" of our own. There was no hurry, the dream was riding along from the first second we got our hands on the thing. And we were not alone with these feelings, there were friends who one after the other discarded their non-Harley rides and got themselves a real hog, synced with every spark out of their American made distributors. Even when reality meant long drives to obscure parts merchants and time wasting searching for spares, this was the stuff: when the V-twins finally rumbled to life, they told us stories of all those miles we were going to ride in search of a life in the fast lane. The campfires, the afternoons in a buddy's garage, the mountain roads, the desert beaches …

These couple of minutes of Easy Rider

when the guys start hitting the road on their choppers encapsulate everything that makes us get on our Harleys even today, connecting us to thousands out there, sharing the same dream. A community transcending borders and language barriers. A small universe of its own, visible at events like Born Free or Faak or the TripOut, the flame being kept alive in the small, personal space. If the square motel owner won't give us a room for the night, we camp out in the wilderness. Hey, let me have another toke of that joint, let's have another beer. Social networks start in reality, not on the net. They work without likes, without followers. Just because we share this dream, these two hours of a film, that kick started everything. That got us rolling, that's the reason why we ride Harleys.

Thank you Peter Fonda. (1940 - 2019)

Ride easy forever.