How To Road Trip Across America Like Easy Rider

June 12, 2019
Free California Road Trip Itinerary

In 1969, Dennis Hopper’s movie Easy Rider became a showcase of the American Hippie counterculture and how Southern Americans embraced it. Much like they embrace abortion, homosexuality and people of other races.

Inspired by the movie, I have created a free California road trip itinerary for those wishing to retrace the steps of the two Easy Riders, Wyatt and Billy. Throughout the journey, you’ll visit key locations from the movie including recommendations for an authentic Easy Rider experience, without the misfortune of being shot or beaten to death.

The end location is in the town of New Orleans for the infamous Mardi Gras. So before you book your flights, you may want to check when Mardi Gras is on, through the official Mardi Gras website. Once you’ve done that, pack some camping equipment, provisionals and get the motor running.

Free California Road Trip Itinerary

Day One

Without a Harley, this road trip would have all the authenticity of a political broadcast.  For those who can’t afford to book a first class plane ticket for their hat, renting a bike is a good option. For renting, I recommend Eagle Rider who has a convenient drop-off point in New Orleans.

From the pick-up point in Los Angeles, drive out of the city and out onto the highway. Two and a half hours will get you to the pit stop for the evening, The Joshua Tree. A small drive on the first day is enough to get you used to the vehicle and the roads, especially if you’re a Brit, like me, who is used to driving on the correct side.

The Joshua Tree was a trendy spot during the ’60s, where people like Jim Morrison and Keith Richards came to “expand their minds”. Or in other terms, have fun.

Inspired by the scene in Easy Rider where they took shelter on a farm, many of the places in Joshua Tree park offers similar accommodation like the Thunderbird Ranch House or the secluded lodgings of Sacred Sands.

Day Two

After a quick cup of joe, take a leisurely drive for five and a half hours to Flagstaff on a little known road called Route 66.

Flagstaff is home to the Lumberjack Cafe (218 S Milton Road) which was featured in Easy Rider. It’s since changed ownership but the building is still there. And the town is the size of a garden pond but interesting to explore if you want to see more.

And when you’ve seen everything, probably in under an hour, jump on your trusty metal steed and head one hour up the road to the Grand Canyon. Experience sleeping among the terracotta walls. You can go rogue and find your own spot or stay safe by heading to one of the many campgrounds.

Day Three

After absorbing the magnificent views of some huge cracks in the ground, head back onto the road for a three-hour drive to Monument Valley– another similar-coloured beauty.

The red sand desert on this 17-mile stretch was featured in one of the many driving scenes of Easy Rider and in several spaghetti westerns. Because this might be something you’ll want to take photos of, you can head to a nearby tipi village to camp, and also offers tours of the red rocks.

Day Four

When you’re finally sick of terracotta colours, take a six and a half hour drive to Arroyo Hondo. There, you will find the original home of a 1960s Hippie Commune.

In Easy Rider, Billy & Wyatt are invited into a commune- a place that’s welcoming and where people are actually nice to each other. Director Dennis Hopper’s inspiration was the New Buffalo Commune in Arroyo Hondo. I’d highly recommend staying in one of the original Buffalo homes for the night, available on Air BnB.

Nearby, is the Rio Grande hot springs which is where they swim with the commune’s free-spirited girls. There’s a chance that the naked girls still won’t be there but it’s worth a dip. And if you have a bit more time, south down the river, is the Natural Born Killers film location where the two mass murderers marry each other.

Day Five

In the morning, begin a drive to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Not the bright lights and empty wallets Las Vegas, but the small town of Las Vegas where the Easy Rider boys get arrested for joining in on a parade. You can still visit the police station where they meet Jack Nicholson, but it is now an art gallery.

Carry on down the road for three and a half hours on Route 66 and you’ll end up in the city of Amarillo. Here is a good place to pitch up in a cheap motel for the night. Or, if you want a cheaper, more authentic night’s sleep, pitch up camp somewhere along Route 66.

Day Six

Even a man armed with a film crew, Harleys and leather jackets thought Texas was a no go zone during the ’60s. So, in the movie, the next location we see is the Long Allen Bridge in Bossier City. Pitch up in a motel or camp for the evening before heading to the Bossier Strip. The strip used to be a celebrity hive during the ’60s and was described as a ‘micro-Vegas’.

Bossier City is an eight-hour drive away, so for those who get saddle sore, a pit stop in Texas may be necessary. My recommendation would be to stop off in Dallas City where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963- probably one of the many reasons why Texans had built a reputation for being a hospital bunch.

Day Seven

As the sun rises on the last day of the road trip, get up early to do that final five-hour drive to New Orleans. Make sure you drive through Krotz Springs, where that unforgettable death scene took place. Maybe avoid any passing trucks.

Once in the floral embrace of New Orleans, drop off the bike, grab that well-deserved drink and join Mardi Gras. If you want to end up, tripping balls, in the St Louis Cemetery No 1, like they did in the film, do so before 4 pm because it now closes early. But if you plan on taking acid, you’ll probably have no idea whether you’re in a cemetery or in a toilet cubicle anyway.

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