The first leg of this tour sees me sat next to the notoriously contagious loon Anthony Partridge for 12 hours on a plane, so it’s already a challenge. Ant is my friend, co-hoon at Goblin Works Garage and a super talented custom bike designer and builder – he’s also the reason why I’m here. Basically someone needs to document all the antics before things are forgotten in a post Bourbon haze and I’ve been writing in a blogging capacity for around 8 years so he’s dragged me along for that purpose – to write what I see. I love California and certainly don’t need my arm twisting to be part of this, however I’ve known Partridge for well over a year now, so I can see where this is headed, we’ll be lucky to get out of this in one piece.
So what’s this all about? Well, with our lives becoming so frenzied it’s important to take some time to get lost but in amongst this disorientation we do have a purpose – hence the name of the tour. Part of this purpose is to support the very talented Ricky de Haas of Wannabe Choppers who’s been invited to exhibit his custom chopper at The One Moto Show in Portland Oregon. We need to talk about this a bit first because it’s not your average chopper, in fact it’s not your average anything. Built predominantly from aluminium, which is cast in-house by Ricky, this custom chopper is also electric. The design, the execution and the notion in a bigger sense is beautiful and progressive – totally worthy of our support. Custom design is brave and deciding to push the boundaries of what people think custom design should be, in such an unflinching manner, is inspiring.
Along for this screwball ride is Niels Peter Jensen; ex-pro mountain biker, TV Presenter, designer and one of Ant’s best mates. Without a doubt collectively we are the epitome of a petrol fuelled motley crew, descending upon Portland then planning to travel down through California to Los Angeles. I know this tour will be one to remember, immersing ourselves in the LA custom culture, meeting as many people as we can and seeing as much as possible. Well that’s the rough plan; so with the best possible intentions I’ve strapped myself in and I’m ready to get lost on purpose…
Buy the ticket, take the ride.
– Hunter S. Thompson
Travelling gives me time to reflect and as I’m traveling I’m thinking; everyone seems to be having a go at the custom thing these days, but it all seems a bit too shiny. As if a stylist got hold of the idea, shook all the personality out of it and stuck it in an art gallery. Disconnecting the idea from the people. What if we gave you reality? No holds barred, no censorship in this overly uptight world and said – this is us, this is what we’re doing, it’s real and we love it.
Ahead of the action I suppose this is a preemptive warning about the way we do things – no gloss, no fluff, no pretense – just passion, enthusiasm and genuine comradeship in what is a tough life. The bottom line is we do this for the love of it, it’s no way to get rich so forget what you heard.
As we arrive in LA before our onward journey to Portland I have to fight the urge to hunt down Cheetos and blue food – especially as I’m sure this will cure my Jack Daniel’s fuelled travel haze. As much as I want to eat funfetti cake and drink vanilla cherry coke I must concentrate on the job in hand – I must not get distracted by e-numbers.
A quick connecting flight transports us onwards and upwards to Portland Oregon, to the beginning of our very own American Dream. Turns out the American Dream resides inside a beaten up Chevy van found on Craig’s List. This will be the Lost On Purpose Tour Van for the next few days and right now it’s taking us to an old pickle factory in Portland where the One Moto Show will be held. But first, beer. A quick stop at the local gas station allows us to stock up on cheap tinnies and some bright green snowballs. Party ready I reckon.
The One Moto Show first began nine years ago in an abandoned warehouse, set-up to celebrate rare, kooky and unconventional custom motorcycles. This show is as much about people, their excitement and dedication to their craft, as it is about their custom creations – it’s an out-and-out cultural gathering.
Ricky’s chopper stands pride of place in the pickle factory alongside some cracking good builds, Wannabe Choppers is definitely in good company here. We’re lucky to get a sneak peek before the show starts, absorbing the insane details only found in custom design. Unique motorcycles are accompanied by artwork, clothes, accessories, amazing food and drink – it’s a festival for the soul, if your soul craves motorcycles.
Immediately I’m struck by the fact that people want to talk to me, I’m not going to get all feminist about things but in my experience (at UK car shows) the majority of motorised conversations are directed at the boys I’m with or if I’m really lucky I’ll get a bigoted remark. Not only do people here want to talk to me about bikes, cars and the scene, they’re amazingly spirited, encouraging and positive. These folks really care about all this and want to celebrate everyone else who’s part of it. I wander off quite a few times and fInd myself in lively conversations ranging from the coolness of a boxy Volvo Estate with Roland Sands to the beauty of instant photography with Matt French. This is wildly refreshing.
Full of enthusiasm for the tour we end up at local haunt Sandy Hut, a kitsch dive bar with shots the size of buckets and a juke box playing ABBA one minute and Metallica the next. With it being the first night we’re obviously going to party too hard, this place invites it though… a random gal produces a cherry flavoured ring pop from her purse for me because “I’m pretty”, I’m treated to a lap dance (of sorts) and we meet a guy who smashed his own eye out with a guitar when he was young and drunk. Who said rock ‘n’ roll was dead?
I wish I could talk about everyone I’ve met but you’d be here for days reading this so I’ve honed down my list and someone I have to mention is Carl Bjorkland of Super Rat. One of the Bjorkland brother’s custom creations sits in the entrance of the show, a fierce post apocalyptic beauty queen which grabs my attention. The hand crafted details and attitude of this thing reflect the personalities involved and the stories Carl tells us. Super Rat have a film too, Out of Nothing, a documentary about the world of land speed racing at Bonneville which I’ll be talking about in more depth in an upcoming post. Ant has told me all about Carl and Super Rat before, but this is the first time I’ve met him and Super Rat’s overall ethos is exactly what I was talking about – reality on the scene, dirty and beautiful. One bad life decision after another because we love this lifelong blowout so much. The One Moto definitely illustrates exactly what we’re trying to find, the real scene.
I can say collectively we’ve met and partied with some hugely inspiring designers, builders and enthusiasts at this show. Learned from them, made proper friends and enjoyed some damn good fried chicken. This is a show I’d love to return to next year and it kicked off our tour in the best possible way. Thank you Portland, it’s been special.
We can’t stop here, this is bat country!
– Hunter S. Thompson
After the ridiculous fun and custom deliciousness of The One Moto Show we pack up the tour van and head south. The plan is to keep driving until we hit Sonoma California, plans are great in theory aren’t they? So squished in the back of the Chevy with the chopper, all of our luggage and a bunch of Hedon helmets we hit the road, and our first obstacle – rain and no windscreen wipers. So we stop and the boys Rainex the shit out of the windscreen, just in time because soon enough we hit heavy rain and a snow storm. After hours of driving the two of us making a chopper sandwich in the back want to stop for some rest, the two up front want to keep going. The tour van has its own idea and shed it’s timing belt – right near a Motel, thank you car gods! So rest it is.
Once the van was fixed we set off again and look-out for interesting places on the way to Sonoma. We stumble upon a run down gas station – the ideal aesthetic for me and a great place to inhale some Americana. This location is so full of colour, patina and unexpected coolness that we end up staying here for a couple of hours, just hanging out and taking snaps. The bright blue skies are a warm welcome into California and quite a contrast to Portland.
After a few more hours on the road we end up dropping Niels off in Sonoma – agreeing to meet him in Pasadena – and Ant, Ricky and myself continue onwards. Not long into our travels we stumble upon an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere framed by lightning damaged trees and covered in decaying weather-boards. This whole situation feels like the beginning of a horror movie but it’s just too good an opportunity to miss. So we unload the chopper and place it into a post apocalyptic setting thus achieving a fantastic contrast; an electric bike at the end of the world.
A passerby stops to take pictures of the old house and can’t fathom why we’re doing what we’re doing. I like situations like this because the only answer is “why not”. It’s funny how that one rhetorical statement sets people like us aside.
The amount of miles we’ve travelled, a general lack of sleep and lots of partying are catching up with us so on our way to Pasadena we have to stop. Let me tell you, we’ve been doing this thing the right way, staying in Motels eating beef jerky and drinking the place dry and this stop is no different. We’re staying at a Motel called the Vagabond Inn. Freakin Vagabond. We should have known. The next day eager to shake this place off we jump in the van and hightail it South. We’re more than ready for some Southern Californian magic. As we drive the sun is shining, I can see palm trees everywhere and Sublime are playing on the radio. We’re definitely in The Golden State now. California makes me feel euphoric, I love this place in no normal amount and when I’m here it feels like home, I’m so happy! Even better we’re taking Ricky’s electric dream machine out on a dry lake bed at El Mirage.
The drive alone is stunning; mountains, sculptural trees, burned out and abandoned cars interjected with pops of colour from Taco Bell. Visually I’m overdosing, it’s all so inspiring. Mix this in with having the opportunity to take a custom electric chopper onto a dry lake bed and this all adds up to a damn good day. Snaps, beers, hanging out and simply taking everything in made for a really sirenic experience, this place certainly does something to you. So after a peachy day absorbing what travel and custom life is all about, we head to Manhattan Beach to chill out and reflect. We also meet back up with Niels for tacos and Jack Daniel’s at a neon lit bar just off the beach and talk about our next adventures in California.
Wednesday we pick up a pair of RnineT Urban GS motorbikes courtesy of BMW Motorrad US and Ant takes us over to Roland Sands’ place to introduce us to the team. I love visiting other people’s workshops and this space is no ordinary workshop, it’s somewhere I could quite easily move into – it’s the dream. Roland is a great guy too, as I mentioned, he gets the coolness of a boxy Volvo Estate so we’re talking the same language. I’m like a kid in a candy shop seeing all this for the first time; Roland’s team are a super bunch too and it’s very inspiring to be in amongst it, behind the scenes, immersed in so much heritage.
Next Ant decides to take us to another cool shop in LA, so we visit Max Hazan at his workshop where we randomly we bump into Brandon LaJoie as well (who we met at The One Moto). Well that’s it, we simply must be friends now! Brandon is a super talented photographer and he’s here to take pics of Max Hazan’s super talents. So much talent. Did I mention this lot were talented? Seriously – Maxwell Hazan, if you don’t know his work, get to know it. It takes your breath away; exquisite artistry, genius engineering – no pretense just a celebration of the creative process and the endless possibilities of custom motorcycles. Also Max is a ridiculously nice guy so this is a happy place to be.
Again I’m a relative newbee to custom bikes so I wander about starry eyed just trying to take it all in. Whilst I geek out Brandon takes some great pictures of us invading Max’s space; so good in fact he’s become a future co-conspirator at LiCK.
Thursday Niels takes Ant and myself to Silver Lake on Sunset, we park up at Atlantis Motor Garage – such a great bunch of guys – and have a look around. I feel an immediate affinity with this place, with its mixture of vintage shops, independent boutiques, record stores, restaurants, cafes, surf shops and tattooists, it reminds me of a sunnier, cleaner, Shoreditch. The intense colours, modernist architecture, amazing people, tasty food, vibrant street art and palm trees all make this place really special – I could definitely spend more time here.
We ride over to The Arts District after that to visit Chris Richardson, old skool chopper builder and founder of LA Speed Shop. He’s just embarked on a new project called The House of Machines, Chris shows us around and catches up with the boys whilst I take everything in and listen to his plans for this great venue, which opens this month. I still can’t get over the exhilarating attitudes and encouraging, positive conversation from everyone we talk to. Los Angeles is a place to thrive and it’s certainly the perfect city to be part of something unique, a real custom community.
Friday sees us having lunch with Brandon – you’re one of us now buddy – we talk about future adventures, enjoy the warm sunshine, Brandon takes some great pics and we eat sprouts (nicer than it sounds). Then we head up Angeles Crest on the BMWs and together we all experience the twists and turns of the famous highway. The route takes us through the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest then we stop off to warm up at Newcomb Ranch. Once again we get chatting to fascinating, friendly people about everything from photography to bike parts. I haven’t got my full bike license yet (although I’ve done my CBT and taken my theory) so it’s been especially exhilarating for me to experience LA on a bike – even if it is as a passenger. The sights, sounds, smells and the wicked fun you have in those naughty corners. Times like this make you realise what life is all about and how important it is to make life all about that. The ride was so invigorating – I’m still smiling. This place is unreal.
Saturday we ride over to Venice Beach and I’ve been wanting to come here for years, so if it’s possible to be starstruck for a place – I am. We visit a few vintage shops then hang out at the skate park where we take some more snaps. This area is incredibly energetic, full of people dancing, skating, painting, singing, cruising around on beach bikes and just doing their thing. California has had a special place in my heart ever since I first came here many years ago, but arriving in Venice has knocked me for six visually, culturally, spiritually. I’m going to have to spend more time here in amongst the colours, characters and curiosities all under bright California sunshine; for me this is heaven. After wandering about for a bit we ride over to the Venice Canals to see a friend of Niels’, we leave the bikes and jump in his MK1 Range Rover for lunch at Rose’s Cafe. Double treat.
After that we hightail it over to HWY, an eclectic marvel and offbeat treasure trove. Where funnily enough we randomly meet Chris from Alchemy Tattoo – who has heard from Chris at The House of Machines that we we’re looking to get some Lost On Purpose Tour tattoos. Kindly he offers to hook us up in his shop; this is what I mean about the community here, these are good people. So we rip over to Alchemy, grab some sugar in preparation and wait to be stamped. We want the words “lost on purpose” in hand written text to remind us of this trip, so Steve Beltran inks us up. The three of us all have tattoos and like to mark really special times in our lives with ink; this trip is definitely worthy of a bit of branding and being lost on purpose is who we are and what we’re doing.
Sunday, Ant is sick, the poor thing has food poisoning, so Niels and I leave Ant to recover whilst we head over to a big flea market in Long Beach and see what’s what. This place is insane – first of all it’s so big you need an entire day to get around it, secondly I am blown away by the quality of what’s being sold here. Genuine vintage clothing, authentic Americana and the real deal when it comes to retro and antique furniture. The prices are unbelievably cheap too especially compared UK/EU prices so I know exactly where to come when I get a place out here, there is cool shit everywhere. I have to be restrained here because luggage space is tight – otherwise I could go bananas – instead I restrict myself to a 1970’s Playboy, a vintage graphic t-shirt and a kitsch American purse all for $30. Happy days.
Today we’re moving from Pasadena to Venice for the last leg of the tour. Niels is flying home so after filming and taking some more pictures he leaves and we meet up with Ricky again. Wandering down Venice boardwalk we look around and soak up the atmosphere. I dive into a few shops and buy some obligatory I heart LA goodies, I like to rock that shit when I’m back in the UK dreaming of being back in LA. Then we catchup over a few beers, Ricky tells us about the people he’s met and how he’s spreading the word about his electric bike and Wannabe Choppers. Quite a chilled day – which was needed and appreciated amidst the chaos.
Still humping the American dream.
– Hunter S. Thompson
Starting off a brand new day the right way we visit Eggslut (for crying out loud this place is delicious – eggy and slutty – the best egg and bacon sandwich I’ve ever had). We grab brekkie-to-go then bike down to the sand for some more photos by the watch tower and over at muscle beach where we meet the endearing Harry Perry. Before we know it hours have gone by and it’s time for the next destination, one of my must see spots, the original Zephyr Surf Shop in Dogtown Venice. The place where the Z-boys came from and where that whole skate scene started off. So we rip over to Dogtown Coffee, which now resides in the building which used to be Zephyr and again I get a bit star struck. I’ve always loved skating, surfing, the culture, the people – the whole scene, so to be here is freakin epic. I should describe this experience in a more eloquent manner but it’s just freakin epic. That’s all I got.
In the evening we pop into Clutch, a roadhouse in Venice I’ve been following on Instagram for a while. We have some super delish grub and Ant calls up Alex Earle of Earle Motors, a car designer and very skilled custom bike builder to come meet us. We talk about his future plans over a few beers and then Ant’s buddy Chris shows up. Soon enough we talk ourselves into a visit to Chateau Marmont and spend the rest of the evening drinking Jacks on the terrace at the Chateau. Dreamy. I’m not going to explain this place – it’s got history. If you don’t know then you don’t know, you know? Good to know.
On the second to last day in LA LA Land we visit Magnus Walker, someone I’ve only met once before but Ant knows well. I’ve never seen his place in LA so this is a big treat. Magnus is a car guy with a huge appreciation for creativity and innovation, design and culture. His background is admirable and fascinating making him, in my opinion, a respectful inspiration. As well as custom design I love architecture and interiors – style in a bigger sense, so being able to see inside this building is a big treat, combine that with a gorgeous Porsche collection and I’m pretty much speechless. We have lunch with Magnus, talk to him about our creative ideas and he tells us about his travels then after another look around we head off.
The last day sees us ripping around LA trying to get a few last-minute meetings in before we pack up and head to LAX. We stock up on food for the plane and spend this downtime reflecting on being lost on purpose in California. The elements of this trip that really stick with me are the people; their positivity, encouragement and enlightening outlook on life is contagious. Combine that with the aesthetics and culture of LA, an insanely blue sky, brilliant sunshine and there’s no doubt about it, this is where I want to be. Usually, I would return to the UK depressed as hell, with severe post California blues and wind up lolling around with Goldfish Crackers stuck to my face under the misery of grey skies and grey attitudes. However, this tour was so positive, hopeful and promising that this time I’m returning fuelled with dogged determination to work harder so I can spend more time in California, the place I love. So being lost for a few weeks has in fact helped me find focus again. Los Angeles is a paragon of cool and if you’re the right person you can see the real people and the real beauty of the place, after all that’s what we wanted to do, throw away the gloss and find authenticity. We achieved a great deal and made life long friends, we made memories and got inspired. This tour was sincerely an adventure to remember. But there’s no time to get sentimental, because we need to plan the next trip…
A huge thank you to Hedon Helmets for the gorgeous lids, Rev’it for keeping us warm and dry and TWSteel for getting us to where we need to be on time. Massive thanks to Anthony, Niels and Ricky for being such awesome road trip buddies and finally a big thank you to everyone who made us feel so welcome and inspired on our Lost On Purpose Tour.
Photographs by Anthony Partridge, Brandon LaJoie and me, instant photograph by Matt French.