Hell’s Angels and RTW travelers: Something in common?

LIFE.com recently put up a set of never-before published photos of the Hell’s Angels from 1965. Check out these quotes from the photo captions — there’s something shared between the mid-60’s Hell’s Angels and the RTW travelers of today. Of course, the list of things NOT in common is plenty long — independent travelers aren’t known as a particularly violent, felonious bunch — but hey, here goes:

-The work/life relationship as central to the status of outsider:

“They, of course, didn’t have jobs. They despised everything that most Americans pursue — stability, security. They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days at a time… They were self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior. It was extraordinary.”

-The nomadic urge leading to a bad reputation:

“…they were more lost nomads than real criminals.”

-A fluency with improvisation and unpredictability:

“There was always a sense that anything could happen at any minute. Things could go from light-hearted to scary pretty goddamn quick.”

-A total immersion in travel and its strange sleeping places:

“…the Bakersfield run was around the clock, three days and nights.” In Bakersfield,” remembers Ray, “I slept on the floor of the Blackboard Cafe — the bar that the Angels basically lived in while they were there.”

-Having to deal with others questioning your motives. (If not the cops these days, then family, friends, and (potential) employers):

“Anyone who envies the Angels their freedom,” Bill Ray notes, “should really keep in mind that wherever they go, whatever they’re doing, the cops are always watching.

-Having to deal with others attempting to constrain your travels:

“As we came to Bakersfield, about twilight ,” Bride remembers of the end of the ride from San Bernardino, “we sat on a hill and looked down into town, where an armada of cop cars and flashing lights awaited us. When we finally got there, the cops told the Angels that they were restricted to two bars, and two square blocks of territory. ‘Move out of that area,’ they said, ‘and you’ll be locked up.'”

-And maybe most of all, keeping alive the American myth of The Road:

“There’s a romance to the idea of the biker on the open road,” Bill Ray says. “It’s similar to the romance that people attach to cowboys and the West — which, of course, is totally out of proportion to the reality of riding fences and punching cows. But no doubt, there’s something impressive about these Harley-Davidsons and bikers heading down the highway. You see the myth played out in movies, like Easy Rider, which came out a few years after I photographed the Angels — you know, the trail never ends for the cowboy, and the open road never ends for the Angels. They just ride. Where they’re going hardly matters. It’s not an easy life. But it’s what they choose. It’s theirs. And everyone else can get out of the way or go to hell.”

Posted by | Comments (2)  | September 29, 2010
Category: Images from the road, North America, On The Road, Vagabonding Styles

2 Responses to “Hell’s Angels and RTW travelers: Something in common?”

  1. Ahi Says:

    That’s a really cool comparison. I think travelers are a subset of those who aren’t happy with the “normal path.” Fregans and squatters are others, of course, but I never realized that bikers were too. It’s very interesting.