What on earth possesses a man, evidently in his late fifties to wear a tassled baseball cap back to front, and wear a ripped tee shirt bearing the legend “Red Rider – Death Machine” My mind is definitely boggled. He arrived by pick up truck rather than a hog, so I was a little confused as to why a Ford Ranger could be regarded as a Death Machine.
Unless there is something I don’t know…
I was sitting at a beer-stained table at Cooks Corner, a well-known biker’s bar in Orange County, California. Sitting in front of me was a large pitcher of ice cold beer. The hubbub of conversation was frequently overwhelmed with the booming thunder of a large capacity Harley Davidson arriving, or the bellow of one accelerating hard up East Santiago Canyon Road, heading for Silverado or the Limestone Canyon National Park.
Just behind me, a simple stage had been set up under an awning upon which was a drum kit, three guitars and a keyboard. As it was a warm and sunny lunchtime, the place was filling up fast. I have never seen so many tattoos, leather waistcoats and goatee beards….and that was just the women!
The atmosphere, for a busy biker bar was relaxed and friendly, with everybody up for a good time. And the hubbub of happy conversation bubbled around the place.
As the advance guard, I had located a table capable of seating the eight people in our party, which was already occupied by a middle aged couple. Evidently, the man hadn’t been stroked by the happy stick, and neither had his wife, who bore an expression suggesting that she had just been engaged in sucking on a particularly obnoxious substance, such as a skunk dung.
“Are these seats taken?” I asked. The man stared at me vacuously, giving a shrug, so I assumed that his inability to articulate was due to him being profoundly happy for our extrovert and vociferous group to join him.
I plonked myself down, and inspected my fellow diners more closely. Both in their late forties, they had obviously embraced the West Coast Urban Designer Biker culture. He was wearing a gloss black leather peaked cap, which I imagined he borrowed, or maybe stole from one of the more flamboyant members of The Village People, and wore what looked like a Swarovski diamanté encrusted crucifix around his neck. Large? I imagine it probably weighed in the region of about a kilo!
His red leather waistcoat was adorned with patches proclaiming his membership of an absurd number of biker clubs, but the biggest patch of all was for The Laguna Hills Motorcycle club. He also had a patch with a screaming skull embroidered upon it. In other respects, from his sallow complexion to his soft, pudgy hands, he hardly looked like a biker. I expect that in reality he was a suburban architect, or ran a firm of accountants.
But then, I am a biker, and I’m a sixty year old balding flight instructor… Go figure!
His wife fared not much better and was also wearing the obligatory black leather cap, although, her’s was of a style favoured by Donny Osmond in the early 1970s. Her waistcoat was tasselled and covered in biker patches.
In the ten minutes or so that I sat there waiting for the rest of my group, they never said a single word to each other, and totally ignored me.
When my friends finally arrived after parking their bikes, they spotted me snd descended on the table in a happy chattering gaggle, with three or four conversations taking place simultaneously. I could hear Giuseppe’s strident voice loudly discussing something in Italian, with Francesca, his partner.
The rest of the group were talking animatedly about motorcycles, aeroplanes, beer and women.
The beer-stained menu was hastily passed around, and as we were all hungry, we wasted no time in placing our order at the bar. As it was fairly early, the service was relatively quick and our food order arrived quickly.
A sudden silence descended on the table as we dived in on burgers, fries, beers, and burritos. Our inadvertent companions, the odd couple, stonily sat there, still not talking, and looking disapprovingly at our group, who were clearly getting noisier in direct proportion to the food and beer that was consumed.
Seeing that my friend’s glasses were almost emptied, I wandered into the bar, and ordered a further two pitchers of ice cold Budweiser, and two Cadillac Margaritas. The cheerful young woman behind the bar smiled at me, saying how much she loved my accent, and then asked me which part of Australia I was from. I replied, dryly saying that I came from a suburb of Sydney called Earls Court.
Taking my proffered cash, she told me she would bring the beers out to our table.
Must have been my smooth-talking antipodean charm!
We finished eating, and I must say, that for a so-called “Biker Bar” the food was superb, well cooked, and full of flavour. The servings were generous, and fantastic value for money.
What a fantastic place. Everyone I met there was friendly, (although I can’t speak for our table companions, as they didnt say a word) and we were made to feel very welcome, by both the bar staff and our fellow bikers.
Everyone was there for one reason – to share good food, cold beers, great bikes and fun memories.
The linguistically-challenged bar girl came to our table, clearing plates. She was really lovely, and simply exuded happy friendliness, exchanging banter and flirting with the customers as she glided effortlessly between the tables. We left her a very generous tip.
It’s a shame I had no Aussie Dollars though…
We all relaxed now, full of lunch and beer and happy to stay in the shade as the temperature continued to rise whilst the sun crawled up the blue fabric of the sky. More and more bikes arrived, with many of the riders wearing nothing more than shorts, tee-shirts and flip flops. Many of the girls riding pillion wore bikinis and little else.
I shuddered to think of what would happen to them should they have a spill out on the highway.
I glanced at our group.
All in our fifties and sixties, we had all experienced coming off in the past and so were wearing slightly more appropriate wear, and everyone had a leather jacket, gloves, jeans and boots. Not quite what I would wear on the miserable roads of Blighty – back home I would be wearing an armoured leather jacket, armoured leather trousers, armoured boots and armoured leather gloves.
I guess that our climate, and the dreadfully congested roads mean that you have to dress like a mediaeval knight to withstand the risks.
My attention was caught by a group of pasty-faced youths in ripped jeans who were picking up guitars and obviously tuning up with a view to playing, and with unspoken agreement we all decided that now was the time to leave, whilst we still had the benefit of functional hearing.
So, having chilled for about three hours, we decided that a gentle meander through the canyons and passes in the Laguna Hills was in order, so we suited up, and rode back to Coto de Caza via the back roads, enjoying the warm wind on our faces, as we swooped along the almost empty highways that run through the valleys of the Laguna Hills.
Returning to my friend’s house, we all peeled off our leathers, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening talking, drinking and watching the sun dip slowly in the west, drowning in the waters off Laguna Beach.