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Non Rail: Easy Rider: The Low Road Tour

Before you read further, I want you to read this by George Engler, one of the chiefs in a tribe known as the Sand Dollar Motorcycle Club, aka, "The Sandies". He's the same "George" aka "Fat Cat", mentioned below. Pull out your handkerchief, this is thick.

"He {Dennis Hopper} passed away today. He was the director and played Billy in Easy Rider. In 1970, the movie became a counterculture hit. If you rode a motorcycle then, as more then a few of the " More Experienced Sandies" did, it was our anthem. Unfortunately, it didn't age well, but it did produce a very, very special Sandie Trip, the one to the site of the final scene of Easy Rider, which with the help of Steve, from Louisiana, was nailed down for good, no more speculation. We even get inquires from around the world today. Still it feels like the road is slipping away from me. This is just my eulogy to someone that helped me love the road so much. God Rest, Billy, George".

Moving on, here's the story of what George was speaking, the finding of the the exact location of the last scene of Dennis' child, "Easy Rider":

When it was all done, George wrote:

"We undertook to solve the mystery. Web sites had it everywhere along La 105. Well, we found it and The Sandies were the first Motorcycle Group to visit it. Our deciphering the clues from the Movie are a Story into itself. The Low Road Tour this year was fantastic".

It started like this:

One afternoon I was checking my email. My guest book sends me an automated message whenever I get a entry. Usually it's my wife with sweet nothings, like, "Take out the garbage". Rarely do I get anything serious. Sometimes I get a request for directions. I'll spend thirty minutes researching a route and preparing a response. I send it back. Then I won't hear diddly, no thanks, no nothing. I figured George's request was another one of those. He mentioned that he'd visited the site for years but his name meant nothing to me. He didn't mention the club whose name I did remember as their website had linked to my old site for years.

What George wanted was this. He wanted to know EXACTLY where Wyatt's bike had burned on La.105 during the final scene of Easy Rider. I'd heard it was above Melville. That was from a native. I'd run up and down that stretch between Melville and Simmesport and never saw anything that said it was the place. I told George that and he said thanks and that he'd look elsewhere, and that maybe he'd even try contacting Peter Fonda. I asked that he keep me up to date on his progress and told him I'd do what I could to help on my end. I wish I'd kept our exchanges because what happened next is a little blurry.

While he was off banging on locked doors, I got interested because I hate questions that I know can be answered but aren't. That movie was a part of an era. To Louisianians, it was more. The movie used our state to make a statement at our expense. It used our people and it used our space. It painted us with a broad brush as hicks and murderers. It was no comedy. It was passion and prejudice come to town. I felt strongly about the movie as I walked away from the theater 40 years ago and I still feel strongly about it, though from a very different perspective.

Back to the hunt.

I've seen the locations of scenes in other parts of the country, and, yes, even in Louisiana, pinpointed by "Easy Rider" sites. Nowhere have I found any one that marked the exact spot where the bike exploded and burned. I saw, "above Krotz Springs", repeated over and over. "Above Krotz Spring" takes in a large area. I don't believe those sites were authored by Louisianians.

George wrote and said he'd joined a Krotz Springs forum and asked the locals. I thought to myself, "this dude is serious". The most exact explanation that he was able to get was, "three or four miles above town". I was still betting on my local since he'd said the movie was the biggest thing to ever happen in Melville, but, I was never able to make anything out of his vague description. I'd follow George's guidance. He and I both had the last scene of the movie to work with. He and I both had Garmin's map software. We both had the use of Google Earth. What was lacking was a landmark I'd recognize.

Back before I followed railroad tracks all over the place, I followed bayous. Several of those bayous ended at the Atchafalaya levee. They are now stagnant ghosts of their former selves, but still survive to a degree right up to the road, La.105. I noticed that right across from the burning bike was a yellow green body of water touching the levee. I went to the Garmin Topographic software and counted the bayous that touched the road starting north of KS. There was Two Mile Bayou, a sometimes arm of Three Mile Bayou and the main stream of Three Mile Bayou. But, it was 2.2 miles above town, not the 3 or 4 which the local had suggested to George.

There was something else in the picture, the roof of a house. Feeling it was time, I went to Krotz Spings and rode up 105. I could not believe it. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. All the requirements were fulfilled.

I shook my head standing on the crest of the levee imagining the camera being hoisted by a noisy helicopter 40 years ago while the song, The Ballad of Easy Rider, co written by Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn played on. I thought of a generation who, at least for a while, were moved to passion and prejudice aligned with the times. A line from the Grateful Dead's song, "Trucking", which states, "Lately it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it's been", came to mind. Finding the place closed the book for me. It was a movie. There was no cross marking the spot, no monument, nothing, and rightfully so. What the place does correctly represent is a marker in the lives of many when passions and prejudice were brought to a boil.

George put forth that thought,"I'm bringing a load of folks next weekend that want to touch a part of the youth that made America, well, different, but, a new place".

I could dig it. George had it right, the place was a tangible footnote in history. It swayed an unknown portion of a generation to think differently. It may have even angered a "love child" into acts of violence. Tracing the power of that final scene to what was to happen later is another mystery where there are only clues.

Some mysteries you have to let go, some you don't.

"Get Your Motor Running...Take It on the Highway......."