Free Riders


I may not have become a Hell’s Angel as I had suggested in the previous story but I did join a motorcycle club, which satisfied my fantasy of doing so. Well, not completely, but I did discover that joining the Hell’s Angels was not for me.

Around 1975 I met a guy named “Goldy” through my brother-in-law. He was a member of the Free Riders MC in Seattle and invited me to join. It turned out I knew one of the members tangentially since the Vice President (Dirty Ernie) was dating “Gabby” who waitressed with my wife at Sambo’s.

Group photo
Unk member, Jill (wife), H-man, Large Louis, Dirty Ernie, Gabby

In the picture at right are some of the Free Riders on a run to Wallowa, Oregon. My buddy Goldy took the picture. That’s his Trumpet chopper with the springer front end. Mine is in front of it.

The Free Riders motto was “A Straight Chopper Club” which means they only let choppers in. It also suggested “no drugs” but that was never enforced that I know of. It was kind of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell even though I knew some members smoked pot and other even more serious drugs. It was largely a Harley group but they didn’t mind British bikes nor did they look too far down their noses at Japanese bikes, as long as they were chopped. I was in the process of chopping the Trumpet so that wasn’t a problem.

Sometime after I became a member, there was a split in the club. Half the group wanted to go 1% (outlaw) and the others wanted to remain an MC. I was in the latter half. The club eventually broke up with the 1%ers forming another club called the Third Rail and the Free Riders eventually disbanding.

Free Rider colors with out rockers

A while later I ran into Harley Charley who was a friend and now a member of the Third Rail. He invited me to join the club and was pretty sure I wouldn’t have to prospect since he would sponsor me. Also, “Scab”, who was President of the Free Riders, was now president of the Third Rail. I gave it some thought and said I would come be their club house for a visit and to check them out.

The next day I had a chance to drive by and was cordially (as cordial as outlaws get) invited in. They had a nice setup with pool table, a bar and a shop for members to use. We found Scab in the shop working on his latest creation, a “rat bike.” Scab explained that he was using a car tire for the rear tire and that he was in the process of having all the chrome sandblasted off. He then pulled out his .357 and waved it around daring anyone to, “…not like my rat bike.”

Frankly, I was a bit put off by the weapon display, but agreed to hang out a little longer to get to know the club members. I was sitting at the bar sipping a beer watching two guys playing pool when I noticed a 1/2″ hole in the bar. It didn’t look drilled so asked the guy next to me what the hole was for.

He got excited and yelled at one of the guys playing pool, “Hey, Jimmy! Jimmy! Show this guy your scar! Jimmy was delighted to show me. As he pulled his shirt off his buddy explained that Jimmy had been sitting where I was currently sitting a couple months back when two members got to wrestling and bumped the bar. That dislodged the loaded shotgun stored behind the bar on hooks allowing the butt to hit the deck and blasting a hole through the bar top and, from Jimmy’s evidence, creating a half inch deep by one inch wide diagonal groove from his lower back to shoulder.

Although Jimmy was proud of his badge of courage, I was not only shocked by the scar and story, I had a hair raising feeling at back of my neck. I couldn’t wait to get away from the bar and out of the club house.

When I left that evening it dawned on me. I had more to live for than all those guys put together. I’ve made some bad decisions in my life, but generally avoid repeating them. Those guys lived on bad decisions. As I rode away I mentally shredded my club application.

I never saw any of those guys again except Harley Charley. When I did he would shrug and say, “It’s not for everyone.” Harley Charley was cool.

2 thoughts on “Free Riders”

  1. It’s nice to know what my father-in-law “Dirty Ernie” looked like. My husband looks just like him.

  2. Glad the photo helped out. I would like to know what has happened since last seeing him. I will email you.

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