Hunter S. Thompson, born in 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky was an America journalist and author, known for pioneering “gonzo” journalism. Thompson’s works include, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, and The Rum Diary but, he was best known for his work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson committed suicide in February of 2005 but, his eccentric personality will continue to live on in his writing.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
by . . . HUNTER S. THOMPSON
The Lone Angel
The farther the Hell’s Angels roam from their own turf, the more likely they are to cause panic. A group of them seen on a highway for the first time is offensive to every normal notion of what is supposed to be happening in this country; it is bizarre to the point of seeming like a bad hallucination . . . and this is the context in which the term “outlaw” makes real sense. To see a lone Angel screaming through traffic – defying all rules, limits and patters – is to understand the motorcycle as an instrument of anarchy, a tool of defiance and even a weapon. A Hell’s Angel on foot can look pretty foolish. Their sloppy histrionics and inane conversation can be interesting for a few hours, but beyond the initial strangeness, their everyday scene is as tedious and depressing as a costume ball for demented children.
But there is nothing pathetic about the sight of an Angel on his bike. The whole – man and machine together – is far more than the sum of its parts. His motorcycle is the one thing in life he has absolutely mastered. It is his only valid status symbol, his equalizer, and he pampers it the same way a busty Hollywood starlet pampers her body. Without it, he is no better than a punk on a street corner. And he knows it. The Angels are not articulate about many things, but they bring a lover’s inspiration to the subject of bikes. Sonny Barger, a man not given to sentimental rambling, once defined the word “love” as “the feeling you get when you like somethin as much as your motorcycle. Yeah, I guess you could say that was love.”
An Angels True Nature
The Fact that many Angels have virtually created their bikes out of stolen,
bartered or custom-made parts only half explains the intense attachment they have for them. You’ve got to see an outlaw straddle his hog and start jumping on the starter pedal to fully appreciate what it means. It is like seeing a thirsty man find water. His face changes; his whole being radiates confidence and authority. He sits there for a moment with the big machine rumbling between his legs, and the he blasts off . . . sometimes in a cool, muted kind of war, and sometimes with a roaring wheelstand that rattles nearby windows – but always with style, with clan. And by cutting out in the grand manner at the end of each barroom night, he leaves the others with the best possible image of himself. Each Angel is a mirror in the mutual admiration society. They reflect and reassure each other, in strength and weakness, folly and triumph . . . and each night at closing time they cut out with a flourish: the juke box wails a Norman Luboff tune, the bar lights dim, and Shane thunders off drunkenly into the moonlight.
During 1965 more than 1,000 people died in the United states as a result of motorcycle accidents. Automobiles killed nearly 50 times that many, but the growing number of bike deaths caused the American Medical Association to label motorcycles “a serious health hazard in our communities.” The Hell’s Angels lose an average of four members a year on the road, but considering the way most of them ride, a 4% annual mortality rate is a towering tribute to their skill. A Harley 74 is probably the only motorcycle that can cause real damage to a car, and a hard-running Angel can intimidate traffic as severely as a speeding torpedo.
1. [A chapter is the location or providence where a motorcycle club is established, a member of a motorcycle club will typically wear a patch on their back that signifies which chapter they are from.]↩