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Old 05-02-2009, 01:31 PM   #1
mscuddy
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Default Freeloader Falls, 1973

In the State of California, City of Los Angeles, in the tiny suburb of Tujunga was a place known as “Freeloader Falls” where various off-road types partied every Friday into the wee hours, drinking beer in mass quantities and inhaling copious amounts of the Devil’s Weed, in an attempt to reach that elusive state of “nirvana” after a long work week.

People came from far and wide to party at the falls, which resided in the Big Tujunga Wash, right under a bridge that somewhat shielded the revelers from direct sight of law enforcement types, who regarded the partiers as dangerous miscreants. I was one of the regulars at the falls, and we had a sort of “family” there who looked after one another, and bummed beers off each other.

One of the founders of the Freeloader Falls group was a guy named Andy, who drove a WWII Ambulance 4X4 Dodge, and would park it in the middle of the river, up to the door sills. From there he would tie six packs of Schlitz 16 oz. cans to the ambulance’s rear view mirrors with parachute cord, and let them float off into the river to keep cool, while others floated around on inflated inner tubes and plucked the cans from their moorings, and between sips would pass big fat doobies to one another.

My buddy Rick Pearson and I would ride our bikes there every Friday, and bring along any inexpensive beer that was on sale at the Thrifty Mart, like L.A.’s own Brew 102, and Lucky Lager in 8 oz. bottles. As long as the beer was cold, it was drinkable.

Rick at that time rode a 1969 CL350 Honda, and I rode a 1971 Kawasaki F7 175 Enduro. The nice thing about both these bikes, in stock form they were nearly amphibious, and could double as submarines when the opportunity presented itself. Natural vehicles for Freeloader Falls if there ever was.

So we would find Andy and his Ambulance (that was completely waterproof, with a snorkel air intake, and shielded ignition) and lean our bikes up against the Dodge, and let our beer float off into the big pool that came right after a small waterfall, where the spot got its name.

Scantily clad teenyboppers in inner tubes and long haired hippy types floated around in this natural pool, and coexisted peacefully with the Jeep drivers, dirt bikers and other off-road types who lined the shores of the Tujunga river, looking for a free beer or two, and a toke. A bliss filled place if there ever was one.

But alas, after a while, Freeloader Falls started to attract a rowdy crowd of heavy duty whisky drinkers and acid heads whose main purpose in life was to think up more and more dangerous stunts to impress each other with, and our secluded Shangri-La soon became a nest of dangerous loonies packing high explosives and hard drugs. Not a good combo.

This was not lost on the Briggs Sheriff’s department, who patrolled Big Tujunga Canyon, and every now and then a prowl car would sneak down the dirt road that ran next to the river, lights off, and scare the beejezus out of everyone by cranking up the siren and the PA system ; “OK EVERYONE FREEZE! DON’T MOVE STAY WHERE YOU ARE! THIS IS THE SHERRIFS DEPARTMENT MAKING A SAFETY INSPECTION OF THE CAMPGROUNDS!” And we would hide our beers and put out any lit doobies, and wait for the Briggs Pigs as they were known, to hassle a few of the more insane types and cart them off for possession of explosives or a controlled substance. After a while they would take off, and we’d break out the beer and doobies again, and get back to partying. They pretty much left us alone, and knew who the nut cases with the dynamite were, so it was OK by us.

But I guess the Sheriffs were fed up with all the complaints of loud explosions and stoned hippies wandering around Big Tujunga Canyon, and decided enough was enough. So one Friday they decided to blitzkrieg the revilers with a helicopter, a couple dozen cop bikes and squad cars and arrest everybody at the falls. Lucky for Rick and me we had parked our bikes about 20 yards downstream from the main pool where everyone hung out and partied.

So there we were, sucking on a couple Brew 102’s (that actually tasted OK if the beer was cold enough) when all hell broke loose, cops everywhere with guns drawn and flashlights beaming, sirens going off and loudspeakers telling everyone to “PUT YOUR HANDS UP AND FREEZE!” The helicopter and spotlight added to the surreal scene, and I fully expected the cops to start using napalm at that point.

Now Rick and I were not about to get arrested for underage drinking and possession of weed (which was a big felony back then) so we cranked up our bikes and roared down the Big Tujunga wash in and out of the river, as fast as we could go. We were scared spit less at the thought of being arrested, and our bikes impounded, so we kept the throttles pinned and made haste to Foothill Blvd, where even MORE cops cars had blocked the road leading to Big Tujunga wash. By that time we were in WFO mode, and blew through the roadblock like it was tissue paper.

I remember seeing red lights in my rear view mirror as both Rick and I kept the throttles pinned on our bikes, as we blew through red lights and stop signs all the way down Foothill Blvd. into Glendale, where at the intersection of Glendale Ave. and Colorado Blvd. they finally thought they had cornered us, but we jumped the curb and slipped through a Taco Bell parking lot onto a side street, and got back into WFO mode until we reached our neighborhood of Silverlake. They had turned the chase over to the LAPD by that time, and for a few hours after you could see black and white Matadors zipping around with the bubble machines going, but we were safe in my Grandparents garage by then, smoking a bomber to calm down.

That was some ride. Rick and I always bring it up when we get together, and it’s amazing we both lived to see twenty, much less the old fart fifty years we’re both at. And every time I cross that bridge in Big Tujunga, I look down at what use to be Freeloader Falls (They bulldozed it) and get a big smile.
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Old 05-02-2009, 06:03 PM   #2
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Do you believe that stuff the old man was saying the other night at the Oso Negro about gold changin' a man's soul so's he ain't the same sort of man as he was before findin' it?
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Old 05-02-2009, 08:59 PM   #3
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I think I'll go to sleep and dream about piles of gold getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:26 AM   #4
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Cool story Cuddy. Ahhh to be young and crazy again!
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Old 05-03-2009, 10:14 AM   #5
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Thanks guys, that was a true story too. I don't know how we outran the motorolas, but I gues it was a simpler time. If any 16 year old kid tried to do that now, he'd be shot right off his bike. Of course today's young riders don't have CL350s or F7 Kawis to choose from, beer isn't $1.99 a six pack, and Freeloader Falls got put to the bulldozers blade long ago.

Rick stopped by yesterday (he suffered a big stroke in 2003, and is paralyzed on the left side) and we recanted how he did a berm-shot off a curb on Fotthill Blvd. at about 80 mph with the cops hot on out tails.

I had ruined the rear hub on my 175 a few weeks before, so we put an AT1 rear wheel on it, with a Dream Cycle 38 tooth rear sprocket, and it gave that little rotary valve beastie a top end over 100 mph. Could still trail ride it too. No one could believe how fast it was. I think it was one of my favorite bikes of all time.

Ah. memories...
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Old 05-04-2009, 07:52 AM   #6
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Great stuff, Cuddy!

To be young and invulnerable again...
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:51 AM   #7
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Thanks, Cuddy!

I don't know how any of us survived adolescence.
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Old 05-04-2009, 01:20 PM   #8
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Thanks a lot, Matt!

Damn. Just about the time I get comfy with being a Gramma and sane, someone brings up the hazy, lovely, distant purple-tinted past, and I go flying into kid mode again!

Cheap alcohol, cheap pot---and the Pill!! What a great time to be young, single and broke!

In my case it wasn't the canyons near LA, but the beaches of Puget Sound, but it was basically the same.....

Great story, and I glad you escaped the Blue Meanies!
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