California’s San Pedro shipping port, 500 bikers are gathering for a ride. As the near 100-degree sun bears down on the ship’s nine 50-calibre guns, the assembled bikers are pulling on leathers, checking oil levels and packing saddle bags as they await the arrival of Jax, Tig, Bobby and Tommy, better known as the Sons Of Anarchy.
Loaded hopped on a Harley Davidson Fat Boy, 1600cc of growling chrome – a leather sofa on two wheels – and asked to join the party. We’re here for a ride in aid of war veteran charity Boot Campaign, which offers financial and emotional assistance for returning soldiers. Last night,
Cpl Joey Jones, who lost his legs on his last tour of Afghanistan, was given an £18,500 down payment on a house.
Im going to avoid you like the plague, Mr Loaded bloke. I dont even go riding with the rest of the cast – they dont know how to ride.
The way they treated me made me feel valid again,” he says from Alex’s, a nearby dive bar hosting a small, pre-ride red carpet event. They really helped me get over my own personal slump of what I’m worth now without legs.”
The Boot Campaign’s connection to the Sons started in 2010. I wanted to get involved because all these guys have given so much,” explains Tommy Flanagan, best known as Chibs Telford, the Sonsloyal Scottish nut job. There are homeless veterans out there, which is fucking despicable, so we want to do as much as we possibly can. This is my third run.”
And loaded’s first. Though Mark Boone Junior, who plays the Sonshairy veteran Bobby Munson, does not seem impressed that we are tagging along. I’m going to avoid you like the plague, Mr Loaded bloke,” goads the seasoned Harley rider. Nice bloke. I do not even go riding with the rest of the cast -they do not know how to ride.”
Kim Coates – aka Tig – and Theo Rossi – aka Juice – beg to differ: the pair have Harleys of their own [Tommy, however, secretively admits he traded his for a BMW -It’s like going from a tractor to a Ferrari,” he whispers], and are more than ready to lead the pack.
And in San Pedro at the US’s busiest – and most polluted -shipping port, a brotherhood of bikers is ready to ride the 30-plus mile journey to Hollywood.
Sweltering under the midday sun, lined up in pairs, the iron gates burst open and our hosts arrive: there they are, the Sons crew as if they’ve just ridden out of the TV, only with one crucial difference.
In a parallel universe moment, the California Highway Patrol motorcycle police – or CHP – aren’t chasing them down, but escorting them safely on their way.
This would never fly with the Sons Of Anarchy Motorcycle Club.
The crowd’s roar is soon drowned out by 500 Harley Davidsons doing what they do best: cranking out the dBs. With the Sons leading the pack, loaded slips into their tailwind and hits the road; within minutes we are flying down the 110 freeway heading north.
Getting so many bikes to stick together is not easy, but the CHP crew are doing their job. Before we even hit the ramp, they’ve used their bikes to stop oncoming traffic so the rest of us could make the smooth transition from street to freeway. And as we roll through the city, we are rolling past LA’s most notorious hoods: Compton, Hawthorne and Inglewood are on either side, but the cops are keeping the traffic at bay, letting us scream through without stopping.
Soon we are pulling off the 110 and heading west on the 10 – the Rosa Parks Freeway – catching the Sunday traffic. Not that it is stopping this train from rolling. Whoever comes into our path is gently nudged out of the way by an obliging officer.
We’re not on the 10 for long before making an exit, and for the first time on our journey we are hitting surface streets. We’re on an LA artery road, La Brea, heading from the rough West Adams district to Hollywood. As we start hitting the cafes and boutiques of Mid Town, we are starting to get some serious attention. Overhead a news helicopter buzzes, parents cover their kidsears and shoppers are putting down their bags to video the gang of bikers riding by.
A giant Sons Of Anarchy billboard looms over us as we start hitting the heart of the city, our hosts leading the way to Hollywood’s Happy Ending Bar.
The party’s already started; bad food, cold beer and a hard rock band fills the patio space, and the Sons unite for a final photo. At the end of the day there’s nothing like Sons Of Anarchy,” says Theo Rossi, looking out at his adoring fans. It’s got the greatest characters and actors on TV. Nobody’s a superstar – we are just trying to make the best show we can.”