The Kern River Run
By Red Dog
If you were to ask a biker back in the 60's and early 70's where they would ride too and party at in So. Cal., one name would come up every time. Kernville. The Rustic little town, located just north of Bakersfield back then was a haven for bikers. It had it all, scenic rides, a cool rustic town, biker friendly bars, warm summers, hot vacationing babes out camping with their families, and the Kern river. Maybe it was the towns original name of "Whiskey Flats" that brought them to this town. Whatever the case, it was the place to ride too.
I grew up in that era and spent most of my life growing up on the Kern River going on family trips to this paradise. As a kid I remembered going into the quit little town to buy some fishing tackle or just hang out with the other vacationing kids. I would watch with excitement as the bikers would ride into town like out of a scene from an old western movie.
The bikes would thunder into town on their steel horses with the bikers dressed in dirty jeans and vest like outlaws riding into an old west town. They would pull up to the sportsman saloon while people in the town looked on with an uneasy feeling knowing they were not a part of the normal society.
While on the river we would see them camping along the river in secluded places keeping totally to themselves. Parents would tell their children to stay away from them as if they were the boogy man or something.
While fishing the river or riding inner tubes down the rapids you would pass by their camps and see them partying and having a good time. We would sometimes catch a glimpse of the biker girls swimming naked or walking threw the camp which for a young kid was a huge turn on. Which now makes sense as to one of the reasons why parents didn’t want you to be around their camps.
I also watched as the bikers stopped riding to this perfect place in the high sierra's. It faded away like most of the hippie movements did making way for a new type of rider called the white water riders.
It was the place to ride too up until the town got fed up with the "biker hooligans." Just like the reason they changed the name from Whiskey Flats to Kernville. The town's folk wanted to be a respectable place. So slowly but surely the bikers were given the unwanted message and they just stopped going.
They may have left but, like many kids I found their whole mystique and their carefree lifestyle to be very cool and that image stayed with me to this day. It helped shape my style of riding and beliefs.
As time passed and I grew up I rode to all of the well-known bike events and rallies around Southern California and I noticed a common trend happening.
All of the runs but one, were cookie cutter events with the same old vendors, bike builders, money hungry promoters and worse of all dumb ass rules and cops to enforce them for the sake of making their own money off bikers who were only looking to have a good time with other bikers. Those rules were made to apparently save us adults from each other.
What they forgot is that true bikers take care of one another and their own problems. These events were supposed to be for the riders not the promoters to get rich on and the cops to make excuses to get rich on overtime pay in the name of public security using one sole event in Laughlin as their banner for out of control bikers. Which is still in debate as to who really lit that fuse.
That one run that kept the true "biker lifestyle" feeling alive was the "Redwood Run" up in Northern California. There was nothing in Southern California like that.
My wife Patricia and I totally enjoyed going to the Redwood Run and it made me want to give the bikers in So Cal that same kind of experience but, get back to the roots of the "old school bike run" like the Redwood Run but, make it even more back to the basics.
I never stopped going to Kernville to enjoy what this sleepy, rustic old town has to offer both for sportsmen and for bikers. I remembered the old days of the bike runs to Kernville and when I did go to Kernville I spent time talking to old bikers like Sam and Rocky who still live there. They remembered those days and they passed on to me what those days were like camping out on the Kern with other bikers.
So Patricia and I decided it was time to bring it back. The town could use the revenue as well. It puts on events like Whiskey Flats days in the winter where the entire town goes back in time to the 1880's where gun fights in the streets and saloon girls kept the gold, silver and quartz prospectors' company was all common place back then, so why not bring back the Biker Days.
We wanted to give bikers a place to come and experience what it was like back in the 60's and early 70's. Back then bikers just rode up to the river, found a spot to camp and just party with friends and other bikers under the stars and clear skies. No fees, no promoters, no vendors, just ride and have a good time. They didn’t need someone to show them how to have a good time and make a buck off them doing it.
In September 2006 we brought back the "Kern River Run."
We found a spot on the river that was open to the public, no government fees to camp, no camp managers to tell you to be quite at 10PM, no rules but the biker rules to follow (all bikers know what those rules are. Don't disrespect your brother, take care of one another, don't touch anything which is not yours unless it is offered, and most of the time what is yours is mind except for my bike).
The spot we chose has it all, a cool scenic camp away from the public's prying eyes, a great place to park your bike, a sandy beach with a lot of shady places to pitch a tent, an awesome swimming hole, room to party in private, the giant sequoias a few miles ride away and food n drink services close by at the legendary McNally's.
The first year we put the run on we did not advertise except on our new web site and word of mouth. That year we had a total of 7 riders. It was a slow start but, what we saw in the riders that attended was the type of biker who we were looking for to experience this run. They were there to get back to the basics (especially old school bikers like Johnny G).
That seven soon grew and word of mouth about our run and idea of putting on an "old school, back to the basics" run in So Cal also grew and in the following years the attendance grew. All of the riders who come to this run were looking for the same thing or idea. No more cookie cutter runs and rallies. Just ride and party with other bikers looking for that old school vision of a run. After all that's what it should be about and nothing more. Somewhere along the way that vision was lost.
Last year was the 4th annual Kern River Run and based on the response from all of the riders, (many of them who were actually around to experience the days of the Kernville runs) told Patricia and I that we successfully created a time machine for riders to experience what it was like to be a biker back in the hay day of the 60's and early 70's riding and partying on the Kern River.
Every year on the weekend following Labor day we host the "Kern River Run" on the upper Kern River, 14 miles up river from the town of Kernville. The campground is called "Calkins Flats" a mile south of McNallys general store and restaurant.
It is a run open to all riders with the idea that this is an "old school run" and all that it entails and biker rules apply (past photos and run stories on our web site “Lifestyle Rider” gives all interested riders insight as to what that actually means so to keep those who don't get what that means from attending).
The only “No” in our run is, “No problems, No drama, No issues, No money needed for attending. And one other big one... NO COLORS.”
We understand in the old days clubs showed up and partied with everyone. We would like to have clubs come to the run and party together and forget what ever issues they may have but, unfortunately in this day and time some clubs have made it to where it can bring a uneasy feeling to the run. The whole idea of this run is to have a good time and relax and forget about the crap in your life for at least the weekend. We do actually have some old and current members of clubs attending the run but, you would never know it because they do not wear their club cuts or even soft colors (Tshirts). They are just there having a good time with other bikers. “They Get it.”
Also the local law enforcement and forestry department (with police powers) have come through camp and have not bothered us because they don’t see the “colors” there. But you better believe the day when clubs disregard our request and come with their colors the free pass will end. Like all runs they will crack down on us and look for reasons to end this run like all the rest. That would just suck.
As of the 4 years putting this run on, not one word has been spoken in anger. Just a lot of laughter, old story telling, old scooter friends reuniting, new friendships being made, partying, drinking, eating like kings and of course biker babe fun in and out of the water. The way bike runs are meant to be.