All the cool things
Silverado, Calif., June 23–24—Nestled in the Santa Ana mountains in a remote area of Orange County is Oak Canyon Ranch. Oak Canyon, approximately 20 acres of lush grass, complete with a lake, and perfectly framed with huge oak trees throughout, is home of the Born Free Motorcycle Show. Born Free was founded 10 years ago by Mike Davis and Grant Peterson. “There really wasn’t a good chopper show back then, a very traditional chopper show,” said Born Free General Manager Chris Huber. “So, Mike and Grant decided to put one on at a friend’s shop. The first show was in the City of Orange and was massively successful; there were several hundred choppers, we gave away free food and beer and just had a party. I’ve been to every show since. We moved it to Seal Beach the second year. When we outgrew that location, came here. It’s been at Oak Canyon Ranch ever since.”
Being my first Born Free experience, I had no idea what to expect other than hearing about it in an interview with freestyle motocross competitor Carey Hart a few months back, so I knew it’d be cool. And my editor, Felicia Morgan, urged me to hydrate well based on her own experiences. Luckily, temperatures this year were much cooler, with a nice breeze.
I arrived and stopped behind a line of cars, wondering if I was in the right place until a line of awesome choppers passed by. I quickly realized bikes have seniority around here, so I jumped in behind them. As we approached the venue there was a critical fork in the road. To the left was a path directly into the event; those who had the foresight to purchase the $15 “grass pass” could ride in and park on the grass. Cages and other less-prepared bikers were directed to a dirt lot further away.
After dropping my kickstand and doing a quick scan around, I knew this event was unique from other rallies I’m accustomed to. The first thing that stood out was that the majority of bikes were awesome choppers. My Harley was a minority here. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many choppers in one place! The other noticeable difference was the crowd. There was different kind of vibe in the air than you feel at traditional-style rallies. It’s definitely a younger, hipper crowd. It was refreshing to see a new generation of bikers up and coming. In a time when Harley’s stock is plummeting, I was relieved to see a younger crowd sharing a love for motorcycles.
After checking out the vendors and getting the lay of the land, I saw that here were many different types of vendors and a bunch of the usual faces I typically see. Vans was raffling off shoes all day; I even won a pair! At the main stage, one of several great bands was wrapping up, and then it was time for some awards and prizes. The contests weren’t your average raffle or wet T-shirt contest. There were a couple of cell phones given away to people with the oldest phone. Believe it or not people actually still have flip phones. The worst tattoo contest was next, and there were some doozies. The prize: a year’s supply of 805 Beer. Entries ranged from a picture of two pigs having sex which read “Making Bacon” to a guy’s rear end with an arrow pointing in which read “insert here.” The Bacon guy won and proceeded to tear into his prize on stage, pounding one down, before distributing the rest to the roaring crowd. You don’t need a raffle ticket to be a winner here. Loads of Born Free merchandise was thrown to the audience—shirts, hats, and dozens of Born Free skateboards. The crowd was pumped!
The invited builder awards were next. Third place won $2,000, second $3,000, and first place took home $5,000, and the raffle prize of a custom Prism Supply Co.-built Shovelhead chopper was awarded to Paul Kuvelis. The grand prize, a 1945 bone-stock Knucklehead, valued at $70,000, fully rebuilt and ready to go, was raffled Sunday. The winner was Brook Lund, from Salt Lake City, who said, “I’m shocked! I’ve never won anything in my life. Ever. It’s amazing. I’ve been to every Born Free and probably spent thousands in tickets over the years. I come every year; I look forward to it. This is the biggest one yet for sure!”
I asked co-founder. Mike Davis what he’d tell our readers who are considering attending next year. He replied, “New bikes, old bikes, whatever; everybody’s welcome. This year is the best year we’ve ever had. The interest level is just going crazy. We ride, love bikes, and we’re in this show. We do everything from selecting the builders, getting the sponsors, vendors, working the show; we do it all. it’s just two guys, Grant Peterson and me, and we’re accessible to anybody. We’re open to anything cool; anybody who is doing something neat, we’re into it. Just give us a call!”