In the middle of the desert, riders, builders, customisers and musicians come together for a unique culmination of motorcycle community. The hot Californian sun, campfire stories and close calls with a cactus make up a heady and bizarre journey. Join us as we ride to Nowhere…
Words: Reagan Alexander
It is a desert, so it is exactly what you would expect; that place where heaven and hell meet. There is sand, there are cacti and there is the hint of snakes that, given the opportunity, will do you biblical harm. Nowhere is where the hard wind that catches you on the straights of the two-lane highway has you pushing hard on your left footpeg, you and your bike, fighting the dust and bugs that inexplicably find a way into your helmet as you ride with your body at a 30-degree angle, begging not to be blown into the path of a crowded minivan on its way home from Vegas.
The desert tan
That trip from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree takes a moment and the sun is setting when I pull up, desert tan intact, to a farmhouse that is a house to no farm in the middle of nowhere. For the uninitiated, a ‘desert tan’ is the dirt and sand that sticks to your skin as you sweat and ride through a barren land that alternates between scarcely bearable heat and then scarcely bearable cold. A desert tan doesn’t simply make you a daguerreotype of yourself, it is the desert embracing you.
“You got a cactus sticking out of your leg”
When I meet the Nowhere Moto Show’s founder, Errol Colandro, he wraps me in an embrace that is almost too quick and simultaneously too long, only because we are both warm and dust-covered and we both reek of wind-pushed-dirt and gas. Errol takes in the sky that has graced his abrupt encampment the evening before his gathering, forgets me for a moment and then utters, “Brother, could the Joshua Tree get any more weird?”
I have, and Errol and I take in the fist of spikes that sticks out just above the flesh of my right knee, even as I allow him the use of the word, ‘Homie’. It’s not a pancake prickly-pear or an Arizona fishhook but a silver cholla, and I know this because Errol rattles off a short list of cacti that would be in my leg, and he is eyeballing the length of the spikes that have invited themselves into my flesh.
“Let’s get that out, brother.”
“I reached out”
Nowhere is a love story. Not a traditional love story but one that is written with the same passion, and blind and reckless intent that all love stories are made of. Errol, proper gearhead, photographer and six-foot-everything hummingbird with the gleeful attention span of a well-meaning blink of the eye, woke one morning and said aloud, “I’m bored, I want to do something.” There may have been a pause, there may have been no such thing, as Errol is not given to pauses, before he said, “Let’s do a motorcycle show.” And with that simple proclamation the Nowhere Moto Show was born.
“We bring everyone together,” Errol says of the ethos of his show that was born of neither ennui nor boredom but of a true and uncompromising love of the people that he rides with, the people that he shoots, those people that are more than passing friends. “We are a community, we are a family. Everyone that is here, I reached out and said, ‘Let’s do this’ and they are here. To me that is the purpose of this show.”
Then Errol takes two metal tent pegs, fashions them into rudimentary forceps and pops the baseball-size cactus burr from my leg. “That had to hurt, homie,” Errol says.
Bikes, builds and blues
The night before Nowhere there is a ‘builders and friends’ desert barbecue, which turns into three empty pizza boxes, a campfire and a small gathering of riders from all walks of life who talk bikes, builds and turn-of-the-century blues singers.
It has Triumph builds from British American Motorcycles, Triumph builds from Moto Chop Shop and gear from Stellar Moto Brand.
“Each builder has their own story and each build has its own story,” Erroll says. “And they put their heart and their soul into it, and I thought, ‘Let’s bring this all together and make people want to be there, make people want to be a part of this culture.’”
It is a simple thing that love of bikes, those two hung wheels that call to you over the whiff of gasoline, the tick of oil on a cold but warming morning, but it is another thing entirely to properly love the culture of being a motorcycle rider. The beauty of Errol, the beauty of the Nowhere Moto Show, is that its founder understands and embraces all of this.
“When you’re driving and you see a bike on the side of the road, what do you do?” Again, a rhetorical question but one that Errol is quick to answer. “You pull over, you say, ‘Here is my spark plug, let’s see if that is the problem, let’s see if we can fix it.’ That’s what we do, that is what our community is. We are a family and we all do everything together.”
The man they call Dumptruck
The Nowhere Moto Show’s master-at-arms, its emcee, is a force of nature with the God-given name of Dumbstruck. That is yet another aspect of the beauty of Nowhere, as there is a Chris, a Mike, a Sarah and a Dave, and then there is a Dakota, a Rambling Jesse, a Dusty Coyote and a Raven. Nowhere is something that simply cannot be made up. It is true in its nature, but it laughs at itself, that notion expressed plainly by the tattoo that graces the prodigious belly of Dumptruck, which stretches from hip to hip and says, simply, ‘Ridiculous’.
“Dumptruck, what is that on the back of your vest?” I ask, because I’m uncertain. He informs me, in no uncertain terms, terms that I cannot write, that it is an outhouse, one replete with a stitched roll of toilet paper. But Dumptruck is more than a character, or a caricature, he is a connoisseur, hard-voiced but well-versed and surprisingly soft-spoken.
“I’ve been doing motorcycle shows for a decade,“ Dumptruck tells me. “And you don’t always get a lot of variety. You get the same bikes, the same bikes that you see all over the place, same folks, the same cliques because no matter what you do, you can’t get away from those same groups.”
“This is different. It’s a lot more diverse and it brings a lot of different types of motorcycle enthusiasts around. Maybe not somebody that you would call a ‘biker’, which doesn’t mean that they don’t ride, but maybe they do it a little differently and I like different,” Dumptruck adds.
Errol squints, the corners of his eyes crinkling a bit as he takes in the still-rising sun because a desert sun seems to be perpetually rising. The shadow that Nowhere’s founder casts in the middle of the day is impossibly long and sliver lean. “That is why we ride. We ride for our therapy,” he says, taking in the laughter that litters the desert.
“This is family. All of us get together, all of us doing these amazing things together, we have to and that is what this show is about, it’s our community.”
Then there is that moment that only the desert can describe properly, where the wind picks up, playfully tries to lift one of the vendor’s tents, where the sand is spun in a small cyclone and a trio of dark and sharp birds flit suddenly across an impossibly blue sky that is dotted with new and white clouds painted by Georgia O’Keeffe.
“This is it,” Errol says, suddenly both weary and content, still for a moment. “We go Nowhere to be found.”