TAOS, N.M. – Motorcyclists and movie fanatics from as far away as Canada made the pilgrimage to northern New Mexico to celebrate Dennis Hopper and his iconic counterculture film “Easy Rider.”
Several dozen motorcycles gathered Saturday in the dusty, adobe encircled plaza in the community of Ranchos de Taos, 4 miles south of Taos, to kick off what town officials hope will be an annual event – Dennis Hopper Day – with a rally and ride through some of the places made famous in the film.
Motorcyclists pulled out of the plaza just before 1 p.m. Led by a police escort, they started their easy ride on the two-lane road heading out of Taos, a diverse town known for skiing, art and Hispanic and Native American culture. Not unlike scenes in the movie, snow-capped mountains served as a classic backdrop for much of the ride.
Saturday would have been the late actor and director’s 78th birthday. Hopper lived in Taos for years and is buried here.
Town Manager Rick Bellis said the day is aimed at recognizing Hopper’s contributions as a resident, a filmmaker, a supporter of the arts and for simply being a “colorful member” of the community.
“His image really represents the spirit of Taos,” Bellis said. “He was independent, slightly eccentric but incredibly talented. He sort of became a symbol for a whole new generation.”
Hopper first came to New Mexico in the late 1960s to scout locations for “Easy Rider.”
The appeal of rebellion, motorcycles and the open road have sustained the popularity of “Easy Rider” over four decades, and town officials are hopeful the film and the legend of Hopper will continue to draw people to Taos.
This marks the first year of the rally and ride, but organizers have plans to add more music and film venues in the coming years.