Flashback: Confessions of a Biker Chick.

This article originally appeared in issue 2 (

I was introduced to motorcycles in 1974. I was living in San Francisco then, the Haight Ashbury to be exact. And back then we called it Frisco because it sounded cooler. I was 18 and had picked up some bad habits, heroin being the worst.

My best friend, Pam, had begun hanging with a group of bikers and they were causing all sorts of fun. She invited me to join her, telling me how great it was to bar hop on the back of a Harley. She also said that the bikers didn’t approve of junkies, so I’d have to stay clean while I was with them. Outlaw bikers became my personal aversion program.

These guys had names like Tux, Limey Bob, and Count. They rode mostly chopped Harleys, with a few Triumphs thrown in. No rice-burners, please.

I love the throbbing beat of the Harley Davidson motor, especially when delivered via straight pipes. I soon learned to tell the difference between a panhead, shovelhead, sportster, and the rare knucklehead. With the cry of “74 or more” we were off.

Pam was working in North Beach, selling tickets at an adult theater that ran Deep Throat over and over.

Fake ID was no problem, I’d been carrying it since I was 14. My moniker was Taurus Barbara.

We were a fun-loving group, dedicated to riding fast, living hard, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse.

I had the top flat of a Victorian house across the street from the Panhandle. The Panhandle was a strip of the Golden Gate Park flanked on either side by the one-way streets of Oak and Fell. Often at closing time, the cry would go out: “Party at Barbara’s House.” I was never quite sure how those rumors started, but I was happy to go along.

God, nothing like being part of a chain of chopped Harley’s thundering through the night. (Better than those other kinds of chains, but that came later and I digress.)

Anyhow…

Leaning against the sissy bar, knees clasped against the back of a virile young stud, the wind in your hair, drinking in the sensations of the road. And I knew, just knew, I was the envy of all those straight people in their Buicks.

I was involved in a high-speed police chase that year. We didn’t even know the cops were after us. The guy driving tried to explain that to the cops, but they were still annoyed. I remember the cop turning to one of his brother cops, eyes glittering with excitement, hands shaking with adrenalin and saying, “This was my first 100-mile-per-hour pursuit.”

Well, no wonder we didn’t hear their sirens. At a hundred miles an hour with no helmet, you are completely reduced to the most minimal of sensations. The wind squints your eyes to slits, tears don’t make it to your cheeks, you have to concentrate to breathe, and the only sound you hear is the roar of a rocket taking off. How did he expect us to notice his siren or see his flashing light? We weren’t trying to evade him, we were just going very fast because we could.

Later that year, I had to leave to San Francisco. And for reasons I won’t go into here, I had to bury the name on my ID as well.

I went to Los Angeles, my point of origin. I got a job working on cars in Downtown Los Angeles, passed my highschool equivalency test, and started over. The road still called to me. Several months later, Pam joined me in LA. The two of us went in search of more bikers.

If either of my parents is reading this, I suggest you stop now.

For the rest of you: Picture if you will, two cute teenage girls in short skirts and platform shoes walking into a bar that they have chosen because of the chopped Harleys parked out front. They carry big purses with Levi’s in them in case they get lucky and are invited to leave on the back of one of those Harleys. These girls know the drill and they’re not expecting something for nothing. Gas, grass, or ass. Nobody rides for free.

I met all sorts of interesting people that way.

Crazy Bob had a glass eye he could take out. A few years ago I met the homicide investigator who worked on his murder.

There was Ellen, a bisexual, fallen belle. Ellen used to wear big hair wigs and would do anything on a dare. When Ellen prepared to get in a fist fight, you always knew because she would remove her glasses, take out her teeth, and hand them to the bartender. Last seen smoking crack and living in a cardboard box.

I had my face kicked in by a guy name Horrible Harry. He was wearing steel toed boots. It was my nineteenth birthday and the first time I had ever taken Qualudes. Apparently, it is taboo to grab a biker by his colors. Who knew?

I don’t know what has become of Harry, but I can only hope it was horrible.

I got in a wreck later that year. I was on the back of a Sportster. The guy driving, Crazy Mike aka Bug-eyed Mike, tried to pass a car on the left just as the car decided to make a left turn. I woke up in the hospital. I knew it was bad when nobody would bring me a mirror.

That’s when I started working on my personality.

Another of my dreams was to be a writer. My first published work was a short story that appeared in Easy Rider Magazine. It was the April 1974 issue. You know the one, beautiful blonde stretched out on a Panhead? Biker dude in mirrored sunglasses? The guy had a bunch of tattoos? Okay, maybe it sounds like most of the covers. Look at the date.

My pen name was Crazy Barbara. Ringing any bells yet?

After my wreck, heroin caught up with me again. I got clean and sober in 1978. I continued to ride motorcycles. I had a boyfriend with a BMW. Somehow it wasn’t the same.

Then I married my first husband and he bought a Vespa to tool around town on. I rode on the back of that too, feeling like I had really hit bottom. He even wore a helmet. This was before they were legally required.

We divorced after six months.

What was I thinking?

After we divorced, he bought a Harley. I think he was just being cruel.

I married again. Husband number two (and believe me, this guy was a number two in every possible way) lost his father to a motorcycle accident soon after we married. He make me promise to never ride motorcycles again.

I did.

I’m no longer married to that guy, so the vow is null too. Even so, I haven’t been on a bike since.

Now I am happily married to a great guy. (The third time was the charm.) His second vehicle is a golf cart. Nobody calls me Crazy Barbara anymore.

I still turn my ear to the roar of Harleys. I ride them in my dreams. In those dream scapes, I’m not on the back anymore. I’m driving. The wind is in my hair and I’m going fast. The road is open in front of me and the world has no boundaries.

I didn’t die young, but I’m okay with that.

Barbara Seranella was born in Santa Monica, California and grew up in Pacific Palisades. After a restless childhood that included running away from home at the age of fourteen, joining a hippie commune in the Haight, and riding with outlaw motorcycle clubs, she decided to settle down and do something normal—she became an auto mechanic. Barbara retired from wrenching in 1993.

Barbara is a member of the Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego chapters of Sisters in Crime (although she is probably one of the few members who was ever actually a criminal), and the Mystery Writers of America. She passed away on January 21, 2007 at the age of 50.