Imagine sitting at the corner of Irvine Boulevard and Newport Avenue in Santa Ana, California. The Southern California sun radiates off of your burgundy minivan. The family piled inside is laughing and joking and a slight, warm breeze drifts through the window which is cracked to help cool the seemingly summer day, even though it is mid-October.
As you wait for the light to finally turn green, you hear a group of motorcycles pull into the turn lane to your left. Not abnormal by any means, you look out your open window — only to get an up-close glance of Arnold Scwarzenegger, the "Governator!" Quite a surprise for one family. The father, his eyes larger than dinner plates, stares in disbelief, the mom is all smiles, and the kids' loud conversation becomes a roar of laughter and surprise.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, all smiles, looks as dapper as ever. Heck, this could be another Terminator movie if it wasn't for the vintage look of his newer Indian motorcycle. Schwarzenegger nods "hello" and turns left as the light goes green. A line of 13 Harley Hogs and one sport bike follows his move as we make our way towards Santiago Canyon Road and one of the best rides in all of Southern California.
Like that family, I was a bit surprised to get the invite. In fact, the notice was less than 24 hours, impossible to get my Fatboy from Northern to Southern California for the ride. Instead, I got a lift to Route 66 in Marina Del Rey, California to rent a bike for the ride. Before you could say "giddyup," our FOX satellite operator Rich DeAnda and I had picked a bright, canary yellow Roadking. This Harley has a distinct old-school look, and should fit well for my ride with Arnold and his pals.
We actually arrived at our live location early on Saturday morning and about five hours before the ride was set to begin. A longtime Roadhouse called Cook's Corner will be the Governor's final campaign destination on this day. Nestled at the intersection of two canyons, Cook's is all about bikers and their multi-thousand-dollar bikes. This is a culture, and for folks in this part of Orange County, this biker bar/roadhouse/hangout has become an institution; for us, it has become quite an inviting live location.
By noon, we were done with our lives, but only for a bit. I hopped on the Harley, and our crew followed to get the video. We arrived in downtown Santa Ana just as the governor finished his first campaign rally. There we met our riding partners for this 25-mile trek. As you might expect, the crew consisted of guys who could seemingly knock down a brick wall with a slight nudge — guys like a stunt man named Scott, or Jeff, a 5th degree black belt. As bad as their bikes, they were welcoming to me, the canary-yellow new kid, and ready for a ride with their pal Arnold — and actor Tom Arnold, who had joined the fray.
Our idea was to get Schwarzenegger in a lighter moment. Motorcycling has been one of his passions, and you could see the comfort and pleasure on his face and in his demeanor. The family in the van caught a bit of joy on their own, not a normal thing to find while sitting at a Southern California intersection, that's for sure.
As we made our way through town and then down Santiago Canyon Road, we were escorted by California Highway Patrol Officers on bikes. Most intersections were closed off so we could speed right through, but at the larger corners we stopped, and the governor got some face time with the populace.
One SUV was so shocked they pulled over, and others tried to snap photos on their cell phones or small cameras. As we arrived at Cook's Corner, more than 1,100 bikes had lined the street, their owners in leather, T-shirts, and bandanas, crammed together in an effort to get a handshake, smile, or comment from the Golden State's most well-known biker.
After a quick pep talk, we got our one-on-one interview. The governor criticized both parties in Congress for "failing to get anything accomplished this year, not even an immigration bill passed." He says he has learned how to walk across the aisle and work with Democrats, and he says he'd rather not waste time talking about his opponent in this election, State Treasurer Phil Angiledes.
Schwarzenegger has taken this last year to make quite a political turnaround in this state. From losing four ballot initiatives last fall, he now looks to hold a double-digit lead in arguably the nation's most liberal state. Not bad for a Republican, and not so fair for his challenger. It's got to be tough when the sitting governor on a Harley has the opposite effect of Mike Dukakis in a tank.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.