If Don Laughlin hadn’t seen the potential of the tri-state area near the Colorado River as the resort destination it is today, there would be no Laughlin, Nevada. Likewise, if Dale Marschke, the San Bernardino Harley-Davidson dealer who is credited with organizing the initial rally in 1983 hadn’t seen the promise of Laughlin’s little patch of paradise in the desert, there would be no River Run. Thank goodness for men like Laughlin and Marschke. Thanks to them, over sixty thousand motorcycle enthusiasts will be making their way through the Mojave Desert this week to attend the 26th Annual Laughlin River Run from April 23rd-27th .
The Laughlin River Run helps kick off the motorcycle rally season in the West. Arizona’s Bike Week during the first week of April is a good precursor, but Laughlin has an allure of its own. Where else can you walk out of the front doors of your hotel and instantly be in the thick of it? With 10 resort/casinos and almost 11,000 hotel rooms squeezed into a two-mile stretch of Casino Drive, it’s all about proximity. You could feasibly ride to Laughlin and then park it for a few days, because hundreds of vendors pitch their tents in the makeshift villages of the casino’s parking lots, music spills over from outdoor stages at all hours of the day, and the party takes to the streets for five days of fun. Even if you’ve had your fill of walking, take it indoors ’cause there’s plenty of action inside the A/C-equipped casinos that line the strip.
Last year Motorcycle USA ran into LA County Choprods’ Gard Hollinger and Big Bear Choppers Kevin Alsop at the River Run. Who will we bump into this year? Maybe Ralph Randolph, whom we met in Daytona at The Rat’s Hole show, will make the trip from over Mesa, Arizona and give us a quick interview, or maybe we’ll run into the bobber-building bunch from Sucker Punch Sallys. Needless to say, there’s never a shortage of custom building talent in attendance, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for who’s doing the sickest work out there right now.
In our quest to bring you the best, we’ll patrol the annual Custom Bike Show on Saturday April 26th. The event is sponsored by the Edgewater and Colorado Belle Casinos. With $5000 up for grabs, including a $2500 Best of Show prize, competition should be first-rate. Last year, we saw Bruce Weibelt’s fantasy medieval-themed custom chopper built by BBC’s Alsop take first place. We also did a feature article on the second-place finisher, Copr Choppers’ Ground Pounder, built by Denver, CO police officer Tony Martinez. We selected five of our favorite custom builders that we saw at last year’s River Run and had readers vote in our Online Biker Build-Off, and Copr Choppers came out victorious.
But it doesn’t mean that you have to go to the show to see plenty of top-grade custom building action. Matt Hotch will have his work on display at the River Palms Resort, and a bounty of builders is scheduled to participate in the Rolling Art Custom Bike Display at the Golden Nugget. There will be plenty of custom production companies, including Orange County Choppers, Big Dog Motorcycles and Big Bear Choppers in attendance as well. We’ve got a 2008 Big Dog Pitbull at our disposal during the River Run and look forward to making our share of runs up and down Casino Drive courtesy of our friends at Big Dog Motorcycles.
Maybe we can make the Early Bird Poker Run on the Pitbull. With $4000 in cash and merchandise up for grabs, why not? Poker runs are always a great way to meet friends, have a little fun, and it provides a break from pounding pavement with your feet. It’s also an excellent way to take in the sights of the surrounding area, which includes the famous Route 66 and the rugged beauty of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado River.
There’s also the American Heroes Charity Poker Run, a group ride that will travel Old Route 66 and culminates with the Mother Road Harley-Davidson Party. The $10 donation goes to the American Heroes Foundation. More vets are in need of help with the current deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, so hopefully there will be a good turnout. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Tropicana Express with the group ride scheduled to leave at 10 a.m.
Live music is also a big part of the Laughlin River Run, and this year’s lineup shouldn’t disappoint. Headlining the Concert Series is Chris Robinson and the Black Crowes at Harrah’s Thursday, April 24. Other bands on the retro-rocker ticket include Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Friday at Harrah’s, Foreigner on Friday and Saturday at the Aquarius, and Blue Oyster Cult playing Friday and Saturday nights also at The Riverside.
And if you don’t want to shell out the extra dough for a ticket, you can catch plenty of quality entertainment for free at one of the outdoor stages in front of the casinos. I’m hoping to catch ThundHerStruck, an all female AC/DC tribute band that is slated to play, and do my best Angus Young impersonation. I see that Molly Hatchet, another oldie but goodie, will also be jamming for free in front of the Pioneer Hotel at 10 o’clock Thursday night.
Other items on our agenda include catching the Miss Laughlin River Run contest Saturday, April 26th. Last year it was standing room only at The Aquarius for the competition, and this year should be no different. The winner receives a sweet package, including $1000 cash, dinner for two in the Vineyard Ristorante, plus two tickets to see Foreigner that night.
The Aquarius appears to be the place to see the finest ladies at The River Run this year as Friday it hosts the Miss Hawaiian Tropics Model Search on its pool deck. You’ll never see a tight red one-piece bathing suit look any better than it does on a Hawaiian Tropic girl. For those of you that can’t make it to the River Run in person this year, I’ll see if I can’t snap a couple of photos for our gallery so that you can feel like you were poolside.
In between custom shows and bikini contests, there will be plenty more to see. The Teresi Dyno Drags are always rubber-smoking fun, I enjoyed Ses Carny’s Freakshow last year and am curious to see if he’s got any new tricks up his sleeve, there’s the ever-popular Bikini Bull Riding contests, hundreds of vendors with every motorcycle-related item under the sun, and plenty of demo rides including two of our American V-Twin favorites, Harley-Davidson and Victory Motorcycles.
Official River Run Event Passes are still available for $45.00 per person. This includes entry into a drawing for a 2008 Harley and entry into drawings for assorted merchandise. You also get an official souvenir program, a souvenir pin, bandana and coupon book, and admittance to the Poker Run and Custom Bike Show. Log on to the official River Run website for more info.
Stay tuned later in the week as Motorcycle USA travels to Laughlin, Nevada for the 26th Annual River Run. We’ll update our photo galleries daily and provide reports from the scene, so check us out all-weekend long.
F.Y.I. – Drinking in public outside the hotels and casinos is allowed, but only in plastic or cups as no alcoholic beverages in cans or bottles are allowed on Casino Drive. A curfew is in effect from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. for juveniles under the age of 18, which means they’ll have to chill with Mom and Dad if they want to hang out on Casino Drive at night. A helmet law is in effect, but cross the border into Bullhead City, Arizona and you can take your bucket off. There is a ‘No Colors’ policy at all the hotels. The police were out in force last year and were fairly stringent about the laws, but as long as you’re keeping your cool, you don’t have anything to worry about. Bring your sunscreen because temperatures hit triple digits last year. See you there.
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