2009 Laughlin River Run Preview

April 17, 2009
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

The Colorado Belle was the starting point of the Poker Run and scene of the Custom Bike Show.
Thousands of motorcycle riders will converge on Casino Drive for four days of fun at the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run.

Spring is a special time in the Mojave Desert. Joshua trees sprout white blossoms, yellow wildflowers dot the landscape and the dry desert reds and browns are tinged with green. The air is hot and dry but comforting for bones still stiff from winter chill. Which makes the ride into Laughlin, Nevada, that much more enjoyable as thousands of motorcyclists throughout the West will converge on this small strip along the banks of the Colorado River next week for the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run. The River Run is one of the more popular events on the West Coast rally scene, packing bikini contests, custom bike shows, demo rides, poker runs, freak shows and tattoo contests into four-days of 24/7 fun.

Motorcycle USA heads to LA next week to pick up a pair of choppers for its ride across California and into the high desert. We’ve booked our room at the Edgewater Hotel & Casino, where we can walk out its front doors and the sounds of live music coming from the Party Zone Entertainment stage will immediately fill our ears. Its parking lot is always host to at least a hundred vendors selling everything from ground-up custom motorcycles to little bells for your Harley. And that’s one of the best things about Laughlin. All the action is compressed into the couple-mile area of Casino Drive, so you can park and walk to just about everything. Parking, on the other hand, is another thing, ‘cause things get tight when you get 50,000 bikers squeezed into such a small area. And it seems more people actually ride to the River Run because of its central location between LA, Phoenix and Las Vegas than some rallies I’ve attended.

Michael Owens stands with the Best of Show in hand and  2500 in his pocket after winning the Laughlin River Run Custom Show.
Michael Owens stands with the Best of Show plaque in hand and cash in his pocket after winning last year’s River Run Custom Bike Show.

We’ll be scouting out the Custom Bike Show on Saturday to see who rides away with the vaunted title of ‘Best in Show’ and the $1500 cash that goes along with it. Last year, Michael Owens of Granbury, Texas, won with a custom chopper built by the Martin Bro’s out of the Lone Star State. The event was hosted by V Force Customs Vinnie DiMartino and Cody Connelly, who we had a chance to interview during Bike Week. This year’s emcee remains a surprise as the Colorado Belle’s Riverwalk will once again be overrun by custom motorcycle builders looking to take home a slice of the $3,000 in cash and prizes. I know Matt Hotch is going to be at the show, so maybe the Biker Build-Off Grand Champion will step up to the mic.

We’re also looking forward to the Miss Laughlin River Run Contest. The competition is always smokin’. Sure, we like to hear what the girls have to say during the Q & A session so we get a sense of their personality, and the dance portion is always entertaining, but c’mon, this thing will be won in the bikini/ hot jeans contest. Contestants aren’t supposed to do anything considered indecent in public, but what’s considered indecent by your typical biker is sure different than what most people consider indecent. Let’s just say the girls get very competitive for that $1000 cash for first place.

Tan courtesy of San Diego sun. Curves courtesy of good genes.
This San Diegan beauty was a crowd favorite in the Miss Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest during Laughlin 2008.

This year’s entertainment lineup consists of a healthy dose of retro rock and Southern-influenced tunes. Both Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Skynnyn Lynnyrd (a tribute band) are scheduled to perform. Eric Burdon and The Animals will play at the Tropicana Pavilion Showroom on Thursday and Friday, but the act I’d like to see most is The Charlie Daniels Band to hear Ol’ Charlie shred the violin playing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” These shows cost extra, but you can catch free entertainment on the outdoor stages in front of the casinos that are almost as good. Two years ago I saw LA Guns on a side stage for free, and last year I got to hang out with the lead singer of Molly Hatchet, Phil McCormack. I tell ya, that guy can blow a mean harmonica. Molly Hatchet turned it out with its bluesy Southern rock.
Last year we entered the Early Bird Poker Run, but ended up with a handful of nothing. But touring the region was worth the entry fee alone, seeing the desert in bloom, riding on historic Route 66 and visiting the old Western town of Oatman, Arizona. Maybe this year our luck will be different and we can snag a piece of the $2,000 in cash and merchandise certificates that are up for grabs.

I could feel the history of historic Route 66 with every bump on the road.
We may not have won the Poker Run, but we still enjoyed rolling down Old Route 66.

Or maybe we’ll enter the Charity Poker Run thrown by the American Heroes Foundation. Money raised from the event benefits American Veterans, and the group ride is a great way to meet fellow motorcyclists. The poker run will likewise roll over stretches of Old Route 66 and ends the day with a Mother Road Harley-Davidson party. Top prize for the poker run is a 2010 River Run Room package (rooms this year run between $400-$500).

In between the poker runs, custom bike shows, and bikini contests, maybe we can squeeze in the tattoo convention or see Ses Carny’s Freak Show. We’re suckers for events of the alternative kind, but standard fare like demo rides, factory displays, and trade show exhibits will abound as well. The Harley-Davidson Traveling Museum has always

They may be old school  but Molly Hatchet can still deliver some hard charging Southern rock.
Molly Hatchet’s Phil McCormack can blow a harp, and his energy had the crowd rocking. Gotta love a good free show.

been a big draw in years past, and companies like Kuryakyn and J&P Cycles bring enough shiny aftermarket goodies to make your head spin.

And if none of that appeals to you, Laughlin is a resort destination. You can rent a jet ski and rip up the Colorado, test your luck at one of the ten casinos on the strip, or hit the links. All I know is a little heat and sunshine will be a welcome sight, so Climb On with Motorcycle USA next Thursday as we head for the banks of the Colorado River to bring you daily reports from the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run.