A sea of chrome surrounds the Colorado Belle Riverboat Casino as parking lots filled with motorcyclists ready to party.
The Laughlin Bridge is once again passable, traffic on Casino Drive is tolerable, and the vociferous V-Twins have faded down Needles Hwy. as the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run is in the books. And though the beginning of this year’s run resembled an old kick starter on a cold morning, by Saturday people were elbow-to-elbow on the sidewalks, parking lots were full, and getting back across the Laughlin Bridge from Bullhead City took up to an hour-and-a-half as riders returning from the Early Bird Poker Run clogged traffic to a standstill. The record-breaking heat that hit the area earlier in the week was 20-degrees cooler by Saturday thanks to winds sweeping down from the northwest as riders continued to converge on the area all afternoon on the rally’s final day.
This year’s event celebrated a minor milestone as no traffic fatalities were reported. With thousands of motorcyclists riding on unfamiliar roads, this statistic is surprising. Unfortunately, motorcycle fatalities go hand-in-hand with rallies. The treacherous stretch of US 66 that runs between Oatman and Kingman, Arizona, proved to be the trouble spot this
Luckily, we kept the shiny side up and the rubber side down, but many motorcyclists fell victim to the curvy stretch of Route 66 just north of Oatman, Arizona.
year. Six motorcycle accidents were reported on the twisty stretch of road, with four of those accidents being reported in a four-hour period on Friday afternoon.
A less noticeable police presence contributed to the laid-back atmosphere of this year’s event. Lt. Brian Evans, commander of Metro’s Laughlin Substation, said that the multi-state task force would be reduced by about 30% this year. And though the ‘no-colors’ policy that was strictly enforced in prior years appears to have been lifted, attendees were on their best behavior. By Friday evening, only 20 arrests and 40 citations had been reported from the multi-state law enforcement agencies covering the rally, half of the number of citations written at the same time in 2008.
“We’ve had some possession of controlled substances, some domestic violence, but nothing on a major scale,” said Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. spokesperson, Sgt. John Loretto.
We arrived early and took the opportunity to ride over to Oatman, Arizona. After a quick turn onto Boundary Cone Rd. off of State Route-95, the road slowly rises as it cuts through the ore-encrusted Black Mountains. The road deposited us on Historic US 66, which leads through the heart of town, and as we approached Oatman, the hands on the clocks of time seemed to rewind. Visiting the old mining town takes you back to when rustlers wore their six-shooters on their sides and washed the taste of the trail away with a swig of whiskey straight from the bottle. A red
Riding through Oatman, Arizona, is like turning the hands of time back to the days of the Wild, Wild West.
stage coach stands outside the south entrance to town and wooden sidewalks lead through weathered buildings with names like ‘Jackass Junction’ and the ‘Glory Hole.’ Wild burros roam freely, looking for something to nibble on from one of the many visitors. We met motorcyclists who had ridden down from Alberta, Canada, who told us with a wry smile about the six inches of snow they had right before they left. We all stood baking as temperatures approached the mid-90s. I got stuck in a two-burro traffic jam on the way out of town, the donkeys holding their ground in the middle of Route 66, glaring back at me when I gave the Big Dog Coyote’s engine a little rev to prompt them to move. I eventually had to ride around them.
Every evening the roar of engines reaching redline and shouts from the crowd erupted as motorcyclists tested their reaction times and their motorcycle’s peak power at the Teresi/Easyriders Dyno Drags. I caught a battle between father and son as they squared off to see who was king of the quarter-mile. Their Harley-Davidson motorcycles were first lifted onto the back of a big rig’s trailer that has been converted into a mobile, makeshift drag strip, complete with a Christmas tree and scoreboard that flashes time and top speed. With their front
wheels locked securely in chocks, they warmed up their back tires on the black spinning wheel of a dynamometer, anxious to register their horsepower numbers, quarter-mile time, and top speed. The son, a USMC tattoo flexing on his right forearm as he reached for the grip on his high apehangers, throttled hard as the light turned green, shifting early and often while his old man winded ‘em out almost to redline, squeezing every drop out of each gear. In a flash it was over, the son posting a 12.8-second run at 104 mph, his Harley putting out 65 hp to the rear wheel. His dad in the left lane ran a 12.7-second quarter-mile at 103 mph, his bike good for 71 hp to the rear wheel. Though he had a slower top speed, the father’s faster reaction time secured the victory, claiming one for the old school of riders.
The annual Laughlin River Run Custom Bike Show wasn’t until Saturday, but there were plenty of well-known custom motorcycle builders on hand displaying their latest wares. Todd’s Cycles out of Huntington Beach, CA, the winner of the
Big knobby tires on an old kick starter-equipped bobber from Bling’s Cycles was affectionately called Franken Knuckle.
2008 Metzeler Sturgis Custom Bike Contest, had its stripped-down street racer called ‘Olive’ on hand, with Bling’s Cycles knobby-tired blue bobber, Franken Knuckle not 20 feet away. We saw some sweet raked-out rides in front of the Santa Clarita Choppers trailer, and got some quality face-time with Dave Perewitz who was promoting biker safety along with Allstate Insurance and Scott Long of Central Coast Cycles who is touring with CMT’s Chopper Challenge. Factory production motorcycle manufacturers like Big Dog Motorcycles, Big Bear Choppers, and Sucker Punch Sallys also brought plenty of 2009 pro street, choppers, bobbers and baggers for riders to drool over.
Which put us in the right mind-set when it came time to check out the 2009 River Run Custom Bike Show. On this day, extreme customs ruled the roost, riding away with the three top honors and all of the prize money. But there were some radical three-wheelers that
deserved honorable mention. One, with Dyna-style bodywork, a monster V-Twin, and huge rear tires, looked ready to rip down the drag. The Huey Bobber, by RC Welding out of Los Alamos, New Mexico, had unique accessories like a Huey Cobra hand shifter and a gun-trigger starter. But one of my favorites was a customized Boss Hoss Trike that was running nitrous and had an apocalyptic-themed paint job entitled ‘End Times’ based on the Book of Revelations, complete with depictions of the Four Horseman on one panel with the Archangel in battle with Satan on the bed cover. Its painter, Patrick Guyton, deserves props for his mad skills with a paint brush.
In between the tattoo contests, Ses Carny’s Freak Show, bikini bull rides and free outdoor concerts, the action always turned up a notch after the sun went down. For fun, we threw on a GoPro video camera and took a sunset ride down Casino Drive to capture the casino lights at night. The boom from the Vance & Hines Big Radius pipes on the 2009 Big Dog Coyote would catch passersby’ attention, the beauty of the motorcycle’s blue, ghost-flamed paint would make them take a longer look, then the sight of the camera on top of my head would hold them entranced. Older riders in particular who aren’t acquainted with the newest method of recording on-board footage offered some of the best reactions, ranging from disbelief to disgust. Bikers pointed, laughed, smiled, or just shook their heads. I almost got flashed from an attractive older blonde who was a beer away from shedding her inhibitions and her top.
Three guys on their balcony went fishing for a peek at a pair like these by dangling Mardi Gras beads from a fishing line.
Heading back to the Edgewater Hotel & Casino, three guys on a balcony were using a little redneck ingenuity for cheap thrills. They had rigged a fishing pole with Mardi Gras beads and would dangle them in front of women passing by, reeling them in as they bent down to pick them up. The trio flew a sign on their empty beer can-filled balcony that read ‘Brass Pole Tryouts.’
These three would be perfect candidates for the vendor espousing the merits of the Hogs on the High Seas rally. Take a long list of biker-style rally events, throw in the thrill of a Caribbean cruise, and mix in a group of bikers who know how to have a good time regardless of their surroundings, and you’ve got the basic recipe of the High Seas rally. The event is a seven-day cruise to the western Caribbean, with Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Senor Frog’s in Cozumel listed as ports of call. It is catered to bikers, with a custom motorcycle scheduled to be given away, a long list of rally events planned, and over 20-vendors and tech seminars on tap. A Poker Walk with $30K up for grabs sounds fun, and the Treasured Chest Contest is sure to be a popular attraction. A lot of bikers I know act like pirates, so pairing the two together is a natural.
Baggers were representing at the 2009 River Run Custom Bike Show but didn’t receive much love from the judges.
Attendance may have been down for the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run, but less congestion, less traffic and a lighter police presence added up to a more light-hearted affair. There was less tension surrounding the event than year’s prior. The absence of one manufacturer in particular was a hot topic of more than one conversation I overheard, but the motorcyclists and vendors who did attend carried the torch proudly for those who might have had to skip out this year for financial reasons. And Dal-Con, the promoters who put on the shindig called the Laughlin River Run, are already charting the course for next year as the River Run continues is reputation as one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the West.