It’s the Wild, Wild West revisited as the 29th Annual Laughlin River Run gets ready to commence. Thousands of bikers will converge on Casino Drive this weekend to party on the banks of the Colorado River. It’s hot in the Mojave, which makes a perfect setting for bikini contests.
Thanks to Don Laughlin’s vision to build a small casino back in 1964 in the middle of the Mojave Desert at a small bend of the Colorado River on the Nevada/Arizona border, motorcyclists have a place to go party this weekend almost 50 years later. What began with a few slot machines, a couple of gaming tables, and the big attraction, 98-cent all-you-can-eat chicken dinners, has blossomed into a major tourist center where millions come annually to spin the wheels at one of the ten casinos along the banks of the Colorado River. This weekend though, the desert will fill with the thunder of thousands of V-Twin-powered motorcycles as bikers converge from LA, Phoenix, Las Vegas and beyond to take part in the 29th Annual Laughlin River Run.
The majority of the action will be funneled in to the strip known as Casino Drive. Vendors’ E-Z ups will fill the casino’s parking lots as the marauding nomads of biker rallies will have everything from bells for Harleys to event t-shirts for sale. The beauty of the Laughlin River Run is its accessibility. Whereas most motorcycle rallies are spread out over several locations, the thrust of the action at Laughlin is accessible by foot. There are still plenty of places to ride, though, because the desert is a beautiful place in spring when the dry, brown landscape is filled with the colors of wildflowers and cactus in bloom. A ride out to historic Oatman, Arizona, and its friendly, carrot-munching burros that roam freely throughout the town is highly recommended and riding on the pavement known as Route 66 always wrings out childhood memories for me from cross-country family trips taken on the hallowed strip. Just be sure to have your suspension dialed in because it can be a bumpy ride.
A new addition to this year’s River Run rally is the Aquarius Resort’s first-ever Battle of the Bands. Twelve musical acts will be competing for a share of the $30,000 up for grabs in the “Official Laughlin River Run Battle of the Bands.” The competition will run Thursday through Saturday as bands take the stage at the Aquarius Outdoor Amphitheatre. Tickets to check out the show are $10 per night.
And while you just might catch the next rock superstars at the Battle of the Bands, some of their rockin’ forefathers will be showing them how it’s done in the River Run Concert Series. Headliners include two of the members of Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Randy Bachman and Fred Turner reunited in 2010 to prove that “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” as they “Roll on Down the Highway.” Alright, I’ll quit with the campy BTO song title puns, but the band’s been cranking out hits
We caught a rockin’ set by Molly Hatchet at the Laughlin River Run a few years back and plenty of old school rock & roll is scheduled for this year’s event, too. Beer and biker rallies go hand-in-hand.
for 40 years and has an extensive repertoire to draw from. More vintage rock will take center stage Friday night in the form of Eric Burdon and the Animals. Both concerts are scheduled for the new Edgewater Events Center. Seems like the musical theme for this year’s River Run is “getting back to rock’s roots” because the trio of tribute bands includes Fortunate Son, a Creedence Clear Water Revival cover band, Led Zepagain and Rad Co. I’ll let you guess whose music the last two play. Even the comedic entertainment the River Run has on tap is straight out of yesteryear. None other than Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong will be playing at Harrah’s Rio Vista Amphitheater Friday night. Who still has a Big Bambu record with the giant rolling paper inside? You’re showing your age because that album’s a collectible now.
On the more contemporary side, Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort is holding a Biker Burlesque Topless Revue nightly. Las Vegas showgirls in skimpy biker outfits will strut their stuff in motorcycle-themed performances hosted by Emmy Award-winning comedian John Pardon. If it’s hot outside and you’re feet are tired from pounding pavement, then sitting in an air-conditioned theater watching a Vegas-style show doesn’t sound like a bad idea. And even though it’s only the end of April, it can get hot at the River Run. A few years back I was there and it was 104-degrees. So bring your sunscreen!
Standard River Run fare includes the annual Custom Bike Show on Saturday. The event will take place on the main deck of the Colorado Belle. Participants have a chance to show off their custom motorcycles with a chance at winning some of the $1500 up for grabs, including $750 for first place, $500 for second and $250 for third.
Ladies will have a chance to strut their stuff in the Ms. Laughlin River Run Contest for a chance to win the $1000 grand prize, dinner for two at the Vineyard Ristorante plus two tickets to the Bachman & Turner concert Saturday night. Hell, that’s a better prize than the bike show! The contest is divided into three parts starting with a “Question & Answer” session, followed by a dance competition and ending with a bathing suit/hot jeans contest. The contest is hosted by the Aquarius Casino Resort and will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. on the Party Platform. That time coincides with the announcing of the bike show winners. Decisions, decisions…
Historic Route 66 will lead you to Oatman. Be sure to visit the Oatman Hotel for its dollar-bill decor.
If you’re looking to get out and ride but don’t know where to go, we suggest participating in one of the poker runs. There’s no better way to have some fun, meet friendly people and see the area than by going on a poker run. Friday morning is the American Veterans Charity Poker Run to Old Route 66 and a party at Mother Road Harley-Davidson. Funds raised will benefit the Tri-State Veterans. Saturday morning is the Early Bird Poker Run to historic Kingman, AZ, and a run down Old Route 66. Hosted by the Colorado Belle, this event has $1500 in cash and merchandise up for grabs. In past years this poker run has included a trip to Oatman, the Wild West mining town we highly suggest visiting. Which means the tiny town will be packed Saturday, so if you’re looking for a more leisurely visit, do it before then.
If you don’t feel like riding and are looking for some free entertainment, the Ses Carney Freak Show will be grossing out crowds in front of the Pioneer Hotel, there’s a slew of free music scheduled on the stages in front of the Edgewater and Colorado Belle Casinos (Judge Jackson, John Earl & The Boogie Man Band, Chris Hiatt & Cold Shot, The Wildcelts and more) and sometimes it’s fun to just stroll around and see what the vendors are hawking. Or you can catch The American Hell Riders Stunt Show in front of the Pioneer Hotel. There are also demo rides going on in front of the Riverside Resort and reps from Victory, Kawasaki and Star Motorcycles will be on hand with their latest and greatest motorcycles ready to ride.
Other attractions at this year’s River Run include the Hair Club’s Cross-Country Motorcycle Tour which will have two custom motorcycles on display. Fans can enter to win one of the bikes, built by Orange County Choppers and valued at $36,000, in their “Custom Chopper Giveaway.” And if you get a chance, stop by a Hot Leathers booth. Besides having officially licensed merchandise and biker garb for sale, this year Hot Leathers is holding a fundraiser for Soldier’s Angels. River Run attendees can help out with a little donation or just by sending a little message to the troops. So far Hot Leathers has raised over $1000 for Soldier’s Angels.
Motorcycle USA is heading down to Laughlin Thursday and will be reporting from the scene Friday and Saturday. We’ll be the one riding around on a blue 2011 Star Raider. Say hello if you see us there and we’ll give a Motorcycle-USA.com koozie. For those of you who can’t make it this year, check in this weekend for reports and photos from the 29th Annual Laughlin River Run.