The wind was blowin’ by the time we arrived and never let up until we left. Strong gusts whipped across the Mojave Friday and Saturday, but it didn’t deter bikers from showing up in droves for the 32nd annual Laughlin River Run. Riders buckled down and countered the winds with neoprene facemasks, hiding faces behind goggles and bandanas beneath half-shell helmets.
We rode in under the guise of night Thursday. Jumping off Interstate 40, Needles Highway greeted us with washboard roads. The bumpiness caused the headlight of the rider in front of us to cut out, so we closed the gap to try and light up the road for them. The couple eventually pulled over, so we offered to follow them into town as we were still miles out of Laughlin. No sooner did we take off together than we saw a rider ahead of us who had gone down. We stopped again to offer assistance and discovered the couple who crashed were friends of the couple suffering electrical gremlins. Shaken but OK in the low speed washout, the group they were riding with quickly had the downed bagger righted, so we finished the last few miles into Laughlin hoping this wasn’t a precursor of things to come.
It wasn’t. Contrarily, incidents were far and few in between, and no motorcycle-related fatalities associated with the rally have been reported. Though we don’t have figures yet for Laughlin itself from Las Vegas Metro, across the river in Bullhead City, DUI arrests and arrests in general were down. Motor vehicle accidents were up a bit to 22 compared to 14 in 2013, but only six of those involved motorcycles. A Mohave Daily News report stated an estimated 45,000
The wild burros of Oatman are one of the historic town’s star attractions.
Outlaws overran the streets of Oatman during the 2014 Laughlin River Run.
Things heated up during the bikini portion of the 2014 Miss Laughlin River Run contest.
Kuryakyn had a new rally set-up at Laughlin and is celebrating 25 years in the business with customized bikes like Project 25.
people attended this year’s event, but after cruising down Casino Drive Saturday night and not having to do the biker crawl, we know those numbers are inflated. We’ve been in Laughlin when there have been 50,000 people in town and the crush of people wasn’t nearly in that range this year.
We hit the ground running Friday morning and didn’t stop until Great White’s Mark Kendall strummed his last note Saturday night. First stop was Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort, the official registration spot for the rally. The line to get signed up for the poker run was already long. The Starview Room was abuzz with people picking up their registration packets, official Laughlin River Run pins, and event t-shirts.
Outside the doors of the Riverside Resort, motorcyclists were already busy taking advantage of the manufacturers offering demo rides. Lines to ride one of the new Indian Chiefs were longest and the Indian Motorcycle booth was constantly busy. Filtering through vendor’s row, we made our way to an appointment with Kuryakyn that morning, the company celebrating 25 years in the industry. There we met with Kuryakyn’s own Willie G. (no relation to Harley’s Willie G.) who showed us around their new rally set-up. The display included several motorcycles customized with Kuryakyn product, including the “Project 25” 2012 Harley-Davidson Street Glide. Some of the new items that caught our eye included small handlebar-mounted speakers with their own built-in amp and fairing vent accents for Harley’s new Batwing fairing. Willie G. said Kuryakyn’s mounting systems for electronic devices, able to be mounted on bars, perched next to the clutch housing, or on a mirror, are big sellers, while Victory owners will be happy to know Kuryakyn’s expanding its line of products for the Cross Country including Kinetic floorboards.
After a quick lap around vendor’s row, it was time to fire up the Victory Judge for the annual Laughlin River Run Poker. Heading out that same stretch of Needles Highway that shook the headlight wires loose of the rider we followed into town Thursday night, we were grateful the capable suspension of the Judge was up to the task of smoothing out the ride. It was a 140-mile run in the Mojave through headwinds to Lake Havasu and back, with stops at London Bridge Harley-Davidson, Pirate Cove Resort, Palms River Resort Store and the Colorado Belle. Havasu was hopping, a bounty of pricey boats cruising under the London Bridge as the town held its annual “Desert Storm” nautical party. While people watching from the park-like settings outside of London Bridge H-D was fun, time was ticking if we wanted to be able to hit all the stops before they closed. Pulling into the last card stop at the Colorado Belle, all we could muster was a measly pair of fours. The big winner of the poker run was Jimmie Aday of Henderson, Nevada, who somehow pulled a Royal Flush of Hearts with only five cards to trump the four Jacks of Paradise Valley’s Charles Delaney.
While at the card stop at the Palms River Resort Store, we met a rider who had come all the way from Queensland, Australia. The man wore a seasoned vest with big Harley Owners Group patches and numerous buttons from past HOG events he had attended. He and his wife have made several trips to the United States to ride, including taking in the 70th annual Sturgis Rally. Though he didn’t come to the US solely to attend the River Run, he happened to be touring nearby so he and his wife stopped by to take in the festivities.
Pulling into the parking lot of Harrah’s that evening, a gentleman parking an old school trike caught our attention. It was straight out of the ‘70s, one with the passenger’s seat stacked right above the driver with the vibe of a king and queen saddle, a VW engine below them all wrapped in a white fiberglass frame. During the course of our conversation, we learned he had built the trike for his wife after she had a stroke. She no longer had the strength and balance to hold on to the back of a motorcycle, so he spent almost a year building
Great White’s Michael Lardie and Scott Snyder took time off from performing to help judge the Miss Laughlin River Run contest.
Ever seen a hot rod with four engines before? Neither had we until Laughlin 2014.
This dapper gentleman was visiting from Australia, his American motorcycle journey making a pit stop at the 2014 Laughlin River Run.
We rambled out to Lake Havasu on the 2014 Victory Judge while participating in the 140-mile-long Laughlin Poker Run.
the trike so that she could still enjoy riding with him. The project was a true labor of love, the man himself an embodiment of the biker spirit.
Saturday morning it was time to ride again, this time to the historic mining town of Oatman, Arizona. The tiny town, filled with the essence of the Wild, Wild West, was overrun by bikers. Wild burros roam freely there and have become one of the town’s star attractions. The burros don’t hesitate to let you know that this is their town and they have the right of way. The Oatman Hotel, with countless dollar bills decorating its walls, was another popular destination. Traffic was snarled down the hill and around the bend of old Route 66 leading into town as a constant procession of bikers rumbled in and out of the old mining settlement.
From Oatman we headed straight to the riverwalk deck of the Colorado Belle for the annual Laughlin Custom Bike Show. From big-wheeled baggers to a Harley Softail Deluxe gussied up in over 25,000 Swarovski Crystals, it was a small but eclectic bunch of motorcycles entered in the show. Paul Ponkow of Bones Legacy was the big winner of the day, his cherry 1973 Triumph digger a showcase of seamless fabrication, killer paint, and a powertrain polished to a high sheen. Michael Martinez of Bonneville County Choppers also garnered plenty of attention for a couple of bikes he brought to the show, a Sportster 1200 he made into a “dirtster” dirt bike and a Yamaha XS650 outfitted with a horse saddle. Asked about what went into building his third place-winning Yamaha, Martinez quipped “A 100-year-old saddle and a bunch of junk out of the shop.” For a more detailed account of the show, be sure to read our Laughlin River Run Custom Bike Show 2014 article.
From there it was off to the Miss Laughlin River Run contest. Eight girls were brave enough to step up on stage and work the crowd and judges with hopes of winning the $1000 cash prize. Two members of the band Great White, which happened to be headlining at the Riverside Resort, took time out of their busy schedules to help judge the show. It was a packed house under the canopy of the Riverside Resort’s Bodies Bar Outdoor stage for the light-hearted affair won by Jeannette Jacques of Colton, CA.
We wrapped up our 2014 Laughlin River experience by catching the Great White show at Don Laughlin’s Saturday night. While we know Los Lobos and Lynyrd Skynyrd were both rockin’ it that night as well, for only $20 the Great White show couldn’t be beat. Expecting them to rely solely on their popular radio hits, it was the band’s bluesy tunes that blew us away. Mark Kendall is a phenomenal guitarist, and his 10-minute solo had the audience in a trance. Lardie is multi-talented, be it picking a guitar, blowing a harmonica, or jamming on the keyboard. And Terry Ilous can sing, demonstrating great range and stage presence as he worked the crowd. By the time Great White played its second encore, everybody was on their feet singing along, and for us it was the perfect way to wrap up another successful River Run.
While the 2014 River Run wasn’t the biggest or baddest celebration the town has seen, that’s fine by us. Roads were easier to navigate and parking easier to find, milling around vendors’ booths wasn’t a shoulder-to-shoulder scrum, getting into restaurants wasn’t near the hassle and despite the wind, there was still plenty of great riding to be done. One moment that stood out to us happened Saturday night. Riding down Casino Drive, the biker in front of us had a huge American flag waving behind his motorcycle atop a self-made flag pole lit up with LEDs. The red, white and blue was flapping around in its full glory, and as he drove along the avenue, people walking by on the sidewalks were waving, whistling and cheering him on. With the sun going down and lights of the casinos coming on, it was a surreal moment, a time to realize how fortunate we are to live in this country and to have the freedom to ride to events like Laughlin. This guy wore the pride he has for our country openly and was receiving a hero’s welcome for proudly flying our flag. There’s plenty of other heroes out there serving in the US Armed Forces right now, and while we followed our flag-waving friend, it made us all the more grateful for their sacrifices which allow us the opportunity to enjoy events like the River Run.