Thankfully, Don Laughlin was an enterprising man with a vision. Laughlin had the foresight to recognize the potential of the little plot of land on the Colorado River close to the corner where Arizona, California and Nevada meet. Laughlin had the tenacity to carve out a fortune serving 98-cent chicken dinners at a small gambling joint with 12 slot machines and two gaming tables. Now he’s got a town named for him, multi-storied casinos have risen where once was only sand, and Laughlin has served as a biker’s playground for four days each spring for the last 31 years and counting.
The 32nd annual Laughlin River Run
takes place this week, April 23 -27, a popular destination for motorcyclists from Phoenix to LA to Vegas. The Mojave Desert has a certain beauty to it this time of year, wildflowers and cactus blooms dotting the generally brown, harsh landscape. Historic Route 66 runs nearby, bringing with it the promise of a nostalgic trip down memory lane. A stop by nearby Oatman is always in order. Once home to rustlers, wranglers and those hoping to strike it rich in nearby mines, Oatman still pulses with the heartbeat of the Wild West. Just be sure to bring some carrots for the local burros.
During its heyday, Laughlin would bring 50 – 60,000 people into the area easily. Then the little brouhaha between the Angels and the Mongols happened in Harrah’s, years of heavy-handed police presence ensued, and attendance numbers dropped. The last couple of years, the tri-state agency that patrols the rally has stepped down its presence a bit, and bikers seem to be embracing the idea of making the trip out to Laughlin once again. All we know is most of the hotels have been fully booked for weeks now so this year’s event looks promising.
One of those reasons might be the fact that Laughlin has stepped up the quality of its headlining acts this year. It starts Thursday night as country star Jason Aldean will perform at the Laughlin Event Center. Another motorcycle rally heavy hitter, Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, will take the stage at the center Saturday night. Great White is booked to play the
The burros of Oatman say they're anxious to see you and to bring carrots!
Sam Baldi won Best of Show at the Laughlin River Run Custom Bike Show last year. Who's going to win the title this year?
The annual Ms. Laughlin River Run Contest is always a popular draw, the winner receiving $1000 cash.
Bikers will soon be out in droves for the 32nd annual Laughlin River Run.
Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino Friday and Saturday night, while Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys wrap up the stellar lineup with a performance Saturday night at Harrah’s Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater. And that’s just the headliners. There will plenty of local bands performing daily on outdoor stages spread around the rally, too, from Chris Hiatt at the Colorado Belle to The Garage Boys at the Golden Nugget’s Outdoor Lounge.
Poker runs are always a great way to get out and see the area as card stops have been spread out from Chloride to Kingman. This year’s official River Run Poker Run is headed out to locales like Lake Havasu City to London Bridge Harley-Davidson and Pirate Cove Resort. It’s a self-guided poker run this year, so riders can make the run Thursday through Saturday. Registration takes place daily at Riverside Resort’s Starview Room and ends at the Colorado Belle. Competitors have to have their cards in by 3 p.m. Saturday and winners will be posted at the Colorado Belle Loading Dock Restaurant Saturday at 6 p.m. There’s also an American Heroes Charity Poker Run benefiting American veterans on Friday. Registration is at the Tropicana, the run heading out to Kingman’s Mother Road Harley-Davidson. Proceeds benefit vets, so it’s for a great cause, and best hand will win a 2015 River Run Room package.
The annual Laughlin River Run Custom Bike Show takes place Saturday from 11 – 3 on the main deck of the Colorado Belle. There’s $1500 in cash and prizes up for grabs, including $750 to the winner. Sam Baldi’s “Lost Angel” won last year, and this year’s victor will be announced at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Which leaves just enough time to catch the winner and head over to the Ms. Laughlin River Run Contest. Ladies will be competing for $1500 in cash, the winner earning a cool grand. The popular event takes place at the Riverside Resort Bodies Bar Outdoor Stage on Saturday at 4 p.m.
A long list of vendors will once again be set-up in front of the casinos, from the Riverside Resort to the Golden Nugget. We’re got an appointment with the team from Kuryakyn Friday to check out its new rally set-up and to see what exciting new products they’ve got for the 2014 riding season. We know our friends at Mustang Seats will be there too, the hard-working American company recently collaborating with custom builder Dave Perewitz for a signature series of seats which they’ll be displaying. The beauty of Laughlin is you can park your bike and walk to just about all the vendors, and if you get too hot from pounding pavement, you can head indoors to any of the casinos to cool out.
Other events on the 2014 Laughlin River Run schedule include demo rides from Harley-Davidson who will be set up outside the Tropicana while Victory, Indian and Star Motorcycles will be offering demos from the Riverside Resort. There are lots of great new bikes on the market right now, and many of them will be available for test rides at the rally. Bikers can show off their ink at the Laughlin Tattoo Convention held during the River Run at the River Palms. The high energy crew of the Hogs & Heifers Bar will help keep the party going daily, and the casinos offer everything from night clubs to restaurants to gambling, further upping the appeal of Laughlin.
Motorcycle USA will be headed to the desert in a couple of days for the 32nd annual Laughlin River Run, so check in this weekend for pictures and reports from the scene. We’ve been there when it’s been 100-plus degrees outside, while another year the wind blew so hard the sand felt like it was peeling skin off our faces. We’ve also had to buy extra layers because riding through the high desert was bitterly cold, so pack smart because you never know for sure what you’re going to get at the River Run. We’re packing our sun screen with high hopes, but will soon find out first-hand what 2014 has in store.