2012 Laughlin – A River Runs Through It and We Keep Rollin’

By Randy Twells •  Pics by George “Rusty” Childress, Randy Twells and Contributors

A River Runs Through It and We Keep Rollin’

River Run Turns the Big 3-0

April 25-29, 2012, Laughlin, NV– The mighty Colorado—a giant that never sleeps, never stops– the lifeblood of this vast expanse of sand, rock, sagebrush and desert life.  And 30 years running, we keep rollin’ and rockin, on the river–

Early in the week, rain and cool windy weather came to the whole area, a break from what is usually a very hot trip with many rehydration stops such as from the West, at Ludlow Dairy Queen or along Route 66, Roy’s Diner at Amboy and at Goff’s exit off the 40, Hi Desert Oasis where Najah the owner serves up some kickass BBQ lunch and cold drinks to fading road trippers.  Continuing out Route 66 I stop along the road; out here on the ‘old road’ away from the trucks on the main highway, the desert is so still, so silent and the sky so dark and looming at sunset, a moment frozen in time.  As they say, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.  Sometimes it’s good to stop and listen to the silence speaking volumes.

I cross into Nevada on Hwy. 95 at dusk, and head east on 163, winding along the huge sweepers snaking through the rock studded mountains to the west of Laughlin.  Just as full darkness closed in I made the last stretch descending gently into Laughlin.   The first thing I noted was the big electronic sign at the edge of town: “No Colors Event” and “Bait Bikes in Use”.  Every hotel had signs prohibiting club colors, anywhere on their grounds/property.   We could plan on a nice relaxing weekend and just ride!

At the Pioneer Laughlin– My comfy bunk was waiting at the Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall, a western themed honest to God original, and as I would find throughout the week, everyone at the Pioneer made me right at home.  And, you can’t beat being able to see your bike from the front window of your room, all the parking spaces right in view of the buildings from all sides, maximum 3 stories high, and a stairway close enough for quick access plus an elevator serving each level.  A very reasonably priced buffet (and I scrimp) in the Boarding House Restaurant served up omelets for breakfast and tender, cuts-like-butter prime rib I can vouch for, no less, on one of the days I dined there, and everything was really nicely done and delicious.  My server was like Mom, very good at making things homey in a jiff!  And if you want to just grab something and munch in your room, the Fast Draw Snack Bar has really nutritious fresh-made- daily items at very economical prices in a grab and go case, like wraps and sandwiches, and large salads such as the Chef’s Salad with everything you expect and more, that I had like 3 nights in a row.  If you have not stayed at the Pioneer you have missed something special.

In Sassy Sue’s River Bar at the back of the Pioneer, with a view of the River, I met up with Janelle Redman our newest accomplice and part-time Bullhead City local, and her man Lewis, a firefighter, and their other friends for a bit of saloon time, where the karaoke was in full swing.  Another local was having a going away party- and true to the Pioneer’s personality, they shared cake with everyone including us. We didn’t know them, but we became their newest friends anyway!

Bullhead City Puts On A Bike Fest– Our other new Quick Throttle rep, Cheryl Warren would join us later with her man Orgy; Cheryl hails from Las Vegas and bunked at Harrah’s, which had a special deal for guests in connection with the latest new twist during River Run—the Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealer Association got together with Bullhead City to stage the Bullhead City Bike Fest at the BHC Community Park re-named for the week as Harley-Davidson Park. Mayor Jack Hakim and City Manager Toby Cotter along with SoCal H-D Dealer Assn. Chairman John Paliwoda, other dignitaries and many member dealers, welcomed Harrah’s room package guests to a private reception in Harrah’s banquet room Thursday evening with a repast of food and drink to start off this special weekend.  Friday and Saturday the Harley-Davidson Park became the scene for 28 vendors and a schedule of entertainment such as belly dancers, live bands, tattoo contests, River Cruisers car show, 4 Victor McLaglen Motor Corps performances, a poker run, and to cap it off, a drawing for a Harley-Davidson 883 Iron.  The Poker Run had 100 participants and raised $3000 for the Bullhead City Boys & Girls Club, and gave out a nice top prize.

At Arizona Performance Cycle in Bullhead our old friends Suzi and Tim, take care of everyone’s repair needs each year.  There we met Carl Kamin with the Santa Barbara PD, and his dad.  They rode all the way, Dad on his nice new Road Glide, and Carl on a 1971 Moto Guzzi setting the pace at a vintage comfort level of 60-65 mph.   Carl re-did the paint on this beauty but had sense to leave the patina on the engine, headers and other components to keep its authenticity intact. A real beauty, I suggested he enter it in the Custom Bike Show—but did not see it there.  Check out the picture in our gallery and see if you agree it should be in there next time!

Friday evening Harrah’s room package guests again had a special treat—dinner at the Chamber’s facility and music by The Grind, just for them.  In the adjacent Chamber parking lot the Harley-Davidson factory rig which has been absent from the River Run scene for a few years, returned to this spot with Demo Rides and plenty of great bikes to ogle and drool over.  Bullhead City Chamber’s Chris Barton says that over 3 days about 10,000 people in all were counted going through the vendor area gates at the Park.  They had planned a Battle of the Bands which morphed into straight on entertainment with several bands playing vs. com- peting.  Tattoos on the River held 4 contests inside the Chamber building where the artists were required to locate due to local ordinances requiring tattooing be done in an enclosed building.  First prize, weekend for 2 plus Dinner at the Pioneer Laughlin!

Next year, Chris projected a few changes– the tattoo contests might be held outside in the vendor/stage area where all could see them, and to have a Feather Pin Ride- a HOG destination ride- replace the idea of a Poker Run as the ride.   With their first Bullhead City Bike Fest under their belt, Bullhead City has now been baptized into the fire of staging a large motorcycle event, and looking forward to next year!

Star Touring and Riding, the association of Star Motorcycle enthusiasts always holds a breakfast at Laughlin River Run.  2012 was the 16th year of the breakfast and it’s been going since 1997, the year Star Touring was organized too.   Usually held at the Aquarius in an upstairs banquet room, Star Motorcycles subsidizes a good portion of the expenses to hold the breakfast so tickets are only $8- and you get breakfast AND  a door prize ticket. This year, one of the prizes was valued at $700.  As with Star Touring, owners of any brand bike can join STAR or attend the breakfast, and we have seen HOG patches there in the past.  This year, Star Touring sent out a note to members, that it was ‘no colors’ this year, so of course leave the patches at home, and we know who we are and each other, so, just go and have a good time!

Demo Rides at the Riverside Vendor Lot— A-Team Victory and Star Motorcycles brought American and Metrics together across the same parking lot for demo rides in the Riverside vendor area. A-Team had on display the last Arlen Ness Victory production bike.

The American Heroes Poker Run got started early at the Tropicana on Friday, where we met Tropicana’s Marketing Director Robert Reicher who came aboard last August- so was he ready for his first River Run?   “The Tropicana is the place to be for the best live music and party.  Come on over–We have the Victory Plaza area out front where everyone can check out the bikes rolling along Casino Drive, and it’s all dedicated to our Veterans.”   United Veterans’ Honor Guard member Richard Roel of American Legion Post 87/Bullhead City presented Robert Reicher with plaques for Tropicana GM Allan Kronberg thanking the Trop for its contribution to Veterans’ causes.  Scott Kellerman, GM of Antelope Valley H- D led the group out.  The Poker Run ended at Mother Road Harley-Davidson/Route 66 Motorsports under the huge concrete tilt-up style archway in Kingman with a huge party, band, tons of vendors, and the Kingman Elks Lodge Post 468 Raffle Bike on display. (Only 468 tickets would be sold at $66 each!)  King Vs. Cash rocked the big tent with lotsa hip swiveling and good ol rock n roll. Mother Road’s GM Tony Campbell came on stage to announce the Poker Run winners, one of whom was present and happily collected her prize certificate!  In all the American Heroes Poker Run had 267 entries at $10 each, and since ALL proceeds go to benefit Vets, $2670 was the resulting donation.

Quick Throttle Photographer Rusty Childress covered Ted Nugent and Robby & Ray of the Doors at the Edgewater E-Center, David Allen Coe and the Ms. Laughlin contest at the Riverside Resort among other musical shows.  Janelle caught the Mini Kiss show at the Tropicana.  Cheryl covered the Bullhead VIP dinner & Concert, and all of us shot many more photos than we have room for here– you can see all our work online in the Quick Throttle Gallery soon!  And there were outdoor stages aplenty with free concerts all over—including notably Chris Hiatt & Cold Shot at Colorado Belle’s Center Circle where the crowd jumps in with both feet dancing in front of the stage.  Mother Road Harley also sponsored a booth at the Golden Nugget with a live band.

Outstanding Warrant!! My rock mission—shooting photos of Warrant’s show at the Pioneer, yes the 80’s phenom that is still, STILL, a powerhouse.   Original members Erik Turner & Jerry Dixon are still killin it; along with lead guitarist Joey Allen and drummer Steven Sweet, Robert Mason is lead singer in place of  Jani Lane who departed years ago; Jani’s passing last August marked the end of an era, the guys pressing on with their new album, Rockaholic.  Friday and Saturday nights Warrant played on the Cooper Tire stage, right there in the Pioneer parking lot.  No tickets, no barriers, just a very large crowd of fans who KNOW this is the place to be.  The guys respond to the crowd and vice versa, it was the good old days, here and now. Warrant played both Friday and Saturday nights, real troopers and real regular guys.

The Pioneer entertainment roster also included Austin Law, Evil Waze, and Ses Carney’s Evil Clowns Variety Show with Professor Chumley, plus a burnout event, mud wrestling and a mechanical bull which for some reason attracts people who have never ridden a bull to try this one, with hilarious results.   Vendors and food & drinks plentifully available with tables & seating in breezy shady tents, made it a great spot to chill just across from the stage.

I had never seen Ses Carny’s Evil Clowns Variety Show.  Well, old Ses it turns out specializes in things like putting his face up to a power tool grinding a big metal blade making a huge spark blast, to light his cigar. These showmen insert metal hooks in their eye sockets, nails into the skull via nasal cavity, breathe fire, and more. Professor Chumley does stuff like, sticking wires through his cheeks and arms. Yes right through.  Blood comes out.  I thought, why in the world would someone DO that?   (Well, aside from people actually PAYING him to do it, which they do!) So I caught up to the Professor later in the Pioneer at Sassy Sue’s River Bar, posed that question, and he said, “Well, I was a lousy juggler.   So I had to come up with something else.”  And yes he is just a regular guy too.   I thought, well maybe he has piercings and it’s just like poking through pre-pierced locations.  But he pointed out, “why does the skin stretch out over the point of the wire then? And I do bleed.”   Yep it’s for real.

Tattoos on the River had many artists all set up ready to embellish any part of your body- in both Edgewater’s Rio Vista Room and at Bullhead City Bike Fest.  And no shortage of takers, both newbies and repeat customers.  Larry Topping’s Evolution Tattoo in Bullhead is the catalyst for this show, which is amazing to check out even if you are not getting a tattoo.  Watching people get tattooed is a show in itself…. And now they offer the tattoo artwork for your wall too!

The 5th Annual Biker Palooza Extravaganza at Kelly’s Performance Specialists in Kingman was Saturday.  Out by Kingman Airport along Route 66, Kelly’s held a Swap Meet, Bike Smash, Burnouts, & Bike Show. All day the 4-H Club supplied food & drinks, Leathernecks MC brought the beer, vendors, camping, RV’ing. Kelly’s isn’t about racks of clothing and miscellaneous fluff.  Well ok maybe a few T- shirts that of course say “Performance Specialists”— but mainly, it’s all about… performance.  The shop’s dyno run by Kelly himself, is its crown jewel.  And Debby Frain is the gal in front and she keeps everyone in line! (Including me!)  Says Debby, “We had a great turnout, raised $1,800 for Boys and Girls Club of Kingman.  Estimated 1500-2000 riders came through our gates.”

The Custom Bike Show at the Colorado Belle knocks me out every year. A collection of rolling art, from vintage to modern.   By my count there were 32 bikes in the show; Paul Tracy won Best of Show and $750 prize with the Black Mamba, an exotic creature with black everything including a 23” front wheel by Rampage. Paul Ponkow of Las Vegas won the 2nd Place $500 prize with the Bones Legacy. His goal was to build a radical retro early 70’s chopper and be true to the period.  A Denvers-style rigid front end went into this 6 month build project, with a 53 degree raked frame, 8” upstretch with a 30 over rigid front end.   All one-off built parts. Paul’s philosophy, “Keep the spirit alive from the golden age of choppers!”  Third Place $250 prize winner was nowhere to be found til later, but won with mural artwork on gleaming white paint and heavily spoked front wheel.  So many beautiful bikes, but one very interesting one was a V-twin bike with a sidecar holding a replica cannon, with muskets or long rifles where a sissy bar would be, as flag masts, plus flintlock pistols mounted on and following the ape-curve of the handlebars.   Paint was a photo image of the Declaration of Independence, and early American style lanterns were mounted under the turn signals in front- reminiscent of “One if by land, two if by sea.” Ok so there are two lanterns, so… yep they came by sea!!

Early Bird Poker Run and Ms. Laughlin Prize Winners! As always right after the Bike Show, the Early Bird Poker Run Winners are announced out at Colorado Belle’s Center Circle, and awarded $750/$500/$150 for 1st/2nd/3rd places, to riders from both CA and NV plus another $250 all told for 4th – 7th places. It took a while to tabulate the winners due to the overwhelming participation.  So we passed out Quick Throttle Magazines, River Run T-shirts were handed out and Quick Throttle gave out matching business cards for the winners to redeem for a Quick Throttle shirt in their size to boot! Pretty nice!  Then, about the same time over at the River- side, a young lady named Sonja was being awarded the Ms. Laughlin prize winnings of $1000.  There is some good prize money out there people!

The Vendor areas were very busy as usual, and several of our other Quick Throttle partners were there exhibiting- such as UniqCycle Sounds with installs right there besides, Leather Headquarters, Law Tigers, Patch Lady, Buckle & Belts, and Hogs & Heifers Saloon at the Edgewater lot, and Michelle Dell herself meetin’ & gr eetin’ with her girls boot scootin’ on the bar.

Some photo contributions by Debby Frain (Kelly’s Performance Biker Palooza), Chris Barton (Victor McLaglen Motor Corps), and UniqCycle Sounds (installs).

View the article in June issue of Quick Throttle Magazine

View the Laughlin River Run Galleries


About Randy Twells