Story & Photos by Randy Twells
Oct. 25-27–There is something about the mystique of the desert that makes us go there. Palm Springs being an oasis in the midst of a sandy expanse guarded by tall mountains just to the west, is a recipe for a getaway weekend. It feels so secluded, and quiet. Therefore, when American Heat takes over Palm Canyon Drive every October, look out! There’s a lot to do, and much of it included free with official event registration. First off you get an official event T-shirt, Hog tags & ride pin. Prime location VIP parking on Palm Canyon, VIP Parties at local nightspots, entries for the poker run, poker walk & bike competition all included. Plus you get reduced rates at 8 local hotels including the main sponsor hotel, Palm Canyon Resort. When you are too tired from all the fun, you can plop down at chairs & tables under the canopy to enjoy the live music at the main stage which this year was relocated to the more southern part of the event area.
Trey Valentine, Reno area radio personality/MC kinda guy and Roadshows regular at Street Vibrations events was transplanted to Palm Springs to also do his MC gig here, heading up the slow races and bike competition all held at the main stage area. Along with Randy Burke and the Roadshows crew we had lotsa hard working people making sure all went very well. This year had about 100 vendors including a wide range of products and offerings for your motorcycle and you too. Every year I come across something that fits the ‘what will they think of next’ category in bike bling and accessories. This year it was cast metal wings to put on your front wheel hub nuts; ‘leave no spot unadorned’ on your motorcycle would be the logic here.
Saturday’s Poker Run was handled by the Christian Motorcycle Association as usual; California entrants from Victorville, Yucca Valley and Winchester won 1st, 2nd & 3 rd places in that order, with 3 Kings, 2 pair-4’s & 5’s, and a pair of Aces. All guys– so ladies, the gauntlet is down for next year. Five cards were drawn, the first at the event CMA booth near the stage, then out on the backroads highways in a big looping route, south on Palm Cyn. to Hwy. 111 & 74 through Cathedral City & Palm Desert, to the Paradise Café at Mountain Center junction for Card 2, then northwest on the 74 & 243 to Jo An’s Restaurant in the mountain town of Idyllwild for card 3. Taking the winding 243 north to the 10 east, the 4th card was drawn at Palm Springs H-D. Then back south on Indian Canyon Dr. back to event & the CMA booth for your 5th card. All in all you’ve done a good 100 miles, and seen a huge variety of mountain, forest and desert landscape flying past. And in the mix those silent gatekeepers, the white, massive bladed wind turbines like some futuristic crop on the ridges and row upon row across the windswept valley floor, a stark visual against the raw landscape.
Back on Palm Canyon just in time for all the Saturday afternoon fun like, the Slow Races. A bottle of Agave Underground Tequila was the big prize for each Slow Race Finals Winner. We had some ladies participating and Slow Races on both Saturday and Sunday but, the 3 PM race winner Saturday was Steve O’Neal , who works in ‘transportation’ for a California ‘company’ which shall be nameless but uses oft-seen orange trucks – and who apparently are experts at going…. Really…. Slow….the Agave Underground Tequila went to a good home I’m sure (“she said, enviously..”). Roadshows’ Amber Lee was our beautiful Starter, letting everyone know ‘when’ with her straight up, straight out and then tush slapping arm gestures that no doubt helped the riders focus on the task at hand. MC Trey Valentine helped the guys & gals be ready and had onlookers chuckling with his commentary on other interpretations of ‘straight up’, ‘straight out’ and ‘ready to go’, in ‘other situations’….. Then, so many people came up wanting more Slow Races before the 5:30 scheduled time, that Trey decided heck, why not, let’s do a ‘practice round’ since one petite gal on a Sporty, really wanted to try it out. So he tells her to go on down the block a little ways, turn around, and come back in to be positioned correctly at the start of the Slow Race course. A half an hour later she comes back with a different bike and not understanding what all the forehead slapping was about… but several riders including Ms. Wayward came up for some practice runs, and “a good time was had by all…” THEN, the 5:30 race ensued, and Ms. Wayward was ready- she won one, then lost to our winner, a bear of a man with a vest of many pins and patches bearing crosses and such, who when Trey handed him the tequila prize, requested the mic- and told the crowd that he is a Christian biker and also a sober biker and does not drink any alcohol so… he would respectfully decline the prize. Everyone applauded this remarkable turn of events, and one young man stepped out of the crowd and coming forward, thanked our winner for his stand and the encouragement that it gave HIM. Our winner? Every-won.
The band line-up was killer. The Coachella Valley Boys & Girls Club “Heatwave” Jazz & Show Band performed again this year showing off amazingly talented teens who have obviously worked very hard at getting really good. Heatwave was formed in Fall 2007 as a program started by the NAMM Foundation (National Association of Music Merchants whose big show is at Anaheim Convention Center every spring). Students train under some of the best professionals in the industry in their areas of skill or interest including the production side of music or sound and lighting, and with a goal of a career in the music industry. Singers, keyboards, horn /brass section, guitars, drums, you name it, they do it. They play the actual arrangements by many famous artists and do it very very well.
World On Fire is a sister & brother- J’Marie and Randy, plus 3 others including Tyler Nelson who’s also been an alternate member of Great White. Incredibly versatile with a huge repertoire, many classic rock & pop. Some we heard were Black Cat (Janet Jackson), Get Down Tonight (KC & The Sunshine Band), Stranglehold (Ted Nugent) and Hella Good (No Doubt) along with many other great fun tunes.
Soul Connection headlined the main stage Saturday night and brought us the big guns, from congas to keyboards and a great lineup of seasoned musicians playing Latin pop including Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, War, etc. They knocked it out of the park; a tight instrumental performance plus Gus the lead singer has a great smooth, rich, fluid voice, everyone got up and danced the night away on the red carpet right there on the street!
Alyce Bowie & Lucky Tongue also had main stage gigs, and The Vibe & Dude Jones played the Palm Canyon Roadhouse. It was a mega music weekend!
By Saturday bikes lined both sides of Palm Canyon for several blocks north of the actual event venue evidencing how popular this open free-access ungated event is. You could register with Roadshows if you wanted, and get all the perks that come with it, but if you just wanted to enjoy a free party, come one come all, Roadshows as well as Palm Springs are happy to have you. After Saturday night’s party in the street, you could get a dose of Sunday morning biker church service right there at the main stage. Vendors were still open all day Sunday as is Roadshows’ usual event plan.
One final Slow Race series on Sunday saw another Christian biker winner who also like his Saturday compadre, handed off the tequila to one of the (other) media people there, after some serious Slow Racing. Hmm. They win at Slow Races which takes lots of control and self-discipline and they do not drink any alcohol, can there be some correlation here? Do they know something the rest of us are missing? Maybe! But I do enjoy a good Margarita on occasion….
Then the Bike Competition also on Sunday—a change from Saturday timing in years past at American Heat—had only 3 entries, but boy they were awesome bikes. The 1st Place winner was Omar Villa, owner of OG’s Auto Accessories in Cathedral City. Yes his business is, blinging out wheeled vehicles. He’s been riding ever since he can remember and his addiction is obvious, his 2006 Road King with stretched front & rear fenders & gas tank, 113 cu. in. motor (bumped up from a stock 96 cu. in.) has candy apple red paint and elaborate engraving on every possible square inch of chrome hanging on this gorgeous machine that absolutely twinkled in the sunlight. The finishing touch was the Mayan temple figure inspired artwork of demons and dragons along with a portrait of a beautiful young woman– His prize, again a bottle of Agave Underground Tequila. What a great idea, drinkable trophies. And the coffin-shaped bottle still serves as a trophy after the tequila is gone, with its metallic silver colored actual ‘skull cap’ topped with a sculpture of an agave plant making for an interesting conversation piece. We got Omar to let Amber Lee put her boot carefully on his bike’s pristeen gas tank to pose for a laid back shot—wow.
Heatwave closed out the afternoon on Sunday with another awesome set as the sun descended behind the mountains. Everyone enjoyed their performance so much nobody wanted to leave. This warm desert town is hard to leave—so near to the rest of Southern California but, so far away in its inviting relaxed mood. And ready to welcome us all back again next year.