By Mike “Spike” Sayer
In anticipation for this year’s Laughlin River Run, marking the Event’s 25th Anniversary, time seemed to drag by through our very strange and unusual southern California weather until the day finally came to load up the Road King and head out towards the Colorado River for five fun-packed days of sunshine and freedom.
My lovely wife Jan (Pirate Girl) and I set out at 6 am on Wednesday, April 25th 2007 to meet up with a group of riders that were congregated by Dale Griffin, owner of The Engine Shop in Chino, California. We arrived at Denny’s at I-15 and Baseline in Rancho Cucamonga. After brief introductions and waiting on Dale to show up a group of approximately 20 bikes formed… still waiting on Dale (and the chase truck), finally, at 7:45 he rolls up on his gleaming red Indian followed by the truck and trailer rig. He apparently was delayed by “others” that couldn’t wake up before dawn, that were supposed drive the chase rig. Eventually we were on the road in a stream of bikes spread out for a mile all trying to catch up to the lead group that had visions of getting to Laughlin in record time (minutes). We cruised faster than usual at 90 mph as the lead group still pulled away and disappeared up ahead. At the top of the Devore Pass Summit we decided to just travel at our cruising speed of 75 and get there when we got there. Somewhere between Victorville and Barstow we passed two California Highway Patrol cars that tagged 4 of our riders… When we stopped for fuel in Barstow the 4 riders trailed in one at a time, each in possession of a speeding ticket, after being clocked by CHP aircraft radar at 107 mph and generously written up for 95 mph (still a major fine)!
Back on the road, once again the “Speeders” disappeared into the distance as we cruised with most of the others at 75 mph. The group split off at Goffs Road and we cruised into Needles for more fuel and to shed off our leathers. We rode up 95 along the River through California and into Nevada to the Avi Casino to visit a few friends set up as Vendors (Leather from Old Town Leather and Biker Bob from Bob’s Biker Bits). This year we were invited to stay at our friend Tom West’s vacation home located in Bullhead City a block from the River. We stopped in to unload our doobage, have a cold drink, then rode to the Laughlin Strip via the bridge off highway 95 on the Arizona side of the river. Since it was Wednesday some of the Vendors were still setting up and there were only a handful of Bikes and Bikers around and the Casino parking lots were virtually deserted. We backed our bike up right in front of the Pioneer Casino and went inside to gamble away a few bucks and get something to fill our famished bellies. It was strange to see the Casinos so empty knowing that by Friday this place would be a mad-house!
Thursday morning we rode back to the Strip and parked in the shade of the Gold Nugget Parking Garage. We ventured down to the vendor area were we immediately ran into our old bud, Gard Hollinger at his LA County Chop Rods Booth. He had just built a sweet looking drag racing style bike that looked like it was going 180 mph standing completely still! We visited for a while and then moved over to the Arlen Ness Booth where the lovely and beautiful “Michelle Smith” from American Thunder was there filming a show segment with Corey Ness. After snapping a few photos, I noticed Michelle walking over towards us to my sheer amazement. We introduced ourselves and small talked for a few moments about the event, and the heat (Michelle was wearing leather pants and a mesh top and her famous cowboy hat) and it was hot and getting hotter by the minute and she had a lot to do with that! I have got to say… Michelle is incredibly beautiful with her sexy smile and is a very sweet person and is the “real deal”… she is exactly how she appears on television… only BETTER in person! Needless to say, meeting Michelle and having my picture taken with her was definitely going to be the highlight of my Laughlin Trip!!!
From there were ventured out to take some photos of the latest Biker Stuff at the Vendor Booths before the crowds inundated the aisles. We walked around the corner to find “Chica” of Chica’s Custom Cycles sitting in his booth displaying his bitchin “old style” road-worthy works of Art. He was gracious enough to pose for a photo with one of his newest bikes. Chica is not a man of many words, but he sure expresses himself through his creative works on two wheels. His stuff is some of the best ever in any generation! Exile Cycles was set up displaying several trademark-styled bikes and his Biker-Build-Off Trike, but no sign of Russell Mitchell while we were there.
From the Gold Nugget we went to the River Palms Casino where Matt Hotch, Jesse Rooke, Todd Silicato and Vegas City Choppers were set up. Getting a really close look at the works of Matt Hotch, really makes you appreciate the true craftsmanship that goes into the design and finish of his two wheeled, flawless beauties. In fact, he has built a “Vincent” retro, lean and low chopper that was really unique and outstanding! Todd had his Biker Build-off Bike on display along with three creations from Jesse Rooke that all resembled old school racing machines, but no sign of Jesse as of yet either.
Moving on to more Casino Vendor areas, Johnny Lange of Strip Club Choppers had this cool one-of-a-kind chopper with a stripper pole mounted through the seat, towering up over the rider… I was hoping catch a glimpse of him riding this thing with a stripper doing her thing on the pole above! Talk about distracting!!! We visited with the gorgeous “Candice” with Sin-a-Little and snapped a few shots of her so she can grace the pages of our magazine once again! Then we came upon the social outcast of the entire event, Scott with Social Outcast along with his scantily-clad beauties showing off their great looking stuff too! The Covington’s had the most radical trike I have ever seen… it was old school and high tech merged into an early 60’s retro style design that just looked wicked! Sik’n Twisted were not to be out done and had a machine that can only be described as Animalistic, with a spine molded into the top of the gas tank and rear fender!
By this time it was getting close to sunset and we needed to eat again and, low and behold, In ‘n’ Out Burger was right there and sounded great! We went inside into the air-conditioned restaurant and found a seat overlooking the strip. Afterwards we went outside and found a shady spot and sat on the wall parallel to the Casino Drive and watched the Bikes pour in, in groups of all sizes. It was a perfect place to light up a Cuban Cohiba Cigarand take in the growing madness of bikers, cops, tourists and lookey-loos as time dwindled away till the wee hours.
Friday morning we decided that we would ride so we headed out on Route 66 for breakfast in Oatman then hung around for about an hour before moving along to Cool Springs, where the only thing out there is a really old, but preserved gas station and snack stop. There were many riders there including a bunch from the Riverside, California area that we eventually followed on Route 66 into Kingman, going past the original location of Mother Road Harley-Davidson where there was a major convergence of motorcycles from all over the country! We ran into Rich Quaid, co-owner of Quaid Harley-Davidson Temecula and president of Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealers Association. Although most riders seemed to be heading west toward Laughlin, we got back on R-66 and headed east toward the by-passed and almost forgotten towns of Hackberry, Peach Springs and Seligman.We stopped in Hackberry at this really cool gas station, (the only visible roadside business), that was a shrine to the history of Route 66 at a time when travel was tedious and romantic at the same time (my family actually traveled on Route 66 when we moved to California from the east coast in the early 60’s) I remembered some of the landmarks and was surprised how courageous somebody had to be to actually make the trip during a time with no auto air-conditioning and no real certainty to what lie on the road ahead. I guess that’s what makes Route 66 so special to so many people.
The road was in surprisingly great shape (thanks to Arizona Dept. of Highways) and seemed to go on forever. Before long we came to Seligman a town that happened to be extremely close to Highway 40. There we saw this strange but cool at the same time place called the Rusty Bolt, decorated with life-size mannequins dressed as by-gone era celebrities like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. It was a sight that could really make your eyes sore. Down the way from the Rusty Bolt was the world famous Delgadillo’s “Snow Cap” Drive-in Restaurant where time has only made the place more desirable to hang out at and enjoy a tasty burger or a iced cold soda or a chocolate milk shake.
Our trip destination was Williams, the last town that got by-passed when the last leg of highway 40 was completed. We arrived in Williams around 3:30 PM and cruised the one-way street that today still only boasts one stop sign instead of a traffic light. Williams is the Gateway to the Grand Canyon and is home to the Grand Canyon Railway that features a fuel burning locomotive (with a few diesel/electric back-ups) and Harriman Coach Cars. We have taken the 2 ½ hour (one way) ride to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and would recommend the side trip to anyone. After pie and coffee at the Pine Country Restaurant we fueled up and headed back to Laughlin via Kingman on Highway 40. The entire side trip was well over three hundred miles but well worth the time and scenery. Just out of Kingman we caught Highway 68 west that dumped us right out in Bullhead City just north of the bridge leading us back into Laughlin and the Casinos just as the sun was setting behind the jagged mountains off in the western horizon.
By now the strip was alive with Bikers and the town was starting to buzz with excitement. By the time the darkness set-in entirely, it was obvious that the town was jammed full of Bikers there to have a good time. Much to my surprise, the Police Force seemed to be more laid back than previous years, seeming to be more observers than instigators causing more potential trouble than they were there to discourage. There were a few incidents of people getting popped for doing stupid crap like doing burnouts at an intersection or haulin’ ass down the strip, but the overall presence of Law Enforcement was very low this year. As far as the ladies that wanted to “party”… it seemed as if there were quite a few of them walking around, but very few that really stood out demanding attention from the event-goers that came to see some skin and hand out Mardi-gras beads to willing boobie flashers that risked getting arrested and transported to Las Vegas for booking and release. Somehow, I got in the middle of a party (or incited it) that had it’s share of “girl-on-girl” action, exotic dancing and lots of bare booties and boobies. Before long there was a crowd of over 100 partiers holding out their cameras eagerly trying to capture the moment on film for a visual souvenir to take home to show their friends how wild it can get at the Laughlin River Run. After about 20 minutes of debauchery the Lone Ranger and Tonto showed up on horseback to break up the fun. The crowd calmed down a bit, but the Law decided to hang out to make sure the near “riot” (as they put it) didn’t happen again. Over zealous cops can sure put the ka-bosh on a harmless good time… just when things were starting to get good!
The level of entertainment in Laughlin during this year’s event was truly first-class! ZZ Top played the Aquarius Casino (formerly the Flamingo) on Friday & Saturday night, Jonny Lang played Harrahs, The Fabulous Thunderbirds were at the Riverside Resort, Warrant and L.A. Guns at the Pioneer and The Starship at the Edgewater. There was an outdoor Blues Concert going on at the Colorado Belle. With a music lineup like this the River was definitely Rock & Roll’n!!!
At midnight we headed back to Bullhead to meet up with Tom and Little Joe that were hanging out at a local watering hole called Lazy Harry’s Bar. We arrived to hear a drunken rendition of “I want you to want me” by Cheap Trick by a band that desperately needed a lead singer, and went inside to find a lively crowd of locals as well as out of town Bikers. We hooked with Tom & Lil’ Joe and raised a toast to “good times” at the River hangin’with friends. We soon met Sean who was sort of drunk and was on a quest to find a woman who would flash her titties in a posed photo that I assured him would make the magazine… he found no takers then disappeared into the night. We did however get a few good shots of Candace’s tattoos on her lower back and her upper right thigh and few other girls that unfortunately, I didn’t get (or can remember) their names. I do however remember Mike (of the Vagos) and hung out with him for a few minutes.
We also met the owner, Loretta and Joel the bouncer that informed me that they received monthly allotments of our fine magazine. Even though we didn’t plan on staying too long we ended up closing the bar and finally crashing at Tom’s Place around 3:am with intentions of getting up early Saturday and going out for another lengthy ride to Boulder Dam and Vegas.
Up until Friday the weather was great and relatively warm, but Saturday it was just %#@$’N Hot! By 7 am the heat filled the house and forced us awake to take on the last full day of our Laughlin trip. By the time we got up and around with our borderline hangovers. we decided to go back to Oatman and just hangout all day to be a part of that madness. Oatman is not to be missed when you make the Laughlin River Run. It is located on Route 66 about 20 miles southeast of the Casinos on the strip on the Arizona side. Oatman is a surviving gold mining town that claims fame to a few things and especially that Clark Gable and Carol Lombard (the movie stars) spent their honeymoon night at the Oatman Hotel in 1938. Today their room is a small shrine that you can visit while you are there. There are small but unique shops featuring Route 66 collectibles, jewelry and trinkets. Leather and plenty of Biker related wares along both sides of the street. Burros (descendants from the gold mining era) are free to roam the streets and are frequently seen by the visitors and the motorcycle noise and confusion seem to have no effect on them especially when they are hungry in search of a handout! They are also allowed to enter some of the shops if you can imagine that! One of the female bikers attempted to get on a burro to only be nudged away and discouraged by the lop-eared creature. I was waiting anxiously by hoping to get a shot of her being “bucked-off and into the air and down on a few motorcycles (wrong of me, I know). It seems that during the Laughlin River Run it is plain to see that the population of jack-asses drastically increases in Oatman. Some are even willing to do almost anything including “voluntarily” riding wild bulls (as if riding motorcycles wasn’t dangerous enough)!
When the heat level reached a steaming 112, we decided to head back to Bullhead and have lunch in an air-conditioned environment and ended up going to the Bonanza Café on Highway 95 with it’s “Welcome Bikers” banner outside and kicked back for a while attempting to cool off. The River Locals are used to temperatures into the 120’s but us “city folk” needed some relief since we haven’t experienced many temps in so Cal. over 80 for the last 6 months. Luckily there was iced cold water for sale just about everywhere you looked!
Later that day we ended up back at the Avi Casino, unfortunately too late for the drags (bummer) but had just enough time to purchase our last minute tokens and souvenirs for our list of friends (that couldn’t/didn’t/or weren’t allowed to go) who wanted a t-shirt. We hit the road Sunday morning about 6:30 am the beat the heat and traffic, and rode back with some old friends (Dani & Jeff) and some new friends (Elaina & Jeff ) via Highway 40. We stopped in Ludlow for gas and breakfast then rode home with the Laughlin River Run freshly etched in our memory.
Everybody that I talked to said they had a great time, although turnout this year was down, and we heard from several vendors that biz was way off. But the local news said that everything went great with no real problems, so thanks to Dal-Con Promotions for planning things out so superbly. We had heard there were a few traffic related fatalities during the few days of the event. Our hearts go out to those left behind, knowing that the lost souls were doing what they loved when they were taken from us. Life is all about having a good time doing the things you love to do. The 25th Anniversary of the Laughlin River Run was no exception. I hope you had a great time too!
Spike “Ride Safe and Live to Ride Again” See you in Hollister!