By Chris Oggerino
We’ve just had another awesome Street Vibrations in Reno. This fall’s rally ran from September 26 – 30. As with the prior events, there were bands, motorcycles, celebrities, stunt shows, a tattoo expo and so many activities and events, it would be a challenge to see and do it all. And, it took place in the Reno Tahoe area, a beautiful place to have any event. The home base of the rally is in downtown Reno, at the Reno Ballroom, which is at 401 N Center St. It was at the ballroom, while I was picking up my VIP registration materials (VIP parking pass, VIP party tickets, etc.) that I started to feel a little bit of a new and special vibe for this event. Or, maybe it was just me noticing something I hadn’t fully noticed before.
Charity; to be specific, children’s charity. I’ve interviewed Randy Burke, of Roadshows before. So, I knew that this event has always been about charity. But, this year, I felt like it was even more so. It started on Wednesday, the first day of the event, when I was at the registration table, and I saw that there was a large area, and dedicated desk for CAP, the Child Assault Protection charity. At that table, I learned that Rebecca LeBeau was the Executive Director of the charity and that I could have a short chat with her. So, later, when I asked, Rebecca told me, “My charity works to teach children how to stay ‘Safe, Strong and Free’, from assault and abuse”. Then she said, “If you want to see a biker smile, ask them about children, and ask them about how they want to help kids.”
I thought that was great. But, wait, there’s more! After I met with Rebecca, I was able to have a nice chat with celebrity guest Erik Estrada. And, this chat had me walking away with two big thoughts. What a great guy. Erik was balancing between talking with people, doing selfies with them, and trying to eat his dinner. And so, when I sat down with him, my brain was thinking, “Three minutes, three minutes, don’t use too much of his time.” We ended up talking for at least a half hour – because he wanted to! And, he did manage to eat a little bit while we talked.
It wasn’t that he wanted to just sit there and talk about charity, kids and the event, which he did and I’ll tell you what he said in a second. But, what he really wanted to do was just connect with another person. He is a complete people person. We talked about our children. We showed each other pictures of our daughters. It reminded me that even though some people are celebrities, they’re people. They’re a lot like you and me. And they have the same dreams and desires. In Erik’s case, he loves people and he wants to help them.
And that’s where the interview began, I was asking him the typical questions, before we just sat and talked, and he reinforced the vibe with, “This year we have the special CAP charity attached to it.” (Street Vibrations). And this year, “we’re going to have a medal of honor ceremony for a police officer in Reno, that was killed in Iraq,” which is part of Erik’s dedication to our men in blue. The final thing I want to relay is what he said about bikers/people, “Bikers, from any walk of life, have a great amount of compassion for their fellow man….” and he continues, “They’ll polish up their bikes and bring them out for a cause.” The key takeaway here was virtually identical to what Rebecca had said. And that’s when it really hit me just how charity oriented Street Vibrations really is. I knew it before. But now I felt it.
We’ll talk a little bit more about charity, before this article is done. But let’s talk about some of the other fun things for a bit. I managed to take in the music of fifteen bands! Some of them were playing at the same time, so I couldn’t see their entire sets. But, I caught at least a song from all fifteen. Being a bit of a rocker, I had my favorites. But, there was a good bit of choice. Some were a little mellower, and some were hard chargers. If you like music, it is definitely worth heading downtown, and listening to some music. There’s something for everyone.
While these may not be yours, my favorite three bands were Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, Skynnyn Lynnyrd, and Zepparella. Beer drinkers cover ZZ Top, while the other two, well, I think it’s obvious based on their names. And again, I have to say that one of the great things about covering this event is the people. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with these people and they’re just nice people. When I thanked Beer Drinkers’ drummer, Carter Kenney, for always giving me a great look when I point the camera at him, he actually thanked me back for taking his picture. And then, we talked for a few minutes; he’s just a great family man like everyone else and he happens to play the drums, really well.
In addition to catching the bands, I think most people in the downtown area of Reno enjoyed the flag raising ceremony, the Monte Perlin Globe of Death stunt show, the vendors and the slow bike races. The Spanish Springs High School JROTC, in their WWII uniforms, did the flag raising in superb, solemn fashion. The crowd was all-in. Tamara Evans caps off the ceremony with a beautiful rendition of our national anthem and for that moment, the crowd is entirely together in a moment of tribute to our great country.
Monte Perlin’s Globe of Death is something to see. As they warm up, they ask the crowd to stand back a little bit. But, when they get into the globe, they welcome the crowd to get close and really see what they’re doing. And if you know anything about Monte, you know he will tell you that they are only safe in there by the grace of God. I had a chance to catch up with Monte again this year and, he is just such a positive force on this earth that I wanted to quote him, “Love, friends, family, helping and all things work together for good that way,” in regards to his support for Street Vibrations, his belief in God, and charity.
Another great thing about the event is the variety of vendors. You can shop for clothes, trinkets, bikes, bike parts, tattoos and more. And you can even visit places like the Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys booth where you can sign up for co-op-based emergency road service. (www.RussBrown.com). As you walk between the bands, the slow bike races and the stunt show, you’ll be able to sample a ton of great food and drink, and stop in at vendors like Leather Headquarters to look for something fun to wear.
The slow-bike races are just plain fun. There’s a race track that’s about fifty feet long, and has two lanes about three feet wide. The goal is to be the slower bike. This may sound silly. But, it’s really fun to watch. And there are some fun elements that aren’t so obvious, such as the rivalry between the Reno Police department and our reigning champion Kenny Saheki. I spoke with Reno Police Officer Blount right before he raced. Officer Blount was the odds on best chance of anyone winning against Kenny. He was there with a contingent of Reno’s Finest and said, “Bring the family out, bring people from outside the area, and show them what we have to offer,” inviting everyone to come out for this fun event. And his big wish for us bikers was, “Keep the rubber side down.”
To cut to the chase, Kenny won. Afterwards, I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “I wish everybody would come on down and join the fun.” And then he talked me into racing on Sunday. Yes, I actually participated on Sunday afternoon. And, I can happily report, that although I didn’t race Kenny as a first time racer, I did win both of my races and we had a good high-five about it afterwards. If you can ride your bike slow, it really is a fun thing to try to do it. And uh, it’s harder in front of a crowd.
This year, Randy Burke introduced a new feature; in conjunction with the American Heat Bike Show, Roadshows brought in a motorcycle auction, held by Stremmel Auctions. And, it was a big deal. 75% of the bikes sold. They even sold one bike, built by “Sons of Anarchy” actor and biker Rusty Coones. According to Hudson Stremmel, “This 2013 Hellrazor was built by Rusty (Illusion Motorcycles) for one of his clients, taking $90,000 and over a year to build. The bike ended up being given on loan back to Rusty, for him to ride in “Sons of Anarchy.”
“Everything was built to Rusty’s specs including a custom S&S engine, that was de-stroked from a 124 to a 103 for less vibration and longer life. It has custom carbon graphite rotors by Lyndall Racing. The bike is registered as an Illusion with an Illusion VIN. It is roughly 850 pounds with less than 800 miles. Also, the entire bike has been balanced and blueprinted. It’s an incredible bike with an incredible story.”
One unique thing about Stremmel, versus other auction houses, is that they keep the seller, buyer and pricing information confidential. So, if you’re thinking about selling a bike, you can do so in privacy.
Last, but definitely not least, there’s one more thing I really want to highlight in this story about Street Vibrations. That’s right, “The Riding!” I’ve ridden motorcycles on two continents. Riding in the Reno Tahoe area is world class. Whether you ride over Highway 431, over to and around Lake Tahoe, or take 341 into Virginia City and see the crazy crowds there, you are in for a treat. Because I live in the area, and can ride the insanely beautiful Lake Tahoe ride whenever I want, I decided to head over to Virginia City on Saturday morning and take in the festivities there. And, I think this year may have been a record or something. As a photographer, I stopped twice on the way over to take pictures of the motorcycles riding over this incredibly scenic winding road with the city and mountains in the background. It’s a nice smooth road and really fun to ride.
Because of those two stops, I arrived in VC at 11am and that was a little too late to get a parking spot on the main drag with the thousands of bikes that were already there. So, if you are set on parking right in the thick of things, get there a little earlier. The sidewalks, streets, restaurants, bars, and parking lots were all filled with people having a blast. There was a constant parade of great motorcycles driving through and I saw smiles on everyone’s faces.
I want to take just a moment to summarize the key things you will get if you come to Street Vibrations. First, you are going to have great fun at this family-oriented event. There is truly something for everyone. Second, you’re going to be helping out a good cause. And finally, you’re going to, if you let yourself, meet good people doing good things. This is a “don’t miss it” event and I hope to see you there next time.