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Posts Tagged ‘Laughlin River Run’

Eastern Sierra Mountains

Eastern Sierra Mountains

We left the last blog post talking about heading to Death Valley via the eastern entrance and planning to overnight at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

When we got up it was 36 degrees in Hawthorne so, we waited for a couple of hours to let things warm up some before pointing our tires at Tonopah which is at the crossroads of US 95 and US 6.  There were some dramatic views of the snow-capped Sierra Mountains.

Highway

Highway 95

The most prominent symbol of a boom-and-bust history in Tonopah is the Mizpah Hotel at the center of the city. Built in 1907 and ’08 on the site of one of Jim Butler’s old camp sites, the five-story hotel was immediately the center of glamour and elegance in dusty, hard-working Tonopah. It had steam heat, electric lights and elevator service, and advertised itself earnestly as “The Finest Stone Hotel on the Desert.”  Some trivia about the town is that back in 1957 the reclusive/crazy billionaire Howard Hughes married Jean Peters in room 33 at the L&L Motel in Tonopah.

Tonopah

Goldfield County Court House

In 1979, after nearly 60 years of decline, Tonopah erupted in its second mining boom of the 20th century with Anaconda’s molybdenum mine north of town.  Fleets of buses hauled the men out of town to work.  And then one day the boom was over as the market for moly went so bad that even mighty Anaconda had to close down its operation and sit on its $240 million investment.

Goldfield High School

Goldfield High School

These days the nearby Tonopah Test Range (TTR) is one of the main economic foundations of the town.  There are approximately 250 military and civilian workers at TTR conducting aeronautical research and development.  It’s located in the northwestern portion of the Nellis Air Force Range in south-central Nevada and its facilities are located approximately 30 miles South East of Tonopah.  The F-117 was initially based on the Tonopah range, also known as Mellon Strip, where the F-117 Stealth fighter became operational in 1983.

Death Valley East Entrance

Death Valley East Entrance

Tonopah is clearly in a steep decline, but the 2500 or so people who call Tonopah home would probably disagree that it’s a “ghost town.”

And speaking of ghosts, the next town we rolled through was Goldfield.  Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, and it soon became the largest town in Nevada with over 30,000 people. Only 440 people remain in Goldfield now, so it’s kind of a ghost town, but people still pan for gold.  The Goldfield Hotel is said to be haunted by a lady of the evening who was chained to a radiator while giving birth by George Wingfield who owned the hotel. She died and her child was thrown down the mineshaft that the hotel was built over.  There are many web sites that talk about how you can see her in room 109 and hear her baby crying on dark nights.

Death Valley looking at Furnace Creek

Death Valley looking toward Furnace Creek

The massive old high school now stands empty and is falling down, and the castle-style Esmeralda County Court House is an architectural curiosity of the Edwardian variety, is open to visitors. Inside are the original Tiffany lamps and there is a plaque on the outside of the building about the 1902 prize fight for the Lightweight Championship of the World between Battling Nelson and Joe Gans.  It was hailed as “The Fight of the Century” and the biggest purses in the history of prize fighting: $20,000 to the champion Nelson and $10,000 to Gans, the black challenger.  The fighters battered each other for 42 punishing rounds before Nelson, bloodied and sagging, fouled Gans in a clinch.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

At Beatty, NV we headed West on Highway 374 then pointed tires onto Highway 190 as we dropped down into the northern part of Death Valley into the small way-station of Stovepipe Wells.

We got one of the last rooms at Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel which offered up terrific views of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the surrounding mountain ranges.  The people were nice, but the restaurant wasn’t anything special and the room was like a low budget Sturgis motel that included the room rate overcharges.  The rates only went higher at other locations and we were glad to have a place to throw some bags, take a shower and have some refreshments.

Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells

It was interesting place to take in the dark night sky and try to find satellites and the various planets with the naked eye passing overhead.  It’s one of only a few places in the world where you can do this.

All the cold weather in the region turned out to be a blessing down in Death Valley.  The temp’s were in the mid-80’s and we enjoyed some very nice riding in the desert.

The experience the next day was a mix of desolate desert landscape along with the Furnace Creek oasis which opened in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company.  These days it has the world’s lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level.

We rode out to the Harmony Borax Works that processed borax ore in the late 1800’s and looked at photo’s of Twenty Mule Team wagons that hauled the ore to the railhead 165 miles away.  We also rode into the area called Artist Drive. It’s an impressive place with all the multi-colored claystones from ancient ashfalls that generate the different colors formed in the mountain.

Death Valley is over 3 million acres of designated wilderness and includes hundreds of miles of trails in all directions. The terrain is as varied as it is extreme, from vast sizzling desert and rocky canyons to historic sites and snow-capped peaks.

Artist

Artist Palette on Artist Drive

We enjoyed riding around the desert floor, but it was mid-afternoon and time to leave the valley.  We pointed the tires south and proceeded toward Las Vegas via Pahrump, an “RVer’s Paradise” that is easy to reach and easy to forget.

Aquarius Hotel

Aquarius Hotel

As we got closer to Vegas the Red Rock Canyon lit up with the afternoon sun making me wish for a few more hours to visit and photograph, but we needed to cover the next 110 miles in time to meet up with the rest of the “Wolf Pack” aka the riding posse in Laughlin for dinner.

Sure, the rain and cold during the first 5 hours of the ride were hideous, but overall the ride didn’t feel rushed and in taking three days to ride down to Laughlin it allowed us plenty of time to see some terrific scenery and experience the various environments.

I’ll avoid doing an in-depth summary of the Laughlin River Run event.  We’ve all been out to Oatman and have the “been there and done that” t-shirt.  A Mohave Daily News report stated there were more than 45K bikers in town.  I think that number was inflated because cruising down Casino Drive just didn’t have the same clogged feel as previous years.  The good news is no motorcycle-related fatalities as part of the event were reported.

RoadGlide Heading East

On the RoadGlide heading East

One item I want to mention was the Friday night BBQ near Needles.  The posse attended the annual “Dave’s BBQ” on the Colorado River.  He pulls together a high quality event each year for the folks visiting Laughlin that includes grilled shrimp and tri-tip and everyone is hooked on the luscious dishes from chef Manny.  We were all licking our fingers and asking for more.  A big shout-out and thanks to the BBQ crew for pulling it all together!

It was great to see everyone and the BBQ was one of the highlights of the trip.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author.

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"No Colors" Memo

“No Colors” Memo

One of the largest motorcycle events on the west coast will occur in about 3 weeks.

I’m talking about the Laughlin River Run, April 24-27th.  And 2014 will mark 32 years of riding on the Colorado river for this motorcycle rally.

Back in 2011 the posse rode to the event and several of us are planning to do the same this year.  We’re hoping the west coast drought will swing a bit north for our departure and the northwest rain will stop for a few days.

Recently one of the riders in the group received a memo from Sean Hammond, General Manager of the Aquarius Casino Resort (see photo).  He outlines the “No Colors” rule being strictly enforced in all the area hotels/casinos.  While it has not been without it’s issues the heavy handed LEO presence always seems unnecessary, but then again the days of HAMC clubbers performing motorcycle wheelies as guests tried to check-in at the Flamingo (as it was previously known) was a bit of a nuisance.

Sure the room rates are artificially raised as is the cost to get there, but for those of us who don’t have 300+ days of riding, the opportunity to ride the Sierra Nevada mountains and take in historic U.S. Route 66, along with the hills of Oatman is always a memorable experience.  And it’s a bonus this time of year as the byways are less-traveled and there are few tourist in motorhomes clogging the open road views.

See you in Laughlin.

Photo taken by author.

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Death Valley Map

Death Valley Map

I’m not talking about the Miami Heat or the Glenn Frey (Eagles) song from “Beverly Hills Cop.”

Rather, the smothering dome of high pressure from Montana to Arizona that has immersed the northwest in a heat wave.  The nighttime heat is especially excessive.

And as I read about the numerous river rescues over this past weekend a story about how the mercury rocketed to 129 degrees in Death Valley National Park, which tied the record for the hottest June day anywhere in the country and reminded me of a trip to Laughlin River Run.   I wasn’t certain, but the highest temperature ever recorded on earth was 134 degrees in Death Valley in 1913.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

At any rate, we were headed to the Laughlin River Run and rode through Death Valley a couple years back (HERE).  It was the end of April, but it was hot below sea level!

We entered Death Valley from the West entrance on Highway 190.  We traveled east and there was flat and spectacular scenery with sculpted hills and shifting sand dunes.  We went from high level vistas to the below sea level and enjoyed the hottest place in the U.S.

RK-DeathValleyAbout 20 miles into the park we stopped at Father Crowley Point and ran into a group of riders from Germany.  We made another stop at Stovepipe Wells village for a photo opportunity of Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes then headed east on Daylight Pass Road to Beatty, NV.  It’s an immense area and we were in route to Las Vegas and spent little time standing still experiencing the dry heat.

I’m not a fan of riding in extreme heat and the Harley seems to have no “issue” producing high levels of engine heat even on a cool day so 100+ degree ambient temperature just adds to the discomfort.  I’ve tried mesh jackets, t-shirts and leather jackets with vents adjusted wide open.  Very little relief from evaporative cooling occurs and  I’ve learned to just carry much more water than is typical.

Photo’s taken by author.  Map courtesy of Death Valley Nat. Park.

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FL-TesttrackI’m talking about Florida and the Big Cypress Swamp.

To be more specific the address is: Harley-Davidson, 5301 34th Ave. S.E., Naples, FL., a 531-acre private test track north of Interstate 75/Alligator Alley.  The facility has a 2.1-mile straight away and a 1.1-mile ride-and-handling loop.

FL-Track-HeloPrior to 2002, the test track was owned and used by Ford Motor Company.  In October 2009, Harley-Davidson announced plans to consolidate its test operations in Florida and Talladega, AL. sites to the Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ.  There were approximately 8 employees and as many contract employees at the Florida facility at the time.

Earlier this month, the automaker Chrysler Group LLC announced they purchased the property for $7 million with plans to use the more than six miles of tracks to test a wide range of pre-production vehicles.

FL-Track-BldsHarley-Davidson Motor Co., agreed to lease back a portion of the track to test motorcycles and other specialty vehicles along with 10,200 square feet within two buildings on the property. That lease will last through at least June 30, 2019.

Construction of the track and its associated buildings began in 1985 and ended in 1992.  In 1998 the test track was the subject of a lot of scrutiny when nearby property owners and environmentalist became concerned about expansion that would harm the neighborhood.

Photos courtesy of Google and Collier International.

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Red Rocks

Red Rock Canyon In Route To Laughlin

Year-end stories are always interesting to me.

Publications around the world rate stories, detail online traffic numbers, select the best leaders and generally give readers a special year in review.

On the national stage here are a few of my more notables:

We had what I’d call the best supporting furniture award…that went to the empty chair that actor Clint Eastwood spoke to throughout his speech at the Republican National Convention.  We narrowly re-elected a president.  John Edwards and Roger Clemens, both escaped conviction.  There was the epic fall of Lance Armstrong.  There was the Korean pop singer, Psy and that Gangnam Style video which skyrocketed a catchy tune into YouTube superstardom.  We bought more than 48 million iPads, weathered a couple of hurricanes, and cheered for the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner who, broke the sound barrier from 24 miles up.

Baker City at HCMR

Baker City at HCMR

When I look back on the motorcycle rides there was:

LAUGHLIN RIVER RUN – in April the Road Glide was shipped to the Las Vegas desert.  Then it’s a short 100 mile jaunt through the desert to Laughlin, NV and it’s a great way to escape the Oregon monsoon rain to enjoy the heat of the canyons.  And being close to the Colorado River and between two mountain ranges in the Mojave Desert there are a lot of scenic rides with panoramic views to enjoy.  Not to mention the motorcycle rally itself.

HELLS CANYON MOTORCYCLE RALLY – in June, some riding buddies took off on 3-days of enjoying nature’s perfume – the sweet smell of rain showers on the cedar and pine forest – into the Cuprum-Sheep Rock country.  At times, the cold rain made us wish for a fishing lure and then there were other times the motorcycle tires were inches from the edge of a 1,000-foot drop-off while in the next instant the left-view mirror came pretty close to scraping a craggy rock wall on the grade coming up from Hells Canyon Reservoir into the mountains…  it’s always an exciting adventure in Baker City!  But hey, that rain is a “summer” adventure in Oregon.

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

FOUR-CORNERS MOTORCYCLE LOOP – in late August the posse set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-miles epic journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back home.  Moab, the 4-corners and Bear Tooth Pass were the highlights.  It was amazing scenery and viewing it all from back-roads on a motorcycle made it all the more fun.  The trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through mud-flows so deep on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway that we could have caught trout with the right fishing gear!  The gist of the ride was exploring Moab and 4-corners, but the searing summer heat kept us from really getting to know the area well, and it gave me lots of ideas for future trips.

STREET VIBRATIONS –  One of my favorite ways to end the Northwest riding year is this late September trip to Reno.  The drive is pretty quick and it always guarantee’s the heat of the valley inter-mixed with cool mountain meadows and panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crux of the ride is of course the rally and wide assortment of builders and vendor booths along with coming back with a to-do laundry list of possible winter projects for the motorcycle.  It’s not like we’re going to be loafing around on the couch this winter, right?!

Street Vibrations 2012

Street Vibrations 2012

That was my look back and it helps to motivate me to plan for 2013.  A couple of rides already blocked out on the calendar are the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary in Milwaukee and “Shark Week” in Utah.

In looking back on 2012, we also need to keep in our thoughts and prayers those who were met with tragedy this year, whether from storms or gunfire here at home, or on a battlefield on foreign soil.  May 2013 be safer, healthier and happier for all of us.

Photos taken by author.

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Virginia Street during Street Vibrations – Note LEO’s on Parking Garage

Gas prices were higher than in the movie, but Reno always takes advantage of special events that go on through-out the summer and none of them are bigger than Street Vibrations which brings in motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world.

This year was no exception as the warmer than normal riding weather meant tens of thousands of people turned out for the 18th annual event and they were looking to spend their money!

Over the last 11+ years I think I’ve missed the Street Vibrations Rally only once.  The event typically marks the last long ride of the season for our posse.  The rain and cold winter weather will quickly kick in and last for several months limiting trips to the few dry riding days.  I’ve seen the event evolve over the years.  Some of the changes were not well received (see HERE) to say the least.  In 2010 there was club-on-club taunting during the day on the Virginia Street sidewalks (see HERE).  And then last year someone “pee’d in the pool” so’s to speak with that Sparks shootout.

Now for the first time ever visitors are not allowed to wear patches.  In fact, Roadshows Inc., the event managers for Street Vibrations, has a provision in its “Exhibit Space Contract” for this rally that “No club colors may be worn or sold in vendor booths.”   This is similar to the Laughlin River Run riot ten years ago and the changes implemented there after the biker club brawl.  And just as I predicted last year the Street Vibrations Rally is now a ‘No Colors’ event and will be going forward.

Carson City Harley-Davidson

For those of you new to the blog…the  ban on motorcycle club insignia was the result of the shootout between members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs inside John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Sparks.  Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, the President of the San Jose charter of the HAMC died of wounds he suffered in the fight.  The Vagos, Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were also shot. Two others, Vago Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez and Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana are awaiting trial for participating in the fight. Gonzalez is accused of killing Pettigrew and Villagrana is accused of shooting Ramirez and Garcia.  It’s been reported that former Vago Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, actually started the fight with Pettigrew and he has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of Gonzalez and Villagrana and is now free.

But, the above carnage is old news.

This year there was a noticeable increase in law enforcement presence in and around the various venues for Street Vibrations. The “no colors” policy and signage were highly visible and hotel security was clearly beefed up.  I visited left money in several of the casinos and observed a few club members wearing “soft” colors in a couple of the casinos, but it was fairly limited.  One item most noticeably missing at this year’s motorcycle newly labeled “family friendly event”… was the typical large contingent (30+) of HAMC members bristling and posturing in and around the Silver Legacy Casino bar at the foot of the antique mining rig set.

Street Vibrations is the second largest motorcycle rally in the west.  It’s the fourth largest event in the nation and includes activities in multiple locations in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Virginia City, Nevada.  And as you might expect with any large motorcycle gathering it increases the opportunity for accidents and other issues to occur.  And there were plenty.

Street Scene at Street Vibrations 2012

There were fewer crashes, but more than twice the number of arrests than last year.  For 2012 there was a total of 65 crashes investigated in the greater Reno-Sparks area. Of the 65 crashes, 25 resulted in some type of reported injury and the remaining 40 were reported as property damage only. These numbers are down from last year’s 84 crashes with 49 property and 35 injury.  However, this year there were 54 motorists arrested during the Rally period with 27 motorists arrested for DUI and the other 26 related to warrants, misdemeanor or felony arrest. These numbers were up from last year’s 23 arrests which were 16 for DUI and 7 related to warrants, misdemeanor or felony arrests.  There was one motorcycle fatality crash on Plumb Lane Sunday morning that reportedly was the result of a truck running a red light.  The 2011 stats HERE and 2010 stats are HERE.

I want to provide a big shout-out to Richard Tapia, the Carson City Harley-Davidson dealership owner.  The “Carson Event” in my viewpoint is really setting the tone and direction of where the event is heading as part of the area-wide Street Vibrations motorcycle festival.  There were more of the big vendors like you’ll find in Sturgis along with the big vendor trailers in Carson City.  Not to mention a bunch of activities aimed to wow the crowds.  Yes, the HAMC were very visible as part of the Cathouse Run, but so were the employees of the Cason City Sheriff’s office who were selling support your “black & white” t-shirts in a vendor booth in the parking lot.

Downtown Reno (Virginia Street) was a disappointment for me when compared to the Carson City event.  There were only a couple of what I’d consider to be tier-1 vendors on Virginia Street like Corbin Seats.  It was great to meet/chat with Mike Corbin.  Other than the food stalls many of the vendors were on par with a motorcycle parts swap meet.  Sparks was a lot better, but Carson City was top notch.  However, staying in downtown hotels at the greatly exaggerated prices means were paying for proximity and access.

The lack of high-quality vendors on Virginia Street might be a ploy driven by the casinos to keep people on the gambling tables, but in my view if the quality level of Virginia Street vendors don’t greatly improve folks (including me) will migrate out of downtown and this will become the Carson City Rally!

Photos taken by author.

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Here’s the thing… “If you look around the room, and you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”  

It’s not my quote, but some interesting words of wisdom by Lorne Michaels of SNL fame which might apply to this past weekend in central Oregon.

At the 2nd annual Run To The Cascades in Redmond, where hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts gathered to celebrate a remembrance of September 11th and to salute the men and women of our military along with the fire and police departments were met with a clash between the Mongols and Hells Angels motorcycle clubs.  According to witness reports, around 5 p.m. Saturday, a large Mongols group approached the Hells Angels members already at the event – the HAMC had a vendor booth there – and “demanded the Hells Angels group leave immediately.”  It was reported that weapons were brandished.  Once word of the confrontation went out to law enforcement it prompted police and sheriff’s deputies to enter the fairgrounds and stand by while the Hells Angels group packed up and left.

Other witnesses reported that the Hells Angels group intended to return with more people to settle the dispute, and at that point, sheriff’s deputies and police contacted fairgrounds Director Dan Despotpulos “and strongly recommended the event be closed in order to protect public safety.”  The fair director agreed and they immediately began closing the event.

I wasn’t at the rally, but can imagine the disappointment!  Are these “life-threatening” events occurring more often at rallies?  I don’t know, but the result is the same on future events.   Similar to the Laughlin River Run melee a few years ago or most recently at last year’s Street Vibrations shooting in Reno/Sparks between the HAMC and Vagos.

The sudden closure of the Run To The Cascades rally meant the closing-night concert by the classic rock group Foghat was cancelled. It’s unclear if event organizers will be on the hook for any refunds.  There were also reports that some people who had camped out at the campground were reluctant to leave, but were then threatened by law enforcement that if anyone stayed they would receive trespassing citations.  Nice indictment of the innocent.

Did law enforcement over react?  Where was the Oregon law enforcement intelligence for the event?  Did the motorcycle club “offense of proximity” only serve to reinforce the symbolic weight the emblems carry for biker clubs?  Did the motorcycle clubs brazen intimidation threat accomplish exactly what was intended?  Did this action sear a pitiful brand on the character of thousands of innocent, respectable, law-abiding men and women in Oregon who are the enthusiast representatives of an admirable sport?  Has Oregon just exited a transformative club period and now set to experience a new “threat on wheels”?

Motorcycle club business is none of my business, but when the public is exposed to these individuals are we to just ignore the incident and continue on with adding mustard to our bratwursts and t-shirt buying as if it didn’t happen?

UPDATE: September 17, 2012 — I was in Central Oregon this past weekend.  I grabbed a coffee and happen to read a report in the TSWeekly where the Redmond police are urging fairgrounds officials to never host another biker rally. “This event is something I will strongly advocate to never be held here again,” Redmond Police Capt. Brian McNaughton told reporters.

Photo taken by author at AHDRA drags in Woodburn, OR.  Poster photo courtesy of Run To The Cascades web site.

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