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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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welcome-vegasI’m talking about Las Vegas where the average tourist gambles only four hours in their 4-day stay.

After a couple decades of being the fastest-growing city in the U.S., Las Vegas has seen its growth stall in recent years.  Portions of the strip are dotted with steel and concrete shells as construction was halted and developers attempted to refinance projects and avoid bankruptcy.  Just as Americans did with their homes, casino owners borrowed way too much money to build hotels that were way too big.  The unemployment rate ballooned and for a while the city had the honor of having the highest foreclosure rate in the country of ANY metro area with at least 200K people.

I visit the city often for various work conventions or when attending motorcycle rally’s and recall getting gouged on the rooms and expensive food so, over the last few years I could not be more unconcerned or feel less guiltless in taking advantage of the town when it was down.  Hotel room rates have been slashed and suites that a few years ago went for $400 were recently selling for $125 a night.  And, I’ve wanted to get some of my money back from the card tables for a while now.

An artist rendering of the new Las Vegas Harley-Davidson dealership near the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign on the south end of the Strip.

An artist rendering of the new Las Vegas Harley-Davidson dealership near the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

But, economic defeat on the strip in this dirt wasteland is being reset by none other than Harley-Davidson.

Mr. Andress and Tim Cashman are building an $18M flagship dealership on the south end of the strip.  You may remember that this is where the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign attracts large numbers of tourists for a photo op.  The Cashman’s plan to tap into the 40M annual visitors and build a 50,000 square-foot, two-level motorcycle complex which will clearly draw visitors off the strip.  They purchased the 5.25-acre site at the bargain basement price of $8M and expect construction of the dealership to be complete in October 2014.

The Cashman’s are no strangers to Las Vegas where they have three other Harley-Davidson dealerships and also control 10 alternative retail outlets (ARO’s) that sell everything in the alphabet with a H-D logo sans the motorcycle.  Their total annual sales in 2012 was about $60M.

Clearly the strip is on its way back!

Photo taken by author and dealership rendition courtesy of Las Vegas Review.

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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Gary Stuart “Jabbers” Rudnick

UPDATE: June 4, 2014 – As part of a plea deal to testify against fellow Vagos, Nevada Judge Connie Steinheimer sentenced Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick to seven years in prison on August 21, 2013.   The ex-president of Vagos Nicaragua, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez was sentenced to life in prison on October 3, 2013 with the possibility of parole after 20-years.

Between motorcycle manufactures, affinity groups, retailers, mechanics and aftermarket accessories, there is a wide support network of resources for our motorcycles.  More important is that many of us are looking for the same thing from the motorcycle community which means finding others who share similar interests, getting involved and contributing our time and resources to help others and the motorcycle community at large.

And speaking of motorcycle ambassadors of peace and spreading goodwill around the world…

Let’s talk Vagos and Hells Angels.  Recently, the Washoe County Grand Jury testimony was released and the proceedings outline the resulting indictments of three men accused in the shooting of  Jeffrey Pettigrew, the San Jose HAMC chapter president during Street Vibrations in September 2011 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.  The grand jury was conducted by two Washoe County Deputy District Attorneys named Karl Hall and Amos Stege. The full transcript is about 60,000 words long.

No, I’m not moving the blog into the “True Crime” genre.  I’m re-publishing the testimony from Confidential Source #11-67 who was previously identified as former Vago Jacob Cancelli because it provides a disappointing look into the world of motorcycle clubs and some of their members.  Mr. Cancelli was one of the 14 witnesses who appeared before the Washoe County Grand Jury on November 9, 2011.  I have yet to received a copy of the Grand Jury transcript, but this information comes courtesy of the Aging Rebel blog and I want to provide a shout out on his deep coverage of the topic.

Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez (L)

As quick background; Vago Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez is accused of fatally shooting the HAMC president.  Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana is accused of shooting two other Vagos.  And Vagos Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick is charged with instigating the fight that led to the fatal shooting.

Here is a partial transcript from the Sparks Grand Jury testimony:

The Informer (Confidential Source #11-67; former Vago Jacob Cancelli)

Question (Q): Sir I am going to refer to you as Confidential Source 11-67, all right?

Answer (A): Yes….

Q. Are you familiar with the Vagos motorcycle club?

A. Yes. I have been a Vagos for twenty-seven years. I have been involved with Vagos for twenty-seven years. I moved up the ranks to a very high rank of Vagos within the last few months. Before this event took place, I was in the higher echelon, echelon, excuse me, of the club.

Q. Were you at the Nugget on the 23rd of September, 2011?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. Are you familiar…I am showing you or behind you videoed surveillance tape that was captured from the Oyster Bar. It is Vagos-H.A. Oyster Bar two at about 22:13 hours or about 10:13 p.m. on that day. Do you recognize some of the individuals that are depicted in that video?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. I am going to play a little bit of that video. Are you familiar with Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. How are you familiar with him?

A. Through the club.

Q. You can identify him?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know Cesar Villagrana?

A. Yes.

Q. How do you know him?

A. Through the club.

Q. Through the club?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. How about Mr. Pettigrew, Jeffrey also known as Jethro Pettigrew?

A. Yes, I can identify him, too.

Q. Can you identify an individual by the name of Gary Stuart Rudnick?

A. What is his….

Q. “Jabbers?”

A. Yes.

Q. So “Jabbers” would be a nickname?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. Having been at the Nugget, were you over in the Oyster Bar on the night in question, the 23rd?

A. Yes.

Q. All right.

A. That is me right there.

Q. That would be you?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you familiar with what was going on that night?

A. Yes.

Q. Was there any tension between the Hells Angels motorcycle club and the Vagos motorcycle club?

A. Yes, there was.

Q. What was the nature of that tension?

A. What had happened is that, if I might go through this, may go through this, I got a call. I was by the east elevator bar over there.

We got a call there was a problem with the Hells Angels. So when we got that call, we moved towards the area of the Oyster Bar, and at that time, when I went to the Oyster Bar in this corner here, the corner…Is this the Oyster Bar here?

Q. Yes?

A. That’s the back bar, right?

Q. So it bears over on the left-hand corner.

A. Okay. Right here where you see this little area here, it is a little box. There is an opening behind it. Rght there is where “Jabbers” was at, at the time when I first came up, and Pettigrew.

Q. What was going on between “Jabbers” or Mr. Rudnick and Mr. Pettigrew?

A. Well, when I walked up, there was a lot of Vagos that were around.

And I took a look over there, and they both came out, and “Jabbers”

was very upset. And he just kept on talking, kept on talking, kept on talking. And he kept taunting Pettigrew. What he was saying was the likes of, “I don’t know you. You don’t have a right to touch me. What are you doing?” You know. “I don’t even need to talk to you,” things of that nature, really pushing on top of him. Pettigrew’s response back to him was, “Hey, man, you know, I was just having a good time. I just want to have a beer,”

basically. He wasn’t in no shape or form upset at that time. Top Hat, who is this gentleman right here, is a twenty-year what you call a Nomad for a member. I have known Top Hat for twenty-six years. He was there when we get to that point to talk in conversation with Pettigrew. What had happened is that we were talking to Pettigrew. He was cool. He was just saying, “Hey man, everything is good. I have no problem.” “Jabbers” comes up and “Jabbers” then starts taunting him.

You know, “You had no right touching me.” What he meant by “touching”, he just tapped him on the back, basically. You know, what my insinuation was, he tapped him on the back. He said, “Hey, do you want to have a beer?” “Jabbers” took it as an offensive thing, pushed out his chest because, of course, there was a lot more Vagos than there were Hells Angels. So he kept on taunting. He wouldn’t stop. So I told him, I said, “Listen, shut the fuck up.” Excuse my French, but I have to tell you the way it went. I said, “Shut the fuck up. Get the fuck out of here.” He backed up for a minute, then he come back again. I said, “I told you to leave.” He says, “Hey, hey, don’t worry.” I said, “I told you to leave.” Now me, in my position, he has to listen to me.

So what happens is that Pettigrew and I are talking. He comes back up again, and then Pettigrew looks at him. I am going to call him Jethro.

Jethro looks at him and he says to Jethro, “You know I don’t know why you had to touch me.” He says, you know, “Just talk to me.” He said, “I don’t need to talk to you,” this and this, whatever. Jethro lost it. He got pissed off.

Q. Jethro Pettigrew is mad at “Jabbers” or Rudnick?

A For taunting him, taunting him, taunting him. He finally just said, “Listen, I don’t need to fucking talk to you no more.” He turned around and walked away.

Q. We have that depicted on the video. Let’s see, Mr. Rudnick also known as “Jabbers” and so we are at 22:13:40?

A. We are looking at him right now.

Q. Can I ask you to back up so we can see? I have a pointer right here. We can kind of identify people. Now this individual at the bottom left-hand corner?

A. Gonzales.

Q. Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez?

A. Yes.

Q. Is he associated…How would be he associated with Mr. Rudnick or “Jabbers”?

A. He would be associated just as a brother, but he’s an underling because “Jabbers” is a V.P., Vice President. So at any moment, if “Jabbers” was to ask him for assistance to back him up, he would do it. So Mr. Gonzalez is basically the backup to Mr. Rudnick because Rudnick is a Vice President in the Vagos. “Jabbers,” yes, and here is Pettigrew right there. That is him. All he’s doing, he’s just trying, shaking people’s hand, saying hello. That is his MO, tapping, say hello, whatever. This is when I come over, because “Jabbers” is having serious issues. So this is Top Hat, Gonzalez, they call him Romeo, that is his nickname. There is “Jabbers” right there. So I go over there. I am talking to him for a minute, and I told him…and here is this guy that was backing him up. This is the guy that says I won’t leave my Vice President. He’s an L.A. charter. This is Bret from South Bay, South Bay member. I think that is Bret right there from South Bay.

Q. Did you go over and talk to Pettigrew?

A. Yes. This is Pettigrew right here, Hells Angels President. I am over there talking to him. And this is Crusher, his name is Leo Ramirez. He’s one of the guys that got shot.

Q. Leonard Ramirez, the person that got shot in the stomach?

A. Yes, he did. He watches over me. That was his job. And I am talking to Top Hat here. And what we were trying to do is make everything at ease right here, settle everybody, to back them off. We don’t want nobody in there.

Q. You were trying to diffuse the situation, avoid an altercation?

A. One hundred percent. See there, I am on the phone. I am trying to get in touch with some of the top, top, National members so I could tell them what is going on before this thing turns into a problem.

Q. Now were there a lot of Vagos meeting at the Nugget that weekend?

A. Yes.

Q. Had there been a meeting earlier that day at the Nugget?

A. Yes. We had a meeting at 8:00 o’clock in the West towers.

Q. Approximately how many Vagos members attended that meeting?

A. Over five hundred. There was a Vagos members meeting. Right afterward, there was a Prospect meeting. Then right after that, there was a Nomad meeting. Nomad, which means there is gentlemen Vagos in the club that have been in the club twenty years or over. And there was a Nomad force there. They had the third meeting. After this meeting took place and everything, we remained downstairs again.

Q. All right. We can still see Mr. Gonzales in the bottom right-hand corner, Mr. Rudnick or “Jabbers” there kind of in the middle, I think that would be.

A. There is “Jabbers” talking to Top Hat. That is his wife. Top Hat is trying to talk to him, but “Jabbers” is not paying attention. He’s just getting more and more frustrated. See by Top Hat’s demeanor when he’s talking to him, basically telling him he has to back up, just relax. Can we go back for a moment, please?

Q. Yes. I am getting there. Bear with me. It is more.

A. That’s it right there.

Q. We’ll get there.

A. There I am. I have got everybody for the back.  That is Bob. He is the Vice President of the San Jose Hells Angels. I went up to Bob. I was talking to him, and he said, “Everything is going to be all right.” He says, “I am getting too old for this.” I said, “I am getting to old for this, too.” We shook each other hands.  A lot of people around didn’t like what was going on. But I talked to his Hang-around. I am talking to the guy. Now Top Hat goes back.

Everybody is a little bit tight. And there is “Jabbers” right there.

Q. Rudnick went back over to where Pettigrew was?

A. Yes. I go back in. I am getting angry. I told him already to go. When I go…Leo’s name is Crusher, the Vagos name we call him.

Q. Leonard, Leo, Crusher, they are all the same….

A. Yes.

Q. …guy?

A. Crusher, Leo, is right here. He has to watch me. I am telling him to leave.

Q. You are telling “Jabbers” to leave?

A. He’s trying to tell him, “What is going on? Don’t touch me.” He’s, “Listen, I was just playing around.” So him, Top Hat and I are telling “Jabbers”, I put my hand on “Jabber,” said, “back off.” I said, “Get out of here.” Basically just leave. I am telling him. That is his essay.

Q. What happened after that? Did Mr. Rudnick, “Jabbers”, say anything about the situation?

A. Yeah. What happened is that “Jabbers” kept taunting him.

Q. Taunting Pettigrew?

A. Taunting Pettigrew. What happened is Pettigrew then got angry and he says, “I don’t need to talk to you no more,” basically. And he walks away. So I tell everybody to walk out. “Jabbers” and Top Hat sit right here at the video, and “Jabbers” is drunk, and he tells Top Hat, he says, “Why are Nomads always getting involved with our business?”

Nomads are, the Nomad Vagos are Vagos. We are all one. But still, they are there to help out. Nomads are there to help out, and each one of the charters of the Vagos, for any type of encouragement if someone has a problem, whatever. They can come into any meeting they want to at any time to hear what is going on within the structure of each charter. He give Top Hat, he has a beard, a full beard, and he says, “You got this much time, because I made a call to the guys. They were still upstairs, the National members. This is the International Vice President, Secretary, Sergeant at Arms, all the way upstairs talking.

What I then did was made a call to the National President and he didn’t answer the phone. I then called the National President Nomads, Rocky, and we talked and he says, “Come up here immediately.” I walked. Then he says, Top Hat, I am right next to Top Hat, “If you guys don’t get down here, something’s going to happen.”

Q. What did he mean by that?

A. It is going to get it on, move without anybody’s, you know, permission or anything.

Q. When you say get it on, Vagos are going to fight with Hells Angels?

A. One hundred percent. So I got pissed off at him. Right at that point, being who I am, I could have smacked him in the mouth, knocked him out, but I didn’t choose to do that. I went upstairs, because this is a big deal going on here. When I went upstairs, I talked to Dragonman and Dragonman and Rocky are up there. We are talking about the situation, what happened. I told him Jabbers is drunk. I told him that, you know, he was taunting the guy. And I told him it is going to turn into a real bad thing real quick, because us and Hells Angels don’t get along too well at all because of past history. So what they did is they formed their little group. They came downstairs. They walked around. They came back down to the bar where no one was allowed. All Vagos were backing up at that time. They went into the bar. Pettigrew was there, Jethro, and they talked to Jethro and they talked to Bobby V and everything was diffused. They said everything’s cool. Jethro says he didn’t want no issues. There is no problems. They said, okay, everything is fine. There is no problems here. Everything is cool. The problem is, when you have a lot of people, when you have over five hundred people from a particular organization, you can’t get the word out to everybody at one time. That is the problem. So they came walking back. And I don’t know if you want to go through that area.

Q. Well, we’ll get to that area. But before I get there, can I talk a little bit about the organization of the Vagos organization?

A. Absolutely.

Q. All right. So can you tell us about how the organization is structured? You talked about the hierarchy, the upper echelon?

A. How it is structured is that you have a panel that are called International who are what you call the top of the whole Green Nation Vagos Motorcycle Club. It starts with the International President, then goes International Vice President, International Secretary, International Sergeant at Arms, International Road Captain.

Q. What are their duties? What are they charged with, those different people?

A. Road Captain is on the road. He basically takes over the pack or the charter, whoever is on the road with him. The International Road Captain, at all times you have to obey what he has to say when you are on the road with the Road Captain, because it is the road. What happens is, when he takes a pack anywhere, whether it is to Vegas, Reno, whatever, everybody has to follow his direction. He controls it on the freeway. Sergeant at Arms, when you are off the bikes and you are out and about, Sergeant of Arms position is to make sure that nobody, absolutely nobody guests hurt, has any problems. I am talking Vagos members. Okay. Each Vagos charter has the same type of set up.

You have your President, you have your Vice President, you have your Secretary, you have your Sergeant at Arms, and you have your Raod Captain. Now each one of them have to follow pretty much the same direction. So the International President, he runs the club. The International Vice President assists him in running the club. He’s like what you call a concierge, tells him, delegates certain things to him, what he thinks he should do. The Secretary takes care of, you know, the books, Bylaws, things of that nature. At the end, the Secretary combines everything and puts it together. The Sergeant at Arms, his position is to protect the President, International President at all times, at all cost no matter what it is. Okay. If the International President was here at the time, the first thing was to protect him from all members, because it read that way in the Bylaws.

In the Bylaws it says that, number one, start off with the International President. At all times the International President is to be respected under any circumstances, wartime or whatever, wherever he’s at. That is the way it runs and that is the way it operates.

Q. Is respect an important part of the Vagos creed and the Vagos code?

A. Absolutely. Right underneath that part of the Bylaws there is a thing call PBTs. The PBTs are…The PBTs are in essence underneath the International President. They are what you call a higher king of the whole club. Anyone that disrespects them faces serious, serious consequences. Anybody from any chapter, say for instance there is a Riverside chapter. Say for instance there is an L.A. chapter. Say for instance members of the L.A. chapter come up to the President of the other chapter and says words to him, he reports that to the President, and then he could take care of it the way he wants to. Or this President takes care of it the way he thinks is peaceable. They talk about it. They come to a remedy. Most of the time, most of the time when disrespect gets out of order, they don’t call the patch no more.

They became Prospect again. Sometimes they get a beating. So if the guy has been around a long time, what they will do is Prospect him.

Now how it operates, to become a Vagos member, you have got to hang around first. It is called Hang-around. From Hang-around, if we feel everything is good and you are a good person to come into the club, we feel you could do the right thing within the club, from that standpoint it goes from Hang-around to Prospect. When you became a Prospect, the minimum amount of time for Prospects are six months minimum amount of time. It depends on your actions. It depends how you are. But even though you are a Prospect for one charter, because there is a lot of charters of the Vagos, illustration, for instance southern California, Rivera, if there was a Prospect for southern California Rivera that belongs to me or belongs to another individual, at that time, that Prospect then not only belongs to me but has to have the respect of all and everybody until such time as he earns the patch. So wherever he has to travel, wherever he has to go, whatever he has to do, he does as a Prospect to earn that patch.

Q. So for example if you have prospects that made the trip up to Reno, what would they be tasked to do or told to do?

A. Well, that is when you had the second meeting with the prospects. And the prospects are usually told, I wasn’t at the Prospect meeting, but have respect, shake everybody’s hand, get to meet everybody, say hello. But in any situation, when a situation like that happened, you will see in this video there is a Prospect that is walking through, and they will up the command of their sponsor, move into a battle if they are told to, because if they don’t, they are gone.

Q. Do Vagos typically carry a weapon?

A. There is a lot of Vagos that carry weapons.

Q. Is that part — Is everybody required to carry weapons or is it just your own personal choice?

A. Well, it is basically personal choice. You are not required to carry a weapon. Most of the time, probably ninety-six percent of the club carries a knife, a pretty long knife, a knife that could create damage.

Q. What about guns?

A. Yes, they carry guns.

Q. Are they an outlaw gang?

A. Yes.

Q. Are they involved in criminal activity?

A. Absolutely.

Q. What kind of criminal activity would that include?

A. Murder, rape, robbery, drugs, all types.

Q. Now we were talking about the patch. What is it? Is there a symbol that the Vagos have?

A. Well, laymen’s term, there are two parts of the Vagos. I mean a pack of guys riding into the wind, motorcycle gypsies. The Loki on the back the thing that looks like the demon, it is called a Norse God of Mischief. And those are, it is a very mythological term. It means, for instance, super natural. It means germantic mythology. It means neo-paganism. It means to slaughter. There is a lot of meanings to the Loki. That is basically it. If you took any time and looked, you could see for yourself what it means. It comes out of mythology, not from here but from Germany, from the Netherlands and some EEC countries.

Q. All right. I was just, if you could look behind you, I have displayed a jacket. So when we are talking about the patch, full patch member, is this the patch I am pointing to with the Loki?

A. Yeah. This right here is the Vagos patch. This is the rocker that represents where you are from.

Q. Did somebody say something?

A. This is their flags, and this is the beginning of when you became a member of the Vagos motorcycle club. This patch is not on your back at first when you are a Prospect. When you are done prospecting, that patch is given to you and you have to sew that patch on. Then you take it somewhere to get it sewed on.

Q. All right now before we kind of digress into the Vagos and discussed the Vagos and hierarchy, I had a couple other questions about that. Do the Vagos have, each chapter, have regular meetings?

A. Yes. They are called church.

Q. And what do you discuss at church?

A. Church, usually it is pretty much a lot of the same things, but most of the stuff at the church that is going on is the Bylaws, the Bylaws of the Vagos way of living. To make sure they understand those Bylaws.

Everything in the Bylaws has to do with the National with the Presidents, with the members, with prospects and Vagos old ladies, their thinking of that nature. He’s laughing over there. I am going to tell you, you are going to like this, the thing about the Vagos ladies that has changed is that Vagos old ladies like to ride bikes, so they can’t ride bikes in the pack with the guys. What they have to do, they have their own Vagos lady patch that says she’s the property of such and such a member. Say for instance Leo, his wife has a rocker on her patch that says Vagos old lady belonging to Crusher, property of Crusher which means that is his property. No one can go near, disrespect or whatever. But if she wants to ride a bike and get on the bike, the rules change. If we are going out in the pack, say we are going up to, you know, coming here to Reno in a pack, she wants to ride a bike, she has to ride in the back of the pack, just like any guest or anybody of that nature. A Hang-around, the same thing.

Prospects ride in the back also. Only members ride in the front, back then there is prospects then the Vagos old ladies.

Q. Now Mr. Rudnick, what was his rank?

A. “Jabbers”?

Q. “Jabbers”?

A. Please, if you call him “Jabbers”.

Q. We’ll go with “Jabbers.” I am sorry. Rudnick, “Jabbers.”

A. He is Vice President of the Los Angeles Vagos.

Q. So would that be the higher echelon?

A. He’s the second in command of his charter.

Q. Are there people under him that are required to protect him and stand behind him and back him up in case of an altercation?

A. Absolutely. His whole charter, his Sergeant of Arms, depending on Campos. Campos was it. He holds rank. So you have to make sure he’s all right. By the same token, make sure the Vice President is okay.

They split it. Usually they will have one. Sometimes Vagos charters or chapters they will have two Sergeants of Arm in their charters. A lot of them have two. One follows the president, one follows the Vice President. So, yes, they do watch them to make sure he’s okay. Being he’s in that position, all Vagos members, who are not…who are not officers of the club, if he needs assistance, they have to assist him no matter if they are at another charter. He don’t have to ask nobody at a time when something like this goes on, pull him off to do something.

Q. All right. Now I am going to go to camera number 45.

A. Okay. This is the guy right here.

Q. There is “Jabbers” there. No, that is not “Jabbers”, excuse me, this is Garcia?

A. Yeah.

Q. Diego?

A. Diego, yes.

Q. Do you know who these women are?

A. Yeah. That is the International Secretary’s old lady, I think her name is Patty, and that is her sister.

Q. Are they associated with the Vagos?

A. They are Vagos. Lori is definitely a Vagos old lady. These are just friends of hers.

Q. Do you know what charter Diego Garcia is associated with?

A. San Jose.

Q. Now did you see Diego Garcia that evening?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you notice whether or not he had any injuries?

A. Yes. He was shot in the right leg. There is Gonzales. Romeo. That is Little Dave right there. Now he’s here. He comes over to have a discussion. This is the Sergeant at Arms for South Bay. This is Justin. He’s a Prospect. When you see his back, you will see a patch.

This gentleman is from Lake County. I think his name is Mike or Mark.

I can’t remember. You have to, even though you are in a club for a long time, there is some people in a club, there is not just a couple hundred, you know, there is over thousands of people in the club now.

Right there is “Jabbers.” Right there. He’s putting on his gloves. He’s talking to him. The reason why he’s putting on his gloves, for one reason only, is that it is a premeditated thing. They are going to start some action. This thing is going to go off. And they already have talked to each other, and he told him and he put on his gloves, because they are ready to get down with the people that will come into the picture here shortly. See his gloves going on?

Q. Are these Hells Angels?

A. These are Hells Angels.

Q. Walking past him?

A. And there is some prospects and Hang-arounds that are moving forward. Mind you, this was diffused by National. This is Bobby V, the Vice President, and this is Pettigrew. Now this is “Jabbers”.

Q. When you say it was diffused, you were talking about forty minutes earlier when they were at the Oyster Bar?

A. Absolutely. When the National members went down and talked to them, everything was worked out. It was diffused. There was no problems.

Q. Do you know Pettigrew or Jethro?

A Yes.

Q. What is his rank?

A President of San Jose Hells Angels.

Q. Is that significant?

A. In Hells Angels world, absolutely. He’s one of probably top five or six on the council of Hells Angels.

Q. So he’s an important person in the Hells Angels organization?

A. One of the most important guys in the United States.

Q. All right. So do you know whether or not the Hells Angels motorcycle club is similar to the Vagos motorcycle club in terms of the hierarchy and the code of conduct in terms of protecting the President, respect?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. Very similar?

A. One hundred percent. The only difference between the Hells Angels and only difference between the Vagos is that each charter or chapter of the Hells Angels are all separately incorporated. Vagos are under one cooperate-type entity. The Hells Angels, it is a very, actually it is a smart move on their behalf. The reason why, it has to do with, you know, conspiracy factors and what is the other?

Q. Aiding and abetting, Rico?

A. Rico. Thank you so much. Rico and things of that nature. So if someone does something in this chapter here, that is incorporated, Hells Angels San Jose, San Francisco is not responsible. Oakland is not responsible for that particular situation. That is how it was formed by them. Sonny Barger forged that a while back.

Q. 23:25.

A. We see the gloves on Diego. What he does, you just saw him, he taps him saying, hey, you know, seems like he’s saying no problem. But this guy right here, “Jabbers”, has a big mouth. He’s always had a big mouth. This guy is going to grab on to him, because he probably sees him taunting again.

Q. Would taunting and provoking….

A. Yes.

Q. …be similar?

A. Absolutely.

Q. To pick a fight?

A. Yeah. He’s again in his face. Pettigrew as you saw was walking by.

He called him over.

Q. Would that be disrespectful?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. After what had happened earlier at the Oyster Bar to call him over?

A. Absolutely. As far as today is concerned with “Jabbers”, he’s no longer in the Vagos motorcycle club. He’s been kicked out, okay? And because of the problems he’s done which is going to create a lot of problems for him.

Q. I don’t want to digress. I am on a limited time. Let’s just, I want to bring your attention to one thing, though that would maybe be indicative of preparation for battle, and that was one thing that we already discussed was the fact Diego Garcia put some gloves on. Based upon your experience with the club, that would be preparation for battle?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. The other thing where we have Romeo.

A. Romeo, yeah he’s taking off.

Q. He has a drink?

A. He comes over, drops off his drink which means he’s getting prepared. This is the President of San Jose.

Q. Now he’s freeing up his hands?

A. There. He’s right there.

Q. Vagos there. Here is a Hells Angels that gets hit. Over here you can see Pettigrew and Bobby V getting attacked from the rear?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Would that be, based upon your view of this, a concerted effort?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. Of the Vagos? All right.

A. But it works on both ends because….

Q. Pettigrew threw the first punch?

A. It started from that point, things going to happen. Pettigrew could have said to him as well, hey, listen things has been diffused. I talked to your National members. Everything is okay. It didn’t happen.  This is the outcome. That is Leo Ramirez right there. He was shot. He was shot in the stomach. And he shot Diego in the leg and Gonzalez, Romeo, disappeared back here.

Q. Would it be fair to say in modern terms parlance a challenge to fight was issued and accepted in this particular case?

A. Absolutely. There is Pettigrew.

Q. Now where were you in relation when all this was going down? Where were you?

A. I was blown to some tables. When I came down the aisle, everything started to happen. We took a right turn. Right to the left, Pettigrew was right in the middle. He was in the fight. The Vagos were crushing him. Leo went inside. Gunshots went off. Leo went left, went out, got shot in the stomach. All hell broke loose, just bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, you know. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, numerous amount of shots were happening. I ran straight. I told everybody to hit the deck, everybody. There is people still on the tables, people on machines.

Finally, everybody…actually rammed into the tables, and there is a lady delivering some drinks. I ran into the table. She fell down. I hit my hand. I just wanted to get everybody down. When gunfire is going off, anyone can get hit. I am surprised that a citizen didn’t get shot in the event. Because anyone could have walked out of any corner anywhere. You could have walked out of the bathroom and got shot.

Q. There was one other individual that I wanted to ask you if you knew who he was.

A. There is Gonzales there.

Q. I guess I can ask in simple terms, do you know who shot Leonard Ramirez or Leo?

A. Yes, him.

Q. This fellow right here?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know what his name is?

A. God, I can’t believe it. I lost my train of thought on him. Cesar.

Q. Cesar Villagrana?

A. Yes. Sorry.

Q. That is all right. We can see this fight here. Are there other altercations going on?

A. Bobby V gets hit. He hit him in the head with the gun. Lake County Vagos. There is a fight down over here.

Q. He’s going to get hit again. You see him go down right there?

A. Yup. Because that happens. That is when he walks in, all the fight starts happening over here.

Q. There is the shooting?

A. Yeah, bam. But then there was so many shots going on right now.  There is shots going on through this whole melee that is happening here.

Q. Did you see any Vagos with guns?

A. Here?

Q. Well….

A. No.

Q. While you were there?

A. No, I didn’t see guns. They were all tucked away. But I am sure there were plenty of guns there.

Q. So then I was going to go to camera 5.

A. These are Vagos old ladies. One is “Jabbers” wife here.

Q. Would there be a reason they would be standing over here as opposed to standing over there with their husband?

A. The husbands told them to move over here, because something was going to take place.

Q. The altercation we just witnessed on camera 45 would be happening at the top of the screen?

A. Absolutely.

Q. They are kind of back here?

A. Because they were told to go there.

Q. Would that be indicative of a prior plan to engage in mutual combat?

A. Absolutely. Absolutely. They are watching the whole time. As you can see, although people here, some people here, any moment any of them could have been shot, been killed innocently.

Q. Here is 88.

A. That is me, and Pettigrew is in here now with the fight. Then the bullets. You will see me run through here. Bullets go off.

Q. Pettigrew in camera 5 at 23:26:20. There is a number of Vagos he’s confronting?

A. Yes. Leo comes in here, takes a left. He would be right over here.

Takes a right. He is throwing something at the guy with the gun. I don’t know, maybe it is his karate background, who knows. But at that time, he gets shot, but then the shooting is pretty repetitive. It happened, you hear the first round of shooting go off, one, two seconds; next sound of shooting go off, one, two seconds; next round of shooting goes off. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And to me it sounded like there were thirty rounds go off. It is not out of the question for the members, after they shoot their guns or whatever, to pick up the bullets as the evidence and take it with them. Everybody is hitting the ground.

Q. That looks like another Hells Angels getting chased by some Vagos there.

A. Yeah. He ran through here. I think that is Lunch Box right there.

Q. All right. Then camera 3. So this would be just to the left of Trader Dicks looking at the bathrooms?

A. Yeah. That is the bathroom. That is the men’s. Women’s over there.

Q. We need to kind of move ahead a little.

A. There I am right there.

Q. Okay. So that you are heading towards the altercation?

A. Absolutely. You see the punch. You see, I mean you see the punch right there, bam when he hit “Jabbers” in the face, then all the melee took place.

Q. Ducking and running, is that consistent with the beginning of people running for cover?

A. Absolutely. You know, it is a Friday night. There is a lot of people at the casino. Everybody is just minding their business playing, you know, their game, playing their poker, playing their game. And this is like a pretty heavy thing to happen.

Q. Here we see an H.A.?

A. Yeah.

Q. He gets attacked by more Vagos down here?

A. Yes, he does.

Q. That is a group of Vagos attacking the Hells Angels?

A. Absolutely. Actually, some women in the women’s bathroom.

Q. So right there is that where you see Pettigrew come down?

A. Yes.

Q. That is where Pettigrew….

A. Gets shot.

Q. That is where he gets shot, right there?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Okay.

A. He gets shot four times in the back.

Q. So then here is camera 7, and that surveillance camera captures the front of Rosie’s Cafe which, again, is just left of the bathroom. I guess that would be south of the bathroom. I am going to go ahead.

A. There I am right there. I just came out of the bathroom with Crusher.

Q. Ramirez was with you?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. He went down where the fight was. That is where he got shot?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Diego Garcia putting on the gloves. He gets shot?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Then Pettigrew gets shot?

A. And he dies.

Q. So that series of events I just relayed, is that consistent with the video and your recollection of the events of that evening?

A. Yes.

Q. Basically, was that a result of the challenge to fight issued by “Jabbers” to Pettigrew?

A. Absolutely. One hundred percent.

Q. All right. Thank you.

MR. HALL: I have no further questions.

THE FOREMAN: Do we have any questions for the witness?

A GRAND JUROR: I have a question.

THE WITNESS: Yes.

A GRAND JUROR: Do you know who actually fired the shots at Mr.

Pettigrew and hit him with the bullets?

THE WITNESS: Yeah, Gonzales.

A GRAND JUROR: I don’t know if you can answer this. Is he just following the code at that point, Gonzales, do you think?

THE WITNESS: When a situation like this happens, it is Vagos Forever, Forever Vagos. Whatever happens at that time, the way the Vagos organization feels, when you get into situations is to protect. And “Jabbers”, he is a Vice President. That is how it started. So the thing was the guy who was the shooter and Diego, they are related.  They are family, okay? So the chapter that was started, when you saw the cut, the jacket with the Vagos Nicaragua and San Jose are all cousins. Gonzalez and Diego are cousins. They are the ones who helped start that whole charter down there. And they are building the chapter very rapidly down there right now. So to your answer, it is a thing that happens, and it is a protective mode to go in because of the guns and the shooting of the other Vagos individuals that got shot first by the Hells Angels automatically puts them into the mode to shoot one of them.

BY MR. HALL:

Q. I was going to ask a question. You mentioned San Jose and the fact the Vagos are expanding rapidly in the San Jose area, Nicaragua area.

The Vagos were expanding in the San Jose area?

A. They were.

Q. Had that caused some problems with the Hells Angels?

A. Yes. Hells Angels didn’t want them there. The Hlls Angels in northern California are very big. The Hells Angels felt the Vagos were coming into their territory. It is like you have a home. You have an acre of land. That is your land. They have been there for some years.

They claim that territory. Like taking a house and putting it on the corner of your lot. That is the way they feel about it in laymen’s terms. This is our house. Just don’t move into our territory. It is going to create problems. Well, it has been creating problems forever.

A lot of people…this is not the first incident that this has happened.

This has been building up, building up. Big Mike, Lake County got beat merciless in a casino. But he was the one who was provoking the Hells Angels over there telling them they were scum bags, they are pigs, all these things. They came and beat his ass. There was another Vagos with him named Chris from Lake County who was a Secretary. They didn’t touch him because he wasn’t a big mouth. So with all that said, then you have the incident in Bakersfield. I don’t know if you know about the incident in Bakersfield. An 18 year old young man was stabbed right through his body by Diego who was a Hells Angels.

Q. The victim was a Vagos?

A. Victim was a Vagos. His father brought him in. He was an 18 year old kid. Now that was also provoked by the Vagos motorcycle club. He said go up in, a 18 year old young man who was getting patched. The Bylaws, an 18 year old is not suppose to come into this club. For some reason his father, being in the position he was, their rules were changed a little bit. But the kid was killed, and he was stabbed twice in the back. So the man went on trial, but it got self-defense on the Hells Angels. They walked away. But Vagos provoked it. They provoked that one, too. Lied about it at first. It was provoked. So then the point being, there has been some ongoing animosity and problems between the Vagos and Hell Angels. Arizona. This is all stuff that just happened within the last, you know, year and a half, two years. Arizona there was a pack going to a party. Hells Angels came out, six guys shooting on the Vagos on the bikes, shooting on them. They weren’t very good shots, I hate to say. When the Vagos came up on them, they shot three of their guys. You know, one was critical. This is a situation that is ongoing. And because of this particular event and, you know, Pettigrew.

Q. We can probably leave it there I am sure as far as this case goes.

A. Okay. Yes?

A. GRAND JUROR: How long is someone in the higher hierarchy? If you are a Vice President, is it a year term, four years, until they vote you out?

THE WITNESS: You can stay there. You are pretty much there as long as you want to be. There is a vote that happens, but most of the time in the vote, people don’t like to be in an officer position because an officer position is the one that gets hit the most, you know, from all sanctions, whether it be National or law enforcement. They go after a lot of the hierarchy, you know, the Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries, all that. So in order to become, you know, an officer in a club, you have got to really think hard in order to do that. But, yes, he could be there for a very long time. But if the time period comes, he could became a Nomad and do what he wants to do.

THE FOREMAN: Do we have any other questions? Sir, the proceedings before the Grand Jury are secret. You may not disclose evidence presented to the Grand Jury, any event occurring or statement made in the presence of the Grand Jury, any information obtained by the Grand Jury or the result of the investigation being made by the Grand Jury.  However, you may disclose the above information to the District Attorney for use in the performance of his duties. You may also disclose your knowledge concerning the proceedings when directed by a court in connection with judicial proceeding or when otherwise permitted by the court to your own attorney. The obligation of secrecy applies until the Court allows the matter to become public record. A gross misdemeanor and contempt of court may be pursued if your obligation of secrecy is not followed. Do you understand?

THE WITNESS: I understand.

THE FOREMAN: Thank you.

THE WITNESS: Thank you.

(Witness excused.)

Photos courtesy of Scott Sonner/AP

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Doobie Brothers performing at the 2003 Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary

Rain. Snow. Rain. Wind. Rain. Hail.

That pretty much sums up the local weather Sunday.  A blast of winter brought a mix of odd weather to the area, with temperatures in the 40s and rain turning into snow turning to hail throughout the day.

So it’s Sunday afternoon with a couple hard weeks of work under the belt and I’m thinking about better weather and motorcycle riding.  I’m running errands and pushing the XM buttons in the automobile.  I settled in on a little gem from the Doobie Brothers fourth album “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits” and I crank the volume on the song “Another Park, Another Sunday.”

Wow, it’s a flashback.

I suddenly remember buying the album on cassette (remember those?) and was instantly transported back in time to that moment of driving the stereo speakers in a ’76 Toyota Celica to the point of distortion, listening to music that energized and soothed the soul at the same time.  Hearing Tom Johnston again reminded me that the Doobie Brothers opened at the 100th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee in 2003. The Doobies were solid rock along with Kid Rock, but it was also the year that an intern who ran a focus group at the motor company mistook the leathers of Elton John as a motorcycle enthusiast and completely missed the mark on the Milwaukee demographic.   People left the venue in droves wondering how Harley-Davidson could have made such a mistake.  I also remember crashing an event a few years back in Las Vegas where Pat Simmons was playing in an intimate bar across the street from the LVCC for a Kingston Memory private party.  Pat along with a terrific band played some rockin’ down the highway tunes for several hours.

And speaking of Nevada, we’re about a month away from the Laughlin River Run.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Laughlin, NV rally then it’s a must add to your riding “bucket list.”  It’s four days of wall-to-wall bikes, exhibits, vendors and entertainment. The rally is distinctive with 10 major casino resorts along a two-mile stretch on Casino Drive and everything is literally at your hotel doorstep.   The desert makes a great backdrop and riding bonus for the event.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that long-time Doobie Brothers drummer Michael Hossack passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.  Hossack helped give the band its distinctive sound with two drummers and was critical to a number of hit albums. Michael played on the “Another Park, Another Sunday” as well as the rest of the “Vices” album, “The Captain And Me” and “Toulouse Street.”  They all make great Sunday riding music.  Listening back on some of the tracks you can’t help but think what a great musical drummer he was especially the killer fill at the beginning of “China Grove.”  He will live on in those tunes because they have stood the test of time.

Photo courtesy Doobie Brothers performing at the Harley-Davidson closing party in downtown Milwaukee August 31, 2003. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

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Pumpkin Festival

I previously blogged about Street Vibrations and the club-on-club shooting in Sparks, NV last month at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino which left dead the HAMC San Jose Chapter President (Jeffrey Pettigrew).

We now have the first documented incident of how the HAMC and Vagos violence has provoked a response from law enforcement in Manteca, CA which is about 75 miles east of San Francisco.

It happened at a Pumpkin Festival in “the family city.”  Yes a Pumpkin Festival.  Two members of the Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry were asked to leave the street fair by the Manteca Police because they were wearing their motorcycle vest with ministry patches on the back. They were told it was due to the shooting in Sparks, NV.

Keep in mind that the Christian Motorcycle Ministry is a non-profit ministry.  Not a street gang, or are they really even a motorcycle club.   Their purpose is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the biker world, a section of society,  that many have chosen not to associate with. The ministry has been operating for 21 years without problems.

Isn’t profiling against the law?  The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Cohen vs. California, 403 U.S.15 (1971) that individuals have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to wear clothing which displays writings or designs. In addition, the right of an individual to have freedom of association has long been recognized and protected by the Courts.

What’s next?  I suppose, motorcyclists will be asked to leave events because they are wearing a H.O.G. emblem on a vest or people wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt or one from their favorite Sons of Anarchy television show. I find this whole situation discouraging.

Photo taken by author in Hood River.

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Cold Creek Inn - Mt. Shasta (Background)

Day 1: (PDX – Mt. Shasta City)
The posse departure date for Laughlin was April 25th. Unfortunately, that morning rain came down in sheets and the wind blew like a hurricane. It is spring in the northwest after all and with the instability…showers produced a mix of rain and small hail with an occasional snow flurry back to rain.  So, rather than enjoy t-shirt riding, we enjoyed getting to know our rain gear and re-learning how to use heated gloves!  Scattered showers continued through the valley off and on, but it got warmer (maybe we were just getting use to it?) as we made our way south.

We rode straight down I-5 and it was an uneventful trip until we hit the Siskiyou pass where snow flurries started.  Fortunately nothing was sticking to the road and we continued on to Mt. Shasta City where we overnighted at the Cold Creek Inn.

Hwy 207 from South Lake Tahoe

We grabbed some dinner at Strings Italian Café and spent the evening re-packing rain gear and warming up.

Day 2: (Mt. Shasta City – Minden, NV)
Temperatures continued to be cold (sub-freezing) when we woke, but the sun was shining which helped thaw out the heavy frost on the bikes.

We plugged in and headed south down I-5 to Red Bluff.  In the first hour we crossed over Lake Shasta.  Bright blue sky with deep blue water made for some awesome photos unfortunately I never stopped to take any pictures.   I’ll add that to my bucket list.  The lake for all practical purposes look full.  And there is still a lot of construction on the I-5 roadway in and around the bridge.  After arriving in Red Bluff we took Hwy 99 South to Los Molinos and Chico.  We proceed south on Hwy 99/162 past the Oroville Wildlife Area to Yuba City then toward Lake of the Woods State Wildlife to Sacramento.  We did a bit of looping in the area and finally made our way east to Folsom on Hwy 50 or the El Dorado Fwy.

Minden, NV - Looking at South Lake Tahoe

We rolled thru Pollock Pines then the Eldorado National Forest via Hwy 50 then Hwy 89/50 thru South Lake Tahoe.  The temperatures remained cool through the 4500-5000 foot level of the national forest and while the road was dry there remained large amounts of snow in the ditches.  We fueled up in South Lake Tahoe and proceeded onto Hwy 207 which runs up and over the mountain after plenty of switchbacks to Minden, NV where we overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express.

Minden is located near the center of Carson Valley and about 15 miles south of Carson City.  We grab dinner at the Carson Valley Inn (Katie’s Country Kitchen) after learning that the CV Steak house closed shop on Tuesdays.

After dinner we were still chilled to the bone with a couple days of electric gloves so we hit the hot tub in the hotel and that seemed to permanently correct the “chilled” situation for the rest of the trip.

Mono Lake

Day 3: (Minden – Las Vegas)
The next morning continued on a bit of a warming trend as we picked up Hwy 395 and headed south.  We meandered along the valley floor and crossed back over the state line into CA., near Topaz Lake.  It was early but fishing boats dotted the lake I suppose to take a shot at capturing another trophy trout.

Bridgeport was the first fuel stop of the morning and where we paid about $25 to fill a 5-gallon motorcycle tank!   Not well know, but Bridgeport hosts the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC).  It’s one of the most remote and isolated military posts and conducts training exercises for military personnel headed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The base is located about 21 miles from the city center on Hwy 108 at Pickle Meadow, but we chatted up some guys in a non-descript white standard issue military van.

Sierra Mountain Range - Hwy 395

As we rode on it wasn’t long before we caught our first glimpse of Mono Lake.  “Mono” means “beautiful” in Piute and besides being an oasis in the great basin it is an awesome sight.  As we continued around Mono Lake we quickly climbed to another 8100-foot ridge where aspen forest dotted the landscape and then we started back down the to the valley floor.  We continued south and near Crestview is a turnoff on Hwy 203.  For many in southern CA., this is the road to Mammoth Lakes and a ski resort.

We ate lunch at a local Denny’s in Bishop, the unofficial capital of Owens Valley and the biggest town on Hwy 395 south of Reno.  The town sits at about 4000 feet, but just a few minutes prior to arriving we were nearly at 9000 feet.  On the way into Bishop I remember looking off east and seeing a large radar array.  I didn’t recall seeing any information and always on the lookout for something new I researched it on my return.  It’s the CARMA Deep Space Satellite Dish Array Complex and turns out to be one of the largest university operated radio observatories in the world known as the Owens Valley Radio Observatory.  Who knew?!

Death Valley

We continued on and arrived in Lone Pine which is between the highway and the Sierra range and was popular for filming western movies.  In fact we passed the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film history and enjoyed a spectacular view of Mt. Whitney (14,494 ft) which is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states.  We took Hwy 190 east which runs though Death Valley National Park.

We entered Death Valley from the west entrance on Hwy 190 and traveled east.  The 3.3 million acres of 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 N.A.  About 20 miles into the park we stopped at Father Crowley Point and ran into a group of riders from Germany.  It seems to me that we end up chatting with folks from Germany about every year in the desert because they ride rented H-D’s with Florida plates.  Last year we met a group riding in the Grand Canyon with snow.  We made another stop at Stovepipe Wells village and another photo opportunity of Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes then headed east on Daylight Pass Road to Beatty, NV., as we needed to make some miles after meandering around in the park.

Below Sea Level

At Beatty we headed south on Hwy 95.  About an hour outside Las Vegas near Indian Springs I saw a big shadow roll over me from the sky and at first I was thinking it was a bird.  I looked back over my left shoulder and it turned out to be a Predator drone making circles in a landing pattern at Creech AFB.  The base use to be called Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, but was changed a few years ago and it’s now home to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and the 432d Wing “Hunters.”

We arrived in Las Vegas and bedded down in the “Hangover Suite” at the MGM.  I kid you not the hotel gave us a mid-week deal on the suite that cost the same as a normal room. We were living life large… at least for one night.

Laughlin Aquarius Hotel/Casino

Day 4: Laughlin
We hit it a bit hard the night before… some a lot more than others… and as a result we made a leisurely mid-day departure out of Vegas and headed toward Laughlin on Hwy 95.  At the Boulder City/Laughlin junction we did an inventory of fuel thinking we could make Searchlight without any issues.  We hadn’t planned on the fierce headwind and as a result my bike ran out of fuel about 7 miles to soon.  We leveraged a tube from one of the tool kits and used a water bottle to transfer some gas from one of the newer bikes which have 6+ gallon fuel tanks.  According to H-D the “check-engine” light which was triggered by the lack of firing due to fuel issue will re-set after about 50 starts and work normal.  I may need to go in and just have them reset it… assuming the cost is minimal to free?

After approximately 1200 miles we finally arrived at the Laughlin River Run and Aquarius Hotel/Casino in time to park our bikes, grab a refreshment and take in a few vendor booths.

The BBQ Crew

Our original plan was to crash at a buddies place in Needles on sleeping bags, but on a whim we decided to check room availability at the Aquarius.  They had rooms, be it 5X the standard budget rate on any other week, but our age group isn’t fond of sleeping bags and hard floors so we opted for plusher surroundings and paid the elevated rates.  Yeah, we’re lame, but showers are nice every couple days!

Summary
Over the next couple days we meandered around the local area, hit the pool once and chatted up the new motorcycle products with vendors and attended a couple of BBQ’s put on by one of our buddies friends from L.A.  First came Big Ed’s BBQ in Bull Head City with authentic Mexican dishes, Fajitas, Spanish rice and other seasoned food that melted in your mouth.  Then there was Big Dave’s in Needles on the Colorado River…   there were dry rubs, spicy pastes and marinated flavor that permeated the meats and provided a wonderful taste.  The shrimp was a killer with the wide range of heat from differing chilies.  Major shout out to the L.A. posse for the awesome hospitality!!

The "Van Down By The River"

Due to work constraints I had to have my bike shipped back to Oregon and caught a flight home late Sunday (May 1), but other members of the posse did a two day return.  Back-to-back nearly 600 mile days means they get the tired butt award!

I would be remiss if I didn’t make a comment about attendance or the Mongol MC.  The Aquarius seemed to be ‘home base’ for many of the members and the valet area had a number of tables with a mini-bar set up to refresh patrons.  The Aquarius had implemented a “no colors” policy that prohibited members of any biker club from displaying their membership patches while in the casino. And some “guests” apparently weren’t aware of the policy and wore colors but, they agreed to comply once they were informed by casino staff.  Indeed there was a large and very visible Metro Police contingent at the hotel as well.

Full On Shrimp...

I’m pleased to report that while motorcycle clubs of all dispositions turned out for the River Run, none caused any major problems for either the casinos or the police this year.  Sure the Aquarius management made the call to restrict casino access to registered guests only from about 6 pm- to-midnight Saturday, but rumors were overblown or simply untrue that motorcycle clubs were the issue.  The hotel made the decision earlier in the afternoon after observing that guests were having difficulty accessing parking lots, games and restaurants due to the sheer volume of visitors and put up the restriction.  As a guest I can tell you it help moved people in and out of the property and performed much better than previous years I’ve stayed at Harrah’s where arm badges and motorcycle passes wasted a lot of time getting off property.

Looking Back At A Great Road Trip

It’s true that attendance was observably down.  Yet, it felt plenty busy vs. jammed up or crowded.  I’m not sure if it was the weather (cooler/windy than normal) or economic as fuel prices approached $5/gallon at many locations.   In my viewpoint the cooler weather helped keep people in the vendor booths — buying — as you weren’t looking for shade or AC to avoid the heat.  If you attended and have some ideas on why attendance was down let me know.

The official stats from this report indicate that arrests were down (31 arrests vs. 34 in 2010).  Six were arrested and charged with felonies including drug possession and grand larceny.  Police issued 199 traffic citations vs. 229 in 2010.

All in all it was a really successful rally/weekend.

Photos taken by author.

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