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Archive for the ‘Laughlin’ Category

The 38th year of the largest motorcycle gathering on the west coast was scheduled for April 23-26th.

Earlier, the longstanding promoter of the event, Dal-Con Promotions, had no plans to return in 2020 and went “dark.”  In January, the motorcycle rally status, which draws tens of thousands of riders to Laughlin every year, wasn’t clearly known and the local chamber of commerce declared it OFF and removed it from the organization’s event calendar.

News reports surfaced in late February that Jerry Jackson, of Five Star Exhibits, Inc., negotiated and acquired the intellectual rights — including the rights to the trademarked Laughlin River Run title and the event was back on.  Although, Five star Exhibits stated they were not a promoter of events and would not contract with entertainers and/or food and beverage concessionaires.  The web site was refreshed with new information, but without a promoter, motorcycle enthusiasts were expecting a different experience from past years.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Laughlin River Run has officially been CANCELLED.

It’s disappointing not to be able to enjoy this time in our lives with other motorcycle enthusiasts, but the health and well-being of everyone is paramount.

Photo courtesy of Five Star Exhibits

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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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French Glen, Oregon

French Glen, Oregon

No blog post can touch on the full spectrum of a trip, but I’ve put together some snippets of what our “off-season” ride looked like heading to Laughlin River Run in April.

You might say we got a sense of the diverse charms that spring weather in Oregon provides by starting in Portland and tracing a route up the slopes of Mount Hood and then south toward Bend then east to Burns.

Can anyone say weather woes?  There was wind, rain, heavy thunderstorms, hail, lighting BOOM! and all of this during the first 5 hours of the trip!

Harney County - Oregon

Malheur Lake in Harney County – Oregon

By no means am I complaining, but even with all the technology to expand our knowledge about weather patterns and conditions sooner or later, you’ll have to ride in the rain… and did we ever.  After the 5-hour trip to Burns we are now certified wet-weather professionals!  By the time these cold and weary travelers stopped in Burns we were done with the wind-chill riding.

This part of the trip was like a steeled-toed kick into springs teeth!  Winter reigned.

Plugging In

Plugged in outside of Winnemucca

As a side bar, have you ever noticed the difficulty of heated gear and in routing the cables and making the connections?  I typically avoid “plugging-in” until it’s very cold and  raining.  The extra rain gear and winter clothing is bulky and then we’re trying to route these COAX 2.5mm connectors through the sleeves into a SAE 2-pin connector and somewhere in the mix is either an on/off switch or a single controller that allows you to control the vest or any other item connected to the vest (gloves, pants, socks) as one single zone.  This rarely works well when there are multiple heated garments because they develop hot spots and I’ve had a vest get too hot while the gloves were cool and those dual electronic controller units for two separate zones mean even more wires and more expense.  Yeah, it all looks easy enough sitting in the motel room, but the reality is it takes coordination to get it all on, position it correctly so that you have freedom to move and then it’s a “do-over” after a fuel or rest stop.  It should be easier?

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

At any rate, the next morning we grabbed a sausage biscuit, put on rain gear, “plugged-in” and rode out early from Burns toward French Glen.  We took the French Glen Highway (or Oregon Route 205) to avoid the worst of the rainy weather.  Part of the group was headed directly to Las Vegas (700+ miles) and wanted to put some major miles on vs. the remainder of the group planned a more leisurely ride down to Laughlin with a day or so in Death Valley.

“America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

Ammunition Depot at “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

We headed east then turned south on Oregon Route 205 through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where the summers are short and it’s home to countless migratory birds.  Despite the seeming nakedness of the landscape on most of the route, this area of Southeastern Oregon which OR-205 travels through is a true wonderland of high desert topography. There are no less than four designated scenic byways that take off from OR-205, or is the route itself.  From a motorcycling perspective, the road isn’t all that challenging and like many little used desert highways in Oregon, the actual road surface is in good condition for the entire route.  For a majority of the ride, the road is straight with a few long bends that, fortunately, change your perspective of the wide open landscape occasionally.

Parked at Motel - Hawthorne, NV

Parked at Motel – Hawthorne, NV

I’d like to tell you all about the photographic panoramas and the many intriguing natural geologic pictures I took in the spectacular mountain range, but there was heavy fog, mixed with thunderstorms and for a couple hours outside of French Glen we even rode in full on snow flurries.  And I’m not talking about a blizzard of Snow Geese mind you, but traversing the area in blinding snow.  We did see the French Glen “Historic” telephone booth!

This trip didn’t offer us the time to ride Steens Mountain loop road, or continue over the summit ridge and onto the Alvord Desert.

We did the math.  We double checked weather radar and this was the quickest and the logical adverse weather avoidance route.  We hoped to avoid much of it, but the storm and high winds engulfed the entire state.  As we motored on my mind wondered if this was how the settlers and fortune-seekers who made their way West through gorges and high-mountain lakes had to deal with during their overland route.

By the time we hit the Winnemucca stopover point, the weather was beginning to improve.  At least the snow and rain had stopped.  Winnemucca is a gateway of sorts to the Great Basin, with Idaho and Oregon to the north, Salt Lake City to the east and Reno to the southwest.  It’s located at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95.  We did notice that a strong wind was blowing out of the south.  This was high-wind warnings and there were a lot of semi’s pulled over to the side of the road waiting it out.

After a lot of miles I became convinced that the great state of Nevada had the sole purpose of being an ATV enthusiast’s playground.  Of course, this isn’t 100 percent accurate, but as you ride along the desolate roads it might as well be.  The sand in the air blew into our faces, covering us with a fine layer as we rolled on the throttle and continued south down Highway 95.

The group I was riding in overnighted in “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.  The town is unique with Walker Lake at the foot of Mt. Grant, but more importantly there is the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Ammunition Depot in the area.  At first glance that is incongruous since it’s in high desert east of the Sierra Nevada and at least 300 miles from the nearest ocean.  The Army stores some nasty stuff at what started out life as the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD).  The facility is made up of hundreds of buildings spread over more than 225 square miles and bunkers dot the sagebrush-covered hills which are visible from the highway.  Sadly, back in March 2013 a mortar shell explosion killed 7 marines and injured eight during mountain warfare training in the area.

We overnighted in Hawthorne which is shouldering its share of the economic slump as there are empty storefronts with windows neatly covered with plywood painted white, red and blue stars. We found a Mexican restaurant called Diego’s which was within walking distance of the motel and after a 425 mile day enjoyed some refreshments and good food.

We were headed to Death Valley via the eastern entrance at Beatty and planned to stay over at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 2 (HERE).

Photo’s taken by author except French Glen photo courtesy of Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

 

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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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Every time that a gallon of gasoline starts to approach or break the $4 a gallon mark, you see an increase in the number of news stories about people running out of gas.

I’m not sure why that is, but the device that most of us interact with every few days was first unveiled this week in 1905 — the gas pump.  Sylvanus Bowser of Fort Wayne, Indiana made the pump for a customer, basing it on an earlier design for pumping kerosene. And according to the Census Bureau, in 1997 there were about 127,000 gas stations in the U.S. and that dropped to 121,000 in 2002, and to 114,000 by 2008 of which the majority now also have convenience stores.

But, if you’re like me, you hate to admit that you’ve ever run out of gas on a motorcycle ride, right?

Well my time occurred last year in route to the Laughlin River Run.  The posse had a fun night in Las Vegas and the next day we had a leisurely mid-day departure heading toward Laughlin on Hwy 95.  At the Boulder City/Laughlin exit we did a quick inventory of fuel at the stop sign thinking we could make Searchlight without any issues.  What we hadn’t planned on was the fierce and gusting headwind which resulted in the ‘ol Road King running out of fuel about 7 miles to soon!

There we were… the posse was pulled over on the shoulder of the road.  We removed a siphon tube from one of the tool kits, sucked the air out of the tube and nearly choked on a mouthful of fuel.  Finally with the gas flowing into a small water bottle we transferred some fuel from one of the newer bikes which had 6+ gallon fuel tank.  Not a great experience!  You can read a full accounting of that road trip HERE.

However, the point of this post is to inform you about a device called the Fuel Tool (MSRP: $99.99) which takes all the pain out of this type issue.  One of the riding buddies purchased a Fuel Tool before our epic summer ride this year and was telling us how handy the device seemed to be.  Then when we were in Sturgis we received a personal demo from the company owner and got a chance to use it on the demo tanks.

The tool is one of those products that when you see it in action you go why didn’t I think of that? It’s designed to work with all fuel-injected Harley-Davidson motorcycles that come with a quick-connect check valve at the bottom of the tank.  With the exception of the V-Rod, most made after 2001 have this type check valve.  You connect it to the host motorcycle (the one that has the most fuel!) then you use the nozzle to pour fuel into the empty bike.  It’s a one piece design that features an aluminum/brass constructed fuel nozzle wrapped in rubber.  It has 54 inches of high-pressure chemical-resistance fuel line and a nickel-plated, solid brass fuel line adapter and fuel release tool.  All of it coils up inside the included pouch and can easily store in a saddlebag using very little space.

Not only is the device great for helping stranded bikers, but it’s useful if you plan to winterize your motorcycle and drain the fuel tank.

Fuel pump photo taken by author on Arizona – Route 66.  Fuel Tool photo courtesy of company web site.

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That would be the 30th Laughlin River Run.

The earliest inhabitants of this Colorado River Valley town were the Mojave people, but this past weekend the valley was full of Harley-Davidson riders with all the necessities (read $$ in wallets) to create a prosperous event.

With 2012 marking the 30th anniversary of the River Run there was plenty of denim and leather on display and Casino Drive even had a fresh layer of asphalt and stripping!  And not one, but two law firms specializing in motorcycle accident cases attended the event with vendor booths.

The official stats have not been released yet, but early indicators from the Laughlin Tourism Board indicate that there was a 40% jump in attendance at the annual motorcycle event and was expected to give the town a $40M boost to the local economy.  In fact, the River Run is the city’s single biggest revenue-generating event and accounts for approximately 10% of the revenue for many hotels, bars and restaurants.

Yep, law enforcement was out in force during the event and at times seemed to outnumber the motorcycle enthusiasts.  There was a stepped up “no colors” policy which was highly visible through-out the valley on electronic reader boards and on signage at the casinos.

I was a day-tripper this year and the weather couldn’t have been better with temperatures in the mid-80’s.  Besides communing with other bikers our group attended the annual “pimpin shrimp” and “pig-from-a-pit” BBQ in Needles where Dave and Manny impressed everyone with their cooking skills.

It was good people, cold refreshments and lots of fun!

Photos take by author.

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Death Valley

I can see it now…

A big room in the basement of a church.  Lots and lots of folding chairs.  Even more Styrofoam cups, the smell of badly burnt coffee in the air.  A platter of cookies that are hard as a bricks.  No one is making eye contact.  A lot of shifting feet and uncomfortable twitching of fingers that have nothing to do with themselves.  A big sign at the front of the room announcing to silence all mobile phones.

Then a person stands up:  “Hi.  My name is [fill in the blank], and I’m addicted to Facebook.”

Yeah, until last Saturday it’s been 187 days since the temperature hit 70 degrees with sunshine in Oregon!  As a result there’s been a lot of folks tethered to the “book” indoors and it’s time to ride.

This week is the Laughlin River Run (30th Anniversary) and nothing’s cooler than riding in some warm fresh desert air.

Clearly I’m due for some good weather riding and luckily I’ll get a chance to take advantage of nature’s air conditioning in Laughlin Nevada later in the week.  Due to work constraints I won’t be riding down and reporting on the trip like last year, instead I’ve had the bike shipped on a transport truck to Las Vegas and will be riding in and around the local area. We’ve got some L.A. buddies who have a place on the Colorado River outside Needles and can throw a sleeping bag unless we opt for plusher arrangements.

Every year it seems like the River Run attendance is getting smaller, but we’ll see if the 30th Anniversary brings an up-tick in people or if gas prices have riders staying closer to home.  They have Ted Nugent as a headliner which is a darn good start to any motorcycle event!

Hope to see you at the event.

Photo taken in Death Valley.

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