PALM SPRINGS, CALIF., OCT 19-21—I couldn’t stop singing the song “Funny How Time Slips Away” as I rolled back into Palm Springs again this year. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, I’m back again for more. This year a good friend, Dave Bickle, joined me for the journey. After a quick burn from San Diego up the 15 and across the 10, we made it there in no time. As we rolled into town the first thing I noticed was cooler temperatures than last year; it felt great. And judging by the atmosphere and the energy in the air, I knew we were in for a good time at this year’s American Heat.
Now Dave and I aren’t much for making reservations, so we had our fingers crossed after several failed attempts at finding a room. It was looking grim that we would even find a tent, and it seemed like the entire town was booked. Finally we approached what seemed to be a reasonably located and affordable motel near the event. I felt like Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as I began twisting together what seemed like a reasonable story as to why we should receive a room in this overbooked hotel. Don’t ask me how or why, but let’s just say the room was granted, and thankfully we had a place to rest our heads for the weekend. Thank you, Comfort Inn!
All American Heat registrants are treated to a VIP party hosted by Ruby’s Diner. Ruby’s outdoor patio was the setting for JB, a local guitarist and vocalist who performed that night. With the ’40s atmosphere, free sliders, ice cream and beverages, I’ll be sure to leave early enough to catch this party again next year.
Off to vendor row, the several block-long section of Palm Springs’ main boulevard that is closed to traffic for this three-day event, where vendors lined both sides of the street. There were about 70 vendors total, and in the middle of it all was a huge stage with live music. There were also bike competitions, and even the Globe of Death. One of the highlights I recall was the beautiful Law Tiger girls who were handing out Law Tiger cards. These cards could prove to be very useful in the event that some careless texting cage driver comes crashing into you while enjoying an otherwise perfect ride. After hitting a couple of local bars, we wound up at one of my personal favorites, a place called Peabody’s. Now Peabody’s is nothing fancy with no live bands, but bikers singing karaoke can be quite entertaining.
The next morning I had to awaken early and rush down to registration in order to pick up my credential and a schedule of events. I immediately noticed a conflict with the agenda: The poker run ran from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but the awards ceremony started at 3:00 p.m. I had to cover both; could I possibly make it? “Sure,” said Dave, “let’s go for it!” After a few wrong turns, which resulted in a near 20-mile detour, we actually found the poker route. Let me tell you that this route was intense. It started in Palm Springs and headed south through Cathedral City and then on through Palm Desert on the 74 to the first stop at the Paradise Café. From there the route headed up Palms Highway towards Idyllwild Panoramic Highway. Now, I go on scenic rides in a lot of places throughout the country, and I have to say this one ranks right up there as one of my favorites. The turns were profound with perfect inclines that almost resembled the banks you would find on a Nascar track (minus the sheer, unguarded 1,000-foot drops). Everything just seemed to flow as I flipped through my gears and those SE 255 cams kicked in. I introduced portions of my tires to a taste of the road that they’d never known. The experience of working through that Road King’s gears heading up that mountain is something I will not soon forget!
From there our next stop was at Jo’An’s restaurant and bar in Idyllwild. Although their prices may be on the steep side, I justify its value by the enjoyment gained while taking in the sights of the main village and listening to the live music they provided. From Jo’An’s, Dave and I proceeded to fuel up (at well over $5 per gallon—ouch!) for what turned out to be a scenic and often challenging ride down the other side of the mountain toward Banning on Route 243 (the Idyllwild Panoramic Highway). From there we went east on the 10 and back into Palm Springs, with Palm Springs Harley-Davidson being our next stop. If you got the idea that I thoroughly enjoyed the route I just described, I’ve done my job here.
Somehow, we managed to drop off our poker sheets and hustle on over to the bike show in time to make the awards ceremony. It was there I had the chance to speak with Randy Burke, producer of American Heat. He was happy with the vendor turnout, the temperate weather and the fact that everyone in attendance seemed to be having a great time. He also mentioned how pleased he was that the 28-piece jazz band, comprised solely of young boys and girls from the Coachella Valley Boys and Girls clubs, was appearing at this year’s rally. This band, which includes at-risk kids ranging in age from 9 to 18 years, is a favorite of both the locals and the biker community. Other bands performing over the weekend included Lucky Tongue and Alice Bowie.
After some food and a quick nap that afternoon, Dave and I rallied and strolled down to the main drag where we embarked on a pub crawl starting at the Roadhouse and ending at the Coconut Lounge, where we met beautiful Renee who was bartending there. She had beautiful tattoos, a great smile and was a genuine sweetheart. We had a blast until the male bartender, I think his name was Josh (who I suspect may have been a little jealous that I was making time with his girl), thought it would be a good idea to cut me off… me? What a joke! Word of advice, buddy: Never mix business with pleasure. Nevertheless, it seemed like it was time to move on. After a farewell stop at Peabody’s on the way back to the hotel (those guys rock!) we were off to sleep and called it a day.
Sunday morning rolled around and it was time to hit the highway back to San Diego after a little fluid and breakfast. If you like a hearty steak and eggs or some great biscuits and gravy, Bit of Country at 418 South Indian Canyon Drive is a must. We devoured our breakfast and proceeded to bring this trip to an end, although the trip never really ends until you put the kickstand down for the last time. If you’re into great bikes, beautiful terrain and awesome nightlife, I strongly recommend attending this event next year—I know I’ll be there! I’ll be in Peabody’s every evening; just look for the tall guy singing Willie Nelson. Who knows, maybe I’ll buy you a beer!
Poker Run Winners
First place: Greg Nemer, Redondo Beach, California, with a pair of jacks
Second place: Dave Bickle, San Alejo, California, with a pair of tens
Third place: Kathy Bernal, Needles, California, with a pair of eights
Bike Show Winners
Chopper/custom-built class: Robert Scott, Palm Springs, California
Dresser/bagger class: Steve Wright, Palm Springs, California
Best of show: Gary and Mary Ann Hummel, Corona, California