Piercy, Calif., June 10–12—The annual pilgrimage to cut loose and party down along the gently rippling waters of the Eel River is about as close to a religious experience as some of us scooter trash ever get as we come together to commune with our brethren in the ancient trees. The typically quiet and enchanted redwood forest is brought to life as a small city of thousands of rowdy devotees from across the states and Canada charge headlong into a weekend of embracing our inner wild child by dancing in the dirt, dipping in the drink and generally getting back to nature in ways that only a biker can.
In a nice little change-up to the typical program, riders were invited to come down to camp in the rocky hillsides of the pit a day early this year when the gates were opened up on Thursday. The early-bird tickets sold out immediately and attendees were treated to a movie night that included screenings of Why We Ride and the cult classic, Easy Rider. By Friday afternoon’s opening ceremonies most had already launched into high-octane party gear.
The local color guard fired off the ceremonial 21-gun salute, followed by a few announcements, before the all-day concerts began. As the volunteers came off stage I asked the bugler for a photo and he beamed. As a Kiwanis member who has been involved with Redwood Run since 1983, Eugene Womack proudly showed off his instrument. “This bugle has been to Vietnam, believe it or not,” he told us. “I played it in the Boy Scouts in the late 50’s and they gave it to me when I left. My mom sent it to me so I could play taps for the guys there in Vietnam.” Some of the local Kiwanis members ride, most do not, but there are many vets on both sides of the fence, which fuels a bonding and respect that makes for a nice melding between the groups. Locals volunteer to come out and clean up the property that otherwise sits idle all year.
Click images to scroll through
A noticeable change in this year’s format was the fact that lesser-known bands were scheduled over the course of the weekend. Gone were the big-name (and big price tag) groups of the past, with the exception of Friday night’s headliner, Jack Russell’s Great White. Jack Russell was one of the founding members of the hard rock band, Great White, formed in LA in 1977. The group became popular in the 80’s and 90’s, known for their hit “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” and the audience did their level best to make the boys in the band feel welcome as they rocked their hearts out in a great performance. The Greg Golden Band, featuring one of NorCal’s most recognized and beloved vocalists, Randy Scoles, rocking out next to Golden himself, opened for Jack Russell and our favorite LA rockers Royalush, topped off the night. Lead by Jacques, the guy with the top hat and beautiful blue hair, the closers kept folks on their feet and rocking out to the band’s original tunes. The group’s microphone stand is an artistic metal rendition of a chopper front end, complete with handlebars and mirrors, which adds a unique visual interest to the high-energy performance. The rest of the weekend was spent with familiar and beloved groups of recognizable personalities like Guitar Shorty, Amanda Gray, Charlie Brechtel and Savannah Blue. We’d never heard the group called Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers but the ZZ Top cover band was entertaining to watch and sounded spot on. As far as we’re concerned, the musical program was fun and made for a more intimate feel since it wasn’t all the big, unapproachable bands, though attendees were generally griping that they didn’t feel they got the same bang for their concert buck that they have in the past. Most of that quieted down once the fabulous Fryed Brothers took the stage as headliners on Saturday night.
The run has stared down many challenges over the years and it’s a constant struggle to keep the Redwood boat afloat. Though the Kiwanis have been involved for many years, this was technically the 40th anniversary of the original Run to the Redwoods that was initially started by a group of MMA volunteers who just wanted to raise a little hell in woods. In the process of sharing a lane for a few miles, they introduced some political awareness about bikers’ rights while slamming a couple of beers with friends. We caught up with Dave and Kathy Blower, founding members of a group of hardworking folks who touched off the original version of what has morphed into the modern-day Redwood Run. They shared photos and a video of what the yesteryear migration looked like and we discussed the evolution of the run and the brotherhood behind it. These days the couple, who live nearby, likes to stop by for a bit of the festivities and to catch up with friends during the run but they no longer camp by the creek or otherwise feel the need to be baptized in the wild ways of the party that has become a rite of passage for today’s riders. Besides all the hell raising and dust stirring, the shift in the focus of the run is obvious. These days it’s about raising money for the local children rather than anything at all to do with bikers’ rights, though the MMA is still involved through volunteering for security. The Kiwanis funds education programs for kids from the money raised during the Redwood Run and bikers are happy to contribute to the cause, especially since a big chunk of change is raked in from the notoriously raunchy wet T-shirt contest.
Click images to scroll through
Once the bike show and games like the wienie bite and ball drop, which were both won by Kathy and CornDog, and the slow race which was scored again by last year’s winner, Mark Ross, are all out of the way the serious business of the wet T-shirt contest gets geared up as preferred seating, judging and water-dousing privileges are auctioned off. At $100 per chair and $200 to be a judge, you can see how the bucks start to stack up. The water bearer, the guy who gets the honor of pouring ice water on the ladies, came with a $400 price tag. A stagehand was overheard grumbling that they hadn’t asked for enough money for the chairs up front since the folks were throwing out cash and jumping on stage in a fevered pitch. By the time the bidding closed, just over four grand had been collected and the show ramped up to warp-drive level.
Click images to scroll through
The contest usually comes with a list of rules like no full nudity or touching the other contestants in a sexual way but all that stuff was tossed right out the window as the contest deteriorated into a stage show that any strip joint would have been proud of. John Jennings, DJ and ramrod for the whole shebang, just wandered around on stage announcing how hard it was to do his job while under the influence of the local fungi. He swore he’d learned his lesson and would never do that again as the contest lapsed into a free-for-all. Women tried to seduce the front-row judges and audience into voting for them as guys jumped up on stage to shoot photos and lurk before hopping back to their seats. The $1,200 purse made for desperate measures it seemed and one girl announced that she’d just wait to strut her stuff until the “amateurs” cleared the stage. Turned out the young lady wasn’t kidding as she stripped down, got on all fours and proved that she really was a professional who was not the least bit inhibited. The woman who eventually beat out all the rest was the classy lass who kept her top on until the very last minute. Holly was obviously the crowd favorite, though it didn’t appear that the judges necessarily agreed, so it was a great victory when they acquiesced and Holly was presented the big check from Lonny’s BBQ.
The highly-anticipated stunt show was postponed until later in the evening, so many had wandered off but the drunken idiots who like to spit in the eye of danger still found their way out to stand on the tarmac and risk their lives to watch burnouts and badass wheelie guys going all the way up the hill. A couple of riders got so caught up in the excitement that they hopped on their baggers and charged full throttle up the adjacent steep-ass grassy hill, which was almost as much fun to watch as the stunts were. By the time the smoke had cleared and folks wandered back to the stage after dinner there were a few touching moments shared with the crowd.
Click images to scroll through
Doug McCauley, who was a Kiwanis member, owner of Riverview Productions and organizer of the Redwood Run for years, passed away recently and his fellow club members provided the gathering with a little background and a slideshow before offering a toast in McCauley’s name. That was followed by the news that the lady who has led the charge to keep the Redwood Run alive would be stepping down from her role as a volunteer organizer. Danielle Whitmore Young has dedicated herself to the biker party for the last five years and had asked to be paid for what has turned into an all-consuming job. The board members chose to deny that request so the future of the run is back to a transition stage as Kiwanis members sort out the next step and continue on. It’s our suggestion that we take the initiative and let the club know what we’re interested in seeing happen with the future of the run. Send your suggestions on how to better the run to the Kiwanis at redwoodrun.org/contact.php.
Check out this vintage footage from the 1976 Redwood Run.