Every Memorial Day weekend bikers come from all over the Western United States to attend the motorcycle world’s version of Burning Man, Run-A-Mucca. Instead of burning an effigy of a bike, though, they burn the real deal. Of course, someone might object if the guys up the road burned a real man.
Officially, Run-A-Mucca starts at 1:00 on Friday afternoon when the DJ music starts up. By 3:00, the vendors are open for business and the music in the street behind the Winners Casino gets cranked up to set the tone for the entire weekend. Tattoo parlors are open, the bars are open and so are the casinos. You can also pick up your official run package at the Winnemucca Inn that contains a schedule for the three days, the poker sheets for the two poker runs, an ID card to enter the bike show, tattoo show, burnout contest and bike games, a meal ticket for Saturday’s barbecue in Paradise Valley, run pins and assorted other items including an event T-shirt. Not bad for $35. This year’s raffle bike was a 2013 110th Anniversary Edition Road King. Two thousand tickets were sold at 20 bucks apiece. Almost 600 people bought packages this year, but as you know, the majority of bikers that show up at these events don’t bother to buy the run package. They enjoy the riding, vendors and events put on by local businesses. So whether they buy a package or not, they still pump a lot of money into the economy.
On Friday I toured through the vendor area by Winners Casino. There were a couple tattoo trailers, which made it a little bit more of a sanitary operation, and folks from the Nevada Rider Motorcycle Safety program were there along with booths offering various motorcycle accessories. Chester’s H-D of Reno and A.I.M. had a booth set up, and there were numerous food and drink purveyors, as well.
Across the street from Winners was a Jack In The Box where I saw two ladies with their hair all fixed up and wearing brand-new biker duds, obviously from one of the vendors. After sitting down to watch the bikes go by, one turned to the other and said, “Maybe someone will stop and take us for a ride.” The other replied, “Screw that. Maybe we’ll get lucky after the ride.” I wondered how their evening went, but didn’t really want to know and walked back across the street where two much younger girls in spaghetti-strap tank tops and chaps with thongs struggled to keep things somewhat hidden between the chap legs. Obviously they attracted my attention as they passed out flyers for the Mine Shaft Bar, one of Winnemucca’s most interesting watering holes. April and Ashley were letting everyone know about tonight’s Wet T-shirt Contest and tomorrow’s Girl Kissing Contest. The Mine Shaft is the only place I’ve ever seen a girl kissing contest, and I planned to be there again on Saturday night. Besides, I thought it my duty to let Thunder Press readers know who the champion girl kissers were this year in Winnemucca.
Freestyle MX riders from MOB FMX, Eric Farr and Ben Veyna, were showing off their skills to the crowd on ramps provided by Ryan Hilfiger (yes, Tommy’s second cousin), owner of Mobile Wil’s FMX Setup. The two riders were jumping 40 feet into the air and performing stunts with names like superman, kiss of death, cliff hanger and dead body. To end the show, Farr did a back flip.
Savannah Blue, a Southern rock group out of Sacramento, was the headliner Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Lead guitarist Dean Fischer went into the crowd while he played and ran around with some of the smaller children while never missing a lick.
Saturday rides and ribaldry
First up for Saturday was the $1,000 Poker Run. Four of the stops were in town, but last was Paradise Valley, 40 miles north near, naturally, Paradise Peak. Everybody met at the first stop, which was the Flying J Truck Stop on the west side of town. We went into the casino (yes, truck stops in Nevada have casinos) and drew our cards. The two of spades I drew was uninspiring at this point.
Then it was off to Sonoma Cycles for the second card and an equally uninspiring four of hearts. The Lowry High School cheerleaders were on hand in front, as they are every year, trying to raise money for (you guessed it) cheerleading camp in July. As I do every year, I gave them a donation to get my bike washed. The thing is that these girls are really good at it and by the time I had drawn that second card and come out, Hannah Haun and Taylor Latray were just finishing up.
The third draw was at the Mine Shaft Bar. April, with the chaps and thong from yesterday, was tending the poker draw table with a little more modest tank top and shorts. The five of diamonds I drew started to make my hand look a little more inspiring. April was not entering the Kissing Contest, but last year’s winner, Angel, was going to defend her title.
The next stop was at the Sundance Club back down on the main drag. The two guys at the table bore no resemblance at all to the girls who had been dealing cards so far. The only lady I saw here was the queen of clubs I drew, crushing my dreams of a straight or low hand.
By now we were getting hungry and it was off to Fireman’s Park in Paradise Valley for lunch. As always, it was a beautiful ride and in T-shirt weather, to boot. The mercury had found the 80-degree mark, which is the warmest I’ve seen in the five years I’ve attended this run.
The smell of barbecued tri-tip filled the air as we approached and, sure enough, there was plenty. Volunteers had manned the posts and the Paradise Valley Fire Department was selling water, soft drinks, beer and Bloody Marys. The jack of hearts pretty much destroyed any hope I had of winning anything, so I tossed the sheet and enjoyed the meal.
After a trip back to town I went to the Winners Club where they were having the Tattoo Contest. Sherry won Best Tribal, Mike W. won Best Black and White, and Jim Jensen from Winnemucca took Fresh Tattoo, New School, Best Color and Best of Show.
The Winnemucca chapter of Relay for Life also had a car wash on the east end of town, but I think the Lowry High students drew a bigger crowd since they were located only a block from the event center at Winners. Anda Latham, 2013 event chair, said they had a few bikes come through and the seven volunteers were getting pretty experienced at washing bikes.
At 7:00 p.m. it was time for some awards to be given out followed by the featured entertainment for Saturday night. This year the band was Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, a ZZ Top tribute band from the San Francisco Bay Area. These guys were great; not only did they look and sound like ZZ Top, but they also had the right amps, guitars and stage clothing to further add to the illusion. Admittedly, I have seen ZZ Top more times than I can count, but these guys were good nonetheless. If you get a chance to see them, don’t hesitate.
During intermission the Nevada National Guard made a presentation for Soldier of the Year, an annual tradition during Run-A-Mucca. Nevada is very pro-gun, and they are very supportive and proud of their military members—especially Winnemucca. Where else could you find a road named 2nd Amendment Road?
This year, the Soldier of the Year was Sgt. Terry Gamble who had been back from Afghanistan for just a month. The award was a .22 caliber Henry lever-action rifle. Terry’s wife and kids were onstage, as well, when the award was presented. Mayor Di An Putnam offered her support and congratulations and passed the rifle to Sheriff Kilgore who added his thanks for Terry’s service. Then, Terry’s sergeant from Afghanistan, Sgt. Prokasky, talked of the bravery exhibited by Terry and presented the rifle to him. After all the talk, Terry simply said, “Thank you,” and tearfully hugged his family, unable to say more.
At 9:00 p.m. it was time to light up the traditional sacrificial bike. Fuel and flares were tossed onto the pallets it sat upon and up it went. At the height of the fire, the flames licked a good 60 feet into the air. The crowd, who had gotten in close to the fire to see it, quickly backed away as temperatures soared several yards away from the flames. Groups of people wanting to get photos of themselves in front of the flames quickly ran out to get a photo and then ran back away before they were burned. Police and fire were onsite, as well, for first aid and to make sure the flames didn’t escape the confines of the metal railing around the bike. As the fire roared, Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers played until all the ashes were out. About 2,000 people were around for Saturday night’s motorcycle burning that was simply awesome.
I hustled on over to the Mine Shaft Bar for the Girl’s Kissing Contest. There were five ambitious couples competing, but Angel, last year’s winner, easily retained her crown with a blonde named Carlie, smooching down all comers. And, as usual, clothing was optional. The band Determined from Reno supplied the music, and just in case you think this is a guy thing, there were just as many girls in the audience, as well, not to mention a small fight that broke out.
Sunday started with the run’s annual Memorial Day service. Bikes gather at the Winners parking lot, and at 10:00 a.m. riders received a police escort to the Veterans’ Memorial Park five miles north of Winnemucca off Highway 95. About 300 people joined the procession as it snaked its way through town with the aid of the Winnemucca Police Department, Nevada Highway Patrol, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. Once at the park, the flag was lowered to half staff and the ceremony started. Vietnam veteran Jim Driscoll said, “For most people Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives for their country and Veterans Day is a day to remember all those who served their country. For me, every day is Memorial Day and Veterans Day because I remember them every day.” Fifteen-year-old Young Marine Ashton Winchell fired the ceremonial cannon during the service.
After the service I went for a ride and found myself at the top of 6,600-foot Winnemucca Mountain, which presented a stunning view of the valley below. I was joined by a group of riders who had also taken the time to go for a ride, and we just took the morning and the view all in before heading off in our own separate directions.
Sunday afternoon offered the bike games behind the Model T Hotel, and first up was the Burn-Out Contest. Even though Tattoo Man Jim Jensen managed to shred his back tire, blowing the nitrous bottle and part of his rear fender on his Kawasaki ZX10R into the crowd, Matt Arthur from Reno shredded his rear tire and blew the radiator on his Suzuki GSXR 1000 in just 43.3 seconds and took the win. He won $750 while Jim took home $250 for repairs.
Eric Person of Reno won the Plank Race on his Road Glide, while Taylor King of Paso Robles won the Slow Race on his Honda CRF 450X dirt bike. Chris and Toni Trease of Battle Mountain won the Eggin’ It On Race, and Kristy and Mike Phalen ate up the Wienie Bite Contest. Robert White of Salem, Oregon, took Best of Show for his 2002 Kawasaki Drifter military/law enforcement tribute bike.
After dinner the last band of the event, Mimic, a hot group out of Reno, cranked out the tunes. Their lead singer, Brittney Huff-Wachter, did some killer Robert Plant and her green hair just added to the act.
Awards ceremonies started at 6:30 p.m. and we found out that Milo Chapman had won $1,000 for the High Hand in Saturday’s poker run, while Paul Gaboriault took the $400 High Hand in Sunday’s. Bike raffle ticket sales ended just before 9:00, and so after much anticipation the name of Rob Sharlon of Elko was drawn as the winner of the new Road King. He and his wife Monique were ecstatic, especially since they had only bought one ticket.
So as the crowd started to disperse with images of burning bikes dancing in their heads (and, perhaps, less appealing images of burning men), we just couldn’t wait until next year when we would watch yet another luckless motorcycle burn to the ground.
Bike Show Winners
Best of Show: Robert White, 2002 Kawasaki Drifter
People’s Choice: Steve Call, H-D Electra Glide
Sport: Jim Jensen, 2007 Kawasaki ZX10R
Builder: Lenny Walker, Custom Built V-Twin
Touring: Steve Call, H-D Electra Glide
Cruiser: Robert White, 2002 Kawasaki Drifter
Trike: Cindi Barbour, H-D Street Glide Trike
Classic: Linda Stern, H-D FXR
Rat: Robert Bachman