PIERCY, CALIF., JUNE 8-10—Though a rocket’s red glare was nowhere in sight, the bombs bursting in air were definitely enough to signify the start of something exciting bright and early on Friday morning, as the 35th annual Redwood Run was officially launched in the normally quiet, forested community of Piercy. The color guard stood tall as they proudly fired off a volley of gunfire for a ceremonial 21-gun salute that sent startled bikers, still half asleep from the previous night’s revelry, scrambling out of their tents and charging down to the staging area to figure out just what the hell was going on. There was a collective sigh of relief once everyone discovered they were not, in fact, under attack.
The official “Let the shenanigans begin” had hit the airwaves with a bang after a full year of anticipation over the run’s return to the old venue for this on-again, relocated, revived revival of a NorCal biker tradition, and we were all a-twitter over what the homecoming would be like. The roar of thundering bikes making their way down the legendary steep-ass hill that empties out into the area lovingly dubbed “the Pit” continued on in a steady flow for the run’s duration as over 2,400 bikers made the annual migration to the famous campground nestled on a scenic bend of the Eel River.
After a two-year hiatus from this venue, returning riders once again found themselves wrangling the nasty river route behind the stage area in order to park or to circle back up the hill through vendor row, but the road seemed better maintained than in prior years. Parking crews reported that, as in the past, folks still dumped it in the dirt around turn one, and the unofficial record keepers declared that the majority who biffed were women riders, but no one was seriously hurt in the navigation process and part of the charming adventure of this venue is to see who makes it out intact. Happily, most everyone did.
By midday Friday folks had donned their party duds and began making the rounds. Or, in some cases, the duds came
completely off since the tall trees and nearby gently rippling Eel River seemed to bring out the naturalist in several of the attendees at this year’s romp in the woods. We’ve all come to expect the gals who wear next-to nothing at biker events and there were plenty of them at this wild-ass whoopitup, but rarely do you see a guy wandering the grounds in nothing but his Birkenstocks. Yet there he was, Nekked Guy, mingling amongst the gathered music lovers in his completely tanned birthday suit and dancing like no one was watching. His presence seemed to accentuate the event’s “live and let live” flavor, since no one appeared overly offended by his all-togetherness. A couple of helpful gals did offer to apply sun block to his unmentionables, however. With 19 bands on tap, NG had more than enough provocation to keep his toes tapping and his personals flapping as band after band played their ever-loving hearts out to the more than appreciative crowds that dotted the countryside or gathered stageside in the scant pockets of shade.
With the MMA manning the security responsibilities and tending to the vendors, the small crew of 30 Kiwanis members was better able to focus on the details of running the 2012 RR at an organized, steady pace while keeping the party animals entertained. And quite entertained they were. In addition to a spiffy little bike show, the standard bike games were also held in the midst of cheering fans. The highly anticipated wet T-shirt contest had nothing to do with T-shirts at all and very little to do with water since organizers chose to do the dousing with a ratio of several pounds of ice cubes to a small amount of water. Contestants stood still as tubs of ice were piled onto their chests, which was not really conducive to making anyone want to flash their stuff. Some of the ladies huddled together trying to keep warm in between playing along graciously to work up the best reaction from the frenzied crowd since top prize was $300 cash. The raucous display was closely monitored since each girl had signed a form promising to obey the five listed rules that included directives like no touching themselves and no total nudity. Most even followed the rules. Kinda.
While all the scheduled festivities, vendors, food and fun certainly made for a wild weekend, it was the music that rounded out the party in a huge way. Several of the very talented musical acts on the jam-packed roster left lasting impressions with the gathered masses. Since every performer kicked ass, it’d be tough to decide which band was best, but from our little picnic table in the sun, it must be said that the newly named Ronnieland band was remarkable for several reasons. The impressive talent and tight performance of the group would certainly be enough to set this band apart, but the touching story behind the forming of the band tilted the scales towards heartwarming.
What’s in a name?
Named after lost friend and band leader Ronnie Montrose, each member was chosen to work and play with Montrose in his
desire to form a band that consisted of a core group of talented musicians that he hoped would view themselves as more of a family rather than just a band. After a lifelong battle with depression, 64-year-old Montrose took his life earlier this year and the remaining crew felt they needed to honor his work in a way that would keep his music accessible to the public while preserving his memory. With the blessing of Ronnie’s family, it is the goal of Dan McNay, Steve Brown, Tal Morris and Randy Scoles to continue to present his music by touring and performing his amazing body of work.
“We are not a tribute band,” explained Randy Scoles. “We are a group of guys who were handpicked by Ronnie to play with him when he was alive; we are his band. We had a full schedule of tour dates and his passing just left us in limbo. We all miss him so much; he was such a good and decent man. It was an honor to know him. We all love this guy and who better than his own band to bring his music to the people? Tal Morris had worked with Ronnie before and toured with him. When we did the memorial for him in the spring, it just all felt so right that we knew we needed to do this. It’s about respect and continuing the music. Redwood Run is really our first show as Ronnieland and it was great.” We couldn’t agree more. During the group’s time on stage, Montrose’s presence could be felt in every note and lyric.
A Fryed frenzy
Lukas Nelson… yes, from that Nelson family… wowed the audience with his subdued demeanor after the power blew in the middle of his performance. Generators kicked in for the lighting but as crews worked to get the juice back on, drummer Anthony Logerfo picked up the lull by launching into an all-consuming solo that mesmerized the masses. Meanwhile, Lukas simply sauntered over to sit stageside, rolled a smoke and kicked back, watching the audience as they watched him. Once power was restored a few minutes later, the entire band grabbed their instruments and kicked in as if it were all planned out, never missing a note. The crowd went wild.
Skinny Molly serenaded the sun as it sank into the horizon on Saturday afternoon. Lead singer Mike Estes played with Lynyrd Skynyrd back in 1993, and the good ol’ boy won the audience over with his southern drawl and between-song chatter. As the evening sky turned dark there was a schedule change and the Fryed Brothers were offered an earlier time instead of the original 11:00 slot, which turned out to be fortuitous all the way around. The NorCal darlings cast their magically melodious spell and had the crowd so wound up that they called them back repeatedly. After the third encore, the stage manager finally threw up his hands and just told the boys they could play as long as they wanted. For almost three hours the popular band had dancers kicking up dust as they rocked the redwoods with their own private brand of rockabilly-country-motorcycle-riding blues.
In between one of the band’s callbacks, the stage was taken over by HAMC and HMC members to deliver a sobering announcement that a well-loved and very respected Henchmen MC member had passed away in the midst of the revelry. William “Ramrod” Eppler loved attending the Redwood Run and was enjoying his time with friends when he suddenly died of an apparent aneurysm. The announcement cast a shadow over the stunned crowd, as everyone stood and respectfully honored Billy in a moment of silence before Harry offered a farewell to the fallen brother and fired up his fiddle.
Nothing stays the same
Cops are always a royal pain in the patoot during this run, and while they did make their over-the-top presence known as
usual, it appeared that cagers were the main targets this year. We saw plenty of cars, trucks towing boats, and every other means of conveyance being pulled over but we neither saw, nor heard, of any bikers having issues. It was a great change of focus, to be sure. We asked Kiwanis President Danielle Young if she’d had any trouble with the Mounties and how she felt the weekend went at the Riverview Ranch.
“You know, we really had no problem with law enforcement during the run,” Danielle told us. “We had an agreement with them in advance that if they needed to come on the property, it would be with our escorts only. It is on private property, but since it’s a public event they would want to check for medical and fire department compliance, so we were aware they might to do that. They didn’t overdo it, though; they only came through once and it was with our escorts and then they went right back out.
“When we went to pull the permit we had one neighbor oppose us so we made a concentrated effort to provide more TLC to all the neighbors and everyone seems pleased. That neighbor said he was 100 percent satisfied since we kept our promises regarding cleanup and security, so we really shouldn’t have any problems with coming back next year.
“The MMA did an outstanding job with security; everything went very smoothly. We had a goal of 2,000 attendees and we certainly passed that number and even made some money for the local kids. We’re very pleased. We would have liked to have more vendors, but there was a late start on that. It will be better next year. Our guys, Doug, Dale and Raisin, all worked hard and whipped the site into shape. It just all went very well.”
We asked about tickets and she had this to say: “As far as prices go, we’re $20 cheaper than the old run and the difference is the dinner that used to be included. We don’t provide a meal so I guess that needs to be the question. Do people want to pay $140 and stand in line to get dinner on Saturday night, or do they prefer to get their own meals from concessioners whenever they want to? We had great food vendors and even an organic juice stand and people seemed happy with the quality.”
So what’s in store for next year? Well, true to this run’s tradition, there will be more changes.
“This has been my baby all along,” Danielle said. “I’m very proud of how it’s done, but 2012 is my final term as president; we only get three years, so there will be someone else in charge next year. I’d volunteer to be the main run coordinator possibly; my husband Casey is in charge of the music committee, but we’ll just have to see what Kiwanis wants to do.”