High times in the high desert
Winnemucca welcomes the adventurous
Winnemucca, Nev., May 28–30—For all of Run-A-Mucca’s nine years, this little desert town along Interstate 80 on the way to somewhere else has thrown just about every kind of weather you could name at bikers. Traveling to reach this mecca of merriment, you can encounter heat, cold, rain, ice, sleet, hail and snow. Frequently all in the same day. I even braved foot-deep snow and 20-degree temperatures across Donner Pass. Of course, as any regular could tell you, this is all part of the run’s charm.
Given its out-of-the-way location, Winnemucca promotes itself with a variety of activities for the summer including car shows, horse shows, cowboy events, off-road vehicle activities, hiking, rock hounding, a 44-hour softball tournament and one of the last remaining street drags on city streets left in the country. Darrel Field of the Winnemucca Convention & Visitors Authority was on hand and said that they look forward to Run-A-Mucca every year. As far as he knew the hotel room prices were the same price during the biker event as they were any other time of the year. He also said that law enforcement does a great job and the event costs the city about $20,000 in extra police costs. Not bad for a town that’s 8.3 square miles versus Hollister’s 5.6 square miles. To be fair though, Winnemucca’s event crowd and population together probably peaks at 10,000, whereas Hollister probably peaked at 75,000 in its prime. The kicker though is that the city bears the additional cost, not the event promoter, and there weren’t four officers on every corner either.
The Rotary Club served up a pancake breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Vendors, located outside Winners Casino, were open at 9 a.m. There were 70 in all, including many clothing and bike accessories and lots of food booths.
Picking up the event package was painless, with only a short wait in line required. The Winnemucca Convention & Visitors Authority always does a great job of making sure everything at least looks like it’s going according to plan. The run packages contain a run shirt, run pin, event schedule, two poker run sheets plus the run barbecue, all for only $30 if purchased before April 30. After that it went for $40. If you opted to just go to the event and see the sights then you could download a copy of the schedule off the official website. The schedules are always well organized and allow you ample time to get to the different events and plan which ones you want to attend.
The Saturday Run-A-Mucca Poker Run was worth a thousand bucks to the high hand. Even the low hand was worth a hundred bucks. It featured stops around town at the Flying Pig, Sonoma Cycle, High Desert RV Camp, and the Wild West Saloon, followed by a ride out to Paradise Valley, nestled up against the Santa Rosa Mountains about 40 miles away. Fireman’s Park at the north end of town was the scene of the barbecue lunch, which was included in your event package. Drinks were available for a nominal cost. One sign caught my attention though. It read, “12 shots for a dollar.” This seemed like a super deal until I came to the Paradise Valley 4H shooting gallery trailer set up in the park. Pellet rifles and paper targets weren’t exactly what I had in mind.
Once back in town it was time for the Smoke-Out Contest at Sonoma Cycle. Burl Hine of Junction City, Oregon, won the $750 First Prize on his Fat Boy and Mike Kenner took the $250 Second Prize on his Kawasaki as they peeled the rubber off their back tires and sprayed the excited crowd with black rubber powder.
The official tattoo contest was held that afternoon at the Winners Lounge, emceed by local businessman Bill Abbott, a great stand-up comic in waiting. Helen Reynolds took Best Color, Dave Reynolds took Best Black and Gray, Adam Anderson won Best Tribal, Karen Vestano won Best Fresh Tattoo and Dave Button took Best of Show with his beautiful back tattoo honoring all U.S. veterans.
Aside from the various activities around town and during the event, for 20 bucks you could purchase a ticket for a brand new 2010 red and black Softail Deluxe valued at $20,000 being raffled off by the Convention Authority. For $100 you could get six raffle tickets. Many people bought multiple tickets to increase their chances. Winners Casino also had a deal where they gave free tickets to some of the gamblers on the casino floor between 10 a.m. and midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Also on hand to entertain were Eric Haynes, a variety act with juggling and stilt walking; MOB FMX, a stunt bike show from Grand Junction, Colorado; and the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps. MOB FMX launch their bikes off ramps across a 70-foot span and go 75 feet in the air, doing some of the most amazing maneuvers you could ever see or imagine on a motorcycle. Many rallygoers have seen the McLaglen Motor Corps over the years doing stunts on their Electra Glides but during one of their Saturday shows they actually performed a trick very few people ever witness. As they went down one side of the course in their signature seven-man pyramid and made the U-turn to come back, they all toppled to the ground, including their bikes. Aside from a few scrapes they completed the show without further mishap.
The Desert Outlaw Band from Las Vegas entertained for the evening playing their great renditions of Country, Southern Rock and Classic Rock music. Their finale gave way to the now famous and expected Burning Bike. The Honda had been mounted on a stand 10 feet in the air, pallets stacked high and liberally doused with diesel fuel. When the word was given the flares were lit and, in a wave of smoke and flame, up went the bike. As it burned, the heat ignited fireworks hidden in the frame, further adding to the frenzied yelling by the crowd. It took most of an hour for it to burn down to smoldering ash but when it was over it was evident another fine Run-A-Mucca had been celebrated. Some in the crowd likened it to the annual Burning Man happening held in the nearby Black Rock Desert in late summer.
Then it was off to a bar on the east end of town called the Mine Shaft. It’s not a place for everyone, but if you’re looking for an out-of-the-way bar with just a little more bawdy reputation than average, this is the place. Clothing is apparently optional as well. Case in point: Saturday night they held the All Girl Kissing Contest. Everyone, men and women alike, was egging the contestants on. The girls took their turns doing whatever they could do to get the other to give the best performance and so it was that Turbo and Tessa, nicknamed T ’N’ T, won the championship as they proceeded to suck the tongues right out of each other’s mouths and roll around very seductively on the floor. Being declared the winners didn’t necessarily stop the action either. Like I said, not a place for everyone but certainly not boring.
Although Saturday found most of us in jackets, Sunday was in the low 80s and it was finally T-shirt weather. Spurred by the good weather, many more people had arrived Saturday afternoon and filled most of the town’s rooms, according to Kim Peterson of the Winnemucca Convention & Visitors Authority.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend a ride and service was held at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Highway 95 just outside of town. The ride started at the Winners Casino and around 300 bikers showed up for the service.
The service was very sobering. Local veteran Mike Johnson told the crowd, “Freedom is not something that’s given to you, it’s fought for every day of the year.” Local radio host and veteran Jim McClean really put into perspective what Memorial Day is all about. He said, “Thanksgiving Day is a day we give thanks. Memorial Day is a day we set aside for those who have died for our freedom.” Reverend Beecher of Winnemucca recited the words, “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.” A bugler played the very familiar tune and the end of the service was signaled with the firing of a cannon by veteran Mike Michaelson. The crowd slowly melted awayremembering the price so many have paid as the price of our freedom.
Sunday’s poker run was worth $400. All of the stops were in town so it was easy to attend the Bike Show at the Flying Pig Restaurant between noon and three. The categories were Sport, Cruiser, Touring, Vintage, Classic, Builder, Trikes & Sidecars and Rat Bike and there were some very superb entries. Dave Button from the tattoo contest was there and showed off a very fine custom painted Road King modeled after the paint scheme on a World War II B-17 bomber. The tailpipes had machine gun barrels mounted in them that spun when you opened the throttle. Dave said that, like his tattoo, he built the bike to commemorate all U.S. veterans. Is it any wonder that he took Best of Show for this bike?
The various acts gave performances all weekend so everyone had a chance to see them, but 4:00 p.m. Sunday signaled the bike games behind the old Model T Motel (now the Quality Inn). Walk the Plank and Egging It On were won by Spyder and Kristy Phalen of Bishop, California. Lori LaFollette, drivenby hubby Craig, took first in the Wienie Bite Contest.
Breakdown, a Tom Petty tribute band, played the main event Sunday night. When it was over the winners of the various events were announced. When Spyder and Kristy Phelan picked up another $250 cash in addition to the cash and trophies they had already won, including Second Place in the Cruiser Class of the bike show, Kristy ran up and planted a big kiss on the face of a surprised Lowell Chichester, who was drawing the tickets. Jim King won People’s Choice for his bike.
The $1,000 winner for the Run-A-Mucca Poker Run was Danielle Price with four jacks, and David Morris picked up the $100 Low Hand. The $400 Poker Stagger Run prize was awarded to David Price, and the Mystery Hand went to Ronald Krudop.
Then it was time for the bike drawing. People pulled out their tickets in anticipation. Some pulled out many tickets each, sure that they had indeed won the bike after buying so many. Lowell pulled the winning ticket and after the obligatory suspenseful pause announced the name of… John Copeland of Battle Mountain, Nevada. John came running up with ticket in hand and claimed his prize waiting at the foot of the stage.
John, who had only bought one ticket, currently drives a 2009 Fat Boy which he is quite happy with. He said, “This will probably be my wife’s bike.” Reportedly Mrs. Copeland was very happy.
One more successful year was added to Winnemucca’s now famous legacy of Run-A-Mucca and the legendary burning bike. See you next year, rain, snow or shine.