Reno, Nev., Sept. 27–Oct.1—It wasn’t just the streets that were vibrating as bikers from neighboring states rumbled their way into the “biggest little city in the world” during the 23rd annual fall celebration of all things biker in Reno, Nevada. Touted by Roadshows Inc. as the fourth-biggest motorcycle rally in the country, Street Vibrations is most certainly a riding event and the hills were alive with the rumbling of bikers doing just that.
Reno, the biggest city in Northern Nevada, was famous back in the 1950s as a fun place to drink and gamble and was known nationwide as the place to go for a quickie divorce, but for bikers these days it’s most noted for its great riding albeit unpredictable weather. It’s always a crapshoot when cruising into the Sierra Nevada mountains but for the 2017 Street Vibes funfest, it was nippy in the early mornings and perfect by midday if you wanted to take a ride out to see the changing of the colorful trees. From day rides to nearby scenic Lake Tahoe to trips out to surrounding hot spots like Virginia City or dealerships like Battle Born H-D in Carson City and Chester’s H-D in Reno, there was no end of fun stuff to keep riders on the road. In between all that, there were over 250 vendors, contests, concerts and lots of slot machines to keep downtown Reno pedestrians busy as well. There was even a badass bike show or two, including the open Denver’s Choppers show. Mondo celebrated 50 years in the business by hosting a vintage show in the Reno Ballroom where a bike corral of motorcycles for sale was also set up.
Attendees who register with Roadshows receive a T-shirt, run pin, event dog tags, free parking and passes to parties in addition to a daily poker run with freebie food. Included was a fun little scavenger hunt that gave winners cash as well as passes to next year’s Street Vibrations event. We spied a flier about singer Eddie Money’s live concert during the filming of a reality show he’s doing, so right after the official Street Vibrations VIP party on Thursday night, we beat feet over to the Rockbar Theatre and watched our favorite singer, Randy Scoles, open for Eddie with the Gregg Golden Band. Since Street Vibrations is billed as a celebration of metal, music and motorcycles, it was appropriate that we spent our time soaking up some great tunes in between jamming gears. We caught several bands including the Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, Buddy Emmer, and the always-entertaining Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, Skynnyn Lynnyrd, but these were just a few of the great acts performing in the area during the five-day event that’s spread out over surrounding communities.
Eric Estrada, everybody’s favorite television show CHiPs officer from the 1970s and ’80s, acted as Grand Marshal. Estrada, cheerful and very approachable during Street Vibrations, is most recognized for his acting roles but few people realize he has also been a real-life reserve officer in Indiana, was made a deputy sheriff in Virginia and in 2016 announced that he was sworn in as reserve police officer in Idaho, as well. In an opening ceremony on Thursday night, the actor/cop led the Police on Parade through the Reno Arch over Virginia Street. In honor of the officers, the arch was lit up in blue.
For those who like things on the spicy side, the famous and very Nevada-centric Cathouse Poker Run came of age during Street Vibrations as Hell’s Angels celebrated their 21st year of hosting tours of the local brothels. This kick-in-the-ass fun run started off on Friday night with a Best Breast in the West run then rolled into Chester’s Reno H-D to continue with the very adult-only fun on Saturday morning. The first brothel stop was the famous Bunny Ranch before riders continued to the Sagebrush Ranch, the Silver Barons MC clubhouse in Virginia City and the ever-popular Mustang Ranch before winding up at a block party at Wicked and Ruthless Customs in Reno. There’s nothing more uniquely Nevada than a ride out to visit whorehouses and we always enjoy seeing voyeurism at work as guys and gals let inhibitions fly while stopping by to visit the “working” girls. You could just get your bike washed if you wanted a little less intimacy, but even that was decidedly adult in nature. By the time riders rolled into the tiny mountain town of Virginia City, population 850, the place was already consumed by tens of thousands of bikers that took to the streets to whoop it up and ride the twisties of Geiger Grade.
Riders traditionally drop a kickstand anywhere they can and line the old mining town’s wooden boardwalks to cajole passing ladies into flashing the crowds. Mardi Gras beads are exchanged as reward for the flesh flash and cheering erupts as local law tries to keep the choked traffic rolling on down the hill. Over at the Red Dog Saloon, NorCal’s famous Fryed Brothers Band rocked out the rowdies and needless to say, the energy level reached a raucous level as the party raged right on down the mountainside. Riders in the know get off the mountain before dark due to road hazards like falling rocks and the famous Nevada mustangs that roam the desert. The horse herds are notorious for crossing the crooked roads whenever they feel like it, traffic be damned.
Back downtown we caught the slow races that involved elimination rounds of dawdling, creeping riders and included a participation lap of Reno PD’s finest attempting to beat out a street rider. Virginia Street is one of the blocked-off downtown roadways that comprise the heart of Reno as well as serving as the mecca for motorcyclists during the fall festivities. By Saturday evening riders, residents and roamers gathered by the thousands, shoulder to shoulder, to pack the roped-off road as fireworks exploded over the rooftops of the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino. Rock tunes blared over loudspeakers as rockets’ red, blue, green and white glares lit up the skyline above the nearby casino neons. This great overhead display typically serves as the run’s crescendo, but activities continued into Sunday afternoon this year and convinced many attendees to stay in town Sunday night, as well. With four bands still rocking the roads downtown, the tatt expo and vendors selling stuff until 5:00 p.m., there was plenty to do while wandering the vibrating streets of biggest little city where the party never seems to end. Dates for the 2018 shindig are September 26–30. See ya there.