RENO, NEV., SEPT. 25-29–Any rider with more than a block’s worth of traveling under their wheels knows to pack for all kinds of weather when you head into the mountains, and for bikers rolling out to the Sierra Nevada range during the Street Vibrations rally in Reno there was no such thing as “too many duds.” Cresting the famous Donner Pass along Highway 80 on Wednesday night, the THUNDER PRESS crew burrowed deep in our jackets as we braced ourselves against fluffy little snowflakes that collected on our windshield and knew that friends who were coming up Highway 50 along Lake Tahoe would have it worse than we did. By the time we all met up in Reno for the weekend, the mountains held a nice dusting of the white stuff and temps were downright frigid, but the neon lights of the glittering casinos and pitched tents of vendors in downtown Reno still drew a respectable crowd of happy-to-be-there bikers.
If the packed parking lots of the Reno and Carson City Harley-Davidson dealerships were any indication, it could definitely be said that the 20th anniversary of the Street Vibrations rally was a huge success despite the biting cold that kicked off the five-day party. Temperatures eventually warmed up and riders hit the assorted venues sprawled out across the high desert with smiles and sunshine. We made two trips out to Carson City to see stuntman, Jason Pullen pirouette across the blacktop on his H-D and check out the action at the sprawling dealership. The first ride out found us stuck in traffic gridlock that had riders parking so far out from party central that riders were being shuttled back and forth to their bikes. We opted to skip the chaos and ride on, returning earlier in the day on Saturday, which resulted in closer parking. Reno H-D was equally popular with riders, and both dealerships offered an ocean of vendors and activities.
Of course, one of the most-discussed topics among seasoned riders was the “No Colors” signs posted at various businesses throughout the area. In the aftermath of the shooting death of Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, president of the San Jose Hell’s Angels, in Sparks during the 2011 SV rally, a strict “No Colors” policy has been advertised by Roadshows, Inc., promoter of the rally and the policy has been met with a strong reaction considering much of the rally is held on public property.
This year, prior to the rally, the Northern Nevada Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs sent a letter to promoter Randy Burke, asking him to take down the signs that restrict club members from wearing their club patches during the event. This, the Confederation contends, is against the law and is unenforceable. Invoking their First Amendment rights, the Confederation basically threatened to sue Roadshows, Inc.
Troy Regas, president of the Confederation of Clubs in northern Nevada, told THUNDER PRESS that the Confederation represents 39 different Nevada motorcycle clubs. “You know, 39 clubs is a lot. And we’re amazed,” Regas said. “We’re welcome everywhere, and suddenly we’re not welcome here? This is just a ruse; it’s a totally unenforceable policy because it’s on public property. If it’s private property, OK, I can understand that. The Nugget has that policy, as do some of the other casinos, but this is not a casino event and for Randy Burke to post those signs entering Street Vibrations? You can’t do that. We cannot be restricted. We got them to admit they couldn’t enforce it and we got them to take the signs down. Randy wants to think keeping clubs out will build a bigger crowd. It’s just not the case.”
We heard from many riders, club members as well as independents, who professed to boycott the whole event, but as we made our rounds during the week, we noticed club patches of every stripe and formed the opinion that the ban had little effect. We did see an officer in Virginia City ask a woman rider to remove her vest, to which she complied, and we also overheard an officer at the Nugget tell a rider that he would have to remove his colors or leave the premises. That rider also acquiesced with no argument. For places like Davidson’s Distillery in downtown Reno, vests displaying MC patches filled the bar as the Sacramento-area band The Fryed Brothers rocked the house.
As for the activities during the rally, they rolled on as usual, having shifted the heart of the rally back to the streets of downtown Reno. Poker walks and runs were held several times throughout the week, concerts like Jimmie Van Zant’s performance at the Nugget were well attended, but otherwise, Sparks was pretty much a ghost town. We saw one vendor and the poker walks through the casino were also sparse as bored employees sat waiting for riders. Scheduled events listed in the programming had the ambiguous times of “TBA” (to be announced) and left many attendees confused. Twice we showed up for a scheduled activity and were told it had been changed, one was held earlier than the printed time and one was a no-show, so we missed the bikini contest held at the Nugget and the appearance of CHiPs star, actor Erik Estrada.
“We were absolutely thrilled with the reception Erik Estrada received,” Roadshows’ Randy Burke explained. “Everyone from law enforcement to participants greeted him like a superstar, but that made it difficult to get him shuttled from place to place on time because people just wouldn’t let him go. It was a very pleasant surprise and we hope to have him back very soon. As far as the overall attendance goes, the weatherman gave us a bad start but once the weather cleared up, it was great. Due to our close proximity to the Bay Area and Sacramento, with riders coming from two to four hours away, they had the luxury of watching the weather and delaying their trip by a day or two so Friday, Saturday and Sunday were monster days. As far as the no colors policy goes, everything went just as planned. Sponsors maintained a very strict policy of who they let in the front door of their private property. We are very pleased with the overall turnout of both vendors and participants.”
Of course, the highlight of the entire event, at least for our clan, is always the fireworks, and this year they were held on Saturday night over the Silver Legacy and they were fantastic. The show ran longer than folks had expected and there was a general flood of patriotism as the crowd cheered the rockets’ red glare while a very moving recorded rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” played by the band Madison Rising brought the display to a rousing crescendo. By 10:00 p.m. the downtown streets of Reno were virtually empty and we found ourselves wondering what changes are in store for the 2014 Street Vibrations rally. Guess we’ll just have to ride on up and find out.