Laughlin, Nev., April 25–28—Laughlin is an inviting little boomtown clinging to the banks of the Colorado River that serves as a natural border dividing the states of Nevada and Arizona. There’s a variety of gambling casinos along the less than one mile stretch of Casino Drive’s hotels and resorts on the Nevada side and it’s a fun place to hang out, but when a bunch of SoCal guys decided to ride out to the desert enclave some 36 years ago, they had no way of knowing that their little adventure would turn into an annual shindig that attracts riders from all over the country
The party, hosted by Dal-Con Promotions, officially kicked off on Wednesday with parking lots packed with vendors and official registration at the Riverside Resort. Sign-ups for 2018 came with a $35 price tag and included run pin, T-shirt, entry into a self-guided poker run that went on through the weekend, a bike show and the wild and raucous Miss Laughlin contest. Besides the Riverside, official activities sprawled among the Colorado Belle, Edgewater, Tropicana and Golden Nugget casinos.
Riders trickled into town all week and by Friday night the joint was jumping. The Tropicana even offered riders a nice little gazebo in case they felt the urge to tie the knot. For $175 Reverend Fogg could set you up for a lifetime commitment as long as you remembered to get the $77 marriage license.
Across the strip at the Colorado Belle was a tattoo convention with artists from around the country slinging ink and talking trash. The Golden Nugget had some of our favorite vendors like the Big Belly Crew, Sick Pig and Night Rider Jewelry as well as a variety of live music. Hotel rooms and campgrounds city-wide were still available all weekend but if you towed your toy hauler out, which seemed to be the favorite conveyance, you were out of luck on RV spaces unless you wanted to head out of town to the AVI resort. Every campground reported sold-out status and long lines of diesel pushers and motorhomes turning into the Riverside Resort’s RV Park was an indication that aging baby boomers with disposable income and big toys in tow were well represented.
The only other traffic jams seen were caused by the bicycle cops riding two abreast on the main drag, backing up vehicles, or the 16 patrol cars we saw all in a row. Las Vegas sends over patrols to assist during the RR and are not shy about making their presence known. Keeping the peaceful river town safe for the family-friendly motorcycle run is a priority.
The general consensus was that attendance was down and locals openly speculate that bikers are sick of being price gouged by the hotels, but vendors like J&P Cycles popped up their tent, as usual, in the Riverside parking lot and set to moving bike parts like the place was on fire. With sales reaching the $75,000 mark in the first two days, there was no indication from them that attendance was down. And if you wanted to get a table on the riverside patio at the Colorado Belle anytime during the run, the place was packed to the gills, especially when groups like Chris Hiatt and Charlie Tuna were on stage.
Riders head out into the surrounding desert and day trips included destinations like the Kingman H-D dealership, a cruise out to see the London Bridge or a zip up to the ever-popular mining town of Oatman where traffic started piling up well before reaching the city limits. The dusty old ghost town is famous for its wildlife that is as much a part of the landscape as the ancient saguaros. Bikers head here for the Wild West vibe and to feed the donkeys, sip some suds and watch the steady stream of looky-loos who cruise the rutted Route 66 into Kingman, Arizona.
Harley-Davidson, Indian and other marques offered demo rides as a backdrop for the performers of the Victor McLaglen Motorcycle Stunt and Drill Team that this year celebrated its 83rd birthday, thrilling crowds on Friday and Saturday afternoon with a variety of stunts atop moving Harley-Davidsons while battling strong winds that swept through the desert.
Saturday’s bike show was attended by stars of the popular show Counting Cars. Cast members Shannon Aikau, painter Ryan Evans and “Horny Mike” shared judging duties for the Miss Laughlin contest with Law Tigers’ Lyonel Gammon later that night. Ladies crowded the stage to earn the popular vote and win the judge’s hearts for not just the prize money but also the honor of representing the city of Laughlin for the next year. It was the wholesome, if not weird, display of undulating across the stage on her belly in a bikini that won California resident Sierra Schotts the cash and crown of Miss Laughlin. As soon as the cash was dispersed for the top three titles, the River Run was officially over. Vendors were tearing down and parking lots were vacated as we wandered through the debris of the 2018 Laughlin River Run and bikers gave locals back their town.