Laughlin, Nevada: Site of the Annual Laughlin River Run, where an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 (mostly) Harley riders gather year after year to celebrate the virtues of clean desert living, $5.95 Prime Rib Buffets, and gambling. This year we were not going to be left out. Starting in early February our plans were formulated, hotel reservations were made, and routes were mapped out. Come April 18th, we threw it all out... The Men and Machines: Ducati M900 Monster: Once CEO Plummer's favorite pick in our Muscle Bike test, 400 miles through the desert on the Monster caused him to think again. During the long road home he was frequently heard asking, "Does anyone want to ride this thing?" It was the fastest of the bunch, but carried absolutely no gear. Therefore Mr. Plummer's only luggage was a toothbrush. This prompted him to constantly challenge everyone to a "Stink Contest." Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic: Picked for its combination of classic styling and massive luggage potential, this beast did not disappoint.
It was a little vibratory at fast highway speeds, but that might have been why the passenger liked it so much (she says it was the backrest). Aboard the massive reptile was Graphic Designer Billy Bartels, and his girlfriend, Ann. To the amazement of everyone, they only managed to fill one saddlebag (the other was quickly filled with laptops, cameras, and other boring magazine stuff). Buell S2 Thunderbolt: Old faithful, our first and longest-term test bike. The Buell was a joy on the trip, despite constantly pissing oil on the rider's leg (it's an abused child).
The pilot, Todd "Gimpy" Canavan, was pleased with the S2's large storage capacity, and filled it to overflowing. After a good bit of chiding from Brent, he cut down to 4 pairs of socks, two pairs of skivvies, and a toothbrush (again, the rest of the space was filled with more electronic garbage). Harley-Davidson Fat Boy: Still hangin' out at the MO office after the Open Cruiser test ("just one more week, I swear..."), it was the sexiest bike of the bunch, albeit the slowest. The bike must have been hammered during break-in: the fully loaded Heritage (with passenger) would beat it during top gear roll-ons through the desert. Or, it could have been the sheer weight of all the junk that U.S. Director Len Nelson brought with him, including such sissy items as: deodorant, sandals, hair-care products, and five full sets of clothing.
Day One: Thursday, April 18th
The Journey Begins...
The plan was to leave at 10 AM to get a jump on the day so we could see some of the beautiful desert scenery along the way.
At 2 PM, after phone calls from prospective clients, network emergencies, and a case of milk we finally got underway. We chose a rather roundabout route, to try and avoid as much interstate travel as we could. We left L.A. heading north to the Antelope Valley, after which there would be no more freeway until Nevada. We took the Pearblossom Highway east to Victorville, then another two-laner into Yucca Valley. There we tracked down the local Harley dealer (Hutchins' Harley-Davidson, Yamaha & Honda) to get oil for the Buell. As it turns out, they were holding an open house for all those River Runners brave enough to leave the safety of the freeway. After gorging ourselves on free snacks and soft-drinks, we left civilization behind ... and got lost ...
Although we had a little trouble with our bikes along the torturous route we chose (read: we had no idea where we were, and the beers at the Chinese joint didn't help any), a fun time was had by all. There was a glorious sunset over the salt fields south of Amboy Crater. We would have had pictures, but everybody was too busy staring. After nine hours of highway hypnosis we finally reached Laughlin. Once there, lesser men would have been content to check in and sit in a hottub for the rest of eternity. But the bar beckoned, and we, her willing slaves, answered the call.
Day Two: Friday, April 19th
Oatman, The Law, and The Smell of Success...
We wake up as the sun starts its long descent into the western plain. Somebody pukes. Someone else wipes it up. Good start to the day. Over a really bad $4.99 buffet lunch we decided to head over to Oatman. Oatman is a turn of the century mining town along Route 66 in Arizona, about 30 miles away. As we saddle-up to leave town we get our first glimpse of the weekend to come. Harleys and trucks line the street in a constant parade. Traffic moves at 2 MPH. We assume that lane splitting is illegal here as nobody is doing it. We notice some of the same people still driving in circles that we saw last night when we got here.
After crossing the mighty Colorado River into Bullhead City, Arizona, we continue to sit mired in traffic most of the way to the cutoff to Oatman. We pick up the pace once off the main road, but are soon slowed down again by bikers going the other way, frantically waving at us to slow down. It doesn't take long to figure out why. Every five miles or so along the road to Oatman there is a cop with a radar gun. So we proceed at the state-mandated 45. Needless to say, it's a long and boring ride at 45, but at last we arrive in Oatman. One of us recalls the Oatman of three years ago as we are waiting in line at the sobriety checkpoint. Oatman was a rip-roarin' party town, with folks doing burnouts, drinking until unfit to walk, and getting naked in the streets. Then, two years ago someone died, and "reactionary" was the name of the game. It's been reduced to vendor's booths, drug sniffing dogs, and no alcohol to be had ... anywhere. The police almost outnumbered the crowd, which was scanty indeed. Len the packrat best described it: "beat."
Back in Laughlin, we called a real biker over at Harrah's, and discovered the best Outlaw parties are in Kingman, straight down Route 66. Route 66 was built when roads were meant to be an adventure. Here we find the first semi-twisties since leaving L.A. We have a blast, in fact it is the most fun we were to have all weekend, and we vow to return here before leaving. We find a roadside marker informing us of many useful facts: 1) We're actually riding away from Kingman! 2) This section of very fun road was diverted to a boring straight road in the 50s. The good news is that there's a bullet-riddled abandoned car at a roadside stop that we proceed to take our aggressions out upon. The rest of the day consisted of going back to our hotel, getting piss drunk on $1 Coronas, and discovering the Suzuka 8 hour video game...
Day Three: Saturday, April 20th
Complete and Utter Losers, or The Quest for the Title
We quickly found the game was almost as much fun sober, and definitely more fun than most other things in this town. We quickly developed our individual techniques, and strived to perfect them. CEO Brent Plummer was the first to figure out a strategy more complex than "push right to go right - left to go left." After that we each tried to figure out our own strategy, of course stealing the ideas of whomever was winning. We also realized not all the bikes were created equally: one was dog slow, while another unfairly fast (we dubbed it "Gixer"). We switched off to be fair, but technique was king (see sidebar). Six hours and $120 in quarters later, we left feeling triumphant.
At this point we broke the herd. Brent and Len went to hang out at the "Show Your Boobs" sign while Todd, Billy, and Ann went to the Colorado Belle's dinner buffet. The buffet-goers gave the Belle three thumbs up, and afterwards went wandering the town. The boob-voyeurs sighted four pairs of flesh melons before hitting the $1 Corona bar again.
Another nice thing about Laughlin is the second-run movies in your room, for only $7 apiece. Over the course of the weekend we watched Goldeneye, Casino (imagine that) and tonight, Heat. This proved to be a mistake, as we all spent the rest of our time together copping De Niro, and saying "Look at me!" If it sounds as if we were bored...
Day Four: Sunday, April 21st
We hit bottom. We wake at eleven, glad that checkout is only an hour away. We couldn't resist the urge to spend another $20 on Suzuka 8 Hour on the way to the desk, but after that we bailed. On the way back to L.A. we took a bit more interstate than on the way out, and found time for a few backroads adventures.
We stopped by Hutchins' again to clean out the rest of their traveller's munchies, while putting more oil in the Buell. After that we headed south to the interstate, and rode the freeways to home.
Well, after MO's first bike rally, we must admit we had a pretty lousy time. It was preventable though, and we offer up a couple of tips from our experiences - Tip 1: Go with people who know where the parties are, or who aren't afraid to start one. Tip 2: Go to the less publicized rallies (the cops won't be out in force). If you would like to see more MO coverage of this sort of activity, send E-mail to: Brent Plummer, otherwise known as "the man with the AmEx."