The Wild, Wild West

March 2nd, 2017
Back The Wild, Wild West

When Harley-Davidson dealer Dale Marshke organized a river run to Laughlin, NV. in 1983, he invited some friends to come along. It wasn't planned as anything major -- just a weekend of fun, gambling, and side trips to ghost towns and following the old Route 66.

The event drew 426 motorcycle riders. On April 26, somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 bike riders are expected to jam Laughlin for the 35th annual Laughlin River Run, a four-day event.

Now you would think that many bike riders would be a concern to local law enforcement as well as business owners in Laughlin, Bullhead City, AZ., and surrounding communities. Such is not the case.

Laughlin casino owners are spreading out the welcome mat for the influx of bike riders. They are giving them generous discount rates in the casino resorts along the Colorado River community and are offering free parking for their thousands of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.


Except for one disaster in 2002, when five gangs clashed at one of the casinos and left three gang members dead and 13 hospitalized -- police arrested nine persons -- the Laughlin River Run has been remarkably violence-free.

'For the most part, the bike riders are on their best behavior,' said Don Laughlin, owner of the Riverside and the man for whom Laughlin was named. 'Oh, once in a while somebody gets out of control, but that's to be expected in a gambling community. We can handle it.'

In 2015, law enforcement officers in Laughlin, Bullhead City and Las Vegas reported arresting 35 individuals who were part of the river run. Twenty-seven were for misdemeanors and five were for felonies, including three for outstanding warrants.

I have been in Laughlin during past river runs and I can assure you that there are few people who can enjoy themselves more than motorcycle riders.

They spend their money freely and tip well. Many of them are gamblers and they give the dice tables, blackjack dealers and poker players plenty of action. Their motorcycle mamas play the slots. Everybody seems to have a good time.

The bikers are planning some side runs that will take them to old Route 66, a scenic highway that winds through Oatman, a near ghost town that still produces gold, silver and turquoise.


They will bike their way to Kingman, AZ., home of Andy Devine and Clayton Moore who played the Lone Ranger in the long-running television series. Some will travel to Las Vegas. When a bike rider gets his Harley revved up, you can't keep him down on the farm.

Anyone can get into their planned activities by paying a $25 fee. There will be plenty of stage shows and live music. The bike riders will be staying at the Riverside, Tropicana, Colorado Belle, Golden Nugget, Harrah's and the Laughlin River Lodge.

A custom bike show will be held Saturday, April 29 with three prizes -- $750, $500 and $250 -- being awarded to the winners. Another event will be a beauty contest to name Ms. Laughlin River Run, with prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000 going to the winner.

This is the largest motorcycle event in Nevada and one of the largest on the West Coast. I expect to be back in Arizona by April and plan to make it a must event. Let the engines start and let the games begin.

“the 35th annual Laughlin River Run”

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