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The Adventures of Indiana Joe – Issue 24: Laughlin

Well, here it is again for many of you .. the “riding season” is already in full swing. We’ve had an unseasonably warm winter/spring .. and most of you have had the Iron Horse out of the barn for a number of weeks now. I was just inspecting Bosco a bit closer again last week .. as I’ve noticed he’s needing another rear shoe, as of yesterday! I spent even more time digging through my detailed maintenance records after I first noticed the skin on the back, instead of actual tread. I guess it just pisses me off every time I have to spend at least $250 on a tire that’s only averaged 7,254 miles over 181,366 total. Yeah, I even discovered this actually will be my 26th rear, as I had written #23 on two new tire receipts in a row. And I suspect it wouldn’t surprise you if I told you I have every receipt and record for every ounce of “TLC” I’ve given him for over ten years. He deserves it.

A bit of info here about the tires, in case you’re interested, or are as disappointed in motorcycle tire manufacturers as I am. After all, they make cage tires that are supposed to get 60,000 miles! You’d think they could come up with a compound that would at least double the mileage we get, and I don’t do “burn-outs”. I love mountain riding and hot desert conditions .. and yes, I understand physics and know what eats rubber. Tire pressure is a significant factor in itself. After I’d used up several tires in less than 6,000 miles .. a dealer suggested I use Nitrogen in my tires to eliminate the expansion and contraction due to heat. It made a world of difference in wear .. and the pressure level remained more constant. Then I decided to switch from the Harley issued Dunlops to Metzeler. The first rear after the switch yielded 13,129 miles .. and I didn’t change my style of riding in the least. I was blown away!

The very next rear got only 7,858 miles, and I was so disappointed I suspected something was drastically wrong, as my riding hadn’t changed one bit. When I went back to the dealer with my last receipts, he admitted the last poor-performance tire was a “new compound specifically designed for Harley riders”. Yeah, right! “Specifically”, because they think Harley riders are made of money .. and “that” tire was different than my first Metzeler. I insisted that I get the exact same model number as the one I tried first .. and guess what? Yep .. 10,241 miles so far .. so don’t tell me it doesn’t make a difference. Guess I should have paid closer attention to the numbers on the receipts, huh? I assure you, I’ll get it right this time .. as the big trips I have planned for this summer will definitely put it to the test. I’ll let you know in a few months how many miles I get out of this one.

I always carry a log book in my saddlebag and record every fuel stop, mileage and location. It’s Bosco’s own personal diary .. and trust me, he’s had an incredible life so far. I think what we have in common are the number of “near death experiences” that have left character scars on us both. That’s probably why when people ask me if I have any tattoos .. I just tell them “I have scars .. they make better stories”. The 24/7 ongoing pain is just a little reminder .. and rest assured, it’s far greater and more intense than pin pricks that might last a few hours, at the most, for an elaborate “color” picture that will only fade in the years to come. By that time .. it may be hard to visualize what the original artwork “said” to the viewer .. but a nasty scar will forever tell a story without any words. That “story” will always change with the imagination behind the eyes that inspects it .. but the “truth” behind its cause and reason will not.

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March 28th – April 1st was Arizona Bike Week. April 25th – 28th was the 30th Anniversary Laughlin River Run on the banks of the Colorado River .. probably the West Coast’s largest motorcycle event featuring Casino Gaming, Tradeshows, Exhibits, Poker Runs, a Custom Bike Show and top name entertainment. This year featured Ted Nugent. I’ve gone several times over the last few years, as the weather in the Southwest couldn’t be any more perfect for motorcycles. The first year I went, I’d spent some time in Phoenix and hit all the notorious biker bars including The Hideaway Grill, Greasewood Flat and The Steel Horse Saloon, each of which deserve a feature in months to come. And as I got back on Historic Route 66 and wandered through Oatman my first time .. I ended up down at Topok’s Marina on the Colorado River. Another awesome biker bar with an outdoor grill and decks overlooking the inlet off the river, where boaters came to fuel up, eat a bite and get back out under the sun.

Not far up the road was Needles, California, where I found a KOA Campground to throw down for the weekend. The only problem was that the rocky gravel ground was so hard that I couldn’t even hammer a metal tent stake in the ground. I gave up after bending a few and walked into a nearby field to carry rocks big enough to set on the corners of my tent while I roped the front and rear to a picnic table and a power outlet. It worked, and that’s all that mattered. It was less than 30 miles north to Laughlin on either the Needles Highway or AZ95, split by the Colorado River, and I didn’t see any closer campgrounds on my map.

Laughlin is on a sliver of the Colorado River Valley where Nevada, California and Arizona meet, just 100 miles south of Las Vegas. It has been transformed into a fast-growing tourist destination and gambling resort in a few short decades. Its current location was established in the 1940’s and called South Pointe, due to its proximity to Nevada’s southern tip. The settlement consisted of a motel and bar that catered to gold and silver miners who dotted the map, and to the many construction workers who built Davis Dam. The dam was designed to help regulate the mighty Colorado and to provide electricity to the Southwest. Once it was completed, construction workers left and the motel fell into disrepair.

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In 1964 Don Laughlin, owner of Las Vegas’ 101 Club, flew over Laughlin and offered to buy the property. In less than two years the motel and bar, now called the Riverside Resort, was offering all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for .98 cents, play on 12 slot machines and two live gaming tables. Guest accommodations were available in four of the motel’s eight rooms. The Laughlin family lived in the other four rooms.

South Pointe was renamed Laughlin when the U.S. Postal Service inspector insisted Don Laughlin give the town a name, any name, in order to receive mail. Laughlin recommended the name be Riverside or Casino, but the postal inspector used Laughlin instead.

In 1972 the Riverside Resort added 48 rooms, followed by several additions and in 1986 built the first 14-floor high-rise. A second casino, the Bobcat Club, opened in 1967 and now operates as the Golden Nugget. In 1968 a third casino, the Monte Carlo opened its doors.

Across the River, Bullhead City flourished in the glow of the casino light. Shuttle boats transported customers from the Arizona side of the river to Laughlin’s resorts. During the 1980’s a surge of casino construction exploded in Laughlin. The Colorado Hotel (now the Pioneer), the Regency Sam’s Town Gold River (now the River Palms) and the Edgewater opened early in the decade. The activity attracted other investors to begin a second boom resulting in the construction of the Colorado Belle, Harrah’s Del Rio, Ramada Express and finally, in 1990, the Flamingo Hilton.

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In 1987, Don Laughlin funded and built the Laughlin Bridge at a cost of $3.5 million. He donated the bridge to the states of Nevada and Arizona. The bridge carries 2,000 vehicles daily.

Today there are nine hotel/casinos and one motel in Laughlin providing over 10,000 rooms, 94,000 square feet of meeting space, 60 restaurants, two museums, a 34-lane bowling center and a variety of boutiques, spas and salons. More than 14,000 casino workers now cross the Colorado by shuttle boat or the Laughlin Bridge each day.

The city by the river now attracts nearly 3 million visitors annually who visit Laughlin to gamble, enjoy water sports on the Colorado and attend many high-profile special events hosted by the community, including the “River Run”.

Unfortunately, that first year I attended the River Run bike event was the year after two notorious rival biker clubs, the Hell’s Angels and the Mongols, went head-to-head shortly after 2am in Harrah’s Casino during the April 2002 River Run. Three men were killed and over a dozen injured. So during my inaugural event, not only was the entire Laughlin Police Force on full alert, but the city had brought down 150 more officers from Las Vegas to patrol the streets and casinos. You couldn’t fart without being patted down for “suspicion” of something. The strip itself is rather short .. only nine casinos .. so you can imagine what it was like to see “uniforms” everywhere you looked. Patrol cars were everywhere and bikes were being pulled over for the slightest infraction. It really put the damper on things, and I was quite content to ride the 30 miles south to the campground each night.

There are still thousands of bikes that head to Laughlin each year. I’ve since stayed at the Riverside, the Colorado Belle, and several of us rented a house just across the river in Bullhead City on my last trip. The initial objective of the River Run was to put together another “Sturgis” .. in a southwest location when the weather would be perfect. There are a lot of similarities in the two events: vendors; concerts; bull-riding babes; bikini contests; awesome day rides; countless spectators; rivers of alcohol and stumbling idiots. Unfortunately, many of those idiots saddle up and think they can ride .. just like Sturgis. And each year, those stupid actions cost lives.

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Mother Road Harley Davidson is the closest dealership to Laughlin, about 35 miles to Kingman, AZ. They always sell a ton of merchandise during the event, and they are one of the nicest dealerships I’ve visited around the country. So as you fill your summer with destination rides and create memories to last a lifetime .. I’m sure you’re like the rest of us who make a point of finding every Harley dealer along the way. My problem has always been finding them open … but just like everything else along the trail .. that’s just the way it goes sometimes. All that’s really important .. is never regret anything that made you smile.

“Indiana Joe”
and the Adventure continues …

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