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River Run wheels into area

April 28, 2017

LAUGHLIN — The 35th annual Laughlin River Run shifted into full gear Thursday with thousands of enthusiasts rolling into town for the largest motorcycle gathering west of the Rocky Mountains.

“Based on registration, (hotel) occupancy and past history, we’re anticipating 52,000 this year,” predicted MJ Smith of the Laughlin Tourism Commission. “That would be up about 5,000 to 7,000 over last year.”

While 52,000 motorcyclists and their bikes weren’t in town Thursday, the numbers did swell significantly as the day wore on and likely will continue to do so as River Run roars toward its Sunday conclusion. There was a steady stream of bikers registering in the Starview Room and Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino, waiting patiently to officially sign in as a participant of the Dal-Con Promotions-sponsored event.

While registration began Thursday, many participants didn’t wait until then to arrive in Laughlin for a week full of festivities.

“We came in Tuesday,” said Steve Robinson of San Francisco, who made the “750-mile-ish” trip along with Brad Burch of Walnut Creek, Calif. “We came out early and beat the traffic. We’re going to do the same thing going home.”

Robinson said he and Burch planned to pack up today for a somewhat leisurely ride back home. For Robinson, it’s his first long-distance ride since undergoing hip surgery two years ago. But it isn’t his first visit to Laughlin.

“The Laughlin run is one of the first runs of the year,” said Burch, who noted the two have attended similar gatherings, including Sturgis, S.D., in the past. “The trip itself is amazing. Riding through the desert, in the dark, seeing all the critters, seeing all the stars...”

“It’s the answer to life in a nutshell,” chimed in Robinson, waxing philosophical.

In addition to the scenic ride to Laughlin, the two said they enjoy seeing the “new stuff” that the vendors have to offer. Burch said he spent most of Thursday morning taking test rides on new motorcycles. He said his 2006 Harley is probably going to need to be replaced “in a year or two” so the test drives were worth his time.

While Robinson and Burch rode in from San Francisco, Brett Grey and his 9-year-old son, Arlen, flew in from Edmonton, Canada.

“We flew to Scottsdale and rented a Harley,” Grey said. “There’s still snow on the ground in Canada. Couldn’t ride by bike from there.”

Grey said he had been to Laughlin before, in 2004, several years before Arlen was born.

“We’re just doing a trip,” he said. “I lost my wife to cancer this year, so I wanted to take my son on a trip.”

Grey said part of the trip will include a run to Las Vegas with specific sights to show his son.

“I want him to see where we got married,” he said.

Snow also kept Linda Beltran and Brad Manning from riding to Laughlin. Instead, they put bikes in a trailer and drove.

“My bike’s still in Billings,” said Beltran, making her first trip from Montana to Laughlin. Manning, from Elko, Nev., bemoaned the near-record snowfall in northern Nevada but said that packing the bikes in the trailer was the next best thing.

Smith noted that the River Run isn’t a local or even a regional event. It’s international.

“We’ve got a group here from Brazil,” she said. “Another group from Germany ... and Canadians, of course,” she said. “We’ve got people from New York, from Florida. From all over.”

And that, Burch said, is one of the reasons he keeps coming back to Laughlin.

“It’s a great time to get together with old friends you’ve never met and new friends you’re going to meet,” he said.