The Laughlin River Run Guide

Posted April 17, 2008 in Feature Story

We’ll assume that you enjoy gambling if you’re heading out to Laughlin, Nevada for the 26th annual River Run, the Sturgis West that happens April 22-26 along the banks of the Colorado River. Maybe it’s with dice that you like to roll, or perhaps by placing a large stake of the company’s profits on your favorite baseball team (quick tip: Expos are 1,000:1 to win it all . . . do it). Maybe you’re gambling to get lucky with a local hottie (see: Dream Girls blurb). More likely, you’re gambling with your life to ride sidecar through this two-bit stretch of desert among the anticipated 70,000 bikers who will crowd over Laughlin like a thundering herd, putting fear into the hearts of the local patronage, splitting eardrums with the cacophony of the hog’s roar, drinking up all the liquor in that one terrified corner of Clark County for four unlawful days of seewhathappensnext. Not that the event is bad. Do we look like the kind of paper that’d endorse a bad product? We just enjoy drama, and anything with the word "Harley" carries it inherently. The simple truth is that the Run, as with anything that deals with outlaw gangs under oily duress, has had its moments. During 2002′s River Run, three bikers were left dead in Harrah’s Casino after the Hell’s Angels and Mongols squared off in a brawl that involved guns and hammers, an incident that, according to Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha, remains the largest single death toll in a casino for any one instance in the history of the state. Raping, pillaging, throwing dead bodies off the side of the Interstate–that’s what Norsemen in thundering herds do. But the more consistent truth doesn’t come on as strong; the more consistent truth is that bike enthusiasts from all over the map converge for camaraderie, for vacation, for kicks. This year is no different, as nine hotels with more than 11,000 hotel rooms and an entire RV park in Bullhead City will come to life to show that a certain culture out there still has vital signs, and really, for all the right reasons. It’s not a potential of danger that allures most (although certainly some), but the guarantee of fellowship. And that’s why the Laughlin River Run has become the "West Coast’s largest motorcycle event," the only place and time, for those who like to gamble, to catch the ace of spades on the river. Here is a guide to this year’s festivities. Cheap Places to Stay & Play Aquarius Casino and Resort Rooms are cheap, rooms are clean, rooms are with chicks are always keen–and the Aquarius has all of that. This is one of those beautiful little oasises that are cozy despite the beating walls of those who lost their shirt at the sportsbook. Plenty of bars, such as the Zodiac and The Cove, play to your sociable side; while the Vineyard Ristorante indulges your opulence. There are 90 suites for the high rollers with retroussé noses, but the $19 rooms are good enough, and the fluffy pillows are good places to lay your head and recalculate your moral margins. The New Aquarius Casino Resort, 1900 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (800) 662-5825, Avi Resort And Casino Although it’s located a bit west of the rest of Laughlin’s more renowned casinos, and is separated from their pedestrian thoroughfare, the Avi is one of the newer casinos in the city. It boasts its own lagoon and the largest stretch of beach of any of Laughlin’s hotels. If natural, running river water isn’t quite your thing, Avi’s also got a huge, lagoon-style pool that has a swim-up bar where you can order hot dogs, hamburgers and booze. We seriously doubt that the bartender will make you wait 20 minutes before getting back into the pool like mom used to, though. Avi Resort And Casino, 10000 Aha Macav Pkwy., Laughlin, (866) 463-6284; Colorado Belle Hotel And Casino This hotel/casino is shaped like a boat. But the Colorado Belle isn’t just shaped like any boat, it’s a replica of sorts of a six-story 19th century Mississippi paddleboat. Fortunately, all the stigma of a barely-floating slot house associated with those early riverboats aren’t present here, and the hotel is remarkably inexpensive, thus giving you more bread to throw away on drink, gambling and strippers. The Colorado Belle, 2100 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (866) 460-0777; Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort This is the casino hotel that started the Laughlin building boom. When Don Laughlin flew his private plane over what’s now the Laughlin Strip back in 1964, he envisioned the new Las Vegas, and he could have built that if the then-brand new Interstate highway system didn’t divert traffic from the main thoroughfare, Route 66. It was the first of Laughlin’s casinos, completed in 1966, and the other casino franchises quickly jumped on board. Today, Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort doesn’t have a lot that the other hotels don’t, with the possible exception of their Kid’s Castle, which is a place to drop the kids off while you do a spot of drinking and gamble away their college funds. Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort, 1650 Casino Dr., Laughlin, (800) 227-3849; The Edgewater Hotel And Casino One of the last of the casinos on the Laughlin strip to open, the Edgewater has been serving guests since 1982. You might think that the founders were too lazy to come up with a theme for their riverside casino, but they do have a theme: It’s a subtle Southwestern One. The casino also hosts a buffet that illuminates the lazy issue–it’s simply called The Buffet. But creating a casino full of distractions and amusement architecture is Vegas’ forte. This hotel and casino offers the biggest sportsbook in the city, cheap rooms, cheap eats and 60,000-square feet of gambling goodness. It skimps on the garnishes but adequately delivers the meat and potatoes of the casino experience. Who needs parsley, anyway? The Edgewater Hotel And Casino, 2020 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (866) 352-3553; Harrah’s Casino This here’s the standard for Colorado River interlopers, with 1,505 rooms (over 150 of them suites), loose slots, a soft sand beach and plenty of non-smoking rooms from which to air from the blue-hair billows. Chances is the bar, but the Cancun Lagoon is the place to see the much more, ahem, mature sights. Harrah’s also has an affordable day spa for a little pampering, a great place to send the wife while you enact a perfect bender. During the River Run, it’ll have the best live entertainment with The Black Crowes (Thurs.) and Joan Jett (Fri.) Harrah’s, 2900 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-4600, River Palms Unless the place is littered with Mongol’s and Hell’s Angel’s on the night you visit (entirely likely), this is the spot to hit if you’ve a ticklish funny bone. The Comedy Room will feature Wild Willy Parsons (a given, with his grizzly biker looks, crimped mullet and hilarious "killing girl scouts" jokes) throughout the River Run. Our favorite bit of Wild Willy’s? You know, people always ask me . . . hey, Will, why are you stabbing me? One thousand rooms at the River Palms, one of the better places on Casino Row, too. River Palms, 2700 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-2242, Things to do during the day Custom Bike Show So, you’ve managed to buy a motorcycle, and since you’re not content with having the same bike as everyone else, you’ve tricked it the fuck out. It’s louder than an F-16, gets gas mileage on par with Hummer and it’s yellow with black and white checkers. You’ve even airbrushed Tittie Taxi on the side so that everyone knows what you’re carting around on the back. What do you do with it now? Show it, of course. And what better place to show off your badass ride than at a badass biker rally? This particular bike show is the largest in the west, so competition will be fierce, and with good reason. The winner takes home $2,500. Laughlin Custom Bike Show at the Colorado Belle, 2100 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (866) 460-0777; See Website for registration fees and times Del Rio Cruises You don’t have to gaze at the uber-majestic Colorado River like a convict eyeing parole, you can take a one-and-a-half hour journey on a luxury yacht via Del Rio Cruises (Harrah’s Casino’s very own). This is a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air, shake the video game slot sounds from your mind, etc, all while training a lens on the rare southwestern willow flycatcher (just listen for the sneezy witch-pew calls). Just one more slice of heaven at Harrah’s, a place that somebody once called "a poor man’s Monte Carlo." Del Rio Cruises at Harrah’s, 2900 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-6828 Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Collection Located at the Riverside Casino, there are 80 classic automobiles on display, but that’s not why the Laughlin River Run crown slinks through. They want to see Steve McQueen’s motorsickle, which stars in this exhibition for one long weekend every year, just as proud as a 1966 stamp collection. Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Collection at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Casino, 1650 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-2535, Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs Though it can only be reached via a two-mile downhill hike or by boat, the Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs is a gorgeous way to enjoy the outdoors, and relax in a naturally heated rock bedded jacuzzi. These greenish pools have an average temp of 100 degrees, which parallels the atmosphere. There’s gold in them there hills, alright, and the trailhead is located across the street from the Hacienda Casino at HWY 93. The trail was closed while the bypass construction was being completed to the Hoover Dam, but it’s accessible again and hardly trafficked. It’s a fairly easy hike to the springs, for somebody who is in moderately good shape. Dogs and small children not recommended. Katherine’s Landing Only seven miles from Laughlin is Katherine’s Landing, a hotspot for boaters, water sports enthusiasts, campers and fisherman who seek the clunker largemouth bass on Lake Mohave. Essentially it’s a launch pad for water activity, so bring your aqualungs and trolling lines. Katherine’s Landing, located north of Laughlin off HWY 93 Miss Hawaiian Tropic Model Search We’re sure that nothing’s more gratifying for beautiful, bikini-clad women than to be placed alongside other beautiful, bikini-clad women and have a panel of strangers profoundly judge them on their level of attractiveness. But this beauty contest has some good points, like the winner receiving a real cash prize, along with the coveted label of being Miss Hawaiian Tropic–which is really something. And, since you’re in Laughlin for the River Run, the event is free. Miss Hawaiian Tropic Model Search at the Aquarius Hotel And Casino, 1900 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (702) 298-5111; Fri Mojave Resort Golf Club Swinging a ten-iron might not appeal to the hog-riding Huns that’ll be rampant in Laughlin, but this little refuge might prove a good place to squeeze all the purple oil from the brainpan. Its 18 holes come out to approximately four-and-a-half hours of quietude, give or take a couple of mulligans. Rates run from $59-$99, depending on time/date. Mojave Resort Golf Club, 9905 Aha Macav Parkway, Laughlin, (702) 535-4653, Other golf courses worth checking out: The Emerald River Golf Course is a finely manufactured rollick for the avid golfer, with 18 holes of anxiety-forgetting splendor. Emerald River Golf Course, 1155 Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-2564 Oatman Ghost Town This town sprang out of the desert almost over night when, in 1908, a Los Angeles-based mining company began digging for gold, and its population got even bigger when the company opened a sister mine near by. All together, the two holes produced about $28 million in gold and gold-ore, and eventually made the town the most populous in the county with some claims as high as 10,000 residents. Clarke Gabble honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel with Carol Lombard, and returned several times for super masculine late nights of drinking and poker playing with the miners. But when other metals needed mining for the war effort in 1941, the mines were ordered shut down. With it’s main source of income gone, the town eventually shriveled under the desert sun. Today, there are about 400 full time residents who’ve fixed the town up, wild burrows that wander the streets, and old west-style shootouts for the tourists. It was also the destination that began the Laughlin River Run back in 1983, and many of the bikers still ride the course. Tattoo Convention Whatever your reasons for permanently marring your flesh, you can get it done at the Laughlin River Run. The Aquarius hosts this four-day ink-slinging fest with tattoo artists from around the world. Go ahead and get your girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s/favorite stripper’s name put on your arm, as it’ll prove you’re alive! Aquarius Casino, 1900 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (702) 298-5111; Thur.-Sun. See web site for hours Things to do at night Blue Oyster Cult With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound, he pulls the spitting high-tension wires down. Helpless people on subway trains, scream bug-eyed as he looks in on them. He picks up a bus and throws it back down as he wades through the buildings towards the center of town. Oh no, they say he’s got to go, go go Godzilla. Yeah. Fugging classic fugging song right fugging there, man. Blue Oyster Cult at the Riverside Casino, 1650 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-2535,; Friday and Saturday, April 25-26 Dream Girl’s The guess here is that of the 70,000+ bikers and biker enthusiasts who flock to Laughlin, at least 900 of them will find their way to this dangerous fun on the outskirts, and enjoy themselves capitally. Having met with Mohave officials for safety concerns (the hole in the wall was from a boot, not for glorified purposes, you pervert), this strip joint-cum-dance spot is peculiar in that you might run across a compact five-monther (pregnant woman) shaking her wares. Not your thing? Check out the day shift. Dream Girl’s, 5410 HWY 93, Fort Mohave/Bullhead City, (928) 768-8787 Joan Jett & The Blackhearts She joined The Runaways as a teenager before embarking on her rock & roll lovin’ solo career, and now she’s at the banks of the Colorado. The girl knows her way around a studio and has produced everyone from the Germs to Bikini Kill, and is credited with being the first Riot Grrl–or the godmother of punk–but Jett really just lays down mean licks that buck conformity, embrace ambiguity and reaffirm what we love about rock music. You’ve got to love that, even if love is pain. Joan Jett At Harrah’s Laughlin, 2900 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (702) 298-4600; Fri. 8 PM $27.50-$44 Also playing the Laughlin River Run concert series: Foreigner at the Aquarius, Friday and Saturday, April 25-26 The Black Crowes at Harrah’s, Thursday, April 24 Losers’ Lounge The sorriest lot of luckless bastards ever to carry flesh hang out (or hang up, as the case may be) right here. Located at the Don Laughlin’s Riverside Casino, the Loser’s Lounge lives down to billing, featuring the likes of political, entertainment world and obvious losers from all walks of life along the walls. Two full bars with cheap drinks (Coors, Miller, and other frothy templates), wet t-shirt contests, karaoke, sexy drinks, tea dances . . . the glass is always half empty at the Loser’s Lounge. Losers’ Lounge at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Casino, 1650 S. Casino Drive, Laughlin, (702) 298-2535, Tarzan’s Lounge Think about it. No cover. Live bands and DJs. One-dollar Budweiser. Thirsty girls, some of them dancing, some of them conversing with their hot factions, some of them trying to extinguish their insatiable whorefires. Think about it. Tarzan’s Lounge at the Golden Nugget, 2300 S. Casino Drive, (702) 298-7111, ThundHer Struck If you want to make old bikers dance–and we’re not talking about politely asking, but sonically force big mooks to wriggle thems hips–then you’ve gotta give them some AC/DC. You want them to do backflips? The female version trumps the original. While AC/DC may arguably be the most misogynistic bunch of rockers to make the mainstream crossover, ThundHer Struck offers an all-female perspective homage to the music by, well, being an all-female band and covering AC/DC tunes. It’s a paradox that rocks. ThundHer Struck at the Aquarius Outdoor Amphitheater, 1900 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, (702) 298-5111; Fri. 9PM, $10

(Bike on the cover owned by Alex and Deana Villarinho)

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