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13th annual Arizona Bike Week

By Nancy Paganelli

A full plate of desert doings

Heavy on the Mogollon, please

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar. 27–Apr. 5—With its 10 fantastic riding days packed with events from morning to night, Arizona Bike Week is, without a doubt, the highlight of the year for a great many motorcyclists as Phoenix becomes a haven for riders from all over the Southwest anxious to put their problems on hold and just enjoy the reason they own bikes—to ride! And while this year a wicked wind storm, sometimes blowing in excess of 50 miles per hour, caused some heavy problems for riders and vendors on Friday, April 3, at Cyclefest, the long week was mostly the 80-degree blue-sky weather that makes riding in Arizona like sailing on a calm ocean—nothing could be more relaxing and fun.

Nestled down in a vast valley surrounded by looming mountain ranges, the Phoenix desert is bursting with wildflowers all in full bloom, casting exquisite splashes of color throughout the countryside. Daily rides—be they patriotic, long distance, visits to motorcycle builders, poker runs, charity fundraisers, or trips to the mountains, restaurants, bars, and Cyclefest—were scheduled, and almost every ride ended with nightly concerts by the likes of Charlie Daniels, Cheap Trick, Gin Blossoms, Blackfoot, Eddie Money, and Mogollon. If you couldn’t find something fun to do, it’s probably time to just sell the bike!

Chester’s Harley-Davidson Biker Bash III was the kick-off event for 2009 Arizona Bike Week on Friday evening, March 27. This reporter went directly from the west side of Phoenix to the east side—an hour’s ordeal through dense traffic—hoping to see the Charlie Daniels Band, the feature attraction of the evening. Chester’s is a spectacular venue for events, with its newly developed seven acres of biker heaven. Situated between the Harley-Davidson dealership and the new Indian facility, three acres of asphalt, with a huge stage surrounded by vendors and special sectioned-off seating areas for V.I.P.s, was the center ring for the evening’s events. Kicking off the evening entertainment was, in my opinion, the best local wind-’em-up-and-get-’em-clapping-band—Mogollon! They stole the show with their high-energy music in the opening performance. After the tremendous showing of Mogollon, Charlie Daniels had a tough time competing and, though the crowd loved it, they just didn’t deliver the better performance of the evening. Chester’s drew in hundreds of bikers for the event, with bikes filling up every imaginable parking spot, including a shopping center adjacent to the venue.

Everything was a “bash” this year and Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson had its 5th annual Bike Week Bash on Saturday, March 28. Entrance into Buddy’s event is free and he draws thousands of bikers. Special bike parking along Cave Creek road is sectioned off for at least a mile leading up to the entrance to the dealership. The more-than-adequate dealership parking lot and every possible nook and cranny able to hold a bike was totally packed. According to Marketing and Event Coordinator Rachel Carasso, 13,000 people attended the afternoon activities. Buddy Stubbs gave four tours of his impressive motorcycle museum, which is a must-see when visiting the dealership.

One of the big afternoon events featured young ladies sporting bikinis. Nine women individually presented themselves to the humongous crowd and the panel of five judges. It must have been a tough decision to sit on that panel and watch those lovely young bodies cross the stage, and then have to choose which one would be the winner. Eager to assist, judges Scott Passmore, anchor of Good Morning Arizona Channel 3 TV, Barry Caraway of www.cyclerides.com, Ronda Allaway, general merchandise manager of Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson, and Buddy Stubbs himself tore themselves away from other duties and watched as the girls strode across the stage, stopping to answer some thoughtful questions from emcees Pete Cummings and Jeff Allaway. After two rounds, the judges narrowed their choices to three lovely ladies. The final winner, Sheena Vincent of Buckeye, Arizona, will likely appear at special events throughout 2009.

Another big event was the raffle for the Sportster 1200 motorcycle. Starting last February, 2,000 tickets were sold for $10 each. The winner had to be present at the 6:30 event, when Buddy and KSLX-FM DJ Pete Cummings drew five tickets. All five finalists went up on stage and were given keys to try to start the bike. Of course, only one key worked and it was in the hands of Steve Poirer, who had been working all day as a chef in the H.O.G. Pit BBQ tent! Proceeds from the event went to the Harley Owner’s Group Charities, specifically Camp Courage in Prescott.

Saturday evening featured the selection of Miss Arizona Bike Week. The pageant was held on the huge outdoor stage back at Chester’s in Mesa. Twelve contestants went through multiple rounds of judging, which included biker attire and bikini bathing suits. In between rounds, the band MetalHead entertained the audience with a variety of rock music and interesting antics by the witty and colorful band members. During the bathing suit contest, emcee and Arizona Bike Week co-owner Ed Leclere addressed each young lady with a series of questions to give the girls a chance to demonstrate their understanding of motorcycle lingo as well as to give the audience and the judges a chance to assess each individual’s personality.

Winning by popular acclaim was Miss Shannon Kramer, a physical education teacher, softball and basketball coach at Fountain Hills Middle School. Shannon, who works out at Physiques Gym with trainer Craig Tinnelle, has been working towards entering the women’s figure competition but didn’t think she was Arizona Bike Week pageant material until her friend Monica reminded her that she always told her students to “think outside the box and not be afraid to try something new.” Shannon was a perfect queen in that she actually owns and rides her own 2004 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom.

On Wednesday evening in the HandleBar Saloon at WestWorld, Kimmy Chapman, founder of the Biker Information Guide, was recognized for her continued support in all aspects of the motorcycle world, including her devotion to Arizona Bike Week since its creation. She was named “Arizona Bike Week Hero” for 2009. Kimmy, who is known and loved throughout the biker world, was brought in to promote Arizona Bike Week when Cruise America started the first event in 1997 and has continued to be a sponsor and a contributing force throughout the years. “When Ralph Wilson came to me and said they had decided that I was their ‘Hero’ for this year, I was very honored. But I told him I love what I do; I don’t even want anything back in return because I just love what I do more than anything in the world!” And that is the real Kimmy! “Over the years, as I have watched Arizona Bike Week, my advertisers, the clubs and organizations all grow, and just knowing that you guys let me be a big part of it has been the best years of my life.”

Saturday, April 4 at West World’s Cyclefest held many opportunities to see the latest biker wear (lots of bling and angel wings!), the latest additions for bikes, and all kinds of other vendor goodies. Factory demo rides for Kawasaki, Yamaha, Boss Hoss, Big Bear Choppers, Indian, Triumph, Logan’s Motorcycles with Kymco demo representatives, and Harley-Davidson, were held on the upper area around Cyclefest. Many reported a higher participation in demo rides than in previous years. Some vendors, like Klock Werks Kustoms Cycle, worked well into the evenings installing windshields, and those bright, glowing underlights were a huge hit at Glowride. Southern Exposure seemed to be a tremendous hit, with their camera crew busily snapping every rider who entered the West World venue. Bikers could scan the clock as they entered, go to the photo tent later in the day, find their time and buy their photo immediately.

There was also a new toy for the brave to try—the Sling Shot. Actually the warnings stated “don’t ride if you have any neck, back, heart, or health problems, or if you’re pregnant.” They neglected to mention any dysfunction in judgment! However, people were lining up, even though the cost was $30 dollars a person or $50 for two. The actual height of the tower was 145 feet, with the capsule going 200 feet into the air at approximately 100 mph. Stephanie Stead and L. McGee said it was awesome, amazing and they’d do it again. I noticed that after exiting the capsule they went directly to a beer stand for a calming libation.

Bike games also took place on Saturday with not a lot of participants but a lot of audience observers. Lorie “Tequila Rose” Nadler and hubby “Boogieman” Gary took top honors with the Wienie Bite, and Gary also took first in the Plank and second in the Egg Carry. Mary Ann Ivy took both first and second in the Trike events, and Bill Cook took first place with the Egg Carry. Brian Kisling took second place in the Plank and Thil Rivera took first in Stop on a Dime and second in the Barrel Push.

Sunday, April 5 was the last day and for this writer, Logan’s Run is one of the best rides of the week, ending back at Cyclefest in the Handlebar Saloon with a great concert put on by that fabulous local Arizona band Mogollon. It’s the best ride for the money, if you register online before the deadline. Included in the $25 entry is a T-shirt, pin, and lunch at Iguana Mack’s. It’s not the biggest ride of the Arizona Bike Week events, but one of the best—a tribute to the owner of Logan’s Motorcycles, Logan Roberts, who has continued to support children’s charities and Arizona Bike Week yearly. Rides are no fun (for me) without good friends and I want to acknowledge Susie Golden, her friend Billy Diaz, and Doug Wall for always being willing to do the rides with me. Just over 400 riders rode the 100 miles of Logan’s Run, a poker run that took riders through Dynamite Road east through dramatic desert scenery, through Fountain Hills to the Alamo Saloon for stop two, on the Bush Highway towards Saguaro Lake and into Mesa to the Spirits Bar and Grill for stop three, and to Logan’s Roadhouse (no relation!) in Gilbert for stop four. Iguana Mack’s is the last stop on the actual ride, where lunch is served if you get there before 3:00. The Handlebar Saloon was the final destination, where all cards were turned in. Even cards that were sure losers went into a pot for drawings.

Just out of Fountain Hills as our foursome made a gas stop, we ran into Eric Fritchen and his passenger Cindi McFarland. Our group, lacking knowledge concerning the poker run’s road map for the east side, conned Eric and Cindi into letting us join them. They knew the best roads to reach the poker stops so that we could all make it to lunch before the three o’clock deadline. Unfortunately, none of us had a decent poker hand. Back at Cyclefest, all of our cards went into the pot and amazingly, Eric and Cindi’s card was drawn as the “loser” which meant they were the winner of a two-night weekend stay at the Tin Star Trading Post in Greer, Arizona.

Winners all came in with full houses (kicking out my set of queens) with first place in the poker run going to Johnny Smith; second, Michele Malon; third, Sonny Nelson; and low hand, Kenny Warpness. This year all money raised went to Arizona Bike Week Charities and Crusaders for the Children M.C., a charity dedicated to raising awareness of the needs of abused children. Mogollon rocked the tent of the Handlebar Saloon from 3:00 to 6:00, with the absolute best fiddle playing, guitar picking and singing in the whole 10 days of events. (Do you think I like this group?) In addition to the singer/ creators George Brunson and Duane Moore who have been together for 31 years, Bryan Kuban, bass, and Jon Kinsey, drums, complete this extraordinary group of talented men. Wow, what an ending to Arizona Bike Week!

Ralph Wilson, President of Arizona Bike Week, and one of the five co-owners—the others are Dennis Schafer, Doc Hammett, Bradley Bennett and Ed Leclere—gave a favorable thumbs-up to this year’s version of the event. “We were up a bit from last year on some days and down a bit on others, but though we expected a better turnout, we were very grateful and thankful for what we did get. The wind was an especially big factor in Friday’s lack of attendance at Cyclefest. I have been told that due to the unusual geography of the area around WestWorld, windy weather is more forceful right there than possibly other parts of the city. Some vendors had problems with their tents, and riding in the wind was more difficult; however by evening we still had a good crowd to see and hear Eddie Money in the HandleBar Saloon.”

Weather is the most unpredictable part of any event. In past years we have had everything from rain, cold, hot, sunny, windy, and perfect. There are no advance predictions for 2010, except the coming of the 14th Arizona Bike Week! (www.azbikeweek.com)

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