WINNEMUCCA, NEV., MAY 25-27—To run amok is to go mad; to go wild and run about in a frenzy. You get the idea; it’s a police officer’s nightmare. For the 11th year in a row bikers congregated in the little Northern Nevada town of Winnemucca for Run-A-Mucca to do just that, and the culmination of all that pillaging is the Saturday night burning of the bike—let’s see them do that at any other bike rally.
Winnemucca is a little out of the way by most people’s standards, but it is the perfect place to hold a rally of this type with minimum complaints from Joe Public. Since it always happens on Memorial Day weekend, most of the villagers have left their abodes in search of that perfect vacation spot, leaving the common folk to suffer their own fates. Weather can be a factor here, since forecasts are highly unpredictable come late May. Snow blanketed the mountains and surrounding area on Thursday, making Friday breezy and cloudy. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, however, got steadily warmer and made for some great riding. Nevada is, after all, “A land of extremes… soaring mountains looming over ghost towns… Where open roads are endless,” or so says the Nevada Rides Motorcycle Guide.
The vendors were ready to go at 3:00 p.m. Friday outside the Winner’s Casino. There were eight different food vendors and yes, I did count the Budweiser truck being run by the Humboldt County Veterans as a food vendor. The overall menu offering included hamburgers, kettle corn, slushies, a couple barbecue places and even a crepe place. If that didn’t entice you, there was an ample supply of restaurants and fast food joints in town, as well. There were over 50 motorcycle-related businesses that had set up shop for the weekend. After all, we common biker folk need important things like T-shirts, boots, hats, patches, sunglasses and tattoos to get through our pillaging. Just in case you wanted a colored feather woven into your hair, Jacy at Bombshell Betty’s was your go-to gal.
Event packages could be picked up at the Winnemucca Inn as usual, and at the same time you could buy a $20 raffle ticket for the brand new
2012 Road King up for grabs this year that was on display in the lobby of the Inn. Newmont Mining (a real gold mine operation) is the major employer in the area these days, and they had a recruiting trailer set up in front of the Inn. The “recruiting tool” they were using was a beautiful blue and gold custom V-Twin built on national television by none other than Paul Teutul Jr. Manny Villanueva of Newmont said that they figure the company received $750,000 in national ad exposure during the construction at a fraction of the cost, although he didn’t elaborate on how big or little that fraction was. The wheels were massive on the bike and weighed over 100 pounds each.
Eric Haines, an event favorite, was on hand juggling, singing, stilt-walking and riding his two-piece bike while wearing a rocket pack. He brought a new friend with him this year, Giuseppe the marionette monkey, and when Giuseppe accused Eric of being a bad ventriloquist because his lips moved, Eric retorted with, “That’s because I’m not a ventriloquist; I’m schizophrenic.”
Every year stunt riders put on several shows over the three-day event and this year it was Mobile FMX out of Grand Junction, Colorado. These guys were doing some amazing stunts, flying 30 feet in the air off of ramps. In between, they would do the easy stuff like burnouts and wheel-hops. Can you do a handstand on your handlebars 30 feet in the air? They can.
Remember the police officer’s nightmare I mentioned? I caught up with Captain Bill Dalley of Winnemucca PD, who said they did have assistance from outside agencies like the Sheriff’s Department, Washoe County Motor Unit and the Highway Patrol. As a rule, Run-A-Mucca is a pretty low-key event (in spite of the name) and most of the problems over the weekend are with locals, not the bikers. In light of the shootings in Reno last fall, they have adopted a zero tolerance policy this year that helped keep the amount of criminal activity to a minimum. He said, “We plan for the worst and hope for the best.” By all accounts, they usually get the best.
The aforementioned run package is $35 and includes a run shirt and pin, entry into both the Saturday and Sunday poker runs with pots of $1,000 and $400 respectively, barbecue lunch ticket, entries into the tattoo contest, bike games, bike show and the burnout contest ($750 plus a new tire for first place and $250 for second).
Saturday found us at the ready for the $1,000 poker run. You got a map and a poker sheet and proceeded to various stops around the area. The final stop was at Fireman’s Park in Paradise Valley, about 40 miles northeast of Winnemucca. Lunch consisted of the traditional tri-tip, potato and macaroni salad and chili.
Once back in town we drew our final card and I ended up with the only good hand I’ve ever had on a poker run. With a queens-over-jacks full house, and assurance from the lady behind the table that I was in fact the high hand at that time, all I had to do was pick up my $1,000 that night at the Bike Burning. I then decided to put some of those winnings towards a handful of raffle tickets for the new Road King. Turns out it was a little bit of wishful thinking—more on that later.
The bike burnout was up next, so we went over to Sonoma Cycle where it was held. Three stouthearted individuals came forth in the form of Jim Jensen and Roy Brigston on Japanese sportbikes, and an ever-faithful FXR ridden by Roger Templeton. Roy and Roger shredded their tires beautifully to include flaming embers shooting off the rear tires, filling the air—and our lungs—with thick, black smoke and showers of small bits of burning rubber. Then Jim Jensen rode up on his Kawasaki Ninja. He spun his rear tire, but no black smoke came out—it was blue! Who knew there was a specially made tire for burnouts that emitted your choice of red, purple or blue smoke? Apparently the sportbike guys knew, but most of us Harley guys were clueless. Needless to say, Jim won the burnout contest with Roy placing second—Roger had to buy his own tire.
The tattoo contest at the Winner’s Casino followed the burnout contest. Charles Young took first place for the Black and Grey class, Felicia
Burkhart of Idaho took first for New School and Jason Mark took first for Color, as well as the grand prize. There was a lot of encouragement by the crowd—and the judges—for removal of clothing to better see the tattoos, but the guys were more willing than the girls, which was just creepy for me. Apparently everyone was getting desperate to see some flesh, so one of the judges, radio host Steve Smith, challenged the rather roundish emcee, Bill Abbott, to take off his shirt. Abbott threw out a secondary challenge that he would if Smith would take off his pants. At the count of three both men accepted the challenge and disrobed—it was a sight none of us common folk would soon forget. I then went out to the stage area where it would be announced that I had won $1,000 in the poker hand. The only problem was that Barbara Pope from Carson City had slipped in with four threes and took all my winnings home with her.
Di An Putnam, the mayor of Winnemucca, and Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore presented the Soldier of the Year award to Sgt. Dan McVey of Winnemucca. Aside from a plaque, they also awarded him a brand-new Savage Arms Winchester .308 rifle. The residents of Winnemucca are extremely proud of the men and women who serve our country, and aren’t afraid to show it.
As the sun set and the rock band Crasher out of Las Vegas supplied the music, pallets had been piled high under the Honda that had been selected to burn that night and the smell of fresh diesel fuel wafted off the newly fuel-soaked wood. At the end of the countdown, road flares were thrown in and the Honda went up in flames. As the flames grew, Crasher played Thunderstruck by AC/DC, firing up the crowd even more. The heat from the fire was so intense, people had to back off a good 30 feet to keep from being burned.
I headed off to the Mine Shaft Bar where they were having their All-Girl Kissing Contest. Six lovely ladies paired up and ultimately a very horny Angel and partner Crush handily beat the others. Then it was off to the Players Bar on the other side of town for the wet T-shirt contest. The winner was Ashley Angos of Winnemucca, and while the runner-up was being fondled by the lady who had the high bid to soak her down, a rather large biker by the name of Cowboy came in and carried Ashley off on his shoulders into the crowd. Judging by the smile on her face, she didn’t seem to mind.
Sunday morning started on a more serious note, as riders assembled at Winners Casino for the Veterans Memorial Service. Of all the rides
during Run-A-Mucca, this is the only escorted one. Eight motor officers from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and several patrol units blocked traffic while over 200 bikes rode out of town to the Pioneer Veterans Cemetery to honor our fallen soldiers on this Memorial Day weekend. Big Jim MacClain, a former Marine and radio show host in Reno, said it best: “Military people have written a blank check and may have to cash it with their lives… Memorial Day is the day to remember those that have died for our country.” After Taps was played by bugler Thom Lallement, a single cannon shot was fired and balloons were released into the air, ascending toward heaven like souls returning home.
After the service the afternoon events started. Sunday’s poker high hand was worth $400 and there was the bike show at the Model T Casino. All you needed was your event pass to enter and see the amazing custom bikes on display from both metric and American-made marques.
Bike games were once again a part of the day’s activities. Loren Lyon won the walk the plank event with two perfect passes, and Mike Phelan won the slow race. The wienie bite is always a favorite and the limp foot-long hot dogs they use don’t make it easy. Pete Navarro, general manager of the Model T Casino, was new to the announcer role this year and had been grabbed at the last minute. However, quips like “She went after that like she’d done time in the pen,” and “That flipped her head back like a Pez dispenser,” will probably get him the gig from now on.
Craig LaFollette, the mayor of Burns, Oregon, decided to ride down with his wife, Lorie. Who would have thought that the mayor’s wife would make two successful passes in the wienie bite contest making her the undisputed champ? The unsuspecting couple also won the egg contest.
Music was provided by recording artists Judge Jackson, who were playing throughout the evening. Aside from originals, they covered Allman brothers, Mellancamp, Hendrix and other assorted ’70s and ’80s rock. At the end of the evening the drawing for the bike was held. The name of Steven Lang was called and his very teary-eyed wife Connie came forward with the winning ticket. Steve was at work and he had to take time off to come down and claim his bike. They live in Winnemucca and Steve currently has an ’86 custom Harley and a ’94 Fat Boy. Connie was claiming dibs on the Fat Boy before they signed the papers on the new bike.