SPARKS, NEV., SEPT. 19-23—“No Colors, No Weapons.” These were the signs plastered all over the Western towns of Reno, Sparks and Virginia City for the 18th running of Street Vibrations this year. It reminded me of the same list Wyatt Earp posted in another Western town, namely 1880s Tombstone, when he forbid the wearing of the red sashes by the infamous Cowboys and the carrying of guns in town. Yes, the movie was factually accurate in this regard. It was a tall order then and a tall order now, but after last year’s shootout at the Nugget plans were put into place right away by event organizers and the local police to ensure that no harm would come to anyone at this year’s Street Vibes. More on that later.
Sundown in the West
Wednesday evening found me riding into Reno about sundown and I hitched my steed around the corner from Shooters Saloon, a favorite of many when arriving at Street Vibes. Things were quiet, but I was assured by the lovely bartender that there was a big crowd earlier and more would be there later. She was correct, and good times did follow.
Vendors had filled the roped-off street and were open late for everyone’s shopping pleasure. Ron Simms, Mike Corbin, Dragonfly Audio and many others were displaying and selling their wares out of their trailers and tents, much like the traveling salesmen of the Old West. There were bands playing day and night, as well. Lady Luck smiled down on me when I met up with fellow THUNDER PRESS scribe John Horn and his lovely wife Carol, who let me bed down on their little spread at the edge of town for the night while the coyotes howled in the distance.
Wednesday and Thursday are always good days to map out what you want to do during Street Vibes, as Friday through Sunday is when the majority of all the activities take place—and there are a lot of them. There are also many great roads to ride in Nevada, and a fresh copy of Nevada Rides, put out by Nevada Magazine, had found its way into the event package to help you do just that.
Check-in was quick and painless at the Nugget’s Courtyard Motel in Sparks Thursday morning. (You could also check in at the Reno Ballroom near the El Dorado Hotel.) Once checked in you could go through your goodie bag and find your run pin and the all-important pocket program that literally fit into your pocket and contained info about all the different events around town, area maps for the venders in Sparks and Reno, coupons for free or reduced-price drinks at different bars, two poker run sheets, free event T-shirt and a complete schedule of events for the weekend.
Entertainment was top notch for the weekend, as well. Government Mule, featuring Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers fame, was playing Thursday night at the Grand Sierra Resort, George Thorogood was playing at the Silver Legacy Friday night and Crosby, Stills and Nash were playing Saturday night at the Reno Event Center. Tickets for Street Vibes attendees were available at the Silver Legacy prior to the shows. Journey Unauthorized (a Journey tribute band) was playing Thursday and Friday nights at the Nugget, with teenage recording artists Cheating Daylight as the opening act. (There was a free ticket in the Pocket Program for Thursday night’s performance.) Buckcherry was also playing at the Knitting Factory Friday night, not to mention the various local bands that played all day and into the night in Reno and Sparks.
There were two motorcycle stunt shows this year, as well. John Stotts’ Globe of Death was in Reno outside the El Dorado, and Hollywood stuntman Monte Perlin and his Globe-O-Cross performed in Chrome Alley outside the Nugget in Sparks. Earlier this year Monte’s son, Sam Wagner, died from pneumonia. Sam used to assist in the act, and Saturday night Monte dedicated the show in his name.
New for this year were Street Vibrations shuttle buses that ran between the venues at Sparks and Reno on the hour, so you wouldn’t run the risk of driving drunk. Many of the larger hotels had their own shuttle buses to the venues, too, so it was entirely possible to park your bike at your hotel, make both venues and not have to drive between them—oh, and all of the shuttles were free! Randy Burke, president of event producer Roadshows, Inc. said, “Many riders told us they don’t want to party and ride, but don’t want to miss any part of the event.” And Roadshows wanted to be certain that riders had the option to get to and from the venues safely.
No Colors, No Weapons
According to the Roadshows media handouts, “Colors” were defined as “Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs bearing three and four patch insignias on their outerwear.” Apparently not everyone got the word on this definition, as the “No Colors” rule was enforced a little unevenly. Casino signs in Reno read “No Outlaw Colors,” while the signs at the Nugget simply read, “No Colors.” I talked to a number of H.O.G. chapter members who were denied entry into the Nugget unless they removed their H.O.G. vests. Cal Dog from Salinas told me his vest consisted of an eagle on the back with several smaller year H.O.G. rockers down the side. Uniformed security let him into the Nugget, but he was pulled aside in the casino by a security guard in a suit who told him to take it off, as it violated the “No Colors” policy. Although some people complained, everyone apparently complied because I could find no incident where someone was actually denied entry for refusing to remove their vest. I’m sure the letters section of THUNDER PRESS will receive some complaints, though. Given that the problem last year occurred at the Nugget, it was understandable that some of the security people there were more sensitive to “colors” than others.
Sparks PD was utilizing regular patrol officers—uniformed and plain clothes—a horse patrol unit and a SWAT team. If things did get out of hand, they had a mobile command unit all set up and ready to be manned at the back of the Nugget.
Mike McNulty, site manager for Roadshows, said that they made a lot of changes this year in an effort to safeguard the riders at the Nugget. All of the vendors were moved inside the parking lot, and the lot was enclosed by security fencing so they could control entry to the event. The “No colors, No weapons” signs were being strictly enforced, and he had many compliments from the riders saying they felt much safer this year.
Aside from the fact that you were free to ride anywhere you wanted to, there were some rides that were actually planned. There were poker rides and walks Friday and Saturday, and the event package included poker sheets for both of these activities that started out at the Nugget Courtyard Motel. Friday’s trip went to Rail City, Tamarack Junction, south of Reno to Carson City Harley-Davidson, then up to Virginia City, down to Chester’s Reno Harley-Davidson and back to the Nugget where you turned in your sheet.
Carson City Harley had almost as many vendors as Virginia Street did, but the big draw was Jason Pullen and his crew. Jason did front and rear wheelies, rode the handlebars and burned the back tires off two motorcycles. There were also bands playing all day to go along with the store’s sale offerings.
Virginia City was starting to get pretty crowded as we rolled into town. Many people were checking out the various bars and restaurants, but Fireside BBQ had one of the largest crowds. Two of the waitresses were dancing on the porch out front, and made quite a bit of cash in the process. Our attention span got really narrow when they started drinking shots out of each other’s belly buttons—without the glass. It got really rowdy when the guys and gals in the audience started buying shots, as well.
Saturday’s ride started in Sparks again and headed down to Rail City and then up to Lake Tahoe along Highway 50 to Bodine’s Casino. The ride then went back down to Highway 395 where we headed southwest to the old Mormon settlement, formerly known as Mormon Station. Since 1855 it has been known as Genoa, after Christopher Columbus’ birthplace in Genoa, Italy. This beautiful, fertile valley looks out of place above the Nevada desert. After our stop at the Genoa Bar (“Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor”) we headed back down the mountain and picked up 395 to Chester’s Harley-Davidson for another card before heading back to the Nugget.
Of course, on Saturday there was also the famous, and very popular, Cathouse Poker Run culminating at the old Mustang Ranch east of Reno.
The Silver Legacy held an invitational America’s Finest Custom Bike Builder’s Expo. Although there was no competition between the builders, there were many fine examples of consummate bike building.
On Friday and Saturday nights The Sands held wet T-shirt contests. There were some fine ladies willing to wet their nipples; however, on Friday night a couple of the ladies had one too many drinks while waiting their turns. One lady was able to complete her appointed stage rounds, but another was unable to stand after climbing the stairs to the stage. Two guys picked her up in an effort to walk her off the stage, but she kept trying to pull her shirt off as they escorted her. After the contest was over both ladies were led into the hotel lobby by hotel security in wheelchairs—and both were ralphing along the way. Given their conditions, they may still be waiting in the lobby for someone to pick them up. On the positive side, Dena from Oregon won Friday night.
The Reno Expo Hall also had several things going on. There were booths with motorcycle apparel, and the Street Vibrations Tattoo Expo was going full tilt, as well. There were a number of California and Nevada artists applying their artwork to virgin, and not-so-virgin, skin. One young lady, JoeLynn from Modesto, was getting her first tattoo, which was probably a little larger than what she could stand judging by her facial expressions. It was a colored rose that went from her left shoulder down to about the middle of her back. Gotta give her credit; she didn’t do it in separate sittings like most would have done. Nope—she got the outline and color done all in her first session.
Sometimes the different characters in these events just hobble right up like a fairy on a crutch at a tattoo expo—literally. Kati Skifalides from Colorado was dressed as a fairy and was using a crutch. As it turns out, she owns a business that sells artwork featuring everything from angels to dragons, most of which are transferred to magnetic signs of different sizes. They can make your refrigerator a very magical place. Her business, Magnetic Fantasies, was started out of financial necessity when, five years ago, she had knee surgery that ended up with complications resulting in her permanently needing a crutch to walk. Finding work was difficult, so she started Magnetic Fantasies a couple years ago to pay the bills. Kati currently has 27 top fantasy artists under contract, including Boris Vallejo who used to draw for Marvel Comics.
Kristy Dennis of Reno won the Miss Street Vibrations Swimsuit Contest Friday night at Silver Legacy’s Rum Bullion’s Island Bar, and her mother Cindy was there to beat away the undesirables with her cane. Saturday night the Cal-Neva Club held the Miss Reno Ink Contest. Fourteen lovely, tattooed maidens strutted around the stage in various costumes and, finally, Alexi Dimitriadis was crowned the new Miss Reno Ink for 2012.
On Friday and Saturday nights the Spanish Springs High School Junior ROTC Color Guard retired the American flag for the evening, and Tamara Evans of Sparks did a superb job on the national anthem.
Slow bike races were held in Chrome Village Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and on Saturday afternoon a bike show was also scheduled. Mondo Porras, of Denver’s Choppers, along with April Canepa, handled judging. With all the changes and the main stage being inside the fenced area this year, only one bike made it into the bike show. Herb Kentner’s 1969 Harley XLCH Sportster took a much-deserved first place as a result. It was a beautiful custom bike with a hardtail frame, square tube springer front end and a real rattle-can paint job—it was old-skool cool all the way.
The bike raffle this year was for a 2012 Sportster Seventy-Two with Hard Candy Big Red Flake paint. Roadshows’ Danielle Squire was handed the winning ticket, which belonged to Emily Ruff of Sparks. She was not present, but Danielle called her from the stage and told her that she had just won the bike.
So in spite of last year’s mayhem, this year’s Street Vibrations went rather smoothly and without any visible hitches. Although some were not happy with the changes, the truly unhappy ones should be those who missed the event altogether, because there really was something for everyone—including fairies on a crutch. Marshal Earp would have been proud.