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Arizona Bike Week: Coming of age

By Felicia Morgan

Scottsdale, Ariz., Apr. 5–9—After months of record-setting nasty weather, winter had had its way with the western states in a huge way and as riders, folks were done with it. Consequently, loading up to hit the highway for signature sunsets with saguaro silhouettes was particularly exciting for those who traveled across the soggy southwest to celebrate Arizona Bike Week’s coming of age.

Our gang rolled into WestWorld to bivouac for the week and found our rental trailer from Going Places RV all set up and move-in ready. The air conditioning was cranking out at a glorious 79 degrees and we were toasting our good fortune in a matter of minutes. We flopped in the lawn chairs and set to making friends with the neighbors who had a busty mannequin set up to greet riders as they rolled in to settle in the parking lot-turned-campground. Neighbor David dragged out a trailer full of minibikes and an invitation to take a ride through the ’hood was extended with handshakes and cold beer. An unmistakable party vibe permeated the place as folks rekindled past friendships, swapped road stories and caught up with each other’s lives.

Newest member of the Busted Knuckles Daredevil Stunt team, rookie Sonny, wowed the crowd with his fearless stunts and daring deeds several times a day during every day of Arizona Bike Week

Camping rates went up this year, with a week-long price tag of $395 for a spot that included power and water, which breaks down to a whopping $79 per day. We dare anyone to find a hotel room for that price anywhere else during Bike Week that could accommodate our gaggle o’ guys that included four newbies, one ABW veteran and a plethora of peeps from several states who would spend the week stopping by to swap tall tales and talk trash while soaking up the warm and hospitable sunshine. Even with the price hike, we still figured we had ourselves a bargain.

Riders took advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the road for day trips through the blooming desert

Armed with the official ABW activities pamphlet, we organized a game plan and commenced to doing and seeing everything we could possibly cram into the next five days. Which was a considerable goal. From runs, stunts, races, concerts and as much biker-flavored fun one could dream up, the week promised to keep us on our toes but we were committed in our goal to do it all so we kicked off our night with a walk up to the vendor area to watch the Scottsdale Drill Team perform their impressive precision riding show before the FMX stunt guys took to the air with the greatest of ease inside the Legends building. The completely reconfigured layout of the 700,070 square feet of property at WestWorld included utilizing previously vacant indoor space that was both air conditioned and cavernous. Shoe designer-turned-bike builder Paul Yaffe was set up to celebrate his 25 years of bike building by showing off a variety of his custom creations. The display represented the largest collection of his work ever assembled in one place and the machines were all loaned back to their creator for the show by the current owners, which was a commentary on the relationship Yaffe retains with his customers. Yaffe’s show shared the comfy building with 25 hand-picked vendors, the stunt guys and a stage for the Handlebar Saloon.

Happy bikers hit the highways and backroads to soak up sunshine and warm vibes during Arizona Bike Week in Scottsdale, Cave Creek Bike Week and the Phoenix Bikefest in Peoria

The Legend building proved to be a great place to escape the daytime heat and catch some killer tunes as the Sugar Skulls kids from the School of Rock kept toes tapping early in the day while bands like Analog Outlaws played later. Bret Michaels, who consumed every inch of the outdoor stage at the RockYard with his high-voltage energy on opening night, invited all the kids to join him to play for the ocean of partygoers, an honor the kids took seriously. After cranking it out with Bret, the boys in the band ran screaming, “Thank You!” through the crowd to make it to the indoor stage in time for their own curtain call. Even as teenagers, the Analog Outlaws proved to be professional performers and the primo musicians never missed a chord.

The dedicated THUNDER PRESS staffers are always willing to go the extra mile for that special shot, including sit in the middle of the Scottsdale Drill Teams choreographed performance

On the other end of the Legends building was a second year of dirt track racing in the area dubbed the HellRacers Dome, an activity that’s proven popular since everyone loves a good speed competition and even the novice rider can sign up at the last minute once you sign all the permission forms and show up with appropriate safety gear. If participating isn’t your thing, there’s always the Busted Knuckles daredevil team that performs several times a day out on the blacktop in the vendor village. In the evening the talented wild bunch sets the night on fire and rides around popping wheelies in and amongst the flickering flames.

Arizona resident Bret Michaels never met a stranger and loves to invite folks up to share his limelight. On opening night he paid tribute to veterans, teen musicians and anyone else he could crowd onto his stage.

There are five official charity runs during ABW and Thursday kicked off with the 12th annual T-Bar Trail Ride, the longest-running, wildest and most popular run of the week since it includes, well… strippers. Stops at adult clubs to raise cash for cancer while “Saving one boob at a time” calls to the adventurous crowd and ends back at WestWorld for an extended evening of fun and frivolity. The traditional Hero Award presentation is held on Thursday night and this year had attendees cheering with a big “It’s about time,” as the master of ceremonies himself was honored. Jay Allen, known as the owner of the Broken Spoke in Sturgis, land speed racer, friend to bikers around the world and an all-around nice guy, was asked to accept the Arizona Bike Week’s award to honor all his hard work right after the humble emcee had presented a Lifetime Achievement award to bike builder Arlen Ness. Friends since their first meeting during the NorCal Redwood Run decades ago, it was a touching moment when Jay Allen called buddy Arlen out to be presented with a framed plaque. The crowd showed their genuine respect and support of both the ABW promoter’s choices in special award recipients before Creedence Clearwater Revisited claimed the stage.

Jay Allen (l) invited long-time friend Arlen Ness up to accept a Lifetime Achievement award from ABW promoter and fellow Hamster, Brad Bennett and the crowd cheered their approval

Friday’s Saddle Up for Kids charity ride was sponsored by Scottsdale H-D and took in 235 miles. The run benefitted Camp Courage, a summer burn camp for youth burn survivors that Buddy Stubbs H-D also supports during their ABW ride each year. Saturday’s run was again sponsored by Scottsdale H-D but benefitted the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, a charity that Scottsdale owner Bob Parsons has donated millions to. The run is notoriously touching as riders rev their engines while they simultaneously rev up the excitement of frail children as they glue their little faces to the nearest window of the healing wards of the hospital to watch the biker display. Even the toughest of the biker bads can’t help but feel a heart tug as they roar out of the parking lot and carry on with the bike week revelry.

ABW promoters Brad Bennett and Lisa Cyr proudly presented their friend and master of ceremonies, Jay Allen the coveted Arizona Bike Week Hero Award for his outstanding contributions to the biker community. Jay was obviously humbled and suddenly found himself without words.

ABW promoters have made a conscious decision to cut back on the musical focus of prior years and have chosen to concentrate on more biker-flavored activities while presenting smaller concerts and that brought on some grumbling this year as ticket prices went up, but attendee perception was that the quality of music acts went down. It was our opinion that the back story is always the most interesting so it was pretty cool when Alice Cooper was invited to be the headliner for the week. Alice Cooper, or Vince Furnier as his parents knew him, is a recognized personality in the Valley of the Sun but not for the reasons one might think. Known as the “Grandfather of Shock Rock,” Cooper was famous for his bloody stage sets and performing with snakes back in the day while he cranked out anthems about teenage angst and hopelessness like “School’s Out” and “I’m Eighteen.” With his gritty declaration of independence in “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” we find it poetic that the hard-rocking performer who still tours now spends his off time mentoring teenage musicians through the Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation and has been in the position to make dreams come true for kids who might otherwise be lost. There’s a teen center called “The Rock” where kids are invited to come hang out in a safe environment and Alice suggests that hey, while you’re hanging out, why not, “Learn to play a guitar, or dance?” The school’s mission is to meet the “spiritual, economical, physical and social needs of teenagers in our community” and Alice throws himself into the challenge. He even gives songwriting lessons. Founded in 1995 by Alice and his wife Sheryl, the foundation is making a difference in the lives of kids and the proof is in the performance of the bands that take the stages during Arizona Bike Week. “We make a donation to the school, the kids come out and knock our socks off and the whole thing just works,” ABW promoter Lisa Cyr shared. Ironic that, while Arizona Bike Week finds itself coming of age, it’s also become an intricate part of helping its community, and teens, find their way through life, too. Helping others is, after all, what bikers are known for. Welcome to adulthood, Arizona Bike Week. 

Click here to see Faces in the Crowd from Arizona Bike Week 2017.

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