Southwest Edition April 2010
In the distance I heard the sound of motorcycles, but not the usual Harley thunder. No, it was the vociferous vibrations of Victory..... the new American motorcycle.
I was off my bike, standing at the side of the road ready to take pictures of my Sin City Victory Rider brothers and sisters as they descended Route 163 into Laughlin. They were headed to the Seventh Annual Southwest Region, Victory Motorcycle Club (VMC) ride. It was a Valentines/President's day weekend, so it was anyone's guess as to how that would impact traffic and attendance. But all was perfect, including clear and sunny skies with temps touching 70's. That's why I'm calling this meet, “Lucky Seventh.”
A few weeks earlier, though, I wasn't feeling so lucky as I begrudgingly obeyed Mother Nature's winter orders to stay cage-bound. So on a dreary day, I logged-on to my favorite MC website, www.TheVMC.com. There, I saw a posting by my Arizona VMC friend, John Murrietta, titled, “SW Region Laughlin Ride 2010!” My heart jolted as memories came flooding back about my very first biker event, the Third Annual, in 2006..........
My husband, Burl, had a Victory Vegas and I had a Harley Sportster. As we pulled into the hotel parking in Laughlin, Burl excitingly pointed, “Look at all those Victories!” Back then, I still didn't know the difference between a Harley or Honda – much less a Victory. But I'm sure I dutifully acknowledged his thrill.
That weekend the event included a ride with only a couple dozen Victory motorcycles riding together on a sunny Saturday. Oh the thrill of my first, relatively large group ride. Burl had counseled me extensively on the etiquette and safety of riding in a group. But our perennial road captain, Tom Pillsbury, made it easy. Tom is a local from Fort Mojave, Arizona, and an expert on local roads.
Tom methodically lead the long entourage of bikers to Oatman, a tiny town in Arizona. Once a booming gold mine, today Oatman has a small strip of shops, cowboy gunfight shows, and a hotel where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned.
And when the gold fever dropped, so were the donkeys that worked the mines. Now the donkeys' descendants stroll the strip looking for handouts. Tourists buy and feed them carrots. Baby donkeys have stickers plastered to their foreheads to keep tourists from feeding them carrots. A Victory biker asked me, “Why can't they have carrots?” I said, “Because the babies are still nursing.” The perv joked, “Hey, I want one of those stickers on my forehead!”
The ride to Oatman would have been satisfying enough. But Tom kept us moving on Old Route 66. The scenery up high captured my imagination of generations past. How difficult it must have been for families to load up a truck and migrate West. Those steep slopes and sharply twisted grades must have been hard on the coughing and belching pickups, and unnerving to the bone-tired passengers. But today, what a pleasure and luxury to ride Old 66 on a magically-maneuvering motorcycle. For Burl and me, it was a new-bee's thrill to climb to 3000 feet; from Laughlin to Oatman to Kingman then back to Laughlin at dusk.
Afterward, we cleaned up to visit the VIP suite where we first met John Murrietta, and his California event-plotting partners, Patti Rowe, and Tommy Wise. The three of them ditched the ride to make sure “horse d'ovaries” were ready for the riders. But blood shot eyes and deliberate enunciation proved their absence had nothing to do with setting up appetizers. And now that I know Patti, I can only imagine her being pried from a poker machine to visit with old friends and meet new ones like us. John was buzzed and made the biggest first impression on me with his large, thick, commanding voice and stature. His welcoming Latin, family-style charm took the edge off the stench of his gigantic cigar.
That was four years ago..........
So this winter, I opened John's online post: “Mark your Calendars!!!!! The 7th Annual SW Region Laughlin ride will be Friday-Sunday, February 12-14th, 2010. Super Bowl will be over, no off road race, we get the whole town. Rally up and let's make it the biggest ever.”
And indeed, Lucky Seventh was the grandest of all. Burl and I have watched this meet grow since attending that Third Annual. Regardless the size, the theme is consistent: a big group ride lead by Tom; a party afterward; and several riding options for smaller groups.
Not having attended the first or second meet, I got to wonder how this all got started. So I asked the baby blue-eyed Tommy, and he recalled:
“We can blame John. 'Just a quick overnight get together,' he says. I got a suite and invited everyone for cocktails and horse d' ovaries. Maybe 2 dozen the first year. By the 4th year we had over 80 people in the suite, spread out down the corridor, clouds of smoke billowing out of the 'cigar suite.' Hotel security said we had outgrown the suite and should try something different the next year. The banquet started in '08 because we needed more room!”
This year's event attracted some 90 Victory motorcycles and 120 banquet attendees from five Southwest states. This time, cigar-less, John worked the banquet floor, with his usual charm, wit, and humor. He introduced the Lucky Seventh key players and gave special recognition to Jim Martinez and his lovely wife, Trish, for being the furthest travelers. They plowed through 850 miles of snow to trailer their Victory Vegas all the way from Denver. I took their picture and found out what Jim had to say:
“Trish and I have been with other riding clubs but we feel most comfortable with Victory folks. We even considered taking a flight to Laughlin and renting a motorcycle. This weekend, we are celebrating Valentines and our 33rd wedding anniversary. And since Trish is a school teacher, President's Day was a convenient day off for her. We enjoyed a special time getting out of the snow, riding with Victory friends, and seeing Laughlin for the first time.”
The banquet also included a charity raffle for breast cancer with prizes donated by dealers, vendors, and others. The grand prize of $150 was awarded to a happy Harley rider who rode to Laughlin from California with his Victory pals.
After attendees settled back home, there was an online explosion of reports. Rick Gunder, from Prescott Valley, AZ, known in VMC circles as “Bearcat” summed it up nicely: “Seeing what riders are doing with their scoots is one of the absolute biggest reasons to attend an event and the SW Victory Meet was certainly well worth the time and effort! Can't wait for next year.”
Camaraderie, great riding, mild winters – these are reasons this event has grown exponentially in seven years. What started as a gathering of a few Victory enthusiasts that wanted to meet and share a ride, has grown into a formidable event. And this year's event was an especially Lucky Seventh!