I had never traveled to Bullhead City and Laughlin on the Saturday of the Laughlin River Run.
Guess what? I decided to do so this year.
I knew I would need patience, what with thousands of bikers moving along the two main drags of Highway 95 through Bullhead and Casino Drive in Laughlin.
As I headed west on Highway 68 about 10 a.m., I wondered why so many bikers were eastbound toward Kingman. Were they headed for a favored eatery or watering hole here? Perhaps most were going to the Mother Road Harley-Davidson store on Beverly Avenue to pick up some parts. Yeah, that must be it!
I went through the Bullhead Parkway intersection on Highway 95 to visit a store in town. I noted a heavy volume of biker traffic northbound waiting to turn left (west) and cross the bridge into Laughlin.
"Maybe it will thin out a bit by the time I head back this way," I thought.
The number of motorcycles increased, as did waiting times at each light. But I reached my initial destination without incident.
After visiting the store and not finding anything of interest, I got back on 95 and headed north. Several bikers cut in front of me without signaling their intentions, but I took it in stride and avoided the temptation of making an obscene gesture.
"Welcome biker" signs were in front of some businesses along the route back to the bridge. I approached the light and traffic was backed up at least a half-mile waiting to turn left.
Congestion at the intersection was fueled by southbound traffic on 95 turning right and cross traffic from the Bullhead Parkway. I crept along and the light changed six times before I was able to make the left turn to cross the bridge.
I fell in behind a loaded semi and we moved along at snail's pace for several light changes at Casino Drive. As I approached the intersection, a large number of bikers were coming eastbound into town from Las Vegas.
Two pairs of motorcycle cops were parked along Casino Drive watching traffic, one by the Chamber of Commerce and the other just beyond my destination of Horizon Outlet Mall. "You guys ought to have plenty of customers," I thought.
As I passed the Riverside Hotel's parking garage on the west side of the street, I observed a sign saying no motorcycle parking inside. That was the first sensible thing I saw.
Upon reaching the entrance to Horizon Mall, I observed a sign there saying $20 to park all day. I did not intend to stay all day, nor shell out $20.
I kept going and came to the Tropicana (formerly Ramada) Hotel. Upon turning in, the parking lot to the right was packed with motorcycles. I proceeded into the garage to find a space. After finding nothing on three levels and half of the spots taken up by bikes I gave up and exited.
Stopping for the light at the entrance I could see it would be hard to find any parking across the street at the Colorado Belle Hotel. I turned north on Casino Drive and headed back toward the bridge.
I saw more "Welcome Biker" signs. I'm sure they contributed a great deal of money to the local economy over that weekend, but what about us locals who visit year-round? A "Welcome Locals" sign would have been refreshing.
The Edgewater and Aquarius parking lots were jammed, too. Two of the motorcycle cops had a biker pulled over in front of the Aquarius and appeared to be writing him a ticket.
My last hope of making a stop was dashed as I passed the Riverside, where there was nothing but bikes in spots bordering the street's sidewalk.
I passed two other motorcycle cops as I headed for the bridge, and made sure I was under the speed limit. As I turned right on to the bridge, sirens blared.
I looked in my rearview mirror and the two cops I had just passed were turning left on the highway toward Las Vegas in pursuit of a biker. I let out a sigh of relief.
The drive back to Kingman was uneventful.
Upon getting into work April 28, I read an Associated Press story that had come in after I left three days earlier. It said more than 75,000 bikers were expected to converge on Laughlin over the weekend.
Another story later that day gave a Las Vegas Police estimate of 60,000 to 65,000 motorcycle enthusiasts visiting Laughlin.
Who was it that said, "Had I but known?"
If you are new to the area and receptive to advice, take mine: Don't plan anything in Bullhead or Laughlin during the River Run.