BULLHEAD CITY — The thunder of motorcycles returned to the Tri-state last week in what some participants considered the continuation of a long-standing tradition and others saw as the start of a new one.
Mayhem: The Main Event — part biker rally, part tattoo convention and part celebration of life heading back to some sense of normalcy — brought motorcycle enthusiasts back to the area. With events headquartered at Bullhead City’s Riverview Mall but held throughout the area, it provided, in the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett, a license to chill.
Many considered Mayhem the latest incarnation of the Laughlin River Run, an annual biker rally that began in 1983 and rolled into the area over the last weekend of April each year until 2019. The 2020 event was scrapped because of COVID-19 restrictions — and eventual withdrawal by the event’s long-time promoter — before being rebranded in time for a 2021 event with a different name, a slightly different emphasis and a much different venue.
“We’re here for the peaceful protest of the cancellation of the Laughlin River Run,” said Ron, who, like nearly all of the participants interviewed for this story, declined to give his last name. He was joking — both he and his wife, Donna, laughed and admitted they never had attended the local bike rally before — but it was a sentiment shared by many.
Ron and Donna rode in from Sacramento “to have a good time.”
They were accomplishing that, spending Friday evening at Riverview Mall, meeting other motorcycle enthusiasts from near and far, taking in the sites, sounds and smells of the vendor village and basically “just chilling.”
That was a recurring theme. Many were treating it as a weekend getaway, a chance to let their hair — and their masks — down.
“We came for the motorcycle-tattoo atmosphere,” said Karen, who rode in with two Kevins and a Marissa from the San Diego area. The two couples turned it into a vacation.
“We spent the day on Lake Mohave,” Karen said Friday night. “We rented a pontoon boat and a Sea Doo. Had a great time.”
Kevin — the one with Karen — said he had never been to a River Run but said Mayhem was a perfect substitute.
“My first one ever,” he said. “It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. I can cross it off now.”
With that, he turned his attention elsewhere.
“Sorry, got to go. I hear a beer calling my name,” he said.
The other Kevin in the group said the event provided a real-life opportunity for a cinematic fantasy.
“We just want to feel like were part of the ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ ” he said.
Greg Brown, one of the few who gave his last name — or was it really his name? — said he rode in with a small, loose-knit group from the Las Vegas area.
“We heard about it — this is the ‘new’ River Run — and it sounded like a fun weekend,” he said.
So was it?
“We just got here,” he said. “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
With that, he joined his traveling party and headed to the concession area. Apparently, a beer was calling their names, too.
It wasn’t all partying, though. There were a few organized — and many more unorganized — rides through the Tri-state, including a fundraising poker run conducted by the Men of Fire to support the River Fund, Inc. Some simply drove around Bullhead City and Laughlin. Others were planning trips to Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Needles and parts unknown.
Marc — who didn’t provide his last name but did emphasize the spelling of his first — spent part of the day Friday touring Oatman, a popular destination for bikers during the River Run days.
“I have some friends who had been here for the River Run in the past and they told me about Oatman,” he said. “They said I had to go, so I did.
He said he went early in the day — before he came to Bullhead City — then returned to the “quaint” old mining town in the afternoon.
“Pretty cool ride,” he said.
By sundown, Marc said he was “wiped” and ready to soak up the nightlife more as a spectator than as a participant.
“Good band,” he said, nursing a beer as he nodded to the stage where the Bennett Matteo Band was entertaining the outdoor gathering with a bluesy set. “Think I’m just going to sit here and listen for a while.”
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