Despite weather, bikers soak in best of VC |

Despite weather, bikers soak in best of VC

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

The weather may have dampened the crowds but not the spirits of the 3,000-plus bikers and bike enthusiasts descending upon the streets of Virginia City on Saturday for the annual Thunder on the Comstock event.

The ride to Virginia City is what many bikers on hand referred to as the “key component” in the Reno-based Street Vibrations – the leather and helmet crowd’s answer to Hot August Nights, which began in 1994 – making note of the hilly ascent to 5,100 feet in inclement weather.

“This is our first year coming to Virginia City,” said Lon Winburn, who drove his ’79 Harley FLH from Fortuna, Calif., with his wife Julie. “That last hill was a little bit of work – but this stop is definitely worth it; definitely a highlight.”

Clad in leather vests with patches representing Modesto, Calif., Las Vegas and even motorcycle Mecca, Sturgis, S.D., the bikers seemed to enjoy all the hospitality VC could offer, even if it was underneath threatening skies.

“Hey, it’s a good crowd here,” said Virginia City resident Mark Zulin. “We look forward to this every year. It’s great to live in the host city, host a party – see these folks come to our town and enjoy themselves.”

As large droplets began to be soaked up by the parched wooden slats in front of Virginia City’s historic store fronts, many found respite in saloons, eateries and various antique and sundry shops.

“This is our last big weekend of the year and we’re thankful – extremely thankful – for the business,” said Rachael Rephan of Silver State Indian and Silver Jewelry.

Rephan’s store, purveyor of curiosities from old CC mint coins to turquoise bolo ties, saw one item in particular flying off the rack.

“What’s selling?” she said. “Guess. I’ll give you a hint: In a word, it’s leather.”

Indeed, as bikers tried on chaps and tasseled vests discounted 40 percent, Rephan couldn’t help but smile.

“Hey, everyone has a good time this weekend.”

While the gloomy skies didn’t let the Mardi Gras beads for you-know-what atmosphere permeate, local law enforcement officials from Washoe, Douglas, Storey, Lyon and Carson City were on hand and visible throughout the festivities.

“It’s pretty mellow so far,” said Washoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy John Machen. “We still get our fair share of DUIs – we had about four or five yesterday.

“It’s a case of they come down here, drink and eat for four or five hours and then get back on their bikes. The majority keep it under control, but you always have to look out for those few.”

Carson City resident Dennis Foster, attending his 10th rally in Virginia City and showcasing his custom chopper, was simply happy to be a part of it – even if the crowd wasn’t surging in accordance to years past.

“It’s always great to come out, see old friends, meet some new folks – talk about bikes, paint jobs,” he said. “It’s worth it just to come out and watch.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.