Summer ends with one last wild bike ride
October 1, 2002
Gone for another year are Carson Valley Days, the Rodeo, the Rendezvous, July 4th, Hot August Nights, the Balloon, Camel and Air races, the Candy Dance and Street Vibrations.
Those of us who avoided the crowds and cursed the clogged streets will heave a sigh of relief.
Those of us who reveled in the madness will have to make due with Nevada Day, the holidays, our families and the Nov. 5 general election for entertainment.
For those who shunned the past weekend of Harleys and hell raisin’, you should have ventured forth.
Not once in four days did someone I bumped into even cast a dirty look in my direction. I’ve caught more evil eyes at the Gottschalk’s perfume counter during a Christmas sale than I did on the streets of Reno where the merchandise and apparel were mostly leather.
I did meet a bunch of very nice people. There is a couple from Bend, Ore., who were in town for four days and paid something like $49, $89, $129 and $159 a night for a room as the weekend wore on.
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And there is Billy.
Billy is an older man probably in his 60s riding a motorcycle built in the 1960s. He said he’s been on an adventure and has visited more than 700 Harley Davidson dealerships across the U.S. He doesn’t know how far he’s gone, but in each town he gets a newspaper. He’s traveling on his bike and therefore travels light, but he gathers the front and back pages and clips out the relevant local and national articles. “There’s so much else in there that doesn’t matter,” he said.
His bike is stacked with all such treasures, including a solar powered stereo. He’s been on the ET Highway and has visited with the folks in Rachel. He said they’re a close-knit caring group of about 35 who gather together to celebrate the holidays like a giant family.
It was plain that Billy had made the world his family as he chatted with anyone who stopped to admire his bike and passed out wallets he got for free from some accident attorneys who had a booth. Billy wasn’t asking for anything, just meeting life with a smile, whatever it may bring.
“Whatever” seemed to be the mantra of all. Short, fat, tall, skinny, it made no difference. You were just one of the many — and there were many.
But, I never saw a fist fight, or a shoving match or even anyone in hand cuffs. No one even swore in anger.
I saw one wreck, heard of a few more, but for the most part people’s moods seemed to range between mellow and a sort of twisted, testosterone-filled riot.
The riot seemed to manifest itself on the streets of Virginia City on Saturday.
My hometown was transformed for a day into a biker’s paradise where women bared more than just their souls, riders caught a high five rather than a ticket for burnin’ rubber and the streets were lined with biker fans. Imagine.
Residents, no doubt, have had enough of engine revving for a day or two in their quiet mountain town. With the walls of Sun Mountain to the west, an engine revved on Main Street echoes far beyond to the sage-dotted hills. Multiply that engine sound by several tens of thousands and you know what Thunder in the Streets sounds like.
It’s an amazing sound whether you like motorcycles and noise or not. It reminds me of what Virginia City must have sounded like 125 years ago.
As crazy as it was with the wheelies, peeling tires and rumbling engines I was more amazed at the sheer number of bikes.
Deputies were turning cars onto side streets to keep them off Main Street, which was lined on both sides for nearly all of town. Chrome shone in the afternoon sun and despite a lot of hollering at the crowd to stay out of the street — and the concerned look spread across Sheriff Pat Whitten’s face –things were going well.
Last I heard, 40,000 motorcycles had registered for the annual event. That’s only 10,000 people less than the number of people who live in Carson City and about 40 times the number who live in V.C.
If you add in the bikes that did not register, I bet all of Carson City and then some could have sped around on two wheels all weekend.
It’s not a bad way to go until it’s half past midnight in Washoe Valley and windy. Where did summer go?
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