Lettin’ Loose in Laughlin

Laughlin River Run

Several weeks ago, a representative from the Clark County Library District asked me to organize a series of panel presentations for aspiring writers as part of its “Be the Next Bestselling Author!” program. Specifically, she wanted to schedule a panel in Laughlin, Nev., on April 26 to coincide with the Laughlin River Run, the annual motorcycle event that attracts thousands of bikers from all over the country. I jumped at the chance.

Generally I don’t care to dip even my big toe into waters so heavily laden with testosterone—God knows I wouldn’t go near a football—but I do find the biker culture intriguing. My sister has a Harley, and I’ve dated a couple of guys who ride. I find comfort in the protection of big, beefy men who could kick the crap out of someone if they had to.

Immediately I called my friend Donna. “Road trip!” I exclaimed.

Donna’s a blast to hang out with and, like me, she lives for girl talk so the hour-and-a-half drive flew by. Laughlin is a neat little city a hundred miles south of Las Vegas in that pointy part of Nevada wedged between California and Arizona. In 1964 a businessman named Don Laughlin bought a bunch of property there and that’s why the place is called Laughlin. Take that, Dolly Parton and you other underachievers with only a theme park bearing your name.

Laughlin River Run

After my presentation at the library, Donna and I strolled along Casino Drive amid a swarm of heavily tattooed humanity. How do they do it? I wondered. I’m too fickle—it’s a struggle for me to decide between paper and plastic—and my commitment issues run way too deep to etch an image into my skin that I’m sure to hate a week later.

Outside the casinos lining the banks of the Colorado River hundreds of vendors offered every kind of commemorative T-shirt and shiny bike accessory you could imagine. The beer selection, however, was terribly disappointing—nothing darker than Budweiser. I forced myself to drink a specially branded River Run Lite but didn’t feel good about it, then leapt with glee when we wandered inside the Colorado Belle casino and found a brew pub.

“Mmmm … nice,” the biker dude sitting next to me cooed as I waited for the bartender to finish pouring my stout. I turned with a flirty smile and then realized his commentary was not directed to my good looks, but to the barbecued chicken platter in front of the hefty gentleman on my other side. That’s OK, I’m too Private Benjamin for him, anyway, I reasoned.

Laughlin River Run

Donna and I found a couple of seats under a tarp and settled in to enjoy some good old classic rock. We danced to “Sweet Child of Mine” with three cousins from Albuquerque and between the bands’ sets took in some serious people watching.

“Check out this guy,” Donna said, pointing a manicured finger at a 7-foot-tall, bare-chested Mr. Clean with freakishly developed pectoral muscles. “I think I’ve seen him floating over Fifth Avenue on Thanksgiving morning,” I told her.

One woman’s outfit reminded me of a gift I received from an admirer last year—a black halter that laced up the front, exposing more than a hint of cleavage. Where the hell will I ever wear this? I wondered at the time. Now I know for next year.

And we will be back next year—what a great place to let loose! Overall I felt a playful spirit and an air of acceptance that, frankly, Donna and I might take a lesson from. As the only two people in a crowd of 60,000 fretting over the wind messing up our hair, I have to ask, Who are the freaks?

Click here for Megan’s report about the 2005 River Run.


14 responses on “Lettin’ Loose in Laughlin

  1. I took my husband to Laughlin for his birthday last year. We enjoyed staying at the Aquarius. I agree that the town is very laid back. It’s different from Vegas where it feels like the women in the nightclubs are competeing for the title of either Barbie or Jenna Jameson look-a-like. The people in Laughlin were real – tattoos, messy hair and all. I liked that.

  2. Yes–Laughlin is a lot of fun! And I know what you mean about the Barbie/Jenna competitions… though if they ever had a “Natalie Portman’s Mother” lookalike contest, I might have a chance.

  3. I need to get to Laughlin one of these days, or try the alternative-buy a huge chunk of land and name it ECKSTROM. Either way, the jeans, tattoos, and messy hair will be rampant (Might have to replace the Bud with Newcastle in ECKSTROM). Great article. Cheers.

  4. I always wondered where Laughlin was! Linda Lou, you are one funny female! I used to ride on the back of bikes and knew I had to get my own. Now I ride a Harley and I am loving it. I meet so many people everywhere. When I am traveling, I wear a Harley shirt and make new friends everywhere. Bikers are a great group of people who know how to party and will travel for miles to do so. It sounds like you are up for some new adventures yourself. Maybe I will see you there next year! Thanks!

  5. Linda, Sounds like you had a blast in a great town. Always love reading whatever you write. Sounds like you are following your BLISS!

  6. Great article! Sounds like you found a new adventure which will surely be revisited! I’m not sure which was better…the article or thinking about the great time you must have had. I would love to be part of it someday. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Linda, the thought of you as a biker babe is totally incongruous. Biker babes eat food that will kill, surround themselves in germ laden environments, and don’t drink good beer. And to think you’re going to return to this Sodom of a city, what am I going to tell the neighbors at HWG? Great piece of writing though.

  8. Woo Hoo! I’d love to see you on the back of one of those massive hogs! My dad had a Harley when I was a kid. My sister and I would take turns riding up and down the block with him as the neighbors looked on with distaste. I had a chance to stop in Laughlin last November on the way to Flagstaff. What a great little city — fun but not as overwhelming as Las Vegas.

  9. Riding a Harley is a type of religion that brings peace of mind and freedom of stress. A place like Laughlin sounds like the perfect place to be on that weekend . Having read this article makes me want to take you (Linda LOU ) for a ride and show you how it feels to let the wind hit your face and pass people in cars wishing they were you.

  10. Get a tattoo of a barbequed chicken platter. Mmmm ‘nice guaranteed for life.

  11. I was wondering where my long lost relatives ended up! Laughlin Nevada! Dear Cousin Don!
    Funny, witty and informative article! Bikers eh? Will rev up my Honda 50 and meet you there next year!

  12. Lordy, Linda Lou…I loved this article. I snickered, giggled and laughed my way through it, wishing all the time that I was with you instead of Donna. I could blend with that crowd by drawing my own tatoos, and messing up my “do.” Sooo, do you think a 78-year-old like me might like Laughlin? I could go with a chaperone who also likes to dance, but please don’t hook me up with anyone my age since they’re always too old for me. If you have a mailing list for this newsletter, add my name. I loved the article.
    — Betty

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  14. Hi Linda,

    You are such a good writer that all you have to do is keep a diary and I’ll bet it gets published. that was a great piece on Laughlin.

    Okay, maybe not a diary. A journal, better?

    A Natalie Portman’s mother lookalike contest? Now, that’s funny! And that wasn’t even in the article – see!

    Write on!


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