Several years ago, my elderly dad and I were driving down U.S. Highway 101 in California near San Luis Obispo.
As eight Harleys roared by in pairs in the left lane, he grumped about loud bikers in words I won't print. My response was, "I wish I owned a Harley."
That is probably the consensus of the hundreds of thousands of past participants of Street Vibrations in Reno and of those expected for this year's event.
Randy Burke is the executive director of the company that created and produces Street Vibrations, Roadshows, Inc. This is the 21st year for the event, which takes place Sept. 23-27. He said the event grows at about 10 percent a year and that he expects from 35,000 to 50,000 riders and fans for this year depending on the weather.
"Knowing that the majority of our people come out of the Central Valley in California so that they're only three or four hours away, they can wait till the last minute to decide if they're going to come," he said.
The event takes place mostly in downtown Reno on Virginia Street but includes smaller venues at Chester's Reno Harley-Davidson on Market Street and in historic Virginia City about a half hour southwest of Reno.
The highlight of the week will be the daily ride-and-shows in the three venues. Hundreds of beautiful bikes will be parked for us to admire.
"You can't trailer your bike in," Burke said. "You physically have to ride it into the event."
Each of the venues feature food and drink vendors and free live music.
Any motorcycle, from a 125 cc Honda to an 1,800 cc Indian, is welcome, and attendance is free for bikers and fans.
Virginia St. in downtown Reno offers some special opportunities for riders and fans in addition to the ride-and-shows. The daily slow bike races are always fun.
A 75-foot length of street near the Reno arch is set aside for the course. Two three-foot lanes are marked with a three-foot neutral zone separating them. Two bikers start the race, and the last rider crossing the 75-foot line without putting his or her foot down wins.
"It's a huge, huge crowd favorite," Burke said. "Think about trying to balance on a bicycle, and that's a challenge. Now imagine if your bicycle weighed 645 pounds."
The Reno Ballroom at Second and Center Streets will offer several indoor features. About two dozen custom bikes, lighted and on risers, will be displayed. In addition, a tattoo art expo takes place with artist and models from around the world.
About 50 top-tier craft vendors also will be present in the ballroom offering products for both motorcycle fans and the general public, including custom silver, gold and platinum jewelry.
"The crafts are for anyone that enjoys work from artisans," Burke said. "A lot of them are creating their work right there on the spot."
As you would expect, Street Vibrations offers an impressive number of motorcycle-related vendors in downtown Reno. Major vendors include J and P Cycles, Kuryakyn Parts and Accessories and Mustang Seats. Many vendors arrive with semi-trucks hauling 40-foot and longer trailers displaying flashy external images with their wares inside.
"They're like super stores. You walk inside them, and you can buy anything motorcycle," Burke said. "It's a mobile showroom. We'll have 12 to 15 of those rigs."
Some vendors offer complete bikes for sale.
While the event is free for bikers and the general public, the purchase of a VIP entry offers several advantages. VIP attendees get to park their bikes for the ride-and-shows on Virginia St., at Chester's and in Virginia City."Ron Simms out of Hayward, Calif., and their factory rig will be present and bring more than two dozen custom built bikes on display," Burke said. "Those are like $35,000 to $85,000 bikes."
VIP riders can take part in the three one-day poker runs and attend VIP parties. Other benefits include special shirts, pins and badges.
The popular poker runs, including lunch, leave downtown Reno and wind through local stops such as Baldini's Casino, Rail City Casino, Tamarack Junction and up to Virginia City or Lake Tahoe before returning to Chester's.
"Depending on the roads being open or under construction, we wait till the last minute to set the route," Burke said. "NDOT sometimes can't guarantee that a particular piece of road will be open so we'll have to move the route at the last minute."
Once the poker run routes are nailed down, fans often find a convenient vantage point, set up lawn chairs and watch the bikes roll by.
Rascal Flatts will appear at 8 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Reno Event Center. The country band has delivered 15 number one hits since its debut in 2000. Tickets start at $59.50. Visit www.ticketmaster.com for tickets.
Several sponsoring casinos, including Boomtown Casino Hotel, Circus Circus Reno, Harrah's Reno, Eldorado Resort Casino, Peppermill Resort Casino, Sands Regency and Silver Legacy Resort Casino, will be providing their own live entertainment and event-related activities and specials. A scavenger hunt will take place at sponsoring properties in the downtown Reno area.
Road Shows and the VIP riders in Street Vibrations raise money for about a half dozen charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Association.
Visit www.roadshowsreno.com for more details. Roadshows also produces the motorcycle events Hog Wild in Ocean Shores, Wash., and Northern Thunder in Minneapolis-St. Paul.