Motorcycle riders and their passengers made their way to Oatman, almost like a pilgrimage, during the 36th annual Laughlin River Run. Smaller crowds didn’t diminish the fun, the sense of community or the feeling of all things Americana that comes with the Oatman portion of the event.
The sun shone brightly, bikers revved their engines as they made their way down Main Street, and the crowds mingled with the burros as music and the smell of food filled the air. The scene was typical of a day during the River Run in Oatman.
Much of the appeal of being in Oatman goes beyond having some fun feeding the burros. Oatman is on Historic Route 66, a blast from the past in terms of travel, something bikers know all about. It’s also a reminder of the old mining days. Then there are the Harley-Davidson motorcycles, another American icon, though it has gone international.
Harley-Davidson was founded in Milwaukee, Wis., and is known for emphasizing the sense of freedom that comes with riding. Harley Davidson is not the only brand of bike at the River Run, but appear to be a majority.
Chris Gray, of Big Bear, Calif., said he tries to make it to the River Run as often as possible. He has attended on and off for the past 13 years, he said.
“I love the atmosphere, the people,” Gray said. Laughlin is a central location for bikers to meet up, enjoy the casinos and then, of course, come to Oatman, he continued.
That feeling knows no borders. Otto and Gabi Deisenrieder, of Germany, have the same love for motorcycles and community.
The couple rented bikes from Las Vegas, where they had spent fourth days before riding to Laughlin from the River Run.
Otto said a friend recommended a few years ago that they shoulder attend the River Run. It made an impression because the couple has returned multiple years.
“We like the area, we like the American way of riding,” Otto said. “There are special bikes here (that you don’t see in Germany). You cannot customize your bike as you want.”
“(There) is a connection worldwide of the Harley community,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you have the same feeling, the same ideas, lifestyle. It’s one big family.”
Robert Pajovich, of San Diego, said the whole reason he and his wife attend the River Run, is for the ride from San Diego to Laughlin, then the riding in this area. What can be seen in Oatman, can’t be seen anywhere else, he added.
Pajovich referenced the HBO television show, “Deadwood” when describing Oatman. He said being up on one of the balconies in Oatman allows for the viewer to be transported back to the days of the Old West.
The general sentiment from many who went to Oatman was one of wanting to experience some nostalgia while embracing the sense of freedom that comes with riding. Being in a rural area that has remained in a past feels freer than the present day, many said.
The River Run was for four days but the memories and camaraderie made will last for years to come, encouraging new riders to visit and bringing back others.