Dave's Reno Trip September 1999

Dave Schultheis

This trip's purpose was to experience Street Vibrations, an annual celebration of "music, metal, motorcycles and you," sponsored by the Harley-Davidson Dealers Association of Northern California and produced by Road Shows. I was assured that even without a motorycle, there would be plenty of things to do, see and experience.

Those who attend Street Vibations every year usually make their reservations well in advance. I was able to get room at the Silver Club, across the street from John Ascuaga's Nugget, in Sparks, right across the river from Reno.

Thursday, September 23; I left home at 10:25 a.m. and found a good place to park in the Yellow Lot at the San Jose Airport at 10:55 a.m.

It's always fun to go through the metal detector, where I have to divest myself of keys, pocket change, pager and flashlight. This particular unit was very sensitive and picked up the metal in my boots, so I had be be "wanded" through. Delightful.

Of course, it was necessary for this plane to leave from gate A-16, waaaaay down at the end of the terminal. After a 10-minute wait in line, I had only to show my driver's license and American Express card since I had ticketed electronically.

While waiting in the boarding lounge, it looked like the plane would be full, but when we boarded, there were numerous seats available, even a few open rows. The bad news: I had been jammed into a window seat. The good news: I was blocked by two blondes, so I made the best of it.

I later learned that their husbands had ridden their bikes to Reno and were planning to meet them at the airport.

The flight time was announced as 39 minutes; we took off at 12:23 p.m. and landed at 1:03 p.m. (with a big bump!) so I would say that was pretty accurate.

I fairly bounded down to the Hertz counter where Riley asked if I wanted a Mustang for only $6 more (per day). I passed. He filled out the papers and sent me across the driveway where, after a short wait, they brought me a green and white Subaru Outback. It was lucky that they had, because I have wondered how good of an animal transportation unit it might be.

I was surprised to discover that there was no Sprint PCS service in the Reno area. My phone was useless. But I determined to have a good time anyway.

From the airport I drove directly to Harley-Davidson of Reno to see where it was and to look around. Not a lot of activity yet, but it was early.

I stopped at the Reno Hilton to check in for Street Vibrations, but it was still early, so I went on to the Silver Club.

I was able to check in immediately, was given two room "keys," a parking pass and a chance to win $1000. Room 410 was fairly close to the (very slow!) elevator, was equipped with two queen beds and a working television set. (All I ever need!) I caught the maid in the hallway and requested an extra blanket, just in case.

Then it was back downstairs to move the car, take my bag up to the room and hang up my clothes. Someone brought a blanket and I stowed it in the room.

I was displeased to see that local calls were 35 cents and calling card calls were also 35 cents. Did I mention that the Sprint PCS phone didn't work?

Back to the Hilton to check in. I was given a registration packet with lots of coupons and flyers, a headlight sticker for my motorcycle (not this time), a Street Vibrations tee-shirt, a "hog tag" (punch card for various activities) and a schedule of events.

I bought a $1 ticket to win a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy (tm) motorcycle and then chatted with the ladies at the "Club Magic" desk while they issued me a Hilton players club card.

I gambled a little before going over to the Silver Legacy to deposit a stub in a barrel to win another Fat Boy (tm) motorcycle. Parking was free in the Silver Legacy parking garage, the first few floors of which were reserved for motorcycles only. While gambling there, someone handed me another ticket to win a Fat Boy (tm). Lots of stuff was being parked and unloaded on Virginia Street but there was no place to park a car.

I returned to the Silver Club and walked across to their Casino for a free push. I won a dollar and a free drink coupon, so of course I had orange juice. I gambled a little, joined the Quicksilver Slot Club, then took a break for dinner. I splurged on prime rib with vegetables and charged it to my room. How thrilling!

After dinner I walked back across the parking lot and then took the (very slow!) elevator back to the room to look at maps and schedules. My plan was to reconnoiter downtown Reno while things were still being set up. I used the Circus Circus self-park garage and walked down Virginia Street.

This was as good a time as any to check my voicemail, so I found a pay phone, but there were no messages, so I took in the sights: a guy who had attached a red flasher to his helmet, the Reno police officers on horseback, a few bikers in town early, typical stuff. One of my coupons was for a free drink at Cal-Neva, so I got stopped there.

Signs were posted saying that bikes were supposed to be off Virginia Street by 9:00 p.m. so that the streets could be opened, but the time came and lots of bikes were still parked. Oh, well, not my problem.

I was back in the hotel room about 10:30 p.m. and went to bed.

Friday, September 24; I was up and headed downtown about 8:00 a.m., parked at the Silver Legacy self-park garage. I passed a parked Reno Police car with a big sticker on it: "Non-emergency 334-COPS." Watched a train pass through town. There was lots of activity on Virginia Street as more and more people and bikes came into town; bikes with the proper sticker on their headlight were allowed to park on the closed streets, others were waved off at checkpoints.

I was heading toward the free breakfast at the Club Cal Neva. On the way I stopped at Fitzgeralds, took a walk through the forest and won a key chain. Yee-haw. Put some coins into a 50 cent machine. Stingiest free orange juice I've ever had. Back on the street, walking around. Watched a westbound Union Pacific train go through town.

While walking, I noted that it definitely looks good if the rider's helmet matches the bike's paint color. I also noted that you gotta have some brass to ride a full-dress BMW to a Harley-Davidson event. And bikers with cel phones galore. What's next, bikers with Palm Pilots?

I saw a motorcycle with personal plate "BADV8," black, of course. Just one of several I saw during the weekend that had shoe-horned a V8 engine into a motorcycle frame.

I saw some friends from work ride through. Many H-D riders have the legend "Live to Ride, Ride to Live," somewhere on their bike or their clothing; I saw another: "Born to Ride, Forced to Work."

After a short walk south, I took in the continental breakfast at the Club Cal Neva. It turns out it was up the escalator to the 2nd floor at The Virginian. (I guess the Virginian went out of business and the Cal Neva folks bought it, then took some walls down and it's all one big place.) Breakfast wasn't anything special.

I wandered through "Chrome Alley," a combination of tented and inside-vendor area where they were hawking everything from boot cleaners to leather vests. I got one of each. I also picked up a Harley-Davidson parts and accessories catalog and some other literature at the H-D display. Particularly interesting was a cut-away display version of the Evolution engine (or was it the new Twin-Cam 88?). Anyway, it was interesting to see the inner workings.

At this point I walked back to the car, drove through some of the downtown area. It's a little like driving down "The Strip," but there is no "strip" in Reno. I wandered south to Atlantis. Big, crowded place. The free orange juice came in a bigger glass but wasn't very good (watered down?).

It was time to hit the highway for a ride down US 395 to Carson City. They don't say how far it is (and I had not done my homework), so it was annoying not to see any signs indicating distance. There was an announced ride to Carson-Tahoe Harley-Davidson and plenty of bikers were going that way as well as returning. Lots of black and chrome on both sides of the highway.

The dealership was in a shopping center. Surprisingly there were no t-shirts on sale, everything was full price. I enjoyed their raised, diamond-plate display floor for motorcycles. They had some antique motorcycles on display along with a several used bikes. The parking lot was full of Harleys of every model and color.

After a hot dog and a cold drink, I headed back. The signs said "Reno 30 miles." Again, lots of bikes coming and going along US 395. I got back and parked in the Silver Legacy parking garage and continued walking through the downtown area. I waited for some friends for an hour near a certain restaurant but didn't find them. Oh, well. People-watching is also fun.

A little dinner and a little more walking. More than once I saw a motorcycle with a rubber ball jammed into the open carburetor intake, accompanied by a long yellow ribbon with "remove before flight." Then back to the room. A little Larry King. A shower. A little Nash Bridges. A little sleep.

Saturday, September 25; I was awake and headed downtown about 8:30 a.m. for breakfast at the Club Cal Neva * Virginian. There was no juice and mostly bagels. Hardly worth the walk.

I saw a t-shirt: "Finally we know what it takes to impress the French. Welcome Home, Lance." More walking around the downtown area. I'd pretty much seen everything, it was time to see something else.

I walked back to the car and drove north on Virginia Street, past the University of Nevada-Reno. There were hundreds of cars parked in odd places along the side of the road for an NCAA game between UNR and Fresno State at the football stadium.

I found the Wilbur May museum at a county park. It was not very well marked. The tour was $2.50 and just marginally worth it. A wedding in progress disrupted the walking tour.

Back in the car for some more wandering around. Reno H-D was a madhouse, bikes everywhere. The store was jammed. So was the Reno Hilton. I went back to my hotel to put my feet up for a while.

I got a page to return a voice mail call. I trooped down to the lobby to discover it was "work" calling; they weren't sure if I would be in on Saturday or not. Duh! Back to the room.

An hour later, another page. Back down to the pay phone. Couldn't help with this problem.

Back on the road to see the Pepper Mill. Similar to all the rest. Back downtown, park and walk again. Checked the El Dorado for the location of the Convention Center, where the big doin's would be going on later.

The streets were crowded with bikes parked handlebar to handlebar and people walking shoulder to shoulder. A small crowd watched as a woman in an upstairs window was putting on a show.

There were Reno Police officers on foot at every corner and everywhere in between. There were cops in cars, on bicycles, on motorcycles, in golf carts, in transport units, at the Command Post, and on horseback. The mounted units have red L.E.D. flashers in three places on their leather tack. Oh, yes, there were even Senior Volunteers from Reno Police, available to help with directions, I guess.

While walking I paused to notice the large number of women passengers on Harleys. I also noticed the large number of women riders.

I managed to work my way back to the Convention Center for the H-D dealers' association get-together: a few welcome speeches and a drawing. The beer was free but the orange juice was $1.50! I had one of each. I sat with some nice people. The dealers fed us things like mozzarella sticks and meatballs. Several of the winners were announced for various "runs" that had been held during the day, including several women riders. The big drawing was announced; I didn't win anything.

It was time to head for the next drawing at the Club Cal Neva. It was held at 9 p.m. I didn't win.

Outdoors to watch the fireworks above the Silver Legacy at 9:30 p.m. The streets were still crowded and the show was great. Then it was over to the Flamingo Hilton to wait for the 11 p.m. drawing. I didn't win.

Back to the hotel, I took a shower and was in bed before midnight.

Sunday, September 26; I slept okay, woke at 7:46 a.m. when the guest next door turned on the shower. Out to breakfast at the Holiday Inn on E. 6th Street. What had been described as "quite a spread" turned out to be a couple of tables with canopies in the parking lot. We had to sit on curbs to eat. On the other hand, I went inside and put $5 into a 25 cent Stampede slot machine and left with $8.75 a few minutes later.

Back downtown, parked at the Silver Legacy and walked past five floors of motorcycles instead of taking the elevator. It was quite amazing to see what bikes people had ridden. Some were more beautiful than others. Many were chained to each other and many were chained to the parking structure.

I went into the Silver Legacy casino and put $5 into a $1 machine; a few minutes later I had $80.

The grand parade started a little after 10:00 a.m. and wound through the downtown area two or three times, not sure. At one point we saw Grand Marshall Dan Hagerty. Included were lots of riders with video cameras taping the crowd. Included was the old couple wit high-top tennies and no teeth, riding their purple trike with the Volkswagen engine. I did a lot more walking and a little more gambling. I bought a bell for $3 for my bike.

I saw "The Brute": a blue bike with V8 engine and five speed automatic transmission with reverse. He made a grand entrance and created quite a stir.

The Silver Legacy had a drawing for a Fat Boy (tm) at 4 p.m. but I did not win it. I took my tired feet back to my hotel, tried to get dinner but the line was too long. I walked across the street to John Ascuaga's and found immediate seating at the Farmhouse Restaurant.

A little gaming at the Silver club, a couple of voice mail pages later, I took a shower, watched a little TV and went to bed.

Monday, September 27; I woke with the alarm at 7:00 a.m.; got checked out of the hotel and looking for gasoline shortly after 8:00 a.m. I got another free orange juice at the Silver Club and plunked down a dollar in a nickel machine, walking away with $2.20 in my pocket.

Then it was out to the airport to turn in the car and head back. I got a seat assignment and discovered that the flight was delayed a half hour. Oh, well, that's better than being canceled.

The flight home was an uneventful 41 minutes. I was in the airport, across and down, got on the wrong bus and returned to get the right bus. Then to the right parking lot, got in the car and moving shortly after 1:00 p.m.

A couple of errands on the way home and I was in my garage at 2:08 p.m. It was a wonderful trip, but I needed to rest my tired feet.

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Last updated on February 14, 2000.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA