*** 4/21/10 Update – See the Short Video Below!
Living in Southern California we are blessed with year round riding. However, when April comes along there are several west coast biker rallies that take place every year. The Yuma Prison Run is one of those rallies. This is my review of this years rally.
This year the Yuma Prison Run was scheduled for the weekend of April 16-18, 2010. You can check out the Yuma Prison Run website by clicking here now.
The Yuma Prison Run is put on by the Norwalk Motorcycle Club, and has been an ongoing charity event since 1961; two years before I was born! The run is in Yuma, Arizona, and is located at the Yuma County Fair.
I decided to ride to this rally months ago. The rally location is approximately 300 miles from my home one way, or around 600 miles round trip, not including the miles I put on at or near the event once I get there. I consider this to be a medium distance sleepover run.
If any of you have read my blog, you will see many articles where I mention my fiancé. Well since we got married on January 31, 2010, she will now be referred to as my wife. I am still getting used to saying it! We have been together for 9 years, but wife is a new term in my life.
As usual, I started getting anxious and excited the night before we took off for the rally. I have been riding for many years, but it does not matter. Any of you who ride like I do know exactly what I am talking about; biker rallies are analogous to going to an amusement park when you are a kid.
There are not too many things that adults can look forward to that are fun and exciting like a good old fashioned biker rally. Unlike vacation travel, riding to a biker rally is different. It involves physically getting on your motorcycle and riding to and from the event. It is a much more involved and physical experience than just jumping on a plane and going somewhere. I am not going to even mention the ubiquitous trailer queens who don’t actually ride to an event; they are not worth mentioning!
My wife and I packed up my Harley Davidson Electra Glide on the Thursday before the Yuma Prison Run. The Harley Davidson hard saddle bags and tour pak really makes it much easier to pack up and go then in the past where I have had to squeeze everything for two into special motorcycle travel luggage. (Which I still have)
Since this is a 3 day, 2 night rally we try to pack as light as possible. As usual, I had reservations at one of the two Motel 6’s in town. Motel 6 is set up with laundry rooms, so worst case scenario; you can wash your clothes if you have to. What this means is that you do not have to pack as many clothes, which saves room on the motorcycle.
Hell if you are like me and are toting along your wife, you will need the extra room, because she will use it up
Basically we had the motorcycle mostly packed up on Thursday night, the day before we left.
Other preparations I made for this motorcycle rally and trip were to purchase a new battery for my motorcycle. It has been a few years since I replaced the battery, and my previous battery was so dead that it would not even take a trickle charge.
I called Harley Davidson to get a price on a new battery; they wanted $170 bucks for a battery, plus the 10% California sales tax. If you factor in the price plus tax, $187.00, plus gas, and time to drive to the dealership to get the battery, it would have been over $200 bucks for a motorcycle battery. There was no way in hell I was going to pay over $200 bucks for a motorcycle battery. Hell a battery for my Mercedes S class cost less than $200 bucks.
I found a place online at batterystuff.com that had a replacement for my Harley Davidson Electra Glide for $99.00 with shipping and tax included. Total price $99.00 delivered to my door. I ordered a battery from them and had it two days later. You cannot beat that.
I installed the new battery, and hooked up my trickle charger to make sure it was fully charged. Within an hour, it was fully charged. I fired up my motorcycle and everything was fine.
On Friday, April 16, 2010, I had to work a few hours, and so did my wife. We were scheduled to leave for the Yuma Prison Run at 2:00pm, but we ended up not leaving until around 3:30pm.
Before I leave on a run, I always warm up my motorcycle, and take her for a local ride for a few miles to warm up and check the oil. I checked the oil, and it was fine.
I gave my motorcycle a once over with some detail wax and a micro fiber cloth. This ritual serves three purposes; (1) I get the motorcycle nice and shiny before I leave, (2) it protects the motorcycle from elements on the run, and (3) it allows me to visually inspect the motorcycle for loose parts or problems.
I usually do a few more things before I leave on a run. I contact the newspaper to have them stop delivery of papers while we are gone, I call my bank to let them know I am traveling so their fraud prevention department does not stop my ATM card at an inconvenient place on the road, I call my security company to let them know I am going to be out of town in case the alarm goes off. My wife gets someone to take care of our 3 dogs. It is not like the old days where we would just go; now there are a few things I have to do first.
Finally, we were ready to leave!
There is almost nothing on earth like the feeling you have when you jump on your motorcycle to ride to a faraway destination. You can quote me on that.
Before this trip I purchased new modular helmets with built in sun screens that can go down, and retract with the flick of a lever on the helmet. With these new helmets, there is no need to wear sunglasses. I am not going to do a write up on the helmets at this time. The only reason I am mentioning the helmets is because they made the trip that much more enjoyable.
Once on the motorcycle, we were off. My wife is a true back seat shotgun rider. She is just as excited about riding as I am. I am truly a lucky man. Most of my friends and brothers cannot for the life of them, get their wives and old ladies to ride with them to events. Therefore, I am always the one with my old lady, and they are usually always either alone, or they have their old ladies follow them in a car. Oh well.
I took a scenic route on the way to Yuma. For me as usual, it is the ride that counts, not the destination.
Really, for me, the destination is always the same. Biker rallies are biker rallies. Same vendors, same cast of characters, same good times. It is kind of like a rolling party of the same people and vendors, set up in different places around the country. A biker rally is just an excuse to get on your motorcycle and ride to far away places. Biker rallies are one of the simple pleasures in life that make life worth living!
So for me, I get off more on the ride to and from a biker rally, than the rally itself. I do not rush to get there, and I do not rush home. I enjoy the ride, because that is what makes the biker rally worth going to! Once I am at a rally, I will spend time at the actual event, but I usually spend more time riding around the area of the event finding new places to ride my motorcycle. I call this trolling.
Anyway, getting back to this years Yuma Prison Run; I took a scenic route. We rode Highway 138, through the Mohave Desert, up into the snow covered mountains before the 15. We got on the 15 and took it from the 138, to the 215 to the 10. Once on the 10, we rode past Palm Springs, CA, and took our first break past Palm Desert for gas and food.
On the road, I am not a thrill seeker when it comes to food. I like to go to Denny’s or a similar type of restaurant because the food is predictable, and usually good. In the past I have had some real bad experiences going to restaurants on the road.
One time after doing the Reno Rally I stopped at a greasy spoon on the way home, and got food poisoning so bad, I had to be hospitalized. Suffice is to say, I play it safe now. We stopped at Denny’s and had a good meal with no food poisoning!
Gas at this stop was $3.40 per gallon for premium unleaded gas. What a fucking rip off. Why is gas so high when demand is way down due to the bad economy? I will leave this subject for another article. The gas speculators are killing us and the economy!
Anyway, we got back on the road. By this time it was dark. I knew I had to play it safe on the road from here on out. Our planned route was to take the 10 to the 86 to the 111, then to the 8. This route basically is all desert. There are all sorts or critters that can pop out at night on this desolate route; road runners, jack rabbits, snakes, illegal aliens, etc. These are no joke at 80mph in the middle of nowhere at night.
I know many guys that won’t ride these types of roads at night because there is danger, there are no street lights, and it is desolate. As for me, I prefer to ride these types of roads at night.
The riding was good from our first stop. We eventually got to a little farming town called Brawley, CA, where I decided to make our second and last gas stop before arriving in Yuma. It was around 10:00pm or so on Friday night.
My wife and I are at this gas station, in the middle of nowhere, in Brawley, and we are all alone, I am pumping gas, and in comes a car load of what appeared to me to be Latino gang bangers. The reason I believed they were gang bangers was because they fit the profile, and the entire car load of guys basically stared me down the entire time they were there. You just knew that these guys were looking for trouble.
As I was pumping gas; they pulled up and parked in front the entrance to the gas station. I knew that if I stared back or acted cavalier, that I would have had a car load of guys to deal with on my hands. Why the hell would a car load of guys keep staring at a 46 year old guy on a Harley pumping gas? Maybe they were staring at my wife. I am sure you get the picture. Normal guys do not stare at you like this. Believe me; I have been around the block a few times, only an idiot would not recognize the danger in this situation.
I kept my cool, I did not panic, and I kept on eye on them out of the corner of my eye, but acted like I was not looking at them. I did not want to get back on the empty road in the middle of no where and have these guys follow my wife and I. Hell we were on a motorcycle, they were in a car. There was no where to go. We were in Brawley, in the middle of the friggen desert. This was like a scene out of a movie.
My plan was to basically take my time, and to take a break, ignore them, and wait until they left. I told my wife out of the corner of my mouth what to do if something jumped off. Better to make a plan and talk about it, then to ignore it, right?
Eventually, as I predicted, the car load of guys started to leave the gas station. At this time, I started walking to the entrance of the gas station to buy something inside. I wanted to alert the person inside as to what was going on just in case.
As I was walking in, the car load of guys stopped their turn out of the gas station and starred back at me some more. I acted like I did not see them. They then took off. It was interesting and bizarre to say the least.
There are a-social idiots and criminals out there, who would take you out and have no remorse whatsoever in doing so. If you think you are immune from these a-social criminals, you are living in a dream. They are out there!
It is at time like this that everyone wishes they could have a concealed carry weapons permit. However, even if you did have a concealed weapon in this type of situation, chances are that one of the guys in the car would get a shot off before you could get all of them.
The smart move was to do what I did and not provoke anything. I have learned through my many years of experience and training, that it is better to avoid confrontations when you can, and to be ready for confrontations if there is no way to avoid them. If you take your ego out of the picture 99% of all confrontations like this will end with no problems. It is better to use your brain, then to escalate a situation. That is what separates us from animals.
That is all I am going to say about this subject. On a side note, I went into the head to take a leak, at this gas station after the car load of guys left; the walls were full of fresh gang graffiti. Enough said!
We got back on the road. The rest of the ride was pretty much uneventful except for the pungent smell of manure as we passed some farms after the right turn from the 86 to the 111; Yuk.
This ride basically takes you to the southern most part of California and Arizona right next to the Mexican border. This is the true old west like you see in the cowboy movies.
We eventually crossed the border into Arizona, and got to our off ramp in Yuma. I got our room, and we then went in the Denny’s which was right next to the Motel 6, for breakfast. It was now after midnight.
By the time we got to bed it was around 3 or 4am whoops
We woke up on Saturday. Our plan was to hang out by the pool with our friends for a bit until the afternoon, visit the famous old west Yuma Territorial Prison, and then go to the actual event at the Fairgrounds. (Our friends arrived during the day on Friday)
This rally has a reputation for sweltering heat and I knew if we got to the fairgrounds too early, we would be too burnt out to enjoy the evening entertainment.
Now I know I preach motorcycle safety on here, and I always mean what I say. But I could not resist ditching the helmet and riding with no lid in Arizona. I don’t ride without a helmet often because I live in California, but once in Arizona, I could not resist. I ditched the helmet for the day and night. It felt good to feel the wind in my hair again. It is like a long lost normal feeling from the past. Yes I rode without a fucking helmet in Arizona, so sue me.
My wife and I went to the Historic Yuma Territorial prison; you can see a couple of pictures on here. To be frank, I don’t like prisons. I don’t care if this one is closed and it is a historical site with a museum and such. People were imprisoned there, and hung there. It is right on the bank of the Colorado River. Bottom line, I did not dig the prison. It is not a place I will visit again. There was actually a couple taking their wedding pictures there. Geez, why not have your wedding pictures taken at a slaughterhouse, come on!
From the prison, we rode to the Yuma Harley Davidson dealership to check it out, and then we went to the fairgrounds. By the time we got there it was 10 bucks a person to get in because dinner was over. Fine by me, I was not planning on eating there anyway, and 30 bucks a person is kind of steep to go to something like this, even if it is for charity. We were not planning on eating there so why would I want to pay 60 bucks to walk around and look at vendor booths?
When we got in, it was your typical rally type of situation. There were many motorcycles, many bikers, the same old vendors, except that this time I saw one of my new motorcycle competitors there. What a friggen joke. These so called motorcycle lawyers are nothing more than a marketing scam targeted at bikers. The guy behind the booth was not only not a biker, but I doubt he even rides a bicycle let alone a motorcycle.
These attorneys who do not ride, and who are advertising themselves as motorcycle attorneys, make me sick to my stomach. I am telling you now, if you ever need a motorcycle attorney, make sure your attorney rides before you hire them. These people think of you as nothing more than a marketing niche. I introduced myself to the joke in the booth. I told him, I don’t put up booths at rallies, I ride to rallies!
DO NOT HIRE A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY WHO DOES NOT RIDE MOTORCYCLES. WE BIKERS ARE MORE THAN A MARKETING NICHE. NO REAL MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY WILL SET UP BOOTHS AT RALLIES, BECAUSE THEY ARE ACTUALLY RIDING TO THE RALLIES. This is all I will say on this subject.
My wife and I looked at all of the vendor booths and so on. I then noticed a whole bunch of Police walking into the event with tactical gear on. Some were carrying M16’s with what appeared to be 20 round clips. Mind you, there was no trouble that I could see. Yes there were a bunch of motorcycle club guys at the event, but the event was peaceful. Why were the cops there with tactical gear carrying machine guns?
I saw one old timer walk up to one of the cops and ask them what they were doing there. The cop said that they were just “walking around.” The old timer said to the cop that he had been going to the event for “21 years and had never seen such a police presence before.” I walked away before I heard the rest of the conversation.
I will give the police this, I did not see them walking around the entire event, they stayed towards the backend where I originally saw them. They made their presence felt, but I did not see them harass anyone. Is this what it takes to keep motorcycle rallies peaceful these days? I am not sure. What do you think?
My wife and I then went into the stands and got a good seat for the concert that was to take place. I spoke to many people in the stands including a member of the Norwalk MC, the club who put on the event. Everyone was nice, and we had a good time.
We watched the concert, and then took off around 9. We then rode to an Indian Casino where my wife proceeding to loose some money, and I broke even.
We went to a late breakfast at Denny’s and hit the sack.
We woke up early on Sunday, had a light breakfast with some of our friends, and then rode home with our friends. We got home around 3:00pm on Sunday.
The Yuma Prison Run was a good time. I give it a thumbs up. Not really because of the rally per se, but because is an excuse to take a good ride to somewhere interesting.
Will I ride to the rally again, hell yes. Why would I ride to this rally again, because I can.
This weekend is the Laughlin River Run. Yee Haa.
***more pictures to come!