Battalions of bikes hit the tarmac as riders went searching for some signature Southwestern sunshine this spring. Arizona Bike Week promoters cued the bands and the heavy bass riffs and the resulting reverb knocked out all the stops as attendees celebrated at the 16th anniversary of the biggest biker bash in the Grand Canyon state. While the low rumble of 65,000 riders rapping through the WestWorld gates to celebrate fun in the sun and life on two wheels grew to an absolute roar, local residents were doing their own happy dance to commemorate the state’s centennial anniversary of statehood.

Daytona had ended a mere 10 days prior and the weather had its way with travelers both coming and going. Assorted riding friends prepping for

Miss Arizona Bike Week 2012, Shelley Rollins
Miss Arizona Bike Week 2012, Shelley Rollins

ABW had kept an eye on the weather stations as they rubbed mink oil into their leathers and readied for a soggy journey, calling around and checking in with riders from neighboring states. They listened intently to the reports of a nasty storm that sent torrents out of Texas and downpours through the South. The Rockies had just been dusted with the white stuff; Californians huddled under umbrellas, and what was supposed to be the last tempest of winter raged across the nation. However, out in the Old Wild West there was nary a cloud in the sky as riders rolled into Cyclefest in Scottsdale. Temps made their way to a balmy 92 degrees and attendees were absolutely giddy with excitement.

How the west was won

Delving into Arizona’s history, it turns out that in the 1800s Congress and the rest of the country didn’t really want the Arizona Territory as a state. As a matter of fact, the more gentile members of the Union felt the hostile, rude and boorish inhabitants of the Southwest desert were best left to their own demise. Considered an uninhabitable environment by anyone living east of the Kansas state line, Arizona residents were largely ignored by the rest of the country. The pioneers defended their turf with true grit despite the nation’s snubs.

Paul Tracy's "Black Mamba" won the Baddest Bagger trophy. The intricately detailed bagger was built by Trask Performance
Paul Tracy’s “Black Mamba” won the Baddest Bagger trophy. The intricately detailed bagger was built by Trask Performance

So, after 56 years of being passed over for statehood, the celebration that ensued 100 years ago as Arizona became our 48th state was a humdinger of a hoedown. The fireworks included so many cannon blasts in downtown Phoenix that they were ordered to stop at 38 rounds (the goal was 48) since windows were being blown out and horses freaked, leaving their riders dumped in the dust.

These days the characters that comprise the Copper State are still known as colorful and keep the rest of the country craning their necks to watch as they continually hash out the issues that are individual to their piece of real estate. Being a border town ain’t easy, the environment is harsh, and living with the creatures that call Arizona home can be still be hostile. And I don’t just mean the reptiles, though snakes were indeed making their springtime debut just as riders were rolling out the camping gear and the local news warned folks to watch their step. All this suits visitors to the arid desert just fine since the tradeoff is wide-open spaces, roads that stretch into the horizon and sunshine that warms the winter-weary riders’ aching bones.

Evenings under the stars

Hanging out at WestWorld where the heart of Arizona Bike Week beats loud and strong, few seemed aware of the milestone their host state had

REO Speedwagon's guitar guys, Bruce Hall, Kevin Cronin, and Dave Amato posed for the cameras and a packed house during their Friday night concert on the big stage at Arizona Bike Week
REO Speedwagon’s guitar guys, Bruce Hall, Kevin Cronin, and Dave Amato posed for the cameras and a packed house during their Friday night concert on the big stage at Arizona Bike Week

so proudly observed. Riders instead were busily making the rounds on the endless number of charity rides that are planned during the spring rendezvous. Every dealership, dive and donation-driven charity organized remarkable day trips for sun-seeking bikers, and Cyclefest was the landing spot at the end of each day’s ride—where some rocking concerts were scheduled for evening soirees under the glistening stars.

Nighttime concerts slated for the event’s Sweet 16 birthday party included such bands as Puddle of Mudd, Quiet Riot, Tesla and, our personal favs, REO Speedwagon. The measly $45 bucks required for the event pass included admittance to all the concerts and accoutrements for the entire week’s festivities. Attendees also had the option to simply purchase a day pass for an individual concert, which still included access to shopping and the daily shindigs.

There were stunt shows by Busted Knuckles Stunts that were performed on sportbikes as well as a Harley Sportster, a whopping 200 vendors sprawled across the venue busily pimping their products, and the usual bike shows, bike games, biker babes, bare chests, beer and booze. There was even a tall tiara-topped redheaded flag-waving biker babe who beat out her competition to become queen for this year’s gig when she was crowned Miss Arizona Bike Week.

Shelley Rollins has been traipsing across the main stage at the Handle Bar Saloon for the past six years during ABW, and Wednesday’s appearance turned out to be her lucky night. As a bartender at the notorious Scottsdale watering hole, the Dirty Dogg Saloon, Rollins is well acquainted with local riders and came backed by a verbal crowd of faithful fans. As she strutted across the stage in her patriotic red-white-and-blue-themed bikini, with an American flag waving behind her, we knew her place among the event’s royal court was a done deal. She had the cheering audience eating out if her hand.

King of the sandbox

Ultra-cool Buddy Stubbs was awarded the Arizona Bike Week Hero and rode his 1948 H-D onto the stage to accept the honor
Ultra-cool Buddy Stubbs was awarded the Arizona Bike Week Hero and rode his 1948 H-D onto the stage to accept the honor

Later that same night before the Puddle of Mudd boys claimed the spotlight, Buddy Stubbs was called to the main stage by master of ceremonies Jay Allen. Buddy is arguably the most well-known biker personality in the state and, as we were discussing earlier, he’s the perfect example of one of Arizona’s colorful characters. Having been born in the back room of his parents’ Harley-Davidson dealership in Decatur, Illinois, his crib was a dresser drawer and it’s suspected that he has 50 weight coursing through his veins. Motorcycles have been a constant part of his life. He has been both a stunt rider and an actor and has a long list of accomplishments. Since the super-cool nice guy has reigned as king of the sandbox in Arizona for some 46 years as an H-D dealership owner with two locations, it seems appropriate to us that he be honored as Arizona Bike Week Hero for 2012. In a typical act of his Fonzie-like cool, Buddy rode his 1948 H-D 125cc across the stage to accept the award.

The WestWorld event facility comprises 365 acres and includes an equestrian center with riding trails, so there’s plenty of room to roam. Apparently one of the worst-kept secrets is the camping facility at the center, since this year the spaces were all sold out. Huge RVs from all over the country (including one from Alberta, Canada) lined the back lot of the venue and the camped-out party animals made the most of their home away from home and private parties raged into the late hours. Assorted twinkling lights gave the rigs a welcoming party glow as we cruised the temporary neighborhoods.

Over on the lawn where the tent dwellers set up housekeeping, we landed at the Cougar Camp and met up with Trixie and her tribe. With a table

The community minded Trixie (r) and her crew set up to administer to the party people at her Cougar Camp
The community minded Trixie (r) and her crew set up to administer to the party people at her Cougar Camp

full of party favors along the backside of the libation lounge, the community-conscious hostess waved her hand and invited us into her shady oasis.

“I’m the Queen of the Cougar Camp,” she declared. “I set this up for all my friends to have a place to go after they’ve been partying. I want everyone to come down here and crash if they need to, to be safe. There are even extra tents. If I think anyone’s had too much to drink, I won’t let them ride. I’ll take their keys away if I have to. I just want everyone to be safe; I’ve seen way too many friends die. As a matter of fact, I just went to a funeral last week and I don’t wanna do it again, so that’s why I made the cougar camp. Let’s party!”

Saturday is the main gig at Cyclefest and folks came out in droves to watch the bike games, soak up some suds and sun, and ogle the chicks. Some even found time to ogle the long line of bikes that graced the blacktop. It was quite obvious that the bagger bikes have indeed become the dominant faith of two-wheel worship. The search for the baddest bagger brought out a crowd as some of the slickest sleds we’ve seen gleamed in the afternoon sun. The bike with the distinction of being declared the Baddest Bagger, built by Trask Performance, was awarded to Paul Tracy, a well-known Canadian race car driver who now lives in Scottsdale. A group of friends whose bikes were all products of Hatred Customs pretty much took all the rest of the awards.

As afternoon temps soared, we found ourselves seeking shelter from the sun and BizBox—the latest, greatest and greenest evolution in mobile

Arizona Bike Week Dave Perewitz award
The world famous custom motorcycle fabricator Dave Perewitz was presented the ABW Tribute to Excellence award by his friend Donnie Smith on Friday night

structures (at least that’s what their advertising touts)—provided a sort of fishbowl experience. All we knew was that the little pop-out trailer with glass walls and air conditioning was a more than welcome escape from the madness. The media center served as meeting spot for the bands, management and press, and we found it a comfortable lounging spot as we entertained ourselves with people watching. As we viewed the action from our cushy chairs, attendees peered at us and more than one group acted out skits for us. One clown even stuck his face to the outside glass and made like a five-year-old; lips sealed to the window, and puffed up like a blowfish. Needless to say, the antics provided a great comedy show.

Anarchy reigns

Sunday afternoon is usually a pretty dead deal at Cyclefest since the show winds down and everyone packs up to head out. The venue usually becomes a ghost town, but this year promoters decided to make a change and pulled out the big guns. Heck, just invite a couple of characters from the hot biker drama, Sons of Anarchy, and you get, well, anarchy.

Thousands of fans rode out to spend a little face time with the show’s favorite porn star Lyla (Winter Ave Zoli) and her man Opie (Ryan Hurst) as they signed autographs. Over 2,000 souls stood in the long line that wound across the venue for hours, roasting in the hot afternoon sun. People immediately forgot that the Crusaders for the Children-sponsored event was supposed to benefit children and instead grumbled over the fact that their time with the stars was restricted to just one autograph. No personal photos, no long conversations. Bartenders ministered to the masses and offered free commemorative shot glasses with each shot purchased as Jay Allen continued to emcee, chatting on and entertaining the biker soap opera fans.

Paul Yaffee met promoters Brad Bennett and Lisa Cyr for happy hour at the Handlebar Saloon. Paul custom built the three-man shot slammer and was looking for takers
Paul Yaffee met promoters Brad Bennett and Lisa Cyr for happy hour at the Handlebar Saloon. Paul custom built the three-man shot slammer and was looking for takers

We caught up with promoter Lisa Cyr later and she told us they had decided to step in once they realized the line just kept growing. Folks were spending way too much time with the chatty stars and, since they had plane reservations, time really was of the essence.

“Ryan and Winter were just so sweet to everyone, and so willing to chat and answer every request that they would have been there all day. We had to limit their time with the riders to just one autograph otherwise they would have missed their planes. We felt the whole event turned out well, though. The Crusaders for the Children is a new organization for us and they really stepped up to organize a good ride. Arrowhead was great. There were 1,028 motorcycles on that ride. Considering most were two-up, that’s a pretty good turnout and it’s for a great cause.”

Lisa went on to share, “You know, as far as events go, we’re still a pretty young event. We’ve only been doing this for 16 years, but we grow a little each time. We had about a six percent growth and that’s not huge, but we continue to take baby steps and learn something new each year. We have the capacity to accommodate 100,00 people at this venue so there’s room to spread out. I think it just keeps getting better. We really do try to listen to our attendees and we want everyone to have a good time. There were no complaints, no grumbling and the vendors were fantastic. We don’t pick the vendors; they pick us—and we have some really good vendors. Everyone just seemed so happy this year.” We asked what they had up their sleeves for the 2013 iteration and she laughed. “Ha! You know us; you just never can tell what we might come up with!” Guess we’ll just have to stay tuned. 4



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