“We’re gonna run anyway,” announced T-shirts for the 17th Annual Poker & Saloon Run.
Despite cancellation of this year’s Motorcycle Jamboree after sixteen years in a row, this year’s poker run, sponsored by the Wild Bunch motorcycle club, had less than a quarter of last year’s attendance.
“Not as many as you would’ve hoped,” Wild Bunch President Kevin Sur said. “We used to get all the out of town folks running; Salt Lake, Idaho, some from Reno. It’s our big fundraiser of the year. That’s why it was done during the Jamboree.”
The Jamboree was originally organized by Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino, Sur explained, as a way of bring tourists into town. “It was basically their event, and it grew from there.”
“They always coordinated with us, but we always did our own thing,” Sur said. “It’s a great way to get out, see people, and make new friends. This year it’s been all local. No out of towners; just one lady from Twin Falls.”
Sur said the Wild Bunch was not quite a year old when the Jamboree started. “We were founded on one-hundredth anniversary of Butch Cassidy’s gang robbing the First National Bank in Winnemucca,” Sur said. “You see, we like riding fast motorcycles, and Butch Cassidy is credited with inventing the ‘fast getaway.’ Before they robbed a bank, they would have horses stationed every few miles. The traded for fresh horses, and rode away fast, but the sheriff’s posse chasing them had tired, worn-out horses.”
Gold Rush Harley-Davidson was the poker run’s final stop. “We opened for Jamboree weekend two years ago,” owner T. J. Woodhall recalled. “The day we opened, we had 585 transactions; t-shirts, parts, everything. Everybody wanted to be the first to get a Gold Rush Harley t-shirt. The only person who wasn’t happy with us opening was the tow truck driver. Before that, he towed bikes to Twin or Salt Lake; he got paid a lot more towing those extra miles.”
“We decided since this was our anniversary week, we were still going to throw a party,” Woodhall said.
Bands performing included The Angry Inch Mob and The Fryed Brothers Band. “Fryed Brothers were Johnny Paycheck’s backup band, and recorded on my favorite Willy Nelson track, ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.’”
Woodhall said he rebuilt a Taco minibike when he was eight years old, and grew up around Harleys. “There’s a picture in my office of my dad, thirteen years old, sitting on his first Harley.”
About half of Woodhall’s sales, including his two other location in Twin Falls, Idaho and Caspar, Wyoming, are to members of motorcycle clubs.
“There are so many clubs, different styles of riding clubs. There’s HOG, the Harley Owners Group, and the Snake River Brothers who help kids out with their benefits. I sell to a lot of different people in different states, and I get along with all of them. It’s a ‘respect’ thing.”
Sur described The Wild Bunch as a group of community oriented motorcyclists. “We run motorcycle events,” Sur said. “It’s what we do. We also have a benefit run in the fall, our last run of the year. We donate to charities or an individual in need. A lot of times to family members of somebody who got hurt or killed. We donate to FISH (Friends In Service Helping) a lot. The Jamboree brought a lot of money in.” Sur said.
Sur explained that the poker run relies on punch cards, instead of playing cars, to minimize cheating. At each of the seven different stops in Elko, Jiggs, Carlin, and Spring Creek, riders pick a number which is then punched out of the corresponding circle on their card.
When riders arrived at Gold Rush Harley-Davidson, their punch cards were translated at the Wild Bunch booth from a master decoding sheet. Each punched-out number became suited cards in a seven-card stud hand. This year’s top hand, a king-high straight, won $250.
“We’ve never had all the same stops two years in a row,” Sur said. “But Mattie’s and Goldie’s have been our two oldest stops. We still use the map we had in the olden days, back when we did the poker run on horse and buggies.”
When a lady at Gold Rush mentioned her love of horses, the Wild Bunch president pointed out the modern advantage over their historical namesakes. “Well,” Sur explained, “You don’t have to feed motorcycles when you’re not riding them.”