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Come Hell or High Rollers

HIGH ROLLERS WEEKEND 2023

WORDS/PHOTOS JOE BARTHLOW


The last few years, the road to Las Vegas in late February-early March has not been an easy one, be it land or air, from any part in the country. But, as with every year since 1999, the new-year anticipation to kick-off the rally season keeps drawing enthusiasts from around the world. This year was no different and there seemed to be a little extra energy than in recent years with slowing of the pandemic and reopening of everything we know Las Vegas to be. Perhaps it was this year’s British invasion, as scores of scooter loving Brits made the flight over the pond.


For me, Eugene to Las Vegas is typically a 15 hour trek over the Siskiyous into northern California then cutting down through the heart of Nevada. This year, as with the last couple years, heavy snow and closed highways along the route which forced us to take Interstate 5 down to the Grapevine in Southern California, before heading east through the Mojave Desert, which is about 18 hours and far less interesting. More recently, we saw flight cancellations and snow on SoCal freeways, causing chaos for many travelers. This year, once past the Siskiyous, it was smooth sailing with dry roads and blue skys.



Arriving at the Downtown Grand Casino, the rally host hotel just off the Old Strip, the loading zone was full of scooterists unloading for the weekend, which reminded us that High Rollers Weekend, like our Lambretta Jamboree, is a national rally, attracting rally goers from all over the US, Canada, UK and Europe. Also like Jamboree, High Rollers is about seeing friends you usually only see once a year and meeting new friends too.


Evening Entertainment

What sets High Rollers Weekend apart from most US scooter rallies is the evening entertainment that High Rollers organizer, Eric Porter (LCUSA member), brings in. This year we saw evening performances from bands Double Wammys, New Waves, 16 Again, Chelsea Curve and The Inciters, along with dozens of DJs from the US and UK spinning records all the events, day and evening. The venues this year were great, especially the new Sand Dollar at The Plaza casino.


Scooter numbers in recent years have lagged a bit, be it weather or the preference to just enjoy the party. But 2023 saw a resurgence with over 50 scooters in attendance, including 25 Lambrettas. Overall, about 90% vintage. High Rollers has a ways to go to get back to numbers it once had, but with potential for new rides and renewed enthusiasm, we’ll see those scooter numbers rise again. (Note: the ratio of attendees without a scooter and with a scooter is about 6-1, maybe higher)


The Rides

Friday saw a decent ride to Hoover Dam with a lunch stop in Boulder City. The weather was just what I was looking for after a cold and wet Oregon winter. At the dam, it was remarkable to see so many different state license plates on the scoots, again reminiscent of Lambretta Jamboree.



Saturday is always my favorite part of High Rollers Weekend with the Show-n-Shine at the host hotel. With DJs spinning scooter sounds, rally goers passed through to see the scoots and check out the latest merch from Glam Factory Vintage and Lambretta Club USA booths. This year our LCUSA booth was staffed by Tom Carey and Julie Goodrich of Portland, who promoted the coming St. Louis Jamboree, National Lambretta Day and sold official merch under the EZ-up. Thanks to Cappi for the table!



After the Show-n-Shine, a group ride left for a late lunch at Ellis Island Casino and a pit stop of legendary Frankie’s Tiki Bar. Somehow we made it down the Las Vegas Strip all together before arriving at Frankie's.


Sunday arrived quickly. I continued my tradition to ride out for tacos, then hit Frankie’s for a relaxing tiki drink before heading to the big raffle and awards gig at the Artiface in the Art District. This year’s raffle was impressive with the grand prize being a 1960 API Series 2 Lambretta, restored by local LCUSA member Cappi and his club, Shifty Devils SC. Awards of note included Best Lambretta for a nice TV200 out of Long Beach (name TBA) and the two headed monster of Mickey Williams from Seattle taking Best Custom.



After the last prize was handed out, hugs and goodbyes were exchanged and we hit the road for a drama-free journey back to Oregon. OK everyone, rally season has begun! See you on the road this year!





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3 Comments


Great write up Joe! Hope to see you all again soon.

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Kieran Walsh #117
Kieran Walsh #117
Mar 15, 2023

Looks like a good time!


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Will
Will
Mar 13, 2023

Great article Joe. I'm looking forward to attending this rally in the future. I'm very glad to see Frankie's is on the must-stop list.

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