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History of the Redwood Run: Motorcycle Rally in the California Redwoods

My husband and I have traveled all over the western United States on vintage Harley Davidsons. I want to share a few of our experiences.

The Knucklehead Photo Line-Up

Knuckleheads at the Redwood Run, most from the LA area

Knuckleheads at the Redwood Run, most from the LA area

Our First Redwood Run - 1985

The first year we went to the Redwood Run was 1985. I believe it was the 8th annual one. My husband had built his '47 Knucklehead a couple of years earlier. We had taken the Knucklehead on some rides, but this was our first big motorcycle rally.

It was about 240 miles from our home to the run in Humboldt County and the closer we got the more Harleys we saw. At that time the Redwood Run was being held at French's Camp, near Richardson's Grove, seven miles south of Garberville on Highway 101.

We stayed at the KOA campground across the highway to save the price of a ticket, which I think was about $15-$20 each at that time.

Pulling in to the KOA on the Knuck

Riders view, Knuck pulling into the KOA at the Redwood Run

Riders view, Knuck pulling into the KOA at the Redwood Run

This is the view from the top of the Redwood Run site at French's Camp

Redwood Run at French's Camp

Redwood Run at French's Camp

The Redwood Run became a yearly tradition for us. Some years we actually did pay to get in to see the music. The camping on the other side of the road, inside the run, was pretty primitive though. Not much shade or water, and just port-a-potties. So we preferred our old camping spot.

Organization was pretty lacking in those days. Traffic within the run was a complete free for all, and there were accidents. When the music played everyone just rode their bikes right down in front of the bandstand, which everyone liked, but it left a lot less room for people to stand.

Parking at the Redwood Run at French's Camp was a free-for-all

Parking at the Redwood Run at French's Camp was a free-for-all

Redwood Run Moves to the Riverview Ranch

A few years later the Redwood Run was moved to the Riverview Ranch at Piercy. I thought it was a much nicer spot for camping with the beautiful Eel River running through it. They supplied trailers with hot showers, and there were water spigots and picnic tables at some campsites. There were only port-a-potties though, and no KOA nearby.

There were lots more food vendors, also more rules. No more parking in front of the stage, you could only ride on the roads, then park and walk. Not everyone was happy about it, but it was much more orderly. The quality of the music improved dramatically, and of course, so did the price of a ticket. I think it was up to $35 that first year and steadily increased to a high of $130. It seemed like a lot at the time, but looking back on it that was pretty cheap for 3 days of fun and music compared to a lot of festival type events in California, like the Strawberry Festival.

Redwood Run Site at Riverview Ranch

Redwood Run at Riverview Ranch

Redwood Run at Riverview Ranch

The Wet Wood Run

One of my favorite years at the Redwood Run it poured rain. I don't remember the year, sometime in the mid '90s. I think it was the first year we had actually bought our ticket in advance.

We saw on the news the day before that there was a big storm brewing. Doppler radar showed this huge swirling mass headed straight for our destination. The weather man said they were expecting high winds with gusts up to 90 MPH through the passes. So, being the safe and sane type of people we are, we headed straight into the eye of the storm.

We were lucky, we only had to ride 100 miles in the rain. There were less than half as many people as usual there, we probably could have gotten free tickets. As soon as we got to the campsite the sun came out. We all set up our tents and hung our laundry out to dry and went on down to the "pit." I stopped to chat with someone about halfway down the hill, and it was lucky I did because there was a sudden cloudburst and I had to run back up the hill and throw everything back in the tent.

We had set up a tarp to stand under, and it was collecting water and funneling it all into the open door of our friend Paul's tent. I zipped up the door and diverted the water as quickly as I could, but he must have had gallons of water in his tent. I don't know if it was Paul's favorite Redwood Run.

Bikers standing under a tarp in the Rain

Bikers standing under a tarp in the Rain

Harleyville

The local merchants were very welcoming to riders coming to the Redwood Run, and they always went out of their way to let us know it.

The town of Garberville even modified their sign, so for the weekend of the Redwood run it became "Harleyville."

Knuckleheads at the Harleyville sign

Knuckleheads at the Harleyville sign

Our Traditional Sunday Morning Photo at the Drive Thru Tree

Bikers at the Drive-Thru Tree.

Bikers at the Drive-Thru Tree.

Inside the Redwood Run

Since it was private property, there was never any police presence inside the Redwood Run, generally no need for any. Sometimes we could see them up on the highway though, looking down with their binoculars. It really kind of reminded me the old love-ins back in the 60s, without the cops cracking heads. It was like a huge private party with great music and an anything goes type of attitude. Lots of great riding in the area too, like down to Shelter Cove on the "Lost Coast" or up the Avenue of the Giants. You could even drive through a redwood tree.

The Redwood Run has been through some changes, but it still continues to be held each summer. As the years went on, there was a more visible presence of clubs at the run, especially the Hells Angels. That changed the low-key vibe. Gradually everyone in our group stopped going to the Redwood Run, each for our own reasons. I think 1999 was the last year for us, but those were some special times that I'll never forget.

Big Bikes, Big Trees

Harleys and Redwood Trees

Harleys and Redwood Trees

More Bike stories by This Author

  • 60 Second Tent - and Other Stuff for Motorcycle Campers
    We have been riding vintage Harleys for the past 30 years. We don't use a chase truck. We carry everything we need with us. We travel long distances, camping along the way, so we pitch the tent every night and break down every morning.

© 2012 Sherry Hewins

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