Destinations: Oatman, Arizona
Motorcycle touring destinations
Oatman, Ariz., is a great motorcycle touring destination.
Photo by Joe Berk
What: Oatman, Ariz., offering great roads, brilliant weather and a genuine Old West feel.
How to Get There: From southern California, pick up Interstate 40 in Barstow, cross the Colorado River in Needles, hop on I-95 north, and then turn right onto the Oatman Highway (CR-153). From Laughlin or Bullhead City, take I-95 south to Boundary Cone Road, and then follow your front wheel. From Kingman, just grab the Oatman Highway (CR-153) and look forward to its magnificent twisties as you enter the hills (this road is my favorite).
Best Kept Secret: If you’re coming from Southern California, you have to eat at any of the three Del Taco restaurants in Barstow. When Ed Hackbarth (who founded the Del Taco empire) sold his business, he kept his original three and they are awesome.
Avoid: Posing with the burros (your friends will inevitably make jackass comparisons). If you’re doing the Laughlin River Run, visit Oatman, but you’ll enjoy it more if you visit any time other than the last weekend in April.
More Info: www.oatmangoldroad.org, www.legendsofamerica.com/az-oatman.html
More Photos: www.motofoto.cc/oatman.htm
A great ride, great weather, good restaurants and authenticity without being too touristy — that’s a good description of motorcycle touring to Oatman, Ariz.
I first discovered this gold mine (and I mean that literally) of a destination during the annual Laughlin River Run way back in 1994. If you ever make the Laughlin River Run (one of the biggest motorcycle events in the world, similar to Sturgis or Daytona), Oatman is a must-see excursion. My advice, however, is to visit Oatman at any time other than during the River Run, because there are just too many bikes in town that weekend and you’ll miss what Oatman is really all about.
Oatman is the real deal, and the events surrounding its formation sound like something out of a movie. In the mid-1800s, the Native American Yavapai tribe captured and enslaved a young white woman named Olive Oatman, an Illinois girl. The Yavapai then traded her to the Mojave tribe, who released Ms. Oatman in an area that grew into a town and took her name. The town of Oatman was strictly small potatoes until it literally hit pay dirt in 1915 with the discovery of “gold in them thar hills.” Oatman grew into a tent city of 3,500 residents chasing what ultimately became a gold find exceeding $30 million. A 1921 fire burned most of the town down, and the mine was mostly played out by 1924, although a few miners hung on. After that, Oatman’s fortunes headed south.