Bustin' Out of the Gate
There’s a formula for success, especially for a first-time event, that has every rider and vendor in agreement. It’s made up from equal amounts of vision, marketing, empathy, and passion. Sometimes it takes a little luck for first-timers to hit it on the money. And, in the case of Mike Bradford and Carl Ribaudo, co-organizers and founders of the Tahoe Rendezvous, luck was on their side. You see, this partnership pooled together quite a mix of backgrounds to garner the attention of Lake Tahoe’s tourism board, as well as high level sponsors, to support the backbone of the event. And, because of this, they were able to line up a lot class act segments.
With the venue being held at the Montbleu Resort Casino in South Lake Tahoe, the participants had the perfect location for an eclectic range of choice dirt and regular roads, winding through the majestic scenery of the area, right at their fingertips. As it was a ride-based event, some of the vendors closed up shop for a couple of hours while they tagged along on ride routes that matched their abilities. Paul, our senior editor, and I, took turns zipping off on my DRZ while the other manned the ADVMoto booth, giving us all a true taste of what this event was all about.
Thanks to J Courtney Brandon of American Sahara, and famed adventure travel author Carla King, I got to take on a fun dirt ride along the eastern side of the neighboring area, just outside of Carson City, Nevada. We witnessed firsthand what this area has to offer adventure riders, and we walked away believers that this beautiful part of our country is definitely a locale that will lure all levels and types of riders. And, that was exactly the point for the creation of this event… to show that Lake Tahoe is a motorcycle destination. An added bonus is the fact that this area also supports a plethora of outdoor activities in addition to riding, like camping, boating, skiing, and hiking, to name a few. In fact, we got to test out one of the closest campgrounds to the event, Zephyr Cove Resort, to see what kind of nature feast Tahoe had to offer. The ample space, natural beauty and amenities of the grounds proved that Tahoe can deliver when it comes to camping.
First and foremost, success is oftentimes attached to leaders who are visionaries. That’s when it takes event owners to anticipate where the industry is headed, and to have the vision of how to catch that wave and secure a strong position on its crest. To keep eager participants happy, a balanced mix of ride routes that challenge all levels, along with quality talks and demos, usually does the trick. In this case, the Tahoe Rendezvous pulled together some of their top local riders who already knew the routes like the back of their hands, so they were able to lead some wonderfully successful, challenging, and exciting rides.
To supplement the rides with education and how-to tips, the Tahoe Rendezvous was able to score world-class adventure rider and Dakar podium finisher, Jimmy Lewis, to give riding demos throughout the event. In and of itself, Jimmy’s top quality demos, along with wife Heather’s bike-control skills, made the entire event worth the price of admission—and then some. And boy, did it whet my appetite for taking Jimmy’s off-road riding school! Additional event features that rounded out the rally was the lakeside “Road Rash” seminar given by motorcycling medico Bill Ellison; another Jimmy Lewis demo (complete with a “how to” get your bike out of a sand-buried situation); a perfectly-timed sunset BBQ; and a delightful Q&A with world-renowned racing legend Dick Mann.
To pull in a line-up like that you have to have connections. Co-organizer, Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group—which specializes in travel, tourism, and recreation in the Tahoe area—along with fellow co-organizer, Mike Bradford, a prominent businessman in the local community, provided a huge leg-up when it came to knowing how to market the event, as well as the resources to bring it together.
What actually fuels the fire for an event like this is the empathy that can only come from fellow riders who know exactly what it’s like to feel the freedom of a motorcycle, and the passion that drives them. The event’s dynamic duo are members of the local riding club who keep their passion for off-road riding alive by getting out there and doing it. They’re the type of event organizers who are thinking outside of the box, and who will be keeping it fresh and on the cutting edge for years to come. They also know how to show big appreciation for those who came out to support the event. And, because of this appreciation, it only felt natural to have given our all as we helped them bust out of the gate on their event’s first year.