Fall is my favorite time of year to ride. The weather is still sunny, but the temperatures start to cool off and the humidity drops making it comfortable to ride in boots and long sleeves. I am not one of those guys who can bring myself to ride my motorcycle in shorts and topsiders with no socks. First: That’s just asking for third degree road rash in the event you go down, and second: it just ain’t right. It’s like watching football on Sunday drinking a mimosa and eating a Cobb salad instead of using a cold beer to wash down a big bowl of hot chili.
Speaking of chili, on Sunday my wife Sissy and I rode our Road King motorcycle to the Surfrider Foundation’s 13th Annual Lip-Rippin’ Chilympics Chili Cook-Off, hosted at Spuds Waterfront Dining at the Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet. Ironically, our bike was nicknamed Chili Dawg when we first got it because I remember thinking it was beefy, dark red, and if you don’t hold on to it with both hands you’re going to need a change of shorts – much like a chili dog.
The turnout for the event was great and we noticed dozens of motorcycles there as we milled around the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd tasting a variety of chili concoctions entered by individuals and restaurants alike. According to the its Web site, “All proceeds from this event and others fund the projects of the Grand Strand Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a grassroots, non-profit, environmental organization that works to protect our oceans, waves, and beaches.”
Knowing there’d probably be bikers coming to check out all the chili action, event organizer Bruxanne Hein of the Surfrider Foundation affirmed that parking was specifically set aside for motorcycles in the lot next to the festival site. “We thought it would be easier and safer for bikers to have parking without worrying about cars mowing them (or their cycles) down,” said Hein via e-mail.
Among the entries were a few from the biker-friendly world there.
Greg’s Cabana Bar cooked up a sweet blend with beef and corn kernels that was a little too sugary for my taste. My favorite - not only from the biker-related businesses, but probably my first choice overall - was called 60 Weight Biker Chili (or something oil-themed like that) which was made by the guys at Dick Martin Cycles in Socastee. We bought 20 $1 tickets and tried 18 of the 30 different chili entries before throwing in the towel. There were all kinds including vegetarian chili submitted by a women’s roller derby team that was surprisingly good, a seafood chili submitted by Hot Fish Club (which you may as well have called chowder), and a Beer and Deer Chili whose claim to fame was all local ingredients like beer from the New South Brewery (one of the main sponsors) and local venison “that was shot in Conway last week”. I actually like beer and venison, and have made plenty of my own pots of chili using both, but I didn’t like recipe these guys were using. I dropped the almost full cup into the trash bag tied to their EZ-Up tent and noticed it landed on several other full cups.
One delicacy we avoided that I simply dubbed “Armpit Hair Chili” was being served up at a sloppy booth stuffed with sloppier drunk frat boys, holding 40s (40-oz bottles of beer); all shirtless and obnoxious. As I approached I was greeted by an enormous zit on one kid’s lower back (tasty) as I watched another reach across all of the filled sample cups to get something, nearly dipping his armpit hair in the chili (hence the name.) To add to their charm, I later heard them mocking one of the event-goers to her face when she said the word “spicy” with a thick accent of some sort, and then laughing at her as she walked away without a sample. I may rename that D-Bag chili.
Sissy spent the last couple of tickets on a strawberry shortcake dessert from Cravinley’s. There was a cool rockabilly-style band playing that I really liked wearing matching private school style jackets named the Carvers, from Wilmington, N.C. They reminded me a little of The Stray Cats. It was a good time and as we left the crowded Inlet, we made the observation that one more great thing about riding a motorcycle is being able to fit into parking where cars simply can’t at a crowded event. Speaking of which, to all of you riders that park your motorcycles right in the middle of full-sized car parking places, how about putting it on one side and leaving the other half of the space for the rest of us? I really shouldn’t have to explain that.
The previous day (Saturday), another chili cook-off was held at the Beaver Bar to host the end of the 6th Annual Ride for Mammograms. This annual event is a guided, scenic motorcycle ride that raises money to pay for potentially life-saving mammograms for women who would otherwise not be able to afford them. We were hoping to ride in that one as well, but I ended up having to work Saturday. According to one of the organizers, Tony Spinnato, this year’s event raised $6,800. One of the riders we ran into Sunday told us they logged 137 miles and 83 women were able to get the free screening.
Who knew so much good could come from arguing over who makes the best pot of chili?