Ridin’ with Big E for Feb. 21, 2013

For Weekly SurgeFebruary 19, 2013 

SWEETHEART RIDE SNOWED OUT

The Sweetheart Dinner Ride sponsored by Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson had to be postponed from Saturday, Feb. 16 until Wed., Feb. 20 “due to weather.”

Who would have believed the weather report for Saturday would include snow at the beach; and so much of it. Plans for the ride were postponed and the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather conditions advisory. News outlets reported as many as 3.5 inches of snow accumulating in the Myrtle Beach area the night of Feb. 16 and up to an inch more inland.

Myrtle Beach has not experienced a 3-inch snowfall (which I’m sure seems silly to get excited about by the northern transplants reading this) since January of 2000. Surrounding counties were even harder hit with Hemingway (in Williamsburg County) reporting 6.8 inches of snow and Oatland (in Georgetown County) getting 7. The Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson dealership’s Facebook page for the ride indicated dozens of riders had declared themselves “going” or “maybe” [going] on the initial ride. Hopefully, the fact that it had to be changed to a school night didn’t hurt the turnout too much. (The make-up ride had not yet happened at the time of this writing.)

H-D DEALER GIVES UP ON COMBINING RALLIES (OR DOES HE?)

Recently the dates for the 2013 spring Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally on the Grand Strand were posted on the local dealership’s Web site as May 13-18.

A Jan. 13 Sun News article pointed out that those dates are much more in line with the more widely accepted, 5-to-6-day timeframe of recent, scaled down rallies.

Last year the dealership caused confusion and received criticism for attempting to lengthen the rally by combining it with Atlantic Beach’s Bikefest, known colloquially as Black Bike Week, which takes place annually on Memorial Day weekend.

Local politicians, individuals, and groups on both sides of the Bike Week fence criticized MBH-D owner Phil Schoonover for what could be summed up as “rocking the boat”.

After years of bickering, politicking, and arguing over the value of the rallies economically versus the traffic and noise impact of the rallies on the community the dust had just about settled.

Both sides had accepted a sort of unofficial compromise and the rallies seemed to be recovering. In the aforementioned Sun News piece MBH-D General Manager Cindy Fine said, “We are going to go by the rules they [Horry County Council] laid out for us…It’s time to move forward and put everything that happened behind us.”

When I asked Schoonover about it, however, he was unaware of the article and the quote by his G.M. His intentions last year were to merge the two rallies, making them more like the other national motorcycle rallies that do not divide riders by the color of their skin; to add a music festival; and to refocus the Memorial Day aspect on honoring our armed forces. In my opinion where he went wrong with his plan was just announcing it without getting other businesses and community leaders on board first. According to Schoonover, though, he did send an e-mail, which he showed me, on Dec. 3, 2011 to every elected official in the region to discuss his plans and no one replied. In the recent Sun News article Fine was quoted as saying “Phil was just trying to come up with a good compromise…Let’s have one bike week, everybody come together.” It continued, “That just didn’t work. The dealership doesn’t want to try it again.”

Or does it?

It sounds as if there may come a time when the dealership may want to try it again. According to Schoonover in a reply to a text I sent him, “I didn’t back off of merging the dates. I just haven’t taken the time to attempt to show the logic of the idea of managing the event [differently to local officials].” Citing other projects like the Sky Wheel and airport terminals that seemingly concern city and county officials more than the motorcycle events, Schoonover stated, “I’m simply trying to do a better job of picking what I spend my time on.”

Frustrated by the barely-healed wounds that were opened by Schoonover’s actions last year the Horry County chapter of motorcycle rights groups ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) called for a boycott of Schoonover’s stores. (In addition to the Myrtle Beach Harley dealership, Schoonover owns the one in North Myrtle Beach and another in Charleston. He also owns the Harley-Davidson retail outlet at Broadway at the Beach.) I tried to reach all of the ABATE board members listed on the group’s Web site to get a comment about the dealership’s posted dates. I wonder if Schoonover’s apparent compliance with the status quo changes ABATE’s opinion about boycotting the local businessman, but my last-minute e-mails were not answered in time for this column. The phone number I found for Gary Balcom, coordinator of the Horry County Chapter of ABATE and front man for last year’s boycott, was no longer in service. Regardless of what their opinions might have been, the dealership’s rally dates for this year’s rally shouldn’t be an issue.

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