It is time once again for the annual spring Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally along the Grand Strand.
This year’s rally officially runs Monday, May 13 through May 19 (based on the Horry County government’s vendor permit dates and the dates being published by the local Harley-Davidson dealership), but visitors are expected to start trickling in this weekend. Once a draw for an estimated 350,000 visitors in its heyday, the spring rally has been scaled down, following failed efforts by Myrtle Beach city politicians (and the snobby business owners behind them) to do away with them completely. In an effort to keep Bike Week dollars outside the city limits of Myrtle Beach; and, to go where we’re welcome, the bulk of the rally has moved to the surrounding areas outside the borders of the city of Myrtle Beach proper.
There is still plenty to see and do, though, if you know where to go.
With Harley-Davidson motorcycles at the heart of the event, stops at the local dealerships are a must. While named “Myrtle Beach” Harley-Davidson, the main shop actually sits just south of the city line at 4710 S. Kings Highway. The Myrtle Beach dealership will host 25 vendors and normally offers deals on Harley accessories and clothing during the rally. The Myrtle Beach shop typically moves its entire motorcycle inventory to the North Myrtle Beach location – known as The Harley-Davidson Shop At The Beach at 4002 U.S. 17 S. - and offers tent sales prices on new and pre-owned bikes during the rally. (North Myrtle Beach is an independent municipality that is not part of the city of Myrtle Beach. Unlike Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach officials and business owners have actually worked hard to welcome Bike Week visitors.)
In addition to the H-D Shop at the Beach, the north end is also the home of the Barefoot Landing shopping venue where more than 40 motorcycle rally vendors - including nationally-known brands such as Kuryakan, J&P Cycles, Mustang Seats, Vance & Hines, and Yamaha Motors - will be set up. Barefoot Landing is at 4898 U.S. 17 S. in North Myrtle Beach.
Also located at Barefoot Landing are entertainment venues including The Alabama Theatre; and, House of Blues, that normally books acts during Bike Week that will appeal to riders. This year’s HOB schedule includes shows by biker favorites Colt Ford and Jackyl (as seen on TV’s “ Full Throttle Saloon”). The House of Blues is at 4640 U.S. 17 S. in North Myrtle Beach. For tickets or more information visit the venue’s Web site at www.houseofblues.com.
According to a recent article in the local daily newspaper, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach Speedway announced it is, “Diving back into the festivities this year after new ownership and renovations… hosting live music, exhibitions and vendors.” In the article, Howard Richardson, the general manager, said, “The Speedway used to be one of the most popular rally points during the spring and fall bike weeks but hasn’t hosted a rally for years.” Entertainment will include live music, contests, bike shows, and appearances by cast members from the Discovery Channel’s “ Moonshiners” and TLC’s “ Welcome to Myrtle Manor” television shows. Myrtle Beach Speedway can be found at 455 Hospitality Lane off of U.S. 501, Myrtle Beach.
The new rally central along the Grand Strand, however, has become the waterfront stretch of U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet, mostly in Georgetown County. Located next door to each other are the original Beaver Bar and (at 3393 U.S. 17 Business) Suck, Bang, Blow biker bars. Both will offer live music, food, beer tub girls, and vendors. Follow U.S. 17 Business just three-tenths of a mile south and you will find the newer, larger Beaver Bar at the County Line that has bars and bands both inside and outside under the pavilion. Over the last few years this location has become the hub of the rally. Like the other locations, there will be plenty of vendors, free bike parking, live entertainment, contests, food, and drink specials. Owner Leslye “Mama” Beaver does not gouge visitors during Bike Week and always offers $2 domestic beers at both Beaver Bars. When it isn’t Bike Week you will find people from all walks of life enjoying the Beaver Bar. It isn’t unusual to see boaters, golfers, bikers, and college pukes side-by-side at the bar. Beaver is well known for welcoming everyone, but she and her family have always had a special relationship with bikers. She recently opened the third Beaver Bar location in Ormand Beach (near Daytona Beach), Fla.
Recently, the larger Suck, Bang, Blow-Four Corners venue was sold to a developer who has plans to tear it down and make way for a grocery story, so this year will be your last chance to visit the self-proclaimed “World Famous Biker Burn-Out Bar”, and home to the only area indoor burn-out pit. In years past the Four Corners location, at 3393 U.S. 17 Bypass, was the larger, more touristy spot during the rallies and always offered plenty of wild, live entertainment, biker games, vendors, and specialty acts including Rhett Rotten’s Wall of Death stunt show, midget wrestling, and even a carnival-style freak show. With the change of ownership in full swing it will be interesting to see if this last hoorah will be a half-assed, last ditch effort to grab our bike week dollars or if they will go out in a blaze of glory.
Many rally visitors also enjoy taking a day trip to the port city of Charleston, located 90 miles south of the Grand Strand. The city is rich in history from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (or the War of Northern Aggression, as many below the Mason-Dixon Line choose to call it), as well as colorful pirate and ghost legends. The owner of both local Harley dealerships also owns the Low Country Harley-Davidson shop at 4707 Dorchester Road in Charleston.
Just about everywhere you go will offer maps and guides to the rally with plenty of information on local establishments that welcome your business. Everyone from the mom-and-pop pancake houses to the beachwear shops, to the strip clubs are likely to roll out the red carpet for you. You will likely also see plenty of police officers who are ready to welcome you, too, but as long as you remember to respect the traffic and noise rules; to drink responsibly; to keep the adult-oriented fun out of plain view and inside the bars that offer it; and to look out for each other, there is no reason for them to give you anything other than a friendly smile and a little genuine Southern hospitality.