As I write this column, motorcycles and trailers full of them are headed home following the 2013 Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally on the Grand Strand. My shoulders are sunburned and my face is scorched in the telltale “raccoon-eyed” pattern one gets when the sun sears everywhere except where the sunglasses shaded them.
Despite putting in a full week at work, I was fortunate enough to get out and ride three times during the rally. I was thrilled to see what was apparently a boost in attendance compared to the past few years. I have no official statistics, but it was plain to see at area hot spots that riders were here earlier and in greater numbers this time around.
May 11 was the first Saturday and the unofficial start of the rally week. After a long day at work, my wife, Sissy, and me broke out the Road King and headed to Murrells Inlet where we cruised down U.S. 17 Business and back before parking at the gas station across the street from the original Beaver Bar and Suck Bang Blow (SBB) locations. It is a great place to kick back and watch the bikes roll in. Every year someone puts plastic lawn chairs out there and it is a great place from which to people watch. As we were sitting there some friends rode by and waved us over, so we joined them across the street for awhile, checking out the bikes and vendors at SBB.
Customizing fads come and go. For a long time the hottest things were stretched out choppers with fat rear tires. Then came the smaller, lighter, stripped down bobber craze. As has been the case for the last couple of years, customized baggers (large, touring motorcycles with lots of accessories, such as radios, wind fairings, and saddlebags, hence the “bagger” nickname) are en vogue. The bikes are customized by lengthening and widening the rear fender and saddlebags, often merging the three into one wide rear-end. Also in fashion are taller, narrower front wheels and tires, not unlike the ones found on sedans popular with the younger, hip-hop generation. Having worked hard, we ended the night pretty early at Milardo’s pizzeria in the former Cooter’s location outside Inlet Square. We’d heard the pizza was great, and one passing waiter said enthusiastically, “It’s the best food I’ve ever eaten!” We thought it just OK and the service was slow despite the restaurant being almost empty.
The next day was Mother’s Day. Following church and lunch with family, we ventured out for the afternoon. Our first stop was at Suck Bang Blow’s Four Corners location. The crowd was light, but I figured that was because it was pretty early in the day and the week. I figured wrong. Apparently everyone was at the Beaver Bar’s County Line location instead - our second stop - which was packed. Under the Pavilion the crowd, including us, couldn’t help but smile as we listened to 12-year old Brooks “Prince of Rock” Paul belting out classic rock covers by bands such as Led Zeppelin and Guns ‘N’ Roses. I have to admit, at first I thought Paul was a girl (and I wasn’t the only one) because of his flowing blond hair, slight frame, and not-yet-changed voice, but this kid is probably going to get more girls before he’s got hair under his arms than I did my whole single life. He was a trip in his sleeveless T-shirt, mirrored sunglasses, and Axl Rose bandana; and, the kid can sing. (Check out www.BrooksPaulMusic.com to see for yourself.) Once again, Mama Beaver set the bar for Bike Week entertainment. The Beaver Bar was also promoting an appearance Friday by Ryan Hurst, who played Opie on the television show “ Sons of Anarchy” until his character was killed off last season. I wasn’t there that day, but getting one of the popular show’s most beloved characters - dead or alive - is a pretty big coup.
We also cruised through Jamin’ Town’s new location and The Rat Hole where there were only a handful of people, but again it was early in the week, before stopping at the Island Bar & Grill in Surfside Beach for dinner on the way home.
I probably work 45 out of 52 Saturdays a year; but, the Bike Week gods were smiling on me this week. Without requesting it, I had Saturday off and we made the most of it. This time we headed north. We stopped at Myrtle Beach Speedway, which under new ownership was getting back into Bike Week promotions. The venue hosted a handful of vendors, one of whom was so pleased with the traffic there he said he’s already booked his space for next year. The speedway also offered motorcycle stunt shows; allowed people to take their motorcycles on the track (5 laps for $5); and brought in their own television personalities. While I had zero interest in seeing cast members from “ Welcome to Myrtle Manor,” I got a kick out of seeing Josh and Bill from Discovery Channel’s “ Moonshiners.” They, on the other hand, could not have seemed less interested in me - or anyone else there for that matter.
From there, we rode to Barefoot Landing where there were dozens of solid vendors. As we wandered among them I told Sissy, “Unfortunately, I think we’ve seen all this stuff before.” To that, she replied, “Little River is having their annual Blue Crab Festival today,” so we hopped back on the bike and went.
We weren’t the only bikers there. It was a nice ride destination and change of pace. We spent the rest of the afternoon there; and with a reasonable hankering’ for crab, stopped at one of the seafood buffets in North Myrtle Beach on the way home. There I embarrassed myself by accepting the “All-You-Can-Eat Crab Legs” challenge that the sign out front threw down. I won.
This Memorial Day weekend Atlantic Beach welcomes Bikefest (a.k.a. Black Bike Week) and the Grand Strand will go from seeing cruiser traffic to imported, racing-inspired, sport bikes. For an entertaining list of Bikefest Do’s and Don’ts visit: www.blackbikeweek.us/2010/02/50-black-bike-week-2010-dos-and-donts/.
Ours was a great rally and I hope you fellow Bike Week participants had (and you incoming Bikefest riders will have) as good a time as we did.
Ride smart, y’all.