In my last column I mentioned my wife, Sissy, and me visited the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, N.C. during a recent weekend getaway. As we rolled into town (on four wheels instead of two because of my recent back surgery) we noticed there were plenty of motorcycles riding around. It didn’t take long to figure out we had stumbled upon a motorcycle rally.
We have been to, and I have written about, the Thunder In The Smokies Rallies held each spring and fall in Maggie Valley but I had no idea there was a summer rally there, too, when we decided to spend a couple of nights in the little mountain town.
At the time I assumed the same promoter for the spring and fall rallies (Handlebar Corral) had added the August event that also takes place at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. I later discovered the summer rally is actually held by Sonny Productions which for years was a big player in the Myrtle Beach area rallies. The company used to coordinate all of the vendors that once set up at Inlet Square Mall and still runs www.MyrtleBeachBikeWeek.com. Owner of Sonny Productions, Sonny Copeland, used to boast that he not only owned the Web site, but also owned the trademark rights to the name “Myrtle Beach Bike Week.” Once upon a time that might have been a name worth fighting over (and worth a bunch of money), but since Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and his city council ran off everyone on two wheels, I’d be surprised if anyone would even want it these days.
Back in Maggie Valley, we decided not to pay $20 for a wristband and the privilege to wander the handful of vendors we could see through the festival grounds fence. It was highly unlikely that we’d see anything we hadn’t seen at a dozen other rallies; and, we thought $20 per head was a little pricey just to shop for stuff we don’t need. We later reconsidered when we learned it was a multi-day pass that would also cover other activities including a number of bands, biker games, and an appearance by a couple of the guys from cable TV’s “ Moonshiners” series.
Our actual target destination for the weekend was the Harrah’s Casino in nearby Cherokee. We’d never been so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately, once we got there we didn’t stay long. The minimum bet at the cheapest blackjack table was $15 per hand; there were no Texas Hold ‘Em or 5-card poker tables with live dealers (which is what I prefer to play) – only video poker machines; and, to play roulette (Sissy’s game) you had to bet at least $10 per turn. We’re used to being able to place dollar bets at the roulette table and to get in on blackjack for $5 a hand. Our casino experience is limited to a few trips on Royal Caribbean cruise lines and the casino boats out of Little River. We calculated one $15 hand of blackjack would get us both into a 3-hour movie and one $10 spin at the roulette wheel would buy us a pizza so we bailed in favor of dinner and a movie. We did find a quaint little town not far from Maggie Valley called Waynesville that is worth a stop. It kind of reminded me of downtown Hendersonville with Main Street shops where we discovered a great little pizzeria called Nick and Nate’s.
The next day we hit some of the local tourist traps and searched out Soco Falls, a beautiful natural landmark where two waterfalls merge. We picked up a few maps including one that is all circuit rides through the mountains in the area. There is plenty to see and do, making Maggie Valley a great motorcycle destination. I can’t wait to return when we can do it on our motorcycle.
POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY CEREMONY
South Carolina’s Rolling Thunder, Chapter 3 will hold its annual candlelight vigil at War Bird Park at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 20 to honor and remember our nation’s military prisoners of war and missing in action. The park, which features aircraft from the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base is located on Farrow Parkway near The Market Common. According to a press release, “A Proclamation will be read acknowledging September 20, 2013 as POW/MIA Recognition Day in the City of Myrtle Beach. This is a time for us to welcome home those American heroes who suffered so much while being held as Prisoners Of War by the enemies of our nation. We will also recognize the over 83,000 servicemen [and women] who are still unaccounted for…and remember Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, captured June 2009, our only known American POW still alive being held by the Taliban. The “Missing Man Table “ceremony will be performed.” The event is open to the public.
For more information, call Bill DeVaughn at 685-1793 or visit www.rollingthundergrandstrand.com. Rolling Thunder is a non-profit organization made up of mostly military veterans who ride motorcycles, although those qualifications are not prerequisites for membership. Less than a week after our country remembers the 9-11 attacks, setting aside time on Sept. 20 to remember those who have not returned is only fitting.