Rockinham, N.C., June 22-23— Once again it was time for me to load up the FXRP and hit the road for the beautiful back roads of North and South Carolina to get to the Rockingham Dragway where The Horse Backstreet Choppers magazine has been holding their annual Smoke Out party for the last four years. And, as usual, I was not disappointed one bit.
While most people might attest that 13 is an unlucky number, let me say that wasn’t the case here. This was the number 13 rendition of the Smoke Out, and Edge and the rest of his dedicated staff at Flat Black Productions did one helluva job putting this party on. I guess after 13 years they kinda know what the hell they are doing. Other than the usual Southern heat, humidity and rain (that you can pretty much count on happening everywhere in the South at this time of year), it was a full-tilt party from Thursday night all the way until Sunday morning.
For those of you who haven’t been to “The Rock,” it is designed to be patron friendly and I guess after all the past races and events, the staff has seen it all because they were very laid back, just like they have been every year, and seem to have as much fun as the paying clientele. And that always makes for a better party when staffers, promoters and partiers blend together as one. As with most great biker parties, the campgrounds are the middle of “Holy-Shit Central” and where all the cool stuff happens. To ensure the campers receive their money’s worth, Edge had a flatbed trailer set up with live music and “other” contests happening late into the evening. Some of this late-night entertainment was of the sort that a few of you might need a note from your mommy to stay out late, with several displays making even this ol’ boy blush.
I rolled in about 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening to find a massive group setting up and getting ready to throw down when the gates officially opened.
I quickly ran into some old brothers and met some new ones. And that’s always a favorite for me, getting the chance to meet new people. It was great to see Boston Mike and his crew from Sanford, especially since Mike had an extreme case of bronchitis and wasn’t sure if he was going to make it up, even though he was one of the competitors in the Pro Chop Off. Other builders in this competition included Brian Elliott of Black Sunshine Customs, Led Sled Customs and Papa Clutch Customs all presenting some very cool chops. And lucky me; I was privileged to eyeball these builds up close before most people, since I arrived well before the main gates opened on Friday morning.
After catching up for a few hours and seeing a really cool band on the flatbed (whose name I can’t remember for the life of me), I headed into town to grab a bite and get ready for the next day. And, as fate would preordain, who do I run into but most of the Long Road Riders (previously known as the Stampede Riders), who demanded that I share a drink to celebrate their accomplishment. So, being the dedicated motojournalist, I accepted the invitation to appease the road-weary crew.
What is the Long Road, you ask? Starting the weekend before the Smoke Out in Huntingdon, Tennessee, it’s a 1,000-mile gypsy ride that winds through Kentucky and West Virginia before arriving at the Smoke Out on Thursday. It includes a mixture of choppers alongside stockers, and a huge dose of two-wheeled brotherhood, camping and mischievous camaraderie. Good times for all involved.
On a sad note, Thursday night a solid brother by the name of Mexican Mike left us and his loved ones way too soon. He partied hard and he rode harder. R.I.P., Mexican Mike, see ya out on the road.
Friday morning was extra special since I didn’t get pulled over by any state troopers for speeding on my way back out to the Smoke Out—great indication of a memorable weekend. When I got to the strip I noticed that it seemed vendor attendance was down, but the crowds were bigger than in past years. The vendors that really caught my eye were Bare Bones Leather out of Atlanta, Jeff Cochran of SpeedKing, Rusty Nuts Originals from South Carolina, Slingin Ink Tattoos out of Grinnell, Iowa, FNA Custom Cycles and Twisted Tea, as well as the crew from Rally TV. They were filming all weekend and got some cool and funny footage, from what I saw. Friday night included two items of interest that were huge hits: the “What T-Shirt?” contest and the band Rebel Son.
The “Shirt?” contest was run by none other than yours truly, and while I must say it was mucho hard work, I did my best to give those dirty, greasy, tattooed bastards the best show I could. And judging by the compliments afterwards, I’m certain it was a success! Rebel Son has pretty much established themselves as the band of the Smoke Out, and it’s easy to see why—they just flat out rock ’n’ roll. Damn!
Saturday was jam packed and with a kickass bike show, a non-sanctioned drag race showdown on the track, a painted lady contest, the Amateur Chop Off and the quite infamous XSpeed minibike races (complete with riders clothed in a variety of superhero and themed costumes). A late afternoon show by the Artimus Pyle band totally blew me away. And Artimus proved to be one standup brother who took the time to hang out with his fans, as well as pose for pics. After another phenomenal T-shirt contest (I was on stage, so I can personally assure you, it was phenomenal), an AC/DC tribute band took to the stage and outright nailed it. Just close your eyes, lean back and you wouldn’t have known the difference. And man did they get the crowd bumpin’!
As usual I stayed up way too damn late and got a very poor start for the ride home to my Florida digs the next morning, forcing me into taking another day off from work—like that really bothers me. I can’t imagine missing this ride no matter how much it may interfere with my work schedule. When laid-back, real motorcycle people come together to present shade-tree garage-built bikes in an atmosphere of freedom, this event transcends your normal shop-till-you-drop rally. So if having a great time with people who will only be strangers once sounds like fun, get your ass out to The Rock next June and get ready to experience a bike party like they were in the beginning; they way they are supposed to be. These guys are determined to not let that legacy die.