Outer Banks, N.C., Apr. 18–26—Early morning sunshine streams down and the air has already warmed up considerably—T-shirt weather for sure. Riders are grouped together in the parking lot of Outer Banks (OBX) Harley-Davidson to participate in one of the rides scheduled for Outer Banks Bike Week. The Outer Banks H.O.G. chapter hosts and leads these rides, and the road captain is giving a safety briefing to the group before they head out.
Rather than joining today’s tour, I decide to spend my first full day at the rally cruising around to all the vendor locations. I leave Outer Banks H-D and ride across the Wright Memorial Bridge, making stops at several rally venues along Route 12, also known as the Beach Road. But instead of turning back at Nags Head, I keep riding south. Soft breezes are blowing from the ocean over the dunes and rippling through the sea oats that border the bay across the road. The 40-degree temperatures up North seem like a distant memory.
Location, location, location
My Bike Week home was the Travelodge, right next to the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Museum in Kill Devil Hills. This proved to be a great location, centrally located to the rally venues. It’s quick ride to nearby restaurants like Jolly Rogers which hosts the rally’s farewell breakfast at the end of the week. And I was able to park my bike right outside the sliding glass doors of my hotel room—a real comfort when I’m on the road.
The next day I returned to OBX H-D where I found Maurice Slaughter, CEO of MS Family Enterprises, parent company of the three Harley-Davidson dealerships that produce Bike Week: Outer Banks H-D in Harbinger, North Carolina, Nags Head H-D in Nags Head, North Carolina, and Bayside H-D in Portsmouth, Virginia. When I ask about the genesis of OBX Bike Week, Maurice explained, “We opened up our first dealership in Bayside, then two years later we opened up Nags Head Harley-Davidson. Then we opened up Elizabeth City. Then we held the first rally leading up to opening up this dealership here in Harbinger. We wanted to have a presence down here even before we opened. The rally has been a huge success; it’s grown every year. The first year it was four days, and now it’s nine.”
As the rally has grown, so have the number of Bike Week venues which, for the most part, are located along Routes 158 and 12, from Harbinger to Kitty Hawk down to Nags Head. The official vendor locations are OBX H-D, BK Shuckers and Longboards Island Grill in Kitty Hawk, Port O’ Call in Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head H-D. Vendors at OBX H-D included RC Components, Wycked Illusionz LED lights, Butt Buffer seat cushions, Innovative Storage Solutions baggage accessories, Flying Pig eyewear, Letterfly pinstriping, Jet Hot Powdercoating, various stands with pins, patches and other accessories, a few charities and several motorcycle ministries.
The merchants at BK Shuckers offered handcrafted jewelry, apparel and other accessories, Old School Pinstriping, and, for the first time, Easy Eddie’s set up shop—literally. Along with a mobile service station, they were selling Metzeler tires, and many top-quality parts and accessories; pretty much everything they carry back at their shop in Mooresville, North Carolina.
One evening, I met up with some friends at the Black Pelican for a delicious dinner, and afterwards, we ended up at Longboards, also an official party spot. Vendors there purveyed stainless steel jewelry, biker apparel and accessories, custom lighting and LEDs. On the outside deck we enjoyed a few beverages while Brad Priviot played guitar and sang. Karaoke night was scheduled to start afterwards but we never made it that far.
At Port O’ Call were jewelry and biker-gear vendors, along with another pinstriper, LED sales and installations and custom gel seat installs. Rome Brothers Customs Hotrods and Harleys had a few cool customs set out as well. Port O’ Call is one of my favorite dinner spots, and it just so happened that they were the official party host for that evening so I hung around after my meal to watch the band Triple Shot play Allman Brothers and other Southern rock tunes.
Most of the sponsoring bar/restaurants offered Bike Week food and drink specials along with special entertainment. Kelly’s, another official party spot, had live music and hosted their “Roar to the Shore” party Friday night with the band Krunch, a crowd favorite, performing. Lucky 12 held their annual free Pig Pickin’ the first Sunday of the rally, biker karaoke on Tuesday, and a new event—“Pints & Pistons” — where you could “talk up your ride and enjoy great craft beers” from 11:30 a.m. until closing on Monday. Live music was the entertainment the rest of the week.
Every year, Kitty Hawk Baptist Church, a quick walk (or ride) from BK Shuckers, has their own mini rally with vendors, home-cooked food and a biker worship service. Although not an official Bike Week location, Maurice commented, “What’s interesting is that when we started Bike Week, we wanted other venues set up. And everyone was scared that they were stepping on our feet. So they finally got it. We want to have more activities; we want people to have more things to do when they go up and down the 100 miles of beach we have here. It’s all about the customers and the riders. Plus, there are new things this year, like Pamlico Jack’s Day of Blues on Saturday. That’s gonna be awesome. I’m looking forward to that.”
A hundred miles, and more…
The Outer Banks H.O.G. chapter is key to the rally’s success. Kevin Johnson, president and chief operating officer of the dealership group, said, “The H.O.G. chapter always puts together some great rides. They’re doing demo rides, bike shows, poker runs—as the rally keeps growing, everybody gets a little bit more involved and they take a little more ownership of it. It really helps out the rally.”
The H.O.G. chapter led four guided rides this year, at one point or another taking visitors the entire 100-mile length of the Outer Banks beaches as well as to several inland destinations. The Carolina Explorer took riders to local attractions of the Outer Banks, the Corolla Run included a visit to the Wildlife Center, the Fallen Riders Memorial Ride provided a tour of the Lake Mattamuskeet area and the Graveyard of the Atlantic tour escorted visitors to the museum of the same name. I joined the latter tour, and learned about the rich wartime history of the Outer Banks as well as dramatic stories of shipwrecks that have taken place over hundreds of years. The museum is well worth a visit.
H.O.G. rides are offered at no cost except for lunch and, for those who wish to participate, rolling poker runs that benefit local charities. Richard Quidley, OBX H.O.G. assistant director and road captain explained, “We select local charities throughout the year. We try to pick charities where our contributions would help the most rather than picking large charities where it would just be a drop in the bucket.” He continued, “The rides were awesome this week. Blue skies, happy trails, everyone came home safe. I just want to say how much I enjoy doing this every year. And every year, I look forward to next year. You’re doing the rides, and you’re looking around, and you’re like, next year, we can go down this road, or we can go this much further. Every year, we’re thinking about new routes and new destinations. I love it.”
I expressed my gratitude for the volunteer work the chapter does for the rally and Richard responded, “Most H.O.G. members will bank their vacation and use it during Bike Week. We’ll man the registration tent, conduct demo rides, help with the poker runs and lead the rides. Why? It’s the love of the road and the camaraderie. During Bike Week, you meet new people, you make new friends… if you come to Bike Week and don’t make friends and leave without new names on your Facebook page, then you’re not doing it right.”
Toward the end of the week, rally activities really picked up. At OBX H-D on Friday was a tattoo contest sponsored and judged by Big Country Tattoo Collective. Then I rushed over to watch the bikini coleslaw wrestling at Pigman’s Bar-B-Que. It was the fourth year the competition had been held, and each year sees more improvements. This year, spectators were asked for $5 admission which would be donated to the Get Pinked Dare County breast cancer support campaign. And bleachers had been erected which made it a lot easier for the spectators. Once again, the emcee was Fish from major sponsor Pirate Radio 95.3, and the referee was “bikini specialist” David Matute. UFC fighter Angela Magana was a special guest, and to really add professionalism to the affair, the judges were actually MMA fighters.
Headlights OBX Gentlemen’s Club, another major sponsor, was well represented by bikini-clad contestants, but this year challengers from Checkmates in Elizabeth City showed up. Past winner Cheryl tried to gain back the belt she’d earned a few years ago (and then lost), but she was bested by Pinky from Checkmates in the final round. As a result of the day’s fundraising efforts, over $7,000 will be donated to Get Pinked.
After Pigman’s, I made a mad rush over to Nags Head H-D for the bike show organized by Bayside H.O.G. out of the Portsmouth dealership. While the OBX H.O.G. chapter conducted demo rides from the corporate Harley-Davidson rig, Bayside was busy judging the bike show entries. The best reaction from a bike show winner that day was from Lee Seymour, who won People’s Choice as well as first place in the Touring class. Lee gushed, “Wow. I’m in tears. Oh, my gosh. Are you kidding me? Wow. This is like Christmastime. This is great. Wow. Wow. This is fantastic.” Other first-place winners were Craig Williams (Antique), Billy Gregory (Cruiser), Gil Perkey (Trikes) and Josh Rogers (Custom).
Saturday brought the results of several more contests, including the OBX H.O.G. raffle, 50/50, and the best and worst poker hands. After the Electric Mayhem band finished its set, the Best Belly contest was conducted. There were three contestants: Wes Laprevotte, a guy named Tony who didn’t even have a big belly (we figure he was just in it for the cash prize), and Daniel Dunn who was chosen the winner by popular vote. The day’s grand finale was the Miss Outer Banks Bike Week contest which attracted five lovely ladies. After several rounds, the judges finally chose Brooke Murray from Virginia Beach as the winner, earning her $500 cash and the opportunity to represent Bike Week for the coming year.
Beyond the horizon
The weather for the rally was perfect for spring riding—mostly in the 60’s and sometimes climbing into the 70’s—without a drop of rain during the time I was there. Kevin commented, “This year, it’s not the big rush; the great weather brings a more steady crowd and it’s a little bit easier for everybody to get in and get out and for us to handle. And everybody has time to get around and see everything.”
Maurice added, “A lot of people like to come during the whole week; some people like to come the first weekend, other people like to come the second weekend. So it gives people an opportunity to choose. We get several different crowds, and we actually see the crowds change, from the locals, to areas of the Northeast, down to the Carolinas. Now we’re starting to play with bringing in personalities, so that’s something we’re gonna be looking at for next year as well.” Kevin explained, “We were hoping to have Tommy Flanagan [“Chibs” from Sons of Anarchy] last Saturday. We had him up at Bayside last October, and he’s a phenomenal guy. We were ready for him for this rally, but the filming ran over and he was in Australia so there was no chance on him getting back in time. His agent called and said Tommy really wants to reschedule so he will be here for Outer Banks Bike Fest, our fall rally held September 16–20 this year.”
When asked what else is planned for upcoming years, Kevin answered, “I can say that we try to add stuff every year to put a little different draw to it. As for specifics, we’re gonna keep it under the hat for a while. We’re 13 years into this, and we’re building up to our 15th anniversary. That’s gonna be a big one.”
During next year’s rally scheduled for April 16–24, I plan to explore Jockey’s Ridge State Park that features the tallest sand dune on the Atlantic coast. And Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg offers free tours to Bike Week visitors. Maybe there will be a new H.O.G. ride on the schedule. In the Outer Banks, there’s always something to look forward to.