Everything in Texas is bigger
Galveston Island, Texas, Nov. 2–5—Promoted as the largest four-day motorcycle event in the U.S., the Lone Star Rally hit Galveston Island this year celebrating its 17th annual recurrence and proving to be one of the biggest ever. This event has endured devastating hurricanes that ripped the island apart just weeks before the rally, torrential rainstorms that flooded its historic downtown and brick-paved areas and even suffered under a mild blanket of snow one year. But it has persevered and is now embraced by the Island as an important financial boost to the local economy at year’s end. And the bout of great weather this year was a welcomed respite from the recent devastation of Hurricane Harvey that was heaped upon neighboring Houston.
The Lone Star Rally is nationally recognized as the last major American bike event of the season. And with attendance figures bouncing wildly between 200,000 and 400,000, it is certain those claims of being the largest hold merit with the near-perfect weather this year ensuring a massive gathering. With temperatures ranging from daily highs in the mid 80s and nighttime figures only dipping into the low 70s, Galveston was the ideal spot for bikers to get in their tropical riding fix before holiday festivities conflicted with motorcycle playtime.
Pier 21 at the Harbor House Hotel got the action started on Thursday with the Classic Cruisin Car Show. And since the majority of motorcyclists are true gearheads who appreciate all forms of internal combustion machinery, Pier 21 offered additional four-wheel shows for the entire weekend. Friday was the 2nd annual Truck & Jeep Show with both Saturday and Sunday featuring the 5th annual Drive-In Car Show presented by Sickie’s Garage for all pre-1972 rods, rats and muscle cars.
Thursday also saw riders registering for the Lone Star Poker Run. Run by and benefitting Rolling Thunder Inc. Texas Chapters 1 and 2, you had all day Thursday and Friday and until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday to complete the route. Thursday was also when builders from across the nation unveiled their creations in the In Motion Builders Competition. Fourteen builders had been invited to compete for a grand prize of $10,000. Since all entries were required to be fully functional and roadworthy, a shakedown ride was held Thursday night followed by a meet-and-greet between the builders and VIP guests. The bikes remained on display inside the Devil’s Cut Saloon in the Historic Strand District until the announcement of the winner on Sunday.
The second venue during the rally other than the downtown Strand District was along the seawall appropriately dubbed Beach Central during Lone Star. It took a few years for the promoters to figure out the best way to utilize this stretch along the Gulf waters but, once the logistics of one-way traffic control were determined, it has proven to be highly successful, offering major aftermarket manufacturers along with great music talent on the Park Stage.
Beach Central was also the place to be on Friday if you were competition-minded. That’s when riders displayed their riding abilities during the Bike Rodeo. Skill tests included the Whiskey Barrel Roll, Slow Race, Plank Run and Wienie Bite with contestants vying for the coveted 2017 Lone Star Championship Belt. Later that afternoon the Perewitz Paint Show was held at the adjacent Galvez Hotel where only the flashiest and most outrageous stood a chance at walking away with the show’s custom-painted trophies.
With nightfall the partying along the Strand reached epic proportions with crowds along both sides of the street watching the endless stream of two- and three-wheeled machines creep slowly through the throng of people, cell phone cameras held high for a selfie with a favored bike (autos are not permitted). Since the Lone Star Rally is a free event, the attendance surges on both Friday and Saturday nights, packed with teenagers looking for a party alongside non-riding, looky-loo families complete with young children. While most riders regard these non-bikers as interlopers, little can be done to prevent their attendance.
Saturday’s activities included the Outlaw Dave Ranch Ride benefiting abused animals. Starting at Stubb’s Harley-Davidson in South Houston, a breakfast for the riders was provided before taking off for the island. That morning was also the time to register for the Ride-In Bike Show being held at Beach Central. The show featured 22 separate classes and a $500 cash prize for Best of Show. And every bike variant was entered from rat to big-wheel bagger. Later that evening, after months of preliminary rounds, Emmalea Christine was crowned Miss Lone Star Rally, taking home a cool $3,000 with Glaucia Nassur coming in as runner-up and Macy Sangster winning third place.
While thousands began packing up Sunday morning for the trip home, thousands more day trippers continued to filter over the causeway from the mainland, some for the first time, others as repeat riders. This was also the day when the In Motion grand prize was awarded with an elated Donny Loos taking home $10,000. Unfortunately someone with sticky fingers took home a few items not their own when several custom-made In Motion belt buckles that were slated to be presented to each of the builders in the competition came up missing. Other thievery over the weekend included more than two dozen bikes. With that many people in town, the place is ripe for such corrupt conduct.
The four-day weekend included more than 20 live music performances—all free. David Allen Coe appeared for three shows, Tom Keifer, former front man for Cinderella, performed Friday night while Sawyer Brown played Saturday night. And for a truly different twist at a bike rally, a ’90s Throwback Party on Sunday evening featured Vanilla Ice. And the crowd loved him. I’m still puzzled.
Many have declared this as the largest Lone Star Rally ever but since it is not a gated event, attendance estimates vary greatly. But I can attest it was huge, probably the biggest I’ve ever attended. The dates for the last major American motorcycle rally of the 2018 season were recently announced as November 1–4, plenty of time to schedule time off to attend what has become an end-of-the-year pilgrimage for thousands. Yee-haw, Buckaroo, shine that pony up.