Reveling in the Texas tropics
Big fun down on the border—for worthy causes, of course
South Padre Island, Texas, Apr. 16–18—The annual Beach-N-Biker Fest, brought to you through the Herculean efforts of the Magic Valley Riders and served up with a major portion of down-home hospitality, has always been such a blast for me, my wife, my daughter and her boyfriend, that we decided to make our way from Kansas City, Missouri, to South Padre Island a day early before the rally began. This year turned out to be exceptionally enjoyable. We had the opportunity to meet the mayor of South Padre, Robert Pinkerton, Jr., and his two sons Bryan and Robert III. They have a company called Island Services that rents, manages and sells properties in South Padre (www.island-services.com). Island Services has now become a major sponsor of Beach-N-Biker Fest, along with the continued sponsorship of the Town of South Padre Island, Texas. Mayor Pinkerton even made arrangements for my crew to stay in one of the Suntide I beachfront condos, managed by Stu and Judy Macintyre. The condo was magnificent, and Stu and Judy were wonderfully hospitable. Of course, being from Kansas City, in the middle of the country, staying on the beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico was totally delightful.
Rio Grande Valley Harley-Davidson in McAllen and Roadrunner Harley-Davidson in San Benito came onboard with the Magic Valley Riders this year to become major Beach-N-Biker Fest sponsors under their new owners Gene Shipley and Bobby Garcia, and managers David Cantu and Kenny Cantu. RGV Harley had a splendid surprise for me when I arrived in SPI—they had a brand new silver 2010 Harley-Davidson Road King for me to use as a demo bike during the rally weekend this year. And the Road King was certainly the king of the road. Totally comfortable in its stock form, I definitely made more use of the cruise control than I thought I might. Thanks also to Flo for giving me the grand tour of their dealership, and breezing through the demo paperwork.
Saturday started off swinging with Banda Real Del Valle—a hard chargin’ group of brass players with a few clarinets, some drums and a swingin’ vocalist for an incredibly upbeat tempo to get you in the mood for a really good rally day. Vendors with their variety of wares were inside the air-conditioned South Padre Island Convention Center, and more vendors were set up outside surrounding the Center, for your maximum shopping pleasure. Food vendors included quite a unique assortment of non-traditional rally fare such as shrimp (boiled, Cajun, grilled, etc.), brisket, tamales and chocolate strawberries.
While the live bands were playing outside on Saturday, the bike show entrants were setting up inside. Early afternoon the ever-popular field events were being staged to the delight of participants and observers alike. Events included a slow race, ball catch, ball drop, weenie bite and others. Blonde and tanned Glitz Doll Carli Cline was a significant rally attraction in her tiny black bikini and her bucket of soapy water, workin’ at the bike wash.
The Saturday afternoon burnout competition was a definite crowd pleaser. This year they had two categories for the burnout competition—air-cooled and liquid-cooled engines. Seth Ruhe from the Motorcycle Shop in San Benito, Texas, won the top prize of $300 and the loudest cheers from the audience for his performance on his ’83 FXR. (Rumors are Seth may have drizzled a little oil on the burnout plate before lighting his back tire for his incredible smokin’ display. Hey, it’s an old bike, so a little oil is to be expected.) Second place in air-cooled was Gib Boza from Harlingen on his ’07 Sportster. Andy Martinez, of McAllen, won first in the liquid-cooled engine burnout with his ’03 GSXR600 when he ran it until the rear tire shredded. Last year’s burnout winner, Trevan Williams, came back from Harlingen with his ’98 Honda Valkyrie, powered by a big 1500cc 6-cylinder motor to score second place this year.
The dazzling “Demon Bike” built by Jonathan Fannin of Wicked Customs & Cycles from Corpus Christi wowed the crowd and won the Best of Show prize in the bike show competition. The bike’s tank is a dimensional head of a horned devil that has to be seen to be believed. The sculpture is amazingly lifelike in its detail. It is very complete with fangs, the eyes of a serpent, curved horns and a forked tongue. This bike is actually being raffled off to benefit the TWR Memorial Fund for Fallen Bikers (www.twrfund.com).
After checking out the details on the best-of-show bike winner it was time to make a run for the afternoon bike parade. Musical entertainment, tattoo competition, an ultimate biker babe contest and poker run notwithstanding, the Queen Isabella Causeway Biker Parade is decidedly a Beach-N-Biker Fest highlight. The parade stages in Port Isabel across Laguna Madre, and then makes its way across the two-and-a-half-mile causeway connecting SPI to the mainland, led by the South Padre Island Police Department. The route back to the SPI Convention Center is lined with bikers, tourists and residents waving and cheering for the riders in the parade.
“Bag Lady Sue” was a quite a unique rally finale for both Friday and Saturday nights. She provides a very adult, very R-rated, hilariously, gut-busting funny routine. If you ever have the opportunity to catch a Bag Lady Sue show, prepare yourself for some really raunchy humor. She’s definitely a motorcycle rally favorite. After Sue’s shows, everyone was invited to the great Friday and Saturday night biker parties after the action at the Convention Center closed down. Friday night’s party was at Club Pelican West while Saturday night’s party was held at Mooncussers. Lots of good times dancin’ ’n’ drinkin’ ’til dawn. (Well, not really dawn, but it seemed like it, since one day seemed to blur into another.)
What kind of a biker rally could it be, especially in the tropical tip of Texas, without large quantities of ice-cold beer? Thanks to L & F Distributors, the leading Anheuser-Busch distributor in the lower Texas region, for their continued support of the Magic Valley Riders and the Riders’ charitable endeavors through the proceeds of their annual Beach-N-Biker Fest. South Texas Academic Rising Stars (STARS), Teach the Children, Family Crisis Center, Brian William Norris Foundation, Larissa Cavazos Memorial Scholarship Fund and Rio Grande State Center are a few of the local charities that benefit from the generosity of bikers attending Beach-N-Biker Fest.
One additional side trip we always make when we visit SPI is to go to Nuevo Progreso, a Mexican border town about 60 miles west, to visit our Tequilero friends, Arturo, Rosa, Chuy and Delia. They were waiting for us at the Red Snapper restaurant and plied us with freshly prepared guacamole, delicious fish and shrimp cuisine, cold beer, and of course a few celebratory tequila toasts. Their hospitality was so gracious, and the late lunch was so enjoyable, that we almost missed our opportunity to stock up on our Mexican souvenirs and our four gallons of liquor. The stores were already being locked up as we were heading back along Avenida Benito Juarez and back toward the border.
We thought we were being more efficient on this visit to Mexico by parking our vehicles on the U.S. side and walking across the Rio. It turned out that we outsmarted ourselves. Because of the lateness of the hour, there was no traffic line waiting to cross the border back to Texas. Normally we’d have to sit in a line of traffic for about a half hour or so waiting for our turn to be interrogated by the U.S. Border Patrol. Now we know—stay late, avoid the rush.
The weekend weather was wonderfully warm and sunny during the day while during the nights there were occasional drizzles of rain. So when the National Weather Service said there was a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms, they forgot to mention that it would probably be late at night when you were snuggled in bed.
We have always enjoyed our trips from KC (not necessarily the 1,000-mile ride, even though we get to see the spring bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and yellow and red prickly pear cactus flowers) to SPI and Beach-N-Biker Fest. But once we are at the Island seeing the friends we’ve met in years before, and meeting new and interesting people, it just keeps getting better every year. So to experience a big Texas-size helping of camaraderie and hospitality, be sure to check out the Magic Valley Riders’ Beach-N-Biker Fest on southern tip of Texas. And don’t miss the chance to run barefoot on those bitchin’ beaches, the best in Texas.
Many thanks go out to Magic Valley Rider volunteers Eliel, Dorothy, David, Paul, Irene, Dianna and all the others. It’s quite incredible that this organization, along with a strong core of dedicated volunteers, can pull together such an enjoyable and entertaining event that continues to grow year after year while contributing such a viable return to their community. A number of this year’s vendors have already signed on to return for the 2011 Beach-N-Biker Fest slated for next April 15–17. I’m planning on returning, too. Check out www.beachnbikerfest.com for all the latest info and upcoming details.