Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest 2018

By Rick Carr

Show-Me State shines

Osage Beach, Mo., Sept. 12–16—Excitement is an understatement when it comes to runs, rallies, and rides with me. We woke up at first light on Friday September 14 and started getting ready for the ride to Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest. After inspecting the Dyna and strapping on the backrest bag, we were finally in the wind. A short one hour ride on East 44 from Springfield, Missouri, to the Highway 5 exit in Lebanon was the first leg of the trip. On the way and in the city we didn’t see many bikes at all which seemed unusual for such a large event. But once we were through Lebanon, bikes were everywhere and it was clear that something in the bike world was going on. We jumped on Highway 54 for the home stretch and arrived in Osage Beach at about 10:30 a.m. Every grubhub and motel we passed was packed with bikes and we settled at a Bob Evans for a quick bite. The roar of bikes filled the air and all we wanted to do was get back out on the road.

Taste and vote for your favorite jerk
Taste and vote for your favorite jerk

Our first stop was American Legion Post 5923 in Camdenton. They were hosting their Veterans Memorial Bike Parade that started at VFW Post 624 in Sunrise Beach and ended up where we were. Leave it to me to go to the destination first. We made it back to the starting point and the turnout was fair with about 75 riders. After the 25-mile run, Ride Captain Tom Hohnecker said, “It was light this year but we had a great ride.” The Camden County sheriff provided an escort and they all seemed to be happy to do it.

Danielle and Jack slingin' drinks and brats
Danielle and Jack slingin’ drinks and brats

We opted not to ride the 140-mile 24-stop Passport Run this year even though the thought of winning an H-D 2017 FXDL 103 for a $20 donation was tearing at my heart. Congrats to winner Darren White from Wright City, Missouri. Instead we set our own itinerary and rode to vendor village at the Horny Toad entertainment complex, home of H. Toads and just around the corner Shady Gators. Bikes roared in and out of the complex stopping long enough to get a Passport stamp and then they were off to the next stop. There were a few vendors catching the eyes of folks wanting that one-of-a-kind bike gift to take back home and put on the shelf as a reminder of the ride. We had a couple of sodas, mingled a bit, and we decided to head for the Bagnell Dam Strip.

Camdon County Sheriff Escort with Tom Hohnecker
Camdon County Sheriff Escort with Tom Hohnecker

Bagnell Dam Boulevard or “the Strip” is where everyone ends up. This year they closed the Strip to cages on Saturday from 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. This afforded a gauntlet ride of about ½ mile and plenty of bike parking. Some of the restaurant/bars took advantage of the 90-degree weather and crowds with events and live entertainment. At the halfway point on the block the Dirty Bourbon Band kept us entertained on an outdoor stage while we were in and out of Wise Guys and the Ice Hole with fresh beers. Tucker’s Shuckers had a bike wash with one bikini-clad hard-belly (Kerie) working her tail off scrubbin’ bikes and down by the Dam, Beaver at the Dam had live entertainment and hosted a Jerk Off Contest for a chance at national recognition for the best beef jerky. Indian Motorcycle even showed up with bikes and were letting folks ride their new line of scoots. We cruised up and down the Boulevard about five or six times and met a lot of travelers from out of state. The popularity of this rally is growing each year and with any luck they will be bringing in mainstream entertainment sooner rather than later.

Bill Vanmater and Carl Rakers
Bill Vanmater and Carl Rakers

The riding area for this rally is huge. Covering Camdenton, Osage Beach and Lake Ozark, almost every road will take you to a resort, bars, or a quiet place you can put the kickstand down and take a load off. There are vendor villages, over 200 bars and restaurants, and entertainment at almost every location. Promoter and Executive Director of the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Center Tim Jacobson said, “This year we had a 15-percent increase in attendance with over 75,000 riders that brought in $12 million in revenue for the week.” In a brief interview Lake of the Ozarks Chief of Police Gary Launderville told me that this year, and over the years, this rally has not had any major problems. “There are always a few issues with alcohol in the evening but for the most part everyone has a great time.”

Maybe as time goes on these guys will add a couple of bike shows or have a regional build-off. If you are looking for a multi-day event in the Midwest that offers resort motels, campgrounds and plenty of biker-friendly businesses, look no further. Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest is making its mark and for good reason is coined as the number one rally in Missouri. Keep an eye out for this one next year and mark your THUNDER PRESS calendar. See you there. 

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