Spring rally brings liquid sunshine
Grand Strand, S.C., May 11–20—My girl and I have been going to the Myrtle Beach Bike Week spring and fall rallies for the last 23 years without missing a single week of the fun and madness that is our party on the Grand Strand. A lot has changed over the years, but the smiles across the miles and the sound of steel thunder rolling across the pavement remains the same. The local “powers that be” have struggled to contain an event that is as natural as any other bi-annual migration of alcohol-fueled mammals, but they seem to know we’ll all just show up anyway.
We even elected a new mayor last year to bring about a change. Now, it appears that our rally has basically been hijacked by Murrells Inlet of the south end, only to have drifted through North Myrtle Beach and up into Little River, with a few cool spots still left in Myrtle Beach proper. Even though the start dates of all these venues varied according to who you asked, riders started piling into the beach a week early and by Friday night, May 11, the crowd had descended upon Suck Bang Blow and the Beaver Bar with a big hoopla, good music, a bevy of bikes, and no attitudes to boot the party into a smooth gear.
By the following Wednesday, huge crowds had begun to gather up and down King’s Highway. We started out early that day, meeting friends at the Inlet, to see a giant slew of vendors hawking their wares and there was a definite circus theme going on at Suck Bang Blow. As we headed out, we stopped for a shot at a new bar called the Whiskey Fish before heading north to Dog House Donny’s Saloon where we met up with about 60 other riders. Around noon, our motley herd saddled up and off we went to La Belle Amie Vineyards in Little River for a good bit of acoustic music, some great braut dogs and some fine wine from their local vineyard. Sooner than you can wet your whistle, we were heading up to Harley’s Roadhouse, off the intersection of State Highways 31 and 9. Chris Scrudato and his incredible crew serve it up on a giant motorcycle playground, with an old covered-bridge gateway that brings you to 22 acres of grassy parking abutting a huge, modern, wood-floored roadhouse. There’s a tiki hut beer bar and a big band stage that looms large out back as well as a good ole fire pit that is perfect for late-night crazy dancing. We were there for about an hour when the weatherman started calling for bad skies and a ton of rain.
We saddled up and headed south for a stop at Barefoot Landing and the House of Blues. There were over 40 big-name dealers, builders, vendors and shops sprawled out across the massive asphalt lots hidden within the park. Prominent companies like J&P Cycles and Kuryakyn were offering up the shiniest chrome parts you’ve ever drooled over, with a gaggle of sleds on lifts being transformed and upgraded under gigantic colorful circus tents. Meanwhile, across the blacktop, Hogworkz, Fat Baggers Inc. and Renegade Wheels were holding court with a parade of impressive bikes becoming truly awesome rideable customs. Across the way techs from various aftermarket manufacturers were putting pipes on cycles by the dozens to create menacing monster sounds and mounting new shocks and front end hardware. There were leather, sunglass and jewelry shops set up everywhere between pinstripers and LED artists lighting up their customers with smiles and squeals of delight, even as the dark clouds moved in all around us. Of course, there were a lot of biker T-shirt, vest and leather shops on every aisle too.
Sitting in a line, right in front of the House of Blues, was a deep nest of the wildest high-dollar show monsters cradled by huge chrome-jeweled wheels, mounted with one-of-a-kind Jurassic front ends and crafted with endless hours of late-night imagination. These behemoths glimmered like giant diamonds on the blacktop with that big bass sound blasting. Ironically, in the next aisle over, a greasy line of low-down and dirty bobbers sat with their trophies, showing more talent than most builders could ever think to create from a wad of welded rust, strange parts and a lot of mismatched steel. More and more actual riders seemed to wander away from the dream machines to inspect the funky rat-rod bobbers, bending down to see how a John Deere part could possibly be made to fit an oddly-disjointed Sportster frame, with an ancient Panhead motor and a rusty springer front end.
Mid-afternoon the rain started really coming down, so we bar hopped south to visit several watering holes of distinction, including the Waterway House of Sports & Spirits, Knuckleheads and Barnacle Bills Rum & Raw Bar which has a great covered porch to wait out the rain, as well as fantastic food, served up by an outstanding staff. A little further south, we swooped into Pop’s Place for some great old biker karaoke with a good serving of cold beers, yummy burgers and baskets of fries that lasted until the rain veered off. On the last leg of our ride, we made it to a great local stop, Patty’s Bar, for what felt like a small family reunion among friends who were all just strangers trying to avoid the gully washers flooding King’s Highway.
For the rest of the week, it rained on and off, but there were long breaks and everyone would run for the closet cover when the downpours outflanked us. I still don’t have the attendance numbers from anyone, but no single place seemed overwhelmed and parking was easy. One thing seems to have changed at the rally in that it’s not as much about new bikes, fancy gear or stuff you can buy. It’s about time spent with people you haven’t seen and enjoying the company of new friends. We look forward to seeing all of you at the Myrtle Beach Bike Week fall rally to find out what a truly good time is.