Ocean City/Salisbury, Md., and Seaford, Del., Sept. 15–18—When I opened the garage door the morning of September 15, I thought I had overslept… by a month. The 90-plus degree temperatures we’ve been experiencing all summer had disappeared. It was 65 degrees, and a perfect morning to jump on the bikes and head for the biggest East Coast rallies of the season, Delmarva Bike Week and Ocean City BikeFest.
We threw on our jackets, pulled out of the driveway around 6:30 a.m. on our Harleys and headed for the Garden State Parkway. We had reservations on the “motorcycle-only” ferry the Cape May-Lewes Ferry was running just for this event, and we didn’t want to be late. We cruised down the GSP with literally no traffic, arrived with plenty of time to spare, checked in, and pulled in line behind a mass of bikes that had the same idea as we did. There would only be one of these ferries limited to the first 300 motorcycle reservations. Rhonda Bronson, director of marketing, told us it that this third year for the motorcycles-only ferry sold out in days.
The parking lot was alive with chatter; strangers comparing bikes and itineraries like they had known each other for years. We loaded up and were off. The sailing to Lewes, Delaware, was fantastic. Everyone was in a party mood, with breakfast and cocktails being served, and a live band on the top deck. Eighty-five minutes later we wished each other well and made our way towards the rally’s first day of activities.
Although we would be staying in Ocean City, Maryland, we decided to do a little backroading through Delaware and hit the Winterplace Park venue in Salisbury, Maryland, before checking in. The scenery along Delaware Routes 23, 305 and 54 was beautiful, and by the time we arrived at the park there were lots of bikes and people. This rally was in full swing. Starving, we ran to the dozen food vendors, finding some delicious barbecue and hand-cut sweet potato fries. We made our way through the vendor area checking everyone’s wares, all the time listening to live music from Eastwood, one of two bands that would be performing on the Twisted Tea Stage that day. Next, we were treated to the Circus Una High Wire Thrill Show. Circus Una is an all-female motorcycle trapeze act sure to please. After the show, we mounted up and headed to Ocean City, then checked into our hotel on Coastal Highway, the main strip for all the action.
We decided to go on foot that night, checking out the Bad Monkey first. It’s a combination sub shop/T-shirt vendor downstairs with an open-air bar/restaurant upstairs that gives you a front-row seat to all the bikes cruising the strip. A rally crowd favorite, it quickly became one of mine. We walked south from there, checking out the smaller vendor sites and another local favorite, Seacrets, one of the rally supporters. This place is like its own city; with vendors in the parking lot, multiple bands on different stages and killer food, this is a spot not to be missed. We saw the Artimus Pyle Band, who rocked the house. Jackyl, with Jesse James Dupree, was also playing down the street at the Cowboy Coast Saloon. On the way back we chatted with Michael Ballard who was manning the Full Throttle T-shirt stand. He’s a great guy, and it was a perfect ending for the first day.
Friday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and hit the road on the bikes. First stop was the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City. Another free venue, the parking area was packed with well over 80 vendors. S&S was showing off its 143 c.i. engine and brand new line of in-house-made mufflers. The Jack Daniel’s Experience was also there, something I want to check out after I parked the bike for the day. Rommel H-D was doing giveaways as well as offering a key for a chance to win a free motorcycle. The weather was perfect and the large crowd was loving it.
Our next stop was the Ocean City Inlet, a beautifully set up venue at the south end of town with boardwalk rides, seasonal businesses and views of the Atlantic Ocean. The place was bustling, even though it was early afternoon. We got our four-day event wristbands, which provided us with access to all the inlet activities, unlimited bus shuttle service (invaluable for the Jack Daniel’s Experience), and discounts to many local restaurants and bars.
Once inside we didn’t know where to start. We checked out some works of art first, and then saw the bikes entered in the Artisan Bike Show which were amazing. The imagination and talent used in designing and building these bikes is unbelievable. The paint schemes are knockout and not to be missed. There was a nice-sized vendor show, a Nascar simulator, and at 12:30 p.m., Brickyard Road, a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, fired up and did a 90-minute killer show with the crowd singing and dancing along the whole time. At 2:00 p.m. the FERE Thrill Show featuring Adam Holbrook put on one of three daily performances. Adam, one of the top Extreme Riding Skills motorcyclists in the country, exhibited balance and control skills mixed with stunts. Candlebox took the Ocean City Stage at 4:00 p.m. revving the crowd up and really set the tone for the rest of the evening. Styx was next up but we wanted to do more exploring so we jumped on the bikes and landed at Fish Tales bar and grill, another of the OCBF sponsors. Overlooking the bay in Bahia Marina with indoor and outdoor bars and dining, this has become one of the bikers’ favorite stops during the rally. With a fun staff, loud music and an enthusiastic crowd, it’s another must-see stop. Don’t leave without having an Orange Crush, the house specialty.
Saturday morning was 74 degrees and sunny—another beautiful day. We wanted to take advantage of the area so we started with a little adventure. We met with some friends from our H.O.G. chapter and took a 15-mile ride to Assateague State Park. As we crossed the bridge to US-50, we came across some more vendors set up in a local seafood restaurant parking lot and made an unplanned stop. Back on the road we took MD-611 to Assateague State Park. We were immediately met by a group of grazing ponies entertaining some excited motorcyclists. The wild horses, as well as the park, are amazing. We took some photos, said goodbye to our friends, and made our way to Shorebirds Stadium in Salisbury, Maryland.
As with the other venues, we pulled into a lot filled with a sea of motorcycles and riders. There were a large number of vendors, and Indian and Victory Motorcycles were providing demo rides, as well as tent space for parts and clothing. We grabbed a soda and a bite to eat from one of the food vendors and set our sights on Rommel Harley-Davidson Delmarva in Seaford, Delaware, about 25 miles away.
The ride up US-13 North was quick and pleasant, and we pulled into Rommel in no time. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with something going on everywhere you looked. In front of the building, a large tent was set up filled with new and used Harleys of every style. The Jumpstart ride simulator was next to the tent, with a line of potential motorcyclists waiting to take a turn at it. The Harley-Davidson Rebel! Demo Show Truck was also there with the Umbrella Girls. Inside, the dealership was bustling, as were the sale racks outside and in the barn. The picnic grove was set up as an Octoberfest beer garden, with Shore Craft Beer playing host. Drift N Kitchen served up some killer food, while the Frozen Farmer offered delicious homemade ice cream, sorbets and smoothies. Texas Heat pumped out song after song on the stage while the crowd hung at picnic tables or on the grass, soaking it all up.
We decided to again ride some back roads to the hotel before heading back to the Inlet. 13S/24E/30S led us to 54 East, a gem of a road alternating between lush farms to tree-lined curves with little to no traffic other than motorcycles. Route 54 led us to Coastal Highway and our hotel, where we dropped the bikes, made a quick change, and caught one of the buses that run 24 hours a day during the rally. The bus was standing room only, but everyone was laughing it up and having a ball. All along Coastal Highway people set up chairs and coolers, watching the parade of bikes making their way downtown.
The Inlet area was a mob scene, with bikes parked everywhere. We got in just in time to see Three Doors Down, the third and final act of day and of BikeFest. The crowd was enormous and completely into the show. The band did all of their hits and a great three-song encore: “Here Without You,” “Loser,” and “When I’m Gone.” After the concert the crowd lingered and spilled out to the boardwalk area and local bars and restaurants. We stopped at Guido’s Burritos for a nightcap and called it an evening.
Sunday morning was another beautiful, sunny day. After packing up, we grabbed a coffee and took a last look around. We fueled up and had a leisurely ride up Coastal Highway and Route 1 through Delaware to Lewes to catch the ferry. Some dolphins were spotted as the ferry cruised back to New Jersey. We talked to some other bikers about their weekend, and shared things that we’d each missed. We all had one thing in common: it was one of our favorite rally experiences, and we all were coming back.