WILDWOOD, N.J., SEPT 4-7–Wildwood, the home of the annual Roar to the Shore rally, has been in the people business a long time. Five miles of beautiful beaches, tram cars running on 36-volt DC batteries weighing over 2,000 pounds that haul tourists up and down the two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, and amusement piers that bring out the kid in anybody are what lures up to 250,000 visitors on any given summer weekend to the Jersey Shore town of about 5,500 local residents. Bill Haley first performed his hit classic “Rock Around the Clock” in Wildwood. He knew.
Ed Duckenfield, former president and 20-year member of the Cape Classics MC, explained that the rally, now in its 19th year, had a humble start. The New Jersey State Rally started in Bergen County in northern New Jersey before relocating to Wildwood. The inaugural event occurred at Maxwell Field and managed to attract 250 bikes. The field was for authorized Harley merchandise only, while aftermarket parts were displayed at the clubhouse. As the event grew Harley gear found an indoor home at the Wildwoods Convention Center, and aftermarket vendors set up in the parking lot. During the motorcycle boom the rally hit its peak participation with an estimated 130,000 bikers in 2004.
Since the latter years of the past decade, the motorcycle industry has been riding the same roller coaster as the economy. Meanwhile, the Wildwood rally has been plagued by weather right out of the Bible. Last year, sightings were reported of the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding Panheads down Atlantic Avenue. Hurricanes, torrential rains flooding streets, high winds that sent vendors searching for anything with weight to secure their tents and extremely high temperatures all tested the resolve of the riding community. At least it was a humid heat. But this year brought picture-perfect weather.
The resolve of the bikers have helped the four-day event define itself. While the big rallies such as those at Sturgis, Laconia and Daytona draw hundreds of thousands of riders, Wildwood has more of a festival atmosphere. Most of the action can be found in the convention center parking lot or in the streets and parking lots surrounding Oak and Atlantic Avenues. Your bike and motel are always close by, providing some measure of comfort.
Some folks commented that fewer vendors were at the event this year. Whether true or not, one thing was apparent: T-shirts, patches and stickers that were lewd, crude, rude or with a big helping of attitude were there for purchase. Leather and jewelry tents offered every level of quality and price. On the other side of the spectrum, Indian Motorcycle of Northern New Jersey was proud to show off the new Chieftain and Vintage models powered by 111 cubic inches, kicking up 119 ft/lbs of torque.
And what street festival catering to the motorcycle community would be complete without food? The masses were squared away with pizza, pork barbecue, crab cakes, beef brisket, Italian sausage and peppers, lemonade, soda and beer. And Jägermeister came on in a big way. The brewer had an awesome display set up in the convention lot that could be seen for several blocks. Not to be outdone, Anheuser-Busch set up a trailer next to the main stage behind Oak Avenue. The trailer revealed itself to be a mobile bar. When the sides came up partygoers were treated to a U-shaped bar complete with stools and large flat-screen TVs.
Friday at high noon, several hundred bikers jumped onto the Garden State Parkway and headed for the Stone Harbor exit, home of Kindle Ford. Cape Classic MC member Bill Kindle hosted a free pig roast, as he has done for many years. Bill, an admitted fair-weather rider, was on hand to greet the best rider turnout since its inception.
A walking poker run covered the Bolero, Tucker’s, Stardust, Shamrock, Therapy, Harbor Light, Hurricane, Cattle & Clover and The Deck watering holes. A $1,000 payout was won by Lady Luck. Four jacks with king high did the trick. Bands were constantly performing for the second annual Battle of the Biker Bands, where Vuja De edged out 12 Horse, Atomics, Little Raymond & The Rhythm Preachers, Loaded Gun, Sick Intent, The Ozzman Cometh, and The Party Crashers in the round three semifinals.
The Rubber Ducky parade on Sunday raised money for the United Way. Atlantic Harley-Davidson donated a 1200 Sportster for the Ducky raffle. The parade’s starting lineup stretched over nine blocks before disappearing around a hotel. The number of riders surpassed previous years and proved to be a crowd pleaser for both riders and onlookers. The parade this year actually left the Wildwoods before winding its way back to a triumphant ride down the boardwalk. Afterwards, Wayne Cox Jr. won the Sportster from the Ducky raffle. Sadly, he was involved in a cycle accident and passed away three days later, on September 11.
The Tim Dyson FMX stunt team entertained spectators by utilizing a mobile ramp system that launched the stunt riders several stories skyward. The landings were almost as thrilling as the air time was breathtaking. Bryan Zimmerman travelled from Long Branch just for Sunday’s Custom Bike Show. Bryan entered his super-clean, 24-karat-gold-plated ’49 FL and had to bungee a trophy to his sissy bar after taking the Best Ol’ Skool Chop category. If you want to take your show bike to the next level, information about Bryan’s business can be found at facebook.com/JerseyCoastPlating.
Dr. Lillian D’Alessandro took Best in Show for her scoot dedicated to her toddler son who suffered a fatal heart attack. Her goal of raising awareness struck a chord with the bikers. We all know bikers have huge hearts. And these huge hearts were tapped by several other worthwhile causes including military veterans helping other vets, ABATE promoting safety, awareness and freedom, and even tents hooking up pit bulls with foster parents. Melissa from Bella-Reed Pit Bull Rescue explained how they set up meet ’n’ greets. The canines come neutered with all shots and include a microchip. The network conducts home inspections and follow-up training if needed. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible and go to the dogs.
The night scene in Wildwood is off the hook. Bikes line the street as people weave their way on sidewalks connecting bars and motels. Young, and some not-so-young, women collected beads in the finest N’awlins tradition. The best seats for people-watching are on the decks of the bars along Atlantic Avenue or the steps of the post office. The rumble of Harleys, the aroma of cigars and rock ’n’ roll filtering out of the drinking establishments mixed well with the cool salt air.
Wally Liro, owner of the Bolero, was surveying the block early Sunday morning. Just the night before, The Deck was so hopping with bikers dancing and drinking that the band played on the sidewalk. Everything was in order; no incidents or problems—just bikers saying adios to friends old and new. That’s what Wildwood really offers—a place where you can kick back and hang with others who ride on two wheels.