OUTER BANKS., N.C., APRIL 19-27—Traveling across Hampton Bay, with its web of waterways, bridges and tunnels, brings the first whiff of sea air and the expanse of the Chesapeake Bay. To the east is the sandy-white shoreline leading to Virginia Beach and west is Naval Station Norfolk. Continuing my southbound journey will take me to Outer Banks Bike Week.
With 350 miles already in my rear-view mirror and only another 65 to go, I take a slight detour to Portsmouth, Virginia, where Bayside Harley-Davidson is located. It’s a welcome respite from the highway hustle, but I have another reason for the stop. I need to pick up my Ride 2 Three game card, one of the many prize-winning opportunities offered during the nine-day rally. Ride 2 Three game cards need to be stamped by the three dealerships sponsoring the rally—Bayside H-D, Outer Banks H-D in Harbinger, North Carolina, and Nags Head H-D in Nags Head, North Carolina. There is only one card chosen at random on the closing day of the rally, with the lucky winner awarded a $1,000 shopping spree at one of the dealerships.
I arrived at my next destination, Outer Banks Harley-Davidson, late in the afternoon and just in time for the judging of the Ladies Only Bike Show, which had to be rescheduled from Saturday because of inclement weather. I got my game card stamped and settled into a comfy rocking chair in front of the dealership to enjoy a cold drink and a snack from one of the many vendors set up there.
It was warm and sunny, and I lingered for a while before heading to my lodgings, the Sea Ranch Resort, a quick 12 miles over the Wright Memorial Bridge and then south on Highway 12/Virginia Dare Trail, a.k.a. “the Beach Road.” It was my third time staying at this beachside hotel, and I always enjoy my room’s ocean view. For the first time, the Sea Ranch served as one of the six official OBX Bike Week vendor venues, and after a delicious dinner at the hotel’s Beachside, I wandered among the leather, jewelry and apparel merchants.
The Sea Ranch is quite convenient to all the other rally happenings including Nag’s Head H-D, which is another six miles south of the Sea Ranch, Bike Week sponsor Jolly Roger that’s a five-minute walk away, and my favorite nighttime hangout, the Lucky 12 Tavern, also in Nags Head, located between the dealership and the Sea Ranch.
Lucky 12 is a big rally supporter and, as such, hosts their annual Pig Pickin’ the first Sunday of every Bike Week. The weather that day wasn’t much better than Saturday, but it’s a rain-or-shine event where everyone enjoys the pig roast and fixin’s under the big tent, live music and camaraderie, all free of charge.
Herding the hogs
The Outer Banks H.O.G. chapter is a key ingredient to the success of the rally. The dedicated H.O.G. members organized a series of rides scheduled Monday through Thursday, each intended to provide some wonderful touring opportunities as well as raise money for various charities. Unfortunately Monday’s ride, the “Carolina Explorer,” was canceled due to wet and foggy conditions, and Tuesday’s “Graveyard of the Atlantic” ride was re-routed farther inland, across and around the Albemarle Sound and out to Phelps Lake area, as the prior week’s storm had caused some hazardous conditions on parts of Beach Road.
Wednesday was the annual Fallen Rider Memorial Ride initiated in 2010 shortly after the sudden death of OBX H.O.G. member Ronnie Tillett, and the next year it expanded to honor all fallen OBX H.O.G. members. H.O.G. chapter road captains took the riders on a tour of the Lake Mattamuskeet area of coastal Carolina, stopping at Martelle’s Feed House for lunch before returning to the starting point at Outer Banks H-D.
Both Tuesday and Wednesday rides were over 200 miles each, but Thursday’s ride enjoyed a more relaxed pace. From OBX H-D—the main rally venue as well as the start point for most rides—we headed east across the sound and then north on Route 12. Our first stop was at a nature boardwalk behind The Waterfront Shops in Duck, on the marshy shore of Currituck Sound. Then it was on to our main destination, the Whalehead Club farther north in Corolla. Some of us chose to tour the Whalehead Club, a fascinating piece of Outer Banks history, while others walked a short distance to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. By early afternoon we were ready to lunch at Philly Steak Subs in Corolla, where we out-of-towners were surprised to find a Philadelphia-themed décor.
All OBX H.O.G. rides are rolling poker runs that raise money for various charities, which this year include the Albemarle Hopeline, Corolla Wild Ponies, Currituck Kids, Currituck Sheriff’s Toy Run, Lower Currituck Volunteer Fire Department and Wednesday’s memorial ride benefitting the Currituck Food Bank because, as H.O.G. members told me, Ronnie Tillett liked food. The H.O.G. chapter even set out a donation bucket on the ride registration table to make up for the Monday ride and Saturday’s Ladies of H.O.G. Coin Run, both of which were canceled due to weather conditions. Since I won one of the poker runs last year, I figured I’d try for another win, but no such luck. Maybe next year.
Another poker also took place on Thursday—the 18th annual East Carolina Radio Poker Run organized by radio station Pirate 95.3. Riders departed from OBX H-D for an 80-mile jaunt, stopping to pick up cards at local businesses down Beach Road all the way to Rodanthe and then back to BK Shuckers in Kitty Hawk, the final card stop. Best hand holder John Mullen generously donated his winnings back to the beneficiary, the Outer Banks Hotline, a private charity that offers crisis intervention, temporary shelter and other human services. BK Shuckers had opened its doors less than a year ago, and has enthusiastically jumped into the Outer Banks Bike Week festivities by becoming an official Bike Week vendor location. The new venue was hopping all week long with a combination of live music and DJ, biker games and great food and drinks.
Friday was jam-packed with rally activities, and my challenge was to get to as many as I could. The first event on the schedule was the tattoo contest at Outer Banks H-D. Normally I prefer to stay on the other end of the camera, but I’d just gotten inked the month before by Darren McKeag from Grinnell, Iowa, who was a guest artist at Willie’s Tropical Tattoo during Daytona Bike Week. Darren did such fabulous work that I couldn’t resist entering the competition.
At 1:00 p.m. the judging, conducted by Wicked Parrot Tattoo out of Kill Devil Hills, began. Categories were Small Black and Gray, Small Color, Large Black and Gray, Large Color, Best Overall and Worst Overall. My category, Small Black and Gray, was called first to the judges’ stand. The judges peered carefully at us entrants, and the first-place winner was selected: Shadow! It was the first tattoo contest I’d ever entered, and thanks to Darren’s talent, I took home a plaque and a $50 gift certificate from Wicked Parrot.
The 4th annual Bikini Cole Slaw Wrestling Competition also began at 1:00, so after stowing my prizes in my saddlebags, I shot over to Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant & Tavern in Nags Head. For the past three years, Pigman’s Bar-B-Que hosted the contest at its location in Kill Devil Hills, but as the event grew more and more popular, their small backyard was overwhelmed with bikes and spectators. I am guessing that for this reason it was moved to Kelly’s, where there was a lot more room. The crew had even set up bleachers for the cheering spectators, but no one was more enthusiastic than the competitors, most of whom were dancers from Head Lights Gentleman’s Club.
Pigman’s Bar-B-Que provided food, and cold beverages were available. The referee was, once again, “bikini specialist” David Matute, and Fish from Pirate Radio 95.3 called the rounds and provided the patter. Fish, you wore the same yellow-and-gray plaid button-down shirt as last year. I have the photos to prove it!
According to Pigman’s owners Richard Bruce and Top Palmer, $5,140 was raised that day for the Outer Banks Hospital “Get Pinked” campaign and will be used in Dare County for the detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Much of the crowd stayed for the official Bike Week party at Kelly’s that evening, but I was on a mission to get to the bike show at Nags Head H-D. That, however, did not prevent me from making a stop at the Ladies of H.O.G. bake sale at T-Tops Superstore a half-mile up the road in Kill Devil Hills. After gorging myself on sweets—after all, proceeds would be going to the designated H.O.G. charities—I headed back to Nags Head H-D.
The official Harley-Davidson demo fleet was set up there, and while the OBX H.O.G. chapter was conducting demo rides, Bayside H.O.G. was judging the bike show. About 25 bikes were entered, including some quite striking one-of-a-kind builds. George Evans from Manteo, North Carolina, took first place in the Custom class with his Marlin Bike. George took some of the materials from boating and carried them over to the bike building, featuring nautical touches such as solid teak on various components, the subtle use of knot cleats and liberal applications of chrome and painted marlins. The paint job, however, was truly standout—a sea-blue background with marlins and other sea life swimming across the tins. But this bike wasn’t just a looker; it sported a 113″ Ultima El Bruto motor in a Carolina Customs frame.
Sue Dinkler from Greenville, Virginia, won People’s Choice with her ’07 Ultra trike. The other classes were Cruiser, Trike/Sidecar, Touring, Sport and Antique, and the prizes were awarded rather hurriedly as a big storm was due to pass through the area. Once the show was over, I scooted over to the Sea Ranch, parked the bike and walked to Jolly Roger for dinner. The rain didn’t start until I got back to my room. Perfect timing!
The storm cleared out well before daylight on Saturday, which was a good thing because there were plenty more Bike Week activities happening. A morning poker run left from Nags Head H-D, taking riders north to the Currituck Outer Banks. In midafternoon, Outer Banks H-D was the venue for the annual Beer Belly Contest where I saw Mutt, a competitor who had won best beer belly several years running. However, even though Mutt wears a size 4XL—and sometimes 5XL—shirt, this year’s popular vote went to Dan Taylor from Virginia, with Mr. Earl out of North Carolina taking second place.
Members of OBX H.O.G. then took the stage to announce the winners of that morning’s poker run. A plaque and an H-D magazine rack were given out for the lowest hand, and the best hand was won by Brett Avery, who was presented with another plaque, glasses made out of Goose Creek vodka bottles, and a challenge coin. The award for the largest group riding in the poker run was given to seven riders from Salisbury, North Carolina, while a Fort Lauderdale man was named the rallygoer who rode the farthest. And congratulations to Leonard D’Angelo from New Jersey who won $253 in the 50/50.
The last event of the day was the much-anticipated bikini contest, and this year, most of the entrants were actually motorcyclists. After a hotly-contested series of dancing and Q&A rounds, fourth place and $100 went to Echo, third place and another $100 was given to Kim, Bonita won second place and $300, and the lovely and personable Caryn Kelly from Suffolk, Virginia, was voted Miss Outer Banks Bike Week 2014. Caryn was awarded $500 and will represent OBX Bike Week for the coming year.
There was still time to visit the last two official vendor locations on Saturday. Longboards in Kitty Hawk had vendors in the lot, beer and music on the deck and food and more drink specials inside. Then it was off to Port O’ Call on the Beach Road in Kill Devil Hills where I must have missed that day’s bikini bike wash—apologies to my mud-spattered Switchback—but stayed anyway for a delicious seafood dinner. After my hearty repast, I headed over to BK Shuckers, that night’s official Bike Week party spot. I ended the evening at my favorite nighttime hangout spot, Lucky 12, where the Pat Russell Band got the crowd pumped with some ass-kickin’ country and country rock. It must’ve been everyone else’s favorite hangout too, because the parking lot was packed with bikes and we were elbow to elbow inside the bar.
Sunday morning, the rally closed with a farewell breakfast at Jolly Roger and a blessing of the bikes at OBX H-D. Although festivities continued until 4:00 p.m., I had a long ride ahead. Another successful Bike Week is in the books.
The 13th annual Outer Banks Bike Week will be held April 18–26, 2015, but you don’t have to wait another year to enjoy the magic of the North Carolina coast. Outer Banks Bike Fest, another event, also sponsored by the Bayside, Outer Banks and Nags Head Harley-Davidson dealerships, will be held September 24–28 this year.