OUTER BANKS, N.C., APR. 20-28—Just as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel came into view, the warming sun dazzled its way through the gray, gloomy clouds and chill that had followed me the entire 350 miles from New Jersey. I took the abrupt, but welcome, change in weather as a good omen for my trip to the North Carolina coast for Outer Banks Bike Week. Sure enough, the last hundred miles to the Outer Banks was a delightful, leisurely ride along two-lane roads.
By the time I reached Outer Banks Harley-Davidson, it was near dusk and the rally events were winding down for the day. Hungry and tired, I continued along U.S. 158 over the Wright Memorial Bridge, passing through Kitty Hawk and arriving at the Sea Ranch Resort in Kill Devil Hills, my home for the rest of the week.
In the lobby of the resort was a sign promoting that night’s Bike Week BBQ. What a terrific welcome! It had been windy and chilly that day, so the party was moved indoors from the original outdoor venue. Live music and an excellent dinner at the Beachside Bistro… a nice respite after my all-day ride. The Sea Ranch Resort is convenient to all rally venues, and my newly renovated room offered a spectacular view of the ocean. It proved an ideal place to stay while visiting the Outer Banks.
Outer Banks Bike Week is unlike most other motorcycle events. No one’s in a hurry and the roads aren’t clogged with traffic, making for a restful rally experience. Instead of a crowded Main Street, the rally venues are spread along the shoreline from the Outer Banks H-D dealership in southern Currituck County, over the Wright Memorial Bridge where the Currituck and Albemarle Sounds join, and continue south on U.S. 158 into Dare County. All week long, folks take leisurely rides from one Bike Week location to another. And instead of jacking up the prices, as many food and drink places are wont to do at other rallies, most bars and restaurants offered special pricing all week, as did many places of lodging.
Most daytime activity took place at the official vendor locations, with the biggest venue at Outer Banks H-D. OBX H-D, along with sister dealerships Nags Head H-D and Bayside H-D, sponsor the rally under the guidance, support, and just plain hard work of CEO of MS Enterprises and Dealer Principal Maurice Slaughter, General Manager Kevin Johnson and Events/Marketing, MotorClothes and Rentals Manager Shamra Everette, not to mention the dealership staff and tons of volunteers.
A number of vendors were set up on the spacious OBX H-D property. Pinstriping, performance, comfort, lighting, luggage, apparel, and other bike and biker paraphernalia were offered by merchants such as Letterfly, Rush Performance, Butt Buffer, Wyked Illuzionz, Bagger Accessories, Hot Spot, and Yukon Jack’s leather goods and apparel, and more. You could easily spend the day there (and I have, on occasion), with two food trucks and Wild Bill Root Beer covering mealtime needs. And if you were tired and achy, one enterprising businessman offered massages using a mini TENS device, which were, of course, for sale there.
In addition to the store that saw nonstop traffic all week, an OBX H-D apparel tent was set up outside. The dealership also served as the starting point for several organized rides that week, as well as the hosting site for several competitions. The lot gets so crowded that during the last four days of the rally only motorcycles are allowed in, with those choosing four wheels as their transport having to park at one of several nearby off-site parking areas.
Other vendor sites included Nags Head H-D, Longboards Island Grill, Jolly Roger Restaurant, Port O’ Call restaurant and nightclub, and the New York Pizza Pub. Nags Head H-D, about 18 miles south along State Route 12, a.k.a. the Beach Road, had an outdoor apparel sale and the Harley-Davidson demo truck set up for demo rides on Friday and Saturday. A bike show and several rides rounded out the activities there.
Jolly Roger Restaurant, only a five-minute walk from the Sea Ranch Resort, had something going on every night—karaoke, live poker, and on Sunday they hosted the official Bike Week farewell breakfast. Longboards had a DJ on the deck in the daytime, entertaining folks while they shopped, and live music a few nights. The Ted Riser Band, a rally favorite, played afternoon sets at the New York Pizza Pub Thursday through Saturday.
Port O’ Call had a DJ in the daytime and bands every evening, as well as nightly wet T-shirt contests, and on Thursday evening the nightclub was an official party spot. During the latter half of Bike Week, they hosted a daily charity bikini bike wash to benefit Outer Banks SPCA. I learned my lesson about entering a muddy, filthy bike into a bike show last year, so this year, I had a plan. Thursday morning I showed up at the restaurant to have my bike washed before that afternoon’s show. It was pretty windy, so the girls weren’t exactly wearing bikinis, but Lynn, a bike wash volunteer and one of the wait staff in the restaurant, was a sport, gamely braving the breezes in a tank top, shorts, and sneakers while attending to my FLD.
Kelly’s hosted the official Friday night fete with their Roar to the Shore party. Lucky 12 Tavern, a longtime favorite hangout, welcomed visitors with their annual free Pig Pickin’ the opening Sunday of Bike Week. The tavern has great food and live music nightly. Each year at the rally I find myself hanging out at Lucky 12 most nights, as proprietor Mark Ballog has created a fun, friendly vibe welcoming locals, bikers, and traditional vacationers alike.
Around the sounds
Every year, the Outer Banks H.O.G. chapter conducts guided rides during Bike Week. And every year I try to get out on a ride that’s new to me. I thought that after a few years I would’ve taken every ride that was offered, but the H.O.G. chapter changes things up from year to year. This year, Monday’s ride was a new one called the Southern Explorer. The group’s plan was to tour the back roads of eastern North Carolina, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Still, five H.O.G. road captains along with three intrepid riders showed up. It was pouring, so instead of the planned tour, the small group rode from the Nags Head H-D signup location a few miles south to the legendary Sam and Omie’s Restaurant, a favorite breakfast spot for residents and visitors alike, and then back to the dealership. What’s that saying? “A bad day on a motorcycle is better than… ”
The next day’s ride was an old favorite—the Knotts Island guided tour, except the Nor’easter that occurred just three weeks prior moved the water around, making the Currituck Sound too shallow for the ferry to the island. So the group revised their route, yet kept their traditional lunch stop at Margie & Ray’s Seafood Restaurant in Virginia Beach. Thursday’s tour was a mystery ride and all I was told is that after riding back roads for an hour, the group would be eating lunch at Mike’s Kitchen Asian Bistro in Columbia, and then continuing their cruise through more curvy country roads.
The Fallen Rider Memorial Ride on Wednesday was the one I’d been looking forward to, having had scheduling conflicts in years past. The ride originated in 2010, a few months after the unexpected death of OBX H.O.G. member Ronnie Tillett, a.k.a. Ronnie Road King. The next year, the H.O.G. chapter decided to work the ride into the Bike Week schedule, and it was expanded to honor not only Ronnie, but all fallen riders, as well.
We signed up at OBX H-D and took Kitty Hawk Woods Road, stopping at the Kitty Hawk cemetery where Ronnie was buried. His wife Dawn met us there, and Senior Road Captain Richard Quidley said a few words at the gravesite: “Ronnie loved to ride, and Ronnie loved to eat, so in honor of Ronnie, we will ride and we will eat.” Our group of nearly 40 proceeded to Engelhard where we stopped at Martelle’s Feed House to fill up on down-home Southern cooking.
After lunch we rode through the wetlands, forests, and farm country of the Lake Mattamuskeet area. We spent a good bit of time at the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, a quite beautiful and peaceful haven of wild flora and fauna. Three of us went on our own little excursion onto Wildlife Drive and then out to a spit of land surrounded by the lake. We were tempted to enjoy the sun, water, and wildlife sightings, but there was more riding to be done.
All in all, we spent nine hours and 20 minutes on our tour—exactly the same amount of time it took me to get from New Jersey to the Outer Banks, but this day was oh-so-much more enjoyable. I got back to the Sea Ranch just as the sun was casting a golden-red glow over the ocean. And to top it all off, I won $67 in the rolling dice game! For every H.O.G. ride that week, game proceeds went to the OBX H.O.G. chosen charities: Albemarle Hopeline, Corolla Wild Pony Fund, Lower Currituck Food Bank, Camp Celebrate, and Sheriff Johnson’s Toy Run.
Meet and compete
Since I did so well in the prior day’s rolling dice run, I figured I’d try my luck again with the Ladies Bike Show at OBX H-D. I was the third bike to enter, and my clean and shiny Switchback was lookin’ good… that is, until Beth Roberts rode in with her ’93 highly customized pink, red, and white Sportster. Beth was rockin’ a matching pink leather riding outfit. I was wearing a pair of jeans with grease on one leg and a tear in the knee. No contest. Eventually 11 bikes showed up for the competition and, not surprisingly, Beth took first place. Dale Yontz from Salisbury, North Carolina, took second with her 2010 Street Glide, and Sue Dinkler from Greenville, Virginia, took third with her 2006 Ultra Classic Trike. Beth, who now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told me that she bought it new in 1992 and started customizing it one piece at a time. One of the first things she did was have it punched out to a 1200 with hot cams and other high-performance mods. Randy Simpson of Milwaukee Iron did the uniquely styled bodywork, and I wish I caught the name of the painter. The overall effect was truly striking. Beth won a $100 gift certificate toward a Letterfly pinstriping job, as well as a trophy, with the second- and third-place winners taking home trophies, as well.
Nags Head H-D was the venue for the Friday bike show, which was open to everyone. There were 22 entries, and trophies were awarded for first and second place in six classes plus People’s Choice. The show was sponsored by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and conducted by Bayside H.O.G. who came from the Bayside, Virginia, dealership to volunteer. In the Touring class, Dallene Vontz took first place and Ricky Johnson took second. First place in the Sport class went to Jimmy Gray, and second went to Beth Roberts. The lone winner in the Cruiser class was Lynne Miller. V-twin Custom saw Billy Daniel take first and Joe Hawkins second. First place in the Trikes/Sidecar class went to David Wood and second to Sue Dinkler. The Antique class was won by Mark Duchlinski, and Michael St. Jean came in second. Finally, the People’s Choice award went to David Price.
Entries were judged on paint/plating/polishing, engineering, style/originality, street function, and overall. I got a chance later to speak with Billy Daniel who won the top V-twin Custom award with his fabulous ’09 Night Rod. Billy works at Southside Collision in South Hill, Virginia. He and his buddy Mike Kidd, who owns Late Night Customs, did the bike’s bodywork, paint, and other customization. Let’s just say the bike was striking.
Friday was also the designated day for the eagerly anticipated coleslaw wrestling competition at Pigman’s Bar-B-Que on the Route 158 bypass in Kill Devil Hills. The event has been gaining in popularity since its inception in 2011, with eight very brave bikini-clad women trying their luck in the ring this year. EZ, the self-proclaimed “best bluesman in the Outer Banks,” opened the festivities. Pirate Radio 95.3 was onsite, and on-air personality Fish was one of the judges. The other judges were David Matute, the resident bikini specialist, so I was told, and Rick Bateman, a veteran who was awarded a purple heart for injuries suffered during his service in Afghanistan.
The event was emceed by Tony Brittan, a.k.a. Kramer, the Pirate 95.3 morning radio host. And there was a professional referee! David “Do or Die” Derby from Dirty South Boxing, a champion wrestler himself, laid down the law before the first bout: tap-out only, no striking, and no poking any orifices. But he didn’t say anything about using the coleslaw as a weapon. More than one of the girls had the idea of grabbing a big glob of the soggy cabbage-and-carrot mixture and rubbing it in their opponents’ faces, causing some amount of discomfort, to put it mildly.
During a break in the action, the band Boxcar Heroes played a few tunes and a special exhibition bout took place featuring last year’s winner, Maria, and one of the guys who works at Pigman’s. Poor Jody received a real trouncing from the 2012 champ. I don’t think he’ll ever live it down. When the action resumed, only one woman was left standing—tough and scrappy Cheryl Mitchell from King William, Virginia, who fought hard and strong to take home the belt.
The winner of the first of two raffles was one lucky guy whose prize was to hose down the contestants after each match. The second raffle, a 50/50, saw half the proceeds go to the Outer Banks Hospital’s Get Pinked campaign to help breast cancer awareness and prevention in Dare County. All told, the event raised $2,000 for Get Pinked. Now check out the competition on YouTube!
A number of contests were held at OBX H-D, including the Best Belly Contest where Mutt, who won the past few years, was the lone competitor. Apparently Mutt lost a little weight since last year, but not enough to drop him down from the size 5X T-shirt range. He won a shirt (a 5X, I hope), a leather vest and a $100 gift certificate toward pinstriping by Letterfly.
Best hand for the H.O.G. poker run was earned by Ronnie Wisener, the largest group that registered their attendance was the Bad Mo chapter of H.O.G., the farthest rider came 775 miles from Wells, Maine, and Bubba Brooks won the H.O.G. 50/50 raffle.
Six contestants vied for first place in the Miss Outer Banks Bikini Contest, with Sarah Thomas voted winner by popular vote. She took home $500, while the second- and third-place winners were awarded $300 and $200, respectively. Interestingly enough, the second-place winner wasn’t even wearing a bikini, having been pulled up onstage right out of the crowd.
It takes a village
I had an opportunity to speak with the dealerships’ General Manager Kevin Johnson, who was quick to compliment the entire community on their support of the event. He said, “They want the bikers here. It’s before high season and a lot of businesses use it as a gear-up week for their staffs before the regular season starts in May.” He added, “The H.O.G. volunteers are great. We couldn’t do some of the major events without them, like the demo rides, bike shows, and guided tours.”
Kevin told me that the majority of riders who attend the rally come from the Northeast—mostly New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. “Some come from Ohio and New York, and we’re starting to get folks from a little further out—South Carolina, Kentucky, and beyond. The rally is starting to branch out a little bit.”
The dealerships sponsor a fall rally every year, as well, with the 6th annual Outer Banks Bike Fest taking place September 25-29, 2013. “This year, it’s going to five days. By the time we get to 10 years on that rally, it’ll be a week long. It’s been growing incrementally every year, just like Bike Week. We’re sticking with the nine-day format for Bike Week, though. The local crowd, which we call the 100-mile club, can ride here in a few hours and go home the same day. That’s a pretty good percentage of who shows up, with the weekend rush crowd coming from the Tidewater/Hampton Roads area.”
Kevin comments, “It’s the best little rally on the East Coast. It’ll never be Myrtle Beach or Daytona, and we don’t want it to be like that. It’s a different kind of rally. It’s a leisure rally; a vacation rally. It’s laid back, and a lot easier to get around and enjoy the local atmosphere.”