Myrtle Beach Rally Ride Report
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Myrtle Beach, SC is host to the annual Carolina Harley Dealers Association regional rally which attracts upwards of 50,000 - 100,000 bikes each spring. It has grown way out of the associations control and has become a entity all to itself. The Dealers still put on their own show, but most people coming to the rally think it is just a regional get-together and never see the Association's events.
The 2000 rally has finally blossomed into a full-blown two-weekend event, where it started being a 4-day rally. This year the vendors are reporting that business got going strong Friday afternoon, and is expected to stay that way until Sunday 9 days later. My personal feelings are that the Myrtle Beach Rally is jsut an excuse to close up shop for a couple days and visit old friends. There is not enough cool rides or beautiful scenery to keep me much longer. As you know, I am not a Rally-Party animal, but prefer to be on the road and in the wind.
For the '00 trip to Myrtle, I only have two days, one night, so I (once again) dispense with my aversion to the Interstate - they DO have their uses. From Durham to I-95 takes less than an hour on I-40 through Raleigh. For those of you familiar with East Coast Interstate travel on I-95, this may be a familiar road sign... Pedro's South of the Border signs are an every quarter-mile occurance for 10 miles before the North/South Carolina Border and can be seen sporadically 90 miles away as you approach the tacky tourist trap. I still stop at this exit, but prefer the Waffle House across the street. It is a good place to take off your morning chaps and helmet as you go into South Carolina. Gassed up, fed, and helmetless by 9:00am, I'm back on the road for a short ride to Hwy 9.
A thought crossed my mind as I glanced at the speedometer, keeping it at 80mph - my typical cruising speed - that back in the 70's when I rode these little Honda 350's and 450's, 80mph was a teeth chattering, engine whining, scary achievment. On this Ultra, 80 is little more than blurry pavement as the tach shows only about 3300rpm.
Turn off the Interstate at Dillon and Highway 9, taking that little back road to Hwy 701 and down to Conway by 9:45am, the gateway community to Myrtle Beach. I slide past Myrtle, though, down Hwy 544 to Murrell's Inlet, the focus of this trip - or so I thought! I enjoy this quiet little fishing community far better than Myrtle Beach and it's only about 20 south.
The first thing I do is hook up with Sonny and Walt, two old riding buds from the Barbarian Riding club for lunch with them and their old ladies. (My apologies, girls, you're riding with bikers, and the term wives don't apply for the duration of the trip...old ladies is the appropriate term!) Sonny moved away to some lil' ol' state up in Yankeeville, and Walt now lives out with the surfer dudes in California, so they don't ride with us much anymore, and it was good to see 'em again. (I was supposed to meet up with them later that night, but as you'll read later on I though it best NOT to get on the bike!)
After lunch, I go across the parking lot to the Sonny Productions Swap Meet, in the parking area of the Inlet Square Shopping Center. I find Sonny (a different Sonny by the way - don't get confused here - stay with me!) in the midst of a crisis trying to get the Generators to keep from blowing the fuses to the vendor area...I've seen Sonny like this before and tactfully back away real slowly before some one got hurt. I run down to Bullfeathers with the guys for a beer and shoot the shit for an hour before going back. This time the other Sonny is in a better mood and gives me directions to his condo - where I had planned to crash for the night. We walked around the vending area, got the obligatory event pins and t-shirts and Sonny (#1) and Walt headed their own way - planning to hook up again at 9pm to watch the show of riders going up and down the beach road at night profiling their bikes.
Finding another Barbarian, "Colonel", at the Daytona Customs tent, I am invited up to North Myrtle Beach by he and his brother to party at their 10-bedroom condo....uhhhh lemme think a minute.... OK! YEAH, SURE! WHADDAHELL?
He was getting off at about 7pm, so I hung around the vending area a bit, took some pics and swapped bullshit with his partner Joe (photo) at the booth. Hey!...if ya need a spare set of Barrel Harly keys made for your scooter - this is the place to get it. Even has some of the flat blanks too. Its always best to have a spare set or two floating around. You've heard me say before that this is where the Wizard plys his trade (photo is of one of his guys) - airbrush and pinstripe artist - there's even an engraver here, and of course, the original Custom Gold operation is here too... Daytona Customs is a great place to get your customizations done, and they are right next to Iron Braid for your grip braids...
We close up the shop, head to the condo for a beer and to meet the others in their group. Joe is leading the way and shortcuts through the Myrtle Beach Airport where it appears he's making it up as he goes, cause we look like we're riding on old abandoned runways trying to get to Bypass 17. A few grass-overgrown "roads" later, we are heading the wrong way on a one way street, cut through the rental-car return lot and finally find the right road. At first I am a bit pissed that I am changing my plans to stay south of Myrtle, but it doesn't take long to remember that sometimes a nice long ride to a neat destination IS part of biking, and I sit back and enjoy the view. It may be concrete and stoplights and tourist traps, but after all, I am on a Harley so I can still enjoy it.
Joe's girlfriend arrives for a visit, two or three other couples have arrived for the week and a couple beers later, I am past my comfortable two-beer buzz and fire up the beast making sure to keep someone I know in front of me. We ride to some sports bar 5 miles up the road and have dinner. Don't ask me where it was cause I'll be damned if I remember. When you're out having a little fun it is real tough to play photographer, so pardon my lack of pics from tonight - it is a fine line trying to enjoy yourself and trying to keep you guys amused!
Only had one Bud at dinner - I know - getting slow in my old age - but mostly cause I wanted to get home in one piece. We followed-the-leader home (fortunate 'cause I'd still be lost if we didn't) and proceeded to damage a good portion of a case of beer. By 10pm I realized I missed my rendezvous with my buds in Myrtle, missed my planned dinner at Flo's in Murrel's Inlet and was dangerously close to....uhhhhh....no - was definately past the point of riding home to crash with Sonny (#2). I was offered and gratefully accepted one of the vacant bedrooms in the condo (some couples weren't gonna be down til later in the week), got into my shorts and lazed around in the hottub for a couple hours with the Colonel and his brother...one of the first times I have EVER been in a hottub with just a couple guys - please believe that! Besides, my dad and wife...uhhhh...old lady I mean, and kids are reading this - you don't think I'm gonna tell all do ya?
Morning comes, I find the bottle of Tylenol and pack up the bike for a day's riding. Colonel and I hit the Pancake House, where he tells me of some interesting plans about the Myrtle Beach Rally from a vendors perspective. All's I'll say is Daytona - watch out! Myrtle appears to be breaking out of the four-day event concept and into the national two-weekend major event phase. I'm told that to fight that, Florida has passed a No Helmet law this year - to keep people interested in coming... from the look of Daytona '00 this year it didn't appear any less crowded, but times are changing soon I'm told.
Colonel and I split up while I headed for my one and hopefully only ride along the beach road in Myrtle. I much prefer Murrell's Inlet area. This early - 10am by now - it was very quiet - and I didn't mind. I just slipped on through town and headed south. Stopped off at the Hwy 501 vending areas west of town. This is where you can always find some vendors willing to haggle prices a bit. Picked up some more long-sleeved shirts, a few more pins and headed south. Popped in to explain to Sonny #2 what happened, found him in a much better mood. Cruised through the vendor areas of Murrell's, (photo is of the mid-street parking there) but hell, this isn't what I came to Murrell's for - on to the bars!
Well, "THE" bar as far as I am concerned. If you stop in at only one watering hole this year - go about 2 miles south of the Inlet Square Mall on the Inlet road, past all the fancy seafood restaurants and on the west side of the road is a little bar called Bullfeathers. I strode on in, and before I sat down, a tall guy looked at me and said - "you're Muthuh, ain'tcha?" ... man - this is good for the ego, but I damned sure like to know who people are who know me before I go admitting who I am! But I say yeah and it turns out he is the owner of the place, Tom Bowker, and read about the stop I made here last trip (to Daytona Bike Week) and signed up on the mailing list. He recognized me when I came in. Then the barmaid, came up and I recognized her from that same trip as the one who was so friendly to me and the old lady. Carm was her name....short for Carmella - got a little Italian in her I believe. Had a lot of fun talking to them at the bar - got some mutual photo's taken and exchanged war stories about the bar business... (I used to have a little place in Chapel Hill back in the early '80s)...
It was almost 1pm and I was there to meet Frank, from Tallahassee, Florida, so I went outside to look for him. Frank and Karen (from my other stories in here) and I are going to go to Sturgis this year together and this was the only overlap of time we both had in Myrtle this year. I recognized his bike immediately out under the tree, so I went over to admire it, and - knowing the owner of it would be keeping an eye on his ride - I walked back to the outdoor patio bar. True to form, Frank was watching and introduced himself. We had a couple beers and burgers (GREAT outdoor grill is setup for burgers, dogs and sausages - and cheap too....) and talked about the upcoming trip - likes and dislikes, riding styles, etc. I'll save the personal info about Frank for the Sturgis trip cause I never even asked if I could mention him on the website.
On a funny note, the rumor is down here in South Carolina, that Black Bike Week, scheduled for two weeks from now, was going to be boycotted by the NAACP over the Confederate flag controversy. After the local merchants accepted their boycott and asked them not to come, they changed their minds (some may say their bluff was called!) and now Black Bike Week is back on again - go figger!
So, it won't get you anything for free, but if you're at the Harley dealership vending area, look for the Daytona Customs Yellow tent and say hey to the Colonel, or at Bullfeathers, say hi to Carm or Tom. Carm's the cute one behind the bar. Sorry for the short ride report, but it was kinda an afterthought anyway - I'm looking forward to Thunder on the Ridge later this month...see ya then!
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