Party on the peninsula
Spreading the fun across state lines
Ocean City, Md., Sept. 17–20—As I sat in line waiting to ride my bike onto the Cape May-Lewes ferry on Thursday afternoon, I counted motorcycles—one, two, three… all the way up to 70. There were more bikes than cars! I’ve taken this ferry from South Jersey to the Eastern Shore of Delaware numerous times, and that was a first. It was also a promising start to the weekend, because every bike waiting to board was on its way to the 9th annual Delmarva Bike Week.
Once I disembarked from the ferry in Lewes, the ride south along the Atlantic was a cloudy but pleasant 25 miles through the beach towns of Delaware and Maryland. Weather-wise, rally goers were lucky all weekend, with temperatures ranging between the 70s and 80s. Although Thursday and Friday were overcast, we didn’t experience a drop of rain.
And that’s a good thing because Delmarva Bike Week isn’t a hang-out-in-one-spot-and-get-drunk type of rally. The last time I attended was in 2004 when the rally was held at a single location in Berlin, Maryland; about five miles west of Ocean City. Last year, rally promoters B Line, Inc. dramatically changed and expanded the format to include six venues. Feedback from most participants was positive, and this year, B Line tweaked and refined this arrangement, resulting in four locations: Harley-Davidson of Seaford, Delaware; Seacrets nightclub in Ocean City, Maryland; Harley-Davidson of Ocean City in Berlin, Maryland; and Winterplace Park in Salisbury, Maryland.
All four rally venues are on the Delmarva Peninsula, a strip of land bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay and occupied by most of Delaware and some parts of Maryland and Virginia. Part of the reason for creating multiple rally locations was for people to ride from one venue to another, and to discover some of the beautiful riding roads on the peninsula.
The rally’s host hotel this year was the Fenwick Inn on the northernmost part of the Coastal Highway in Ocean City. I’d wanted to stay there but didn’t make my reservations in time. My disappointment turned to delight when I realized that my hotel, the Princess Bayside, was situated right next to Seacrets nightclub! I unloaded my bike, checked into the hotel, and took note of the hotel’s amenities that included free covered parking, indoor and outdoor pools, and, most importantly, a bar and restaurant.
It was late afternoon by the time I was ready to explore the rally, and what better place to start than Seacrets? So I took a stroll next door, checking out the 20-or-so vendors set up in the parking lot. A sizable crowd was still shopping, but as the day wound down, many headed into Seacrets for the evening. The nightclub, also known as Jamaica U.S.A., has to be one of the largest on the Eastern seaboard, with 17 bars and a huge restaurant. Live bands from several stages perform rock, reggae, dance music—whatever musical genre suits your mood. Even on a Thursday night during the shoulder season (the weeks between summer and the off-season), the place was packed. Every night’s a party at Seacrets. Much of the club is on the beach, and from a seat at the less-crowded beach bar, I watched the colorful, slow motion sunset over Assawoman Bay.
The next morning, I rode over the Route 90 Bridge spanning Assawoman Bay, and headed about 45 miles northwest to Harley-Davidson of Seaford. This location evoked a quite different vibe than Seacrets. It was a relaxed, laid-back affair—the perfect antidote for the raucous party scene the night before. About a dozen merchants ringed the perimeter of the dealership’s wooded property, and a pinstriper held court in the parking lot. A couple of barbecue vendors—along with other food and drink purveyors—served the hungry hordes who sat at picnic tables under the trees to enjoy the food and the live music played by Crossroads and Nothin’ But Trouble.
It was tempting to just hang out and relax in Seaford, but I wanted to check out at least one more rally venue that day. It was mid-afternoon by the time I rode the 25 miles south to Winterplace Park, considered the main rally location. The parking lots—and there were many—were filled with bikes, yet all were situated quite close to the action. Dozens of merchandise and food and drink vendors filled the park, and top-name bike builders like Russ Mitchell of Exile Cycles and Vince “Nobody” Doll of Redneck Engineering graciously fielded questions about their custom creations, signed autographs and posed for photos throughout the weekend.
Harley-Davidson of Ocean City and several custom builders displayed their latest models, with a lot of attention being drawn by CTM Customs of Easton, Maryland. Owner Matt Elsey and his crew built the official Delmarva Bike Week custom bike that was to be given away in a raffle. There were several other big giveaways at the park, sponsored by BC Cycles of Nashville, Tennessee, and Truck’n America with several locations in Maryland and Virginia. All raffles were free, so all you had to do was sign up!
At one end of the park was the American Motordrome Wall of Death, with trick riders Jay Lightnin’, Wahl E. Walker, Charlie Ransom, Sparky J. Lightnin’ and The Dude performing death-defying stunts on their vintage Indians, Harleys and go-carts. In between Wall of Death performances, bands played to the crowds lounging on the grass in front of the nearby stage. Winterplace Park was also pretty laid back, but there were big crowds and lots of activity.
I stuck around long enough for that day’s concert headliner Aeroforce, a dynamite Aerosmith tribute band that wowed the crowd. Brother Peach, an Allman Brothers tribute band, and Smokin’ Gunnz rounded out the headline entertainment for the other two nights of the rally.
It had been a long day, with the rally opening at 9 a.m. every day. The promoters wisely chose to end each day’s activities at 7 p.m., giving riders a chance to enjoy the great seafood restaurants and nightlife in and around Ocean City. I rode the 25-or-so miles back to the Princess Bayside, parked the bike for the night (how convenient!), and returned to Seacrets for a nice dinner and more live music. Of course, the bar patrons were as entertaining as the band, but that’s another story.
Shop till ya drop
If you ride between all four rally locations taking the most direct routes, it would be a hundred-mile loop. It’s quite easy to get to all venues in a single day, but why rush to see everything all at once? Why not avail yourself of the scenic roads along the Eastern Shore? So I saved Saturday morning for my visit to Harley-Davidson of Ocean City in Berlin, just 10 miles west of my hotel and five miles west of the Route 50 bridge over Assawoman Bay. I got there in time to watch the send-off of the 7th annual Mr. Whippy Ride to Chincoteague Island, Virginia. The ride was sponsored by Maryland Red Knights MC Chapter 3 who also volunteered to help raise money for kids from the Stephen Decatur High School next to the dealership.
There were dozens of vendors packed in the front and rear parking lots of the dealership, and thousands of people streaming through all day. Every rally spot had lots of quality vendors, and this was no exception. And people were doing plenty of shopping!
Another major Delmarva Bike Week activity that combined shopping and riding was the 7th annual Cruzin the Coast pin run. For a $20 registration fee at either of the two participating Harley dealerships or Winterplace Park, you were given an event pin and a T-shirt. The pins were cleverly designed so that if you spent $10 at each dealership, you got two Dealer Crawl pins to complete the main event pins. To earn an entry into a cash drawing, you had to visit at least eight of the 11 participating locations on the Delmarva Peninsula.
This year’s run raised more than ever before, with $2,320 being awarded to an Ocean Pines, Maryland, resident named Huggie, who’s also a member of the Eastern Shore H.O.G. chapter. A matching donation of $2,320 will be presented to the Spuck & Lib Bennett Scholarship Fund. The fund was created in honor of the Bennetts, as Spuck is the owner of the Harley dealerships in Seaford and Ocean City.
Signs of success
Most people judge the success of a rally on elements such as attendance, number of vendors and money spent (or, to be more accurate, the amount of taxes paid to the city or county). I believe one of the best indicators of success is the number of businesses jumping on the rally bandwagon by creating their own activities during the rally. A number of these establishments, such as Castaways, were rally partners and supporters, and they held events such as Castaways Bike Week, with its lighted bike parade Friday night, pizza eating contest on Saturday and the Fast Lane Biker Leather and Lace Ball on Saturday night. 707 Sports Bar & Grille had a bike week festival with bands and other entertainment, and one of my favorite seafood restaurants on the bay, Hoopers Crab House, had vendors, biker games, an open pit BBQ, live music and other happenings.
The Oasis Bar ’n Grill in Whaleyville, just west of Ocean City, held its Great American Motorcycle Rodeo with biker games and contests, plus live music, food, drink specials and vendors. An unexpected, but welcome addition to the festivities involved the Budweiser girls challenging the Oasis girls to a bikini tug-of-war. I’m not sure who won, but does it really matter? Another big wing ding was put on by the Atlantic Hotel in Ocean City, which held its 9th annual three-day Atlantic Bike Week combined with the grand opening of Wild Bill’s next to the hotel parking lot. With the live music, burnout pit and vendors, this year brought their biggest Bike Week crowd yet.
Just a few blocks south of Seacrets was the first-ever Delmarva Bike Rally, not to be confused with Delmarva Bike Week. One enterprising promoter set up vendors in an Ocean City Convention Center parking lot as well as the nearby 45th Street Village. Straight up the Coastal Highway, Vinnie DiMartino and Cody Connelly of V-Force Customs made their home at Hooters. Events like Fager’s Island Bike Week 2009 and Bahia Marina’s 2009 Bike Week (neither to be confused with Delmarva Bike Week) put on activities, as well. It seemed that wherever I looked, there were contests and events such as the Biker Babe contest, Bikini Babe competition, and bikini bike washes.
I also believe that another gauge of a rally’s success is “date sprawl.” Even though the official Delmarva Bike Week kickoff—a vendor party held at the Oasis—took place on Wednesday evening, several bars and restaurants had welcome parties starting as early as Monday, and offered food, drink and entertainment specials all week.
It’s a wrap
Sunday afternoon, the rally began to wind down as contest winners were announced at various locations. Seacrets held the finals for their season-long Miss Seacrets 2009 competition, and the winner was Kathryn Trail from Orlando, Florida. Elisha Hartman from Lewes, Delaware, captured second place and Megan Eisenhauer from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, took third. More than $10,000 in prize money was awarded, so ladies, consider that when you’re making plans for 2010!
At Winterplace Park, Kevin Kitchin of Brandywine, Maryland, won a trailer and Tracy Rubenstein from Monroe, New York, won a Cruzin’ Cooler. Gwen Kraft out of Camden, Delaware won the biggest prize of the rally—the custom bike from CTM Customs. This giveaway proved so popular that promoters may arrange for two bikes to be given away next year.
Delmarva Bike Week started out in 2001 with about 20,000 attendees, and in the past few years has grown to over 100,000 people. By all accounts, this year was the most successful yet, although official numbers weren’t available at press time. Attendance was higher than last year—Winterplace Park had probably close to double the number of people that showed up in 2008, and each of the other three locations said they had significantly more people, as well. More vendors were set up, and hotel re-bookings for next year’s event increased over those of last year. Ocean City merchants commented that there were a lot more bikes in Ocean City this year, also. Along with the large number of bikes was a prominent state, county and local police presence. Let’s just say that you were crazy if you thought you’d try speeding or doing burnouts on the major roads in and around Ocean City.
Take the delightful weather this time of year, the multitude of entertainment offered, and free admission—including free bike parking—to all daytime Delmarva Bike Week venues, and combine all that with the beautiful Delmarva Peninsula scenery, beaches and biker-friendly businesses, and the result is one of the best rallies in the U.S. See you next year! (www.delmarvabikeweek.com)