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Delmarva Bike Week

By Bo Toepfer

100 miles of the Eastern Shore

Rally spreads to six sites

Ocean City, Md., Sept. 11–14—Delmarva Bike Week started from humble beginnings with about 100 bikes in a campground, and has grown to be one of the premiere not-to-miss events in the motorcycle culture. Its placement in the calendar lands it smack dab in hurricane season, but this year, attendees were treated to some fine temperatures throughout the weekend.

Delmarva is an acronym for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and covers the easternmost coastlines of those three states. Delmarva Bike Week outgrew its original home at the campground early on, hence the move to Ocean Downs Racetrack. The track is centrally located and provided great vender access, ample parking and a shuttle service from the bus lot west of town across the Kelly Drawbridge on Route 50. However, as the rally grew each year, so did traffic problems. Bottlenecks caused extensive delays for both locals and rallygoers. The rally organizers are always looking to improve the event, and this year they came up with a great solution by spreading it across six locations.

Four of these locales, Seacrets, Sunset Avenue, the Francis Scott Key Resort, and Harley-Davidson of Ocean City, are within five miles of downtown Ocean City. Another rally venue is Winter Place Park in Salisbury, and the sixth venue is Harley-Davidson of Seaford, Delaware. The establishment of these six venues improved traffic flow tremendously, and offered more opportunities to explore some nice riding roads and other attractions that may have been overlooked when the rally was held at a single location.

Because of the riding that would take place between venues, organizers came up with a new tag line: “This Year We Ride.” In keeping with this motto, 2008 marked the fifth annual Cruzin the Coast Pin Run, a self-paced activity that goes on for the entire weekend. For a $20 entry fee, each rider stops in at participating businesses, gets his or her book stamped by at least eight of the 10 businesses, and collects a T-shirt and run pin. All those who finish are eligible to win a 50/50 drawing.

There were several organized rides, as well. The Red Knights MC, a club composed of firefighters, has always held several charity runs in conjunction with Delmarva Bike Week. On Thursday this year, the Red Knights held their annual 9/11 Tribute Ride on the Ocean City Boardwalk from 27th Street nine miles south to the site of the 9/11 Fire­fighters Memorial that had been erected on the sand at Dorchester Street. Town officials joined the Red Knights in holding a brief memorial service. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Red Knights led a ride along back roads to a tavern in Fenwick Island, Delaware, for some fun and fellowship and, of course, green beer. The next day, the Red Knights held their Mr. Whippy ride to Chincoteague, a beautiful barrier island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The ride is a lot of fun, and the town of Chincoteague really welcomes the bikers.

On Friday I rolled into Winter Place Park, a straight shot from Ocean City along Route 50. The farm is a palatial spa for some very lucky horses—there are stalls with chandeliers, a bathing pool and other amenities. The vendor spots were laid out in a cluster, and as I was trying to find my way around, I happened upon Russell Mitchell from Exile Cycles. I was able to pull him away from the court he was holding for a few photos. Russell, it was a pleasure, as always! The traffic into the parking lot was handled nicely by local police, however, they should have been stationed on the exit route because those needing to make left turns onto Route 50 were held up for considerable lengths of time, not to mention the danger of trying to cut into unending lines of vehicles on the highway.

If you wanted to ride to each of the six venues, the most direct loop was about 100 miles around. That’s a pretty aggressive schedule for a single day if you plan on checking out everything that each location offers. I discovered it’s better to spread out the riding over the weekend, and if you wanted to take a break between rally locations, there were plenty of other stops, as well. For instance, just a few miles south of the Kelly Drawbridge is the Oasis Bar where you could take in a little pudding wrestling.

Not far away from the Oasis Bar was Ocean City H-D, a rally venue that always seemed to have a crowd in the parking lot. If success is measured by how many bikes were parked in front of the shop at any given time, then every indication was that this event was a winner. Next I stopped at Seacrets in Ocean City, one of the biggest and most popular watering holes on the Eastern Shore. The palm trees along with the flying skull and cross bones in the parking area gave away its 49th Street location, so it was easy for everyone to find. Seacrets’ Jamaica USA theme mixes well with leather and loud exhaust tones, and the Seacrets crew always treats us well. Many took advantage of the bayside bar, and the water was just right for wading in to cool off. The place also had an array of musical talent to be enjoyed while your toes—or boots—were in the sand.

My next stop was the Sunset Marina at Sunset Avenue where the backdrop is set by some fine examples of sport fishing craft plying the waters. Several vendor areas were set up at the marina, and the management was running large golf cart shuttles to ease the load on one’s old feet and aching bones. On the easternmost side of the property were the party area and the bandstand. Words on a page cannot translate the ocean breeze, the feel of the salt air and the kick-ass music being played on one of the nicest stages I’ve ever seen.

Just up the road to the North on Route 50 was the spread at the Francis Scott Key Resort. If you have been around bikes, the beach and good causes, rest assured these folks are involved at some level. The owners of the resort are always doing their share to support and promote the cause. The resort reminds me of an old-time ocean town with its charming buildings scattered around the property. I wonder if they’re looking for a mayor?

On Sunday I was packed up and ready to split, but not until I’d exercised my right of freedom and blasted across helmet-free Delaware. I was crisscrossing the lower part of the state just to stay a little longer, and ended up at the Harley dealership in Seaford. The vendors were scattered about a tree-filled area—a welcome respite from the hot sun. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was late July rather than mid-September!

Each Bike Week location had different attractions—live music, vendors, thrill shows, bikini contests, giveaways, and more. And every location has several local points of interest easily within a day’s ride. Although the organizers had maps made up that showed each rally location, I would have liked to have seen a detailed map in the rally handbook containing bits of history and places to visit that attendees might not know about, like the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum on Fenwick Island and the lookout towers on the beach in Delaware built to spot German U-boats during World War II, or Assateague Island State Park with its wild horses roaming the beaches.

I’ve always believed that Delmarva Bike Week could support a full week, and with this new arrangement of rally locations and the opportunities for many side trips, I can only hope we’ll see a week’s worth of activities in 2009. I know I could have spent a lot more time relaxing at Sunset Marina, enjoying the music and the breeze blowing off the Atlantic. Maybe next year… (www.delmarvabikeweek.com)

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