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Corpus Christi BikeFest

By Robert Filla

CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, OCT., 11-13–Shoreline Boulevard is a beautiful six-lane that skirts the east side of Corpus, a 3×3 that is divided by a grassy esplanade, terminating at the permanent berth of the World War II aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Lexington. The adjoining marina is filled with tall-mast luxury craft, the bay full of sailboats, personal watercrafts and seagulls. And it was along these tropical waters that the 20th annual Roar by the Shore made a beachhead invasion—one that may forever change the face of this celebrated Texas rally.

Founded two decades ago on the tip of the state across from Old Mexico, this event was known during its first 19 renditions as the South Padre Island BikeFest. Earlier this year the announcement was made that a major location shift for the rally had been finalized and BikeFest would move north some 175 miles and be relabeled Corpus Christi BikeFest. The background story of the Island losing this event is a long one. As always, politics played a role, as did economic obstacles—seems South Padre simply could not keep pace with the rapidly expanding BikeFest, now the third-largest motorcycle rally in Texas. And as rally coordinator G.J. Reyna stated earlier this year, “The move will not be an easy one.” And although organizers pitched the event to various locales throughout the Rio Grande Valley, when the City of Corpus came calling, they “rolled out the red carpet,” with city officials and businesses all jumping on the BikeFest party wagon. Exercising caution at first in an effort not to lose that “Island feel” that had been cultivated from the rally’s inception, the move to Corpus was the most logical, being able to offer more venues, restaurants and bars with future expansion always an option. The end result was the largest Roar by the Shore in memory, with both the rally coordinators and the City of Corpus Christi walking away proud of the outcome.

The view from the front of the ABC included the majestic USS Lexington

The view from the front of the ABC included the majestic USS Lexington

The 2013 rally was distributed across four venues with each offering something different. The bulk of the events were concentrated at the American Bank Center (ABC) on Shoreline Boulevard with 75 vendors housed inside this massive arena during the weekend. Nearby, the Old Concrete Street Amphitheater was the site for all the main music talent including Gary P. Nunn and Travis Tritt on Friday night, backed by Quiet Riot and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Saturday night. Both full weekend rally passes and day passes gained you access to Old Concrete Street for these performances. Right around the corner from the ABC was the Brewster Street Icehouse that served up nightly entertainment along with plenty of drink specials, discounted for those with a CC BikeFest wristband. Further south and across town, Budweiser linked with Corpus Christi Harley-Davidson and presented a packed program that included a beer garden, live music, the “Animal Within” body paint contest, the Club Cheetah Dancers, a bikini bike wash and the Leather & Lace swimsuit competition.

Joyce and Rich from Portland, Texas were serious competitors in the bottle and cone event

Joyce and Rich from Portland, Texas were serious competitors in the bottle and cone event

Outside the front of the ABC, a long, narrow strip normally reserved for disembarking and passenger pickup had been cordoned off for the Ives Brothers Thrill Show (offering a Wall of Death and ramp-to-ramp jumping daily), several more food and vendor booths and Saturday’s bike show and field events. And while there was adequate room to view the activities, this area seemed cramped for the amount that was crammed into it, which leads to the new venue’s most glaring problem that will need to be addressed if a return visit is scheduled—parking. The Decathlon & Fun Run started on Friday with prizes being handed out on Saturday afternoon with Chad Hammer from Corpus capturing first place, Ramon Collazo from Spring Branch bringing home second and third place being secured by Aleksandra Huskic of Houston.

A flashy entry in Saturday's Bike Show headed back to the trailer for the ride home

A flashy entry in Saturday’s Bike Show headed back to the trailer for the ride home

Inside, the ABC saw a flurry of activity, especially on Saturday. Eight tattoo booths were busy commemorating the inaugural CC BikeFest, etching colorful patterns on those with a needle and ink addiction. The big yeller truck from Desperado Motorcycles made the 200-mile trip south from The Woodlands, Texas, with a half-dozen bikes on display. Southern Metal Choppers from Austin was on hand with their signature builds, while Lightning Cycle Works from Fort Worth also put in an appearance. Adding a twist to the weekend’s activities, Lightning Cycle owner Troy Nicholson performed a total reconstruction Friday and Saturday on a custom 1977 FX Shovelhead. For those willing to fork over an extra $300, the VIP Experience on the second level provided comfortable and casual seating, a big-big screen TV, 50 bike giveaway tickets, reserved seating at all the concerts, food and an open bar. These VIPs also had the early chance to attend a meet and greet photo op with Tommy Flanagan, “Chibs” from the Sons of Anarchy cable series.

Those who splurged for the VIP Experience also had a great view of the Harbor Bridge in the background

Those who splurged for the VIP Experience also had a great view of the Harbor Bridge in the background

Before the twin concerts kicked into high gear Saturday night, one feature that has been a standard during South Padre BikeFest for many years was not neglected—the observance of the Iron Horse Sunset Parade. With more than 1,000 bikes taking part in the ride, staging began at 4:00 that afternoon with the police-escorted event pulling out at 5:00 and lasting almost 45 minutes before detouring to the Old Concrete Street Amphitheatre. And while not quite as impressive as witnessing the pack glide over the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway at South Padre Island (that bridge is two miles in length), it was reassuring to note that even with the change in locales, some traditions must be upheld. (As a side note, due to a wedding involving a local official being scheduled at the same timeframe and in the same area as the parade, promoters G.J. and Mark Lacy actually reoriented the motorcycle parade route as to not interfere with the wedding procession. Working with locals doesn’t get much more personal than that. Hereafter, G.J. and Mark are unofficially known as the “CC BikeFest Wedding Planners.”)

A light rain on Sunday morning was the perfect excuse to sleep late, enjoy a leisurely breakfast or a walk on the beach instead of hitting the road early—and time to clear that foggy brain from the previous night’s kickass party.

Troy Nicholson with Lightning Cycle Works completed a total reconstruction of a 1977 FX Shovelhead on Friday and Saturday

Troy Nicholson with Lightning Cycle Works completed a total reconstruction of a 1977 FX Shovelhead on Friday and Saturday

In the end the numbers tell their own story: Preregistration was three times greater than ever before and almost 15,000 paid to get through the doors at ABC. The city estimates that between 25,000 and 30,000 actually showed up during the weekend, spending more than $10 million. (A block of rooms had been reserved by BikeFest for rally attendees at a variety of hotels offering slashed prices as low as $85.) For the first time ever the VIP Experience sold out at its predetermined level of 150. There were only six accidents (none major) and one arrest (some guy from San Antonio had an outstanding warrant). The biggest complaint during BikeFest, other than the parking, was the police having to respond to several reports of excessively loud music (bunch of savage outlaws, aren’t we?).

And it seems the CC PD went out of their way to promote this first-time event, being tolerant of small infractions. Case in point: on Saturday afternoon I became lost in the business section surrounding the ABC. It is undergoing a major rebuilding effort, with lots of streets blocked and construction signs redirecting traffic making for some confusing moments for riders. I was one of those confused riders, rolling down the wrong way on a one-way street when the approaching officer hit his red-n-blinkies. I stopped, he rolled down his window and, pointing to the one-way sign asked, “Are you lost, sir?” Instead of requesting my license and proof of insurance, he asked me to make a U-turn and follow the patrol car as he escorted this confused biker to his hotel. That’s a first—and first class treatment.

When asked about a return engagement, G.J. responded, “Going over our numbers it would be difficult not to come back to Corpus Christi next year. The City of Corpus Christi is an awesome destination for BikeFest and more than likely we have found our new home.”

Let’s hope the rally endures as long as its last run. You guys did a good thing.

2013 Corpus Christie BikeFest

2013 Corpus Christi BikeFest


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