Thunder Beach Fall Rally @ Panama City Beach… (Part I of III)


David & Deb Ford along with my Debbie at PCB!

Quick Summary: We had an AWESOME time! It was a great ride down and back with NO rain. We spent three days pal’ing around with our best friends, David & Deb. We were reminded how small the world really is when we met some wonderful new friends while having lunch at Mexico Beach and again at Pineapple Willy’s on Friday who we spent the better part of Saturday with.  What could have been better than any of that?  Well, OK. Wining the lottery would be cool and let us do all of this more often, but we’re as likely to win the lottery as is to ACCURATELY predict the weather more than 12-hours ahead… and with that said:


Let me just say right up front, our heart-felt condolences go to the Thunder Beach organizers, vendors and businesses in and around Panama City Beach who always welcome the motorcycle community each spring & fall.  After a rain-soaked Spring Rally back in May that kept a lot of rally-goers away, the various commercial weather services pretty much killed the Fall rally with week-long dire predictions of another wash-out: it clearly impacted the attendance.  As a barometer of just how bad attendance was, Thunder Beach Jam promoters were expecting “thousands” of paying attendees for Friday’s Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger and The Kicks! concert: they had 400. Saturday’s show featuring Cheap Trick, Steppenwolf &  Floord was changed to a free concert and then ultimately cancelled. The Miss Thunder Beach events were poorly attended and the “finals” were cancelled. So, how was the weather?  WONDERFUL!  Below is a photo from Thursday night…


The lovely Miss Debbie and our dearest friends, Deb & David Ford, at sunset on Panama City Beach

Aside from a brief rain shower that hit the west end of the PCB area Friday afternoon and a shower that we ran into on our way out to The Outpost on Saturday well West of PCB, it was mostly sunny and warm from Thursday through Saturday night. There may have been rain on Sunday after we left town at 7:00am, as we could see dark clouds in our mirrors.

Weather Forecasting Rant: Despite the billions of dollars invested in “weather forecasting technology & models” those of us who’ve been around for more than a half-century recognize a weather forecast is still pretty much a best guess for the next day.  So, why on Earth do people make decisions based on 5 and 10 day outlooks and then “Live” on the website for the next 5 – 10 days to see if the chance of rain that they’re probably watching the most remains favorable or improves?  Sorry folks, IMHO 24/7 weather is as bad or worse than 24/7 news:  it generates revenue for advertisers at the website, but we’re certainly no more informed about weather conditions today than we were 30 years ago when we simply watched the goofy weather dude once a day at 11:15pm. But I digress…

Thursday’s Ride Down & First Day In PCB

logoAfter meeting with David & Deb for dinner at Loco Willy’s on Wednesday night to officially kick-off our mini-vacation and finalize our respective travel plans for Thursday, we returned to the house to lay out our clothes for the trip and otherwise prep for a just after sunrise departure at 7:30am on Thursday morning.

To say we were excited and looking-forward to the  ride down and spending a few days doing “club stupid” stuff was an understatement.  Even the over-hyped threat of rain for Friday, Saturday & Sunday associated with tropical storm Karen didn’t dampen our spirits: we simply packed the rain gear and said, Que Sera, Sera.  Deb wasn’t up for the long ride on their bike, so they opted to trailer the bike down. That also gave us an “out” for transportation in PCB IF, in fact, Friday & Saturday were rain-outs.

We were both up early and I had the clothes “vacuum packed” in ZipLock Jumbo bags and stuffed into our Touring Bag by 6:00am, so we decided to go ahead and move-up our start time to 6:30am.  Debbie was second guessing her decision to use her 3/4 helmet instead of her modular one given that it was a bit cooler than she expected, but toughed it out and was rewarded with the warming sun on her face once the cloud coverage broke as we arrived in Phenix, Alabama.  While topping off the Road King’s tank at the Marathon in Phenix, Alabama we decided we’d just have our lunch at Sharky’s when we arrived in PCB. However, just based on the sparse number of bikes we were seeing at the Marathon station and on the road we could already tell attendance at Thunder Beach would be way down.


Great weather greeted us as we enjoyed our lunch at Sharky’s on the beach.

We rolled-into Sharky’s parking lot around 11:30am local and started off our PCB visit with some Baja Taco’s on the lower deck next to the beach.  We also checked-in with David & Deb, who were about two hours behind us enjoying lunch in Dothan, Alabama.

I’d hoped I’d be able to get one of the motorcycle saddle / seat upholstery guys to make a firmer foam foundation for the Road King’s saddle while we were at PCB, but no luck: talking with Master Lugo at the Sharky’s venue, it was just too involved for what they do on the road.  So, our next stop was Sterling Reef to unload, unpack and wash the bugs off the bike.  About the time I was done drying the Road King, Deb and David drove up so the timing was working out well.

Our evening included dinner at Hammerhead Fred’s which was a pretty good time thanks to an attentive server, tasty food served quickly and a very good DJ spinning tunes from the 80’s & 90’s out in the pavilion.  Out next stop was Pier Park, where we hoped to catch a little dueling piano action at Rum Runners before heading down to Pineapple Willy’s to get a table for the Jacob, Brock & Brew gig at 9:00am.  On the way down Front Beach Road I decided that we needed to pull-off at the PCB Pier Parking Lot near Alf Coleman Drive to take a picture of the amazing sunset.  We ended up taking a few photos, two of which you already saw near the beginning of this blog entry.  The one below does a pretty good job of capturing what inspired us to stop…


Rum Runners was a complete bust; no one was there and they weren’t going to fire up the piano’s until 8:00pm.  So, after a brief stay we headed to Willy’s, figuring we’d be able to people watch and enjoy better service while waiting for the band to start.  We were not disappointed.  Again, very light turn-out but we had a great time.

pineapple-willysKevin Jacobs was double-booked, so it was Brock & Brews but they were on their game, put on a great show and gave us plenty of dancing music.  Speaking of great shows, there was an “interesting” couple from the local area who aren’t bikers that like to come out when then bikers are in town: we’re thinking she was a bit of an exhibitionist and he encouraged it.  I’ll leave it alone at that other than to say the PG17 show certainly kept all of us and another couple we met from Kentucky entertained. We had a fantastic server — Keisha — and pretty much stayed until the band stopped playing around midnight.

We thought about stopping at Coyote Ugly on the way back to our condo, but the long day was taking its toll so we opted to call it a night.  A great end to a great day.

Friday’s report in Part II is HERE & Saturday’s report plus the ride home in Part III is HERE.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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4 Responses to Thunder Beach Fall Rally @ Panama City Beach… (Part I of III)

  1. Carrie Ann Byrne says:

    I love your your write-up!!! Loved our time spent with the four of you. I love PEOPLE and most of all making new friends. You all are the greatest and I Thank You for all joining us on a great, beautiful sunny day Saturday on our crazy, but fun adventures. The memories will last a lifetime!
    Carrie Ann

    • TG says:

      Thanks Carrie Ann; just can’t express how much we enjoyed meeting y’all and getting to visit a bit during the weekend. We look forward to having the opportunity to do so again. It was truly an amazing, chance encounter… and we’re so grateful that you reached out to us at Toucans!

  2. Cassandra Louise Kline says:

    You should be a professional writer, unless that IS what you are ;). I am a local here in PCB and stumbled upon this looking up cheap trick being cancelled.
    I am so happy you had a good time and hope you keep coming back. We look forward to bike week/thunder beach everytime. Not only do you bring the money here but it’s a great change of scenery compared to spring break and snow birds.
    My girlfriend, Nyci, works at The Wicked Wheel. Every night she came home from work she couldn’t stop saying how many great people she would meet there this weekend and how well she was treated. We love having you here.

    Thank you for visiting and we wish you well. Take care.

    – Cassandra & Nyci

    • TG says:

      I’m humbled and appreciate the kind words. Just a hack who uses my blog to clear my head and revisit special times with great people. That includes the many great folks who take care of us when we come to visit, especially the guys and gals who always greet us warmly at places like the Wheel, Willy’s, and the other great places in PCB. Can’t wait to make our way back again soon. May seems so awfully far away!

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