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

This is the third and final part of a three-part write-up on our trip down to Panama City Beach for the fall edition of Thunder Beach. You can find the first part HERE and the second part HERE.

Saturday @ Panama City Beach

Saturday had a more leisurely start than Friday.  We were both up fairly early, but decided to enjoy “being on vacation” and relaxed for an extra hour or so before Debbie headed to the beach and I headed down to remove the evening’s salt water dew from the Road King’s finish.

As I removed the salty & sandy water spots left by the dew I was quickly reminded why the finishes on motorcycles – and Harley’s in particular – don’t fare well in the salt-water environment near ocean & Gulf beaches.  In fact, one of the reasons I replaced the stock wheels on our Wide Glide with chrome Performance Machine mags was the beating the spokes took on our first trip to Panama City Beach: never could get all of the small corrosion spots off after that visit and was constantly having to re-polish them to keep it from getting any worse.  Thankfully, that was about the only permanent salt-air / water damage, as I was pretty good about keeping the rest of the bike cleaned-off during that and subsequent visits.

SDC10360 SDC11246

With the bike taken care of, I headed back to the room being mindful we’d need to make sure David & Deb were up, had breakfast and were ready to roll by around 9:45am, as we had decided to take up Bobby & Carrie Ann’s invitation to join the “Atlanta Crew” for their bi-annual “hippie/yuppy/hippie/biker bar tour” at 10:00am.

Beach Bar & PackageWe rolled-out promptly at 9:45am for the very short ride down to Beach Bar & Package where we found Bobby & Carrie Ann, Zach, Ryan & Jeanette, Jeff & Sharon and a few other members* of the Atlanta crew  relaxing on the patio.  Over the next 30 minutes or so, folks kicked off the tour with their first beverages of the day while waiting for a few of their other friends to arrive.  We had a good time getting introduced to their friends and learning a little more about each other: it was a very interesting collection of  friends. By 10:30am every one was pretty much accounted for either at the Beach Bar & Package or waiting to join the group as it headed west on US Route 98.

*Note: I have a really hard time with names, so my apologies for not remembering everyone by name: if it weren’t for FB & Debbie I’d be completely lost!

BUDALLEYWith kickstands up at 10:30am, it was a nice 28-mile ride over to the second stop on the tour at Bud & Alley’s Rooftop Bar in Seaside, Florida, the small resort town where “The Truman Show” had been filmed.  David, Deb, Miss Debbie and I had visited Seaside and Bud & Alley’s on a couple previous trips to PCB, so we were familiar with the lay of the land.  All told we had 17 folks in our party and God bless them, the folks at Bud & Alley’s were able to seat us as a group out on their deck without any wait.  We had a great time and continued to learn more about the Bobby, Carrie Ann & their friends while enjoying another beautiful, very warm day with a nice cooling breeze blowing across the deck.  I spent the majority of my time chatting with Chuck and his wife Julie while Debbie chatted with Bobby & Carrie Ann.


As noon approached we collected our bikes and made the very short 3-mile ride over to The Red Bar in Grayton Beach.  As we found places to park our bikes near The Red Bar we noticed a gal sitting on the porch at Shorty’s Surfside & Topside with her blue & yellow Macaw parrot perched on her shoulder.  It was a beautiful bird and clearly the center of attention for quite a few visitors.  Given we were all a bit hungry, we left the bird and her owners and made our way over to The Red Bar.


red-barOnce again, the very gracious and accommodating staff was able to quickly get most of us seated at one very large table and then, a short while later, seated the last four members of our party at a four-top across the aisle.  This was our lunch stop and, interestingly enough, The Red Bar is a cash-only operation: something you don’t usually find anymore.  Although, I’m pretty sure our beloved Red Eyed Mule was cash-only or Harley parts up and until just a few months ago.  The folks at The Red Bar did a great job of taking care of us and during lunch we were able to learn a bit more about another one of the couples in the group who live just over the hill from us in West Cobb.

An Oops: My alter ego as a tandem cycling enthusiast may have momentarily emerged at lunch, which is something I try to avoid with non-cyclists.  It just seems to work best to keep my hobbies compartmentalized as only a few motorcyclists are into bicycles. Of course, the same holds true going the other way: it’s very easy to turn-off a cyclist when you mention “Harley-Davidson” or motorcycles in general. So, my apologies for “going off the reservation” with the tandem stuff…  

Amazingly, I think Sharon — the unofficial accountant for the lunch tab — ended up being $12 over on cash collection after everyone threw-in for their portion of the bill, noting the overage would be applied to “refreshments” at the next stop, The Outpost.

As we all began to collect our bikes and gather in front of Shorty’s Surfside & Topside, the gal and her beautiful Macaw (Clarice?) had once again captured the attention and interest of several folks in our group who took turns getting photos with the beautiful parrot.   With the photos all taken, it was kickstands up for the 14-mile ride to The Outpost, which was the ultimate destination & main attraction of the semi-annual hippie/yuppy/hippie/biker bar tour.

As we headed north towards The Outpost it became pretty clear we were going to get wet, as the dark clouds ahead of and to our right were clearly connected to the ground by a solid grey sheet of rain.  Having left the windscreen on the Road King, we were in pretty good shape when we hit the rain as it really wasn’t all that heavy of a rainfall and was only with us for the last 3 miles of the ride.  It had clearly been raining at The Outpost for a while before we arrived and stopped just as quickly as it started, with the skies quickly clearing and giving us back a lovely afternoon with cooler temps than we’d had before the rain.

outpostThe Outpost for Bikers is one of those places that must be experienced as it’s just a bit too hard to accurately describe in mere words.  Moreover, the collection of people there were themselves hard to accurately describe other than to say it was a VERY diverse collection of folks who prefer biker bars to resort bars, clubs and restaurants.

The parking lot at the front of The Outpost was full when we arrived, so we followed our friends who knew the routine back into the RV camp ground that also served as the overflow parking lot: heck, they even provided nice, bright orange kickstand boards to make sure your jiffy stands didn’t sink into the wet ground.  The Outpost appears to be a collection of buildings that started off as a single home/bar with perhaps one outbuilding, then expanded to include a main bandstand, a series of covered pavilions and separate restroom adjacent to the bandstand, and then another pavilion with a raised platform for bands next to a floating dock that offered another place for guests to congregate.  The owner, Michael Mcginnis, is a US Army veteran who clearly loves running his little piece of paradise.  Everyone who was working at The Outpost was hustling and as friendly as can be.  Just looking around and checking out the different corners of the place, everyone kind of found their niche: the Georgia Bulldog fans were inside the bar watching the game, the oldest Vietnam vets were hanging out together, the motor-heads quickly gravitated towards the blown Bucket-T that rolled-in while we were there, and the various different “crews” like the Atlanta Crew that arrived together tended to hang together, with loners moving around from group to group.  The band that was playing when we arrived — The Bottoms Up Band — was really pretty good and the young kid playing the bass and doing the vocals had an amazing voice that belied his age.

For anyone who’d like a “virtual” visit to The Outpost, here’s a photo that’s linked to a  video on Michael Mcginnis’ (The Outpost’s co-owner) Facebook page that was shot this past weekend that starts off with the Bottom’s Up Band’s drummer signing “Heaven’s Door”, but that also pans around the upper part of the parking lot to give you an idea of what it’s like to be at The Outpost:

The Outpost

David & Deb decided to head back to PCB after we’d been there about an hour, which was about the same time that Carrie Ann got on stage to pitch her Coach Handbag raffle on behalf of her niece. Debbie jumped in and helped with the cash collections while Carrie Ann, Jeanette, Sandy, and others went out and began selling tickets, so we told David & Deb that we’d catch up back at the condo.  I think we stayed an extra 30 minutes or so before I decided that we’d reached a point where we either had to: (a) commit to remaining at The Outpost with the Atlanta Crew for the rest of the afternoon, or (b) head back to PCB to rejoin our friends David & Deb and develop a plan for the evening.  We opted for (b), so Debbie enlisted Julie (I think it was Julie) to mind the ‘cash register’ and then said our goodbyes to our new friends before heading out on the 36-mile ride back to PCB.  Next time, we’ll definitely be “all-in” and build our schedule around the trip to The Outpost should the opportunity arise now that we know a bit more about it.

Saturday's Ride

Once we got back to the condo, we found David & Deb relaxing and watching football with their feet up. Deb’s feet had swollen quite a bit and that was one of the reasons that they needed to head back when they did.  We short of chilled with them while also taking showers and getting cleaned-up for dinner and the evening ahead.  It actually felt good to be back in the comfort of our condo, enjoying their company, some college football and the great view of the Gulf from our balcony at Sterling Reef.  Oh yeah, more great weather!


Back Porch 10For our final night out, we headed down to Pier Park with the idea of trying out Hook’d Bar & Grill on the beach side of Front Beach Road.  However, as we were walking past The Back Porch I suddenly became inspired and said, “Let’s just go here.”  The upstairs part of the restaurant was closed, but we were able to find four seats at the bar… which is, after all, our favorite place to be when we’re out to eat!  Our bartender was Spike and we ended up having a really good time and very tasty meals: it was probably the best meal we had all weekend. David & Deb somehow conspired to steal the bill and treated us to dinner which was completely unnecessary but certainly appreciated.

lansing_mi_Rum_RunnersOur next stop was Rum Runners where we’d hope we’d timed it right so that we’d be able to enjoy their dueling pianos.  Well, it was a mixed bag, to be sure.  We found some seats at the bar and had a really good bartender taking care of us.  However, the entertainment ended up being a bust… yet again.  From 7:00pm – 8:00pm they had a solo guitar player/signer and he was very entertaining.  Things were definitely looking up as we approached the 8:00pm – 9:00pm “shift” with the piano gig.  However, only one of the two guys playing the piano was really good and his partner was clearly uninterested and didn’t add much to the act.  Without having two piano players of equal energy and talent, dueling pianos just doesn’t work and that was that.

saltygoatIt was still a bit early, so David, Deb and I all wanted to do something.  Miss Debbie was clearly still tired and while she was willing to stay out, she’d lost her spark.  We ended up stopping in at The Salty Goat Saloon which was a very different place than it had been when we’d last visited it as the Red Door Saloon and right after it first changed ownership last May and became The Salty Goat.  In its previous form, it was a place to hang out and watch college ball games with a little music playing over the sound system as background to the primary activity: hanging-out, relaxing and checking out the cruisers as they rode/drove by.  This time around The Goat had a live band as the center of attention and it really changed the vibe.  It was still a fun place to be, but it was a completely different experience.

Unfortunately, both Debbie and I failed to “maintain the buzz” while we were at The Outpost and never got it back.  Both of us “fell behind the buzz” as Debbie simply came out of the gate too quickly in the morning then peaked early and I never really “got there” at all, drinking mostly Diet Cokes all day.  So, with Debbie being a bit tired and me being a bit grumpy (that’s how we get when we fall behind), we never got into it at the Goat and as much as we wanted to go and kick up our heels and dance, we didn’t have a hot-clue what they were playing.  It sounded good, but was completely unfamiliar material.

We finally decided to head back to the condo a few minutes ahead of David & Deb.  I tested Debbie’s resolve one last time by asking if she wanted to go and check out either Pineapple Willy’s or Coyote Ugly to cap off our visit, but she was simply ready to head “home” to the condo, which we did. I think Debbie may have lasted all of about 5 minutes before she fell asleep on the couch. David & Deb came in a short time later and we all watched football for a while before I finally decided to pack it in, as I wanted us to be out of PCB before an expected morning rainfall hit around 8:00am.

So, we pretty much plateaued early on Saturday afternoon, but that was OK too; we’d had such a great time on Thursday through Saturday afternoon that it didn’t really matter or cast a cloud over our weekend.

The Ride Home on Sunday

We were up, packed and on the road by 7:00am (8:00am EDT) and it looked like our timing was pretty good, as we could clearly see heavy rain falling over the Gulf and to the east and west of PCB.


In fact, after we stopped for gas and a quick bite to eat at the gas station where Route 79 and 388 intersect, we could hear thunder and felt a few sprinkles of rain as we pulled back onto Route 79 headed north.  It was a bit overcast and cool for the first leg of the ride out to Chipley, but as we got closer to Dothan the sun came out and we had lovely weather all the way back to Atlanta.  And when I say “back to Atlanta” I mean it: I missed the I285 cut-off and ended up taking us through downtown Atlanta traffic, which was a bit different in a sucky way.  Just too many distracted drivers intermixed with people who either can’t drive or want to blast through town going 20mph faster than anyone else.

homeWe ended out trip the way we started it with a stop at Loco Willy’s.  Nothing like some really good hot wings, a cold Bud Light and the lovely Miss Debbie at my side after a 900-mile, 4-day trip to the Gulf for bike week.

Can’t wait for the next opportunity to meet up with our friends and/or the next road trip for more great times.  We’re definitely ready to go at the drop of a hat!  Of course, that said, we have a tandem rally in two weeks and then family coming to town the first weekend in November, so that doesn’t leave much time for a motorcycle adventure before the temps begin to drop into heated clothing range.



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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