Saturday morning was essentially a repeat of Friday: we were both up at 7:00am and on the beach walking by 7:30am. However, it was a much prettier morning with lovely blue skies and no haze. Our legs were a little sore from Friday’s walk but we still maintained our same 20-minute per mile pace and were back at our condo by 8:15.
Breakfast followed back upstairs with me once again enjoying a steak muffin and Debbie having her yogurt. The plan of the day called for meeting at ‘The Liq’ around 10:30am and then kick stands up at 11:00am for the ride west to Seaside and Grayton Beach and then inland to the Outpost for Bikers in Freeport for Jeff & Sharon’s Yuppie, Hippie, Redneck Biker Bar ride.
As always The Liq provided a nice place to start the day since it has some of the best Bloody Mary’s and other frozen concoctions in PCB. Debbie had her Mudslide which put her in very good spirits for the rest of the morning. There was some group photo taking and the usual socializing and as 11:00am came the group began to get ready to head out.
When Jeff checked the GPS and traffic info it became clear traffic in and around PCB was already at an absolutely standstill on every road headed west. He concluded our best option was to go directly to Back Beach / Route 98 and deal with the PCB Harley-Davidson dealership traffic and potential back-up near Frank Brown Park vs. taking Front Beach or attempting back streets with 15 motorcycles in tow. After a fairly quick merge onto Route 98 we found ourselves at a standstill for a few moments in several places but generally kept on creeping along.Carrie Ann kept us entertained as we crept along and then traffic finally began to move pretty well once we were past the PCB Harley Dealer. As an observation I’ll be darned if I know why traffic was so backed up as there weren’t too many people queuing to enter the dealership or waiting to exit. I’m left to assume it was the overwhelming law enforcement presence with lots of flashing lights, warning signs and traffic control barriers that was creating the log jam, more so than visitors.
We eventually reached a Wells-Fargo bank at the far-end of PCB where we’d be meeting up with Cricket & Rich and Hielle & her friend Marwan. We probably spent a good 40 minutes at the bank, during which time Debbie had a ride on the back of Ryan’s Harley Ultra Glide: she was liking the very luxurious passenger back rest a lot more than she thought she would. I had the pleasure of having Jeanette hop on Blue for a ride back to the bank from the Publix where several folks took advantage of the facilities. Debbie said she still prefers the minimal backrest on Blue vs. the big top case and backrest on the full-up touring bikes but we’ll see. She was definitely napping for about 15 minutes during our ride down on Thursday and that’s a lot easier (and safer) when you have the top case and lazy-boy lounge chair support on the big touring rigs.
It must have been shortly after noon when we rolled out of the bank and made the 30 minute / 12 mile ride over to Bud & Alley’s in Seaside. The ride over was somewhat slowed-down by an oversize transport load that was ahead of us on County Route 30A, but it was still a pleasant ride. After arriving in the center of Seaside and finding parking spaces for the 13 or so motorcycles in our group we headed to Bud & Alley’s rooftop bar but found it was (a) crowded and (b) would therefore take too long to get refreshments. Option B was heading to the atrium and getting our refreshments at Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar; it was the right call. While I missed seeing the coastline from the rooftop bar, the shade, comfortable seats and nice breeze blowing through the atrium – never mind the fast service – made for a very nice stop.
As we left Seaside for Grayton Beach our group included all of the usual suspects plus a few more: Mark & Debbie, Bobby & Carrie Ann, David & Deb, Robert & Pam, Cricket & Rich, Ryan & Jeanette, Patti, Sharon & Jeff, Cowboy, Jeff & Chris and Hielle & Marwan.
Our reservation for 20 or so at the Red Bar was originally for 1:15pm, but was slipped to 1:45pm given our somewhat lengthy trip out of PCB. We were seated just a few minutes after arriving in a nice back room area at two large tables which worked out pretty well. Debbie and I had some out-of-this-world smoked tuna dip and split the equally delicious grilled fish sandwich. In addition to having a great time and good food with great friends at the Red Bar we had an added treat when Cowboy learned the co-owner’s daughter, Sara, was our very efficient waitress. Sara offered to fetch her dad, Oliver, to come and meet our group.
It was a short time later when the towering figure with the beaming smile that is Oliver entered the backroom and introduced himself. We had a great time learning about him, the Red Bar, some of the décor, the live music, etc. It really made the visit far more interesting and special than just dropping by to have lunch, and therein lies the value of having a business owner who is on the premises and fully engaged with his clients and their dining experience. I’m big into that, i.e., that’s why we frequent certain places almost exclusively back at home. For those who may not be familiar with the Red Bar, here’s a nice short summary from a travel site’s article on the Red Bar:
Technically, it’s called “Picolo’s Restaurant and Red Bar,” but most know it by the simple “Red Bar” moniker. The one-time general store is owned by Belgian-born brothers Oliver and Phillipe Petit, who modeled the funky decor on a nightclub their father once owned in Leige, Belgium. Foreign film posters and Christmas lights dominate the main dining room, with street signs, photos, statuettes and mismatched tables and chairs taking up most of the remaining available space. Oliver Petit calls it his “tribute to pop culture.”
Oliver was kind enough to send a Belgian Waffle with strawberries and whipped cream to our group after Sharon asked why he didn’t have waffles on the menu. As you can see in the photo of Sharon’s hubby, Jeff, standing next to the daily-drawn menu, they do in fact have waffles! The waffles made for great fun. Well, OK… the whipped cream made for great fun and the waffles w/strawberries, syrup and whipped cream made for a yummy snack!
Before riding away from Grayton Beach Carrie Ann organized what ended up being a smaller than usual group photo. In the interest of time – noting we were running way behind schedule – we skipped the long hike to the beach by the larger group and settled for a small group with Grayton Beach in the background for this year’s photo and, no, I still haven’t seen that one yet. However, rest assured as more photos from PCB emerge they’ll make their way to the blog for posterity sake.
I want to say it was around 4:00pm when we arrived at the Outpost for Bikers in Freeport. Prime time for the Outpost is more like 2:30 and you could see from the number of bikes and empty seats under the shelters that the crowd had thinned-out (or may have never been all that big). The band on stage seemed like a group who get together but aren’t all that well rehearsed and the vibe of the Outpost just seemed to be a bit off from past visits. However, our group led by Carrie Ann quickly rose to the challenge of having a grand time and creating excitement where it was lacking. Lots of photo ops and shenanigans were the order of the afternoon, along with some afternoon refreshments. Debbie and I were doing water and Diet Coke by this time as we truly needed hydration more so than libation. I was somewhat surprised there weren’t as many vendors selling wares at the Outpost as in past year, noting we picked up a really nice pair of leather hot pants for Debbie during our last visit. I also didn’t see Mike McGinnis running around making sure everything was as it should. Turns out, Mike retired from his position as Manager of the Outpost for Bikers in early April. I’m thinking we could tell and I now worry a bit as Mike did a phenomenal job of running the place for the past 10 years. We’ll see what happens going forward.
It was about 5:15pm or so when I started to feel like it was time to head back to PCB. It would take us at least an hour to get back to either our condo or Lucky 13 where most folks were targeting as our next destination. There were a couple of false starts to head out and Debbie and I finally decided the only way we’d truly be able to get folks motivated would be to simply get on our bike and begin to head out. Sure enough, it had the desired effect. Carrie Ann halted our departure and rallied the rest of the group to their bikes and a short time later we were on our way back to PCB with the entire group. For some strange reason our friend Ryan felt compelled to shed his shirt during the ride back: good thing we had on sunglasses as his torso clearly hadn’t seen a ray of sunshine in quite some time!
As we reached PCB’s western city limits Jeff made a detour into Frank Brown Park so he could see about having LEDs from Custom Dynamics installed on his bike. They were covered up with other customers when he first made the attempt on Thursday afternoon. Although Debbie was anxious to get back to the condo, I was able to coax her into doing a little shopping as she was in need of something fun to wear for our final night in PCB, as most of her fun stuff – leather halters and vests – didn’t get packed for this trip. After striking out at a couple places we stumbled into a small vendor’s tent with several very cute bustiers and other fashion apparel that definitely piqued her interest. Debbie became Debbie again as she began to try on some of the very flattering tops. After trying on a ½ dozen different tops and a skirt we finally settled on two bustiers and a third fashion top: a great way to close out Debbie Fest on the final day of April.
With her new acquisitions in hand, we headed back to find our friends by the motorcycle parking area and learned we’d be going directly to the Lucky 13 venue instead of returning to the condo. We were OK with that as Debbie now had just the right top to wear for the evening. With a little help from me we were able to pull off a wardrobe change in the grassy field that doubled as a motorcycle parking area and joined our friends for the thankfully short ride to Lucky 13: traffic was decidedly well down from what we saw earlier in the day.
When we arrived at the Lucky 13 venue we could see some of the vendors were already beginning to break down their displays, a clear indication bike week was drawing to a close. While we waited for the featured band, No Sweat, to come on at 8:00pm we wandered around the vendor area just to stretch our legs and see if anything caught our eye. As I was looking around I suddenly remembered both Jeff & Sharon and David & Deb had new motorcycles and may or may not have received guardian bells for those bikes. We found two that resonated with me – a Calypso themed bell for Jeff & Sharon who live on a like and a bell with Celtic crosses for David & Deb – and would then see if they had received bells when we next saw them. We ran into Jeff & Sharon about 15 minutes later, confirmed they had not yet been “belled” and then presented them with the guardian bell. We found some leather strapping, borrowed a knife and attached it to their bike right then and there.
We wandered around the vendor area a bit longer looking at boots, etc., and then headed over to Sharky’s to see how the crowd was shaping up for the Mustang Sally gig at 9:00pm. Sharky’s wasn’t exactly slammed, but there was a good-size crowd forming. We decided to check out another women’s apparel vendor just outside the entrance to Sharky’s and found Tobi Lee from Mustang Sally there with the owner talking possible wardrobe options for tonight’s show. We said hello, told her we enjoyed last night’s show, etc., and then let her get on her way. The gal had some really nice, high-end boots from Corral, Lane and others for sale but they were fairly pricey for a bike week vendor booth. Since none of the boots really rocked Debbie’s world we kept on going and made our way back to the Lucky 13 as No Sweat was about to come on.
There was an odd vibe at the big tent as our group of friends was somewhat fragmented with a few folks up front, others in the back and others off wandering around. We visited with the groups in front & back, got up and danced to the second tune No Sweat played but to be honest, it didn’t seem like No Sweat was fully on their game. It almost seemed like they were playing without monitors and just not able to hear themselves and adjust their pitch or stay in sync. Then again, I believe they may have been pulling a double-gig, having played during the afternoon when they were scheduled to play and then covering for another band that didn’t make for the evening. That would be a tall order as they always play and sing hard during their gigs and would definitely need some recovery time that they probably didn’t get.
We decided to pull the plug on Lucky 13 and headed off to check-out Pineapple Willy’s as they were actually open this year and had moved back to having a rock & roll cover band booked for bike week. Regular readers will recall Pineapple Willy’s used to be THE place to go for us at PCB when the Jacob, Brock & Brews Band was at the top of their game and gave us an outlet for our dance fever. However, something changed with the band and they eventually were replaced by a DJ spinning Country-Pop and it completely changed / killed the fun vibe Willy’s had. Last fall, the darn place was actually closed. So, we were hopeful the band Kickstand Jenny would put on a good show and the crowd would be up dancing.
As we pulled in the lot it was far from being full, but there were probably 30 or 40 motorcycles there and at least a few dozen cars, a far cry from the day when there’d be several hundred motorcycles and a full vendor village in the parking lot back in 2011 and 2012. As we walked in it was an odd crowd: about ½ bikers – mostly older and sedentary – and several tables filled with 20-30 year old women, i.e., girl’s night out groups???? As we wandered towards the front of the room in search of an empty pair of seats the band launched into Prince’s song Purple Rain and we immediately hit the dance floor. As we danced we thought we scored a front row table as a very inebriated looking couple appeared to have left for the evening. The band went on break after Purple Rain and I self-bussed the table as it was littered with empty bottles, cups and trash and then we took the back two seats as we waited for the break to end.
Much to my amazement, the couple came back but invited us to stay with them when we offered to leave. They were a cute couple in the 40’s but clearly in need of Uber; amazingly, they continued to drink for another hour! We were able to get some pretty good fish dip as our dinner and got in a few more dances before calling it a night around midnight. Kickstand Jenny & Willy’s were definitely catering to the “girl’s night out” crowd which had its own, interesting (and sometimes annoying) vibe. Sure do miss the old Willy’s scene with Jacob & Brock!
When we returned to the condo and checked our IM’s we found our condo companions were somewhat dispersed. Bobby was on the patio at the condo, Carrie Ann and Tom were at the Edgewater Shopping Center getting pizza, and I believe Ryan & Jeanette were back at the Mehdi Sports Bar with some of the other folks from our larger group. Given we’d be heading home around 8:30am in the morning, we just called it a night.
Another great day spent with friends that included a wonderful walk on the beach, a little riding, a great lunch, carousing, shopping and thankfully dancing!
Sunday & The Ride Home:
We both slept well and were up with the sun around 6:00am. Given we were anticipating an 8:30am departure, we don’t usually plan for a walk on the beach on get-away day and just had a relaxing breakfast before turning our attention to packing up and loading the bike for the trip home.
By 8:00am I had the Accessory That Shall Remain Nameless (ATSRN) set-up and packed with all of our gear and, as I did for the trip down, had our rain gear close at hand as the forecast back at home still included rain and thundershowers. Carrie Ann ran out to get breakfast biscuits for everyone and I was reminded of how thankful I am we’ve learned to bring our own breakfast foods when we travel: eating from the Hampton Inn breakfast bar in Daytona cured us of sausage, buttery biscuits and other foods that no longer sit well with us.
Our departure time slipped from 8:30am to about 9:00am which still wasn’t too late; although 8:00am would have been ideal! My suggestion based on everyone having at least ½ a tank of gas was to target Chipley for the first stop as it was an hour / 55-miles into the ride home, just about the right time for a rest-stop. With that, it was suggested that I go ahead and lead-out the group, something I’ve done with this group a handful of times on the trips through Old Panama City to Mexico Beach and back. I agreed to do so but for complete transparency I should probably volunteer I’m always on the fence when it comes to acting as the road captain / ride leader since I know how I like to ride and can’t always do so when trying to keep a larger group of motorcycles together and moving along smoothly. Here’s why if you’re interested and please feel free to skip this sidebar:
Part of this comes from my background in that I learned to ride in my early teens on dirt bikes doing off-road enduro and trails and spent 35 years exclusively riding sport bikes and sport touring bikes which is where I gained the vast majority of my group riding experience.
More to the point, there’s a motorcycle riding technique called “The Pace” that was coined and articulated by Nick Ienatsch back in 1991 that I’ve always subscribed to as best as I can and it becomes a challenge to do that when the following bikes on a group ride aren’t riding tight, have riders who want to lead from the middle or back and/or get strung out over the length of a football field. I find this to be more common in group rides with the heavy touring and cruisers, something I’m gaining experience with and trying to adapt to but am still struggling a bit with.
For example, on the first leg to Chipley I found as I pushed past 65 mph to the 70’s the gap between our bike and the next two trailing bikes would open up quite a bit. Pushing 80 mph created even a bigger gap to where it was hard to know where our group ended and trailing vehicles began… never mind being able to execute a proper lane change since a huge gap between vehicles in the next lane over would be needed to keep from breaking up the group. I should note that as a general rule I try to be very situationally-aware by looking well-ahead and well-behind my position on the road and knowing how the vehicles around me are behaving. I’ also make of point of trying not to sit in the left-hand (aka., passing) lane when driving or riding when I know there are vehicles coming up from behind who want to run faster than I do; hey, it happens. So, I’m sure there were a few lane changes I made that may have seemed unnecessary when I thought we were holding up other traffic and attempted to clear the left lane so they could get by without having to pass on the right. Perhaps I over think this stuff, but I do try to be a responsible and considerate ride leader who minimizes churn within the group and creating angst with the other motorists around us.
We had a little drama on the first leg when I saw Cowboy coming up alongside us in the on-coming lane with his flashers going. After finding a safe place where we could pull off and stop we learned one of the bikes in our group had to make an unplanned rest stop off the back of the group. Normally I expect a rider to move up to the front to let me know they need to stop, so I was thinking someone had a mechanical when we first stopped. Again, thankfully it only turned out to be an emergency nature break and we were quickly back on our way into Chipley. Not a big deal, but as the ride leader it was the source of a little added anxiety that was quickly met with relief.
Once we jumped on Route 431 I opted to go with a speed of about 75 mph which seemed to be very consistent with most of the vehicles around us and minimized the number of lane changes or speed adjustments I’d need to make to keep our group together with reasonable spacing. There were a couple of smaller groups of motorcycles who would see-saw past us all the way up to Eufaula who didn’t quite know how to anticipate the flow of traffic as we got in to Dothan’s bypass or simply didn’t use cruise control on the open road to maintain their speed. We’d pass them after they made a poor lane choice and then 10 to 15 minutes later they’d go past us doing 80-85 only to lose all the ground they gained when their pace slowed or they were caught at a stoplight in the next small town we’d come upon. The latter underscores how sometimes you’re just better off being the tortoise instead of the hare: it’s only on the really long, non-stop trips with splash-and-go gas stops you can make up useful chunks of time.
Anyway, that’s my take on it all and I probably need to ask for some feedback from our friends on what the liked or didn’t like about our lead-out on this trip. After all, at least for me, I find being the road captain / ride leader carries with it a very high task load makes the ride a lot more stressful and tiring than simply riding alone or even riding in the pack, unless the person doing the leading makes a lot of lane changes and abrupt speed adjustments or riders ahead of me allow huge gaps to open that break up the group or cause the ride tempo to surge and wallow.
More than you wanted to know…
I should note our friends David & Deb and Robert & Pam were apparently never too far behind us leaving Panama City Beach, as they arrived for lunch in Eufaula about 10 minutes after we did. They stopped at the Subway where Debbie & I would normally stop when riding alone or with David & Deb, whereas the Arby’s a mile down the road seems to be the preferred lunch stop for our other friends. After hearing that David, Deb, Robert & Pam were finishing up their lunch about the same time that we were we went ahead and delayed our departure an extra 10 minutes or so to let them join our group for the next leg of the journey up to the Columbus, Georgia area. We “bell’d” David & Deb’s new motorcycle when they arrived, as it was the first time we’d seen them since buying the bells on Saturday night.
I gladly relinquished my road captain / rider leader duties for the next leg as the route we’d be taking is still not one I’ve fully warmed-up to. When we go it alone we tend to stay on route 431 and deal with the ubiquitous traffic delay in Phenix City whereas our friends have found the 12-mile longer route through Georgia on GA-27 to GA-280 into Fort Benning and the Veterans Parkway / GA-85 is a far more rural, easier and scenic ride.
I think it’s the very remote nature of the route that doesn’t hold much appeal for me. I don’t mind being in the middle of nowhere when we’re just out exploring, but when we’re on a trip and want to get from point A to point B I like to have routine access to support from passing motorists and service stations located every few miles along the route. But, that’s just me. Again, I’m very OCD when it comes to trip planning.
With a new ride leader in place, we headed off from Eufaula to the east on route 82 into Georgia, then north on GA-27. Bobby lifted the pace to about 80 mph on the undulating, two-lane country roads which matched the speed of the only vehicle that was in front of us all the way to GA-280. It was along this stretch of road when I began to be acutely aware we were being attacked by some kind of nasty pollen: my throat and sinuses were raw and I was starting to rethink my decision to stick with a ½ helmet vs. putting on our full-face helmets for the ride home. I love having the wind in my face, but when its carrying water, dirt or pollen the charm is quickly lost!
Shortly after we turned onto GA-280 headed into to Columbus our friend Tom moved up to the front of the group and signaled for Bobby to pull-off in the left-hand turn lane of an upcoming crossroad. We were at a loss as to why we stopped and after a momentary pause in the left-hand turn lane we were suddenly and inexplicably making a U-turn. I first thought we lost a rider somewhere but after doing a quick bike count I could see everyone was still with us. My next thought – lacking any additional information – was Tom had dropped something. As we headed back the way we’d just came and took a turn on an unfamiliar road I then began to assume Tom knew a shortcut Bobby was unaware of. Needless to say, my anxiety-level was running high given I really didn’t have a hot clue why we were suddenly off-course and still moving along at an urgent pace in the wrong direction as the total focus and objective for today’s ride as to get our butts home while avoiding bad weather.
After being off-route for 8 miles we suddenly slowed down and made a left-hand turn into the entrance to the Providence Canyon State Park. My heightened level of anxiety quickly turned into disbelief: “OMG, we’ve just gone on an impromptu field trip! Are you kidding me?”
Needless to say, we and the folks on four other motorcycles – David & Deb, Robert & Pam, Jeff & Chris and Allan – were really not thrilled with the surprise side-trip and parted company with our other friends instead of joining them for a quick ride into the park and short break to enjoy the spectacular view of Georgia’s little canyon.
In retrospect a few thoughts came to mind on the latter experience:
- That there was an opportunity to take a short side trip is not a bad thing and I’m thankful folks like Tom are always on alert for those little opportunities; life is usually made a little better when you take a moment to stop and smell the roses or take in a short detour to enrich your understanding or appreciation for something.
- However, when participating in a group ride with a clearly defined plan, any potential change to that plan MUST be discussed with the people who will be impacted by the change in plans as everyone may not be aware of other commitments, plans or expectations the other riders have factored into their decision to ride as part of a group.
- Moreover, it is equally important that everyone in a group be made aware of what’s happened whenever there is a need to make an unplanned stop. Keeping others informed and situationally aware is of paramount importance when riding as a group, remembering that trust is always the hardest thing to earn and the easiest thing to lose when you’re placing your safety and well-being in the hands of your riding companions.
- Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) is more than a marketing technique, it manifests itself in everyday life and sends our hearts and minds racing often times in unhealthy directions. The FUD-Factor was extremely high during our unexplained side trip and as a consequence I know I did not react in a measured or reasonable manner and said things that — while sincere at that moment — probably didn’t need to be said after realizing the true nature of the urgent change in plan.
- Cleary, if the group had been consulted when it first came to a stop it could have easily been a win-win for everyone. For those who weren’t schedule-driven – for whatever reason – the side-trip would have been an fun and interesting hour-long distraction during an otherwise mundane point-to-point ride. For those who had but one thing on their mind – getting to their destination and or dodging adverse weather – they would have continued on their way without undue delay.
- Therefore, the teachable moment here is “communicate, communicate, communicate” and never assume too much when participating in a group ride.
For the five bikes that skipped the canyon visit, we proceeded back to Atlanta with renewed urgency and perhaps a bit of angst still churning away in our gut. I finally began to deal with mine when we stopped for fuel at the GA-27 intersection with GA-280 in Cusseta, Georgia. I took a small shot of tequila to settle my emotions, gave Miss Debbie a hug and a kiss and shortly thereafter gave her a loving squeeze and she did likewise as we motored on towards home. At that point, all was right with the world again.
David & Deb ended up taking the lead for the majority of the ride back to Atlanta and thankfully we encountered very little traffic along the way. We had a few spots where negotiating lane positioning with both slower-moving and way-faster moving vehicles screwed us up but nothing that couldn’t be managed. We’d forewarned our riding companions – Allen and Jeff & Chris – that three of us – Mark & Debbie, David & Deb and Robert & Pam – would be exiting I-85 at the Palmetto, Georgia exit and taking the secondary roads back to our homes in West Cobb County. Jeff & Chris opted to follow-our lead as they live out our way whereas Robert & Pam would be going back to David & Deb’s house where their truck and motorcycle trailer were waiting to be loaded-up so they could try to get home to South Carolina ahead of the bad weather.
I will say, it was so good to get off of the Freeway and back onto lovely, tree-covered, two-lane roads for the final 40-mile stretch of our ride. Jeff & Chris were both at our mercy as we were taking them to corners of Lithia Springs they didn’t know existed. However, we successfully got them onto familiar turf before we had to part ways for our home stretch.
We’d normally ride directly to Loco Willy’s for dinner after our PCB trip but given there was clearly rain and stormy weather all around us – being thankful we somehow missed it – we opted to head directly home and then take the truck over to Willy’s. As we got the motorcycle put into the garage and switched over to the truck we could see message traffic coming in from our other friends who were about 40 minutes behind us and several of them – Ryan & Jeanette, Patti, Bobby & Carrie Ann and Cowboy – would be joining us and David & Deb over at Locos for a post ride meal.
We snagged the large table at Willy’s and were joined shortly after we arrived by David & Deb: it felt good to be “home again” at Willy’s. A short time later the rest of our friends began to arrive and pretty much picked up the good times where they left off in PCB. It was a great end to a great trip and we remain ever-thankful we are blessed to have such good friends.
Post Script on Thunder Beach:
I’m pretty sure we saw a much smaller turn-out in Panama City Beach for Thunder Beach in much the same way Bike Week in Daytona did.
As we rode down to PCB on Thursday we saw very few motorcycles on the road compared to our first trips down in the fall of 2011 and spring and fall 2012. In fact, the number motorcycles likely being hauled in trailers easily outnumbered the number of motorcycles being ridden.
Venues and vendors also seemed to be significantly reduced in number. One of the largest venues at Edgewater is gone. The Boardwalk was a ghost town compared to past years. Pineapple Willy’s vendor area vaporized two years ago. There are easily ½ as many vendors at Frank Brown as there were five years ago. While Lucky 13 seems to have become the beneficiary of consolidation, the net seems to be down.
However — and as mentioned in both Part I and Part II — what’s interesting is when we encountered massive traffic snarls on Front & Back Beach during our visit to Panama City Beach the number of cars, trucks and golf carts clogging the roads seemed disproportionately larger than the number of motorcycles. But, when we went into restaurants and venues they were with few exceptions (e.g., Sharky’s for Mustang Sally & Tootsies) not all that busy or filled with guests. The latter suggests to me a lot of the people who are out on the street are from the local area or visitors who are in PCB for reasons unrelated to bike week.
Are these additional signs that motorcycle rallies and bike week events as we know them are now in steady decline after reaching their peak just a few years back?