Approaching Myrtle Beach in S. Carolina from the north on Rte 17 after having traveled down the Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras in N. Carolina the scenery change was dramatic.Ã The Banks featured endless elongated sand dunes on both sides of the road and sometimes spilling over onto the road with continuous beaches behind, showing only negligible signs of human civilization. The scenery was transformed jarringly upon entering Myrtle Beach, into more congested and commercialized beach front resort living with restaurant and motel chains galore. That was not unexpected but one, as it turns out, very significant shift in the scenery caught us totally off guard. It began many miles north as very gradually the roadways began filling with roaring motorcycles, their usually male riders, frequent female passengers and most noticeably, the simulated garb and appearance once associated with" Marlon Brando", "Heavy Metal" music and "S & M". Sometimes alone, frequently in pairs and eventually in packs of several dozen they filled the lanes and the ear drums of the occupants of four wheel vehicles in all directions.
As we later learned, we were about to be absorbed by an amoebic like "Bikers Rally" scheduled for the next two weeks at Myrtle Beach, our very destination for the next few days. Depending on who we spoke to the estimates were that anywhere between 40,000 and 300,000 bikers from all over the country would show during that period. And show they did. Everyone has seen groups of motorcycles parked at the ready, outside local bars everywhere, but it's not the same when you drive down the street and virtually every parking lot, restaurant, bar, supermarket and even Wal Mart are packed, end to end uninterruptedly with a colorful array of shiny metallic powerful bikes lined up cheek by jowl, all pointed in exactly the same direction, like seagulls standing in the sand at a beach, all facing directly into the wind. Seeing them like that, en masse, was truly impressive. Bikes by the thousands lose their individual distinctiveness and become united into something organic, a single mass, that was simply awesome. Which for me, raised a very practical question. After a few drinks at one of the many "watering holes" how, in Gods name did they ever find their own bike? I have trouble finding my car in parking lots with numbered rows.
We were shortly to learn in this instance that the outer appearances associated with this rally were just that, only appearances . We met and had a chance to speak with three of the bikers over the course of our stay.
One biker from a neighboring town to us, Enfield Ct. was here with his wife of twelve years. We met them at a local scenic park, featuring what was referred to as "sculptured leave oaks". Both these hard assed overweight bikers smiled broadly and, as it turned out, lived very ordinary lives. For them, the rally was just a vacation destination. A second biker was equally non descript, a senior citizen long retired from the navy, he used to live in Myrtle Beach and now returns only to attend these rallies and revisit sites and friends in the area.
Well, I thought, these guys certainly didn't fit the menacing image bikers like to project perhaps my choices did not truly represent the sinister members comprising the mass, so I was on the lookout for someone a little more ferocious. It didn't take long to recognize the real thing when I encountered Jamil. Better than six feet tall and built like a halfback at the peak of his career. He was black, mean looking and his over sized well formed head was clean shaven. His sleeveless shirt revealed a massive muscular upper arm sporting several ominous and mysterious appearing tattoos symbolizing something truly sinister. There were no arrow piercing hearts or messages to mom to be found. People of good judgment, in the buffet restaurant, made way as he approached. He seemed not to notice anyone as he proceeded, with what I presumed was his tenacious search for red meat.
"How you doin, you here for the rally?" I said. That was all it took to reach into his soul. His life story poured forth. Jamil was from D.C., not the city, but a small suburb just outside. He works for the water company and hates the traffic but particularly the crime in and around the city. His wife is in business for herself running a children's day care center. He owns a Harley, not your run of the mill variety but the 100th anniversary edition. He picked it up for $19,000 and could always sell it for at least $17,000. It was an investment that would most likely appreciate. He comes from a family of eleven kids in which he is the youngest. Then he proceeded to introduce me to his equally friendly and forthcoming brother who is the oldest sibling and who has been attending these rallies for far longer than he cares to remember. Neither of them like to go to the bars drinking with other bikers. Then they showered me alternately with jokes about drunk bikers, none of them very flattering. For both of them this was, among other things, an opportunity to get away from their disapproving wives.
So much for the common stereotypes of bikers.