TOM BRYANT: Rain Can't Dampen Motorcyclists' Enthusiasm at Beach
About the time spring tree leaves are as big as they're going to get, usually around mid-May, I have to hitch up the little Airstream trailer and hit the road.
Destination on this impromptu camping trip: Huntington Beach, S.C., a great place to escape the rat race of everyday living.
The beach is a state park maintained meticulously by the park rangers and volunteer workers. Open year-round, its wild undeveloped beach is a step back in time to the days before high-rise condos and side-by-side tacky tourist traps.
Located just above Litchfield Beach and right across from Brookgreen Gardens, the drive into the park meanders through huge ancient live oaks, myrtle bushes and palmetto trees.
A causeway cuts across to the island, separating the tidal marsh from a fresh water pond. Alligators love the pond and can be seen sunning on several little sandbars. Water birds of all types use the habitat, and it's a perfect spot for bird watchers to pursue their hobby.
We discovered this state park several years back, and it has become one of our favorite destinations. The campsites are shady, and the beach access walkway snakes through well-established thickets of myrtle bushes. The area looks today just as it must have 100 years ago.
The week that we were there helped me understand a phenomenon that I had been wondering about for years: motorcycles and motorcycle rallies or meets or gatherings or whatever they call them.
This was the Harley Davidson week-long celebration at Myrtle Beach, and bikers and their molls were thicker than a hoard of locusts. It amazed me to see all these people suffering through the loud noise, wet weather, and burning sun, when it was out. Were they having a good time? What was I missing?
My bride and camping mate, Linda, was recovering from an ankle break and was semi-mobile with a hard boot on her foot. I didn't want to leave her, so fishing was out as was beach walking (despite her protests that I go on off without her). Down the road from our campsite were several cyclists. Maybe a little visit would give me an opportunity to figure out who these people are. So one evening just before supper and right at the cocktail hour, I ventured up to the Harley camp to see if I could make a little conversation.
I made the walk with just a little trepidation, remembering the old movies starring Marlon Brando and the reputation of motorcycle gangs. Well, if they aren't friendly I'll just keep on walking, I thought to myself.
There were three or four bikers standing under a makeshift rain tarp. It had been raining off and on all day. On the trip down, we had passed numerous cyclists trying to stay dry, parked under overpasses.
"Hey, fellows. Y'all staying dry?"
They laughed and one of them said, "We're giving up on it today. How you doing?" He was a big guy and had on a jean jacket with the sleeves cut out. He looked as if he could star in a Hells Angels movie.
"I'm fine, a little dryer than you folks, I guess. Where y'all from?"
"Orangeburg. We're here for the rally."
I walked up to the camp and shook hands with the big 'un. 'I'm not interrupting anything, I hope."
"Naw, man. Make yourself at home. You want something to drink?"
"Thanks, but I've got to get back and fix supper in a few minutes."
We had a great conversation. I learned that the big guy was a high school teacher, and his buddies included a car dealer, an insurance salesman, and a stockbroker. The stockbroker said he had plenty of time to ride his bike, thanks to the economy.
They were nice people, in their '50s and 60s'. I learned that they were respectable hard-working folks who had a love affair with their motorcycles, and not just any motorcycle, but a Harley Davidson. We chatted a little bit. I wished them well and went back to my camp.
Later that week, as we headed home, it started raining again. We pulled up to a stoplight, and a motorcycle pulled up right beside us. A big burly fellow with tattoos was driving, and a young blond girl was riding behind him. The rain was pouring.
The young lady looked over at me with a grimace and wrung water from her blonde tresses, and they roared off. It reminded me of a friend's statement after a weekend of partying prior to dove season.
"Tom, I don't know how much more of this fun I can stand."
I believe the little lady on that motorcycle would have agreed with him.
More like this story