Monday, June 8, 2015

Thunder Beach - my experience at a biker con

Some of you may know that my husband, Handsome Jack, is a motorcycle enthusiast. Scratch that. He’s obsessed with bikes. We got him his first motorcycle about two years ago and he now rides his bike everywhere. We live in GA where you can get away with riding year round (as long as you don’t mind layering up with heated gear – which Handsome Jack does not mind doing).

I don’t love the risk he takes by getting on the bike but I love him and how happy he is when he rides. So I forced him to take a safety course and buy all the special armored gear to protect him in case he crashes.

And for a while, riding alone was enough for him. Then he wanted me to ride along. Ultimately, he decided to seek friends with a similar motorcycle addiction and ended up joining a riding club (which I lovingly call his biker gang friends – even though they are not a gang at all).

The club goes to a rally every year, as bikers are want to do, and their rally is Thunder Beach at Panama City Beach, Florida. This year I decided to tag along.

Now, first things first, I drove the support vehicle. I couldn’t manage the six hour ride on the back of a bike. I’m just not there yet.

On the way down I was blown away by how many bikes I saw on the road. I saw more bikes on the road to Florida than I’d ever seen before.

I was impressed by how coordinated the ride was. The club rode in a staggered side-by-side formation and used hand signals to indicate merging, turns, road hazards, etc. Watching anything that coordinated is impressive.

Once we arrived I was blow away. Bikers had overrun the place. The entire first level of the parking garage for the condo we stayed in was dedicated to parking bikes. And unlike cars, you can cram several bikes into one parking spot. So in our parking deck alone there were over two hundred bikes. Every hotel on Front Beach Road (the main drag in PCB) was pretty much catering to bikers. The parking lots were sectioned off with signs that read Bikes Only.

Now, you might imagine a place full of rough bikers would be gross/manly/mean/ignorant/drunk/inappropriate/inser-negative-sterotype-here. And you wouldn’t be alone. But the group I was with, and the bikers I encountered, were all wonderful people who just really enjoy bikes. We chatted with strangers while standing in line for a food, when stuck side-by-side in traffic, and when shopping for accessories during the event.

Basically, going to Thunder Beach was like going to an RWA conference only with way more leather. Everyone was hyped up and excited to be there. People competed in bike shows and bought and sold goods. It was a Biker Con, just like I imagine Dragon Con (but with less makeup and more leather).

We cruised up and down Front Beach looking at bikes and showing off ours. We also took a trip down 30a and got to see some adorable little resort towns. And of course there was drinking and eating and good times.

What struck me most was the energy. The energy was intense but in a happy way. Everyone was just excited to be there. By the end of the trip I had my leather vest, a patch, a sparkly belt, and a hip pouch so I looked like I belonged. It was a great vacation.

Overall, I found this biker con to be a thrilling, low-key, laid back event. It was like attending a music festival without the hipsters. Like attending opening night of a harry potter movie but in the middle of the day on the beach. And as we all know, beach time is never wasted.

10/10 would go again.

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