Thousands of street bikes and old-school motorcycle enthusiasts will begin roaring across the Grand Strand in the next few days as they make their annual pilgrimage to Atlantic Beach and celebrate Bikefest this Memorial Day weekend.
The Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival officially runs from Friday through Monday, and for the uninitiated newcomers as well as locals, the traffic, events, rules and regulations can be quite overwhelming.
Here is a list of the most comprehensive information everyone needs to know before they go, avoid or travel through Bikefest.
1. The traffic loop and other nightmares to avoid
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The Bike Week Task Force has instituted its own brand of traffic control on Memorial Day weekend called the loop, which they say keeps traffic and cruising bikes moving in order to avoid traffic jams.
Avoid the loop, it’s a traffic jam.
The 23-mile loop goes into effect Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. The loop ended early on a few nights last year, but that was rare, and due to a tropical storm.
The loop begins at 29th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard, then moves south to Kings Highway near the Myrtle Beach airport, then up Harrelson Boulevard to U.S. 501, onto northbound U.S. 31, down southbound George Bishop Parkway, onto 29th Avenue North, and back onto Ocean Boulevard.
Here’s a link to the map for those insisting on joining in the fray.
Getting to the airport will be tricky, so follow these directions:
Enter: US 17 Bypass North to Harrelson Boulevard exit, then Harrelson Boulevard to Jetport Road.
Exit: Jetport Road to south Harrelson Boulevard, then Harrelson Boulevard south to South Kings Highway.
Traffic on Ocean Boulevard will also be one-way over the weekend with several other accesses to side streets or U-turns blocked.
2. What is the Atlantic Beach Chute?
This is another traffic-control tool, a dedicated lane directly into Atlantic Beach that keeps traffic from backing up to Restaurant Row.
North Myrtle Beach Spokesman Pat Dowling insists this one works.
“In the past, it would take three or four hours to get to Atlantic Beach from restaurant row,” Dowling said. “I was caught in that once, so I can attest to that.”
The dedicated lane called the chute is blocked off with orange barricades and allows bike riders to line up along Highway 17 for miles to make the turn into Atlantic Beach for their cruise down the main street. Tourists should avoid the chute, and their travel will proceed without hassle.
3. Weather, it will rain?
The 10-day forecast for this weekend shows sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s, which would be great if that actually holds. The forecast looked good this far out last year, too, until Tropical Storm Bonnie blew in from nowhere and rained out the party. Weather.com is your friend. Check it often.
The best time to hit the beach will be mornings and early afternoon, that is, unless a tropical storm hits. The traffic won’t be that bad because most tourists are still in bed and most locals have skipped town. Sit close to the ocean, so the waves drown out the bikes.
Don’t forget, fashion is everything when strolling along the ocean, and thongs are illegal in Myrtle Beach.
4. Rules, man
Horry County has a lot of rules regarding the operation of motorcycles, so check the list here and make sure you follow them, because there’s going to be a lot of cops on the street this weekend. And by lots, we mean hundreds.
State, local, county, there are cops everywhere you turn, especially in Atlantic Beach and downtown Myrtle Beach.
There is no helmet law for adults in S.C., but everyone under age 21 must wear a helmet and goggles or face shields.
Driving motorcycles on the sidewalks is not permitted, because that’s where people who can’t afford motorcycles are standing, sitting or possibly laying down to catch some rays.
Motorcycles can be driven two abreast in the lane of traffic. Not six, or 12 or 30, but two.
Myrtle Beach is a family town most times of the year, and obscenity rules are enforced at all times.
So, now would be a good time to make your parents happy and rip that obscene bumper sticker off the bike, cause those decals with indecent words or photographs can get you a ticket for $200. We are not making that up.
Welcome to Myrtle Beach!
5. Atlantic Beach
While most of the weekend’s happenings are happening in Myrtle Beach, every single Bikefest aficionado will make the pilgrimage to Atlantic Beach and cruise the three blocks down the main avenue to pay homage to those who rode before them.
Otherwise, the young riders will spend their time in Myrtle Beach while the Atlantic Beach originals will hang out in Atlantic Beach.
This year, however, Atlantic Beach is going all out with live music provided by Bobby Rush, Tina Brown, TK Soul, ZAPP, Midnight Star and Big Mucci.
There will also be a Paradise Party Compound where a DJ will be spinning old-school tunes, hosting lip sync battles as well as wet T-shirt and bikini contests and live music.
Atlantic Beach, as always, is the place to park the bike, check out the vendors, have a pineapple smoothie and just chill.