Pick out just about any local and ask them how they think non-biker tourists feel at finding themselves vacationing the same weekend as the Atlantic Beach Bikefest and they’d likely use words like “shock,” “horror,” “fear” and “anger.”
And since we’re in the South, the summation may well be followed with an expression of pity that would include the words “poor souls.”
Nothing could be further from the truth, though, at least for a handful of random tourists Saturday in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” said Cindy Kijesky of Newton, N.C., who was waiting to go onto the beach at the Main Street beach access in North Myrtle Beach.
She’s staying with her daughter in Little River, so she said she can get away from the motorcycle noise and traffic along nearby Ocean Drive. She hadn’t heard about the troubles at last year’s Bikefest, but it didn’t shake her.
“That happens everywhere,” she said.
And you can’t let it stop you from going places.
“It’s just loud,” said Tracy Bess of Gastonia, N.C., also headed out to the North Myrtle Beach strand.
But Bess remembers the days when she was part of the action.
“I used to come down for Harley week,” she said. She was a biker herself in those days. “Reputation is a lot worse than the reality.”
Her husband, Mike Bess, said there’s good news about bikers, too, but good news doesn’t seem to circulate too well.
“Bad news travels far,” he said.
Naim Baker of Upper Marlboro, Md., among hundreds of ball players and parents at the Ripken Experience for a Memorial Day tournament, said he knew about Bikefest before this, his first trip to the Grand Strand.
His impression was that it’s a chance for people to get together and enjoy the begnning of summer.
He, too, didn’t know about last year’s violence, but he, too, wasn’t worried for his or his son’s safety when he learned of it.
“What’s written for you is going to happen,” he said as a statement of his faith. “If it’s not written, it’s not going to happen.”
He said his intuition tells him that it was just a relatively few people who caused last year’s trouble, just as it is a small minority of police officers who’ve recently been implicated in the unprovoked shootings of black suspects.
“You really can’t paint all law with the same brush nor can you paint everyone who comes here for Bikefest with the same brush,” he said.
Jennifer Christmas of Charleston, also with her son at the same tournament, had a somewhat different reaction.
“When I heard it was Bikefest weekend, I thought great,” she said, with the emphasis on “great” one of dread rather than excitement.
She and her son are staying at the Hilton Garden Inn by Coastal Grand Mall and she said the noise of being on the late-night traffic loop was noticeable, but nothing the television couldn’t dampen.
Christmas said her husband is a police officer who has worked Bikefest in the past and has told her about some of the things that happen. And she had noticed the extra police around town and thought that was good.
She said she knew of one tournament family staying closer to Ocean Boulevard who decided to move inland after a night with too few clothes on some bodies and too much profanity from some mouths.
But she wasn’t concerned for her safety.
U.S. Army Specialist Greg Collier and Jessica Morales-Dobson of Fayetteville, N.C., knew about Bikefest but didn’t let it stop them.
“We were going to come either way,” Morales-Dobson said.
“As long as they’re not too road ragey, it’s OK,” Collier said.
Kay Dickerson and Kenny McClendon of Clarksville, Ga., sunning on the beach near 14th Avenue Pier were neither concerned nor afraid of the noise, crowds and hubub just yards away on Ocean Boulevard.
Dickerson said her family came to Myrtle Beach every Memorial Day and Labor Day for decades.
“I’ve seen it a lot more chaotic than this,” she said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765 or on Twitter @TSN_SteveJones.