An Arkansas ‘hog’ rides the world’s oldest Hawg. Folk art celebrating motorcycles can be found in the most unexpected places while riding through Arkansas’ Ozarks.
The outdoor patio of Jose’s is tightly packed and the air is filled with the sweet scent of cigar smoke. Bartenders are busy filling up plastic cups with frozen margaritas and beers from the tap. Earl & Them is laying it down on the small stage, the lead singer crooning a Neville Brothers tune before breaking into an original bluesy riff. Stars fill the clear night time skies overhead as people spin and dance in front of the stage. It’s only the first night of the Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally but Fayetteville is already in full swing and Dickson Street is the epicenter of night life for the thousands of motorcyclists who are already here.
Motorcycle USA pulled into town after a fantastic day of riding. We’re quickly learning that riding through the scenic Ozarks is a major part of the Bikes, Blues & BBQ experience. The leaves are just beginning to take on shades of red, but the yellow and purple wildflowers aren’t quite ready to relinquish their grip on the last days of summer. It doesn’t take much to find a winding stretch of remote asphalt through postcard-perfect scenery around here. We get lost on a road headed to Boxley and run across a herd of elk grazing in a mountain meadow before heading back to town just in time to take in its night life.
Dickson Street is lined on both sides with motorcycles, a scene not unlike what you’d see on the Main Streets of Sturgis or Daytona Beach. Others cruise the two-way street, which funnels down to motorcycle-only traffic. Signs in windows everywhere say “Welcome Bikers” and unlike other rallies there isn’t an overkill of police presence. Dickson is a stone’s throw from the University of Arkansas and the crowd is an eclectic mix of hardcore bikers, weekend warriors, stroller-pushing families and college kids. The college crowd seems curious about the whole biker lifestyle, like the circus rolling into town. Despite us invading their territory, they embrace the temporary intrusion into the bars and restaurants they call home.
(L) There’s no shortage of pubs and bars on Dickson Street. (M) Girls just want to have fun! These coeds from the U of Arkansas were having fun at the Victory Motorcycles tent. (R) Earl & Them sings the blues at Jose’s while entertaining the Bikes, Blues & BBQ crowd.
Dickson Street is a corridor of brick-faced bars and restaurants, neon signs glowing in windows and sandwich boards on sidewalks. Unlike other rallies, the businesses are established and permanent. Vendors line the upper portion of the district, which sits on a hill, and walking up and down the sloped street is an exercise. The night air is cool and comfortable. Dickson is a combination of upscale eateries and trendy bars mixed with the occasional dive bar and cheap eats, from Mickey Finn’s Irish Bar to the Dickson Street Pub. The vibe on the streets is friendly and low-key. I saw more strollers and families lined up on Dickson watching motorcycles cruising by than any other rally I can recall recently and you don’t find the busty babes working the beer bars downtown. After all it is a charitable event, billed as family friendly. It’s a refreshing change from the usual tawdriness. At the bottom of the hill, the smell of fried foods intermingles with meats being grilled in the main food vendor area. It’s also home to the cordoned-off beer garden and main stage which is reserved for adults and carries more of a traditional rally vibe.
We catch a set of Fayetteville locals Red Ambition which has the crowd up and dancing. Men twirl their women while others just kind of gyrate in one place. They like to dance here, young and old alike shedding inhibitions and getting funky with it. Who cares about carrying a beat anyways? The Jager Girls are busy taking photos with fans at the Jagermeister Boss Hoss Trike. Nearby a big man sits hand-rolling cigars at his booth. It’s a giant outdoor party under the star-lit night, a good way to unwind after spending hours in the saddle that day.
As with most rallies, just hanging out on the main drag watching bikes roll by is a popular activity. LEDs on motorcycles is popular with motorcyclists around here and we saw everything from Honda Goldwing trikes with illuminated wheels to a glowing posse of stretched and slammed Hayabusas. Blinking LEDs on funky sunglasses are a common sight on people walking by, but I still haven’t figured out what’s up with the flasing binky thing I saw in the mouths of several girls riding on the backs of bikes.
We finish off the night with a frozen margarita and the smooth sounds of Earl & Them. We head back to our room already thinking about the People’s Choice BBQ Competition on Friday and are eager to check out the lawn mower pulls at Washington County Fairgrounds. Day One of fun at the Bikes, Blues & BBQ festival is in the books and we’re amped and ready for more.