The first time I went to the Lone Star Rally it was only two years after Hurricane Ike had ripped through the area spreading its $29.5 billion swath of destruction. A shuttered hotel sitting on a remote point along the seawall was a grim reminder of the damage the storm did to the island. The rally was contained to The Strand because the Seawall was still being mended and there was no Pleasure Pier. The stream of motorcycles cruising through the heart of Galveston flowed at a slow and steady pace.
It wasn’t the biggest rally I’ve been to. It wasn’t the best, either. But there was something about it. Maybe it was the charm of Galveston’s downtown district itself, the eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, and shops. Maybe it was the people hanging over the balconies dangling cheap plastic beads to revelers below and the Mardi Gras feel of the whole affair. Add in being able to cruise along the green waters of the Gulf with its miles of sandy beaches on a sunny day in late October and there was just something about the Lone Star Rally that begged for us to come back.
Three years later, we’re indeed back at what is quickly becoming one of our favorite events and the rally is packed. We’ve been here three out of the last four years and can say from experience that the Lone Star Rally seems to keep growing every year. Rally organizers are throwing lofty numbers like 400,000 around, but without valid ways to quantify attendance, these numbers are always exaggerated. But we do know that the rally was packed as the biker crawl down the center of The Strand ran day and night, the line extending as far as the eye could see.
It’s good to see an area work hard to recover after such a catastrophic event like Galveston has. I’d like to think the millions of dollars injected into its hotels, restaurants, bars and gas stations from the money spent by bikers over the four days they’re in town helped in its restoration. Because even though residents have to put up with the noise and congestion of being invaded for a few days every year by bikers, it’s a small trade-off for the economic impact a motorcycle rally can bring. For the most part it seems like the city embraces the rally with open arms, its people cordial and police force tolerant.
The competition was heated for the title of Miss Lone Star Rally 2013-14 and the prize money that went along with it.
This shot girl deserves major props. She served many happy customers during the shows at the Sangerfest stage while standing on stilts all day and night long.
This isn’t to say that they didn’t have their hands full. According to a report from the Galveston Daily News, four motorcycle-related fatalities occurred at this year’s rally and 33 people were taken to the hospital due for injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents. The newspaper consulted Lt. Mike Gray of the Galveston Police Department who said police took 208 incident reports and made 67 arrests. Fifty-seven motor-vehicle accident reports were also written.
The 2013 rally got off to a soggy start. Torrential downpours swept through the area the first night, putting a kibosh on many of the Halloween festivities they had planned. Cycle Source had to reschedule its bike show and ride for the following day. Patrick Garvin of J&P Cycles said it was a wash for them at their set-up on the Seawall the first day because of the storm. At this juncture, I’m sure organizers were holding their collective breaths.
But then the sun came. And so did the people. By Saturday, it took almost 20 minutes to walk down a city block on The Strand. The crush of people and motorcycles swarmed in a mass of slow-moving motion as the crowd pressed in to watch the parade of bikes and personalities. People partied at sidewalk tables and gathered en masse at every corner to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the rally.
The Seawall was a hotbed for custom bike shows Saturday as the IMBBA hosted a ride-in show while American Bagger and Urban Bagger Magazines held a “Baggest Bagger” contest at the same time. Hater2, an all-steel, hand-built rat bagger by After Hours Bikes attracted tons of attention with its 30-inch front hoop, rusted patinas and copper plumbing.
American Bagger’s Associate Publisher Tony Frey said Todd Anglani’s work earned After Hours Bikes “Best of Show” laurels as its stretched and slammed bagger definitely stood out from the crowd. The rusted monstrosity features a drilled-out frame and fork legs, chain handlebars, split tank, full air ride suspension and a behemoth 30-inch MAD Wheel up front. Its long list of reinvented parts also helped set it apart, from the old drive-in movie speakers incorporated into the build to unique foot controls made from pistons to a seat from an old tractor.
A sidecar-equipped Royal Enfield Bullet owned by Larry Garza out of Santa Fe, with its outrageous paint by Rick Fairless, also drew more than its share of onlookers on its way to a class win in the ride-in show. Fairless of Stroker’s Dallas was commissioned to make a replica of an Isle of Man TT sidecar racer by Garza as a showpiece for his business, Aztec Bolting Services. Fairless and his team chromed the frame of the motorcycle and sidecar, fobbed up a sporty little fairing for the front and cut up the rear to give it a café racer look. The engine is polished to a high sheen while its fuel injection has been moved to the right hand side of the mill. The Bullet’s engine was then painted and polished like only Fairless can. The custom sidecar is very unique as its cone has the look of a World War II fighter plane. Best part is, not only does it look stellar, it is a functioning machine ready to be ridden.
A motorcycle with two big Jameson Whiskey bottles for its gas tanks and an industrial strength girder fork was also a crowd favorite. The ‘Jameson John Deere’ bike built by Dirty Leg Choppers sources a Twin Cam 96 spooned into a custom chopper-style frame. Its front end features a one-of-a-kind air bagged girder. All of its controls are foot-operated. No fenders places plenty of attention on its spoked wheels, its thick patch of black rubber on the rear squatting just below a 1847 John Deere tractor seat. Overall, IMBBA judge Charlie Hadayia said it was a great turnout, with 60 bikes preregistered for the show with more trickling in that day.
We caught up with bootlegger Don Wood from the show Moonshiners at the Miss Lone Star Rally 2013 contest where he served as one of the guest judges.
Rick Fairless of Strokers Dallas fame talks to fans at the 2013 Lone Star Rally.
There was a steady flow of entertainment on the Sangerfest stage as well as 15 lovely ladies competed for the title of Miss Lone Star Rally. As Houston DJ Outlaw Dave worked the crowd, contestants strutted out onstage to capture the attention of the judges. Afterwards, the atmosphere shifted gears as industry personality Jay Allen took the stage to lead a salute to our military known as the S&S Circle of Honor, including a sobering rendition of ‘Taps’ played on trumpet by an active duty Marine.
The party would soon escalate to a fevered pitch as the entertaining antics of the band Hairball took the stage, the guys in the band running through a full slate of ‘70s and ‘80s greats from the likes of Van Halen to Queen. Segues included costume changes by the singers as they transformed into each band’s lead vocalist, assuming the mannerisms and stage presence of David Lee Roth and Freddie Mercury. Jared Blake and his band were a big hit with the Lone Star Rally crowd too as songs like ‘Countryfied’ are easily relatable to among the predominantly blue collar gathering.
We had a blast cruising Galveston’s beaches on Victory’s 2014 Ness Cross Country. With diamond-cut cylinder heads and paint and graphics designed by the Ness family, Victory’s top-shelf bagger has custom level chops in its own right. Its combination of power and comfort made for a very enjoyable ride down from Austin while its saddlebags were big enough to carry four days’ worth of clothes, gear, and camera equipment.
The Lone Star Rally gets bigger and better every year. Organizers continue to step it up, from increasing its celebrity appeal to better organized bike shows. The bottom line though is the fun people have, evident on the smiles they wear while mingling amongst the crowds on The Strand and Seawall, and word of mouth is spreading about this gem of a rally along the Texas shores.