My neighbour across the street, Ryan, rode down to Port Dover on Friday because it was Friday 13th, when motorcyclists gather there. He set off on his Harley ElectraGlide with his friend Bill, on his Honda Gold Wing, at 7 am for the three-hour ride through Toronto and then south from Hamilton to Lake Erie. I know it was 7 am because I heard them through the bedroom window – Ryan’s engine and Bill’s radio came into my dreams and woke me up.
I was supposed to ride down with them but cried off a few days before when I realized there were too many deadlines to meet and I just couldn’t take a whole day off. And truth be told, I don’t really enjoy huge bike gatherings. I’ve been to many of them, including Sturgis, Daytona, Lake George, Laconia, and Port Dover in both summer and winter, and you’ve got to be in the right mood to make the most of the event. Since that mood usually includes alcohol and I have to ride home, much of Dover’s appeal is lost on me.
Thousands would disagree, though. This was the 63rd running of the rally since its birth in 1981, which only happens when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday. You can read about its history here. On a summer day, the town of 6,000 can host more than 200,000 motorcyclists, after which it’s totally saturated and the cops will start turning people away. Cars are already prohibited in town if they don’t have permits for the day. Half the residents hate it and leave for the weekend, sometimes renting their houses to make some money; the other half love it and set out their garden furniture to watch the spectacle.
The last time I went down, in May last year, there was a guy standing half-naked on his lawn in the next town north of Port Dover, wearing a dildo on his head and carrying a “Honk if you’re horny” sign. His friends were watching from deckchairs behind, swigging beer, and all the bikes heading down Hwy. 6 were honking at him. I stopped and asked why he was doing it. “Lost a bet,” he said. What was the bet? “Leafs to make the playoffs,” he sighed, and another bike honked its horn.
Ryan and Bill had a good time. It was warmer than average and they dodged rain on the way down, then escaped it completely when they left in the mid-afternoon. The cops reckoned there were up to 100,000 motorcycles in town, and line-ups were long for everything: bank machines, Johnnys-on-the-Spot, Timmies, perch suppers and beer. The cheapest T-shirts were selling for $25. If you’re interested, you can see the local news report here, or better, watch Rick Mercer’s much more entertaining report here from 2013.
I regretted all day that I hadn’t gone down to Dover with Ryan and Bill, and now I think I’ll have to make the trek next April, just because it’s there. Did you go? Is it a great day out or a claustrophobic waste of time? If you did, leave a comment in the Comments below.