Opinion: Party on!

Party season is in full swing. Willy had a great time in Prague, Sturgis is coming up next month, and Port Dover just pulled off its biggest gathering yet on Friday 13th, with estimates of at least 140,000 people taking over the small town. It was the first summer month for a Friday on the 13th in four years and there won’t be another until September next year.

Nobody really knows how many bikes were there, except they were parked perpendicular on Main Street in lines estimated at 15 km in total. That’s a lot of bikes.

“It’s crazy,” said Heather Shipman, a T-shirt vendor, to the Simcoe Reformer newspaper. “And busy, busy, busy. It’s a zoo.”

It gets busy on Port Dover’s Main Street on Friday the 13th.

That’s why I didn’t go, because I don’t like zoos. I’ve been to Friday 13 several times before and decided I don’t much like pushing through crowds and lining up for everything. There are no events to speak of in Port Dover, other than stage bands in beer gardens playing Born To Be Wild – just the chance to eat perch, wander the crush of Main Street, buy stuff and drink beer, except if you’re visiting for the day, you can’t drink and ride.

The real attraction is the chance to see so many cool motorcycles in one place, and the opportunity for a nice ride to get there. I live on the other side of Toronto, however, so first I’ll have two hours of GTA traffic, followed by two hours of rush-hour GTA traffic on the way home. So I skipped it this year (the dog had to go to the vet, anyway) and went for a lovely ride in the Northumberland Hills instead.

Sturgis, South Dakota, hosts one of the biggest motorcycle rallies on the continent every August, and it’s a place to visit – or avoid – before you die.

To be honest, I’ve been to most of the big North American bike gatherings now and I find I enjoy their congestion less and less. Sturgis was the first for me, in 1985, when I rode there on my dirt bike and ended up getting arrested and spending a night in jail. I last went there 11 years ago, with my 18-year-old nephew, and we had a great time in the Black Hills but roasted in the sun.

Daytona’s a favourite because it’s a warm break in March, but as Zac wrote in last week’s Hearty Parties story, these gatherings now need more than just beer and wet T-shirt contests to stay relevant and alive. Their devotees are aging and not being replaced; organizers are focussed as much on their grandchildren as their kids.

The devotees of the big rallies are starting to age out, some more gracefully than others.

The good news is that there are still plenty of motorcycle events if you’re a sociable sort who enjoys the camaraderie as much as the ride – they’re just more focussed on what you enjoy, and more manageable as a result. Every weekend, there’s a poker run or a charity parade or some sort of gathering somewhere, and you should pick and choose at the start of the season where you want to go, to spend your time and money. Who knows – you might even see me there.

My young nephew Oliver had a great time at Sturgis. He’s the demographic organizers are now trying to reach.

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