The Real Smokeout

Article and Photos By: Jimmy Frizzell

Originally Published In The October 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

TheFriday morning of Smoke Out 17 I found myself 300 miles away and facing a day that the weatherman basically shrugged his shoulders at winked and said good luck. Uncomfortable heat and unpredictable rain storms were a guarantee and there would be no rhyme or reason to it the entire day. I left Eastern Shore Virginia in the early morning hoping to avoid as much of the inevitable as I could. If you rode to Smoke Out this year, chances are there was some point that the story gets a tad bit wet. For the most part I dodged T clouds only to get tagged a handful of times and with every burst the over all humidity got beat down a couple of points so we’ll just chalk up the entire commute as a win. I knew I was getting close as the hornets started to orbit the hive and the swarm grew a little denser by the mile. As I passed a gas station with a few of the Led Sled bikes fueling up I knew that I was about to arrive.

The local fuzz was picking off a few bikes cruising without lids but for the most part they remained a non entity and remained tucked in the shadows waiting for the shit to possibly hit the fan but Edge and his crew run a great event, it’s a loosely tuned mechanized Viking encampment of self policed nonsense. As you enter through the gates you immediately start to identify the unmarked traffic paths that have slowly been molding themselves into existence. Over the years the presence of smaller vehicles has gotten larger, but the mini bikes and go-carts have melded right into the mix and are actually starting to be the go to people movers for the weekend with some being even more over engineered than the bikes everyone was here to celebrate. Participants of any Smoke Out have turned the experience into an art form. With practice and a little fine tuning they come overly prepared with the tools they need to make the most out of the weekend, whatever it may bring. The campground is a melting pot of residents ranging from the minimalist bed roll and a tarp chopper jockey campsite to the high dollar RV with a trailer of toys loaded for glory. Without hesitation the sandy uneven field is turned into a Hooverville of roads and micro neighborhoods that to some is affectionately referred to as Vietnam. The exit from the campground which empties out a just a short distance from the main stage is always a funnel of activity marked by the low hanging cloud of dust as choppers and any other smog belching contraption move in and out of the main event.

Previous years were plagued with blistering sun and air as thick as gelatin, but the veil of rain storms surrounding the event kept the sun behind a thin wall of clouds and the humidity was virtually non existent. This allowed for the opportunity of a more active drag strip that remained screaming along the most part of Friday and all of Saturday. There was no need to seek non existent shade throughout the day and you could comfortably enjoy all the entertainment being held on the tarmac. Without the relentless North Carolina sun breeding cancer on your epidermis people fearlessly flocked to the ride in bike show and enjoyed the entertainment of the Grim Riders Stunt Team and the always popular mini bike races. For the weekend I shared vendor space with my maladjusted brother and Richie Pan’s three sons Jason, Colin, and Dylan. Richie’s close friends Fat Bob and Von Rothinfink accompanied the Pan’s to there first Smoke Out while bringing a handful of originals to show and Richie’s beloved Panhead, Viola. As we all peddled shirts on the main drag with the strip thumping to our backs the rhythm of the event routinely cycled by us and only seemed to lull as the very anticipated Rebel Son took the stage.

The smell of carbon monoxide sweetened the air as motorcycles of all shapes and sizes from around the country hummed endlessly into the night. Burst of rubber smoke plumed into the air as tires liquefied into the pavement. Even after the last band hit the main stage the party continued well into the night as music and antics continued in the campground. When Smoke Out is in town Rockingham is flooded with some of the most unique bikes on the east coast. The hotels always present their own vibe as they are jam packed with bikes from around the country. The parking lots are unavoidably transformed into private bike shows while beer and conversation flow freely. This year the weather may have kept a few people from attending but the diehards never missed a beat because for them this is the event of the year. Smoke Out is an adventure more than a destination. If you don’t come home with a bunch of great stories and a handful of new friends, then you weren’t at Smoke Out….

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