Beautiful bikes with some good ‘ol rock and roll

CLEARWATER, FLA., FEB. 6-10—This was the 21st year for the prestigious Florida Motorcycle Expo, which has been routinely held at Quaker Steak & Lube and usually takes place over the course of a weekend. This year, however, the location was moved across the street to the new Bert’s Barracuda Harley-Davidson dealership where the event started on Wednesday night and ran through Sunday afternoon. But keen to not lose out on a captive audience just across 49th Street, The Lube, as it is called, was hosting the Pinellas Park Bike Fest from Friday through Sunday with vendors and bands of their own.

With thousands in cash offered up to the winners across various bike classes, and a $5,000 check and Super Bowl-style ring going to the Best of Show, builders put forth some beautiful motorcycles, showing all their effort and devotion to the art. I look forward to the event each year and am always amazed at the two-wheeled creations.

We rode down on Friday to check things out and decided to stop in at The Lube first since we saw several bikes parked in the lot. Unfortunately, we soon realized none of the vendors were set up and the only place to get a drink was in the restaurant. We headed across the street to check things out as we heard music and saw riders heading into the parking lot. The majority of vendors were already set up but there weren’t many people so we took the time to go into the building where the bikes were on display.

The dealership’s facilities are not yet finished but should be by late summer. With over 10 acres available for development, this should be quite the destination. Promises such as a “ride-in movie” and a special area honoring veterans certainly sound impressive.

Inside the huge building, shiny two-wheeled contestants were lined up like beautiful horses in a show barn. Some of these amazing rides seem to defy logic and safety but like many beauty queens, they just have to look great. The badass bagger look is still very popular but there were several other interesting bikes too. My favorite was a bronze-colored beauty with gleaming copper-colored spider webs adorning the wheels and fenders. There was also a bar and a merchandise area inside the building.

We wandered outside to check out some of the vendors and listen to the band for a while. The huge lot in front of the stage was almost empty although vendors and a couple of bars bordered it. We took the opportunity to find a couple seats in the shade. The sun had forced its way through the clouds and the thermometer was over 80. The band on stage was an ’80s rock group from Canada called Love N Revenge and they brought back a lot of memories with their long hair and once-popular songs.

By about 4:00 p.m. more riders were rolling in but the huge parking lot still wasn’t crowded. We decided to walk over to The Lube and see if things were waking up on that side of the street. One quick pass through the vendors and we decided to embark on our two-hour ride back home. 

We took Saturday off to catch a couple local events and headed back down on Sunday morning in spite of the drizzle and overcast skies. The weatherman was promising clearing skies and warming temps so we donned the rain gear and headed south. As we rolled into The Lube things looked much better but it was obvious most of the day’s action was across the street at the dealership. We made a quick trip through the vendors and listened to a few songs by The Black Honkeys before heading to the party. I especially wanted to see if any more bikes had arrived to join the competition, so I headed straight for the large building housing the dealership and bikes. I did take a quick detour by the stage to listen to a couple songs by Soul Circus Cowboys. I’ve seen them before and they offer a nice variety of music.

There weren’t any new additions to the lineup of bikes so I worked my way back to the stage by way of the vendor row after grabbing an order of wings. The Soul Circus Cowboys were just wrapping up their performance as I approached so I knew the winners of the show would soon follow. 

There were three places awarded to winners in each of the five classes with a total of $20,000 in cash. The coveted Best of Show award went to a bike owned by Todd Werner… and what a beautiful bike it is. The same bike took the coveted prize some 15 years ago.

The crowd started to slowly disperse after the awards and we decided to join the parade and headed toward our bikes for the ride home. I’ll be looking forward to next year’s event not only for the bikes but to see the new dealership when it’s finished.


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