Billy’s STO Party

Cruising Bikers whoop it up in Mazatlan

Mazatlan, Mexico, Apr. 1—From atop a tiled walkway arching over the channel connecting two huge, sparkling beachfront pools at the Mazatlan Holiday Inn Sun Spree Resort, a gaggle of recruits from Steel Thunder Outfitters held several huge, live bigmouth bass in both hands. The fish flipped and flopped as they were dangled over the crowd of revelers who waited in the water below, many tattooed to the hilt and looking suspiciously like they should be straddling a Harley-Davidson.

Then, with a series of plops and much splashing and thrashing by bass and swimmers alike, the contest was on to see who could catch the biggest bass without benefit of either pole or tackle. It was pretty difficult to tell who was having a better time: The diving, gasping “fishermen” or the spectators—many sporting Hogs on the High Seas T-shirts—who lined the pool’s edge to laugh, hoot, and shout encouragement or directions as bass slithered away, often darting between their clueless pursuers’ legs.

But, as the late actor Slim Pickens once said in a slightly different context in the movie Blazing Saddles, “What in the wide, Wide World of Sports is a goin’ on here?” And, more importantly, what in the hell does this have to do with the Harley-Davidson lifestyle? The answer is both simple and a little complicated.

Back in 2003 Dean and Debbie Anderson, both longtime Harley riders, dreamed up the idea of having a relaxed—forget the formal dinner at 8 in a tux or an evening gown—ship cruise “rally” composed of motorcycle aficionados. True, out at sea no one would be firing up the old Softail or Sporty. But everyone could dress biker style, party biker style, be entertained biker style, and eat, well, you get it.

They tossed in motorcycle-oriented on-board vendors and “bike games.” There would be wild on-shore parties in various ports-of-call as well. And there are lots of prizes, drawings, and even a good charity in a fund for kidney dialysis patients. Fittingly, they dubbed it Hogs on the High Seas.

The whole concept has been wildly successful, with the HOHS Caribbean cruises selling out up to a year in advance. Three years ago they branched out to include a trip that started in Los Angeles and proceeded down the Pacific coast to the Mexican Riviera and places like Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.

Party time
Part of the HOHS package is on-shore parties and in Mazatlan, as they had last year, Dean and Debbie selected Steel Thunder Outfitters to host the festivites. STO is operated by Billy Chapman as a two-wheeled offshoot of Chapman’s world-renowned Angler’s Inn, located on Lake El Salto about an hour and half east of Mazatlan. Fishermen and women come from all over the world seeking Chapman’s trophy bass and first-class lodge service. As it would turn out, following this year’s HOHS party, a couple of moto-media types were invited up to the lake to try their hand at a little angling, with some respectable results.

A lifetime Harley rider, Chapman begin a few years back to also offer “fly and ride” motorcycle trips all over northern Mexico. One can fly into Mexico and be issued a well-kept Harley to ride for up to week in different parts of the country. The Thunder Press crew had previously accompanied STO on some of these two-wheel adventures and knew first-hand of Chapman’s attention to detail and client comfort, not to mention an ability to throw a kick-ass party.

This year Chapman outdid himself. Billy’s Party included a series of games and entertainment that kept HOHS participants busy from 9 in the morning to deep in the afternoon. With the HOHS cruise ship scheduled for an early evening departure, Dean could later be seen frantically rounding up those reluctant to get back aboard.

Nice bass
The Hogs’ cruise boat had previously stopped in Cabo San Lucas and several participants at the Mazatlan party could be seen wobbling in for another round. One comely lass, when asked what she had done in Cabo the night before, said matter-of-factly in a nice southern drawl, “Got drunk and showed my tits.” Sounds like a biker party to us.

For those in need of sustenance, there was plenty of great food at Billy’s Party, including traditional Mexican fare or good old hot dogs and hamburgers. Need a hair of the dog? There was plenty to imbibe as well. Anyone not wanting to just kick back and tan, eat, or drink could get involved in games like the aforementioned bass derby, the frozen T-shirt contest, or even pig-pen wrestling—with live pigs!

Bands played all day long and a Ballet Folklorico demonstration reminded everyone they were below the Tropic of Cancer. A tattoo artist had folks lined up and other vendors plied their wares as well. Anyone too lazy to get up and get a jello shot with extra tequila on top was served one via motorcycle or by the resort’s staff. Those who couldn’t ride motorcycles were welcome to clamber aboard a donkey.

“Billy’s parties are always very different,” Dean Anderson declared, “…(and) his party in Mazatlan is our passengers’ favorite event.”

Trouble in paradise?
A legitimate case can be made that, with the exception of the summer rainy season, Mazatlan is a bit of paradise. With a favorable rate of exchange between the dollar and and peso, startling blue water and white sand beaches, the city offers delights like the modern, upscale restaurants in the Zona Dorado (Golden Zone) to the old-world cultural delights of the city’s older El Centro district, replete with an Opera House and huge, bustling public market. Parties in and outside local clubs go on until the sun comes up.

So it’s no wonder that Mazatlan is a popular port of call for all types of cruise ships, including Hogs on the High Seas, for the last three years. This year, however, the HOHS cruise hit a snag when, after booking a larger ship in anticipation of increased bookings, the added passengers failed to materialize. Various reasons can be cited from the overall weak economy to the Mexico’s well-publicized war with and within some drug cartels. Whatever it is, the situation is critical enough for HOHS to likely suspend its Mexican Riviera cruise next year.

“The economy may stop us from returning next year,” Dean told Thunder Press, “but we are working already with Billy to make our return in 2011 much bigger and better in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.” (,


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