'Unwanted:' Once again, bikers flock to Myrtle Beach. Once again, some feel targeted

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Downtown Myrtle Beach was popping Thursday night as bikers blasted Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” up and down Ocean Boulevard, along with Drake, Nelly, 2Pac and other hip hop and rap mainstays. 

Women on the sidewalks swayed their hips if the music was right. One man even hopped off his bike for an impromptu dance performance in the middle of Ocean Boulevard.

Paul Lynch leaned back onto his Big Dog motorcycle just outside the Diplomat Motel and smiled as bikes rumbled past, enjoying the last night on Ocean Boulevard before dealing with the threat of the 23-mile traffic loop.

The Bennettsville biker smiled.  

“It never gets old,” he said. “There’s something new every year.”

Despite their merriment, some bikers remain frustrated.

Music nearly drowned out Lynch’s voice as he vented about changes he’s noticed implemented in the boulevard area.

During the two decades or so he’s attended Bikefest, he’s seen more police in addition to barricades being set up.

While he’s still enthusiastic about his annual trip to the Grand Strand, Lynch said those changes have put a damper on some of the fun. 

“It discourages you from coming here,” he said. “I feel unwelcome.”

Latoya Baker felt the same way.

She and her husband have been coming to Bikefest for the past 12 years, although she’s not sure if they will return.

“We feel unwanted, so of course we spend a lot of money and it’s like, ‘Why are you here?’” she said.

Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Baker and her spouse were riding with friends from Charleston, all part of the Deep Bonded Baggers motorcycle group.

Baker and her friends planned to spend money shopping, go-carting and hitting the Escape Room. But the traffic loop makes it difficult for Baker to ride around during the main event.

Many motorcycles are air-cooled, and getting stuck in the loop on Ocean Boulevard can make bikes overheat and break down. 

“I think it’s ridiculous and stupid because it’s going to cause more confusion or congestion,” Baker said. “We feel like we’re not wanted. We try to be in before the traffic loop, but sometimes we do get caught in it. We try to find ways around it if we can.”

Lynch is also fed up with the loop.

“It kind of takes the fun out of it,” he said.

Despite his annoyance, he still plans on partying on the south end. As a longtime attendee, he’s figured out where to go and which spots to avoid. 

“I can’t act a fool like I used to because I’ll get a ticket for it,” he said

The president of the Lynch Mob motorcycle club thinks the changes put into effect cause less bikers to attend Black Bike Beek. 

“I used to come with 30 members,” he said. “I come down with 10 now. That’s 20 [hotel rooms] they're missing out on.”

Over the years, he and his friends have been badgered by law enforcement for trivial reasons, he said.

“I got a ticket for hitting my gas on my motorcycle,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”

But Tyrone Alford – whose nickname “Sweets” is short for “Sweet Daddy” – said he feels safe in the city. That’s largely why the Bennettsville resident has kept coming back to Myrtle Beach for BikeFest since 1992.

“When you come down here with your life, you want to leave with your life,” he said. “All the security and police officers is just to make sure that everybody is safe.”

A father of three, Alford’s offspring have begun to vacation in the Grand Strand as well.  

“I want my kids to be safe when they go to the beach or when they go anywhere,” he said.

Lynch maintained that Bikefest isn’t about violence. 

“They try to treat us like animals,” he said. “I hate to say it, but they haven’t caught up with the times.”

Not everyone is a BikeFest veteran though. 

Charles Miller of Charlotte, North Carolina was on the boulevard with friends for his first-ever BikeFest, and hadn’t heard about the traffic loop.

Miller wasn’t in town to ride, but to soak up the atmosphere. 

He looked forward to eating at seafood restaurants and “basically going to the buffets, getting all-you-can-eat crab and stuff.”

The rest of the time he planned to relax and watch the bikes.

“So far, it’s all right,” he said. “We’re just hanging out right now.”

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News Article written by: 
Viraj Naik and Christian Boschult
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