Men fall in love with Atlantic Beach Bikefest and can't let go

More than 28 years ago on a trip to Myrtle Beach, Jerome Woods, an Atlanta native, stumbled upon his two loves, his wife and Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

"I didn't even know I was at a bike festival and a guy on another bike looked at me and said 'looks like we're the first ones here.' So I stayed and fell in love with it," says Woods. "Then, I went to church on that Sunday and met my wife, my son's mother."

With those chance meetings, the 67-year-old Woods has made coming to the event a priority. Over the years, he's invited friends, like 77-year-old Louie "Julio" Cotton, and now bringing along his 26-year-old son, Brandon.

Since Friday of last week, in a vacant lot of Atlantic Beach, Jerome and Brandon have sat patiently waiting for Bikefest to begin while Julio can't sit still.

"If you sit down too long," says Julio, "life is going to pass you by."

The men arrived at Bikefest early for two reasons, to enjoy the Spring Harley Rally last week and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest in the same trip. They say relaxing on the streets of Atlantic Beach in between the two rallies is an added bonus.

"When you're old like us and retired, relaxing is something you look forward to. What day is this Monday? Tuesday?," says Jerome jokingly.

Julio started coming to Atlantic Beach Bikefest soon after Jerome made his first trip, and he says he's seen the rally grow over the years into more of an event catered to sports bikes instead of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

"I don't mind at all to see the different bikes and people that come to Atlantic Beach," Julio says. "I did like how it used to be with a lot more hotels and motels, but those days are gone."

Even though the rally's days of Harley's and hotels are gone, Julio and Jerome don't mind the changes that include more people in vehicles showing up without motorcycles at all.

"Those people riding up and down the road don't bother me. I like it," says Jerome, "and I think a biker is a biker is a biker, no matter what he rides. As far as the younger people having a good time, I don't mind that because I know I was their age once and doing the same sort of things. The only thing that is different is their bikes go a lot faster than mine did."

"If the younger kids are going to do crazy things, I just want them to be respectful to the kids," says Julio. "It doesn't bother me one bit, but I can understand where other people might take offense to some of the things I've heard that can go on."

Jerome still rides his Harley. Julio's age keeps him from riding motorcycles, but he's brought a substitute.

"Six years ago, I realized I couldn't ride motorcycles anymore," says Julio. "But I've still got my bicycle with me, and I'll ride that until the day I die."

Jerome hasn't given up yet. "I will always ride my motorcycle until I can't ride it anymore."

What are your memories of Atlantic Beach Bikefest?