Smoke Out

by Jesse Kiser

A faded white and blue Winnebago sits in a harvested wheat field in Davie County. Across from it is another in worse condition and between the two stand about 30 motorcycles and a crowd of close to 100 people. A short woman wearing only a skirt and caution tape wrapped around her chest stands on a cooler with a microphone in hand. She is looking for more girls to enter the wet T-shirt contest. While she searches, five men gather in front of a motorcycle. They grab the front of the bike with one hand because their other hands are holding beers. The man on the bike stands up on the seat, revs the motor and begins to slip the clutch. The crowd is shouting in excitement leading up to the loud burnout. The bike lunges forward pushing the tower of men backward. He tries again. This time he gets it. The tire starts to spin and an ungodly smell emerges from the burning wheat underneath. At first there’s no smoke, but this doesn’t stop the rider as he twists the throttle further and changes gears. This noise and chaos of the crowd continues for what seems like too long for a motorcycle to handle. He stops but the noise doesn’t as it’s replaced by the cheers from the crowd. As some step out of the way, a headlight emerges, attached to a motorcycle with handlebars reaching toward the sky. The bike weaves through the crowd, brushing backs and arms with its handlebars. The rider of that one is a young tattooed girl in a tank top. She handles the large motorcycle with ease as she screams through the crowd. This was only the beginning of the Smokeout motorcycle rally that happened at Farmington Motorsports Park in Davie County last weekend.

The Smokeout is a motorcycle rally that has been going on for nine years now. In the last few years it was held at the county fairgrounds in Salisbury and this past weekend was held at Farmington Motorsports Park in Davie County. This is the first year the Smokeout was held at a drag strip, so the new drag-racing events drew a large crowd around the track. “It was the coolest part of the event, a nice bonus,” said Josh Stafford, who came down with Power House Cycles from Portsmouth, Va., about 300 miles away.

The weekend event saw everything from roller derby to a freak show to a topless bike wash. The field beside the track was filled with motorcycles parked at every spot of open grass or available pavement along with vendors selling motorcycle parts, retro helmets, custom-built bikes and apparel. Behind the vendors the field opened up to motorcycles and people spread out randomly across 50 or so yards, skirting a large tent. Couples laid out here and there throughout the field, like a black-leather Woodstock. Under the tent the Straight 8s ground out classic rockabilly while the Deadbolts plied their brand of “zombie surfer music.”

“They were just crazy as hell,” said Jeral Tidwell, from Louisville, Ky., who rode 500 miles to be there. “It was the first time for me. To me it’s like a subculture of motorcycles that exist in their own separate world.”

The surrounding communities were not looking forward to the influx of bikers into Farmington for the weekend. Davie County Sheriff Andy Stokes said that he had heard that there were to be rival motorcycle gangs present at the event. Pat Sawyer, one of the local advocators fighting against Farmington Motorsports Park and the Smokeout rally said, “Well what would you do if you heard the Hell’s Angels, Outlaws and Bandidos were coming into your neighborhood?” But most attendees saw it differently, Idwell said. “Just a bunch of blue-collar to light-blue-collar, working-class people. Even the police had a good time. Everyone was so damn nice. Everyone.”

On Saturday, 13 law enforcement cars fanned out within a mile of the track, presenting a stroing presence in the face of rumored debauchery. “They dampened the event with their presences,” Stafford said. “The people in town were really cool asking us questions, they weren’t scared of us but the cops were.”

These rumors about the rough and rowdy bikers turned out to be no trouble at all, Stokes said. “We have more trouble at a Friday night football game.” The rival biker gangs were said to have struck a deal after the event moved from one gang’s territory to another’s. “Again it’s third- and fourth-hand information but I had heard that the Hell’s Angels and Outlaws made arrangements for the event,” said Stokes.

At the end of the staging lanes sits a large motorcycle in the grass: It could be seen from a distance from its bright turquoise color on the fairing, dark orange colored front fender and tall exhaust pipes that tangle upward with no rhyme or reason. As you approach the bike it starts to make less sense. It is a full-sized Harley-Davidson Dresser with moss hanging from the handlebars, bent and twisted kitchen forks on the gas tank, pieces of metal artwork such as a skeleton of an arm reaching outward from the front fairing, and my favorite of all: a piece of a washing machine that was used for target practice on the top side of the fairing. The exhaust pipes alone were works of art. Snakes with ferocious heads filled with jagged metal teeth and featured a skin-like metal texture all the way back to the engine. Rat bike? Not even close. This thing was a collection on wheels. Only one sticker: “Ugly Is In.”

A highlight was the bike show, buy if you were looking for arthouse rides, this wasn’t the place.

“These guys build their own bikes and the hell with paint,” said Rick Klemp from Rougemont, NC. “Chrome don’t get you home.”

The community still was nervous of the crowd but Stocks said, “It could not have gone better. We did not have as much as a fist fight. I definitely think their good behavior will help influence the community.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jesse Kiser at