The Savannah Rally is a small, annual hotel-based event with no registration fee that was held December 3 - 5, 2010 at the Dunes Inn on Tybee Island (www.tybeeisland.com), about 15 miles east of Savannah and about 320 miles from Wilmington, NC. This a very affordable event- the hotel rooms started at $40/night and if shared make it nearly as cheap as camping. The Dunes Inn (www.dunesinn.com) has wireless internet, a typical coffee, juice and pastries breakfast, and is just across the street from the ocean but does not have an ocean view.
CCBMW members Jerry Dockery and Paul Winter left the Wilmington area on their RTs early on December 3, meeting at the Hardees at the junction of 17 and 211 to start the run to Tybee Island. Friday riding conditions started cold (30 degrees) and clear but gradually warmed to the low 50s during the day. The route was pretty much 17 all the way to the Savannah area except for taking 31 around Myrtle Beach. When nearing Savannah, the remaining 20 miles to Tybee Island were on Rts 25 and 80. This is about as good a route as there is to Savannah- it won't win any great rides awards but it is reasonably fast, offers many places for fuel and food, and certainly beats slabbing it on 95. Even with a lengthy lunch stop, they arrived at the hotel a little after 2 PM.
At the recommendation of CCBMW member Becky Hucks, they made a lunch stop at Uncle Bubbas Oyster House (www.unclebubbas.com) just before crossing over to the island. Its was opened by TV chef Paula Deen and her brother Bubba and has good local seafood items. The cream based crab stew is particularly good being loaded with crab and not filled with potatoes. The char-grilled oysters, done with a little cheese on top, are also excellent. If you go there, be aware that the restaurant is at the end of the driveway beyond the sign and out of sight from the road or drive entrance- the first thing we saw in the driveway was a medical office building that had us wondering if we were in the right place.
Friday afternoon was spent relaxing and meeting other riders. We all walked to dinner at StingRay's Seafood and Bar (www.stingraysontybee.com) right next to the hotel. Their crab stew, while good, was no match for the one at UncleBubbas. It was little salty, had less crab, a bunch of potatoes like a New England clam chowder and was priced the same as at Uncle Bubbas anyway. A theme that started at StingRay's and continued for the rest of the weekend was eating lots of the local shrimp. The local shrimp at Tybee certainly beat heck out of the ubiquitous, mealy - textured and nearly flavorless, farmed-raised Vietnamese shrimp served by all the chain restaurants and sold in big bags at Wally World but after eating Georgia shrimp for a couple days and having consistent experiences at 3 places, it is clear that Georgia shrimp are no match in quality for our local catch in NC. This may be because Georgia waters are a little warmer - it is generally true for most types of seafood that similar items are best from colder water sources. The shrimp in GA are softer in texture, have a milder flavor and are a little slower to peel than our local catch. I found that I preferred the GA shrimp cut up in a shrimp salad rather than from a boil. Another theme that played out all weekend was the absence of local microbrews from the beer list of places we ate. For "local" beer, the best choice was SweetWater 420, a west coast style pale ale brewed in Atlanta.
There were several choices of what to do on Saturday that weren't focussed on riding. It was "First Saturday" in Savannah so there was lots happening on the river downtown. Jerry had some personal business on Hilton Head so did the short run there while Paul went to Fort Pulaski (www.nps.gov/fopu/index.htm) for the tour and cannon firing.
Fort Pulaski has the dubious distinction of being the place where it was shown that modern rifled artillery, used there for the first time in the Civil War for attacking a fort, made brick forts obsolete. The Union Army, using only 10 of the new (30 pounder size) Parrott rifled cannon fired from Tybee Island about 1500 yards away, blew a hole in the walls of the fort and forced its surrender in only 30 hours despite the fact that the Confederates had anticipated an attack and been adding to the fortifications for several months. Later in the war, the same Union Army commander again using Parrott rifles, destroyed Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and recaptured the harbor entrance from the Confederates. He attempted to shell Charleston into surrender using a newly designed 300 pounder Parrott gun but the gun blew up while firing its 32nd shell at the city. Anyway, Fort Pulaski has been restored and is operated by the Park Service with a daily admission of $3. Demonstration cannon firings and musket drills are conducted on Saturday at 11 AM, 1 PM and 3 PM and guided tours are also provided. During the cannon demonstrations, both a smoothbore 12 lb field piece and the much larger Parrott rifle are fired. These can be witnessed from close by and both the noise and concussion give a good idea of what was heard by soldiers on a Civil War battlefield. Being a motorcyclist and having ear plugs handy is a useful advantage! Parrott rifles, though used extensively in various sizes by both sides, especially during the later parts of the war, proved dangerous to their crews due to the propensity of the cast iron barrels to explode. By the late 1880s, modern steels permitted construction of safer, more effective breech loading weapons and the last of the Parrotts were removed from service after a series of training accidents at West Point. There are 69 surviving original Civil War guns at various locations but they are not fired. The gun fired at Fort Pulaski as well as those used in demonstrations elsewhere are actually modern replicas.
Paul grabbed a late lunch at the well known Crab Shack (www.thecrabshack.com) just off the main road at the entrance to Tybee Island. This tourist attraction / restaurant has an alligator exhibit (several dozen small ones that barely moved in the 60 degree weather), good bartenders and decent food. The shrimp salad sandwich was excellent and matched well by a SweetWater 420.
Dinner Saturday night ($20) was a low country boil done at the YMCA gymnasium about 10 blocks north of the hotel. The hosts had thoughtfully asked what each person preferred to drink and had it available at $1 each. Many chose to drink the homebrew beer from one of the local hosts who had 4 good ones available, ranging from an amber to a vanilla porter.
There were about 90 people at the dinner and plenty of shrimp, sausage, corn, etc for all.
Paul and Jerry left Tybee Island at 7 AM on Sunday, following the same route back. It was 53 degrees with a single light cloud band when they left and cleared to blue sky with temps dropping gradually to 41 degrees in Wilmington on arrival. They stopped at an IHOP just on the north side of Charleston for a very filling mid morning breakfast. With the low volume of Sunday morning traffic allowing a good pace, Paul arrived back at his place in Porters Neck on the N side of Wilmington at 1:15 PM.
Inforrmation about the Savannah Rally can be found each year on the BMW Sport Touring website (www.bmwst.com). This low key rally is good fun and recommended if you want to meet other riders, including some of the BMW Sport Touring forum regulars.