How Do You Do Dover?

There is only one day a year that I book off work – it’s not my birthday or Christmas, it's Friday 13th. Everyone at work thinks I’m just superstitious, but my biker buddies know the real reason I book that day off each year…

DOVER. One word that has so much meaning hidden in it. 

I’ve attended the Port Dover Friday 13th motorcycle rally for three years in a row now; it’s become a family tradition to attend this event. Each year is different from the last – the ride there, the weather, the bikes - that’s the magic of Port Dover. 

I’ve learned that this motorcycle rally began in 1981 when a small group of motorcyclists got together at the former Commercial Hotel. The day just happened to be Friday 13th. A tradition was born when this group of friends decided to meet every Friday 13th from that point on. Since then, this Ontario event has progressed to a wide-spread National event, drawing thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of people, motorcycle enthusiasts, and riders to unite and celebrate their love of two wheels.  

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So on Friday, June 13th 2015, I decided to continue the family tradition. My parents have attended this rally for 20+ years now and my first time riding to Dover a few years ago on my own motorcycle was with them. Riding into a town packed full of motorcycles was an experience I will never forget. Everyone remembers their first time in Dover.

This year, I decided to head to Port Dover with my mother. The roar of mom’s 2011 Harley Davidson Superglide starting up that morning was music to my ears, and it quickly drowned out the sound of my 2008 Suzuki SV 650. We hooked up with a group of other Harley’s on the way – we didn’t know them, but that didn’t matter. 

We rode down highway 3 from Niagara, and through Haldimand County. Then, we cut down Riverside Drive which offers a beautiful view of Lake Erie, the South Coast of Ontario, before heading down a side road into Port Dover. 

As we rolled into town, a few of the Harley riders patted my back and joked that I looked out of place in the group since I was the only sport bike. Regardless, I felt accepted, and they made sure I knew it. I felt like I was at home when we got to our final destination.  My face immediately broke out into a wide smile when we cruised into town. It didn’t matter that I was a bit wet from a sporadic rain shower on the way, we made it! My mom and I exchanged thumbs up and made our way into town. We felt like celebrities on the red carpet; people stopped to stare at us, they took pictures, they nudged their friends and pointed.  They did that with everyone, but I still felt like a rock star.

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I could see how this town of 6,000 people was transformed. The previously peaceful, quiet streets were packed with motorcycles, trikes, scooters, of all makes and models. People were perched on hills, taking pictures and just watching all of the motorcycles ride in. I chuckled to myself as the phrase, “How do you do Dover?” entered my head. I think it’s a good question though! Some people perch on a hill to watch motorcycles ride in, while others come to shop and get the latest Friday 13th merchandise. I met some people who were celebrating a bachelorette party, and others who brought the family for the day to check out the event and hang out on the beautiful sandy beach. That day, we did it all - beach, bands, bikes, buddies, and a nice relaxing walk down the pier. There really is something for everyone in Port Dover. 

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I also realized that like me and my family, everyone had their own Port Dover story. Some people wore old faded Friday 13th t-shirts, while others had patches sewn on their vests from every Friday 13th since 1981. I talked to people who had been going to this event religiously for decades, while others were attending it for the first time.  

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Some people gave our mother-daughter duo a sideways look and asked “where’s Dad?!” We had fun with this question – our answer depended on the person who asked us. Sometimes we replied, “We left him at home!” or “We gave him a job list, and then took off for the day!” We got a few chuckles with each answer we gave. The truth though, was that Dad had to attend the CVGM vintage motorcycle rally in Paris, Ontario, which happened to fall on Friday 13th this year. 

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After taking in a band at the Norfolk Tavern, and enjoying a perch dinner at the beach, it was time to head home. On our way through the crowd, someone handed me a brochure. I looked at it, and then at my mom with a wide goofy grin on my face. The brochure contained a map for Ontario South Coast Wine Trail. I didn’t even have to ask, she nodded her head and smiled. Our next adventure was planned before we even left! 

Click here to plan a trip in Ontario's Southwest. 

And to get there completely avoiding the 400 series highways (highly recommended) click on the button below:

About Jess Kline

Jess is a long-time motorsports enthusiast and promoter. She is owner of Backwoods Promotions, which specializes in motorsports, automotive & outdoors event staffing and marketing. When she isn't hard at work, Jess enjoys exploring the Backwoods of Ontario, whether riding her Suzuki SV650 down a winding road, or getting out on an ATV, snowmobile or boat! 

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