KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- Motorcyclists from throughout the United States are to travel one of America's most scenic highways for charity starting Friday, Sept. 14, during the 35th annual Key West Poker Run.
Riders on as many as 10,000 bikes are expected to traverse the Overseas Highway, which stretches 113 miles from mainland Florida to Key West and incorporates 42 bridges -- one of them nearly seven miles long. The Atlantic Ocean lies on one side of the highway, with Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, providing Poker Run participants breathtaking vistas of open sea and sky.
Peterson's Harley-Davidson of Miami and the Key West Sunrise Rotary Club organize the ride, with proceeds split between the Diabetes Research Institute and Sunrise Rotary's local charities and scholarships.
Biker registration for the event can be completed at Peterson's Harley-Davidson Miami locations at 19400 N.W. 2nd Ave. and 19825 South Dixie Highway beginning Saturday, Sept. 1. Registration details are available at www.petersonskeywestpokerrun.com
Upon registering and making a $10 donation, each participating biker receives a poker sheet. Additional "poker hands" can be purchased for $10 apiece, with no limit on the number of hands a person can play.
Drivers of cars and trucks also can purchase poker hands and participate in the run from Miami to Key West. In addition, those who can't drive the entire course can purchase and play their poker hands in Key West at Conch Republic Seafood Co., 631 Greene St.
Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, participants are to head down the Overseas Highway (U.S. Highway 1) to Key West, stopping at designated points along the way to draw cards. The final stop is Conch Republic Seafood Co.
Entrants who draw the 10 best poker hands during their journey are eligible to play in a winner-take-all round of Texas hold 'em, competing for a grand prize of a new Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 custom motorcycle.
In addition to the grand prize, top poker players are to vie for cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000, and trophies.
A section of lower Duval Street, Key West's main thoroughfare, is to be closed to car traffic from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. both Friday and Saturday, so bikers can park on the street to display their bikes. Live music from the Lower Duval Street bars, as well as food and libations, are to add to the event's appeal.
In addition, bike aficionados can browse and buy merchandise including motorcycle accessories and apparel at the Poker Run Vendor Village on Duval Street.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, Big Bike Riders Association representatives are to judge the annual custom bike show, a "best of the bikes" extravaganza with proceeds earmarked for charity. The show is to take place in front of Rick's/Durty Harry's, 208 Duval St., and trophies are to be awarded in multiple classes. Registration is slated for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of the bars, with a $25 entry cost per bike.
Across Duval Street at Greene, Sloppy Joe's is to host its annual "Biker Bash," featuring contests with prizes and an open-air beer garden.
Other events for Poker Run participants and aficionados include the annual Paradise Tattoo Contest Saturday afternoon at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St., followed by a bikini show. A Sunday morning blessing of the bikes is set for 9 a.m. at Mallory Square.
For more information and a complete schedule of Key West Poker Run events, visit www.petersonskeywestpokerrun.com
. For lodging information in Key West, contact the Key West Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539), or visit the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com