When Rick Widmayer is in the mood for a beer and some friendly conversation, he revs up his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and heads toward Elkridge.
After driving 27 miles from his Mitchellville home, Widmayer pulls off Route 1 and parks his bike. He saunters a couple feet to the open-air bar at Daniels Restaurant and orders a cold one, one eye cocked toward his $38,000 1993 Springer Softtail gleaming in the afternoon sun.
For Widmayer and hundreds of other motorcycle enthusiasts hungry for a burger and some beers after cruising the state's highways and byways, all roads lead to Daniels.
"It's the Harley-Davidson mystique. I really can't explain it," said Widmayer, 56, a retired carpenter. "You can sit out front. You can park your bike out front. I never met anyone here I didn't like. This is my favorite hangout."
Just as significant for bikers as the friendly atmosphere is Daniels open-air bar. "It's the last of its kind," said owner Dan Daniels, 52, who owns the restaurant with his mother, Emily Daniels.
And that's a powerful incentive for motorcycle owners who aren't that comfortable leaving their prized possession in a parking lot where they can't see it.
"You can sit outside and look at your bike," said Jim Holland, 38, explaining why he stops by every day from his home a half-mile away. Standing at the bar just a foot or two from his 1977 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, he noted that expensive parts like the $400 carburetor are vulnerable to theft if his bike is left unattended.
"Four screws and you can take that carburetor," he said.
At Daniels, patrons probably worry more about grabbing one of the eight bar stools anchored in concrete in front of the brown timber bar than they do about theft.
The rumbling of powerful engines serves as nearly constant background music as motorcycles pull in and out of the restaurant perched on the edge of Route 1.
Since the Daniels family bought the property 25 years ago, patrons have been greeted by Miss Em, Dan or another member of their family, most of whom help out at the restaurant. That is, as long as customers abide by the house rules: Proper attire required. No bare feet. No yelling. And absolutely no profanity.
Those who don't follow the rules won't be served. The sign hanging on the wall of the outdoor bar sums it up quite nicely: "Everyone here brings happiness. Some by coming here, others by leaving."
The rules are part of what sets Daniels apart from some other biker bars, patrons say.
"It's a good place to come and you know there's not going to be a lot of trouble," explained Jeannette McGinn, as she sipped a Coke while her husband, Richard, nursed a sweating bottle of Budweiser. "Everybody knows the place and everybody kind of meets here and goes [on rides] from here."
The McGinns, who are real estate investors, make the 40-minute drive to Daniels from their Kent Island home on the Eastern Shore a couple times a week on Richard McGinn's Harley-Davidson Bad Boy. Jeannette McGinn, 46, has been stopping by the bar since she was a teenager growing up in nearby Catonsville.
"We've met a lot of good friends here," said Richard McGinn, 40.
"It's a very mixed group," his wife added. "You ride with doctors and lawyers. You've got people who can't rub two nickels together, and you've got millionaires."
Over the years, Daniels has grown into a meeting place for groups of bikers who often head out for a ride after a hearty breakfast cooked by Miss Em, who said her age is over 70. Families also stop by for a meal in the dining room with its small tables surrounded by an eclectic decor.
The restaurant has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity in conjunction with Motorcycle Operation Santa Claus Inc., a group that holds a toy drive for children at Christmas. Dan Daniels has organized several of the group's annual fund-raisers, the Poker Run, a kind of treasure hunt on motorcycles, in which the bikers must retrieve items, such as a live crab, placed along a specified back country route.
And the restaurant has achieved its own measure of fame. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) often stops by on his motorcycle for a bite and a chat with Miss Em, who proudly shows visitors an autographed photo of the senator.
A scene for "Homicide," the now-canceled TV show that was set in Baltimore, was filmed at the restaurant, though viewers familiar with the place may not have recognized it. Dan Daniels wouldn't let the show use the restaurant's real name, because the scene depicted a bar fight, which portrayed a negative image that Daniels didn't like.
In fact, Daniels is quite proud of the restaurant's image as a friendly place where customers can relax and have a good time. That's why he doesn't allow motorcycle clubs to wear their "colors" in his restaurant.
"If I let one club wear their colors, I'd have to let them all. Some of them I don't care for as an organization," he said. "I don't stick my nose in the clubs' business and they don't stick their nose in my business."
And if customers break any rules, Daniels isn't shy about showing them the door. "I want everyone to feel safe here," he said.