Harley-Davidson's Birthday - 105 Years Young

The USA is a big country with interesting places to visit at every turn of the wheel. Now there is another "must see" place to visit on your bike, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Recently opened on July 12, 2008, but the real coming-out party was held during the celebration of the company's 105th birthday over the past Labor Day weekend. While other major rallies are feeling the pinch of the economy, the 105th boasted a full city with attendees from all over the globe. Granted, H-D celebrates a birthday every five years, so from our point of view it took precedence over some of the other yearly rally venues.

There were plenty of other events and tours to explore during the celebration, such as open tours of the Harley-Davidson engine plants at Capitol Drive and Pilgrim Road, the Buell factory down the road at East Troy, and the Franklin Distribution Center down near the Milwaukee Airport. Aside from these factory attractions there were local area H-D dealers that provided a showcase for a lot of the aftermarket vendors.

Miller Park hosted the one-day-only H.O.G. event with non-stop activities including top bands headlined by Kid Rock, stunt riding demonstrations, the Wall Of Ink Tattoo Contest, remote ringing of the New York Stock Exchange bell, a Ride-In Show, and Beer Garden. The Beer Garden came complete with their own name bands like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts along with a host of comedians.

Milwaukee really turns on the charm for a Harley birthday-along with the many street parties that were spread throughout the city and the parade through town, the residents themselves showed a Midwestern friendliness that made you feel welcomed. There were many times we found ourselves slightly misguided while looking for a restaurant, and when we stopped to ask for directions we were given the shortest, traffic-free way to go, a lesson to be taken home. This friendliness will still be there when you go to visit. See you in Milwaukee in five years.

100 Years of Motorcycles
Struggling To Go Big In The Pacific Northwest

In its fourth year on the calendar, 100 Years of Motorcycles looked to hit the big time. Moving from the tiny hamlet of Rosalia (pop 648) in August to Washington's second city, Spokane, in late July, the rally was hoping to make use of the larger facility and amenities of the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center in Spokane Valley. The old rally was hitting attendance figures in the packed little town of Rosalia somewhere near 30,000. Unfortunately, between the date change, high gas prices, and a sagging economy, attendance was lower than it had been in recent years.

That said, this little rally is a blast, with loads of well-organized events, organized and unorganized rides, a custom bike show with some seriously good entries, and a ton of national-class vendors who we hope will stick around during the rebuilding process. There was a motorcycle rodeo and dirt track races in the Expo's horse show arena. Entering the rodeo was the best deal at the event, as folks who signed up to entertain the crowd were gifted with a lower admission price than the folks parkin' their scoot out front...of course, not everyone wants to risk their bike on a series of dirt obstacle courses.

Camping was available, but for those liking things a little less...er, rustic, downtown Spokane is only five miles away with a surprisingly world-class selection of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. Completely unrelated to the event, we were able to catch '90's rockers Candlebox playing at the Knitting Factory downtown. The regional Convention and Visitors' Bureau is backing the event, so the integration and cooperation with local authorities is unmatched compared to most rallies.

With killer roads, great motorcycle entertainment, and very friendly people, I'll be back next year. -Billy Bartels