Monday July 28, 2014





Harley-lovers' heaven

National gathering of Harley-Davidson owners attracts diverse group of bikes and riders to Kamloops
Murray Mitchell

Former Kamloops resident Al Jeffery, poses with his 2005 Harley-Davidson Softail.

There's no mistaking the deep, earthy rumble of their bikes or their unrivalled pride in ownership.

Harley-Davidson owners from across North America and overseas have arrived in Kamloops for the 16th annual Canadian National Harley Owners Group Rally — a gathering focused on two things: their mutual love for their brand and their passion for the open road.

"The U.K., New Zealand, a lot of members from the U.S. . . . you name it. Part of the whole rally event is the experience of riding towards the event so, we see people come from very far," said H.O.G. spokeswoman Alex Carroni.

"And they're really here to just congregate and share their passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles."

To that end, the H.O.G. convention kicked off with a bike show on Friday at the Kamloops Towne Lodge, which had members spit-polishing their bikes to a mirror finish.

Harleys of all styles were represented.

Among the crowd favourites was Al Jeffrey's 2005 Softail Deluxe, a blue-and-white bike the former Kamloops resident has been customizing for the past six years.

"Basically the only thing that's factory is the frame," said Jeffrey, as he listed the many custom touches on his Harley.

Jeffrey, who now lives in Okotoks, Alta., has poured more than $65,000 into the upgrades.

"You see some really unique bikes," said Connie Newmann, a Barhead, Alta., resident who is attending the rally with her husband, Rudy.

The Newmanns recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on the road with their 2009 Harley Classic. Like most of the riders at the rally, they've been to several H.O.G. gatherings over the years.

"It's great. Everybody's so friendly," said Newmann.

"And the nicest thing is you get to see different places. It's just a really neat way of seeing the world and meeting people."

Washington State couple Sue Lantz and Allen Wagner, who are in their 70s, rode a 2012 Ltd. Harley-Davidson to Kamloops. They've been to about six H.O.G. rallies over the years but this is their first one in Canada. They enjoy meeting other Harley enthusiasts.

"There's a lot of people here and you get to talk to them and see the different bikes," said Wagner. "A lot of them, they make their own. They rebuild them and put a lot of chrome on."

Harleys are a family affair for Tanis Vale of Calgary, who rode to the rally with husband Tim and daughter Courtney.

"We've noticed over the years that more and more people are bringing their children," said Vale. "Eventually, they'll have a whole new generation of riders coming up here."

Carol Michaud, 63, and husband, Ron, 72, rode from Fort Garland, Colo. They've been attending Canadian H.O.G. gatherings since the early '90s, travelling to Nova Scotia, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary … "all over," said Carol.

"I like the Canadian rallies. I think they put more energy in it. It's more family-oriented."

Bikes of course are the focal point of the rally and among those getting a lot of attention on Friday was Wendy Smith's 2008 custom Sportster trike, which is equipped with a rack to hold her wheelchair.

Smith, who was injured in a single-engine airplane crash in 1976, has been riding motorcycles for just four years.

"I've loved bikes my whole life," said the Fort McLeod resident.

"We used to have a trike way back. My husband rode it, I didn't. So I just decided it was time to get my own."

The diversity of H.O.G. riders and their personalized Harleys can be seen again on Saturday when the group rides through Kamloops in parade formation. The parade starts at McArthur Island at 10:30 a.m. and travels along Mackenzie Avenue, Tranquille Road, over Overlanders' Bridge, to Summit Drive, McGill Road and Hillside Drive before returning to McArthur Island by 11 a.m.

If you look closely, you may even catch a glimpse of Guiness the rabbit. He rides in a special carrier with owners Melody Robbins and Don Miron of Vancouver.

litt@kamloopsnews.ca


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