Like a Rhinestone Cowboy. . . 2015 H.O.G Rally Recap!
By Brook James.
Outdated images of tassled handlebars and too many patches and badges is what came to mind when I envisioned a HOG Rally . . . but when the opportunity presented itself to head to the 2015 HOG National Rally in Tamworth, intrigue got the better of me and I found myself an International HOG Member and booked into find out what all the fuss was about. And I’m sure glad I did . . .
Freshly back from my 5500km East Coast adventure my Street Bob went in the doors at Morgan & Wacker and came out ready for the ride, a minor service, new tyres and brakes from Josh and Luke in Service, a sissy bar and back rest from Dez and Glenn in Parts and some additional luggage from Amy and Ana in Accessories, I was set for the long weekend.
Packed and ready to go I was heading down with Ashlee, my friend who had flown down from Cairns and Brisbane HOG member Reece, out of Brisbane and Tamworth bound we made good time to Warwick, riding up Cunningham’s Gap enjoying the quality of a once treacherous road, through Queensland Wine country, Stanthorpe and Ballandean and into Tenterfield under dark clouds and heavy rain, a reminder to put your wet weather gear on before the rain starts.
The rain continued albeit on and off all the way to Guyra, with a fast pace set to make it into Tamworth before rally registration closed, it seems daylight savings had other ideas and took an hour from us without us knowing.
We missed rally registration but what we didn’t miss was the AELEC where the rally was held this year, one of Australia’s premium events centres it dominates the skyline on the outskirts of Tamworth, and after checking into Tent City our pre-setup camp site adjacent to the rally site we made a quick trip into Tamworth for ribs ams beers, waiting out the first of two storms for the weekend.
Sunrise on the Friday revealed an ever expanding campsite and breakfast in town was constantly interrupted by the rumble of incoming Hoggies. Through the easy registration at the rally we were ready to roll out on the first of many Guided Rides, Fridays was out to Manilla then onto Lake Keepit and back into town, well timed to allow all to get into the arena for the “Bike Games”. Cool fact; Gold Coast HOG member Mark “Iceman” Mead lead one of the Friday rides!
I really enjoyed the ride out to Manilla so left the games for a quick trip out for some photos and back in time for dinner. And by quick I mean quick, 45 kilometres in 20 minutes, no one wants to miss dinner.
The rally organisers had dinner catered on the grounds and they certainly didn’t disappoint, good food and a bar beside us made for a good start to the night, before the “Screamin’ Eagles” took to the stage for an enjoyable night of rock and roll right up until the last song.
Another sunrise and again more bikes, from one end of town to the other, for those not camping it seemed every motel car park was full of Harley’s, same for every cafe and takeaway joint. Back to the rally after a quick breakfast and we had joined a guided ride out to Nundle the long way, through Lindsay’s Gap, the small little town was very receptive of the large amount of invading Hoggies and the pub became the place to be. Many took the option of staying to enjoy themselves rather than take the tour back to Tamworth.
A few drinks down and friendships made, Reece, Ashlee and I chose our own adventure and headed up into Hanging Rock State Forest, and adventure short lived as the sealed roads faded into slippery dirt trails. A quick turnaround and a we headed home the longer way out past Chaffey Dam and Bowling Alley Point, into Woolomin and Dungowan before the quick paced ride back to town behind a pack of Hoggies.
The Saturday night of the rally had been well marketed and advertised, and even allowed locals to join the festivities. I don’t think a single person in the arena was disappointed, from the “Chapter Ride” with each chapter having a representative ride out into the arena, right down to an amazing outback show that would give the Gold Coasts “Outback Spectacular” a run for its money. Brisbane HOG members Gary Beaverson and his wife Sue, and Gold Coast HOG member Mark “Iceman” Mead represented our chapters.
Sunday as with every rally brings the “Thunder Run” and I’d heard all about it since last years rally. I wasn’t expecting anything near what we arrived to, over 2000 bikes lined up and ready to go after the group photo. Through the outer streets of Tamworth, down the centre of town, out to Duri, Currabula, Werris Creek, Quirindi and returning to the rally site. The streets were lined with locals interested to see the procession of Harley’s they’d seen over the last few days, or heard about along the country grapevine. By far one of the best rides I’ve ever been on. When you’re 300 bikes from the front it’s a sight to see, but when the group doubles back on itself and you ride past the other 1700 bikes you suddenly feel part of something great and significant in purpose.
Rain on the way back to town was reminiscent of Forrest Gump, fat, cold, sharp, stinging, sideways, front ways and upwards rain all in a five minute downpour, but the ride continued, back into the centre for the Show and Shine and the last day at the rally. Once again members of Brisbane HOG and Gold Coast HOG stole the show in the Show n Shine, with Craig “Cracker” Reid from Gold Coast HOG taking out Best Tourer. Mark “Iceman” Mead from Gold Coast HOG took out Best Custom and Brisbane HOG’s Barry Lister took home Best Dyna AND People’s Choice!!
The rally grounds were second to none and a great credit to the organisers, from catering, food trucks, bars, HD Jump Starts, Demo rides and the HD rolling semi-shop manned by the great folk from Tamworth Harley-Davidson it was an enjoyable event, and sadly the time came to call it a day.
Into town for dinner at Hogs Breath saw us miss an early evening super storm, returning once the rain departed to find the camp site looking like a disaster zone, but the great thing to see was Hoggies working together helping one another rebuild for a nights sleep. Our Tent City was managed by an onsite team who worked nonstop to rebuild tents or relocate campers to dryer tents. Regardless of the damp mood many continued into the early hours for final drinks before departing for their homes.
Our return trip was uneventful, after a few showers we put our wet weather gear on, only to have the sun come out not a moment after kick stands went up.
Tagging along with different chapters we returned to Brisbane by early afternoon, unpacking and getting ready for the return to work before crashing in flames as the last few days caught up.
My first HOG Rally down, and my opinion definitely changed of the group, sure they do have tassels, some even have rhinestones on their saddle bags, and ‘those’ vests were everywhere, but Hoggies all have one common bond, the love of the motorcycle and more importantly the love of Harley-Davidson. For the whole weekend I never saw one unhappy rally goer, even my neighbour in tent city, Victor from the Sydney Chapter had a positive attitude after losing his tent in the storm, a good moment in the mud I will remember.
It will be hard to top the 2015 National Rally, but one thing is for sure, no matter the location, I’ll be there for 2016, now the wait is on for Harley and HOG to reveal the location.
As for the future of HOG, a good shake up is in need as I’m no youngster, but I was one of the youngest there, and from what I’ve been told both Harley-Davidson and HOG Australia know this, and if the ‘Future Summit’ is anything to go by, the future of HOG is in good hands.
Last but not least a big thank you to Harley-Davidson Australia, Harley Owners Group Australia, the Host Chapter, the Event Management Team and the volunteers from across Australia for without their support, expertise and commitment the rally would not have been the success that it was.
For those who have never been to a rally I encourage you to join up to HOG International or your local chapter and tick it off the to do list, it’s worth your time and money and who doesn’t like a good ride…