Not so wild ones descend on city

Should the low rumble of a hog wake you from your Thursday morning slumber, do not be alarmed. It is merely the sign of an approaching band of…

Should the low rumble of a hog wake you from your Thursday morning slumber, do not be alarmed.

It is merely the sign of an approaching band of jovial motorcycle enthusiasts.

Whitehorse has held bike rallies before, but “this is the big one” said rally co-ordinator Al Verishine.

The Miles from Ordinary Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) Western region bike rally expects to draw 250 to 300 riders from all across North America.

“We’ve got guys coming from Texas; we’ve got guys coming from California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ontario,” said Verishine.

By the way, Yamahas, Triumphs, Hondas or BMWs aren’t allowed.

“We’ll squash ‘em,” laughed Verishine.

For many, motorcycles are just an efficient means of getting from A to B, but Harley owners share a unique bond with their iron steeds.

“HOG is a family. I have a saying that anybody else on a Harley is a friend I haven’t met — and that is real, it is so real.”

“I’ve got friends that ride (Honda Gold Wings) and they haven’t got the camaraderie, they don’t have the family. We’re the only ones with the family, and it’s the best damn thing, it’s great.”

If anything, Harley owners are a bit tougher than owners of other motorcycles — less likely to shy away from driving rain, sleet or snow, said Verishine.

“We’re a pretty hearty bunch,” he said.

Brand loyalty has been cultivated by Harley Davidson over the years. Licensing the Harley logo accounts for five per cent of the company’s $9-billion annual sales.

For those with visions of rebellious, Marlon Brando-esque bike rallies raining drunkenness and mischief upon the town, “that’s not at all what we’re about,” assured Verishine.

“Very few of us drink, and if we do drink it’s in very small quantities — because you’ve got a big investment that you’re going to climb on on two wheels and ride — so you just don’t put yourself in a predicament like that,” he said.

And the bikes are expensive. Many bikers will be straddling mounts costing up to, and sometimes more than, a year’s salary

Verishine has spent about $22,000 on top of the original price of his 2003 Harley Davidson Ultra. Much has gone to “chrome, more chrome and more chrome,” he said.

Like any convention, the rally is a boon for the Whitehorse economy.

“Bikers spend a lot of money when they travel.”

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, riders are staging a parade down Robert Service Way to Fourth Ave., from Fourth to Main, and then from Main to Second.

Then, from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at Shipyards Park will be a Show and Shine, as well as a series of motorcycle games including a slow race, on-bike balloon tosses and plank rides.

Spectators can also catch a few rounds of “Honey, I’m Home.”

The game organizers set up a window and a bed, and two participants — a man and a woman — take off their jackets and riding boots and hop into bed under a quilt.

Once the announcer calls, “honey, I’m home,” the couple leaps out of bed, dons their jackets and boots, and the man must leap out the window, start his bike and ride to safety.

“It only takes 15 to 20 seconds sometimes. It doesn’t take guys long to get their boots and jacket on and then head out the window,” said Verishine.