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At Rose City Thunder - 2003

Rose City Thunder – 2003

There were angry and vocal protests to Mayor Vera Katz.  Two appeals were filed seeking a venue change prior to the event.  There were appeals to the city Noise Review Board.  Police were a little edgy.

I’m talking about the Rose City Thunder.

It’s coming up on the 10th Anniversary of the most legendary and controversial motorcycle event in the city’s history.  Portlandia was one of only four cities in the U.S. chosen for the “Ride Home” tour.  And it all happened in the lazy dog days of summer in 2003 in the South Park blocks.  In celebration of Harley’s 100th Anniversary, the motor company and local dealer, Destination (now Paradise) H-D in Tigard sponsored the event with the purpose to send riders off in colorful fashion to the “Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Ride Home“.

After more than two months of controversy, a unanimous City Council vote along with assists from Harley supporters and the downtown business establishment,  the kickoff party for Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary was a go on Friday, August 15, 2003.  There were loud exhausts, public address systems, and rows of the famous “honey buckets” (portable toilets).  Organizers estimated 15,000 visitors, plus 2,000 motorcycles attended pumping an estimated $1.5 million into Portland’s economy.

To be sure, there were inconveniences to downtown residents by streets that were closed, as well as the beer gardens, food, merchandise vendors, live music, motorcycles, and the associated crowds and, teeth-chattering rumble of the hogs’.  The South Park Blocks area residents were not impressed and could give two shakes of a unicorn’s tail that the involved bikers were well behaved and left a lot of their money in the city.

None the less, streets were filled with Milwaukee iron, chaps, bandanas, tattoos and ‘If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand’ t-shirts.  Even the Oregon Lottery got involved with a Harley-Davidson Scratch-It campaign and where a Madras man won a motorcycle.

The Portland event was a lead up to the great trek back to Wisconsin and as it turns out the atmosphere in the Park Blocks on that weekend were surprisingly mellow.  Participants were low-key, drank their refreshments and moved about the event in an orderly fashion.

The so called “incensed residents” returned to their usual way of life when the last Harley departed downtown, but continued to grit their teeth and fight another day on the great Fluoride debate of 2013!

Photo taken by the author.

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Doobie Brothers performing at the 2003 Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary

Rain. Snow. Rain. Wind. Rain. Hail.

That pretty much sums up the local weather Sunday.  A blast of winter brought a mix of odd weather to the area, with temperatures in the 40s and rain turning into snow turning to hail throughout the day.

So it’s Sunday afternoon with a couple hard weeks of work under the belt and I’m thinking about better weather and motorcycle riding.  I’m running errands and pushing the XM buttons in the automobile.  I settled in on a little gem from the Doobie Brothers fourth album “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits” and I crank the volume on the song “Another Park, Another Sunday.”

Wow, it’s a flashback.

I suddenly remember buying the album on cassette (remember those?) and was instantly transported back in time to that moment of driving the stereo speakers in a ’76 Toyota Celica to the point of distortion, listening to music that energized and soothed the soul at the same time.  Hearing Tom Johnston again reminded me that the Doobie Brothers opened at the 100th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee in 2003. The Doobies were solid rock along with Kid Rock, but it was also the year that an intern who ran a focus group at the motor company mistook the leathers of Elton John as a motorcycle enthusiast and completely missed the mark on the Milwaukee demographic.   People left the venue in droves wondering how Harley-Davidson could have made such a mistake.  I also remember crashing an event a few years back in Las Vegas where Pat Simmons was playing in an intimate bar across the street from the LVCC for a Kingston Memory private party.  Pat along with a terrific band played some rockin’ down the highway tunes for several hours.

And speaking of Nevada, we’re about a month away from the Laughlin River Run.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Laughlin, NV rally then it’s a must add to your riding “bucket list.”  It’s four days of wall-to-wall bikes, exhibits, vendors and entertainment. The rally is distinctive with 10 major casino resorts along a two-mile stretch on Casino Drive and everything is literally at your hotel doorstep.   The desert makes a great backdrop and riding bonus for the event.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that long-time Doobie Brothers drummer Michael Hossack passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.  Hossack helped give the band its distinctive sound with two drummers and was critical to a number of hit albums. Michael played on the “Another Park, Another Sunday” as well as the rest of the “Vices” album, “The Captain And Me” and “Toulouse Street.”  They all make great Sunday riding music.  Listening back on some of the tracks you can’t help but think what a great musical drummer he was especially the killer fill at the beginning of “China Grove.”  He will live on in those tunes because they have stood the test of time.

Photo courtesy Doobie Brothers performing at the Harley-Davidson closing party in downtown Milwaukee August 31, 2003. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

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