The best thing you can say about the month of February is that it’s short, and the best thing you can say about March is that it ain’t February. This depressing stretch of wintry malaise is especially cruel on bikers, and to keep from auguring down into an evil funk, it’s important to keep the mind focused on the sunny days ahead and use this downtime to do some road trip and rally daydreaming and planning. That’s the traditional suicide prevention therapy in this culture, and this year that planning is likely to involve the state of Wisconsin, which over the course of the summer will be the center of the American motorcycle scene—even more so than usual. A whole host of big milestone parties will be taking place there, starting with the 50th anniversary of S&S Cycle in La Crosse from June 27–29.
The general theme of the S&S anniversary activities will be— fittingly enough—custom bike building, and helping them carry it off will be a crew of 50 notable custom bike builders building 50 S&S-powered customs and competing for a purse of $50,000. See a pattern here? The list of builders runs from A to Z (which the Ness family covers nicely from Arlen to Zach), and the competitors will be doing a lot more than dropping off their entries. While the full slate of doings is still in development, one prominent activity has been finalized and it’s highly unusual. The S&S folks have commandeered a pair of stern-wheeler riverboats for the weekend and will be conducting cruises on the Mississippi with at least two of the custom celebs schmoozing the passengers on each outing. Depending on which one you choose, the cruise runs from one hour to two in duration and includes a meal, a happy hour or simply narrated sightseeing.
Most of the balance of the festivities will be centered at the Oktoberfest grounds on the banks of Big Muddy and feature all the requisite biker-oriented distractions, and will be ably assisted in keeping the party pumped by a traveling rendition of the Broken Spoke Saloon. There will also be street racing out at the track for the go-fast crowd, and plant tours for the gearheads. To check in on scheduling details and developments or to book your cruise-and-schmooze, go to www. sscycle50th.com.
The following weekend will see hordes of Buellistas descending on East Troy to spend the Fourth of July holiday commemorating the 25th anniversary of Erik Buell’s impossible dream. This party’s pretty much an exclusive affair for the Buell faithful, and if you want to attend but don’t have a Buell yet, we recommend you get yourself the new XB12XT—especially if you’ve got some miles to travel to East Troy.
Come Labor Day weekend, all roads lead to Milwaukee where a trifecta of massive blowouts will be taking place, starting with the Harley Owners Group 25th anniversary festival at Miller Park on Thursday, August 28. There, H.O.G. members will be feted with a free daylong celebration on the grounds culminating in a concert in the ballpark starring Kid Rock and Aerosmith. Tickets will be required for that portion of the program, and are available to H.O.G members only for $25, and sold exclusively through www.members.hog.com beginning March 12.
Also on tap for the weekend is the Milwaukee Rally, the growing regional tradition hosted by Metro Milwaukee’s four Harley-Davidson dealerships and offering a flurry of free events at all locations and in the downtown Water Street party zone (www.milwaukeerally.com).
And that leaves the Big One—Harley-Davidson’s 105th anniversary extravaganza running on Friday and Saturday, August 29–30. But if you want to get a jump on things, you can start the party a lot earlier by joining one of the Ride Home pack ride-ins to the event and putting in some convivial road time. There are starting points scheduled in 105 cities across the country, with 25 major cities serving as rendezvous points for the feeder packs. All roads will literally lead to Milwaukee. Check your local dealer listings for dates and times.
Harley’s party has a theme this year also, and it’s music. Lots and lots of music. They’ve assembled a roster of towering talent to take the stages of the Summerfest grounds for two solid days, a list that includes ZZ Top, Black Crowes, Los Lonely Boys, Blue Oyster Cult, Daughtry, Buddy Guy, Dr. John, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Peter Frampton, War, Blind Melon, Foghat, Dierks Bentley, Joan Jett, Puddle of Mudd, Gary Allen, The Crave, and Cameo. Call it Lollapalooza for bikers, and you’ll get the gist of what they’ve done.
And there’s more. Gratified by the enthusiastic response to headliner Elton John at the 100th anniversary, Harley set about lining up some more gay British pop stars, and in a real coup have managed to book both Boy George and George Michael and talked them into performing as a duet called The Gorgeous Georges.
No, wait. Check that. It’s actually Bruce Springsteen who got the nod, but that’s probably even better. The Boss won’t be appearing at the Summerfest grounds, though, he’s performing at the Roadhouse at the Lakeshore, which is not to be confused with the relatively intimate 10,000-person-capacity Harley-Davidson Roadhouse at Summerfest. It’s a brand new nomenclature for the vast Veterans Park venue familiar to 100th anniversary attendees as the big field where Elton John et al. played. There will be a separate ticket for this show, costing $42.50 in addition to the $65 being charged for Summerfest admittance. A total of 60,000 tickets are available and will go on sale April 5 at www.harley- davidson.com/105.
All of which may lead you to wonder who the headlining musical act is scheduled to be at the S&S Cycle 50th anniversary celebration’s grand finale, and you’ll never guess in a million years. No, it’s not Elton. With fireworks popping over the Mississippi and the throngs assembled for some serious biker partying, the summer night will shred under the sonic assault of… the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra. Seriously.
You gotta marvel at that kind of class.
It’s all right here in the diaries.