The old clich "everything is bigger in Texas" rang very true this past June in the Lone Star State's capital city of Austin. As the largest motorcycle rally in the state of Texas and the biggest biker bash in the Southwest, the Republic of Texas Rally (aka the R.O.T.), held at the Travis County Expo Center, is quickly gaining popularity as one of the biggest rallies in the nation. During the event this year, more than 35,000 people crammed through the Expo doors, and an estimated 200,000 rolled in downtown to the capital for the free block party and concert on Friday night.
This past June 1-4 marked the 12th annual rally, and while still young in years compared to Sturgis and Daytona, the R.O.T. Rally has so much going on within its Expo Center confines that one would never need to leave the complex the entire weekend. However, it is highly recommended that you explore the beautiful surroundings of rolling back roads and spend at least one evening down on 6th Street zig-zagging in and out of the three blocks of restaurants, nightclubs, karaoke bars, pool halls, bar and grills, and honky tonks-if you haven't heard, Austin is known as the "live music capital of America."
Unlike Sturgis, where campgrounds are spread out as far as 50 miles away from the actual city limits, Jerry and Colleen Bragg and the rest of the R.O.T Rally organizers encourage everyone from RVers to tent campers to pick a piece of the Expo Center grounds and make it theirs for the extended weekend (after registering and purchasing the appropriate passes, of course).
So what is it that puts the R.O.T. Rally up there with Sturgis and Daytona? It's the nonstop entertainment, big-name vendors, and numerous high-quality activities that bring the crowds in year after year. This year, American IronHorse sponsored the outdoor concert stage with live performances by David Allen Coe, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, and Paul Rodgers. Also outside were major vendors such as Drag Specialties, J&P Cycles, Ego Tripp Wheels, and American IronHorse. The Mid Cities Cruisers hosted a ride-in bike show in the 16,000-square-foot Show Barn with more than 23 classes and tons of bikes worthy of the various trophies.
While there was plenty of fun and sun to be enjoyed outside, the main attractions were inside the air-conditioned arena or, as Jerry referred to it, "the three-ring circus." Top-name builders such as Redneck Engineering, Martin Bros., Exile Cycles, Denver's Choppers, and Covington's Cycles lined one end of the rodeo arena, while the Hard Rock Road House Tour (HRRHT) entertainment stage and the featured HRRHT builders, Paramount Custom Cycles, LA Choprods, Indian Larry Legacy, and Voodoo Choppers, posted up at the other end. The middle of the arena was host to a bevy of attractions throughout the weekend, including the Big Texas Chop-Off, an invitation-only bike show in which Dusty Brown of the Covington's Cycles camp took the top title.