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.
Speaking of Covington Cycles, during the four-day event, Jerry Covington and his crew built one of their choppers for the True American Hero Custom Bike Giveaway, a tribute to those who've served in the armed forces. The winner was chosen by a panel of judges with military backgrounds who read through stacks of letters sent in by friends and family explaining why their candidate deserved the chopper. In the end the panel selected Captain Kraig Kvalevog (Ret.) as the lucky winner. Meanwhile, Hugh King and the Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off series rode in and held the voting session for a trike build-off (check www.discoverychannel.com for episode air dates).
One of the most exciting events of the weekend took place on Friday as hundreds (maybe even thousands) of bikers coverged on one of the Expo's side roads for an 11-mile parade of bikes downtown to Congress Avenue with a free party and concert by Vallejo, Omar & The Howlers, and Van Wilks. Word is the R.O.T. Rally organizers were attempting to set the record for the longest motorcycle parade. The Guinness Book of World Records is currently reviewing the ride to verify that an official record was set. However, the fact that people were parking their bikes on Congress while others were still leaving the staging area ought to be a pretty good indication that there may be a new record in the books.
Plans are already in the works to make next year's rally even bigger and better, if that's possible. The next rally is set to take place May 31-June 1, 2007. You can log onto www.rotrally.com to reserve your camping spot, or if you're not into roughing it, the website will help you find the names and numbers for local hotels. If you're thinking about rolling out to Austin, you'd better book your lodging now, as the town sells out pretty quickly.
The R.O.T. Rally was the second leg in the five-stop tour for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hard Rock Roadhouse Tour (HRRHT). Led by tour organizer Carrie Repp, builders Aaron Greene (Paramount Custom Cycles); Gard Hollinger (LA Choprods); Eric Gorges (VooDoo Choppers); and Paul Cox, Keino, and Bobby Segar Jr. (Indian Larry Legacy) signed autographs and partied with rally attendees all weekend long. The HRRHT entertainment stage was the hot party spot, with performances by the HRRHT dancers and stand-up comedy from Steve Trevino, as well as plenty of drinking games and other contests where partiers won T-shirts and other prizes. Aside from meeting the builders, the other main attraction that drew the crowds to the HRRHT stage was the chance to sign up and win one of the four custom bikes built by the HRRHT builders. The tour's final stop will be held December 8-9, 2006, at the Fort Lauderdale Rally, where a name will be drawn. That very lucky person will get to pick which of the four bikes he or she wants to ride home. If you can't make it to the remaining events to sign up for the giveaway, you can enter online at www.hrroadhouse.com.