ALPENA - Bikers choose to ride motorcycles for a variety of reasons. Some do it to explore or visit places they have never been, while some do it in honor of someone close to them who has passed away. They share a deep passion for their lifestyle and a sense of freedom while riding. That freedom takes them beyond the road they are driving and delivers them to a place of serenity and comfort.
This weekend as many as 1,000 motorcycles are expected to visit Alpena for the Michigan Harley Owners Group Rally. As they registered for the event at the Sanctuary Inn, many shared stories with one another about their travels, as well as caught up on how they have been since the last time they rode together. Rally organizer Robert McGeorge said this is the fifth HOG Rally and the group never had one in Northeast Michigan. He said having this year's in Alpena offers the riders a wide variety of scenery to enjoy, as well as activities for them to enjoy when not riding.
"We want our members to be able to go out and put on a lot of miles, enjoy the scenery and Alpena and Northeast Michigan offer tremendous riding plus it is a location we have never been to yet, so it seemed like a logical choice."
McGeorge said many bikers ride because of the feeling it gives them. He said riding enhances your senses, which helps you to notice things you wouldn't when in an automobile.
"It is just about being out there, having the wind in your face and hair and you see so much more," McGeorge said. "It isn't just a sport it is a passion for us. It is a way of life. It is not just I own a motorcycle, but I am part of Harley Davidson. This is our lifestyle."
Pat Daniels is a Vietnam vet who began riding a Harley when he returned home from war. He said he visited the Alpena area about 20 years ago and is looking forward to spending time in the community. He said being a biker is like being in a brotherhood, like being a veteran.
"My bike is a tribute to all of the people who served, but particularly my two friends. we grew up as kids playing Army and never thought someday it would be the real deal for us," Daniels said. "For whatever reason I made it home and they didn't. This is a reminder of not only their sacrifice, but the sacrifice for all of the guys that didn't make it home. Now, they ride with me every time I take off."
The front of Daniel's bike has a list of names of some of those who did not return from Vietnam, including Obney's and Graham's. It also has an American flag. When the bike is parked or on display he takes out photos of his two friends and proudly displays them on the windshield.
He said there are a lot of benefits to riding and recommends people who don't ride, try it. He said it is very therapeutic.
"I would tell anyone looking to buy one that you don't want to be sitting in a Lazy Boy 10 years from now regretting that you didn't," Daniels said.
Many of the events being held are exclusive to the riders, but there are a handful open to the public. McGeorge said he hopes the residents come out and look at the bikes and say hello.
"We want the public to experience some of the fun we are having and to see what we are all about," McGeorge said.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.=