A few weeks ago Milwaukee hosted two separate bike events on the same night. They were only about a hundred yards apart, and i had friends planning to go to each, so I figured it would be fun to see both.
The Iron Horse Hotel is a motorcycle themed and biased hotel just south of downtown. Despite being a short walk from the Harley Davidson Museum, it strives to not be limited to a Harley theme. It started hoisting a bike night on Thursdays, and encourages a different brand or style of bike each week.
This week was about the Build Bikes. Build Milwaukee is a high school program where students are given a barn-fresh bike and a budget, and have to produce a race worthy motorcycle. That motorcycle is then raced with the students serving as pit crew. Iron Horse was auctioning off two of the Build bikes to raise money for the program.
Down the road at the Harley Davidson Museum they were starting the annual Milwaukee Rally with a party annoucing the 2012 model lines. I’m not really a Harley guy, but a friend was excited to go and it was very close to the Iron Horse, so I thought “Why not?”
I worked until 6pm, and went home to eat and change clothes. With that done I started Curiosity up and headed over to the hotel. They have dedicated motorcycle parking as a normal feature (part of that motorcycle bias I mentioned earlier), and station staff to divert cars to other lots (or valet for guest who didn’t know what they were getting). The bike area isn’t huge, and can fill up. I got there as it was near the line between full and still having a space or two. Curiosity is small, so it fit just fine.
What didn’t fit was me. Well, i guess Curiosity didn’t really either. The Iron Horse is a high end hotel. They have Duck Nachos .The crowd there was several classes above where I normally hang out. There were a lot of expensive adventure tourers, and a few cool custom things. And the Build bikes, of course. I only knew one person there ,ajdnhe hsd brought his car. I looked at the bikes for a while, chatted with a few people, but just wasn’t able to settle into the vibe of $10 glasses of sangria.
I’d been getting texts from my friend at the museum, so decided to head over there. This caused a scrabble for my parking spot which I should have taken as a clue.
Reaching the drive for the museum I was treated to the closest thing to a motorcycle Scrum I have ever seen. The drive was gated, so only bikes could get through, and there were a few security people who seemed to be trying to keep things organized. There was even a traffic light, which should’ve helped. It didn’t matter and there was a confused mass of bikes trying to be the next one in. It was already crowded, but there was clearly a lot of spaces left. It was also clear many of the riders were at their limits handling their bikes, waddling them forward and trying to squeeze in front of others. They managed to block half the road when the light changed, but I got the impression they didn’t much care.
ignoring this further clue of how the party was probably going to go, I turned away from the main parking area and found somewhere a bit further away, accepting the walk for some distance. I found a spot with a pink scooter, and while I was locking up coat and helmet I saw a couple get out of a car. He had on a HD dealer shirt and wrap around glasses. She had on very short shorts, a ripped tank top showing her red lacey bra, and black high heel boots that reached over her knees. In short, they looked like they were living the lifestyle, after they locked their car and started for the music, tents and beer of the party.
I knew I was out of my depth here too, so I sent a message to my friend looking for somewhere to meet, hoping to say hello, hang out for a few minutes, and politely leave. I didn’t get an immediate answer, not surprising given how loud it was from a block away, so I started walking over.
There were a lot of bikes. Again, I’m not a Harley guy so they mostly looked the same. Variations in red, black, and chrome. At random there would be some oddness, like a cushman with a Honda CB750 motor.
The new models were out where people to sit on them, and most had a small crowd gathered. Others had no one around, but I wasn’t aware enough of the difference to know why. I heard a lot of people talking about upgrading to one of the new bikes, so it seemed like the event would be a success for Harley.
I got a message saying my friend had already left. It was still early, not much after 8, and the level of intoxication was impressive. I decided I’d had enough and walked back to Curiosity. The confused parking situation was just reaching where I’d left my bike, and I watched a couple near accidents before deciding to take a much longer way home.
I saw a lot of bikes, and while I know I sounded a bit negative I also know a lot of people for whom riding means actually riding, rather than, well.
I am still glad I went. Glad the Build bikes were attracting attention and hopefully high bids in the auction. I’m even glad the party at the museum seemed to be a success for Harley, everyone there seemed to be having a good time. But it definitely isn’t my crowd, and I am completely okay with that.