They trickled into Richfield by the twos, fours, sixes and eights, nearly 400 of them, and all riding expensive motorcycles.
But the members of "HOG" didn't roar through town, and there was no revving up of engines, not even as much as the local kids with their ATVs and loud tailpipes.These members of the Harley Owners Group, commonly called HOG, left an image on Richfield Tuesday far different from that which seems to be conceived about bike riders by much of the public.
These Harley riders were prominent people in their own communities, most professionals or business owners. They ranged in age from the early 20s to the 70s, some retired and many couples.
Because the average Harley costs between $15,000 and $23,000, few HOG members are in their 20s because "the young kids can't afford to buy the bikes or take time off from their work," said Harry Barden, a retired police officer from Washington.
They came from all across the continent. Some grow beards for the rides. All dress in black leather. Then when they get home they shave off their beards and change back into their business clothing. It's all part of the role, part of the fun.
"We are a group with family oriented values," said Joe Dowd of Milwaukee, event manager for the Harley-Davidson Co. "We are usually the first ones to defend that philosophy. Because you wear leather doesn't mean you are a radical person." He explained too that leather offers riders protection from the elements.
Dowd added that 15 years ago communities would use the excuse that their space was filled when HOG riders tried to reserve hotel rooms.
"Now the towns are jumping to get our customers."
Richfield residents held nothing back in greeting the biker group Tuesday. As bikers pulled into town they were welcomed with large banners. Rainbow-colored flags were draped on light poles along Main Street.
In a short speech at a gathering and barbecue at the city park, Mayor Kay Kimball also extended the welcome mat. The scene was fitting for Mayberry RFD, right out of the old Andy Griffith TV show.
"We appreciate you being here . . . we envy you," Kimball said. "We sit in our offices and wish we were riding a motorcycle with you."
There is no doubt that HOG members dropped a lot of dough from their leathers Tuesday during their short stay in Richfield. They don't carry much so they buy along the way. They filled about every motel room in Richfield and nearby Salina before moving on Wednesday to Moab.
" utilize the resources of the community and spend more, for instance, than the motor home group that is self-contained," Dowd said.
Joe and Aggie Collinson came from Alberta, Canada. Joe was member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 28 years and spent several years as director of security for the province. Much of his time was spent on motorcycles, including escorting Queen Elizabeth II across Canada.
"When I was born, my dad brought me home from the hospital in the side car of a motorcycle," he said.
Robert Davidson, a developer from Washington, said the HOG rides offer "a lot of camaraderie" and "a great adventure."
Bill Yardon and Paula Hinds flew from Chicago to Sacramento, where they rented a Harley and joined the ride. Greg Funk, an aircraft mechanic from San Jose, Calif., said if any rider has trouble others come to the rescue.
"Everyone stops. It's a group thing and you bring the next guy along if there are problems," he said.
Although HOG is involved in several events each year, this is the first time the bikers have traveled as a group in Utah. The group wanted to drive across the "loneliest road in America," U.S. 50-6 in Nevada, and when that trek ended it "dropped us into southern Utah," Dowd said. "We had three more days on the road so decided what more of a beautiful place to go than Utah."
The Harley Owners Group was founded in 1983 and initially drew 33,000 members. Today there are 450,000 members worldwide in 97 countries.
Harley-Davidson had a simple beginning nearly a century ago in a family's back yard in Milwaukee when the first motorcycle was crafted by William S. Harley and the Davidson brothers William D., Walter and Arthur. The company later expanded, providing 20,000 motorcycles for the armed forces in World War I. The company's sales exploded in the '60s and '70s. There's now a several-month-long waiting list just to buy a Harley.