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Harleys hit the streets in Oak Harbor

A motor patrol escorts a parade of Harley-Davidson riders through downtown Oak Harbor to kick off the Washington State H.O.G. Rally July 18, 2013.  - Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times
A motor patrol escorts a parade of Harley-Davidson riders through downtown Oak Harbor to kick off the Washington State H.O.G. Rally July 18, 2013.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

Shannon Olson watched with envious eyes as a parade of Harley-Davidson motorcycles rolled out of the parking lot of the Coachman Inn & Suites Thursday night.

Olson, a front desk clerk, got to see the start of a motorcycle parade that traveled through downtown Oak Harbor. Dozens of Harleys rode by her.

“I have been on bikes since I was 4 years old,” Olson said.

“If anything, I was jealous.

“I’m familiar with the culture. It’s nice to see American made stuff rolling out of here.”

The Coachman Inn & Suites is the host hotel for the 2013 Washington State Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) Rally, which began Thursday night and continues through Saturday, July 20.

One hundred and seventy-nine guests were staying at the sold-out hotel Thursday night. Olson guessed all but 20 were there for the H.O.G. Rally.

“They’re a blast,” she said. “They’re probably some of the most pleasant guests we’ve had.”

Approximately 370 riders were expected for the H.O.G. Rally with maybe half of that number arriving in time to participate in the parade.

A police motorcycle escort led riders across Highway 20, down Midway Boulevard, along Pioneer Way and back up Ely Street to complete the route.

The parade was over in less than 15 minutes.

“I think it was probably the fastest parade I’ve ever seen,” said Julie Rosenthal, who stepped outside of her workplace at the UnSizeMe yoga studio on Pioneer Way to watch the event.

“I wished it was longer,” said Tammy Theriault, who watched from across the street with her husband, four children and both parents.

Her dad, Mike Connell, a retired motorcycle patrolman from El Paso, Texas, came to see the Harleys. He rides a 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King Peace Officer Special Edition.

“The only thing close to this is the Oyster Run in Anacortes,” Connell said of the Northwest event that takes place Sept. 22 this year, sending riders through Whidbey Island’s interior.

Theriault said she was struck by the number of women riding Harleys in the parade.

“There were almost more women than men,” she said.

The H.O.G Rally itinerary included several scenic rides on and off Whidbey Island, bike games, dinners and social hours.

It was a gathering of riders as well as an occasion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the North Cascade Washington chapter of H.O.G., which covers Skagit and Island counties.

Among those who attended were Woody West and Terry Werderitz, who rode to Oak Harbor from Oconomowac, Wis.

They are part of Wisconsin’s Rock River H.O.G. chapter. Their trek is part of a 15-day, 6,000-mile ride through western states to honor veterans and first responders and raise awareness for Remember Rally, a nonprofit organization that is trying to raise money to build a specialized health facility and retreat for those adversely affected by exposure to toxins.

By the time they’re done riding for this cause over four years, they will have traveled to 48 states.

“A lot of veterans are coming back with Post Traumatic Distress Disorder,” said West, who served in Vietnam. “It seems like it’s more serious now.”

Read about their mission at www.rememberrally.com

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