I’m no easy rider, but for a little while on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I strolled through Brady Street and felt cool.
Paced by the celebratory hum of idling hogs, we made our way through packed sidewalks all decked out for the Harley Davidson 110th anniversary, which brought more than 100,000 bikers to Milwaukee, including a contingent of more than 100 from Australia.
Though I wore a prissy summer dress and inappropriate sandals, I felt at one with my generally bearded and somewhat scruffy co-celebrants. I don’t actually own a Harley, but I did ride on the back of one once and the spontaneous spin around our neighborhood thrilled me.
Even though I sport not a single tattoo and generally limit the leather I wear to my shoes, I love a beautiful bike and Harley Davidson consistently and globally turns out the best. Those bikes – hard candy custom voodoo purple flake, volcanic orange, candy apple red, custom blue – proudly lined the curbs Saturday as summer rays glinted off buffed chrome.
Delighted by the spectacle, we moseyed and I noted that the Harley effect transformed more than just east-side neighborhoods and middle-aged bloggers. The entire city stands a little taller thanks to Wisconsin’s own Harley-Davidson, whose universally recognized orange and black brand stands for freedom, quality and, in the face of economic struggles that felled lesser industry brands, success.
The smell of hops still hovers over downtown Milwaukee, a city that owes its schmiel, schlimazel reputation to a well-intentioned Garry Marshall and a homespun charm. But, thanks to a couple of Wisconsin boys named William and Arthur and the sophisticated brand they launched more than a century ago, Milwaukee also remains the epicenter of motorcycle chic.
Here’s a little clip of the parade, courtesy of my sister Kathy Finley.