2007 Honda Hoot
Motorcyclists Come to Knoxville To Give A Hoot!
"I'm not really a rally guy," was my response to American Honda Motor Company's Jon Seidel when he asked me if Motorcycle.com would be interested in attending the 2007 Honda Hoot. "Neither am I," he said, "but I think you'll like the Hoot."
Since I had never been to the American Southeast, I decided the trip alone to Knoxville, TN, would be worth the effort. To sweeten the deal Honda was providing a bike of my choice (a Honda, naturally) to get around on while there. With an awakening urge to explore new territory and a steel horse named ST1300, I was ready to attend my first Hoot.
In its 14th year, the Hoot remains the preeminent Honda rally in the U.S. Organized and run by the Honda Riders Club of America, this rally is brimming with things to do and see. Drawing upwards of 16,000 people and pumping close to $20 million into the local economy, the Hoot is a power house among rallies. Sure, there's the Daytona or Sturgis events that bring in more people and more money, but this gathering of mild-mannered motorcyclists is different from those rallies.
A series of activities take place like clockwork everyday, but each day also holds a different destination ride as well as some type of large event at the end of the day.
For example, head over to Hoot central in Chilowee Park where a decent amount of vendors, both Honda-specific and anything motorcycle, are set up. It was also here that the Ball of Steel Stunt Show was stationed. Try to envision a giant steel whiffle ball with at least three small-displacement dirtbikes buzzing around inside, narrowly missing each other as they ride over every square-inch of the metal globe. Yes, even upside down. If you're a regular rally-goer, keep your eyes peeled at the next event to see if the Ball of Steel Stunt Show is there. You have to see at least once in your motolife.
If that wasn't enough wacky riding, then the Team Extreme Trials Show was also on hand to show attendees a type of riding that few motorcyclists ever get to witness in person. If you're not familiar with trials riding, try to imagine a motorcycle that looks more like a mountain bike than a motorcycle and can hop and climb over virtually anything in its path.
But that's just a sample of the daily goings on. If you were up to it you could go to the Knoxville Zoo, the Dixie Stampede, white-water rafting on the Pigeon River, the Black Bear Jamboree, and of course visit Dollywood. I'm still kicking myself for not going there. These were just a few activities a Hooter could count on everyday.
If you were a little more into actually riding at a motorcycle rally, you could choose from 11 different self-guided destination rides, a different one or two each day. Some of you may be familiar with the areas that the rides are named after: Ride to the Falls, Cumberland Gap Ride, Best Dam Ride and Fish Fry, Get to the Point Ride (a ride to the Point Resort near Dandridge, TN), Ride to Roan Mountain, Knoxville Ride for Kids and Beans, Beans and More Beans (a tour of Bush's Baked Beans factory, the first time it's ever been open to the public). These were just a little over half of the rides and tours available.
|America The Beautiful|
|It was another balmy evening in Knoxville as I wandered through the Honda Hoot Bike Night at the World's Fair Park looking for anything and everything Hoot related. It was obvious by large gaps separating bikes along the curb that the masses had started to clear out. I was peeved at myself for being tardy but figured I would roam around anyway, camera in hand. After 20 minutes or so I decided to cut my loses and head out.
"Great Mother of Goldwings, what is that?", I said to myself as I climbed the stairs to exit the park. I had found it! The most elaborate Wing I had seen all week was parked under a bridge. I know there must have been other show-stopping Wings around, but I hadn't run across any.
What was parked beneath that bridge was a two-wheeled icon of American patriotism. Peter Weidman, a general contractor from Queensbury, NY, is the owner of this tribute to the good ol' U.S of A. Though Peter is proud to be an American, he's a very humble and amiable fellow; just a hard working guy who loves his Goldwing and his country.
The 2004 GL1800 isn't his first Wing though. "My wife and I had a dream when I had my first Goldwing, a white 1996 GL1500, but doing this theme was just more than I could afford at the time. So I had to wait eight years before I was ready to buy a new bike. Then I had to wait two years for Honda to come out with the Refrigerator White, as I call it."
The theme was conceived to honor America the Beautiful but soon took on a patriotic tone. On one side of the tail trunk a stirring image of the U.S. flag raising at Iwo Jima reflects American military might. The other side displays a different but equally familiar flag raising that resonates just as strongly, as three firefighters struggle to hoist an American flag, and American resilience along with it at Ground Zero on that fateful September day in 2001.
The other images adorning the motorcycle and trailer are well known to most: Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, and a soaring American eagle to name a few.
When Peter finally found the bike that would be his blank canvas, he shipped it off to artist Bert Ballowe of Dandridge, TN, with a whopping 17 miles on the clock. The job, including work on the WAGS trailer, took a total of 14 months and was completed in four phases, according to Weidman. The elaborate light show was handled by Lewis Q. Preston of Electrical Connection in Knoxville, TN. Peter did all the accessorizing himself.
Speaking of accessories, in what he figures is the final touch to complement the sea-to-shining-sea motif, Weidman had an etching done to the lowest portion of the windshield. On the right are the Twin Towers, to the left is the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you, like so many did at the time I was there, are wondering how much dough Peter has sunk into his only motorcycle, he's lost count but estimates it to be between $35,000-40,000 including the cost of the bike. I asked Peter what he thought gave him the most satisfaction of owning his rolling tribute to the States.
"I think displaying the bike and letting people see it,” he replied. “It makes us feel good that people appreciate what we've done." But what really brings a smile to Peter's face is the reaction he receives from some Harley owners. "The biggest thrill I get is when the hardcore Harley guys who normally won't look twice at a Goldwing will come over, walk around the bike and say 'great bike.' That's the ultimate compliment I think, to get a non-Goldwinger or non-Honda rider to come and spend some time looking at it."
In an arena where so many can be so over-the-top Peter Weidman has sculpted his dream machine in a way that isn't offensive, but at the same time makes no apologies for his convictions.
God Bless America.
On and on it went for five days: A bike night carnival-type atmosphere at the Knoxville World's Fair Park (site of the 1982 World's Fair), a demonstration of incredible riding talent by the Knoxville Motor Corps, a huge fireworks display, a metric cruiser motorcycle show, a poker run (naturally!), a big party at the historic Museum of Appalachia, a '50s themed party, ride upon ride to some neat destinations through lush and scenic countryside that included the Great Smoky Mountains, manufacturer demo rides, vendors for most all your accessory needs, food, music, more decorated Goldwings than you could shake a stick at, and a great big street party to wrap things up on Saturday. There was simply too much to do and see beyond what I've noted here. Believe it or not, five days just wasn't enough.
And it all took place in and around what has become one of my new favorite American cities: Knoxville, TN. Everywhere I went, in the heart of the city as well as outlaying areas, I was impressed with how well manicured and maintained everything was. But more than that, the most endearing aspect of this historic town were the friendly folks that live and work there. Their southern drawl was as charming and sincere as they themselves were. Everyone that I encountered during my time at the Hoot was just downright nice.
Speaking of people, this leads me to my remark earlier about how the Hoot is different from most rallies. It was about as family-oriented (if you could get your family on your bike, I guess) an event as they come. And that's really what the Hoot is about. Riders from everywhere coming together to enjoy the company of other bikers. No matter if you rode in on a Hodaka, Hyosung or Hog, the Hoot welcomes all. Certainly Honda products dominated the scene, but it really didn't matter what you rode as much as the fact that you ride.
Next year the Hoot will be celebrating its 15th anniversary, and it's sure to be a biggie. If, like me, you haven't been to this mega rally and would like to experience something motorcycle-based of this magnitude without feeling like you have to drink your weight in American pilsner, do yourself a favor and get to the Hoot. Ride in on a Honda... Or not. Hooters really don't care as long as you're a biker and like to have fun.
I'm looking forward to going back next year and trying to get in as much riding and as many events as possible. That won't be easy to pull off, but I'll have a good time trying.