Highland Freedom

Oxford (09 September 2013) - Freedom is a word that crops up frequently in the biker's lexicon especially where Harley-Davidson is concerned. The freedom of the open road is the biker's holy grail and all 2,200 H.O.G.® members who signed up for the recent Thunder in the Glens event hit the open road, travelling from all corners of the UK and beyond, zeroing in on the small town of Aviemore in the south east Highlands of Scotland.

Many H.O.G. members make Thunder in the Glens their annual holiday and many overseas H.O.G. patches can be seen taking advantage of the fantastic scenic riding which is available in the Scottish Highlands – which are a world famous tourist attraction. Consequently the event has the feeling of a week-long event not just a weekender and many of the bars and restaurants of Aviemore and surrounding towns get into the spirit of the event with 'Welcome Bikers' banners displayed everywhere.

The huge Macdonald Resort Hotel complex in Aviemore has tremendous capacity geared as it is to the region's huge winter sports activities and there are numerous hotels, B&Bs, chalets and campsites all over the area. It is apparent that many more bikers are attracted to Thunder in the Glens who are not registered H.O.G. members or even Harley® riders. They come to experience the unique atmosphere created when Aviemore becomes biker central. They might not have access to all of the music acts performing at the resort but there are many other free live acts performing a whole range of music from lorry trailer stages in the car parks of the Cairngorm Hotel and the Winking Owl restaurant.

West Coast Harley-Davidson put on live music at Papa Rock's as do other bars in town which are also attended by the registered Thunder in the Glens rally-goers. It all kicks off on Friday afternoon and hardly stops until the early hours of Monday morning. The truth is that there is far more going on than anyone can realistically take in and all kinds of musical tastes are catered for whether it's Scottish folk, Country and Western, Blues or Rock n Roll there's something for everyone.

The first big event of the rally is the Parade Ride-Out which traditionally stops in Grantown-on-Spey for the annual Taste of Scotland fair which celebrates Scottish comestibles. The ride-out included over 1,000 bikes and this year it was noticeable how many other marques of motorcycle had joined in the parade. The route took in the road around Lochindorb where the waters lap alongside the verge. In Scottish terms the weather would be described as a 'Dreich Day' meaning dull and a bit drizzly and the ruins of Lochindorb Castle in the middle of the Loch certainly looked dark and threatening! But the mood of those participating didn’t seem to be similarly affected.

As the convoy rode into Grantown the locals and tourists lined the streets filming on smartphones and marvelling as the V-Twin crescendo reverberated the buildings either side of the High Street, the bikes filled the streets and the leather-clad hordes dismounted and went in search of refreshment. This was no re-enactment of Hollister as the mood was jovial and the locals welcomed the Harley-Davidson invasion.

Riders made their own way back to Aviemore in time for the Ride-in Custom Show which again demonstrated the inclusiveness that is characteristic of this event's Scottish hospitality in that non-Harleys were entered alongside Milwaukee's finest. People's choice was always going to be the Harley Trike which had incredibly detailed paintwork that depicted scenes of Scottish heroes William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in their struggle for Scottish freedom.

Saturday night's entertainment featured Celtic drumming band Clann An Drumma whose energetic set was sure to set Celtic blood racing. The Ladies of Harley in the audience certainly seemed fired up but it is not certain if this was entirely down to the music but rather the raw nature of the kilted warriors playing it!

The sun made an appearance for the ride-out to Cairngorm Mountain on Sunday morning, which was a welcoming sight. The views over the Spey valley back over towards Aviemore emphasised what a small town it is within the vast Highland landscape. Sunday afternoon was a good opportunity to shop at the large trader village or book out a demo ride on one of the varying range of H-D models available – free to anyone who could supply a copy of their license - or just chill out.

Sunday night's Grand Finale was a Mods and Rockers themed night but where they expected to find any Mods among the dedicated H.O.G. bikers is a mystery! In fact there was one lady who bravely dressed up as Mary Quant, while her chap was less convincing in his Paul Weller/Bradley Wiggins wig! Itchycoo Park played a superb set of Sixties classics which went down well and they crowd sang the Beatles songs better than Macca! Then with a flash of multi-coloured drape jackets and brothel creeper shoes, 70s band Showaddywaddy blitzed the crowd with their extensive string of hit records. They rocked, the crowd bopped and everyone enjoyed a good time as another fantastic Thunder in the Glens drew to a close.

Once again George McGuire and his Dunedin Chapter members had come up with the goods and organised a belter of a Thunder in the Glens Rally and deserve big thanks for their hard work. As they say in these parts 'Haste Ye Back'.