For four days Baker City rumbled with the roaring of motorcycle engines. Harleys, Suzukis, Indians, street bikes, cruisers, 800-pound touring bikes, beat-up choppers with ape-hangers, pristine show bikes, custom-built amalgamations of spare parts welded together — if it had a throttle and two or three wheels it could be found on Main Street during the annual Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.
During the day, vendors lined Main Street downtown selling everything from food to leather riding gear to jewelry. A stunt crew performed wheelies and jumped over fire in front of Umpqua Bank, and people danced in the street to music played by We’re Not Brothers. At night, bikers flocked to bars and restaurants.
Todd Godfrey, marketing manager for High Desert Harley-Davidson in Meridian, Idaho, was in his first year organizing the Rally, which brings thousands of riders to Baker City.
Although participants aren’t required to register, Godfrey estimates 1,500 riders did so, about a 45% increase from previous years, he said.
“That’s all due to the community and business supporting the rally,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey promoted the event on Facebook and Instagram, and word-of-mouth attracted riders from as far away as Louisiana and Saskatchewan, Canada.
Last year Lou Bouvier, a tanned man with a grey mustache and a leather top hat, was passing through Baker City on his way from California to his home at Moosejaw, Canada, when he met Godfrey at AJ’s Corner Brick and Grill in Baker City. Bouvier learned about the Rally and started following it and sharing it with his friends on Facebook.
“The town and the area did a super job,” Bouvier said, “They rolled out the red carpet for us, like everybody’s welcome.”
Friday evening, the Fairgrounds hosted flat track races. Three minibikes, three street bikes, three vintage bikes and seven dirt bikes competed in their respective categories.
Roger Kirkwood from Baker City won the dirt bike class.
Kasey Stearns, a 28-year-old mechanic with a buzzed mohawk haircut and a plush bat tacked onto his shoulder, won the street bike race with his 750 cc, black Honda Shadow.
Stearns, who’s from Donald, Oregon, south of Portland, also accessorized his bike with a small plush gorilla tucked between the handlebars, a metal ram’s head welded onto the front fender, and large chain welded into an arch on the back of the seat.
Codey Yee and Korey Yee, from Caldwell, Idaho, won the minibike class and the vintage bike class respectively.
80HD, a band from Boise, opened the Saturday concert.
Later, members of Redstone, a popular Boise band from the late 1980s, reunited on stage for the first time in 29 years.
Baker City Manager Fred Warner Jr. auctioned a David Uhl painting of a girl in a jumpsuit on a Harley in front of a P-51 Mustang fighter plane, with the proceeds going to the Baker City Police Department.
Denise Couch from Eugene won the painting, valued at $2,200.
“How am I going to get the painting back on the bike?” she asked.
Godfrey optioned to ship it to Couch.
The closing act Saturday was Steven Adler, former drummer for Guns ’N Roses, and his band, who rocked classics “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” before finishing the night with “Paradise City.”
Godfrey said he’s already thinking about the 2020 Rally. He plans on adding more rides for next year and wants to make the entertainment bigger and better.
“Hells Canyon is getting the word out as one of the premier rallies of the Pacific North West,” Godfrey said. “That has a lot to do with the county folks. Everybody I’ve talked to, the riders, say the people here are so nice that they want to come back.”