(a version of this story was published in Canadian Biker Magazine in June, 2009 under the title They Came for the Fries. They Stayed for the Bikes.) Note: This Magazine pays well, but the editor likes to do a lot of re-writing, often with grammatical errors, so I prefer my own versions. Hope you agree)
After having spent two sunny weeks without a bike, amongst the curves and hills of the popular town of Kaslo, BC, it was refreshing to at last be on our Venture once more, taking advantage of what was apparently one of the few clear evenings that central Ontario had experienced since we’d left.
It began with a call from Mike at 4:00 pm. “Can you meet us at the Bell parking lot at 4:30? It looks like we’re going to be done work early.”
After exchanging our shorts and sandals for jeans and boots, and making a quick call to Keith to see if he was up for the ride, Jim (Victor) and I were on our way. It took a little longer than anticipated to get everyone gathered, but by five there were eight bikes heading out the 115 from Peterborough towards Port Perry. Our destination was the weekly Bike Cruise-in held at Haugen’s Chicken & Ribs Barbeque Restaurant, a seventy-five kilometre trip from Peterborough.
Besides our Yamaha Venture, our party included Brian and Carol on Vulcans, Tom on a Harley Fat Boy, Randy on a Honda 750, Keith on his Honda ST 1300, Mike on a Honda 13TX 1300 and Glenn on a 1500 Kawasaki Mean Streak.
The sun was warm and the air was clear. We left Hwy 115, and followed the grey ribbon of highway 7A up long hills and down through lush valleys, past corn fields and rows of freshly mowed hay, through the little communities of Cavan, Bethany, Nestleton and into the Town of Port Perry. Three kilometres west of there we turned south at the traffic lights onto Hwy 12 and road into the Hamlet of Manchester. Soon the familiar sites and sounds of a Motorcycle Cruise-in greeted us. The smell of barbecued meat and homemade strawberry pie accosted our senses as we pulled into the parking lot. The paved parking areas were already full. We picked up our free door prize tickets at the gate, and continued over the bridge to the grassy excess parking spot, next to a corn field.
Haugen’s has been around since 1953 and over the years has become popular with thousands of families and travelers. Fourteen years ago the current owners started welcoming area car buffs to a Classic Car Cruise-in on Wednesday nights throughout the summer. Seven years later they expanded that invitation to motorcycle enthusiasts, creating the Thursday Night Motorcycle Cruise-in. With about 1000 bikes attending weekly, Haugen’s has become the place to be on Thursday Nights.
On January 7, 2006 Haugen’s was presented with the Max Award in the category of “Motorcycle Event” at the North American International Motorcycle Supershow in Toronto.
After filling our growling stomachs with some of the specialties at the restaurant, while watching the empty parking spaces gradually fill, we went out to do the tour.
Although Harleys were in abundance, a large variety of other bike makes and classes were represented. Near the front door, four shiny new Boss Hosses with their V8 car engines were attracting a large crowd, the owners more than pleased to rev the engines to demonstrate the roar from the pipes. There were vintage Triumphs, Hondas and BMWs.
We checked out the details of some unique custom work, such as the copper coloured chopper with brown tooled-leather seat, bronzed fenders and accessories, and exposed primary belt drive; and the custom-made bright yellow trike with a leading link front end and a chrome combination of crash bar/floor boards; and the low-to-the-ground customized Suzuki with a single swing-arm, and chromed connecting rods used for mirror arms, brake peddle, shift lever and kick stand.
The sun reflecting off the profusion of glistening chrome was sometimes blinding, and we looked in amazement at the variety of graphics and pin striping. One Shadow could have been an advertisement for a popular biking magazine, owned by a proud “Canadian Biker” displaying red maple leaves air brushed onto the white tank and fenders.
There was a new green Ural with sidecar that one person passing by mistook for a restored vintage bike.
“Wow, this is amazing,” exclaimed Carol when I caught up with her an hour later. “I’ve never been to anything like this before.” She explained that she was a new rider, having ridden for just three months, and she hadn’t been to any kind of a motorcycle gathering before. I think she’s hooked.
Two young girls approached us to ask if we’d purchase 50/50 tickets and we obliged. The proceeds are donated to the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters Organizations.
Each year, on the first Thursday of September Haugen’s runs a Motorcycle Rider Appreciation Cruise-in that has become known as “The Big One”. For this they bring in a live band and a number of vendors. The attendance count for last year and this was 1350 bikes, but that didn’t break the record set on September 7, 2006 when there were 1522 bikes, and $1000 was raised for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Durham.
We connected with several bikers who until then had been only names-without-faces that we’d gotten to know through online exchanges. Great food, great friends, great bikes, great weather – what more could a biker ask for? No wonder it’s the “place to be.”
This quote from Haugen’s website (www.haugensbbq.com) sums it up:
“Here’s what you need to know about our Motorcycle cruise in: All bikes are welcome, it’s free and it starts at 5pm on Thursday nights. Besides all the amazing bikes to see and like minded people to exchange stories with, there is music to be enjoyed and door prizes to be won.”