- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

David Smith flew 7,000 miles from Australia to the United States, sent his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a ship, then began a cross-country journey that passed through the District yesterday en route to a major birthday party.

Harley-Davidson turns 100 this month, and bikers from around the globe who love the open road are on their way to Milwaukee — the bike’s birthplace — for the celebration. Local riders met yesterday on the National Mall to kick off the five-day trip to Wisconsin.

Mr. Smith, 29, is not alone in his devotion. He was one of about 500 bikers who came to the United States last month to participate in the celebration.

“I wanted to do it while I can,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Harley-Davidson only turns 100 once.”

Yesterday’s daylong party featured live bands, a portable Harley museum and children’s exhibits. But, like any Harley gathering, the event was really a chance for bikers to show off their rides, plot the next day’s trip and hang out.

“It’s freedom of choice, and you can do what you want to do,” Mr. Smith said.

Organizers expect more than 200,000 people to converge Thursday for the three-day festival in Milwaukee. Organized rides from Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and Baton Rouge, La., started earlier this week.

The organizers hope the festival will bring in $5 million to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Harley-Davidson has worked in partnership with the MDA over the last 23 years and raised $40 million.

The crowd in the District yesterday was not as large as some had hoped. Organizers reserved 5,000 spaces for bikes, but only a few hundred people were milling around the exhibits early in the day.

“It looks like we’ve got more volunteers than participants,” said Donald Dick, 49, a retired Air Force master sergeant and Harley owner since 1998.

He said owning the motorcycle has “changed my life.”

Mr. Dick belongs to the Harley-Davidson chapter in Fort Washington, which he says has close to 1,000 members.

He and three other members sat in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building on Independence Avenue, where more than 100 event-volunteer bikers had parked their rides.

The parking arrangement was granted by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, a renowned Harley owner.

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