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The Biggest Little Rally in Texas

Written by  September 30, 2004

Is Sturgis too big? Are local rallies too small? Well, I have a deal for you that strikes a happy medium. Rather than go to Sturgis again this year, my wife and I rode to what has been billed as “the biggest little rally in Texas” to meet some friends and experience the Texas version of a bike rally. The Republic Of Texas Rally, held in Austin during the first weekend in June over a Thursday-Sunday period, provides small rally charm with all the things that make big rallies popular. Located at the Travis County Expo Center, approximately 15 minutes east of Austin, the rally offers something for everyone - music, vendors, celebrity bike builders, bike contests, a $250,000 poker run, and above all, a non-stop party atmosphere.

Musical entertainment was also non-stop and featured local talent playing everything from rock to blues, as well as national acts such as the Georgia Satellites. Hank Williams Jr. was the featured act at the Expo Center. Due the anticipated drawing power of Bocephus, a temporary amphitheatre and covered stage were erected in a large open field. Unfortunately, heavy rain the previous two nights combined with heavy auto and truck traffic turned the concert area into a swamp. Hopefully next year more planning will go into addressing this, but growing pains are to be expected.

Vendors were much as you would expect at any rally—leather of every type, bike parts and accessories, T-shirts, tattoos, hats and more. Food and beverage choices were mostly standard fare with a few Tex-Mex surprises. A big difference from most rallies (and most welcome in the Texas sun) is many vendors are either in the open arena or in one of two separate air-conditioned buildings. Two vendors that stand out in our minds were the “Anti-Monkey Butt Powder,” a product created to ease the discomfort of too many hours in the saddle, and the topless bike wash, which was always busy and provided many photo opportunities.

This year’s entertainment consisted of an “all Texas builder” bike contest, Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. and the rest of the top line builders of the “Chop Shop Tour” displaying their machines and obvious talents, and of course, “Rhett Rotten’s Wall of Death.”

Friday night featured a bike parade from the Expo Center to Congress Street in downtown Austin. The downtown bars and shops were all ready and willing to help with the biggest street party in Austin. While the parade drew many people out, the older and more savvy amongst us decided that the congestion of all the bikes on the Austin highways was more than we wanted to contend with.

The Expo Center fairgrounds offer plenty of FREE camping space whether you choose a tent or ride in a custom RV. Many tent camping spots offer adequate shade to protect you from the 90+ degree afternoon sun. The restroom facilities, whether in the vendor buildings or the porta-pots located conveniently through the fair grounds, were by far the cleanest and best maintained I have found at any similar event.

As our campground bordered the main cruising strip, we had a prime location to sit back and enjoy the show. We experienced a steady stream of bikes as well as many homemade vehicles designed to haul several rally-goers on the excursions. People were friendly, fun- loving, and having a great time wherever you looked.

Travis County does not have any ordinances banning public nudity, so clothing was always optional. Travis County law enforcement personnel were present in moderate numbers, but I never witnessed anything other than courtesy from them. They also provided excellent traffic control for those entering or leaving the Expo Center and are to be commended for a job well done.

We had a good time with old friends, made some new friends, and overall, we are glad we made the trip. On the downside, if you don’t like heat and humidity, maybe events farther north would suit you better. However, if you can take the heat and enjoy all the amenities of the big-time rallies without the headaches of the big-time crowds, and if you like to see more bikes ridden to an event than pulled there on a trailer, mark your calendar next June for the Republic Of Texas Rally.

By Loney & Stephanie Wilcoxson