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"Baggers", December 1, 2012

DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS

2012 AUSTIN ROT RALLY

WORDS: Jordan Mastagni

PHOTO: Jordan Mastagni

Here at Baggers we travel to all the major biker rallies, but there are a handful of events we never want to miss. The Republic of Texas (ROT) Rally is one of them. This past June 7-10 we packed up the camera gear and headed to Austin, Texas, for some much-needed excitement.

Some might think the Sturgis Rally is the wildest biker party on the planet, but ROT definitely gives the Black Hills rally a run for its money. Folks come from far and wide to hang out at ROT’s HQ and homebase, the Travis County Expo Center. The fields are taken over by tent campers, luxury RVs, and a golf cart bonanza for folks to traverse the grounds, the Travis Expo Center is a one-stop destination for folks to really relax without needing to leave the grounds. Event promoters, Jerry and Colleen Bragg, celebrated the 18th year of ROT and the 2012 event spared no expense.

The ROT Rally is the largest motorcycle rally in Texas and it’s no wonder why. Austin continues to be a tourism hotspot because of its thriving music, club and nightlife scene, multiple festivals (SXSW, Austin City Limits), great eateries, and kitschy residents promoting the mantra, “Keep Austin Weird.” Let’s not forget that University of Texas is situated downtown, so if watching is your thing, Austin is great city to do so.

For bikers, there are many attractions for them to get their kicks within the rally grounds such as the multiple vendors that set up shop at the Travis County Expo Center’s Thunderdome, as well as outside the hall there are plenty of activities going on. However, heat can be pretty brutal during the day, but there are plenty of libations available for patrons at pretty much every turn.

To get me to and fro, Victory Motorcycles handed me the keys to a 2011 Arlen Ness Victory Vision. The Vision is as loud as it is comfortable and it was the perfect ride to represent Baggers at the ROT Rally. It’s loaded to the gills with creature comforts: standard cruise control, iPod-ready stereo system, plenty of room in the bags to store my Canon camera and lenses, and it’s fast as hell for carving the two-laners in nearby Hill Country.

Jesse James was asked to take part in the 2012 ROT Rally since he’s currently living in Austin tending to his latest endeavor, Austin Speed Shop. The West Coast Choppers’ founder was on tap for those in attendance eager for autographs inside the Thunderdome. He also judged the ROT Rally bike show where Pat Kahanek from Primer Inc. Customs received a custom-made trophy constructed by Jesse himself.

Every year, the ROT Rally organizers pay tribute to American service men and women by giving a bike away to a lucky recipient, and for 2012, Jesse James was asked to personally hand the keys over to the bike recipient on stage before the Ted Nugent concert on Saturday night.

Speaking of The Nuge, there were plenty of other great musical acts to see during the 2012 ROT Rally. Shooter Jennings, Gov’t Mule, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Supersuckers, and more rocked the massive main stage. ROT always hosts a great lineup of bands and we’re excited to see what’s in store for 2013.

The annual parade on Friday night is something to experience. We’ve never been a part of the actual parade in the past, but this year we were at the front of the pack, slapping high-fives to those lining the streets as we rode past. Thousands of bikers roll out of the Travis County Expo Center toward Congress Ave. in downtown Austin. Folks line the surface streets on the parade route and support is incredible. Ending up on Congress, the streets are shut down for blocks for a downtown fiesta that all come out to enjoy, rallygoers and regular folks alike.

ROT Rally also offers plenty of great riding through nearby Texas Hill Country. A day ride through Hill Country ending at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q in neighboring Llano, Texas, is definitely worth a trip. From ribs, brisket, chicken, and more, there’s plenty of great eats at Cooper’s. All in all, Hill Country is a blast to ride and features some wicked twisty roads for pushing your bagger to the limits.

If you haven’t experienced ROT first hand, you’re missing out on life. It celebrates Americana in its entirety and really caters to its patrons. The promoters have gotten the rally down to a science, and the well-oiled machine really let’s you just show up and forget about the grind. See you next year! For more information, visit rotrally.com.

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