Northwest Wyoming relies on tourism for a majority of its economy. After the floods that shut down Yellowstone National Park on June 13, local businesses saw visitation drop sharply.
Then came the motorcycles, helping to ease the economic impact of the flooding in and around Yellowstone.
The Harley Owners Group, created in 1983 as a way to strengthen relationships with Harley-Davidson’s customers, holds rallies around the region every year. Jay Miller, past president of the Harley Owners Group in this region, said the group – which he said is the largest motorcycle riding group in the world – holds regional rallies each year.
This year’s rally in Cody, he said, brought together riders from three states.
“We all converged up here last night, and we’re staying in Cody,” Miller said Friday. “Last night we had all kinds of games and stupid things we do, and just enjoy each other.”
However, Miller said the unexpected closure of Yellowstone less than two weeks prior to the event caused a bit of panic for the organizers.
“We kind of… pooped our pants,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “But we were very happy to hear that Yellowstone opened just a couple days ago. We would have had a lot more bikers up here, but a lot of people canceled because of that. But we’re happy we’re up here, we’re going to have a good time.”
Larry and Cheryl Close from Parker, Colorado, have been coming to these gatherings for two years – but Larry explained that he’s been riding since he was a young boy.
“I like the stability of a trike, for a number of reasons,” he said. “After a near fatal accident, I decided I was going to keep riding. She decided if I was gonna keep riding, it was gonna be on three wheels.”
The Closes – who were celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary – said riding their Harley trike is something they both enjoy.
“It’s something that once you get it in your blood, you can’t get it out – kind of like horse people,” Larry said. “People that ride horses all the time own horses, it’s in their blood. It’s something that you’re always going to do.”
The rally in Cody is especially important from an economic standpoint, because of the closure prompted by the flooding in Yellowstone National Park on June 13.
Downtown Cody merchants have, for the most part, opened their doors to the bikers. Gail Nace, owner of the Silver Dollar Bar in downtown Cody, said the rall, and other events that draw motorcyclists are always a great boost to the local economy.
“It’s just been a really fun experience for everybody,” Nace said. “And we’re happy to have them here. And it just goes to show you that we’re not necessarily a gateway community, we are a destination spot.”
She said the bikers themselves have been excellent guests.
“We’ve had an absolute blast with the HOG rally this year,” Nace said. “They have been very fun people, easy to take care of, not demanding at all – just looking for a good time. And I think they’ve really found it in Cody.”
For the bikers, Miller said they are glad they were able to make rides into Yellowstone National Park a part of their event.
“Yellowstone opened just a couple days ago, and so that kind of gave a lot more to it,” he said. “We would have had a lot more bikers up here, but a lot of people canceled because of that. But we’re happy we’re up here, we’re gonna have a good time.”
When asked why HOG chose this area to hold the rally, Miller just waved his arms at the vista behind him.
“Look, Yellowstone!” he said. “I mean, we’re from Colorado, and it’s gorgeous there, but this is a whole new gorgeous.”