July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Davidson Family test drives Harleys in Avon

Bill Davidson, left, a descendant of one of the original founders of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company, visits Lake Erie Harley-Davidson on Tuesday in Avon. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Bill Davidson, left, a descendant of one of the original founders of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company, visits Lake Erie Harley-Davidson on Tuesday in Avon. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

AVON — A large group of motorcycle enthusiasts stood outside of Lake Erie Harley-Davidson on Tuesday morning holding signs that read “Welcome to Lake Erie” and “Sorry for the rain,” awaiting the arrival of Bill and Karen Davidson, original members of the Harley-Davidson family.

Despite a heavy downpour, Bill and Karen Davidson rode up around 10:30 a.m., led by a police escort.

“It’s been a little wet, but the ride has been spectacular,” said Bill Davidson, who rode a 2014 Street Glide Special directly off the assembly line in York, Pa.

The ride was part of a long family tradition of pulling bikes off of the assembly line to test drive — something Bill and Karen Davidson’s great-uncle, Walter Davidson, started in the early days of Harley-Davidson.

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Bill Davidson signs the fuel tank of a Harley-Davidson Tuesday.

Bill and Karen are the great-grandson and great-granddaughter of one of the original founders of the company, William A. Davidson.

The Davidsons will continue their ride to Milwaukee, the home of Harley-Davidson since 1903. There, a 110th anniversary celebration will take place, and it is expected to draw as many as 10,000 Harley-Davidson riders.

The crew will make many stops along the way, but Lake Erie Harley-Davidson was their only stop in Ohio.

Lake Erie Harley-Davidson president and owner Mike Stevens said he was thrilled to learn that his Avon store was designated as a stop. Following the local festivities, Stevens set off to join the Davidsons and their crew on the trip to Milwaukee.

Lake Erie Harley-Davidson was founded in 1939 as the Elyria Harley-Davidson Sales Co. Next year, the dealership will celebrate its 75th anniversary as a family-owned and -operated Harley-Davidson dealership.

Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum and Factory Tours, said Lake Erie Harley-Davidson is a “great dealership” and the stop made sense. Davidson also discussed Harley-Davidson’s achievements, and he said the family has remained involved in the company through the decades.

“We are very fortunate to say we are 110 years old,” he said. “There aren’t many motorcycle companies that can make that statement.”

Davidson pulls up to the shop riding a 2014 Street Glide Special fresh off an assembly line in York, Pa.

Davidson pulls up to the shop riding a 2014 Street Glide Special fresh off an assembly line in York, Pa.

Bill Davidson praised the loyal customers, many of whom were on hand Tuesday for the Avon dealership’s festivities.

“The riders, the customers, the camaraderie is phenomenal,” he said. “No matter where you go, if you go to a Harley function, you’re all equal … What’s really great about Harley-Davidson is that we attract people from all over the world and all walks of life.”

One of Harley-Davidson’s loyal customers is Mike Cotrufo, director of the Lake Erie H.O.G. 3738. Lake Erie H.O.G. is a group comprised of motorcycle riders who have one thing in common — a love of Harleys.

“There are a lot of brands out there, but there’s nothing like a Harley,” Cotrufo said.

There are approximately 300 members in Lake Erie H.O.G., and the members are involved in rides as well as charity functions. Lake Erie H.O.G. has worked with the YWCA, Friendship APL and Susan G. Komen. The organization is backed by Stevens and Lake Erie Harley-Davidson.

Cotrufo said while the organization focuses on motorcycles, the group is much more to its members.

“I guess at the end of it, it’s just a collective group of people who share passions,” he said. “Everybody’s my friend. That’s kind of like the whole point of what we do. In the winter, when we can’t ride, we get together and go out to eat.”

There are still tickets available for Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration Thursday through Saturday in Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased at www.harley-davidson.com.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.