Marc Roubaud thanked Winnie Feken for her hospitality, then kissed her on each cheek. “Oh, my, a real French kiss,” said Feken, the 66-year-old owner of Chuck’s Harley-Davidson, a stopping point Tuesday for hundreds of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts on their way to Milwaukee for the motorcycle company’s 105th anniversary celebration.
Marc Roubaud thanked Winnie Feken for her hospitality, then kissed her on each cheek.
“Oh, my, a real French kiss,” said Feken, the 66-year-old owner of Chuck’s Harley-Davidson, a stopping point Tuesday for hundreds of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts on their way to Milwaukee for the motorcycle company’s 105th anniversary celebration.
Roubaud, a 49-year-old brewery CEO and married father of two from Strasbourg, France, didn’t look the part of an executive Tuesday. He wore a black headband, leather vest, blue jeans, and a five o’clock shadow that looked more like a midnight shadow.
“I have six Harleys. I need one more, because I believe a Harley a day keeps the doctor away,” Roubaud said in perfect English through his French accent.
What’s the attraction of owning a half-dozen Harleys?
“It’s a selfish thing to do, no doubt about it, but you meet wonderful people and when you ride, you forget all your sorrows and problems,” Roubaud said.
“Also, it’s a great way to see a country,” he said. “Driving a car is functional, but you really don’t notice the curves in the road and what’s on the sides of the road.”
Roubaud has been coming to the United States every year since 2003 — Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary celebration — for a motorcycle rally.
This year, he’s traveling with 11 other members of the Alsace Harley-Davidson club. They rented bikes in West Virginia, drove to St. Louis and stopped in Bloomington on their way to Chicago.
They’ll be in Milwaukee on Thursday for the beginning of a four-day celebration that includes concerts by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Daughtry.
Club members will fly the French and Alsatian flags in a parade in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson’s birthplace.
Feken and her husband, Chuck, opened their Harley-Davidson dealership in 1971 in an area that once served as a pasture and stables for horses used by government agencies. Chuck died in 1980.
The bikers who hung out in the dealership’s parking lot Tuesday were treated to complimentary hot dogs, Pepsi, chips and salad.
Translators were provided for non-English speaking bikers, and Feken prepared a “Chuck’s Concierge Community Guide” handout for those staying overnight.
The handout includes a map of Bloomington, lists of transportation options, hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, places to have breakfast, towing services, Harley-riding physicians and law-enforcement agencies.
It also lets bikers know Bloomington-Normal is the birthplace of companies such as State Farm Insurance, Country Financial, Beer Nuts and Steak ’n Shake, and home to two universities and Mitsubishi Motors North America’s only U.S. plant.
Feken says Harley-Davidson owners have one thing in common: “They’re free spirits.
“They come from every walk of life. Sex, age, nationality, the size of your pocketbook doesn’t matter,” she said. “All that matters is the open road and a sense of freedom. It’s almost mystical.”
Harley-Davidson riders are descending on Milwaukee from 105 starting points on 25 routes in the company’s largest organized ride.
Steve Stein can be reached at (309) 686-3041 or email@example.com.