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As Austin rally rolls on, converts join the rowdy

Happily reunited couple are among 40,000 partying at ROT.

Suzannah Gonzales

Photos: 2010 ROT Rally parade

Photos: 2010 ROT Rally, Day 1

Sabrina Sanders used to be one of those who complained this time of year too much noise, too much traffic.

But Friday night, sitting on Chauncy Bolden's black Honda Valkyrie Interstate 1500 in the parking lot of the Travis County Exposition Center, Sanders was among the converted.

She was among the estimated 40,000 people taking part in the 16th annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally, which each year fills the city with the rumbling of motorcycle engines.

"Every year, I complained 'I hate this time of year,' " Sanders said. "And now, I'm part of it. I'm thrilled."

Sanders, 51, and Bolden, 52, first-time ROT rally participants, were childhood sweethearts in Washington state. Bolden gave Sanders her first kiss when she was 10, Sanders said.

After their sisters found each other on the Internet, Bolden, who was working for the U.S. government in Afghanistan at the time, and Sanders, who has lived in the Austin area for nearly a decade, reconnected. They now live in Manor. On Friday, they wore bandanas on their heads, matching red T-shirts that said "Motorcycles Forever," and matching shiny black shoes.

The Valkyrie is one of four bikes Bolden owns. "He's a rider," Sanders said. "I'm not."

Sanders and Bolden were among the rumbling masses preparing to ride in the motorcycle parade Friday night from the Expo Center to the Capitol downtown.

A party awaited on Congress Avenue. Friday's events were part of a weekend of festivities for the bikers including bike shows, a tattoo expo, biker games and concerts.

As the bikers left the Expo Center to begin their trek downtown, some people parked their cars along Decker Lane to watch the bikes go by, including David Yancy, 45, who sat on the back of a white pickup, drinking cold beer as some bikers waved and honked at him.

"I love the diversity of people," Yancy said. He said he lives near the Expo Center and has come out to watch the bikers for the past four years.

"It's a good thing for Austin," he said, referring to the boost that the approximately 40,000 ROT participants bring to the economy. "There's no doubt about that."