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Archive for February, 2009

grave_diggersThe term refers to Australia films of a particular genre that were released during home-grown tax advantage days for film producers.

In looking at films during this era I ran across Stone which was made about the same time, but is not an ocker and is much different from other biker movies.  It contradicted the Hollywood biker films of the day and was more of a “thinking man’s” motorcycle club movie that dived into biker values.  The time was 1974 and the film reflected on the disillusionment that ex-servicemen felt after Australia’s earlier withdrawal from Vietnam.

The Australian motorcycle club was called the Grave Diggers.  All members of the club were returning soldiers, either from the Vietnam War or the earlier Korean conflict.  The patch of the club was a skull wearing the hat that made Australian troops famous in both World Wars, the slouch hat.  The patch was first used as an advertising icon for the film, but has since become the patch of the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club in Australia and supposedly is the only patch that can be worn across other motorcycle (outlaw) clubs territories without an issue.

The movie was written and directed by Sandy Harbutt, and starts out with the posse cruising by an open-air speech from a politician on environmental issues. They stop to heckle him and a member (Toad), high on illicit drugs, wanders off and climbs onto the roof of the city hall. There he becomes witness to a sniper’s fatal shot of the politician. Over the coming days, several members of the motorcycle club are killed by an unknown assailant, seemingly in an attempt to kill off anyone who might have seen the assassin. A policeman, Stone, is sent in with the intention of posing as a member of the group to try and find out who is behind the killings.  Yeah, it’s farfetched and a typical cinema story. Luckily YouTube has a trailer posted.

Using the biker community, Harbutt was able to assemble large casts of extra bikers which were used in several scenes, most notably the opening burial procession and the fighting sequences. The locations were actual biker hangouts and there are no set shots, giving the film an authentic atmosphere.  The Grave Diggers rode four-cylinder Kawasaki KZ 900’s.  Clearly high speed races around the streets of Sydney mark Stone as a different movie than the typical Harley-based choppers of Hollywood ilk (Devil’s Angels (1967); Hells Angels on Wheels (1967); Easy Rider (1969)).  Stone’s ride was a Norton Commando twin and Harbutt provided some unique angles on-board and behind the various bikes.

Stone is a great example of Australian filmmaking and a biker movie which has achieved cult film status.  If you’ve not seen the movie I suggest you grab a copy and/or see the documentary Stone Forever (1999).  The documentary provides a good background and recreates the funeral run with an estimated 30,000 motorcyclists.

Photo source courtesy of Sandy Harbutt.

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the_royal_scam_album_coverI was listening to outtakes from Steely Dan’s Royal Scam while reading the economic news and more details on the “787 Bill.”

It turns out that lawmakers added tax breaks for motorcycles to the stimulus package to help home-state industries.  Tax deductions were added to the $787 stimulus bill after senators (Bob Casey, D-Pa; Christopher Bond, R-Mo; Russell Feingold, D-Wis; Herb Kohl D-Wis) lobbied hard during 11th hour negotiations to obtain federal tax breaks on motorcycle purchases.

I’m sure there is a sound bite in one of the local newspapers evangelizing how motorcycles of tomorrow are now ensured to be built by Americans, for Americans…  Under the stimulus legislation, purchasers of new motorcycles (or new cars, light trucks, RVs) will be able to deduct the sales tax they pay through the end of this (2009) year.  Automobiles and light trucks were previously included in the bill, however, the addition of motorcycles and RV’s added another $100M to the estimated $1.7B cost of the tax break to consumers.

It’s unclear if the bill has an engine displacement size constraint.  States without a sales tax and the stimulus bill will have no effect on purchases are — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.  Arizona has a transaction privilege tax (TPT) that differs from a “true” sales tax in that the tax is levied on the gross receipts of the vendor and is not a liability of the consumer.  However, most vendors do pass on the tax to consumers.

Does this represent a new beginning for motorcycle sales or a last gasp?

Photo courtesy Steely Dan.

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bikers_heartThat’s not a reference to Valentine’s day, but in case you’ve lost your calendar it’s coming up on Saturday.

Instead I’m referring to the fund raising event hosted by D&S Harley-Davidson in Medford, OR.  The “Bikers Have Heart” event started a few years back when the community had a couple kids who were battling brain tumors and needed some special help. They created a Yahtzee Run – kind of a poker run, only with dice and a Yahtzee card that you’ll fill out along the way – and concluded with a street party at D&S including raffles and an auction.  In the last 8 years the event has raised over $100,000 for children in need.

This event has helped out some wonderful kids over the years and bikers have made lifelong friends. Some of the families they’ve helped come back each year to volunteer and help the next child in line to receive benefits. And 100% of what is raised stays in the Rogue Valley.  If they raise above the goal they’ve set for a family then the balance goes to the other children helped by the local Children’s Miracle Network.

The 2009 “Bikers Have Heart” fund raising and Yahtzee Run starts at D&S Harley on Saturday, May 2.  It’s the real deal and I encourage you to attend the event.

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bridgestoneIt’s an interesting idea!  A social networking type site from tire specialist Bridgestone.  The company launched the UK-based Biker’s Club with the claim being a new worldwide meeting place for bikers and enthusiasts who will get the unique benefit of advice from some of the top experts in their field.  This is exactly what motorcycle enthusiasts are looking for forever.  ACCESS!  Why doesn’t Harley do something like this?

The club will have a panel of both journalists and professionals who will be providing regular blogs and insight into the best new bikes, products and sharing of their own riding stories.   If the site is not a marketing strategy in “sales pitch” disguise and truly provides news worthy motorcycle information then I’m on board.

The free to join and use club provides members a monthly newsletter with up-to-date news and information about people, races and offers along with product updates and advice from Bridgestone.  They plan to also provide members with special offers and money-can’t-buy opportunities.  It’s not clear if this exclusive is to UK members only or also offered to U.S. based members too.

As experts in the field, Bridgestone is well placed to organize a ‘virtual meeting’ place for biker enthusiasts and engage with motorcycle fans.  If you want to sign up for the Biker’s Club you can do so HERE.

Photo courtesy of Bridgestone.

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2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition

2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition


I’m not talking digital cameras.  It’s about motorcycle enthusiasts who like riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles and are likely to have an affinity toward other like-minded products that carry the lifestyle brand.

There are various elements that effect consumer choice and purchasing behavior which range from culture and social class to budgets.  There has been a lot written on the subject of purchasing behaviors and the work in trying to develop simple models which attempt to explain complex decision processes.  It is the task of marketing to create awareness and then guide a consumer through the subsequent stages of a purchasing decision that if successful ends when you purchase their product.

At least that is the thinking at Harley-Davidson and the Ford Motor Company who have combined marketing forces on the new 2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition.  It may have taken the leather jackets of 13 Harley riders to make one F-150 interior, but it’s quite the stylish co-branded truck and one they hope you’ll favor and purchase.  Emphasizing the co-brand badges and setting new standards in truck luxury they are clearly targeting the “image-conscious” buyer.  The last co-brand (F-350) attempt is HERE.

Over the last 10 years only 74,000 people have plunked down the $$ for a bike-badged truck.  A small manufacturing run by anyone’s measure in the automobile industry yet these “appearance packages” keep coming.  In this competitive world many buyers dismiss all the stats and simply ask the questions; “Is this a truck I want to drive, be seen in and does it reflect my personality?”

If you answer YES, then you’ll be the first to have one of these custom cool hand-made cloisonné badges.

Photo courtesy of Ford.

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abyssI spent a couple days last weekend with buddies catching up on some overdue winter recreation.

On the drive east talk turned toward the economic situation.  We reminisced about a time where money was flowing, easy money.  Anybody could qualify for a loan — I mean anybody.  One person in the group knew a grocery store clerk with an annual salary of twenty-three thousand dollars who had received a two-hundred-and-sixteen-thousand-dollar mortgage, with no money down and no income verification — not even a phone call from a lender.

I thought I knew what was going on in America.  That lenders stretched the limits and borrowers overreached.  Just a little.  But that was not what is going on.  In acts of pure greed, banking institutions lent money for the fees, not worrying about tomorrow, just like the ignorant people they gave the money too.

I’m not ignorant.  I’ve done the college gig.  But, oftentimes the borrowers of these super-duper sums were high school dropouts, working blue collar jobs.  And now that those jobs, so often in the construction trades, and unfortunately have disappeared, they’re lining up with their brethren for minimum wage work that they can’t get, because the line is so long.

The Senate today passed the $838B Stimulus Pork “Recovery and Reinvestment Plan” while the Dow tanks 300+ points on the news!  Is Wall Street sending a signal that they think it’s a “Sink the Ship Plan?”

I’ve sacrificed.  Not that I’m proud of it.  It was just a necessity.  I’ve seen limited funds coming in, so limited funds had to go out.  I believe in the American Dream, I wouldn’t have sacrificed if I didn’t believe in the potential for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but now I find out those making the rules don’t sacrifice at all.  I declare all my income.  I pay my taxes.  But those making the rules don’t?  How can this be?

Little did I know that you could have your cake and eat it too.  And here I was wary of losing sight of my dreams, becoming locked in an endless cycle of work and obligations, unable to pursue my passions.  I wonder how many more people these self-congratulatory, egomaniacal lawmakers will rip off?

At the Grammy’s backstage during the pre-telecast awards ceremony, B.B. King said it best.  He won his 15th Grammy, for best traditional blues album, “One Kind Favor” and he alluded to the recession… 

“I believe the blues, the way things are today, is more important now than it ever was,” Mr. King said.  “Unless you got a lot of money.  I don’t.”

Brings to mind a saying they have in Wyoming:  “Rules are for fools!”

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Antelope, Oregon Garage 

Antelope, Oregon Garage

Near Antelope, OR (Wasco County) there are some beautiful motorcycle roads.  I’ve traveled this county a few times and the route just off the Dalles California Hwy is a peaceful sagebrush filled valley with rolling hills.  The roads are Antelope Hwy (H-293) and the Shaniko Fossil Hwy (H-218).  If you’ve not driven this part of Oregon then I suggest taking some time and add it to your ride list. From Antelope you can start a scenery loop ride to the “painted hills” section of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Antelope has a sorted history and if you’ve been in the northwest any length of time you’ll remember how the town became famous in the early 1980s as ground zero for Rancho Rajneesh (Big Muddy Ranch) – a self-proclaimed prophet arrives with thousands of enlightened red-robed followers to start a colony with the sex guru – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  All wearing a 108-bead mala (necklace) where the color of beads hold significance as it designates each person’s level of sexual inhibitions as they merrily went about their day.  Known as “Rajneeshees” the folks on the inner-circle had a Tantra-esque belief in the power of sex as a door to samadhi’…a vehicle to the last step of enlightenment. 

wasco_countyAs an aside,  the Bhagwan used three Rolls-Royce automobiles as collateral to buy the Martha Washington Hotel in Portland, which they renamed Hotel Rajneesh. The Bhagwan collected many Rolls-Royce’s (93 at one count) and every day, he drove one of the cars into Madras to buy an ice cream soda. Highway 97 became a tourist trap, with people from all over the country stopping to take a look-see at the “Rajneesh show.”  In July 1983 the hotel was bombed and the cult became paranoid.  Equipping the Antelope compound with 150 security guards, semi-automatic weapons, tear gas grenades, riot guns and helicopter recon teams.  There followed a traumatic but semi-successful name change attempt of the town, use of the state’s own laws against itself, a plot to kill the federal prosecutor in Oregon, immigration fraud, several lieutenants convicted of crimes and the departure to Europe with lots of donated money.  The Bhagwan eventually returned to India in 1986 and died of heart disease in Poona on January 19, 1990.

Today Rancho Rajneesh has been converted into a modern Christian Youth Camp.  I believe it’s called “Young Life Ranch.”  The roads (Muddy Creek Road, Burnt Ranch Road, and The Gosner Road) into the place are rough/gravel and not recommended for heavy weight motorcycles.  There are now huge buildings, locked gates with signs posted on every tree and gate.  There is a private 4000 foot aircraft runway along with a super oversized pavilion filled with RV’s.  There is also a large go-cart-track with banks and a graded perimeter.  The youth “compound” is not open to the public.  All road gates are padlocked.

There is a plaque topped by an Antelope at the base of the towns post office dedicated to those who lived through the “Rajneesh Occupation” of 1981-1985.

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