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Archive for March, 2010

It’s official.

This is change-the-industry rock-the-valley kind of stuff.  Like, one day the world is this way; and the next day it’s some other way.  This is huge.  Like game over man.   It’ll be a return to the glory days, for sure.

What am I referring too?

Harley-Davidson has decided to give motorcycle fans another chance to take a test ride on the H-D motorcycle of their choice.  And being the best slogan and sound-bite guys in the biz they decided to name the program the second annual Super Ride program.  Last year it was just Super Ride program.  Pure genius!

Assuming you have a valid motorcycle license, between 1 April 2010 and 30 June you can take a short test ride.  The program is available to all Harley dealers, however, some may decline to participate.  Check with your local dealer to see if they are on board or if there are other requirements.  The program is designed to help sell bikes since feedback from motorcycle shoppers indicated that the inability to test ride a motorcycle is a big hurdle in selling some bikes.

Memo to Harley-Davidson Marketing department: the web site link needs to be updated as the page referenced links to 2009 models.

UPDATE: 2 April 2010 — H-D updated the link for Super Ride program HERE.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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SB2C Flying In Formation

I’ve written previously about the Kwajalein Atoll and what is known in military circles as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Site.

It’s part of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and is a premiere asset within the Department of Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base. I happen to know a little about “Kwaj” (aka: Kwajalein Island) having lived, worked on the island and flown in/out of Bucholz Army Airfield.  I haven’t blogged about my SCUBA diving experiences while on the island or discussed what was called the ‘aircraft graveyard’ of Kwajalein Atoll, but this came to my mind today when Oregon State Police (OSP) reported that loggers discovered a WWII-era U.S. Navy aircraft, specifically a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver near Rockaway Beach, OR., as part of logging operations on private property.

Oregon SB2C - Oregon State Police Photo

Designed in 1939, the Curtiss SB2C ‘Helldiver’ was a single-engine dive-bomber intended as the replacement for the earlier Douglas-built SBD ‘Dauntless’.  SB2C stands for Scout, Bomber, second dive bomber contract from Curtiss, and the ‘C’ was the letter assigned by the Navy to all aircraft built by Curtiss Aircraft Corporation. The Helldiver carried a crew of two — a pilot and a rear gunner who doubled as the radioman. Early versions of the Helldiver were armed with a single machine gun in each wing while later versions carried a 20mm cannon. The aircraft had an internal bomb bay and could carry a variety of bombs as well as depth charges. The Helldiver had a top speed of 295 mph and good range, making it an essential tool in the Pacific war.

Oregon SB2C - Oregon State Police Photo

Flying from the USS Bunker Hill, Helldivers of Bombing Squadron 17 saw a lot of action over Kwajalein Atoll during Operation Flintlock, which was the assault on the atoll in early 1944. Helldivers helped sink a number of the Japanese ships that lie on the lagoon floor and which we often had the opportunity to dive on.  They flew strikes against targets on several islands within the atoll. After the Japanese airbase on Roi-Namur was captured by American forces the Marine squadron VMSB-151 was initially assigned to Roi with SBD Dauntless dive bombers. The aircraft graveyard near Mellu Island has the wreck of at least one Helldiver.  One wreck we found lies in 85 feet and has one wing in the folded position. Parts of the tail are nearby. The wreck is missing the canopy and dive flaps, and we were never able to determine the specific variant of this particular aircraft. Unless a data plate can be located and photographed that has the manufacturer’s serial number, the history of the plane is very difficult to determine.

SB2C at 85' Near Mellu Island in Kwajalein Atoll

But I’ve digressed and need to get back to Oregon’s SB2C find.

So the search process will begin with historians and analysis gathering to determine the air station where the aircraft flight originated.  The OSP Bomb Technicians have searched the area and found no signs of unexploded ordnance, but there is a possibility of human remains on the site and a team of U.S. Navy personnel are working on-scene to investigate.   All information is being shared with the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) in Honolulu.

The nearby Naval Air Station Tillamook was primarily used to house blimps and was base operations for Squadron ZP-33.   Because of steel rationing during WWII the hangars were built entirely of wood.   It was decommissioned in 1948 and is located about 20 miles southeast of the crash site.   It’s unclear if this aircraft is from the Tillamook station, but the Navy team is on-scene and is making a thorough, undisturbed investigation as safety and integrity of the aircraft site is important.  Initial responders reported seeing a wing, tail section, landing gear and other debris spread out over an approximately 200 yard heavily-wooded area.

I’ll update this post as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: 26 March 2010 – Additional news reports HEREHERE and HERE.  OSP provided a news release last night stating information as to the exact location is not being released to media in an effort to maintain scene integrity.  Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Archeologist Matthew Diederich advised that it is a violation of State Law (ORS 358.905-955) to alter, damage, or remove material from this archaeological site. Violators will be prosecuted.  Important to note that the aircraft was discovered on 18 March 2010, but OSP released information on the discovery a week later on 25 March 2010.  Photos from the location area seem to indicate that the logging crew had already cut and removed much of the timber.  It’s unknown if they did so prior to notifying authorities.  If they trampled the so-called “archaeological” scene with equipment prior to notifying LEO will they be subject to ORS 358.905-955?  The Oregonian reported that Sig Unander Jr. (a Cornelius resident) who has spent years researching and tracking down wreckage of military planes estimates there are approximately 30 military aircraft in WA., OR., ID., and MT., from the mid-1930’s through the mid-1940’s that are unaccounted for.

UPDATE: 31 March 2010 – Oregonian reported that a former mechanic for the Navy (Alvin Boese) remembered the crash which was first published on 1 April 1948.  A story which ran the next day stated the pilot was identified as Chief Aviation Pilot R.W. Smedley of Long Beach, CA.  The Navy has not confirmed this crash was the same or would they comment on the circumstances of this “new” find until they were confident of the results.

Photo’s courtesy of Bluejacket.com and OSP.

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In Oregon, when you purchase a custom motorcycle or Moped license plate for your ride the surcharge supports and benefits the Oregon passenger rail program.

Huh?

What’s the Passenger Rail Program you ask?  It’s responsible for the planning and development of Oregon’s growing passenger rail service, including contracting for train and motorcoach service and supervising rail improvement projects within the federally designated High Speed Rail Corridor between Eugene and Portland.  You might recall that last year the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocated $8 Billion to jumpstart the development of improved high-speed intercity passenger rail service in the U.S. The Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor received $598 Million. Of that amount, Oregon was awarded $8 Million in the first round for three projects.

The custom motorcycle license plate surcharge provides this program even more financial resources.  However, for automobiles the Cultural plate surcharge supports The Oregon Cultural Trust.  The Crater Lake plate surcharge supports Crater Lake National Park.  The Salmon plate surcharge supports the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

It’s not clear how much the surcharge generates in annual fees for the program, but shouldn’t the motorcycle license plate surcharge support or benefit a MOTORCYCLE program?  Like maybe the Team Oregon motorcycle safety training program would be a logical recipient for custom plate fees?

Some motorcycle riders have experienced prejudice from other motorists, law enforcement, or insurance companies, but this is irrefutable proof of the anti-motorcycle prejudice built into the “Salem legislation system.”

Photo courtesy of Google Pictures.  Shout-out to Mike for the surcharge/fee link.

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Steve Jobs Riding a 1966 BMW (Taken in 1982)

The word “nostalgia” is a compound from ancient Greek consisting of nóstos (”returning home”) and álgos (”ache”). Etymologies don’t get much more interesting than that if you’re into that sort of thing.

In the late 1600’s a Swiss doctor identified nostalgia as a medical disease — a kind of hypochondria of the heart. And for the next couple of centuries people went on suffering the disease without a treatment.  Then a professor of Slavic languages at Harvard named Svetlana Boym spent years studying various manifestations of nostalgia, and determined that there were two distinct types of the sensation. One she called “reflective nostalgia”, which consisted of longing for the past without denying the present. The second type she called “restorative nostalgia”, which involves inventing a tradition to make the past more coherent.

Apple II Advertisement

Nostalgia came to mind when watching a television show a couple weeks back called “Welcome to Macintosh” on Apple history.  The reflective kind, to be precise.  One enlightening part of the documentary was how the director happened across an old Apple II computer — on the internet up for bid. It wasn’t just any Apple II, but the fifth unit (S/N #5) to roll off the manufacturing line in the late 1970s.

This led the director of the film to the Twin Cities and to Wayne Wenzlaff.  Wenzlaff has long been credited with giving the still-emerging Apple its first big break. As the film puts it, “It all started in Minnesota.”  The documentary recapped how Wenzlaff picked up the film director at the Twin Cities airport and whisked him off to his Apple-related treasure trove, which included the Apple II.  Complete with an Apple-imprinted leather case from 1977 and given to Wenzlaff by none other than Mike Markkula, Apple’s original investor.  It turns out that Wenzlaff was a buyer for the since shuttered Minnesota-based Team Electronics chain of stores.   Team Electronics went on to become Apple’s first big foothold in the consumer-retail market. In addition, Wenzlaff helped Apple win its first big education-market deal, in Minnesota.

Souvenir Team Electronics Pocket Knife (circa:1977)

It’s funny.  I can’t remember what I had for lunch last Thursday, but for some reason I have a rather clear recollection of my Apple experience when living in North Dakota (“NoDak”) attending college.   For awhile I worked part-time at Team Electronics (Store #30) in Bismarck.  This was circa 1977 and I distinctly remember when the first Apple II computer showed up at the store.  No one knew what to do with it, but soon enough we figured out how to spent hours playing a Star-trek game (loaded by cassette tape).

Apple II StarTrek Screen Shot

In fact, a good buddy of mine (who also worked at Team and was partly responsible in getting me a job there) we’re talking about this documentary and he told the story of his attendance at a mini-electronics show in Minneapolis just weeks before the Apple II’s arrived in the stores.  Before the opening of the show, there was a meeting of all store reps and Team Central staff where the Apple II was going to be unveiled.   He recalled this tall guy with hair in a pony tail wearing an uncomfortable suit 10′ away — none other than a nervous Steve Jobs!   It was ground zero for the introduction of the Apple II to the Team Electronics Franchise.

The past can’t be fully recaptured, and often it never really was the way you recall it. But, this documentary delivers some laughs and I recommend it to anyone with even a vague interest in Apple.  The 1.5 hour film can viewed online HERE.  At the 12:15 minute mark is where the Wenzlaff/Team dialogue starts.  There is also a great article from the October 1982 edition of National Geographic on Silicon Valley and Jobs HERE.

Photo’s courtesy of Charles O’Rear and Apple. Pocket knife is from my tool box!

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It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment it happened. Maybe it was the first time I saw that trucker crying in his beer while the Blues Brothers sang “Stand By Your Man,” but on occasion I like to run the dial through the XM country music channels and have a listen.

And I don’t think I’ve heard any song more than Dierks Bentley “Free and Easy Down The Road I Go” on country radio.  It bridges the old and new and takes you back to the country of yore, yet is still fresh with a sound that’s modern.  Listen to it HERE.  You might say that REAL country music became extinct somewhere around the early 80’s in favor of horrendously polished and confectionery, factory-churned “hits.”  To that I say you’re correct in large part and long live Jimmie, Merle, Johnny, Willie, Waylon, etc.

If you haven’t been to Nashville, you haven’t been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  And you’re the worse for it.  You might think you don’t care about boot-kickers, and if so you’re missing out on the history of America.  From slaves to the Dust Bowl to the Elvis solid gold Cadillac and the history/tragedy of the Williams family. To see the old footage of people fiddlin’ and dancin’ and watching Jimmie Rodgers sing you become an instant believer and a fan.

My point?  To help evangelize that Dierks Bentley will host his Miles & Music for Kids celebrity motorcycle ride and concert series in Seattle on Sept. 18th. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital. The approximately 45-minute ride will depart from Destination Harley-Davidson of Tacoma and travel to the Puyallup Fair. Tickets go on sale March 27th.

Should be fun!

Photo courtesy of Dierks Bentley.

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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Maybe a more appropriate headline is “The Biggest Loser: Jesse James?”

West Coast Choppers CEO, Jesse G. James alleged infidelities surfaced this week.  It took the news cycle off Health Care for about 5 minutes.  But, could Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy” have played a part?   I have no factual information suggesting James has NPD, but the symptoms seemed relevant.

Here’s the 411.  A tattoo model by the name of Michelle “Bombshell” McGee (I don’t make this up!) has told In Touch magazine that she had an eleven-month affair with Sandra Bullock’s husband (i.e. Jesse James), while the actress was filming The Blind Side in 2009.  In the interview Ms. McGee stated that she was told that James and Bullock were no longer together:

“I would never have hooked up with him if I thought he was a married man. He gave me the impression they were separated.”

Quick to see the “Tiger Effect”, Mr. James issued an apology earlier today to his wife and three children, taking full responsibility for the lapse in judgment:

“The vast majority of the allegations reported are untrue and unfounded. Beyond that, I will not dignify these private matters with any further public comment.  “There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me. It’s because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way.  “This has caused my wife and kids pain and embarrassment beyond comprehension and I am extremely saddened to have brought this on them. I am truly very sorry for the grief I have caused them. I hope one day they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

Reports out of L.A. suggest, “Miss Congeniality” has left the couple’s SoCal home and canceled her appearance at the U.K. premiere of The Blind Side.  Who would blame her?  For Jesse’s part, the shame caused him to abruptly shut down his official Twitter account and cancel a previously arranged meeting with custom builder Cyril Huze.

Unfortunately all this breaks at a time when James is in a bitter battle with his ex-wife and porn star Janine Lindemulder over the custody of their daughter.  Sure this post borders on entertainment gossip, but Jesse James is a bell weather celeb in the custom motorcycle industry.  Ignoring it would be irresponsible.  Let’s hope for the best.

UPDATE: 02 April 2010 — It’s being reported that Mr. James has checked himself into Sierra Tucson in Tucson, AZ.  It’s a “re-hab” center which is all the rage these days among celebrities for seeking treatment from sex addictions to alcohol abuse.  It’s hard to not be cynical when they blame what often  looks like phony addictions to escape the media spotlight.  I wish him a speedy recovery.

Photo courtesy of In Touch Magazine.

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Keith E. Wandell, CEO Harley-Davidson

$6.4M to be exact. 

May 1st through the end of 2009 marked eight months on the job for Keith E. Wandell, the CEO of Harley-Davidson Inc., and for that privilege he was delivered a pay package valued at $6.4 million, according to the Associated Press.  

The company ended the fourth quarter with a loss of $218.7 million, its first quarterly loss in 16 years.  In addition, management spearheaded a slashing strategy which included massive employee layoffs, closing of factories, negotiated union concessions under the threat of plant re-location and shuttered or sold unwanted brands.

But, talk about an obsession with fairness!  

The board delivered a pay package to Mr. Wandell with a base salary of $650,025 from his start date and he received a bonus of $780,030 and stock and option awards valued at $4.9 million at the time they were issued.  He also received other compensation worth $22,515, which includes a cash payment of $19,733 instead of perquisites.  In total it was valued at $6.4M.

For those in the job market who survive on high-end discretionary spending by consumers, might take a moment of pause and wonder if Mr. Wandell’s approximately $26,700 per day compensation package is just a bit tad excessive?

True it was during a time that management seemed caught like a deer in the head light as they watched the company’s outbound shipments decrease by more than 25%!  I’m not taking shots at the employees.  These executive compensation issues have been around for a long time, and much of the company performance blame lays right at the feet of management and specifically the previous CEO, Jim Ziemer, who takes the golden parachute award for world-class nonperformance during his last year.  Talk about setting up his predecessor with competitiveness and cost structure issues. 

But, is it an excuse for the CEO to say, ‘Hey, the board gave it to me.’ Or should CEOs be responsible too and provide leadership when compensation packages defy economic logic?!  Mr. Wandell is a very capable executive who chalked up impressive business success.  Yet, significant rewards for great results can still be attacked. Especially if the rewards for CEOs and their teams become extraordinarily high with no link to performance – and shareholders are left holding the bag – then it undermines people’s confidence in the company itself.

What are the results at H-D?  But, it’s only been 8 months you say.  Exactly my point.  The one bit of positive news on H-D that I found is that the daily average on HOG’s stock value has risen about 20% since Mr. Wandell has moved in and taken the helm.  

Photo courtesy of H-D. 

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Big vs. Bigger Issue

The American Heart Association encourages Americans to reduce their sodium intake and has advocated the reduction by food manufacturers.  Now we have a bill introduced in the New York Legislature, if passed, would ban the use of salt in restaurant cooking. 

Need I say more?

According to the bill, A. 10129 , it states in part: “No owner or operator of a restaurant in NY state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises.”  The legislation would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation.

No matter which side of the salt debate you fall, most reasonable folks would agree that the legislature need not save us from ourselves!

Where does this zero tolerance of salt end?  First it’s no salt in restaurant food.  Then no salt at the restaurant table.  No salt in processed food.  No salt in the grocery store.  No salt at home.  No salt manufactures and then finally federal salt subsidies since Morton’s will likely go out of business.  Talk about when it rains, it pours!  Are the “crazy patients” running the hospital?  This HAS to be the most outrageous attempt of government over reach and intrusion into private lives that we’ve ever seen! And here I thought motorcycle helmet laws were the greatest nanny-state intrusion.

If they need to protect us then there is no doubt many personal care products which contain all manner of evil stuff that is not good for us. I cook up a lot of my own personal care products in the back yard for this very reason. The smell isn’t so bad once you get use to the smoke!  Not only is the shampoo aisle a potential deathtrap, the entire grocery store probably ought to be surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. Even organic apples still have cyanide-laced pits. It occurs naturally. Liquor stores, tobacco shops, motorcycle dealers and tanning parlors are known menaces. Zero tolerance? Then don’t drink the water. Don’t breathe the air.

The natural radiation emanating from the eastern Oregon geography would probably justify a protective fence around a good chunk of the state. Then there are the proven carcinogenic effects of solar radiation in Bend, Or (much higher exposure at altitude), medical x-rays and wood dust. Second hand tobacco smoke, negative thought patterns, genetics and a plethora of other factors are thought to contribute to cancer and birth defects.

As often is the case with these legislature ‘tards (I mean no disrespect to the Special Olympics – know that you are much smarter!) who create the proposed legislation – they forget to include public enforcement provisions. The bills just set up a platform for civil lawsuits. Furthermore, they often enable “bounty hunter” lawsuits to be filed solely on the basis of no harm to anyone need be proven.

Oh, silly me, there I go again, just another rant on government overregulation.  The government could save so much money and time and put every American on a Hospital-like bland diet for life. Eventually that’s what it will come too.  Suddenly I’m craving a Saltine cracker? 

Now get back to work – someone has to pay for all the legislature time dreaming up bills to protect us from ourselves!

Photo courtesy of The Rut.

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Neil Young sang the song “Long May You Run“.

“We’ve been through
Some things together”

Last August, specifically on the 8th I was returning home from a week long ride in the Canadian Rockies and spent a night in Kennewick, WA (Tri-Cities) where I stopped at the local Harley-Davidson dealer.  Nice place and the dealership is owned by Shumate Motorsports or more importantly the owners are John Michial Shumate and his wife, Jennifer Shumate.

Interestingly on this day they were having a mother of all sales.  Strangely not on motorcycles, but on EVERYTHING else.  It looked like a going out of business sale and when I ask the sales clerk what it was all about she responded with something about needing to make room for all the new products so they were unloading inventory.  Sounded fishy.

Turns out that my inner voice was correct.  Just a couple of weeks later (September 2009) the owners filed for bankruptcy.  In court documents the Tri-City couple stated they’d racked up more than $10 million of debt for Shumate Tri-City LLC, Shumate Inc. and Shumate Spokane LLC.  Their first motorcycle shop was in Kennewick.  Then in 2004 the couple took over Spokane’s sole Harley-Davidson dealership, at 6815 E. Trent Ave. They also owned stores in Walla Walla and Lewiston, ID.

Sure these dealers are just locations on a map, but they also represent what life is about, experiences as you travel across the country making new friends and I’ve been to all of them over the years traveling around the pacific northwest.

According to reports, the Shumate’s filed an adversary proceeding in October 2009, accusing the motor company and affiliate companies of violating the Washington State Consumer Protection Act and of breaching a good-faith obligation.  Specifically the Shumates stated that Harley-Davidson disrupted their ability to carry on normal dealership operations by obtaining a temporary restraining order in August prohibiting them from selling motorcycles, parts, accessories and clothing that constitute collateral to which Harley-Davidson Credit Corp. claims it’s entitled. They contend Harley-Davidson then used that temporary inability of the Shumate dealerships to operate normally as the basis for the issuance of letters announcing the manufacturer’s plans to terminate its dealer contracts and franchises with them.  This maneuvering occurred when at the same time the motor company approved a new posh and competing dealership in upscale Coeur d’Alene, ID.

I don’t have visibility into all the internal workings or choices made at Shumate Motorsports, but one can’t help but have empathy.  If you believe Harley-Davidson advertising we’re supposed to have one part “stick-it-to-the-man” and one part sympathy for H-D, after all, they are losing millions bringing us these premium-priced motorcycles and the lifestyle.  Ain’t that America, where the public is beholden to corporations who pay little tax yet demand sympathy, as their lobbyists keep the government’s hands off of them and they wine and dine luxuriously in private while walking around in public with their pockets turned out?

At any rate, the latest update is a bankruptcy judge in Spokane will next week set a date for selling Spokane’s only Harley-Davidson dealership, plus the three other stores.  The Shumate Motorsport attorney (Barry W. Davidson of Spokane – see the irony?!) stated that it was Shumate’s intent to close his Spokane and Idaho operations but they were going to try and keep his Tri-City and Walla Walla stores open.  It’s not clear they will be successful in that effort.

Long may you run…

Photo courtesy of Boston.com

Previous posts on H-D closures HERE, HERE and HERE

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