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Archive for August, 2010

Pastor Terry Jones - Dove World Outreach Center

Luxury brands certainly have teams of brand police within Marketing to ensure their products aren’t being “Brand Jacked” or improperly positioned, but H-D is missing in action when it comes to the racially charged “N” word debate by pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp of Florida’s Dove World Outreach Center.

I’ll avoid getting into the debate over the ‘church’ content, but rather I want to point out that pastor Terry Jones is wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt and something like this can’t help the motor company or worse can potentially hurt the iconic brand.

Here’s my take…  H-D has nothing to do with the video, and their brand is being dragged through the “N” word debate to make a, Dr. Laura-esque point about racial double standards.  H-D hasn’t done anything to draw this unwanted attention.  Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center have seen a rapid rise in notoriety for their pending “Burn a Koran Day” on 9/11.  It seems show business have outruled common sense.

H-D can’t control who buys their merchandise, but they damn well sure can respond with a “cease and desist” order on both YouTube/Google and the Dove World Outreach Center/Church.  They should demand an immediate pull down of the video and the CMO should have a “not on my watch” A’tude!  If it gets reposted, at minimum the t-shirt should be blurred out.

H-D as a corporation has diligently worked and spent tremendous amounts of money on their image and brand. Watching from the sideline with a blind-eye or having a “strategy of hope”… i.e. hoping that the dust will settle and there will be no negative impact on their brand would be negligent.  In fact, I’m a bit offended with having a collateral clothing association and checking my t-shirt inventory to trash any similar Mr. Jones attire.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

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Get ready!  Labor Day is around the corner and summer school recess will soon be over.  Enjoy the final riding days while you can because after this it’s fall, La Nina and the northwest rain.

Color me skeptical, but the cooler temperatures and elevated chances of rain from La Nina may well come true so getting rides in before October will be a priority.  I’ve scheduled time to attend Street Vibrations in Reno in late September, but a day ride out to the mysterious and famous Shoe Treeis something I’ve been thinking about again.

Located north of Shaniko, Oregon (a ghost town with pop. of 25), near milepost 53 and about ten yards off of Hwy 97 is this lone, dead tree covered with old, worn shoes – “shoefiti.”

Shaniko, Oregon -- The Shoe Tree

A “Shoe Tree”, is a tree (or, occasionally, a powerline pole or other wooden object) that has been decorated with old shoes.  They generally are located alongside a major road, and may have a theme (such as running shoes). A shoe tree starts with one dreamer, tossing their footwear into the sky, to catch on a branch. It usually ends there, unseen and neglected by others. But on occasion, that first pair of shoes triggers a cascade and soon people are driving out to the tree, inscribing messages on their old sneakers and adding them to the “polymer beauty” as a work of art.  According to Wikipedia there are currently at least seventy-six such shoe trees in the U.S.   Technically to be a Shoe Tree there are rules.  The tree should have at least 50 pairs of shoes in the branches, be publicly accessible, and known as a “Shoe Tree” by locals.

So, without any explanation this strange little dead tree, located near a ghost town makes a person wonder… who started the shoe tree and why?  I’ve ridden through Shaniko in the past and spent some wind in the face time near Antelope, OR.  My previous post is HERE.  At the time I passed by this tree it had only a few shoes hanging from it and I made no mention in the blog. But these days it has hundreds, with more showing up all the time.

It’s a local mystery, but if you happen to be riding North along Hwy 97 at milepost 53 and you have an extra pair of shoes needing to be unloaded….add to the mystery of The Shaniko Shoe Tree.

Photo of tree courtesy of Flickr

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Communication technology and digital media have transformed almost every sector of society, altering the way we express ideas, participate in public debates, connect with others, entertain ourselves and define our identities.  The implications of the digital age are profound

And for the past 31-years, Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch has helped build the Harley-Davidson brand through innovative ideas in advertising, digital and public relations.  You may not know the agency, but you’ll remember their “Screw It, Let’s Ride” campaign which inspired people to get out and ride independent of what the economy is doing or what the pundits tell us.  In addition they developed the more recent award winning Harlista campaign which resulted in an 8.2% increase in share of motorcycles among Hispanic targets and a 615% increase in web traffic to the Hispanic section of the H-D web site.

But the relationship is no more.  The two companies have what the Tiger Woods divorce attorney’s might label as “irretrievably broken” as the two companies parted ways this week.

Clearly Carmichael Lynch wasn’t satisfied with a smaller lead advertising role and “resigned” as H-D’s new strategy has been moving away from a singular consumer agency and instead is working with several creative agencies like McCann, VSA Partners, Davie Brown and others.

In an era when relationships are measured in “internet time” the fact that this agency has been able to successfully maintain a client relationship for so many years and produce quality, award winning creative against many odds stands for something in my book!

Photo courtesy of H-D and Carmichael Lynch.

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The once-fictional Tru Blood beverage from the HBO hit series “True Blood” has come to life in bottle form this September.  It’s a blood-orange carbonated drink concoction with a 3-V mixture of Vodka, Vicodin, and Viagra… to bring out the vampire in you!

Actually I made up that 3-V mixture part, it’s just a premium priced slightly tart and sweet flavored drink.  Much better tasting than the two-ounce bottle of “Gulf Water” priced for $9.99 at oilspillwater.com!

But, speaking of bottling up the motorcycle elixir of life, and drinking the water,  long-time Sturgis rally veteran Tom Brandy had a dream to bring the Black Hills of South Dakota motorcycle rally to the rest of the world and now that will happen with the first event set in South Korea on September 17-21st.  In addition to having the common “South” in the festival city name many of the motorcycle events will be similar to the long-standing rally in the U.S.

Mr. Brandy is catering heavily to locals (website is in Korean) and it’s anticipated there will be large groups of motorcyclists from China and Japan in attendance.  There will be hill climbs, entertainment along with a broad set of custom bike builders (Ness, Perewitz, Trotta) in attendance.  No word yet on who from Harley-Davidson will be in attendance and whether they plan to scout potential manufacturing plants?

Harley-Davidsonesque Scooter (photo taken in Tokyo)

I can visualize an Asia blog post reflecting on the event already…

“For kilometers, the bikers have been overtaking the little KIA cars. Gleaming low-slung motorcycles with fat tires and riders settled into the seats, sometimes a pillion person too (i.e. “bitch”). Most built with a Harley-Davidsonesque Hog image, but instead sport two cycles.  Some of the riders nicknamed their Korean bikes the “Kimchi Piglet” as it has the porcine image but still hasn’t properly grown up yet. With legs stuck out in front so they’re nearly parallel to the outstretched arms operating the controls, booted feet pointed at the sky — riders rushed past an artillery range with the world’s most fortified border, breathing semi-toxic pollution and dodging kamikaze pizza-delivery scooters. Sturgis ASIA welcomed riders to the land of Kimchi, beautiful Asian girls and the home to a surprisingly strong motorcycle culture.”

Wouldn’t it be something if Sturgis ASIA surpassed Sturgis U.S. in attendance records?!  Japan is really the big custom motorcycle scene, however, when I was in Seoul, South Korea a few years ago they didn’t want anything to do with Japanese and likely explains why the event is not held in Tokyo.

Water bottle photo created.  Logo courtesy of The City Of Sturgis Rally Department and Sturgis ASIA web site.

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Harley-Davidson

I’m balancing my checkbook.  I’ve been on the road about a third of the month with ATM and VISA slips from a lot of one-horse towns and I need to know how much money I’ve got.  I’m not a numbers matching up kind of guy, but I do like to know if the bank made a mistake.  It seems they never do!  I’ve joked with friends about the day when there’s a cash machine built into my PC. Click a button and green comes out.  Then again do you even need cash anymore?

And speaking of cash… In 2009, Harley-Davidson CEO, Keith Wandell was paid $1,430,055 in salary.  His total compensation was $6,363,579.  As comparison the average H-D worker made $32,048.  If my math is correct that is 198 times the average worker’s pay.

It’s jaw-dropping, but not all that extraordinary when it comes to CEO pay.

More importantly, is that Mr. Wandell brings fiscal discipline and order to the portfolio of businesses at H-D.  He is an outstanding executive.  He might not be deeply steeped in motorcycle knowledge, but for a numbers guy, Harley-Davidson is a fantasy land, and the path for navigating it couldn’t be clearer.  First off he has the board backing and the mandate, plus the ability to go around the company at different levels to find the people that have the actual answers to the questions.  He has no fear about losing his job or concern about his image as a numbers mercenary and won’t fret if the company morale declines a bit because of cost cutting actions.  I have no personal experience, but don’t cha think once you’ve joined the “million $$ salary club” the guts to cut deep automatically come along with the position power mojo?!  The decision’s that Mr. Wandell has to make is 198 times more difficult than the average worker, right?

Inside H-D

If you don’t think they are difficult then consider this.  Earlier this week the Harley-Davidson Wisconsin steel workers (more than 1800) received a letter from their Union President. In it, he explained that if they want to keep their jobs, they have only one chance.  That is to vote on September 13th, 2010 and approve the new H-D contract.  The Union President went on to say that if they don’t approve the new contract that “Harley-Davidson Board of Directors can vote themselves  on whether to allocate monies to Wisconsin Operations or another state.”

For all who try to blame the economy on the Democrats or the previous Bush administration I say who cares.  The facts are clear.  At the current rate of growth, 150,000-175,000 jobs per month, it will be 2014 before the U.S. unemployment rate drops to 8%.  And if it continues at that pace, it will be late in the year 2016 before the unemployment rate hits 6.5%. Bad news for all of us.

Whether the company board bestows jaw-dropping salaries and benefit packages on the exec’s isn’t a scandal.  Au contraire!  This is the NEW corporate direction and strategy and at the end of the day Mr. Wandell faces difficult choices that until now the previous management and board have been unable or unwilling to make.

Move baby, move may well be the anthem of 2010.

Photo’s taken at the 105th Anniversary Celebration.  Salary Source: AFL/CIO Paywatch Database

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By now the campground dust has settled after the 70th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which brought thousands of motorcyclists and music fans to the legendary Buffalo Chip.

There were raucous crowds mixed with top tier entertainment at the “Chip” this year.  Even Pee Wee Herman lived through it to write on a blog for The Huffington Post about his experience.  See his video HERE.  But, overall it cemented the venue as one of the better entertainment locations with an array of art, vendors, food and people gawking (responsibly of course!).  The selection of musical guests resulted in one of the biggest music festivals of its kind in South Dakota. Doing a bit of name dropping, the entertainment included; Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Motley Crue, the Scorpions, ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Lee Rocker, Tesla, Drowning Pool, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Guess Who, Trailer Choir, Buckcherry, Orianthi, Stone Sour, Jason Aldean, Williams & Ree and Disturbed.

But here’s the rub… there were a lot of people going to/from the Chip.  I was part of the 5 mile commute from town to the campground traffic jam that ran from the Buffalo Chip to I-90 on Tuesday night (August 10th) as rally-goers sat on over heating motorcycles for a couple of hours on what locals call the annual “biker crawl” to catch the Bob Dylan/Kid Rock show.

The Chip celebrated it’s twenty-ninth year of operation.  That’s twenty-nine years of motorcyclists trapped in wicked heat and traffic grid lock.  There’s no excuse for an experience like this.  In Sturgis there were NO law enforcement officers directing traffic nor were there any Buffalo Chip staff.  Just grid lock. What went wrong and why is there no traffic coordination?  Were people improperly trained?  Did too many people overwhelm the event or have budgets been cut so slim that the job can no longer be done?  It’s a case of pointing fingers.

Bob Dylan at The Buffalo Chip -- 2010

Ron Woodruff is the owner of the Buffalo Chip campground who I’m sure has great pride having overseen the tremendous growth and World Wide recognition the “Chip” has earned as one of the premier concert venues in the mid-west.  Tried to correct this situation, he has and last fall he tried again to get the Meade County commissioners to take corrective action, but the commissioners defeated a Woodruff backed bill which would have set aside money to purchase land for a shortcut from the major campgrounds to I-90.   I’m sure the meeting went something like this: “We don’t need no road that will only be used for two weeks out of the year. It will kill the vendors who depend on Main and Lazelle traffic for their business.”

The dust settles on "The Chip"

But as a business, the Sturgis town council and the Buffalo Chip should never be happy when people attend the rally, put down hard earned money for music concerts and have a bad experience for any reason.  It’s a simple situation.  How many times a year can someone afford to drop $300 for two people to go to a concert, drink a few beers, eat a Gyro and buy a t-shirt?  Not many.  So, they need to listen to the customer and make changes.   How about traffic police coordination? How about traffic alerts?  Or Twitter updates on the expected delays or reasons?  How about park and ride buses with express lanes?  Something.  Anything!

And while I’m on this rant… how about that lame video set up on the Chip stage?   Hey Ron, 1979 called and said they want their VCR camcorder back!  Are margins so tight that a short-term rental of a couple video JumboTrons for people to see the artists or the Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Contest be out of question?  Lastly, there use to be a TV segment on ABC called the “Fleecing of America”… I suggest a segment called the Sturgis “Fleecing of Every Motorcycle Music Fan?”  You see those stop signs that help create the grid-lock, become after the Chip concert, mixed with Monkey Rock and Full Throttle motorcyclists into a law enforcement sobriety stop as police officers stood in the street wafting for alcohol with their scientifically trained nose.  When they found an offence they processed tickets speedier and more efficient than the Hertz rental car return!

Were there irresponsible riders?  Oh yeah, and many of those who participated a bit more than others caught a free ride out of the traffic jam.  Yep, the Chip truly captures the essence of the motorcycle lifestyle, but it’s time for some changes.

Photo’s taken at the Buffalo Chip.

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MV Agusta - F4

I’m not sure who said it, but there’s an old saying about Harley-Davidson, that goes something like: “if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.

So, on the day I left for Sturgis (August 6th), Harley-Davidson announced it had concluded the sale of its subsidiary, MV Agusta, to Claudio Castiglioni and his wholly owned holding company, MV Agusta Motor Holding, S.r.l.   You may recall that in October 2009, under the new leadership of CEO Keith Wandell, H-D announced its intention to sell MV Agusta as part of a NEW corporate strategy and to focus resources on the Harley-Davidson brand.  In fact, Mr. Wandell was in route to Minnesota on this announcement day so his handlers undoubtedly had everything all wrapped up prior to his departure ride to Sturgis.

The divesting announcement came 2 years (almost to the day) after it completed the $108M purchase acquisition of MV Agusta on August 8, 2008.  Then CEO Jim Ziemer said of the purchase:

“We are thrilled to welcome the MV Agusta family of customers and employees into the Harley-Davidson family of premium motorcycle brands,” … “Our primary focus with this acquisition is to grow our presence and enhance our position in Europe as a leader in fulfilling customers’ dreams, complementing the Harley-Davidson and Buell motorcycle families.”

The divesting announcement didn’t include the sale price but its 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed the company essentially paid MV Agusta’s former owners to take it back.  In the filing Harley stated it “contributed 20 million Euros to MV as operating capital” that was put in escrow and is available to the buyer over a 12-month period. The buyer was Claudio Castiglioni, who, with his brother Gianfranco, ran MV Agusta for years before selling it to Harley two years ago.  In the filing Harley also said it received “nominal consideration” from the buyer. In a subsequent interview the company said the specific amount it received was $3 Euros (~$3.98 USD)

In 2008 most of us were stymied by the purchase of MV Agusta.  As a maker of expensive and exotic, high-performance sport bikes at minimum it overlapped with the Buell products and even worse was the company never explained how MV could attract younger buyers to H-D.

Here are my questions.  How many laid off workers equal the cost of this poor decision and why hasn’t the Board of Director’s been held accountable for one of the worst business decisions in H-D history?  Yeah, they’ll likely tell me “if they have to explain it I wouldn’t understand…”

I previously blogged about H-D going Italian HERE.

Footnote:  There is a certain level of incompetence from the old time management at H-D and they should-have-known-better.   It’s not the first time Harley-Davidson has had a hard time with an Italian acquisition. In the 1960s it bought a stake in Aermacchi, a maker of small off-road bikes as a way to expand into new markets. Eventually it bought the whole company, but that move also eventually failed and Harley sold Aermacchi in the late 1970s. The sellers and buyers: the Castiglioni brothers.

UPDATE: September 11, 2010 — Not previously made public, but buried in the Sale and Purchase Agreement filed with the SEC is a provision that H-D retains control of any press releases and statements about the sale for a year from the August 6th closing date.  Why?  Maybe the fact that H-D forgave a $103M Euro receivable… basically money it had loaned MV Agusta for operations.  The sale agreement specifies that the receivable transfers to Castiglioni for $1 Euro!!  Shareholders need to hold the board and management responsible for this “BARGAIN:”  H-D paid $108M, then put $20M Euro in escrow for Castiglioni when they “sold” it back; forgave $103.7M Euro’s lent to MV Augusta and wrote off $162.6M on the company.  Q3’10 will include more losses due to tax liabilities…does it ever end?

Photo courtesy of MV Agusta.

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Devils Tower

STURGIS to ASHLAND – We spent some of the previous couple days riding the Black Hills with stunning canyons, small towns and historical landmarks at every S-turn.  It wasn’t all about the Sturgis vendor booths!  As a quick side-bar I want to do a shout out to the owners (Matt) of the Recreational Springs Resort which is a campground and motel and was within a short walking distance of the cabin we stayed.  We ate food at the resort and the hospitality was top notch.  I highly recommend the place.

Posse at Devils Tower

Back to the ride – If memory serves me correctly this was our seventh day on the road as we departed the 70th Sturgis rally around noon.  We wanted to get a couple hundred miles under our belt after doing a brief drive-by tour of Devils Tower and Hulett, WY.   Getting a couple hundred miles west would be a reasonable jumpstart for our return trip home.

The ride out to Devils Tower has a number of long sweeping curves and some beautiful canyons and high plains.  Located in the northwestern northeastern corner of Wyoming the tower rises 1267 above the Belle Fourche River.  Initially known as Bears Lodge, the park has 1347 acres covered in pine forest and grasslands.

Ah, Looks Like Rain?

It is a sacred site for many American Indians (Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota).  Reportedly President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.  There are over 7 miles of hiking trails of which we did maybe 300 feet in the summer heat and most notable is the 200 climbing routes to the summit.  I’ve been here two other times and there are always climbers trying to summit.  And yes, it was the landmark filmed in the 1977 movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Lightning Storm In Ashland, MT

After a few tourist photos in and around the tower we rode into Hulett for lunch and refreshments to cool down.  With a rest stop completed we headed northeast on Hwy 112 (Hulett-Alzada Hwy).  We hit a couple of rain clouds that “spit” a little on us prior to reaching Alzada at the Hwy 212 junction, but thus far the trip didn’t require us to pull out the rain gear.  Amazing!

That was short lived as we soon witnessed the western sky fill with menacing storm clouds.  The day prior we made motel reservations in the small town of Ashland, Montana.  Not even a two horse town, but it turned out to be a brilliant move.

Ashland, MT - Rain Storm

About two hours prior to our arrival in Ashland the weather situation turn nasty.  Not to let a little rain intimidate us we continued riding only to find ourselves in a drenching downpour, complete with hail, thunder and lightning.  A true gully washer!  The lightning was problematic and on more than one occasion the thunder “booms” had us thinking about the odds of getting struck.  Even more lightning became visible on Horne Creek Butte as we traversed the southern tip of Custer National Forest.  Being from the west coast it’s rare to have/see lightning let alone be concerned about getting hit on a moving vehicle.  [Post Ride: evidently there are a number of motorcycle survival lightning strike stories… who knew?!]   Eventually we made it to the motel as the sky open up with more rain and lightning.  We caught some of the storm action by way of the iPhone video HERE and watched as the gravel parking lot flooded.

Ashland, MT Sunset

In the room we stripped rain gear off and started working to get it dried out for the next day adventure.  AT&T continued to deliver no phone service so the option of working out an alternative ride plan was a challenge.  It was fortunate that a gal from the motel offered to shag us some to-go burgers in her automobile and we didn’t get further drenched seeking out some dinner.  Bikers streamed into the motel only to find it full.

ASHLAND to MISSOULA – It’s often said that a clean bike runs better, but after the previous days drenching downpour and “road foam” we dismissed that rationalization as being one for the vain and continued on with the grime laden motorcycles.

The weather looked questionable so we kept the rain gear handy and put on some extra clothing to fight off the colder temps as we rode though Big Sky country.  We continued west on Hwy 212 and re-fueled near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  This area memorializes the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.  Having been there a couple times in the past we rolled on by and made our way onto I-90.

Eastern Montana is a typical high plains environment which means the area is generally treeless, semi arid and low humidity.  We hit some rain showers which required rain gear between Billings and Bozeman, but by the time we grabbed a late lunch in Butte the daytime temps and summer sunshine returned to the typical August norms.

At Lolo Pass

After a 468 mile day we decided Ruby’s Inn and walking across the street for chicken wings and refreshments at Hooter’s was the only way to go.

MISSOULA to CLARKSTON – This is the link between the Missouri River and the Columbia River through the Rocky Mountains.  From Missoula we headed south toward Lolo and traversed U.S. 12 to the Idaho – Montana border. This 99-mile S-turn filled byway, stretches across north-central Montana and Idaho.  It follows the Lewis & Clark explorers’ route through the ancestral homeland of the Nez Perce people. It’s a winding two-lane road through the Clearwater River Canyon, and passes through the Nez Perce National Historical Park.

We stopped at Lolo Pass for a photo op and water break.  Later in the afternoon we grab some lunch at the “Cougar Canyon” station.

More than a few riders have been surprised at just how much fun riding a Harley touring model can be.  While no one would claim the touring models as sportbikes, they certainly can be ridden in a sporting manner.  The key is finding a comfortable pace that carries your speed through the turns with minimal braking.  The combination of excellent two-lane pavement with a multitude of twists and turns made this route a joy to ride.

It was a relatively short day in overall miles, but with the summer temperatures stuck in the mid-90’s most of the day it felt (at least my body did) like a 500+ mile day.  We rolled into Lewiston, crossed the river into Washington state and overnighted at a Best Western.  A nice place and after a long cooling off session in the motel swimming pool the group headed to Paraiso Vallarta for some Mexican dinner specials.

CLARKSTON to PORTLAND – Early in the morning we motored out of town to put some significant miles on the scooters before the summer heat took its toll.  We continued on Hwy 12 to Dayton then through Umatillia, crossed back into Oregon and headed west on I-84.  There was a short stop for lunch to slam down a “Bozo Burger” near Boardman, but it was the only luxury stop otherwise it was gas and go and back on the road.  It was 2,947 cumulative miles later that I pulled into the driveway of home.

Near Hood River

Motorcycling teases us with the freedom to be on the road.  We stop when and where we wanted too, slowed down and experienced the country firsthand.  We breezed through the towering mountains and blue skies and traveled across the plains.  Sturgis for a third-time was a charm!  I hope this travelogue makes you want to get out and ride to new places.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

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Posse at the 70th Sturgis Rally

STURGIS is STURGIS — Since 1938 the Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with some exceptions during WWII, for example the gasoline rationing in 1942.

And as a result, a lot about Sturgis remains nearly the same year after year after year.  There are the RVs, tents, vendors, concerts, people watching and lots of motorcycles.  And did I already say there is a lot of people?  Every year they try to make it bigger, better and fancier.  In fact, this year the musical lineup included folk icon Dylan to heavy metal pioneer Osbourne along with some Motley Crue and ZZ Top in-between.  Each of the big three camp grounds compete with each other to see who can bring in the more impressive talent.

But there feels like a bit of a metamorphosis at Sturgis.  It’s become noticeably more commercial.  Even the Hells Angels had a booth serving up (for a fee) a Sonny B. book signing along with calendar and t-shirt sales!  The rally has turned a corner toward a concentration of commercialized chrome with a sanitized or reserved atmosphere.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s just about moneymaking which doesn’t interest a lot of folks.

Our group persevered through the changes in rally persona, and spent a couple days at the “humble rumble” (i.e. Sturgis) – enjoying all that the town and surrounding area had to offer up – I departed with only one t-shirt!  The Sturgis population of 6500 hosts a few hundred thousand biking enthusiasts and along the way the economic engine collects about $987M in state tourism for the little celebration.

Capitalism at its finest!  And if you don’t think there are many people in attendance… consider this: NYC has 26,402 people per square mile; Sturgis during rally week has 160,427 people per square mile!

In my estimation there are 3-types of people who come to the Sturgis rally. The CASUAL OBSERVER – who may ride, but most likely does not and spends most of the day in t-shirt shops buying “proof” they were at the ‘mayhem’ or event.  Next is the RECREATIONAL RIDER – some who rode there, but many likely trailered their $35K CVOs.  This group offers up the largest opportunity for the vendor booths as the biker subculture fantasy doesn’t come cheap.  The last group is the RODE MINE whose leather jackets patina match the sunburned faces.  You don’t get that bright red tan while sitt’n in captain seats in the Ford F-series pickup!

Willie G

There might even be another group, those who don’t own rain gear, sport offensive tat’s and do tune ups along the way.  They have a true pulse of the V-Twin and a real sense of brotherhood.  But I’ve digressed.  For most the celebration will come to an end and will need to shave and shower and squeeze back into the cubicle.  In other words, get back to work as were going to need to pay off the August credit card bill!

From my vantage a few highlights were: the Kid Rock concert at the “Chip” (Dylan was totally lame!); face-to-face with Harley executives (Willie G., Bill and Nancy); Mount Rushmore achieved the highest single day attendance record on August 10th; witnessing the ear blasting B1-B Bomber fly over on main street; “The Wall That Heals” (a ½ scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial); the AMD World Championship customs; free Macanudo cigars and the Harley-Davidson booth/crew.

AMD World Championship

Speaking of the H-D booth, I want to provide a shout out to the Milwaukee team for a job well done!  In previous years you’d have to commute to Rapid City to see the new model line-up which many riders passed over.  It was extraordinarily convenient to meander up from the Broken Spoke and talk up new features with the well trained H-D personnel who were genuinely interested in chatting it up with riders.

Now for some of the bad news: the 70th Rally saw about double the number of road deaths/crashes vs. previous year averages.  Nine people were killed in the Sturgis area during the rally.  There were no deaths last year.  This number doesn’t account for fatal wrecks in other states involving motorcyclists on their way as was the situation for an Oregon man who crashed on US 12 near Powell, ID HERE.   Granted the higher number of attendees does contribute to potential crashes, but in many instances the accidents seemed due to inattention.  Early stats indicate that fewer people were arrested for drunken driving, but more for drug violation.  Law enforcement responded to 73 injury accidents and 36 non-injury which was similar to previous years.  Total citations for the 2010 rally were down to 1442 vs. 1803 in 2009.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 3 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

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PORTLAND to BOISE – The outbound ride route was about getting miles under our tires as we looked for the fastest and most direct route (I-84) to Boise, ID.

The day started off with a heavy coastal cloud layer, but the futher we rode through the gorge the sunny weather was clearly present in the distant east.  By mid-morning the clouds burned off and as we rode up the gorge we stopped at a rest area prior to Boardman and met up with another group of riders/friends who were taking the northern route to the rally.

We continued on along a more southern route and headed toward Pendleton and over the Blue Mountains of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  The crest of the range sits at 4193 feet just prior to La Grande and then we dropped down into the southeastern flank of the range and Baker City, home of the Hells Canyon Rally.

We arrived in Idaho, the coast-less, semi-arid, mountainous state to near triple digit temps and stopped at a rest area where the Snake River meandered along the interstate to cool off.  We made our way into the downtown Hampton Inn having to navigate around road blocks for a 3-on-3 basketball street tournament running over the weekend.

As a side-bar, the Hampton Inn experience (price/quality/service) was the best we experienced on the entire trip.  Major shout-out to Phil Cordell (GM) and team!

"The Posse"

We needed something to do and luckily for the group it was Friday night!  We grabbed some “Boise Caviar” (at: Bar Gernika) i.e. some spicy lamb grinder and a drink mixture of cola and red wine.  No thanks, I stuck to a local hops.

Bar Gernika is a dark little corner joint, but a fav for Basque food.  Some in the posse decided to doubled down on the croquetas and ask for extra spice because let’s face it – is there any better drunk food than spicy lamb?!  The joint had a sidewalk patio and was in close proximity to “Alive After Five” and the “cougar” deck at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant where we finished off the evening.

BOISE to IDAHO FALLS – We departed Boise fairly early and continued our route to the “Craters of the Moon National Monument.”   About an hour outside of Boise we headed east on Hwy 20 and traveled through the semi-arid rolling hills landscape.  About 18 miles from Arco, ID on Hwy 20/26/93 is the National Monument and we pulled into the visitor center to cool off.  Even though we were at 5900 feet, the temperature remained in the 90’s.  The Craters of the Moon is a geologic wonder.  It’s a preserved volcanic landscape with craters, cinder coves, lava tubes and large fields on the Snake River plain.  It’s quite the contrast in colors.

Craters of the Moon

After leaving the monument we continue east toward Arco and rode through part of the nearly 1000 sq mile Idaho National Laboratory (INL) complex located in the high-desert.  For as far as the eye can see (~20 miles) there was nothing but sage brush and then a small industrial complex comes into view. INL manufactures highly radioactive plutonium-238 for classified national security purposes.

According to the reports there have been more than 50 one-of-a-kind nuclear reactors built at the INL facility yet all but three are shut down now.

"Middle Butte"

More important from a tourist viewpoint is that we passed by the now famous EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor) which first produced electricity back in 1951 and was the design test-bed for a nuclear military.  It’s on public display.

We continued heading east on Hwy 20/26/93 and rolled past “Middle Butte” which is this large cinder cone shaped mountain in the high-desert with every conceivable antenna tower on the flat top to broadcast or capture an electronic signal.  Undoubtedly it provides the 4000+ workers at INL cell phone coverage so they can check their email.

Idaho Falls

Evidently AT&T has yet to learn about this mountain as I had no service.

Finally after some road construction delay’s we arrived literally at Idaho Falls and the Best Western hotel.  Dinner was great at the Brownstone Restaurant and by moonlight and a small flashlight we made some late night foot peg adjustments before calling it a day.

IDAHO FALLS to CODY —

Grand Teton National Park

(via southern Yellowstone National Park entrance) – This day took us through northwestern Wyoming, via Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park.  We were most fortunate to have sunny weather to view a spectacular landscape rich with majestic mountains and blue clear lakes.

The jagged Teton Range provides an incredible contrast to the sage-covered valley which Hwy 191 runs through on our way north to Yellowstone.

The Teton's

Yellowstone National Park is always inspiring with waterfalls, Lodgepole pine and the thermal areas. The south road entrance passes the Continental Divide three times and the route passes five geyser basins.  We drove by Lewis Lake and over Craig Pass (8262 ft) and then west to Old Faithful.  It’s the world’s best known geyser and erupts at intervals from 40 to 120 minutes.

We watch it do its thing and back tracked toward the East entrance through Lake Village and the Fishing Bridge where we were rewarded with panorama views of Yellowstone Lake.

Lewis Lake - Yellowstone

The lake is North Americas largest mountain lake at 20 miles long, 14 miles wide and 430 ft deep with average August surface temp of 60 degrees.

We traveled around what seemed like the entire lake then progressed over Sylvan Pass (8530 ft) and finished out the riding day with about 50 miles to Cody, WY.

The last hour of this route took us on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway which is a two-lane road in the rugged canyon carved by the North Fork of Shoshone River.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir - Cody, WY

Just prior to arriving in Cody are a couple of interesting tunnels and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir which provides recreational activity for locals as well as some limited hydropower from the dam.

With the sun setting behind us the scene made for some great photo’s.

CODY to STURGIS/LEAD – It was our 4th day of adventure and Cody is a transition point between the forested mountains of northwest Wyoming and the plains of the Bighorn Basin.

At Shell Falls Trail

There is spectacular scenery in all directions from Cody, the Beartooth Mountains to the north, the Absaroka Range to the west and Wapiti Valley to the south.  Our posse headed east on Hwy 20 to Greybull and picked up Hwy 14 which traverses the Bighorn National Forest.

We all have our favorite roads and one that I really like riding is the Bighorn Scenic Byway (US 14) which connects the cities of Greybull and Sheridan and includes 45 miles of scenic mountain driving.

Posse rolling across SD Plains

Within the National Forest area, you’ll encounter grass prairies, evergreen forests, mountain meadows, rugged alpine peaks, dramatic canyons, arid desert lands and cascading waterfalls — all within a couple hours journey.  The Cloud Peak Wilderness area, is quite unique and diverse.  I’d like to spend more time exploring the area rather than quickly rolling through on a motorcycle.

The Deadwood Cabin

We connected onto I-90 and headed east toward Sturgis.  Although the interstate is fast it’s somewhat of a boring ride until you get near Spearfish and the US 85 junction which routes riders south into Deadwood/Lead.  We had a cabin south of Lead, located near Recreational Springs.   Although it was a bit of drive into Sturgis it turned out to be a really sweet setup!

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken along the route.

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