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Archive for December, 2011

It’s been a pretty busy year at Northwest Harley Blog covering the various motorcycle rides that the posse went on, events and industry news along the way and the occasional rant about the Occupy protests, Wisconsin sit-ins as well as highlighting Harley-Davidson’s trouble spots around the world.

As you know, I write about this stuff from the comfort of my living room.  Investigative journalists who get paid to report the news for a living don’t have the same conveniences afforded me as they are on the front lines producing first-person accounts of the stories that motorcycle enthusiasts care about.  Yet the forces of modern society have placed the newspaper reporter on the “endangered species” list.  Stat’s from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011, indicate a whopping 4,400 reporter jobs will disappear by 2018 (out of 69,400 total in 2008). That’s more than three times the number of newsroom employees at The New York Times.

It can be summed up in a word: Internet.

But, that techie thing that Al Gore “invented” is a double edge sword for me.  Thanks to the internet, I no longer use Cling Wrap in the microwave because it causes seven different types of cancer.  I limit the times I drink in a bar to only daylight hours because I fear I’ll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys gone.  And the most helpful internet tip convinced me to keep my toothbrush in the living room, because I was told by multiple e-mails that water splashes over 6 ft. out of the toilet.  I know this is true because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor’s ex mother-in-law’s second husband’s cousin’s best friend’s barber…

We’re not going back to the heady newspaper days of yore.  But, I’ve digressed.

That tick, tick, ticking you hear is the march of the impending Christmas holiday deadline. So, before the gift-buying is done, family-visiting, eggnog-sipping chaos reaches a tipping point, remember to take some quiet — YOU time.
 
Merry Christmas everyone.
 
P.S. if you’re the there ain’t no party like a polar bear party type and planning to drink, please don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle or attempt to ride a motorcycle.  I don’t want to lose you as a valued reader of this blog, but Governor Kitzhaber proclaimed December as “3D Month” which means significant increases in officer roadway presence and very agressive enforcement of DUII. 

Photo courtesy of Al Gore.

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Darrin Sprechar

Driving a motorcycle in the northwest is an exciting experience. The views, the freedom a motorcycle gives you, the expression of individuality that comes from going down the road on two wheels vs. four, are all attractions that thousands of Oregon motorcyclists experience most every day.

Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to driving a motorcycle. Accidents involving motorcycles are more dangerous to the rider than those involving people in automobiles.

That was the situation last week when Paradise Harley-Davidson (PHD) employee, Darrin Sprechar (43) was involved in an accident on Oregon 217 and sustained serious injuries.  Darrin was transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center after he rear-ended a vehicle on the highway between Southwest Walker and Canyon roads. The crash occurred in the southbound lanes at about 2:35 p.m.

Although Darrin was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, he 
suffered a traumatic head injury and remains hospitalized and in the ICU.  According to Beaverton Police (Yazzolino) the helmet wasn’t one approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
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So, let’s reframe the debate — many of us know Darrin from the PHD Service Department — He’s really a nice guy, has a great sense of humor and is 3-dimensional, just like a real person!  Right now he remains in the ICU and it’s unknown when his condition will improve — so is it really time to debate DOT merits?! Really? I’ve read the posts on the forums and press pages.

Instead I suggest it’s time for a good deed.  One that will help bring some happiness to this family during the hazy shade of winter.  The Sunset HOG Chapter is sponsoring a collection for Darrin to help with medical expenses.  You can bring a donation to the next chapter meeting or mail a donation to PO Box 2078, Beaverton, OR 97075.  Or if you prefer you can make a donation HERE however, be advised that 100% of your donation will not go directly to the Sprechar family after the site takes it’s hefty percent of overhead.

We all hope and pray that Darrin’s injury will quickly heal. If you visit this link the family is keeping Darrin’s status updated daily.  For those of you who do contribute,  I’m sure that Darrin and his family would like to personally thank you for your support.
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Picture courtesy of Caringbridge and Sprechar family.
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Go ahead and admit it.  You’ve always wanted to become an elite custom motorcycle builder and compete on the national stage to win cash prizes.

Now you can!

Any motorcycle enthusiast can learn with the click of a mouse how to build custom motorcycles.  All of this happens thanks to Chopper College, a Minneapolis-based technical school who tapped Chicago digital agency Oncall Interactive to revamp its website which will include a new video curriculum.  The result is that you can express your vision of a custom-built motorcycle and show up at the rallies from Sturgis to Shanghai.

Chopper College and Oncall Interactive, an award-winning digital agency who also list’s Harley-Davidson as a client began working on www.ChopperCollege2020.com in November and the new site is planned for a March 31, 2012 launch.

The closest many motorcycle enthusiasts have gotten to designing and building custom bikes is by watching American Chopper — which is fun if you can get past all the yelling — but it’s not hands-on. By making the training available via  the web anyone interested can participate in motorcycle design and fabrication.

Get your virtual grinder and tool belt out…

Photo courtesy of Chopper College.

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H-D FX Super Glide - Sparkling America

In the early 1970s, funding dollars were tight, so Willie G. Davidson and his design team mated the chassis of a larger touring bike with that of the lighter, more manageable front end of the Sportster.

The result was the 1971 introduction of the “Sparkling America”  motorcycle which featured red, white and blue paint and a unique “boat-tail” rear fender — all trademarks that say circa: “1970s”.

It was also around the same timeframe when Elvis and Priscilla Presley split up.  They drew up a property settlement agreement to outline what she would receive from the divorce.  The 12-page document shows that Elvis signed over ownership of three of his prized possessions – a 1971 Mercedes-Benz car, a 1969 Cadillac El Dorado and a 1971 Harley Davidson motorcycle along with $100,000 in cash.   The property settlement agreement, dated August 15, 1972, clearly indicates that Priscilla who had originally agreed to the cash settlement that was 7.5 times less than the amount that she finally received in the end (good lawyer!).

The original divorce papers, were sold last night by an unnamed private owner after having them for 20 years, at an auction in Texas for nearly $9,000.

Elvis Divorce Papers

I can’t help but wonder what happened to ’71 motorcycle?  Was it an original ‘71 FX?  I don’t know and there is very little information about the motorcycle or what happened to it.  I’ve been unable to find any public photo’s of Elvis with that model motorcycle.  If you have any information on its whereabouts I’d like to hear from you.

The original 1971 FXs were hard to find.  Many owners back in the day didn’t like the “boat-tail” and replaced it with a more traditional bobbed rear fender.   According to various reports Elvis owned at least three Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but was photographed on at least 10 different bikes.  His first was purchased in 1956, a week after turning 21 years old and just days after recording “Heartbreak Hotel” which launched him into superstardom.  That motorcycle was a ’56 KH and was sold to Harley-Davidson by Elvis’ friend, Fleming Horne in 1995 for an undisclosed amount, complete with documentation and is now part of the H-D museum collection.

In a bit of trivia…Elvis rode a number of Harley’s in various films.  From my vantage the more notable were “Roustabout” (1964), “Viva Las Vegas” (1964), “Clambake” (1967) and “Stay Away Joe” (1968).

Photo courtesy of H-D, and Dailymail

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21 Artists, 21 Helmets

This past weekend, Thor Drake who is well known in Portland for his custom restorations and annual The One Motorcycle Show opened a new bike/coffee shop called See See Motorcycles at 1642 NE Sandy.

For the debut and grand opening Mr. Drake made the space available for a show of 21 helmets as designed by 21 artists, including E*Rock and Ray Gordon.
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If you missed it above is a snap shot of the various helmet renditions.  High resolution photos are available HERE.
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Photo courtesy of 21 Helmets Facebook and PNW Riders.
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“It’s disgraceful, but how about the heartless timing for Christ’s sake.”  — Australian Workers Union State Secretary Wayne Hanson said to reporters.

It’s not well known, but the majority of cast wheels and hubs for Harley-Davidson motorcycles are produced in Australia and shipped to Milwaukee.  Harley acquired Adelaide-based New Castalloy in 2006 when continuity of wheel supply was an issue.  The Australian subsidiary is New Castalloy and was a long-time supplier that was on the verge of bankruptcy of its then parent company, Ion.

Now Harley-Davidson plans to shift the manufacturing to China (according to South Australian Trade Minister Tom Koutsantonis) where it will save the motor company about $9 million a year.  The decision to cease operations  at New Castalloy will effect 183 employees and 29 contract workers. Harley expects to complete the transition to “outsourcers” by mid 2013.  The company estimated the related restructuring costs at $30 million, of which $10 million will be recorded in 2011 and $20 million in 2012.

South Australian Trade Minister Tom Koutsantonis said to reporters, “To tell a group of workers before Christmas they may not have a job is insensitive and I think quite silly.”  Mr Koutsantonis also stated that the motor company had given no indication to the government of the closure and as a result were unable to provide any assistance.  The South Australian Employment Minister Tom Kenyon stated that workers would get between $3K – $5K each in job training, but he was rather candid in that there was no place for them once we’ve got them through the right training.

The Australian manufacturing sector is bearing the brunt of global uncertainty (read layoffs) and high Australian dollar.  Ever the politically correct, President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Levatich said,  “The company’s decision on wheel production follows a review of the long-term fit and competitiveness of the New Castalloy business with our strategy and was not made lightly.”

As we know and have read many times, Harley has been recreating itself as a premium brand and smaller manufacturer while trying to grow its market share outside the U.S.

Made cheaper in China might be the new corporate mantra and correct decision based on pure Wall Street math, but there can’t be much pride in that choice.

UPDATE: July 10, 2013 — Harley-Davidson reverses decision to shutter the Adelaid plant (HERE)

Photo courtesy of H-D and New CastAlloy

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Five of a Kind At Grand Canyon

This is a shout out to an extraordinary posse.

Hardly the stereotypical, tatted-up, badass bikers portrayed in pop culture or do we ride the machines of American Chopper — slick and polished.

From the outside looking in you can’t understand it, but there are many benefits to riding a motorcycle with a group.  Aside from the obvious “wind in the face” to take your mind off daily troubles to the cool events that you visit from glitz to back-water destinations.   From the moment you mount the motorcycle the most important aspect from my vantage is the posse camaraderie.

Whether I’m with my family at home or the “family on the road,” the center piece of the posse is the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Oh sure some lost their way for a time and rode other kinds of bikes, but these days the posse is like a mini-community based on a shared passion and a common interest around the Harley brand.  And while we defend the motor company we haven’t drank the Kool-aid!  We’re a demanding and very vocal enthusiast bunch when it comes to items the company needs to do to please it’s customers.

A Half-Dozen at HCMR

Has the posse always agreed on everything?  No.  We’ve had the typical debates about the merits of camping vs. checking in, riding with a large group or going solo, silence vs. Boom! Audio, up early vs. sleeping in, freeway speed or riding slow back-water roads and the more contentious item of planning way ahead or plan as you go.  We’ve tried them all and each has offered up some unique and fun adventures.  And no matter what the trip or the destination, all a good motorcycle ride needs is camaraderie and fun roads, right?

And speaking of roads, one common thread is that we all have plenty of time to ride.  That is to say, we make time to ride.  As much as we have in common, all of these accomplished riders is also entirely unique.  Each has his own set of experiences, his own philosophy of life and riding, and his own collection of interesting stories about life on the road.  I especially look forward to riding in the dry hot desert while others think a misty Highway 101 ride down the coast is “just perfect.”

I’ve been riding with this group for many years and everyone adjusts.  In fact, some of the members have history back to the coastal range and the dirt bike days at Lee’s Camp before a Harley-Davidson motorcycle stirred up any emotions.

The remainder of the posse at the CCA Ride

I’ll often get ask how we do it.  How do we handle riding all those miles.  I’ll typically just say that if you string a few 300 mile days together, one day at a time, then you’ve got a Posse Ride!

We’ve enjoyed following the “road less traveled” as so many other riders do.  It made us appreciate how divvied up this western part of the U.S. is, with dozens of valleys separated by mountain ranges, woven together by asphalt strips. These roads are really three-dimensional curves, and a rider will certainly get longer life out of the Dunlops, wearing out the sides as much as the middle.

As the years fade away — I’m reminded of winding our way along the back roads of the countryside – and it made me appreciate how rich the memories are of the years riding with an incredible group of friends.

Thank you all for the memories!

Photos taken by author

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