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Archive for May, 2013

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally - 2010

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally – 2010

At the 2012 Sturgis Rally attendance was up 7% (official est. at 450K) and in all, the city of Sturgis spent approximately $960K to host the 6-day event which generated nearly $1.4M in revenue.  Nearly $400K profit for the city which has more than double the net profit from the 2011 rally at $197K.  There were 1,012 vendors registered vs. 976 in 2011 and gross sales by vendors were $13.1M compared to $12.6M in 2011.

sturgis-flagAnd the man who made Sturgis?  There are several who come to mind, but one near the top of the list would be Steven Piehl, the Harley executive who invented the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  In 1983, Mr. Piehl worked under Harley’s General Sales Manager, Clyde Fessler, and was given 3 months to launch the program.  They promoted the rally to hundreds of thousands of HOG members and is at least in part responsible for the transformation of Sturgis from a biker party into a profit center.  Mr. Piehl was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year and received the JC “Pappy” Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award for establishing HOG.

HD-Sturgis3Motoring USA is the consultant group that essentially coordinates the Sturgis rally for the city as they help line-up sponsors (Harley-Davidson, Dodge, Jack Daniels, Geico etc.), vendors and publish the official rally magazine.  For their 2012 services they were paid more than $308K ($163K commissions/fees and $145K to publish the official guide).  Ironically, the city of Sturgis paid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., $26,944 in licensing fees to use the “Sturgis” name!  Clearly corporate America has found the motorcyclist market and made the profit driven transformation.

Sturgis-night12

Main Street Sturgis at Dusk

Those are a few of the financial aspects of the motorcycle rally.  Sadly, 9 people died at last year’s rally-related accidents and collisions.  In 2011 there were 4 deaths.  And you might have been one of the unlucky riders trapped on the freeway in 2010 after a semi-trailer caught fire (video HERE) and closed the interstate (see above photo)?

It’s also well known that at the Sturgis Rally large numbers of law enforcement descend on the area to make sure those 450,000+ bikers don’t get out of hand.  On any typical week the city has 15 officers to keep the community of 6700 safe.  During rally week it pays a hefty amount for law enforcement hiring people from nine different states.  The city police budget in August is estimated to be in excess of $300K to cover salaries, equipment and other expenses for the event.  Visiting officers are housed and receive two meals a day.  In addition, there are also significant numbers of federal agents (FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service) on hand.

loud-american

Loud American Roadhouse (L)

However, budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance and for 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years.  The value of announcing this information to the public prior to the rally is interesting.  Is it to alarm the public?  Is it an open invitation for the motorcycle clubs to restart some of the “wild times” prevalent in years past?  Historically, more than 20 ATF agents patrol Sturgis during the Rally.  This year there will one agent in Rapid City who will be on call when the rally officially starts on August 5th.

Remember the 2006 rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer?  How about back in 2008 when Sturgis ended with the first shooting in over 20-years where the Iron Pigs (off-duty Seattle LEO – Ronald Smith) had a confrontation with the Hell’s Angels (Joseph McGuire) at the Loud American Roadhouse?  Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident, but I would anticipate if any intelligence or threat hits the radar we’ll see it rain law enforcement personnel sequestration or not.

It wasn’t too long ago, the rough, anti-materialistic, anti-authoritarian attitudes showed up on motorcycles en-masse at Sturgis.  The motor company that helped put Sturgis on the map and was once so revered that men tattooed its name on their arms, is now more about demographics, international expansion in China and India and tapping female consumer spending.  For example, Claudia Garber, Harley’s Director of Women’s Marketing Outreach, worked the 2012 rally to convince affluent, professional women that Harleys are really fun to ride.

Yes, the transformation of Sturgis from a quaint biker party into an enormous profit center is fully complete.  Stay classy Sturgis!

Interstate photo courtesy of Renegade Wheels, other photos taken by author at 2012 Sturgis Rally.  The 2012 Sturgis stats are HERE (.pdf).

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long-road4I’m going to just put this right out there.

I’ve grown tired of this special level of dampness and moisture falling from the sky!

After a teaser dry and summer-like start – yeah, the usual shrill voices started to whine about a drought after two days – May took a sharp right turn and began dumping winter rains and providing us with well below average temperatures.  Earlier this week we had 1.19 inches of rain at PDX that not only set a record for the date, but was the rainiest day of 2013.

Adding to the buckets of moisture were 7 reporting stations in the state that set record low maximum temperatures with Portland recording a high of 50 degrees, smashing the previous record of 55 degrees.  It tied the record for the 3rd coldest maximum temperature since record keeping began in 1940.

I was thinking about this and noted the condition of my wiper blades while getting gas at the local Shell station when the kid from “Cali” stated he was just starting to get use to the two weeks of sun and a couple days of rain.  Being somewhat agitated about having to endure weeks of the Portland Fluoridista ad’s, I reminded him of the fact that in Oregon we don’t fluoride our water, we don’t get out in the rain (or sun) to pump our own gas and we never, ever vote for sales tax.  I didn’t intend to go-off on mini-rant and realized that I should have been satisfied that the kid put out his cigarette in a timely manner and stopped texting on his cell phone long enough to take my credit card and put the spiked-price fuel nozzle in the tank.

If you’re not from here, you won’t understand.  But, I’ve digressed.

This weather reminded me how much I appreciate summer riding and that I’m longing for the immensity of the open road and voices in the wind.  I’m ready for it to be here already!

Photo taken by author.

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The brass marker on the deck of the USS Missouri marking the spot of the signing of the surrender of Japan that ended WWII

The brass marker on the deck of the USS Missouri marking the spot of the signing of the surrender of Japan that ended WWII

Monday is Memorial Day, a day we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of rememberance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on Union and Confederate Soldiers graves in Arlington National Cemetery. Ever since, Americans have set aside a day in May to observe Memorial Day and pay tribute and honor those who died in defense of our nation.

For many of us it’s a holiday and in between the BBQ’s and spending time with family and friends, it’s important that we take a moment to pause and remember our fallen heroes.

Photo taken by author on the USS Missouri.

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At Rose City Thunder - 2003

Rose City Thunder – 2003

There were angry and vocal protests to Mayor Vera Katz.  Two appeals were filed seeking a venue change prior to the event.  There were appeals to the city Noise Review Board.  Police were a little edgy.

I’m talking about the Rose City Thunder.

It’s coming up on the 10th Anniversary of the most legendary and controversial motorcycle event in the city’s history.  Portlandia was one of only four cities in the U.S. chosen for the “Ride Home” tour.  And it all happened in the lazy dog days of summer in 2003 in the South Park blocks.  In celebration of Harley’s 100th Anniversary, the motor company and local dealer, Destination (now Paradise) H-D in Tigard sponsored the event with the purpose to send riders off in colorful fashion to the “Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Ride Home“.

After more than two months of controversy, a unanimous City Council vote along with assists from Harley supporters and the downtown business establishment,  the kickoff party for Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary was a go on Friday, August 15, 2003.  There were loud exhausts, public address systems, and rows of the famous “honey buckets” (portable toilets).  Organizers estimated 15,000 visitors, plus 2,000 motorcycles attended pumping an estimated $1.5 million into Portland’s economy.

To be sure, there were inconveniences to downtown residents by streets that were closed, as well as the beer gardens, food, merchandise vendors, live music, motorcycles, and the associated crowds and, teeth-chattering rumble of the hogs’.  The South Park Blocks area residents were not impressed and could give two shakes of a unicorn’s tail that the involved bikers were well behaved and left a lot of their money in the city.

None the less, streets were filled with Milwaukee iron, chaps, bandanas, tattoos and ‘If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand’ t-shirts.  Even the Oregon Lottery got involved with a Harley-Davidson Scratch-It campaign and where a Madras man won a motorcycle.

The Portland event was a lead up to the great trek back to Wisconsin and as it turns out the atmosphere in the Park Blocks on that weekend were surprisingly mellow.  Participants were low-key, drank their refreshments and moved about the event in an orderly fashion.

The so called “incensed residents” returned to their usual way of life when the last Harley departed downtown, but continued to grit their teeth and fight another day on the great Fluoride debate of 2013!

Photo taken by the author.

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Chief-2014Traditional product launches often act as a big corporate “Lighting Bolt.”

Meaning the company plans a big event, creates loads of new sales tools and collateral and places those important ad campaigns in the trade rags.  All the while keeping everything in hush, hush secrecy ‘til they near the big day. Then comes the big ‘Ta Da’. The press release hits the wire, they hold some big chest-thumping events and then start selling, having trained the sales force in the weeks prior.

Spirit of Munro -- Named in honor of Burt Munro’s “Munro Special,”

Spirit of Munro — Named in honor of Burt Munro’s “Munro Special,”

The Indian Motorcycle (Polaris Industries) launch plan is different.

Their launch process is a more gradual, momentum-building approach that is often called “Rolling Thunder.”  Not to be confused with the Rolling Thunder® Inc., and POW/MIA topic, the rolling product launch approach dribbles out information, builds credibility over time, creating anticipation, and leverages social media to feed the various channels and momentum.

Case in point is the dribbling out of key information from Indian Motorcycle. First up at Daytona Bike Week was the reveal — a release of information about the new 111 cubic inch engine, called Thunder Stroke 111™ made in Osceola, WI and assembled at the Polaris plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Next up was the back story of the custom-built streamliner named “Spirit of Munro” and then last weeks announcement of their intent to unveil the new 2014 Indian Chief motorcycle at the 73rd Sturgis Motorcycle Rally followed with a sneak-peek video and the subtle announcement (HERE at 0:43) of the $18,999 price. The previous Indian Chief sold in the $26-$37K range and the previous owners may stare at that in slacked-jaw envy!

Thunder Stroke 111™

Thunder Stroke 111™

Clearly the supply-chain scale and negotiation mojo that Polaris brings to the Indian table brought better component pricing and improved labor rates.

The Indian brand dates back to the early 1900s.  Polaris acquired it in 2011 and 27 months later will release a new classic motorcycle line.  Polaris continues forward with their Victory 15-year old brand of motorcycles.  They each draw on different customers.

I’m not sure how many more “dribbles” they have planned, but the press buzz and excitement of the launch in social media circles is clearly throttling up.

Photo’s courtesy of Indian Motorcycles.

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 For employees at our Kansas City, Mo., plant, building bikes is more than just a job.


From 2012 Annual Report — “For employees at the Kansas City, Mo., plant, building bikes is more than just a job.”

Falling sales and rising profits.

It’s a contradiction that many companies experience and one that Wall Street is impressed with if the HOG stock price is any indicator.  It closed at a 52-week high ($59.48) today.

Despite the surging profit in Q1, WDAF-TV in Kansas City is reporting today that H-D plans to lay off between 130 and 140 employees effective June 30th.  Seventy-five of the workers are “casual-employees” or seasonal workers who typically help during a surge in production.  The remaining employees that will be let go are full-time.  The Kansas City plant produces the Sportster, Dyna and VRSC models.

Harley management has consistently stated a restructure goal to have a more flexible work force and to permanently be in a position to generate strong profits on a lower revenue base.  You might recall the restructure move is all part of a new labor agreement signed in February 2011 that went into effect in August 2012.  The agreement included reducing the overall full-time employment at the plant to about 540.  Harley-Davidson management advised Kansas City workers that if they didn’t agree to the concessions, the plants work would be moved to York, PA.

It now seems that H-D is conserving cash and keeping a close eye on production.  It might be because there continues to be uncertainty about the stability of the recovery or it’s as simple as they’ve reached the end of their 2013 production run.

In the TV video the interviewed employee, Benjamin Stark stated that workers were walking around like zombies.  Not good.

American businesses have gotten used to being much leaner and the joblessness shows only a few signs of easing.  There is nothing I can say that will help ease the effects of being laid off, but I sincerely hope everyone affected rebounds quickly.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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ART-MapChristianity talks about getting into Heaven; Islam focuses on Paradise; Buddism and Hinduism offer an ultimate reincarnation into blissful Nirvana — every major world religion offers its followers entrance into some sort of ‘Promised Land’.

Not to be overly dramatic, but I’m talking about Medford, Oregon, and a promise that if you attend the TEAM OREGON Advanced Rider Training (ART) in Medford on June 28-29th you’ll come away with increased motorcycle riding knowledge!

This is a rare opportunity for southern Oregon motorcyclists to attend a training course for experienced/expert level riders taught on the go-kart track at Jackson County Sports Park.   This is the same training that is also taught year round at Pat’s Acres in Canby, OR.

Feedback on the training is that it’s a great learning experience.  More info and video HERE. Cost is $150 per person.  I’ve been informed that there are currently 22 seats remaining: 7 in the Saturday a.m./p.m. course and 15 in the Friday p.m./Saturday a.m. course.  It’s anticipated they will all fill by mid-June.

Most important is to take note that the training will not return to Medford before 2014 so get enrolled now while you still can.

Photo courtesy of TEAM OREGON.  Full Disclosure: I’m not employed by or affiliated with TEAM OREGON.  I am an advocate for lifelong learning.

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welcome-vegasI’m talking about Las Vegas where the average tourist gambles only four hours in their 4-day stay.

After a couple decades of being the fastest-growing city in the U.S., Las Vegas has seen its growth stall in recent years.  Portions of the strip are dotted with steel and concrete shells as construction was halted and developers attempted to refinance projects and avoid bankruptcy.  Just as Americans did with their homes, casino owners borrowed way too much money to build hotels that were way too big.  The unemployment rate ballooned and for a while the city had the honor of having the highest foreclosure rate in the country of ANY metro area with at least 200K people.

I visit the city often for various work conventions or when attending motorcycle rally’s and recall getting gouged on the rooms and expensive food so, over the last few years I could not be more unconcerned or feel less guiltless in taking advantage of the town when it was down.  Hotel room rates have been slashed and suites that a few years ago went for $400 were recently selling for $125 a night.  And, I’ve wanted to get some of my money back from the card tables for a while now.

An artist rendering of the new Las Vegas Harley-Davidson dealership near the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign on the south end of the Strip.

An artist rendering of the new Las Vegas Harley-Davidson dealership near the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

But, economic defeat on the strip in this dirt wasteland is being reset by none other than Harley-Davidson.

Mr. Andress and Tim Cashman are building an $18M flagship dealership on the south end of the strip.  You may remember that this is where the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign attracts large numbers of tourists for a photo op.  The Cashman’s plan to tap into the 40M annual visitors and build a 50,000 square-foot, two-level motorcycle complex which will clearly draw visitors off the strip.  They purchased the 5.25-acre site at the bargain basement price of $8M and expect construction of the dealership to be complete in October 2014.

The Cashman’s are no strangers to Las Vegas where they have three other Harley-Davidson dealerships and also control 10 alternative retail outlets (ARO’s) that sell everything in the alphabet with a H-D logo sans the motorcycle.  Their total annual sales in 2012 was about $60M.

Clearly the strip is on its way back!

Photo taken by author and dealership rendition courtesy of Las Vegas Review.

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Fair Weather Riders

Fair Weather Riders

It seems that May is déjà vu all over again.

It marks the start of the motorcycle safety awareness month which is shortly followed by accident reports or dumb and dumber maneuvers by  motorcycle riders.

The first in Oregon was the 10am arrest of Jessica Peterson (28 years old) on the first day of Motorcycle Awareness Month.  The charges were assault in the 2nd degree, DUI and reckless driving.  Ms. Petersen crossed over into oncoming traffic and struck Chase Dillon Ivey (26 years old) on his Suzuki motorcycle.  At last report Mr. Ivey was in serious condition at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

The opening weekend of Motorcycle Awareness in Washington state wasn’t any better where 3 deaths in two motorcycle crashes on highway 101 in Western Washington occurred.  In Idaho, just a few days earlier three motorcyclists died.

And as if that wasn’t enough to bring a lot of attention to rider safety and the tragic events, on May 6th on Highway 97 south of Lapine, Oregon, Gregory Zaser (61 years old) was cited for speeding – 130mph in a 55mph zone – on a Ducati motorcycle.  According to Trooper Newcomb, Mr. Zaser had just purchased the Ducati (bagger) and wanted to “see what it would do”…

Spoken just like a true attention-grabbing teenager!

I searched and found nothing mentioned on the Desmos web site about this new break-in procedure from Ducati.  And combine that with the fact that Highway 97 is notorious for wild animals standing peacefully on the roadway… I think Mr. Zaser is lucky to walk away with only a huge ticket!

My point?  Other than calling out Mr. Zaser’s attempt to revive the art of fossilized manliness and giving motorcyclists a bad image?!

We’re coming off 3-weeks of incredibly nice weather here in the northwest and motorcycles have been out in force.  Many riders in the state are fair(er) weather riders and for the first time pulling out their motorcycle from storage.  An experienced rider once shared with me that when you’re riding on a motorcycle you’ve always got to watch out for everyone else around you.  And I’ve noticed more than ever the freeways in the Portland metro area are full of people on the phone – talking and texting – changing lanes or swerving and not using blinkers because they’re just not paying attention to their surroundings.

It’s not my intention to pick on a particular group of drivers or riders, but I wanted to reinforce the conversation about motorcycle safety.  A high percentage of accidents are rider caused and preventable.  Make smart decisions on the road.

Photo courtesy of George Toomer

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belushianddanThe Baby Boomer generation is a source of trends, research and discussion of and by people born from 1946 – 1964.

The “Boomers” are a key demographic, with plenty of disposable income and make up a major share of people who buy and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

So, it’s rather ironic when Dan Aykroyd yesterday wrote to his fans online that he had offered to have the Blues Brothers open for Kid Rock at Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration, but executives apparently told him that they were “too old for (their) desired demographic”.

Huh?  Really H-D.  REALLY!

This ranks right up there as the biggest marketing no brainer in the history of no brainers, but H-D exec’s say no and then add a shameless insult that is deliberately offensive to the aging hipsters and largest customer segment for the motor company?!

aykroyd-FBHere is the actual text:  Offered Blues Brothers to open for Kid Rock at Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary.  H-D execs. say B.B.’s too old… fb.me/27MHI7iYw — Dan Aykroyd (@dan_aykroyd) May 10, 2013

You might recall that Kid Rock is scheduled as the headliner for the event’s third and final night on Saturday, Aug. 31 in Milwaukee.

The Blues Brothers formed in 1978 and featured Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as part of a musical sketch on Saturday Night Live. Their debut album, “Briefcase Full of Blues”  went to number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.  In 1980, John Landis directed the “Blues Brothers” movie which according to Box Office Mojo, remains the 13th highest grossing film in both the ‘Musical‘ and ‘Comedy – Road Trip‘ categories and likewise ranks as having the 13th highest box office earnings for films opening in limited release.

Hey Harley-Davidson…  ever hear of Bikes, Blues and BBQ?  How about The Blues Bothers Ride?  You don’t stop riding because you get old; you get old because you stop riding!

Is it time for a public apology and to make a truly informed decision rather than sending out open insults to your customer base?

Photo courtesy of Facebook and meoutfit.com.  Rawhide video HERE.

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