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Archive for May, 2014

weber-hdHarley-Davidson riders are a close-knit community that loves wind in the face and good food.

And the good news is Harley-Davidson’s Official Grill Partner for 2014, Weber Grills, will stage the Big Burger Battle Championship at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 3rd.  The Weber Mobile Grill Academy will also be on site to allow motorcyclists a first-hand look at Weber’s grills and accessories and Weber will also host three hands-on grilling classes for Harley Owners Group (H.O.G) members on August 6.

Weber’s Big Burger Battle challenge is open to anyone, age 18 or older and you can submit your recipe, along with a photo of the creation HERE beginning now through June 23.

Three finalists will be hand-picked by Jamie Purviance, author of the new Weber’s Big Book of Burgers. Purviance is a national grilling expert, a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and James Beard Award Nominee.

If you’re the type person who likes playing with an assortment of wood chips and other smoldering materials, to see which types of smoke have the most appetizing affinities for beef, now is your chance to put your unique twist and spin on a burger that will stand out from the pack.

Good luck!

Photo courtesy of Weber and H-D.

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PacificNW-RallyEach week motorcycle rally’s seem to rise as the temperatures and if you attend one the smiles are contagious!

I wanted to bring your attention to the first ever tri-state H.O.G. rally which occurs July 24-27th in Spokane Valley, Washington.

No doubt you’ve seen on TV documentaries, rumor or cameo showcases in the media where a rally is deemed a magical place.  It’s hard not to notice the spectacle of all things chrome and leather symbolizing the culture of Harley-Davidson.  Motorcycle rally’s are an American icon and you can’t mistake the looks, the sound and the feel of a H.O.G rally!

Some of you will undoubtedly try and tell me that there is no new blood coming to the H.O.G. rally’s.  That they’ve become nothing more than the equivalent of a state fair.  Conventional, cliche, and common.  And then I always seem to get an email or two reciting the Sturgis Rally statistic… the average age of a Sturgis attendee is about 52 and the only young people there are usually brought in as staff.  So, take your eyes off of the bartender from Raleigh trying to earn college tuition for the year with the pronounced cleavage and take notice of all the AARP people behind her.

My advice is if you don’t have fun at rallies then, give up!  Don’t go because whining is so 1999.

Like many of you, however, I enjoy motorcycle rallies.  It’s that simple.  The people, the energy, the passion, the spirit, the vendors and, of course, the motorcycles. It’s a great opportunity to have real conversations with other enthusiasts.  And, I’m a sucker for information, for your story.  I want to hear everybody’s story.

It’s tough to narrow down a list of things that I like about a motorcycle rally, but after the most important—wind in the face journey—here are a few:

People Watching—The cast of characters you see at motorcycle rallies are unlike people you’ll see at any other type of event, bar none. And the funny thing about it is this – they’re not just hardcore bikers.  I’ve seen kids to grandparents, from plumbers and bus drivers to attorneys and Wall Street traders. From long hair and long beards to clean cut and clean shaven. From party-crazed to people that could be your next door neighbors.

What’s New—Rally’s are the place to find some of the newest bike products and gear. This is where manufacturers and distributors launch new merchandise, show off their stuff and try to start a buzz with their best customers.  In addition you’re likely to get wind of a special place to take your bike for a “once-in-a-lifetime” journey, whether it’s a major ride or a side trip. And you’ll know it’s worth experiencing the ride for yourself because the people at rallies live for this stuff.

Showcase—Motorcycle rally’s are the ultimate place to showoff your bike. This is why many of us spend every free hour riding, cleaning, fine tuning or just staring at our motorcycle. Whether you ride the newest model or decades-old legend, rallies are where like-minded folks can talk about their rides and showoff the latest accessories.

Downtime Fun On The Road—Concerts featuring rock and country bands that I care about. Regional food and refreshments from the best local hangouts. Bike shows and parades. Biker gear and apparel from national and independent brands.

Passion—Riders who show up at a motorcycle rally are passionate about their bikes.  It’s easy to sit down and talk for hours, sharing stories about the sights you’ve seen, the terrain you’ve covered, and the roads you’ve traveled.

What’s your favorite part of a motorcycle rally?

See you in Spokane Valley!

Photo courtesy of H.O.G.

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CCA-Joyride-14It only takes a little to give a lot.

Sure we hear the accusations all the time.  This charity spent less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.  Another charity spent more than half of their fund raising contributions on consulting and publicity.  Another charity paid the charity’s founder and their consulting firm millions.  The claims go on and on and unfortunately some are true.

However, there is one charity, the Children’s Cancer Association – Oregon, that is highly rated, especially in the areas of accountability and transparency metrics.  You can review the information for yourself HERE.  They are one of the good guys and can always use our help/support.

The CCA and Paradise Harley-Davidson are pulling together the 5th annual JoyRide for fundraising and this year it comes together on Saturday, June 21st.

It’s a unique opportunity to join local riders in support of CCA’s Alexandra Ellis Caring Cabin program.  The JoyRide benefits a retreat home on the Oregon Coast, which provides families with seriously ill children and teens battling serious illness an extraordinary place to retreat, relax, and create once-in-a-lifetime memories.

Independent of what you ride, bikers of all kinds will gather together for a JoyRide in support of CCA.  The JoyRide will kick off at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. Participants will ride to the Alexandra Ellis Caring Cabin in Pacific City, where there is a celebration of the rider support. The JoyRide is open to individuals or teams.  Registration information is HERE.

See you there!

Photo courtesy of CCA.

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Expedition Supply Kit

Expedition Supply Kit

It’s throwback Thursday…

And nearly twelve years ago motorcyclists retraced the Lewis and Clark trail.

It was the summer of 2002 and in August about 500 Harley-Davidson riders completed a 2-week journey from St. Charles, Missouri to Seaside, OR while re-tracing the path of the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The ride was hosted by HOG and on this trip it included events dealing with Lewis and Clark history as well as they handed out medallions along the way, echoing the gesture of the “peace medals” distributed by Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery on the original expedition.

Travelogue Notepad

Travelogue Notepad

HOG provided riders an “Expedition Supply Kit,” a package of “swag” which included a canteen, a leather wallet and a travelogue notepad.  Riders visited sites in Kansas City, MO; Sioux City, Iowa; Pierre, SD; Bismarck, ND; Billings, MT and Lewiston, Idaho.

At the time, the Associated Press interviewed riders and reported, “…on a motorcycle you don’t just see it, you smell and feel it.”

I couldn’t agree more.  There is no substitute for seeing the countryside on a motorcycle.

Anyone out there participate on this ride?

Photo courtesy of H-D and HOG.

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Car-TextingI’m talking about texting and distracted driving.

Based on my daily commute observations, many drivers must believe that everyone else is the problem, when actually you – YES YOU – including the dude in the beat up White Toyota who nearly went into the ditch on Sunset Highway this morning while trying to text, is in fact—the problem!

We’ve all seen the tell-tale signs of texting.  Straddling or weaving between lanes and/or driving well below the speed limit or looking down at your lap as if that isn’t obvious.

It’s unlikely that Mr. White Toyota knows that May, is designated as national Motorcycle Awareness Month, (Gov. Kitzhaber’s memo HERE).  The initiative, supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, encourages drivers to watch for motorcycles and understand that motorcycle riders have the same rights and privileges as operators of other vehicles.

The slogans are everywhere, on billboards and bumper stickers, badges and T-shirts: “Watch out for motorcycles.” “Look twice, save a life.” “Share the road.”

But, not all motorists notice the warnings and clearly the White Toyota dude believes that his one little text is more important than say… driving safe and can’t hurt that much.

It’s interesting to me that Expedia.com, released the results of the 2014 Road Rage Report, conducted on Expedia’s behalf by Northstar. Americans identify the behaviors that are likeliest to elicit road rage, from texting to swerving to speeding and beyond.  Drum roll… and the winner is…  People who text while driving incur the most anger. 69% of Americans rate “The Texter” as the most aggravating driving behavior.

We know the warmer temperatures rolling across the Northwest this month means the roads are filling up with motorcycle riders.

So, take the “distracted” out of driving and avoid becoming one of “the 69%” who report having been “flipped off” by a fellow motorist!

Photo courtesy of the WWW.

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What did you say?

What did you say?

I’m fascinated by the fact that everything blows up quickly today and there’s a rush to judgment.

Take the man of “sterling” character.

You know him as the 80-year old billionaire and L.A. Clippers owner.  Born, Donald Tokowitz there are no excuses for his ugly, crass and trashy comments, but after what seemed like  days of 24/7 news commentary (at least CNN moved off the Malaysian airplane search) incessantly playing snippets of the secretly-tape recorded phone conversation while calling for his head on a platter… I learned he was married and has three children.

.

Rip City, Baby!

Huh?  He has a wife?

In the NBA, only a team owner can sit with his “friend” (aka mistress) at games on national TV, give her millions of dollars in gifts, precipitate a lawsuit from the old coot’s wife demanding return of their community property and none of this merits discussion of the scandal stories about him?

Here’s the thing in America.  Gossip.  You may not be rich, but you can sure talk about the rich and everyone is.

In addition, hypocrisy reigns throughout the American landscape.  Racism and sexism are the new tools to destroy careers and people.  Some recent beat down examples are: Paula Dean when it was discovered she made a racial remark several years before it came to light.  Then there is Brenden Eich, CEO of Mozilla who was forced to step down from the company he founded when it was learned he made a $1K contribution in support of California Prop 8, which was against same sex marriage.

So what’s the point here Mac?  How does this relate to the motorcycle community?

Well the last time I checked, in this country, people are allowed to be morons.  In addition, they’re allowed to be stupid and think idiotic thoughts.  It’s a very slippery slope when you say something stupid in the privacy of your own home that is recorded and made public without your knowledge or consent and then you’re force to sell something you own or you’re interest is involuntarily seized.

Let me say it again for the haters.  I don’t share Sterling’s views so save the emails.

It’s clear the verdict for Sterling comes largely at the expense of the right of privacy and the motorcycle community is well aware of privacy/freedom to ride issues like motorcycle-only checkpoints and police targeting of “pack riders” and/or motorcycle clubs.  It’s not about any crime, but how the government judges who you are, who you associate with or by simply what type of vehicle you use.  Yeah, Sterling is in the NBA and it operates with different rules…

Then again, some lawmakers are currently sponsoring a bill to have federal researchers comb through broadcast radio and television, cable and public-access TV, commercial mobile services and other electronic media and the Internet for any communications that may have prompted violent acts and/or “hate crimes.”   Think about how much power this vague bill would give a handful of people over hundreds of millions of people.

The rush to judge and failure of due process or to consider many of Sterling’s rights in the process of this specific incident and how they were suppressed — has a scent all its own.

The “Uncle Sam” photo courtesy of Paul Lachine.

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HD Stock ChartI missed this a few days ago, but imagine that the first quarter results at Harley-Davidson were like eating a bag of those Krinkle Cut™ Salt & Pepper chips… a great taste with a satisfying crunch!

Yeah, I have a weakness for the hyper-engineered, overly marketed, addiction-creating potato chips.  But, I’ve digressed.

Q1’14 Financials:  Harley-Davidson reported its first-quarter 2014 retail sales in the U.S. were not as high as expected — in large part because of the brutal winter season that gripped the eastern two-thirds of the country and the absence of the Road Glide models.  Still, sales increased 3 percent in the first quarter of 2014 and the motor company maintained a 56 percent market share in the U.S.

On April 22, Harley reported it sold 57,415 motorcycles worldwide in the first quarter of 2014, a 5.8 percent increase over the same quarter last year. The increase helped boost the company’s total revenue by 10 percent, with earnings up 22 percent.  Most of that growth came from international sales as dealers sold 21,685 motorcycles, an increase of 10.9 percent compared with the first quarter of 2013. Sales in the U.S. increased by 3 percent over the same period last year.

The company had net income of $265.9 million, or $1.21 a share, for the quarter which was up from net income of $224.1 million, or 99 cents a share, in first quarter 2013.  Harley-Davidson said it expects to ship between 279,000 and 284,000 motorcycles in 2014, which would be an increase of between 7 and 9 percent from 2013.  It was noted in the financial call that the absence of the Road Glide models continues to impact the company’s bottom line which in the first quarter of 2013, sales of the Road Glides represented 10 percent of its sales.

Keith Wandell, Harley-Davidson’s CEO, chairman and president, said in a press release that “Our dealers had a solid quarter of retail motorcycle sales.”  He went on to say, “Sales in the Asia Pacific region were up strongly, and we are encouraged by the continued growth of new Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales in Europe. We’re also excited to be entering the heart of the retail selling season in the U.S., having achieved first-quarter retail growth of 3.0% in the midst of a long, cold winter.

After the earnings report was released, the company stock (HOG) went from $68 per share at close to establishing a new 52-week high of $71.99 per share.

Then there was some additional investment buzz from stock analyst’s and then with impeccable timing on April 29th, Mr. Wandell sold 45,308 shares of the company’s stock.  The stock was sold at an average price of $73.45, for a total value over $3.3 million.  The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this link.

But wait, there’s more…

HBO Films

HBO Films

Loan Payback:  H-D announced that it paid off the $303 million, high-interest rate loan from Warren Buffett’s, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. during the quarter, funds that were used for Harley’s financing company.

You might recall that during the stock market crash of 2008, Harley’s finance subsidiary was unable to loan money to customers because the capital markets had shut down and liquidity was running low.  You may have read the book or watched the “Too Big To Fail” television drama film on HBO?  The money/loan helped Harley-Davidson continue financing motorcycles through its financing company, but the loan came with a hefty 15 percent interest rate.  It was a bridge that H-D desperately needed and Berkshire Hathaway was the only company from which Harley could borrow money without giving up its equity.

Harley-Davidson-Softail-Breakout-2013FXSB Recall:  The only dark cloud in all this good news hoopla was the motorcycle recall on 2013-14 FXSB and FXSBSE models manufactured from March 20, 2012, through March 10, 2014, to identify and fix a problem with the fuel level sensor signal.  The NHTSA Campaign Number is 14V185000 and effects approximately 9,100 motorcycles.

It turns out that suspension variances may affect the gas tank mounting angle, causing the fuel level sensor to read inaccurately. “The gauge inaccuracy may cause the motorcycle to run out of fuel unexpectedly, possibly even before the Low Fuel Warning lamp illuminates,” the recall stated. This would cause the motorcycle to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.  Harley-Davidson will notify owners, and dealers will update the software to recalibrate the fuel level sensor signal, free of charge.

Sometimes it’s hard to rise above in our country, because the haters are lined up to tear you down.  But, I want to say congrats to Harley-Davidson!  I’ve got a mental image that the senior leadership team is doing celebratory high-fives, along with a Wandell victory dance or a watching Mark-Hans Richer air-guitar somersault on the board room table.

Photo’s courtesy of Google Finance, H-D and HBO Films.

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Jim Federico - Harley-Davidson VP Engineering

Jim Federico – Harley-Davidson VP Engineering

I’m intrigued by appearances and a hound for information, for your story. I want to hear everybody’s story, from the homeless person to the billionaire, because that’s what life’s about, the victories, the defeats, and within said stories is wisdom. And the older I get the smarter I become. But, I also know the older you get in America the more irrelevant you become.

And speaking of appearances…

On May 6th, General Motors Co. announced that Jim Federico, 56, an executive involved in the investigation of faulty ignition switches, had decided to retire, effective the day before.  “After a 36-year career with General Motors, Jim Federico has decided to retire from the company to pursue other opportunities,” said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman.  From the tone of this announcement GM must have been heartbroken!

Then today,  Harley Davidson announced Jim Federico, who “just retired,” would start as vice president of engineering on June 2, working at the company’s Milwaukee headquarters.  I’m not sure what conclusions can be gleaned from this other than the institution of a versatile employee wanting to return to work to maintain a desired lifestyle after retirement is still respected in Milwaukee.

Federico holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University).  In his 30+ year career at GM, Federico oversaw the development of a number of global vehicle programs for markets around the world, including the Opel Insignia, the Chevrolet Silverado, and he also served as vehicle chief engineer for Cadillac, working on the CTS, STS and SRX.

Federico was one of the executives involved in looking into why GM cars were stalling in 2012, according to GM records released by a House panel last month. Federico, held different jobs during the period related to small- and compact-car development. For a time, he oversaw the company’s in-house investigator who failed to unravel the source of the defect or its poorly documented fix.

The automaker has recalled 2.59 million small cars with faulty switches that have been linked to at least 13 deaths. Congress, federal regulators and the U.S. Justice Department are all investigating why it took GM more than a decade to recall cars with switches that allowed the key to slip out of the “on” position, shutting off the engine and disabling air bags.

GM stated that Federico’s retirement was his choice and had nothing to do with the switch recall.

Photo courtesy of automobilemag.com

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Eastern Sierra Mountains

Eastern Sierra Mountains

We left the last blog post talking about heading to Death Valley via the eastern entrance and planning to overnight at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

When we got up it was 36 degrees in Hawthorne so, we waited for a couple of hours to let things warm up some before pointing our tires at Tonopah which is at the crossroads of US 95 and US 6.  There were some dramatic views of the snow-capped Sierra Mountains.

Highway

Highway 95

The most prominent symbol of a boom-and-bust history in Tonopah is the Mizpah Hotel at the center of the city. Built in 1907 and ’08 on the site of one of Jim Butler’s old camp sites, the five-story hotel was immediately the center of glamour and elegance in dusty, hard-working Tonopah. It had steam heat, electric lights and elevator service, and advertised itself earnestly as “The Finest Stone Hotel on the Desert.”  Some trivia about the town is that back in 1957 the reclusive/crazy billionaire Howard Hughes married Jean Peters in room 33 at the L&L Motel in Tonopah.

Tonopah

Goldfield County Court House

In 1979, after nearly 60 years of decline, Tonopah erupted in its second mining boom of the 20th century with Anaconda’s molybdenum mine north of town.  Fleets of buses hauled the men out of town to work.  And then one day the boom was over as the market for moly went so bad that even mighty Anaconda had to close down its operation and sit on its $240 million investment.

Goldfield High School

Goldfield High School

These days the nearby Tonopah Test Range (TTR) is one of the main economic foundations of the town.  There are approximately 250 military and civilian workers at TTR conducting aeronautical research and development.  It’s located in the northwestern portion of the Nellis Air Force Range in south-central Nevada and its facilities are located approximately 30 miles South East of Tonopah.  The F-117 was initially based on the Tonopah range, also known as Mellon Strip, where the F-117 Stealth fighter became operational in 1983.

Death Valley East Entrance

Death Valley East Entrance

Tonopah is clearly in a steep decline, but the 2500 or so people who call Tonopah home would probably disagree that it’s a “ghost town.”

And speaking of ghosts, the next town we rolled through was Goldfield.  Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, and it soon became the largest town in Nevada with over 30,000 people. Only 440 people remain in Goldfield now, so it’s kind of a ghost town, but people still pan for gold.  The Goldfield Hotel is said to be haunted by a lady of the evening who was chained to a radiator while giving birth by George Wingfield who owned the hotel. She died and her child was thrown down the mineshaft that the hotel was built over.  There are many web sites that talk about how you can see her in room 109 and hear her baby crying on dark nights.

Death Valley looking at Furnace Creek

Death Valley looking toward Furnace Creek

The massive old high school now stands empty and is falling down, and the castle-style Esmeralda County Court House is an architectural curiosity of the Edwardian variety, is open to visitors. Inside are the original Tiffany lamps and there is a plaque on the outside of the building about the 1902 prize fight for the Lightweight Championship of the World between Battling Nelson and Joe Gans.  It was hailed as “The Fight of the Century” and the biggest purses in the history of prize fighting: $20,000 to the champion Nelson and $10,000 to Gans, the black challenger.  The fighters battered each other for 42 punishing rounds before Nelson, bloodied and sagging, fouled Gans in a clinch.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

At Beatty, NV we headed West on Highway 374 then pointed tires onto Highway 190 as we dropped down into the northern part of Death Valley into the small way-station of Stovepipe Wells.

We got one of the last rooms at Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel which offered up terrific views of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the surrounding mountain ranges.  The people were nice, but the restaurant wasn’t anything special and the room was like a low budget Sturgis motel that included the room rate overcharges.  The rates only went higher at other locations and we were glad to have a place to throw some bags, take a shower and have some refreshments.

Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells

It was interesting place to take in the dark night sky and try to find satellites and the various planets with the naked eye passing overhead.  It’s one of only a few places in the world where you can do this.

All the cold weather in the region turned out to be a blessing down in Death Valley.  The temp’s were in the mid-80’s and we enjoyed some very nice riding in the desert.

The experience the next day was a mix of desolate desert landscape along with the Furnace Creek oasis which opened in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company.  These days it has the world’s lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level.

We rode out to the Harmony Borax Works that processed borax ore in the late 1800’s and looked at photo’s of Twenty Mule Team wagons that hauled the ore to the railhead 165 miles away.  We also rode into the area called Artist Drive. It’s an impressive place with all the multi-colored claystones from ancient ashfalls that generate the different colors formed in the mountain.

Death Valley is over 3 million acres of designated wilderness and includes hundreds of miles of trails in all directions. The terrain is as varied as it is extreme, from vast sizzling desert and rocky canyons to historic sites and snow-capped peaks.

Artist

Artist Palette on Artist Drive

We enjoyed riding around the desert floor, but it was mid-afternoon and time to leave the valley.  We pointed the tires south and proceeded toward Las Vegas via Pahrump, an “RVer’s Paradise” that is easy to reach and easy to forget.

Aquarius Hotel

Aquarius Hotel

As we got closer to Vegas the Red Rock Canyon lit up with the afternoon sun making me wish for a few more hours to visit and photograph, but we needed to cover the next 110 miles in time to meet up with the rest of the “Wolf Pack” aka the riding posse in Laughlin for dinner.

Sure, the rain and cold during the first 5 hours of the ride were hideous, but overall the ride didn’t feel rushed and in taking three days to ride down to Laughlin it allowed us plenty of time to see some terrific scenery and experience the various environments.

I’ll avoid doing an in-depth summary of the Laughlin River Run event.  We’ve all been out to Oatman and have the “been there and done that” t-shirt.  A Mohave Daily News report stated there were more than 45K bikers in town.  I think that number was inflated because cruising down Casino Drive just didn’t have the same clogged feel as previous years.  The good news is no motorcycle-related fatalities as part of the event were reported.

RoadGlide Heading East

On the RoadGlide heading East

One item I want to mention was the Friday night BBQ near Needles.  The posse attended the annual “Dave’s BBQ” on the Colorado River.  He pulls together a high quality event each year for the folks visiting Laughlin that includes grilled shrimp and tri-tip and everyone is hooked on the luscious dishes from chef Manny.  We were all licking our fingers and asking for more.  A big shout-out and thanks to the BBQ crew for pulling it all together!

It was great to see everyone and the BBQ was one of the highlights of the trip.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author.

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