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Archive for the ‘110th Anniversary’ Category

Pope Blessing

St Peter’s Square Pope Francis Blessing

There’s a new spirit in the Vatican.

Pope Francis is the current and the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  Full disclosure:  I’m not catholic and this is not a campaign or propaganda tool.  Nor is this for the clickbait hunters and outrage merchants rubbing hands together with glee to pounce in the comment section.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Back in June (I blogged about it previously HERE) as part of the Worldwide Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Celebration biker’s came to Rome and the Vatican as Pope Francis blessed thousands of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their riders.  They were blessed in St Peter’s Square, and he graciously accepted two of the latest Harley-Davidson models, for the Vatican police force that the motor company donated.

HD 110th Celebration - Rome Recap

HD 110th Celebration – Rome Recap

The thundering motors on that nice morning nearly drowned out the Latin recitation of the “Our Father” prayer that accompanied Francis as he greeted the crowd before Sunday Mass.  Nuns and tens of thousands of faithful Catholics also took part in the multi-day event as an unrelated, two-day pro-life rally was scheduled during the same time.

Imagine for a moment the incongruity of the Harley crowd — known for the “Freedom” motto, outlaw image and adventuresome spirit — taking part in a solemn papal Mass to commemorate a 1995 encyclical on the inviolability of human life.

Yeah, it’s difficult to wrap your head around it.

At any rate, jump ahead a few months and basically the Pope sticks his finger in the eye of Harley-Davidson management and slams the the motorcycle lifestyle as an “intoxication of freedom.”

Speaking at a gathering last week, the Pope cautioned that “power and pleasure”, among other things, lead to God being “replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.”

Catholic theologians are not the first and won’t be the last to condemn consumerism and wealth inequalities.  In fact, Pope Francis has encouraged clergy and religious to show humility in their choice of transportation.  In July, he told a group of seminarians and religious novices that he felt hurt when he sees a priest or a sister with a brand-new car.  Saying, “And, if you like that beautiful car, think about how many children are dying of hunger,” urging them to choose simpler transportation options.

The conclusion of all this is that the Bishop of Rome has now decided to auction off one of the bikes in order to raise funds for a Caritas homeless project,  the ‘Don Luigi di Lietro’ near the Termini station in Rome which offers food and shelter for up to 1,000 people every day.  I’m sure it will make for a generous gift to a worthy cause.

But, here is the question.  Was the Pope exploited by just another American company/event focused on a PR opportunity?  Or was he being opportunistic?

Photo courtesy of Stefano Rellandini / Reuters 

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Harley's line Lake front road

Harley’s line Veterans Park

Many of you know riding is all about the camaraderie of the group.  For many it’s the main draw of having a motorcycle.  Fortunately we’ve got a great group of riders with years of experience and haven’t had the kind of chaos that can be associated with large group-riding.

That’s important because navigating around Milwaukee is like being a pro-snowboarder on Black Diamond bumps that go up, and those concrete cracks that go down and then being shot out of a half-pipe to change directions in mid-air.  I’ve never, ever seen Interstate, streets or roads so bad.  They are horrible!

The 110th post card photo

The 110th post card photo op

I ask folks about the roads and they would claim “allocations for street repair have gone up every year.”  My question is where did all those funds go?  Harley-Davidson doesn’t need a test track.  They can just drive across town and based on the conditions of the road check to see what fell off, was worn out or destroyed!

But, I’ve digressed…

The only thing that could have drowned out the V-twin roar in Milwaukee was the music.  Wow, five years ago, 45 bands played the Summerfest grounds across two days.

Summerfest

At Summerfest for Kid Rock Concert

This year for the 110th, Harley-Davidson added an additional day plus 21 more bands.  The motor company also expanded the number of headliners. Instead of building a separate venue in Veterans Park, as it did in 2008 for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Foo Fighters, Harley opted for more headliner options, with Toby Keith on Thursday, Aerosmith on Friday and Kid Rock on Saturday.  Then H-D leveraged the Marcus Amphitheater for even more musical acts to play on five stages.

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

And they say classic rock is dead?!  Sure, not only are the children of the baby boomers pushing thirty, but there’s a whole new generation of kids who have never experienced free-form radio or sitting in front of the stereo listening to full length albums, and if you’re even in the slightest into music then Milwaukee was nirvana.

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

I captured a video of ‘Wille’ G., Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson, thanking all 110th Anniversary attendees for coming and they provided an introduction to the exceptional Kid Rock concert which also featured John Fogerty, but there was so much more.

There was the Doobie BrothersZZ TopDierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert.  There was Chance the Rapper and Springsteen-inspired punk group The Gaslight Anthem.  The “Sons of Anarchy” star Katey Sagal, performed with her band The Forest Rangers.

Group at the H-D Museum

The group at the H-D Museum

And many local area acts ranging from Celtic punk group Whiskey of the Damned to Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience. There was even a Mexican pop rock band Moderatto, which played at the Miller Lite stage.  There were acts including Shooter Jennings and North Mississippi Allstars who were booked for performances at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the bands such as Sick Puppies and Puddle of Mudd who played at the free street parties.

Bridge near H-D Museum

Bridge near H-D Museum

I’ve listed just a few and if that wasn’t enough competing with itself, the local Harley-Davidson dealers had bands playing all 3-days, including Aaron Lewis of Staind at the House of Harley-Davidson and Grand Funk Railroad at Hal’s Harley-Davidson.

Our group went on the factory tours and talked with H-D reps about Project Rushmore, the 2014 model year touring bikes that received significant refinements to shortcomings that us owners have lamented for years. H-D has encapsulating over 2,400 new part numbers, and customers were sourced for input on updates that included liquid-cooling, touchscreen GPS, infotainment, improved venting, aerodynamics and ergonomics.  The new touring motorcycles have a lot to offer and props to H-D for rolling out enhancements beyond the typical new paint schemes!

Pano of the H-D Museum

Pano of the H-D Museum

We also pre-purchased tickets to experience the museum which featured the first known Harley model in existence from 1903.  The museum has a truly fascinating collection of bikes, displays and some curious homage to Harley’s influence on pop culture and racing.

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

The history tour doesn’t gloss over the AMC troubled times as they were as much a part of the motor company’s legacy as were the high points.

Prior to departing the city we stopped at the Miller Brewery and enjoyed the tour, refreshments and talking to one of the workers who was working the weekend doing a network upgrade.  We got the inside scoop on the number of cases each employee has for a monthly allocation as well as where the employee pub is located for afterwork libations.  Sounded like a fun job!

The brewery tour.

The brewery tour

If you were unable to make the ride home to Milwaukee it’s difficult to realize the full scope of the celebration from a couple of blog posts or photos.  Our group was fortunate to have participated in the event and being there provides a unique perspective on how welcome and appreciative the residents of Milwaukee made us feel.  Sure I ranted a bit about the roads, but the highways were absolutely jam packed with Harley’s of all shapes and sizes pointed towards “home” in honor of a company for the most part that has excelled for 110 years.  Not many can say that about their history!  Regardless of where we live or where we ride, there were a few days in 2013 that bonded us all together with the heritage of a HOG.

Since 1988, Harley-Davidson started throwing these hometown birthday celebrations every 5-years.  The 110th has to be one for the record books in terms of attendees,  fewest accidents, number of musical acts and from my vantage the number of smiles on attendee faces.

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you Harley-Davidson for a great celebration and here’s to another 100+ years!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 1 (HERE) and Part 2 (HERE).

110th Anniversary Accident Stats:  The final numbers are not published yet, but I found these initial statistics encouraging.  Approximately 100,000 riders arrived in the Milwaukee metro area over a 6-day (Aug 29 – Sept 1) celebration timeframe.  There was an average of 4.9 motorcycle accidents per day.  There were 28 motorcyclists transported to the trauma center during that timeframe.  There were no reported deaths.  Wisconsin is a helmet-optional state.

Photos by author.

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Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Over dinner the previous night in Gillette one of the guys (JR) in the group was discussing how the rear brake wasn’t working correctly on his bike and that he hadn’t noticed it before, but the ABS light was always on.  After settling the tab (and much ribbing about pushing the correct pedal), we set off to look over the bike.

It’s a new, bone-stock 2013 CVO Road King that was purchased about 9 months ago.  The bike had about 3000 miles on the odometer.  And sure enough, the brake fluid line and the ABS electrical line had been incorrectly routed, were rubbing up against the rear tire and had completely worn through.   When pushing on the rear brake pedal the brake fluid would discharged onto the ground.  We re-routed the lines and taped up the wires thinking a front brake was good enough to get to the H-D dealer.

South Dakota view looking back

South Dakota view looking backward.

The next morning we stopped at the Black Hills H-D dealer in Rapid City, S.D.  They didn’t have the rear brake line parts and would need to order them from Milwaukee.  Since we were going that direction we elected to wait until we arrived and then get it repaired.  It turned out that no dealer in the Milwaukee area had the parts either and they would need to order it from the factory.  Just in time inventory really doesn’t work when you’re on the road.  Nice quality control H-D!

There’s no question about it… It’s extremely flat and a long ways across South Dakota!

Billboards are everywhere, lining the Interstate trying to distract drivers for hundreds of miles.  In fact, Wall Drug who spends over $300K annually on billboards must have the Guinness record because you can see their advertisements for more than two hundred miles.

South Dakota view looking forward.

South Dakota view looking forward.

On Interstate 90 between Wyoming and Minnesota the expansive view is mostly sunflowers with the occasional corn field thrown in to mix it up.  It was a 410 mile ride on silky smooth Interstate that was peppered with billboard adverts, across a hot and humid prairie with large juicy bugs!  Quite the pilgrimage across that state and when a rest stop did arrive you really do need to pull off, wet down your t-shirt and head band because the long hot road does get long and did I say hot?!

Pano of Clear Lake

Pano of Clear Lake, MN

As I rode along for hours on the flat concrete surface my mind had a tendency to wander.  I found myself thinking about the lack of radio stations or irrigation in S.D.  Over the entire day I never saw any irrigation being applied to a corn, wheat or sunflower field.  Coming from the Northwest where the farmers in the valley or in Eastern Oregon are always using water to irrigate their fields this seemed rather odd to me.

Crossing the Mississippi River

Crossing the Mississippi River

It had been a hot and high humidity riding day!  After what seemed like just shy of forever we finally arrived near the end of the state and overnighted at a Best Western in Sioux Falls.  Air conditioning never felt so nice.

The next morning one of the riders in our group peeled off to see family in Iowa as the rest of the group rolled quickly through Minnesota on I-90 hoping that the scenery would change.  However, the major change was how poor the road quality seemed to get with the cracks and ruts.  Did you know we sent a man to the moon?  Yes, we did!  They even shipped a little car with him and they drove it around on the planet.  You’d think we’d know how to fix a concrete Interstate!

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

It was a shorter riding day as we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River and stayed at a Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel in La Crosse, WI.  Unknown at the time, was we were staying on the Black River and this Best Western had a nice riverside resort feel with beach accommodations.  The hotel had a terrific acoustic band on the riverside deck where we had a casual dinner while enjoying the refreshments and entertainment.

Dinner at Jack's

Dinner at Jack’s – La Crosse, WI

Over the previous couple of days we were shadowed by a large group of riders from Brazil.  They flew into and rented motorcycles in Las Vegas and were riding to the 110th celebration.  For a couple nights in a row we happen to overnight at the same hotels.  The group of approximately 20 riders had rented a U-Haul truck to carry all their luggage and it was quite the chaotic scene at check-in/out!  We got to know a couple of them.  A nice group.

In La Crosse, there was a noticeable increase in the number of motorcycles traveling east.  Many more on the Interstate and by the time we arrived in Madison there was a constant flow of bikes.

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

We arrived in Milwaukee around 1pm and unloaded the bikes and checked in to the Brookfield Suites Hotel and Convention Center.  Another member of our group actually rode out several days early to MN to visit family and then met us at the Brookfield.

In 2008 for the 105th celebration, we stayed at the Hampton Inn Express in Delafield which was 20+ miles from downtown Milwaukee.  The Brookfield Suites Hotel was a much nicer place and about 7 miles to downtown.  We were within walking distance to Hal’s Harley-Davidson.  We liked this location much better and the hotel staff was awesome!

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

We had arrived on Thursday (August 29), the start of the celebrations and later that day we headed down to Summerfest/Maier Festival Park to take in the 30th Anniversary celebration of H.O.G.  We all wanted to get the unique pin for this event so we put on our 110th and H.O.G. identification and arrived in time to get a pin and watch Lynyrd Skynyrd headline the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage.

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

In what seemed like a bit of irony, there was Rickey Medlocke on guitar… he was rocking out and being displayed on the large jumbo-tron monitors which included his trademark “Indian” tat and custom guitar with inlaid “Indian” spelled out on the fret board.  It had nothing to do with Indian Motorcycles, but it would have made for an interesting photo given they were playing on the H-D main stage with bar and shield brand logos everywhere.

After several days of being on the road with just the motorcycle, the festival was a bit of a sensory overload.  There was a lot going on at Summerfest and it took awhile to absorb and sync up with all the Harley “noisemakers.”  Riders and enthusiasts literally travelled from all over the globe to attend the festivities and over the next few days of the birthday celebration there would be more than 66-band performances.

I was starting to wondered if that rumbling coming down the road might be the roar of music vs. a V-twin!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 3 (HERE) or Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author

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Idaho Praraie

Somewhere in Idaho…

Five friends, 2200 miles, 15 fuel stops, and Ten Sleep Canyon – priceless!

Sure it’s a nod to MasterCard, but priceless experiences are better when shared and now that I’m back from some extended work travel that is my intent.

It was a sunny Saturday (August 24) and the leather-clad group rolled east like Pacific Northwest thunder to where more than 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts were expected for the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary festivities in Milwaukee.  

Looking down on Jackson, WY

Looking down on Jackson, WY

The group had laid out a casual route plan, but embracing total spontaneity of the open road to see where ever the wind might take us wasn’t really in the cards for this trip.  We did eat when we got hungry, slept when we got tired and would drink refreshments when the bikes were parked at a motel for the night.

Three of us in this group had made a northern journey in 2008 for the 105th Anniversary (HERE), but on this trip we decided to take a more southern route.  That meant a lot more freeway travel and covering some very familiar road for at least the first 500 miles.

Pano of Grand Teton's

Pano of the Grand Teton’s

Boise, Idaho was like déjà vu all over again, (weren’t we just here?) and we must have been thinking about that Toby Keith song, I Love This Bar & Grill because we landed at the Reef restaurant again.  We met a couple Canadian float plane pilots at one of the pub stops and shared some interesting stories.

Grand Teton's

Grand Teton’s

The next morning we departed Boise after a McD’s power breakfast and headed toward Jackson, WY.   We initially planned to take Highway 20, through a desolate place known for the National Reactor Testing and then maybe a quick stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Climbing down a lava tube sounded like fun, but it was another incredibly hot day.  Too hot to be walking around on black lava in motorcycle gear so we took the faster route and continued on I-84/I-15 to Idaho Falls.  

Heading toward Ten Sleep

On Hwy 26 riding toward Ten Sleep

From there we rode out on Highway 26 to Swan Valley then rode on Highway 31 (Pine Creek Rd) through the Targhee National Forest into Victor, ID where we picked up Highway 33/22 (Teton Pass Hwy).  This road took us through the western end of the Teton Pass and southern part of Teton Valley.  There were some great views!

We overnighted in Jackson, WY., which has a cowboy theme about the place.  Downtown has a daily gunfight and there are a lot of shops to spend $$ in if you like the tourist thing.  We had dinner at the Rendezvous Bistro which had outstanding food and to die for Meatloaf!  Strongly recommend the place if you’re in the area.

The next morning we headed out on Highway 191/89 and admired the majestic mountain view of the Grand Teton’s.  The park gets over 4M visitors each year, but the traffic on this day was light.  We stopped for a couple of photo ops, but continued on.  We were leaving the “high-country” and at Morlan, we took Highway 26 east and rode toward Riverton then on to Thermopolis.  There was a sign when we entered that said it was “the world’s largest hot spring” and is situated in a state park.  We stopped for lunch at a local dive that was having issues with the grill vent.  The entire place smelled like an open BBQ, but the burgers went down well.

Pano of Ten Sleep Canyon

Pano of Ten Sleep Canyon

We continued on to Ten Sleep Canyon.  Once a little known backwater, Ten Sleep is today a premier limestone climbing area in Wyoming.  

The Posse at Ten Sleep Canyon

The Posse at Ten Sleep Canyon

At Worland we rode out on Highway 16.  It’s called The Sweet 16 for being the easiest route to Yellowstone Park due to the gentle curves and lower grades.  This 92 mile corridor is a great ride and should be added to your bucket list.  From the town of Ten Sleep, US 16 leaves agricultural land and heads east along Ten Sleep Creek and through a spectacular canyon.  The canyon is filled with vivid colored limestone and dolomite rock walls and the cliffs take on a life of their own with shapes and faces.  The road continues into the Big Horn Mountains, which offers up lush grasslands, alpine meadows and glacier lakes.  The road crosses over the Powder River Pass at an elevation of 9,666 feet and then makes a steep descent (6-7%) into Buffalo.  There we rode on I-90 east and overnighted in Gillette. 

This riding day was truly a highlight of the road trip in my view and one that is most memorable.  It was filled with lots of mountain eye-candy, painted desert and Wyoming wonders.

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 2 (HERE).

Post Script:  I neglected to include a shout out to MC who couldn’t make this trip.  He and Sherry were excited to make the journey “home” and planned to ride out and join our group in Milwaukee.  Unfortunately MC was hit by a driver (HERE) who was trying to beat a red light while attending Shark Week III in St. George, Utah in early August.  We missed you MC and all of us are looking forward to future rides together!  You can follow MC’s recovery progress HERE or on his blog HERE.

Photos taken by author. 

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2014 Ultra Limited

2014 Ultra Limited

At the Harley-Davidson dealership meeting in Denver this morning, the company introduced eight new motorcycles for 2014. 

Proclaimed the largest new model launch in the company’s 110-year history, the eight new motorcycles feature improved power and braking performance, enhanced rider ergonomics, and styling updates.  The eight new models are the Road King®, Street Glide®, Street Glide® Special, Electra Glide® Ultra Classic®, Ultra Limited, Tri Glide® Ultra, CVO Ultra Limited and CVO Road King®.

2014 StreetGlide

2014 StreetGlide

All these motorcycles fall under a new product development moniker (“Project RUSHMORE“), announced about four years ago, with the intent to bring new bikes and features to the marketplace faster.  The key areas of RUSHMORE are:

Control:  The motorcycles will pass faster, stop quicker and allow riders to see farther at night.  Some models feature the new Twin-Cooled™ High Output Twin Cam 103™ while others get the new High Output Twin Cam 103™ powertrain – both with fuel injection.  Reflex™ Linked Brakes with ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) is new for all models and the new Daymaker™ LED is also standard on some models while others get new Dual Halogen lighting.  The Linked braking, means braking with the front and rear wheels is synchronized and the system will automatically calculate the amount of braking that’s necessary under the existing conditions.

Infotainment: The Boom! Box infotainment systems feature voice recognition and touchscreen for music, GPS navigation and phone in motorcycling, with audio, Bluetooth® connectivity, text-to-speech technology, plus support for intercom and CB communications in a single module.  H-D integrated the vehicle information in a single electronic touch screen.  There are five-way joy sticks on the left and right motorcycle hand controls for most of the system’s functions.

Feel: Aerodynamics and ergonomics are improved – with a new Batwing fairing with splitstream venting, which reduces head buffeting and with wider and deeper seats and new back and arm rests.  The motorcycle hand controls have been redesigned, and the number of dash gauges have been reduced from six to four — with temperature and oil pressure readouts moved to the electronic screen and the gauges made larger for better visibility.

Style: The function of several components are improved such as the larger Tour-Pak® and saddlebags with convenient One-Touch latches, sleeker fenders, lighter cast aluminum wheels and intuitive hand control switches.

Other changes in the 2014 lineup include anti-lock brakes on all five Sportster models, a new CVO Softail Deluxe that comes with a detachable windshield with GPS navigation, Daymaker LED lighting and detachable saddlebags.  Also, the Twin Cam 103 engine is now standard equipment on the Street Bob and Super Glide Custom models.

On the surface the changes look positive and bring H-D more in alignment with the competition.  It’s peculiar that the motor company goes to great lengths to hype part of the “new” development process that now includes formal focus groups and events like motorcycle shows and music festivals, and simply chatting with customers!

Huh?  Is H-D marketing implying they didn’t have product focus groups prior?

I’m looking forward to getting a look at the bikes at the 110th Anniversary in Milwaukee.  I wonder how much difference the additional head cooling makes on the engine?  The new Boom! Box infotainment radio with improved connectivity and text-to-speech technology is a welcome update because the old radio was dated and in serious need of an update.

Photos courtesy of H-D.

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110-PostereditedSlicing open champagne bottles with a giant sword is an unlikely refinement that we’ll see during the 110th Anniversary.  That is unless you have a need for a new-motorcycle christening and want to get your hard-partying samurai going.

We’re about 50 days out from the big celebration where the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary team (marketing, general merchandising, communication, legal, etc.) have been negotiating rights to feed photos and sound to television stations for broadcast.  Not to mention all the work in venue agreements, performance contracts, vendor contracts, photographic rights, recording issues, publishing deals, leases and the list goes on and on.  Add to that the trademark team that’s traveled around to make sure the H-D marks are properly used and not infringed, and that when folks like me arrive (“customers”) we’re not buying counterfeit merchandise thinking H-D is selling inferior gear!  Yeah, there will be some tired H-D employees who will be looking forward to taking some time off after Labor Day!

I want to thank the H-D employees in advance.

110th Anniversary Commemorative Ticket + Museum Pass

110th Anniversary Commemorative Ticket, “Koochie” + Museum Pass

I received the 110th Anniversary tickets over the weekend.  I opted for the higher priced commemorative package thinking what was coming was gift-worthy or an elegant picture stand.  The package was small enough and arrived via the mailbox.

Unfortunately, the Harley-Davidson Anniversary team neglected to take a page from Apple and pay close attention to the unboxing experience.  When it arrived did it make me smile?  Sure.  Did it create a long-lasting positive experience?  No.  Hey, why sweat the small stuff, right… it was only $118!  And the aroma discharge from that “Koochie” thing is like having a set of motorcycle tires stored in your living room.  Nothing says your awesome like the smell of tire rubber in the house!

110th Anniversary Celebration Schedule Guide

110th Anniversary Celebration Schedule Guide

I’m not sure who from Harley-Davidson sat in a conference room, doing the most mundane task of simply opening an Anniversary sample package to see what the emotional response would be by customers.  But, I’ve digressed.

The 110th “ride home” is just around the corner and starting feel real.  Earlier this week Harley-Davidson announced a NEW two-day party ($79) pass.  It gets you into the Summerfest Grounds any two of the 3-days.  The music headliners (Aerosmith, Toby Keith, Kid Rock (each sold separately)) are an incremental $24.50 purchase.  There is a $95 three day pass and the upsell commemorative package.  I’ve also seen a Chrome Ticket Package online at $522.15 which must pay for a lake-front rental given that unobtanium price.  To be candid, I’m a little overwhelmed with all these pricing options being tossed around on the web, but it does eliminate potential negative feedback for not having enough pricing options.

And how about that “official” Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Mobile App (HERE).  Yeah, I’ve allowed H-D to use some memory space on the iPhone to buzz and blink me with updates over the next 50+ days.  Even if you’re not attending the anniversary event, I suggest downloading the app because H-D will be talking to your phone (via the app) and you can enjoy the festivity updates from the couch and avoid “social envy” while tweeting about all the $$ you’ve saved.

Ever wonder what’s it like when motorcyclists take over a town?   Noisy!

Poster photo courtesy of H-D and colorized by author.  Photos taken by author.

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Mark Hans-Richer presents leather jacket to Pope Francis

Mark-Hans Richer (H-D CMO) presents a leather jacket to Pope Francis

Getting “rubbed” by the pickpockets is common and expected in the city of “amore” where looking up at an artist masterpiece means your wallet just got lifted.  In fact, the Vatican tourist guides recently threatened to strike due to the inundation of pickpockets.

But, I’m talking about the Harley-Davidson 110th  Anniversary Celebration in Rome.  Unlike the U.S. celebration – where ticket prices range from $95 to over $500 for the unobtanium “Chrome” package – the entry fee in Rome is FREE of charge!  Free is a very good price and unexpected.

Information is starting to flow in about Harley-Davidson enthusiasts from across Europe who are flocking to the heart of Rome this week.   The celebration is occupying multiple sites in Central Rome, Vatican City and the Port of Ostia.  The entire length of Via Della Conciliazione, leading from St Peter’s Basilica to the River Tiber has been turned into a giant Harley-Davidson motorcycle park.  Yesterday’s start of the four-day event includes celebrations from the touristic Port of Ostia to a special motorcycle blessing inside St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City.

David Uhl's, Pope Francis and the Chance Encounter painting

David Uhl, Pope Francis and the “Chance Encounter” painting

Event photos are starting to appear on the web.  One is of David Uhl who painted the “Chance Encounter” canvas which depicts a 1948 Harley-Davidson FL Panhead bike parked in the San Pietro square, with a priest admiring it.  David Uhl presented it to Pope Francis during the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 12, 2013.  According to a number of reports, the “Chance Encounter” will be available in postcard format, printed in a limited run of copies (in various sizes) and for collectors, three hand-signed and numbered canvas Fine Art sizes.

In addition, Harley Davidson has given Pope Francis two of its current motorcycles to mark the brand’s 110th anniversary.  On Sunday June 16th, hundreds will be allowed to park along the road leading to St Peter’s Square while the pontiff recites the Angelus prayer.  Between 1-2 thousand motorcyclists are expected to fill St Peter’s Square for the Pope’s blessing.

Just beware of Rome’s tiny thieves.

Photos taken at Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 12, 2013 and courtesy of REUTERS/Osservatore Romano.

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