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Archive for the ‘Utah’ Category

MC (right) at Laughlin River Run 2014 with Shark Week III Crew

MC (center) at Laughlin River Run 2014 with members from the Shark Week III Crew

According to this recently published survey, Utah has the second best drivers in the country.  Using statistics primarily from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the compiled results scored every state on the quality of their drivers.

It is apparent to me that whoever conducted that study has never driven in St. George, Utah and they never talked to MC.

Who is MC?

Just a motorcycle enthusiast, from Oregon, who on July 31, 2013 was part of a multi-state group riding through the area attending the Shark Week III motorcycle rally. He had split from the group early that morning and was heading home to attend a friends wedding ceremony.  It was around 7:30 a.m., as he traveled northbound on Bluff Street through the Red Cliffs Parkway intersection.  While doing so, there was a left turn yellow light and he was initially cut off by a southbound car making a left turn toward Red Hills Parkway. The  first car missed MC before he was hit in the side by a second car also making a left turn on a yellow/red light.  (Note: This intersection is now under construction and will have a flyover to help prevent accidents!)

Bluff Street will now pass over Red Hills Parkway

Bluff Street will now pass over Red Hills Parkway

Although MC was wearing full protective gear, he had head trauma and the impact left MC with significant injuries to his left leg.  It’s St. George county protocol for trauma patients to be flown directly to University Medical Center in Las Vegas as a matter of course, but MC’s blood loss was so severe due to multiple open fractures, the onsite EMT decision was made to fly him to Dixie Regional Medical Center.  You can read the local newspaper report HERE.  Previous blog posts related to this incident is HERE.

The Sheriff who was on the accident scene (MC was lucid enough to give his cell phone to the officer and had him call) called us and we arrived at the accident within 15 minutes and prior to the life flight landing on scene.  Perhaps an ambulance ride directly to Dixie Regional Medical Center should have occurred, but I won’t second guess or revisit the sequence of events.  In fact, Dixie Regional Medical Center created a recovery video testimonial HERE.

There is an old biker adage that many of you have heard before.  “There are those who have been down and those who are going down.”  It’s often described almost as a self-fulfilling prophecy—a mental process whereby an individual subconsciously creates the belief in the inevitability of that event.  The point is, I don’t buy into it and don’t think of accidents as a right of passage to be a motorcycle enthusiast.  I’ve certainly dumped a dirt bike more times than I care to admit, but I never viewed it as inevitable or part of the hobby—I just made some poor choices.

MC

MC at Bryce Canyon, Utah – 2013

Like many things in life there are inherent dangers with motorcycling.  Risk is part of the package.  An accident can have all sorts of negative repercussions.  And any accident that involves someone you know or is a good riding buddy only amplifies the situation.   From a psychological perspective it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the entire riding group to weigh the risks and rewards of riding and question why do it.  But, I’ve digressed.

The EMT’s put MC on life flight and we helped clear the wreckage from the Red Cliffs Parkway intersection.  The underinsured driver was cited for failure to yield to oncoming traffic and attempting to beat a red light while not paying attention to the rest of the traffic in an intersection.  The male driver was in his girlfriend’s well-used Honda.  Clearly the vehicle driver penalties in the state of Utah are not proportional to the suffering inflicted onto MC.

MC was in St. George’s Dixie Regional Medical Center for exactly 12 weeks and underwent 12 surgeries before being transported home to Oregon.  In Oregon there were more doctors, more surgeries, more physical therapy and mountains of medical forms.

Five months after the crash, MC reached the point where a fixator was removed from his foot.  And a few months later, May 2014, he underwent his 15th surgery—”de-bulking”—to remove the surplus transplanted muscle tissue from around his ankle.  There’s been a lot written on his path to recovery HERE (warning – graphic images).  The scope of this life-changing accident has been very challenging, but through it all MC remained mostly positive with the help of friends and family. There was also significant outreach from the motorcycle riding community especially the Shark Week III crew who deserves a big shout-out!

Today, a year later,  MC is mobile and self-sufficient.  For the most part, life is returning to a more normal pattern.  Those of us who know him, know that the year has been one of the hardest in MC’s life.  The medical decisions, the money worries and trying to smile every day and be grateful didn’t come easy.  It’s unclear if MC’s best motorcycle riding days are yet to come or if the risk-reward ratio tipped somewhere along the line.  Only he can answer that question.  In reality, it is possible for a motorcyclist to never go down. Ask around. You’ll be surprised how many motorcyclists have never actually been in an accident. Oh sure, they’ve had scary moments, war stories even. But, most have never been down in any kind of a serious way.

The dog days of summer are upon us, and I believe all MC really needs to think about is how much body hair does a guy have to remove from your face before golfing.

This blog post is to mark the 1-year anniversary and to provide a quick shout-out to all the folks who for the last 12 months provided prayers and positive vibes.  You’ve been awesome and we’re all grateful that MC is doing so well!

Photo’s taken by author and courtesy of MC.  Road map courtesy of UDOT.

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Fire near Goldendale, WA casts smoke on I-84

Fire near Goldendale, WA casts smoke on I-84

“The boot might have saved the foot… but, the helmet saved his life!”  said Dr. Clark, Dixie Region Medical Trauma Center.

But, let me go back to the beginning.

You haven’t heard from me for several days because I was on a ride to southern Utah for the annual Shark Week gathering.

Shark huh?

backward-picI’m not talking about the Discovery Channel event this week, but a semi-secret society of Shark Nose owners (a.k.a. Road Glide or ‘Glides’) that meet up on an annual basis and talk about the joy of wrenching and riding a ‘Glide’.  More importantly was the opportunity to ride through Zion National Park and see Bryce Canyon up close.  You know, those sorbet-colored, sandcastle-like spires and hoodoos that look like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

Mineral Hot Springs

Mineral Hot Springs

So we loaded up the iron steeds and rolled out of Portland early in route to St. George, Utah.  It seems that ‘Gliders’ like to awaken and ride off early.  Not me so much, but I conformed with the posse knowing that the previous 5-days had record heat and getting a lot of miles under our belt prior to the real oppressive heat would be a good thing.

We planned to take three days to cover the approximately 1100 miles to St. George.

On the first morning it was some good and quite riding with the gorge wind on our backs.  The first bit of change was due to a fire near Goldendale, WA., which blanketed I-84 and much of eastern Oregon with a thick blanket of smoke, but we rode on.  We did a quick ‘drive-by’ at the Oregon H.O.G. event in Pendleton, but it was largely winding down on Saturday (July 27th) so we continued heading east.

Downtown Boise, ID

Downtown Boise, ID

The first overnight stop was in Boise which seems to have a perpetual Basque street party anytime we arrive.  I didn’t see any Basque athletes, but supposedly they are famous for their feats of strength.  Something about dragging around a 1500 pound rock attached to a belt.  We did see some husky dudes that likely played on the college football team.  We ate dinner at the Reef Restaurant and enjoyed some refreshments in the Tiki Bar.

Snake River Panorama

Snake River Panorama

We rolled out early the next morning and were making good time on the interstate.  We crossed the Snake River at Twin Falls and headed south on Highway 93.  We decided to overnight in the small copper mining town of Ely, NV.  It’s located at the cross-road of highways U.S. 50 (“Loneliest Road In America”) and U.S. 93.  There is a newer La Quinta Inn that was quite nice and we ate dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican restaurant.  There was a group of riders coming in from Cali that all rode Screamin’ Eagle touring models.  It looked like a dealer convention and we chatted with them for a while and share some stories.

It's a long road...

Highway 93 Stretches Across the NV Desert

The next morning (Monday – July 29) we continued on U.S. 93 where the road stretches across the Nevada desert with very few services.  We had a light wind at our backs and I recall Molly Hatchet’s, “Flirtin’ With Disaster” sounding especially good.

I know, a third-rate boogie band.  But, it was different in the seventies.  It was overplayed to death back then, and the boomers know it by heart and get a nostalgic thrill every time we hear it today.  You see country records rarely had any presence north of the Mason-Dixon line, and southern rock bands dominated the airwaves, to the point where we got imitation acts, like Molly Hatchet, third generation stuff that was easily dismissible, except for the hits.  And that’s what the rednecks and the northerners had in common. This sound. It brought us together. Because it could not be denied. And it was always played by southerners. First, the Allman Brothers. Then Lynyrd Skynyrd. Then the Outlaws and Molly Hatchet.

But I’ve digressed.

Showers roll across the desert

Showers Roll Across The Desert

In the town of Panaca we took Highway 319/56.  The road continued to be flat and most straight with a few zig-zag’s across the irrigated farm land.  At the Beryl Junction, we made a brief stop at a John Deere farm implement business/gas station and then we rode south on Highway 18.  It was too long and the heat became oppressive as rode down into the valley.  Most of day we were at higher altitudes and it was comfortable, but about an hour outside St. George, Utah it felt like a furnace.

Arrived at Shark Week III

Arrived at Shark Week III

Off to our right I noticed that the afternoon sun was casting shadows on Snow Canyon State Park.  It’s a canyon about 15 minutes from St. George carved from red and white Navajo sandstone in the Red Mountains.  Finally we had arrived in St. George.   We checked into the Shark Week III event at the Lexington Hotel and after a day of desert heat we were badly in need of food, showers, air condition and some rest.  Mostly showers!

After showers and some dinner we thought about sitting outside with some chairs in the parking area, but it was too hot.  We did wander the parking area and chatted up the planned events with the other ‘Gliders’.  It’s a great  group of folks and was nice to meet some fellow ‘Gliders.’

The blog post continues HERE which provides more details on the Dr. Clark comment.

Photos taken by author.

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Hat-On-High“A little piece of you,
The little piece in me
Will Die
For this is not America”

It’s a song (HERE) by jazz fusion band Pat Metheny Group, Lyle Mays and rock singer David Bowie.

The song is profound and meaningful – and absolutely perfect for today’s circumstances.  But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

I’m an avid HDTV watcher.  The last few days I’ve spent time on the RETRO (RetroPlex) channel.  Interestingly there’s been an increase of movies about disillusioned civilian contractors working in the U.S. Government on the line-up.  Covert operations complete with code names, spy camera’s that even Bond would be envious.

someone-talkedIn the 1970’s it was called the “black vault” (classified communications center).  Move forward 30+ years and it’s a data center called PRISM which serves as a communication facility to vacuum up information on millions of private citizens in contradiction to the 4th amendment.

And while we’re on the topic, I was under the impression that the NSA hired Ph.D’s with military service, but now we learn that Edward Snowden, a low-level IT technician making $200K a year – only in America could a civilian contractor who didn’t graduate high school or complete college make $200K – used a banned USB thumb drive to smuggle documents.

I just don’t understand the lack of outrage about his salary, but I’m off point.

Mr. Snowden stated that he justified smuggling documents because the intelligence community had become the United Stasi of America – a reference of the surveillance powers over their own citizens that the East German Stasi – the secret police in the former Democratic Republic of East Germany.

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR)

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR)

Is this déjà vu all over again?

You might recall that back in 1979, journalist Robert Lindsey chronicled the true story of Andrew Daulton Lee and Christopher John Boyce.  Two high school buddies from good families who were tried and convicted of espionage.  Boyce’s FBI agent father landed the floundering 21-year-old a job at TRW who developed and manufactured satellites for the CIA.  Boyce became disillusioned after learning about the CIA activity to remove Australia’s Prime Minister Gough Whitlam because he wanted to close U.S. military bases.  With Lee’s help, Boyce set out to sell government secrets to the Soviets.

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR) - Radar

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Radar – “Prairie Pyramid”

In 1985, the book was turned into a film called The Falcon and the Snowman.

As I watched the movie on RETRO, I was reminded of my employment at ITT/Federal Electric Corporation.  I worked at the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR) or as the locals called it, the “prairie pyramid.”  It was the only operational ABM (Anti-ballistic Missile) defense system.  It’s mission was to defend the continental U.S. from a ballistic missile attack from the USSR or China.  And similar to the movie, security requirements of any installation housing nuclear weapons are specific and extensive.  There were 30 Spartans (long-range intercepts) and 70 Sprint (close-in intercepts) missiles on the complex.  I initially worked at the MSR (Missile Site Radar) facility for about a year prior to receiving a restricted access clearance.  I was then moved to the RSL (Remote Site Launch) facilities which housed the close-in intercept missiles and on many occasions had access to “exclusion areas” (nuclear missile field) in the facility.  The RSL’s were hardened against nuclear blast and were capable of operating autonomously while “buttoned up” during an attack.

RSL (Remote Site Launch) #2

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex – RSL (Remote Site Launch) #2

After all these years the Edward Snowden story speaks to me, both at a national level and from the mundane working world.

Christopher Boyce justified his actions by claiming he was selling information in the hopes of fostering peace between the Soviet Union and the U.S.  Or there was Daniel Ellsberg who in 1971, as a leading Vietnam War strategist concluded that America’s role in the war was based on decades of lies so he leaked 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to the New York Times.  It was a daring act that ultimately helped lead to Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the end of the war.  Do you recall when Nixon stated: “Quit making national hero’s out of those who steal secrets and publish them in the newspaper.”

Spartan commemorative plaque in Langdon, N.D.

Spartan commemorative plaque in Langdon, N.D.

Unfortunately in 2013 this all sounds similar.

Then in Oregon we have the “slippery slimy” Senator Ron Wyden who tried to cast himself in a positive light.  Being on the Intelligence Committee, he had been briefed and knew the answer, but ask the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, “do you collect telephone data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”  Mr. Clapper should have duck the question – neither confirm or deny here in open session – but instead he provided the least “untruthful answer” – or LIED.

Hey, I want to defeat the terrorists as much as the next guy, but harvesting data on millions of innocent American’s…  I don’t recall signing up for that or empowering a despotic government here in the U.S.

And long before PRISM there was Good Will Hunting.  Why shouldn’t I join the NSA?  It’s a classic!

You might wonder where Christopher Boyce is now?  In 1977 he was convicted of espionage and spent time in various federal prisons.  In 1980, he made headlines when he escaped from Lompoc, CA., and remained on the run for 19 months while supporting himself by robbing banks in the Pacific Northwest.  In 1997, he was released from the medium-security prison in Sheridan, OR., and sent to a halfway house in San Francisco.  He married Cait Boyce, the woman who helped him fight for parole.  In 2003 at the age of 50 years old, he was released from the halfway house.  He remains free, but on parole until 2046, his original release date.  Mr. Lee was paroled in 1998.

Photos courtesy of U.S. Army, some taken by author at the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR) – near Nekoma, and Langdon, N.D.   Note: On the Falcon & the Snowman soundtrack the name of the song – This Is Not America is “Chris.”

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4-Corners Route Map

4-Corners Route Map

It doesn’t get much better than a tour of America’s most famous roads aboard its most famous motorcycle.

To be clear,  this wasn’t the SCMA sanctioned ride to the four-corner cities in the U.S. (San Ysidro, CA; Blaine, WA; Madawaska, ME; and Key West, FL) in 21 days or less.  I’m talking about the 4-corners of Arizona/ Colorado/New Mexico/Utah which is a leisure trip in comparison.

Cruising Toward Boise

Cruising Toward Boise

I’m very late in posting a summary, but about 10-months ago, three of us set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-mile journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

My view is that any motorcycle is better than a car, and not for the biker type reasons, it’s because you engage with the environment and the people in a far more intimate way. When it rains, you get wet, when the temperature drops, you get cold, and if those sound like reasons to take a car, then you just don’t understand – feeling the air and the weather rather than viewing it through a windshield or soaking in the experience of the environment instead of merely looking at it truly is the only way to go.

Boise Street Celebration

Boise Street Celebration

On this road trip, Moab, the Million Dollar Highway and Beartooth Pass were my most memorable highlights.   The road trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to multiple days of 100+ searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through hail and torrential rain storms with “mud-flows” on Colorado’s Highway 110 where fishing gear seem appropriate!  Nothing we couldn’t handle and it all made for the adventure of touring by motorcycle.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

The romance and history of the great American road trip is a powerful draw.  I’ve wanted to ride through Monument Valley since seeing an image in an American motorcycle magazine smuggled into an electronics amplifiers lecture in college: an abandoned gas stop, tumbleweed, a rusting Phillips fuel sign you could almost hear squeaking in the hot, dry breeze and, down the road, a post-war Ford tilted into a ditch, its sun-bleached side peppered with bullet holes.  Yeah, we all know the imagery; 20th century Americana, the open road, the songs, and the countless films – so, let’s jump into the actual ride:

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Portland to Boise –  I’ve blogged ad nauseam about riding from Portland to Boise on various trips to Sturgis and won’t bore you by repeating the details.  We departed early and it was about getting some miles under our tires with I-84 being the fastest route east.  We overnighted in Boise where the perpetual street scene celebration seems to always be running.  We grabbed some dinner at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant.

Cruising the CO. River

Cruising the Colorado River on Highway 128

Boise to Spanish Fork, UT –  We departed Boise fairly early and continued to roll on the freeway through semi-arid rolling hills.  We were not fully into the “tourist” mode until we stopped in Spanish Fork, UT outside Salt Lake City.  We did a quick stop at Timpango’s Harley-Davidson.  The 6-acre complex and building was the brainchild of Dave Tuomisto and was a great story.  It was a mega-dealer – almost a mini-museum – and part of Harley-Davidson’s growth strategy, but during the “Great Recession” fell on bad times and Joe Timmons purchased the dealer for pennies on the dollar.  It’s a unique complex and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.

Wide Open Skies

Highway 128 Heading Toward Moab

The most memorable item I recall from this part of the trip – I’m writing this post nearly a year later – was the incredible amount of road construction on I-15 in and around Salt Lake City.  It’s as if there was a mass-transit revolt by residents and the state decided to build enough lanes to accommodate traffic into the late 21st century.  There was no time for day dreaming as car’s cut us off and darted across multiple lanes.

At Arches National Park

At Arches National Park

Spanish Fork to Moab –  On this day the ride was all about mountains.  US-6 leads to Moab and Arches National Park and from the first mile we were climbing.  The grade was mild so the elevation stretched out for miles until we finally reached the summit at 7500 feet.  All the while peaks with short scrubby trees surrounded us.  US-6 between Spanish Fork and Price has the honor of being one of America’s most dangerous roads owning it to a mix of heavy trucks, RVs and cars traveling at freeway speeds through narrow canyons.  There were 519 fatal and serious accidents from 1996-2008.

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

The descent from the summit was much quicker though it didn’t seem all that steep and we ended up on I-70 at a Papa Joes Gas-n-Go station where we fill up the fuel tanks.  We headed east on I-70.   Most people will take Highway-191 at the Crescent Junction interchange into Moab.  There are over 8500 cars that travel this road daily.  We decided to take a less-traveled route that adds only a few miles and you come into Moab from the back side on Highway 128.

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

This spectacular 44-mile scenic byway meanders along the Colorado River and the lack of vehicles was a bonus. About halfway you pass a viewpoint of the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers which is set against the peaks of the La Sal Mountains.  It was an impressive scenic ride with the red sandstone walls rising up around us as we watched the colors of the sunset.  It was a day of searing heat and we headed to the Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn pool to cool down.  We had dinner at the Moab Brewery and reviewed the “tourist” plans for the next day.

4-Corners National Monument

4-Corners National Monument

Moab to Cortez, CO (with stop at 4-Corners Monument) – We awoke early to get a jump on the desert heat and rolled out of town in the cool morning toward the River Canyon.  The plan was to ride the loop in Arches National Park and do some tourist sightseeing early then rumble toward 4-corners.  There have been good books written about Arches and this simple post will not do it justice.

4-Corners National Monument Plaque

4-Corners National Monument Commemorative Plaque

We rode most of the 36-mile round trip scenic drive.  We rolled through the petrified sand dunes between “Courthouse Towers” and “The Windows.”  We stopped and walked around a bit at “Balanced Rock” and again at Elephant Butte near the “Parade of Elephants.”   Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or were we dressed appropriately to walk the 1.5mile hike into “Delicate Arch.”  We took a lot of photos and then exited the park.

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

We headed south on Highway 191 where the only sound was of the V-Twin rumbling off the canyon walls.  Horses nuzzled the rough cottonwoods by the riverbank and the red sandstone walls rose up around us again as we headed toward Monticello and Blanding.  I don’t exactly remember which route we took to Montezuma Creek – all roads looked similar – but we ended up in Teec Nos Pos, AZ and then connected to Highway 160 for the 4-corners monument.  We paid the fee to get into the park and walked around, did some shopping at the Indian vendor stands which wrap around the monument area.  It was cool to stand on the 4-corner disc and straddle the four states.

cortez-motelIt was getting late in the day and we really needed to find a town large enough to host a motel so we departed.  We headed north on Highway 160 and overnighted in Cortez, CO., at the Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suite.  It was another scorching day of heat so a quick dip in the pool was in order and then we headed to dinner to discuss the next day riding plans.

This is a multi-part post.  Part-2 continues HERE.

Photos taken by author.  Map courtesy of Apple.

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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Timpanogos H-D Bronze Sculpture

I’ve written a couple of times about the motorcycle destination resort in Lindon, Utah called Timpanogos Harley-Davidson and its bankruptcy hardship HERE.

Adding insult to injury the embattled dealer was hit by sneaky metal thieves looking for some quick cash.  A 4-ton statue – which cost approximately $100,000 and depicts an old-time speed racing motorcycle and was mounted to a granite block outside the motorcycle shop was stolen over the weekend.  Stating the obvious, Lindon Police Chief Cody Cullimore stated:

“that thieves must have used heavy equipment to ‘make off’ with the statue.”

The days of “tweekers” selling scrap metal for quick cash are over, at least in Oregon.  A new law (SB 570 (.pdf)) which went into effect this year requires everyone transporting metal to get a state certificate (.pdf) and selling scrap metal is no longer possible without detailed information on where the metal was obtained.  In addition sellers will no longer get same day cash for the metal.  They will get checks in the mail after a 3-day waiting period assuming the person has an address!

Metal theft has been problematic in the northwest.  Nothing is off limits it seems from aluminum bleachers at the high schools, bronze grave markers and even railroad spikes.  These people will need to continue to support themselves and I doubt this will cease the acts….but it might make them move to other locations where the hurdles are lower.

UPDATE: January 5, 2009 — The Dealer News blog is reporting that the theft was the result of artist Jeff Decker, who owns Hippodrome Studios and used a crane to remove the statue.  The artwork was listed as an asset of the business, which went through bankruptcy, however, it was not an asset, but instead was loaned to the dealership under a “display” agreement.  The artist simply repossessed the work and it will now be a civil case and not a criminal case.  Also reported was that the dealer originally opened as Monarch Harley-Davidson prior to the owners sinking millions into the place.

Photo courtesy of Timpanogos H-D.

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HD_MCThis is the question I’ve been pondering over after having an opportunity to spend a couple of hours with “No Barriers” founder Neal Petersen.

To save you some time the short version of Neal’s story is — He is a black South African who grew up poor and disabled during apartheid yet achieved his dream of racing/sailing solo around the world.  He now does motivational speaking and is involved in peace talks in multiple countries across the world.  During Mr. Petersen’s speech he routinely ask the audience; “Does what I do on a daily basis at work have a positive impact?”

This resonated with me and while I personally reflect on this I can’t help, but ask the question of Harley-Davidson’s CEO, Keith Wandell.

Today, Harley-Davidson reported out the Q3’09 quarterly results and announced a massive 21.3% decline in revenue for the 3rd quarter and an 84.1% decline in net income from a year ago quarter.  Apparel and general merchandise represents 23% of H-D revenue to date.  Then the news got interesting.  They announced that 14 dealers have closed year-to-date and set the expectation that 15-30 additional dealers will close in the next 6 months as the company reduces inventories to match sales.  They discussed the HDFS bad loan/delinquencies and financial progress.  The Harley-Davidson brand value (note: its moved down from 43 to 71 position) and the more important announcement was to shutter the Buell product line as well as divest its MV Agusta unit.  A busy day of spin as Mr. Wandell went on to discuss the going forward 4-piller strategy of: growth; continuous improvement; leadership development and sustainability.

On the Buell front I can’t say that I’m not surprised because it was reported a couple weeks ago in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Erik Buell didn’t renew his employment contract with the motor company and there were a number of rumors circulating as to what that might mean.  I want to personally thank Erick Buell and the Buell employees.  I believe what they did on a daily basis at work had a positive impact.  They should be proud of what they accomplished.  They are an American innovation poster-child and represent what passionate and inspired people can do through engineering and manufacturing some of the best-handling bikes in the world.  But, in biker speak… it’s WTF?  An American designed and manufactured motorcycle that out performed Asian manufactures all year in the AMA Pro Roadracing circuit and Mr. Wandell dumps it?  This is forward thinking?  2009 marked the first year H-D had a non-motorcycle enthusiast running the company and I have to ask if he really got out there to see what all that (Harley) race stuff was about and how it enhanced the brand?

Since I was rather harsh in a blog post last year about the $108 million MV Agusta deal and describing it as a train wreck, I agree with the decision to abandon it.  Sure this happened under ex-CEO James Ziemer shift who retired shortly after cutting the deal, but the board members clearly approved Mr. Ziemer’s compensation package who walked away with only $5.6M compensation, up 26.5% from 2007.   And in part the compensation was based on the boards admiration of the MV Agusta deal, right?  The board members should be put on notice as there are now another 180 employees set to hit unemployment due to the management of the company and we all know they had line of sight just 12 months ago to the economic issues.

The shocker in the financial call was the statement of investing more in emerging markets up to and including local market design and manufacturing!  Is this a precursor to moving manufacturing off-shore?  A lot of talk about taking Hogs to China and India, but nothing about how well the strategy has worked to woo women, African-Americans and Latinos.  The value of the brand was weaved into the growth strategy, but nothing about why it dropped 43% in 2009.  They’ve talked for two quarters about reducing inventory yet made little progress.  And loans made to iffy borrowers aren’t just taking down housing.

The push by H-D corporate for dealers to build increasingly larger and high-end-glamorous retail outlets meant more dealer debt and subsequent failures.   Chapter 11’s continue to stack up across the northwest.  Three locations of Shumate H-D with one in Kennewick (owner hub), another in Spokane and a satellite location in Lewiston, ID.  I blogged earlier this week about Dave Tuomisto’s, $16M and 6-acre mega-expansion at Timpanogo, UT which went under.  It’s not clear when or if any of these dealers will reemerge and the real downside will be H.O.G. groups folding, lengthy drives for service or to hang and drop in which overall effects customer service and having a healthy Harley community.

Harley is in major trouble.  The spin, baby, spin from Mr. Wandell is not good enough, my friend.

Photo courtesy of H-D.  Financial call transcript courtesy of SeekingAlpha.  Disclosure: I have no investment in HDI

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