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President Ronald Reagan With CEO Vaughn Beals

In 2020, April Fools is passé and pranks are out.  The pandemic crisis has changed humor!

The popular metaphor for speech is “Shouting fire in a crowded theater,” which may cause panic.  The seriousness of COVID-19 has the capacity to frighten in a visceral way the public and dedicating a blog post to misleading people just seems like a very bad idea.

Do you remember a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when tariffs were being used to control unfair trade practices (labor, environment and other issues).

Former H-D CEO Matthew Levatich With Recode’s Kara Swisher Discussing Tariff’s

Recall the hysteria of — Tariffs bad, Harley good?

Harley-Davidson execs and investors panicked when the European bloc raised its 6% tariff to 31% on motorcycles. That made each motor company motorcycle about $2,200 more expensive to export, and forced the company into opening another manufacturing plant in Thailand.

Thirty-seven years ago today, President Ronald Reagan took bold steps to protect Harley-Davidson from foreign competitors.  It was April 1, 1983, when Reagan ordered massive tariffs on large Japanese motorcycles to help the last surviving maker of American-made motorcycles.

President Ronald Reagan at H-D York, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1987

I’ve previously written about how during the 1970’s, Japanese motorcycle manufacturers flooded the U.S. motorcycle market decreasing Harley-Davidson’s market share. It had only been a few years since Harley-Davidson executed the epic buy back from AMF.  Their sales hadn’t reached the levels they envisioned, in part, because the AMF era was famous for shoddy quality, bikes requiring a lot of maintenance and the Milwaukee motor company was getting knocked down publicly and in need of some sunshine.

With poor quality and high-maintenance requirements, Harley was skiding toward bankruptcy.  In 1982, Harley-Davidson sought protection from the International Trade Commission (ITC) and requested a tariff on all overseas heavyweight motorcycles. This was the first and only time such a request was made to the ITC. They also lobbied the Reagan administration to raise tariffs on Japanese manufacturers because of “Dumping,” which in this context refers to exporting a product at a lower price than is charged in the home market, or selling at a price that is lower than the cost to produce it.

President Ronald Reagan and CEO Vaughn Beals at H-D York, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1987 — Recieving Appreciation Award

It was a different time and President Reagan used tariffs, versus tweets, to change the course of the American motorcycle industry.

On April 1, 1983, April Fools Day, President Reagan signed into law an act that imposed draconian import tariffs for a five-year period on Japanese motorcycles with displacement of greater than 700 cc’s.  This would give the American motorcycle maker some breathing room from intense competition to retool, get its act together and turn profitable. While the act was supposed to last for five years, then CEO Vaughn Beals asked that it be lifted a year early in 1987.

It was as good then and just as good today… Remarking about the celebrated Harley-Davidson turnaround in 1987, President Reagan quipped (recorded in this Podcast), “Never bet against Americans.

If you are in need of some reading humor, check out these previous April Fools posts:
Harley-Davidson Boom Box Infotainment Virus
I Quit
Harley-Davidson Launches Blackline L-Edition
Keith Wandell Retirement Revs Up Harley
Wagoner Tapped As Harley CEO

Bonus:  President Reagan’s Remarks (Video) to Harley-Davidson Company Employees in York, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1987.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson, Recode and Ronald Regan Foundation

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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 Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus what?

Developed by a home schooled 19-year old garage hacker, Palmer Lucky, created Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset that uses 360-degree head tracking to make it feel like you’re inside a different world.  For example, looking to the left or right will automatically pan the scene in either direction, making it feel as natural as looking around in reality. The eyewear also provides parallel images for each eye, which is the same way your eyes perceive images in the real world.  Facebook recently acquired Oculus for $2B, yes that’s B as in BILLIONs, recognizing it had many untapped applications when it bought the company.

Still don’t understand?  Here is a horse riding experience video.

We’ve all either read or heard about the Harley-Davidson Fit Shop where the local dealer will take you through a step-by-step process literally seating you on a bike and switching out components such as seat, handlebars, suspension and foot controls until they find a combination that fits you.

Always Be Closing...

Always Be Closing…

But, if you’re very early into the motorcycle “consideration” purchase phase and unsure of riding or unclear about the whole motorcycle lifestyle thing, what then?

That’s where the Oculus Rift could be leveraged.  It was made specifically for gaming when it was initially introduced, however, people are using the headset to drive tanks in the military and medically explore the human body, among other fascinating applications.

I’m sure I’ve sparked some interest or debate as to whether Harley-Davidson could really use the technology to good effect.

Why not?

H-D could surely leverage the technology to provide consumers who are unsure if they want a motorcycle, have little knowledge about them or the experience and not sure what kind to purchase.  For some enjoying luxuries that are unaffordable in the real world, this might be just the ticket to spending time in a riding (virtual) environment.

FUSAR Technologies - The Guardian

FUSAR Technologies – The Guardian

For grins, let’s call it the Harley-Davidson Virtual Reality Motorcycle Simulator (HDVRMS).  Potential buyers would sit on a motorcycle mock up, place the headset on, grab the handlebars and the entire system is then hooked up to a computer programmed with virtual reality riding software/content.  This would be very high-quality footage in the motorcycle simulator.  Think UHD/4K video.  Basically, H-D would put multiple hi-rez cameras on the front/side/back of a motorcycle and ride it through the streets of Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles or through any national park or canyon road with twisties.  The footage would go to a digital film room for editing and then it would be incorporated into the computer system that would run the virtual-reality motorcycle simulator.

Imagine the possibilities.  Riding Highway 101 down the California coast.  Drag racing your favorite Pro Stock champion would be no problem.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle in downtown New Delhi dodging tiny rick-shaw’s full of banana trees.  No problem, select it in the computer and go.

Still not buying it?

How about the potential of integrating the technology into Harley-Davidson product development?  You can watch Ford’s virtual reality technology in action in this video.  Essentially, VR would allow Harley-Davidson to test scenarios and designs, and experience products before they are even made.

If not product development or supporting sales then there is the opportunity that an augmented reality motorcycle helmet could save your life.  Young motorcycle riders could attend motorcycle training on the H-D VR simulator so that they can hone their skills and become more proficient on the street.

FUSAR Technologies is doing just that on Kickstarter.  Called the Guardian, it’s a DOT approved helmet with an Android board, two wide-angle cameras and bits and pieces that is fully integrated and connected to the device and motorcycle that allows the motorcyclist to have a full cognitive awareness of what’s going on around them.

The one problem for Harley-Davidson?  It could become so real and addictive sitting in the comfort of the dealer or your home that you actually never get outdoors to ride!

Photos courtesy of Oculus Rift/ Sergey Galyonkin, HD and FUSAR

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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LDMC StandinsIn case you missed it, it might have been the untold story of the cast on the TV series called The Devils Ride.

Sure the actors members of the Laffing Devils outlaw motorcycle club have an appearance that is designed to intimidate the general motorcycling community… what with those glove-free hands, unwashed Levi’s, well-used black t-shirts and conditioned leather vests.

The Devils Ride, which started out as a reality TV show centered on the hard-hitting San Diego biker club drama, has really settled into its soapy role.  Each episode is dumb-and-dumber as the audience is told numerous times about what just happened, as if 6-minutes of commercials made us forget that the script and actors are the shows weak spot.

But, the big reveal on this Oscar weekend is this newly uncovered “second-team” of stand-ins performing (HERE).  Could it be the stand-in actors from the TV show?   We know that stand-ins are the unsung heroes of movie making and are picked based on height and body shape similar to the stars of the show.  Stand-ins are helpful to the production process and you’ll notice in the video they fulfilled a rather tedious task in a bar scene which has yet to air on the TV show.

This video is either poetic justice or a bit of karmic retribution from all us viewers who have no time for mediocre and who believe a baseball cap should be worn in the direction that your life is traveling!

As Ringo Star said in the movie “Hard Day’s Night” when ask “Are you a Mod or Rocker?” he replied “I’m a Mocker!

And guilty I am.

Photo courtesy of College Humor.

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110-burnoutTo commemorate 110 years on 1/10, H-D released a video of a celebratory burnout.

The epic burnout footage was filmed late last summer during the anniversary kick-off party at the Harley-Davidson Museum, but the video was released yesterday.

Nice!

There was no fine print about it being a professional driver on a closed course and don’t try this at home…but, they did overlay in 8 point font:

“Burnouts look great on film, but in the real world are hard on tires, wheels and other mechanical parts.  Love your bike.  Be respectful to your neighbors. Ride safely.”

Photos of the anniversary kick-off event are HERE on Facebook.  Other H-D videos HERE on YouTube.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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Robert Joseph "Sandman" Johnston

Robert Joseph “Sandman” Johnston

Mister Sandman, bring me a dream.
Make her the cutest that I’ve ever seen.
Give her two lips like roses in clover.
Then tell her that her lonesome nights are over.

It’s ironic how this song, which was most notable in the movie “Back To The Future“, mimics the reality behind the reality TV show called The Devils Ride.

I’m referring to Robert Joseph “Sandman” Johnston, a member of the Laughing Devils MC and one of the more popular characters on the reality TV series.  He was arrested for attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a man during a burglary just prior to Christmas.

Mister Sandman’s Melis

Mister Sandman’s Melis

There is some speculation (HERE) that Mister Sandman wanted to surprise his ex-wife? — SATIRE ALERT — with a belated Christmas gift.  After realizing that he’d misplaced the house keys he let himself in and then discovered another man in the bedroom, and became concerned… came to her defense by stabbing the “assailant” three times in the back.  The police somehow misunderstood his good intentions.

I’m sure the show producers are salivating over all the possible plot twists for a second season.  This is all just another sad chapter of reality TV – salacious, exploitative, celebratory violence, abusive and predatory behavior – not to mention an extraordinarily colorful life of a motorcycle club member.  Not only do we have to turn the channel to avoid the “vast wasteland” called The Devils Ride, we have to endure nit wits like Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson, uneducated goofs who are followed around, their every activity plastered on magazines and online, who’ve got nothing to say.  They’re not entertainers, and to keep it real there isn’t much reality in reality TV.

And before you fire-up the keyboard to tell me that I don’t get The Devils Ride or am stupid or there is something inferior about me or I’m just not as far out there on the motorcycle outlaw frontier as Sandman is…  Keep in mind that The Devils Ride is the creation of the Santa Monica production company Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment and that show producer, Eric Bischoff is the author of the acclaimed memoir Controversy Creates Cash.

There are a number of things I am looking forward to in 2013 and high on that list is that The Devils Ride implodes and gets cancelled.

Previous posts: Laughing At The Laughing DevilsLaffing Devils Are The New World OrderThe Laughing Devil Tickle Monster;

Robert Joseph “Sandman” Johnston photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.  Melis photo courtesy of Twitter page.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Slowly but surely, things are getting better—or so we’d like to believe.

The unfortunate truth is the recession has sent an alarming number of families into financial distress for the first time. Unemployment remains high. Home foreclosures continue. The Portland Police Bureau respond to what seems like an ever increasing number of calls involving people struggling with mental health crisis, including suicides.  Visits to food banks have reached record levels. The increasing demand for services—and diminishing state and local resources—is straining the community safety net for people in need.

I don’t have answers to the economic issues.  But undeniably, the sensation of air molecules colliding with one’s face is refreshingly life-affirming.  To be in the wind: Free. Untethered. Sans obligations, financial, agendas, appointments, offices, annoyances.  Life’s problems just don’t seem as bad…

In part, it’s the reason for the tag line of this blog Whatever it is… it’s better in the wind” which I created back in July 2007.  The thinking was all a person needs is a few bucks for a used bike, $20 bucks for some fuel, a couple t-shirts, some free time, and a couple like-minded friends to enjoy the sensation. If you can’t scrape that together, then at least roll down the windows on the SUV, and enjoy a few moments of well-deserved Wind.

And speaking of wind in the face… a couple years ago I blogged (HERE) about Scott G. Toepfer — an emerging documentary photographer with a love of motorcycles and adventure.  His posse set out across the Western U.S., to experience the spaces between here and there, and to see what becomes of them on the road.

It turns out that Mr. Toepfer finally aggregated the content he captured from their rides over the last two years and release the short film (HERE – 17 min) which tells the story of their adventures.  It’s certainly worth a watch and may even be an inspiration for getting out in the wind!

Photo courtesy of Scott Toepfer.

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By now the campground dust has settled after the 70th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which brought thousands of motorcyclists and music fans to the legendary Buffalo Chip.

There were raucous crowds mixed with top tier entertainment at the “Chip” this year.  Even Pee Wee Herman lived through it to write on a blog for The Huffington Post about his experience.  See his video HERE.  But, overall it cemented the venue as one of the better entertainment locations with an array of art, vendors, food and people gawking (responsibly of course!).  The selection of musical guests resulted in one of the biggest music festivals of its kind in South Dakota. Doing a bit of name dropping, the entertainment included; Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Motley Crue, the Scorpions, ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Lee Rocker, Tesla, Drowning Pool, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Guess Who, Trailer Choir, Buckcherry, Orianthi, Stone Sour, Jason Aldean, Williams & Ree and Disturbed.

But here’s the rub… there were a lot of people going to/from the Chip.  I was part of the 5 mile commute from town to the campground traffic jam that ran from the Buffalo Chip to I-90 on Tuesday night (August 10th) as rally-goers sat on over heating motorcycles for a couple of hours on what locals call the annual “biker crawl” to catch the Bob Dylan/Kid Rock show.

The Chip celebrated it’s twenty-ninth year of operation.  That’s twenty-nine years of motorcyclists trapped in wicked heat and traffic grid lock.  There’s no excuse for an experience like this.  In Sturgis there were NO law enforcement officers directing traffic nor were there any Buffalo Chip staff.  Just grid lock. What went wrong and why is there no traffic coordination?  Were people improperly trained?  Did too many people overwhelm the event or have budgets been cut so slim that the job can no longer be done?  It’s a case of pointing fingers.

Bob Dylan at The Buffalo Chip -- 2010

Ron Woodruff is the owner of the Buffalo Chip campground who I’m sure has great pride having overseen the tremendous growth and World Wide recognition the “Chip” has earned as one of the premier concert venues in the mid-west.  Tried to correct this situation, he has and last fall he tried again to get the Meade County commissioners to take corrective action, but the commissioners defeated a Woodruff backed bill which would have set aside money to purchase land for a shortcut from the major campgrounds to I-90.   I’m sure the meeting went something like this: “We don’t need no road that will only be used for two weeks out of the year. It will kill the vendors who depend on Main and Lazelle traffic for their business.”

The dust settles on "The Chip"

But as a business, the Sturgis town council and the Buffalo Chip should never be happy when people attend the rally, put down hard earned money for music concerts and have a bad experience for any reason.  It’s a simple situation.  How many times a year can someone afford to drop $300 for two people to go to a concert, drink a few beers, eat a Gyro and buy a t-shirt?  Not many.  So, they need to listen to the customer and make changes.   How about traffic police coordination? How about traffic alerts?  Or Twitter updates on the expected delays or reasons?  How about park and ride buses with express lanes?  Something.  Anything!

And while I’m on this rant… how about that lame video set up on the Chip stage?   Hey Ron, 1979 called and said they want their VCR camcorder back!  Are margins so tight that a short-term rental of a couple video JumboTrons for people to see the artists or the Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Contest be out of question?  Lastly, there use to be a TV segment on ABC called the “Fleecing of America”… I suggest a segment called the Sturgis “Fleecing of Every Motorcycle Music Fan?”  You see those stop signs that help create the grid-lock, become after the Chip concert, mixed with Monkey Rock and Full Throttle motorcyclists into a law enforcement sobriety stop as police officers stood in the street wafting for alcohol with their scientifically trained nose.  When they found an offence they processed tickets speedier and more efficient than the Hertz rental car return!

Were there irresponsible riders?  Oh yeah, and many of those who participated a bit more than others caught a free ride out of the traffic jam.  Yep, the Chip truly captures the essence of the motorcycle lifestyle, but it’s time for some changes.

Photo’s taken at the Buffalo Chip.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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