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Archive for September 8th, 2008

Miller Brewery

Miller Brewery

The main set of 105th Celebration events are over – now what?  First off a shout-out to Harley.  They know how to throw a party and no one serves as a better host than the people of Milwaukee.  To put on an event of the 105th  size, takes commitment, organization, time, resources and of course, a great product so thank you Harley-Davidson!

It’s Sunday, August 31st, our final day in Milwaukee and it left us thinking about what we neglected to do.  It seemed the only items we opted out of besides the parade was a cheese tour (I had cheese on the way out..) and donating to the Wisconsin Red Cross Blood Drive!  It’s unlikely they would want our blood.

Miller Operations

Miller Operations

Instead we set the day in motion by heading over to the Miller Brewery.  We heard about free samples and knew it was going to hit the mid-80’s again.  To say the Milwaukee weather cooperated for the 105th Anniversary celebration is an understatement.  It was down right awesome.  A bit warm and humid for those of us from the Northwest, but better than we could have hoped for.

Plank Road

Plank Road

We brought our love of beer and stopped at the Brewery tour! We watched the 10 minute video and walked up and down the 4 blocks of the tour.  By the time we hit the Brew Kettle’s I think the gal was just hoping we’d go directly to the R&R area.  It’s an interesting time in the brewery biz.  Anheuser-Busch recently merged with Belgian-Brazilian brewing company InBev for $46B…yes that’s BILLION.   And back in 2002 South Africa Breweries bought Miller Brewing Company and called it SABMiller.  Then in 2005 Coors merges with Molson and then this year SABMiller and Molson Coors entered into a joint venture to form MillerCoors. 

Miller Brewery Girls

Miller Brewery Girls

A long way from the days of when Frederick J. Miller brought his passion for beer to the U.S. and settled in Milwaukee in 1855 where he bought the Plank Road Brewery.

Like all the people we met in Milwaukee it was no exception to find interesting and nice folks at the brewery too.  We sat for a good while and enjoyed our refreshments then said good-bye to the Miller High Life!

On a whim we decided to try a Harley-Davidson Museum drive by.  None of us received tickets to the museum as part of the lottery system, but we thought at least we could hang out on the grounds or if lucky score an open back door. 

HD Museum

HD Museum

The museum is located near downtown and is set on 20 acres of land which is surrounded on three sides of the Menomonee River.  It looks like a part of town that is getting ready for urban expansion and HD will be one of the major tenants of the renovation.

We parked the bikes and did a little fact-finding only to be rewarded with tickets to enter the museum.  Scored!

The museum truly should be on any Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners list of things to see and absorb.  The museum’s steel and glass exterior has an urban elegance and almost seems out of place in this area of town. 

HD Wall of Tanks

HD Wall of Tanks

The exhibits are unique and the stories of those who lived the HD life are remarkable.  From the recreation of the 1920’s board track, to serial number one of the first HD built in 1903 to the “King of Rock”, Elvis Presley’s 1956 KH motorcycle to the extensive and rare collection of vintage advertising and riding gear to the replica of Easy Rider.  Something for everyone.  The “tank wall” is a photographers dream come true! 

All of this only a couple blocks away from the luxury boutique hotel aptly named the Iron Horse Hotel.

In my mind there are two kinds of people in this world:  Those who ride Harley-Davidsons and those who wish they did. That’s not a slam on other motorcycles just a viewpoint after meeting and talking to numerous people on our two-wheelin’ journey “home”.  

Jumped on a plane Monday morning, I take a moment to reflect.  The Ride Home and 2576 enjoyable miles later along with an awesome multi-day music celebration comes to a close…110th anyone?!

Interested to know more about our “Ride Home”?  Read the road blogs for: Day 1 HERE, Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE and Day 5 HERE.

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HD 105th Parade

HD 105th Parade

This is our 3rd day in Milwaukee and it has me in a bit of a head spin and this isn’t my first biker event!

There’s so much to see and do that even the best laid plans get changed or thrown away. To top it off, there are so many people and the venues are so crowded that you’ve got to be willing to take a step back and make alternative plans. Picture (right) is Vietnam Vet Ray Jordan of Salem, OR who decked his 2003 Road King with 105 American Flags for the 105th Anniversary.

We gave some thought to either riding in the Harley parade or sitting on the sideline doing a bit of people watching, but after hearing stories that it was going to take about 5 hours to do the 4 mile route we thought better of that idea.  With over 40,000 hotel rooms booked and 150,000 people in the area the last thing we wanted to do was “melt” in the 90 degree heat while trying to keep our bikes running so we opted out.  I found this cool parade slide show put on by MKEimages.  It was estimated that more than 7500 bikes participated in the parade. 

State Fair Park

State Fair Park

Instead we started the day in line at the State Fair Park waiting to ride the 2009 Harley demo motorcycles.  After looking at the SE “pumpkin orange” Glide the previous day I wanted to get some time in the seat to try it out.  I’m not a fairing guy, but have always been curious about that fixed fairing on the bike and I really wanted to feel the power of 110 cu in!

On our walk into the fairgrounds there was a gal putting a sticker on her bike which caught our attention.  It’s unusual to see people putting stickers on their bike fenders and this gal was dressed like few others. After some discussion about our ride out from OR and her interest in relocating to Seattle along with her “unique” profession at the Mad Planet…she gave us her card which provided a link to her website.  Miss Nix turns out to run a fetish fashion show for the dominatrix crowd which features bed of nails torture and whip cracking.  At 10AM and only one cup of coffee under the belt it was a bit much to absorb, but we tried…

At any rate, we made our way to the Rider check-in and it was easy enough.  The $5 shell card and discount coupon at any Harley dealer was a nice bonus.  It was rather odd that Harley forced the no helmet, no ride rule in a state that doesn’t require it, but we complied.  After check-in we waited in the touring line which took another 45min to finally get onto the bikes.  During the entire wait I was thinking this is taking forever for little 10 minute demo ride around the State Fair park, but it turns out the demo rides were 20-25 minutes long and included a combination of city and Interstate driving giving everyone a chance to try out the handling and performance of the motorcycles. 

2009 SE RoadGlide

2009 SE RoadGlide

Love it or hate it, the frame-mounted fairing is the center of what makes this touring model a pleasure to ride mile after mile. Unlike the popular batwing fairing found on the Street or Electra Glide models, the Road Glide’s fairing is attached to the bike’s frame rather than the front fork, much like the design found on many sport and racing motorcycles. It provides greater stability and less rider fatigue at highway speeds, especially in crosswind situations.

Roadhouse at the Lakefront

Roadhouse at the Lakefront

The route took me out S 76th Street then right on W. National Ave then after a couple miles I was routed onto I-894.  The demo ride team had the route well marked with orange arrows which was excellent since I’m not a Milwaukee native and the roads can be confusing.  After a couple of exits the tour route put me back onto city streets where I looped around to the Fair ground.  When entering the on ramp I throttled up in 2nd and 3rd gears and the bike quickly hit 80MPH in just a few seconds.  Fast!  There was little exhaust note from the stock pipes, but I could hear the intake groan for more air.  Very fast for a stock bike. 

I returned approx 25 minutes later to hear the Harley rep ask me if I had a problem with the bike.  I said no it’s a terrific bike, why?  He then went on a rant… “Dude, you’ve been gone over an hour…did you stop for gas?”  I had a stare down with the guy, but I was gone less than 25min and told him he wrote the departure time down incorrectly or something, but he was in error.  After a few tense moments he backed down especially after I told him the bike I left with came in at the same time in the standard time frame.  Other than the accusation it was an awesome demo ride and wanted to provide a shout-out to the Harley team for providing the motorcycles to ride.

Santiago, Eastwood, Mac

Santiago, Eastwood, Mac

We all departed the demo rides with smiles on our faces and headed off to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch and re-cap our riding experiences.  By mid-afternoon we were looking for some relief from the heat and humidity.  It was in the mid-90 degrees and we headed to a Harley dealer to pick up some refreshments. 

Around 6PM we headed downtown to Veterans Park and the Roadhouse at the Lakefront venue for the Bruce Springsteen concert.  The lawn seating opened at 5pm so we thought a couple hours prior to the concert and we’d have a good view.  We thought wrong!  By the time we hit Lincoln Memorial drive we knew there was going to be issues.  Super long lines of bikes park on all sides of the road including many who navigated the middle divide curb to park on the street. After a long while and several heat related stalls on the Road King we finally found a few bike slots to park.  We made the long walk back to the entrance and were shocked at the crowds who were all ready posted up waiting. 

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

We made our way into the middle and moved forward, but it looked like we were still 2-3 city blocks away from the stage.  Springsteen was ending his World Tour, but you would have never known it was the end.  He played more than 30 songs which lasted over 3.5 hours.  Incredible concert!  About mid-way through we move much closer to the stage and got a lot better view of the concert.  He didn’t play “Born in the U.S.A.” or his “Devils to Dust” anti-war ballad about Iraq.  However, he did make several comments about things that are basically at the heart of being un-American.

It was after 12:30AM and we headed out of the city via the East Side which looked like and had a feel of just arriving in a “hood”.  Arriving back at the hotel in the early morning it was clear that the 105th Anniversary celebration was an incredible success which was topped off by the Springsteen concert.

It was a breath of fresh air riding out to this event.  The celebration was awesome and was put on by a great company.  Most important was the great city and all the Milwaukeeans who welcomed us riders with open arms. 

Interested to know more about our “Ride Home”?  Read the road blogs for: Day 1 HERE, Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE and Day 5 HERE.

Flags on motorcycle photo courtesy of MKEimages.com and the 105th Anniversary parade.  The motorcycle belongs to Vietnam Vet Ray Jordan of Salem, OR who decked his 2003 Road King with 105 American Flags for the 105th Anniversary. 

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HD Big Twin Operations

HD Big Twin Operations

On our 2nd day in Milwaukee (Friday, Aug 29th) and the F-U-N continues in this largely two-wheelin’ town.

We headed out first thing to visit the Pilgrim Road Powertrain operations which is home of the “Big Twin“.  They produce the Touring, Softail and Dyna engines and transmissions for the final assembly plant in York, Pennsylvania and Kansas City, MO.  The plant sits on 63 acres and has 849,000 square feet.

At the entrance of the building they reminded all of us about the rules to make it a safe experience then over emphasized the NO CAMERA rule including cell phones.  I took that to mean it was a “guideline” and managed to wiggle through the line before a Harley security guard could perform a body search. 

Pilgrim Operations

Pilgrim Operations

We started the tour in reverse order of how the parts are cast and made.  The first area we walked through had a lot of new robotics and assembly area yet to be brought on line.  I repeatedly ask Harley employees during the plant tour about the status of water-cooled powertrains and when they are set to come off the line.  I was greeted with lots of smiles and laughs…but, one tactic which seemed to get a little more information was playing one employee off another…I told a employee, let’s call him Bob, that another employee, let’s call him Stu who we chatted with earlier in the tour,  requested that we ask Bob about the water cooled status. 

Clearly they had all been briefed about giving away company plans, but we did learn that water cooled powertrains is definitely in their thinking (with-in two years!) and that the engine heads were “most likely” to be the first part of the engine to get the water treatment.  Not so much because of heat, but because of EPA noise emission issues and meeting more stringent standards.  Overall the employees we chatted with were very friendly, seem to enjoy mixing it up with the public and they clearly had a sense of pride in what they were making.  I was most impressed with the employees and want to provide a shout out to the USW Local 2-209 and IAM Lodge 78.

After the factory tour we rode down to Summerfest on the Lakefront.  Billed as the “world’s largest music festival” it delivers an incredible live music experience.  There was talent on 11 different stages along with a broad range of food and interactive exhibits.  On the exhibit front I recall a lady presenting something about the need to stay physically fit for best motorcycle riding experience and shared techniques on how to keep your body more fit before, during and after riding.  Interesting bit about the “during” your ride and stretching. 

Knucklefest Bull Riding

Knucklefest Bull Riding

We stopped by the Harley tent and looked over the new ’09 rides.  The “Pumpkin” colored SE RoadGlide had a bunch of CVO brochures in the saddlebag so I scored one as the dealers rarely have or give these out.  After seeing the new bikes we decided it would be good to stop in at the demo area at the State Park/Fair before leaving Milwaukee.  By this time the temperature was in the high 80’s and we seemed to always be looking for a shaded location to enjoy some refreshments. 

We heard from some other riders talking about an event called Knucklefest and decided to take in some more local culture.  Located on the Kettle Moraine Ranch, the ranch lies in the heart of the Kettle Moraine National Forest and features some unique landscape. We rode scenic back roads that intertwine though charming small towns. 

Hals HD

Hals HD

If you head out on this ride you might consider stopping at the Knucklehead Pub & Grub which is located in Eagle on the corner of Hwy 59 and 67. 

We arrived at the site of Knucklefest and realize that it is one of the area’s best kept secrets.  We hung around for the mechanical bull and wet t-shirt contests then headed back toward Milwaukee.

We stopped at Hal’s HD to watch the “Burn Out” fun and then we called it a day after 10+ hours in the heat.
 

Interested to know more about our “Ride Home”?  Read the road blogs for: Day 1 HERE, Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE and Day 5 HERE.

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