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Archive for January, 2012

Northwest Riding Season's

As I sit down and write this post, it is 45 degrees with rain and wind.  I spent the last week at NAMM in Anaheim, CA where it was sunny.  Today is one of those gray winter days that make me wonder what I’m doing here.

Then I remember driving in L.A. traffic during rush hour and thinking this is nuts. Or rolling through Furnace Creek on Hwy 190 last April watching it approach 90 degrees and thinking that’s nuts.  Or even a couple summers ago rolling across Alberta where it was super flat and you’d ride 20+ miles between curves in the road.  That’s when I remember why I’m here…

The northwest has some of the best riding roads in the country and we actually have seasons.

And speaking of seasons, it’s earning’s ‘season’ and Harley-Davidson announced a profit versus a year ago loss.  Harley’s sales of motorcycle and related products grew 13% in 2011 and the recent quarter marked its third-straight increase in U.S. sales.  The result is remarkable given that most financial analysts see a continuing “trough” in the U.S. economy, which is beset by a weak recovery and a jobless rate that is likely to remain in the 8% range for 2012.

Harley’s motorcycle and related product revenue rose 12% to $1.03B.  Retail sales of new motorcycles grew 11% worldwide and included a 12% increase in the U.S.  International sales rose 9.7% and included a 5.8% increase in Europe, even though consumer confidence has been shaken by the current economic crisis.  The motor company shipped 50,730 motorcycles to dealers and distributors during the quarter, compared with 44,481 in the same quarter last year. For the full year, shipments rose 11% to 233,117 bikes.  Even Harley’s financial services division got a boost from improved credit conditions. New motorcycle loans jumped 14% to $349.5 million and represented about half of the company’s retail sales.

Keith Wandell (H-D CEO and President) credited the Q4 sales jump to improved consumer confidence in the U.S., along with key growth investments overseas.  However, in Europe, the Euro-zone is facing its own, even larger, economic crisis and Mr. Wandell reminded the  analysts with, “We will continue to keep a close watch on the marketplace and remain cautious in our expectations of retail given the degree of continued economic uncertainty including regions like the Euro zone.”

For all of 2011, Harley reported net income of $599.1 million, or $2.33 per share, up from $146.5 million, or $1.11 per share, in 2010.  Motorcycle and related product revenue increased to $4.66B from $4.18B.

Photo taken by author.

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Two bills (House Bill 3261 and Senate Bill 968), supported mainly by the entertainment industry, aimed at stopping illegal downloading and streaming of movies and TV shows.

On the surface sounds reasonable.  Protects U.S. jobs.

However, the legislation is called the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and could put motorcycle bloggers in legal jeopardy if we linked to a site anywhere online that had any links to copyright infringement.  The legislation would let federal authorities shut down portions of the Internet without due process, and fundamentally alter the Internet’s ability to provide a platform for free speech.  As a result there have been various forms of “blackouts” on Facebook, Google and many others sites in protest.

The legislation that the U.S. Senate is considering could trample us.  There is more to these new ‘piracy’ prevention bills than what meets the eye in my opinion.  It’s more like prevention of free internet, monitoring the masses by law enforcement and censorship masquerading as ‘piracy’ prevention.

Everyone knows that these media companies employ the Web to build buzz.  And when it scales out they benefit from hits.  If you want to enter the future you don’t put on the brakes, you press down on the accelerator.   In addition, these days it’s all about smart phones, with Net access.  But in some misguided attempt to turn the U.S. into China, the government—a land where Congressmen are beholden to monied interests, swaying whichever way the Benjamin’s are blowing, and have better health care insurance than most Americans—wants censorship?!

Hollywood is out of visionaries. The studios have been taken over by lawyers—even in the creative areas. Most new innovation has moved from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.  And to further prove that point…it must be serious because for the first time in almost 3 years even…Mark Zuckerberg…tweeted about it!

Giving someone in government the power to take down websites without any due process is bad legislation, period.

A list of websites participating in the protest is available HERE.

UPDATE: January 22, 2012 – In case you missed it….Congressmen are woefully uninformed and most susceptible to both money and the people.  The day after I posted this article SOPA/PIPA support significantly dropped not because of my post, but because of Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia etc. going “black.”  A visual image of the congressional change in support of SOPA is HERE.  The content industries want, guilty until proven innocent or to raise the cost of copyright compliance to the point where people simply get out of the business of offering it as a capability to amateurs.

Photo courtesy of a free internet/web…

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Did you notice that over the holiday’s it was everything Joanne Stefani Germanotta (i.e. Lady GaGa)?

Lady GaGa cemented her mainstream outreach which began with “A GaGa Thanksgiving,” then proceeded with “A Very GaGa Holiday” album and concluded with the “GaGa Workshop”, the singers interpretation of “Santa’s Shop” at Barney’s in NYC.  And don’t forget all the Lady GaGa-themed gifts from flame pressed-on-nails, spike moto gloves and even an eatable facial likeness cookie!   Talk about gagging!

Lady GaGa is the 1%.

I don’t mean that she’s to be hated like those over paid, real estate wrecking wall street bankers, or that she has no talent, only that she won, she’s ubiquitous, she’s rich!

You see society demands a certain amount of commonality, things we all know about and comment upon.  This accounts for the growth in reality TV and awards shows.  We all watch the Super Bowl, so we can comment on it the following day.

And speaking of football, doesn’t it seem like the song remains the same… but, the teams come and go?  I’m referring to Madonna who is set to headline Super Bowl halftime show.  Announcement HERE.  The league calls the show “the most-watched musical event of the year,” with more than 162 million people tuning in last year in the U.S. alone.

Huh?  MTV doesn’t even call itself “Music Television” anymore. What happened to my country when football became the jumping off point to showcase the sad state of affairs of the music business?  Madonna is aging so fast you can see the sell-by date.  I suggest they should broadcast the performance in 3D so when people get dizzy watching the “cones”, the league will have a wardrobe scapegoat.  It was the glasses…yeah, that’s it… the weak battery in the 3D glasses warped the faux glitz and glamour she provided on stage.

Did someone in the NFL front office make a mistake?  Was there old farts running focus groups to provide homogenized entertainment to people who don’t really exist and they booked Madonna thinking it was really Lady Gaga?!  The NFL enlisting Madonna who is doing her best to look younger than the players is laughable.  The nipped and tucked Madonna is a contemporary of the players mothers. Hip-hop runs the NFL. Just check the iPods they listen to to get psyched up before the game.

I’m part of the 99%.  And we used to be awed at the show, we used to need to tell everybody about the music. If we speak about Madonna by the water cooler the day after the Super Bowl it’ll be because of a wardrobe malfunction, or something she says. Her music, unlike the game, is dead.

Photo courtesy of Madonna.

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It’s unlikely that you are aware of this, but prior to the New Years holiday I sent a friendly email to Harley-Davidson’s CEO, Keith Wandell and challenged him to a little competition.

We know that Mr. Wandell likes to golf, but it wasn’t like that “caddy” and “wager” from the scene in Caddyshack… “Five bucks says the kid picks his nose…” nor was it like The Office episode where everyone at the Scranton branch were making bets, one of which was to switch Creed’s apple for a potato and see if he would know the difference.  While that’d be funny I’m sure that Mark-Hans Richer would quickly notice.

Truth be told I suggested a friendly wager for Monday’s Rose Bowl between the Oregon Ducks and Wisconsin Badgers.

In the personal message I stated that if the Badgers lose Mr. Wandell would pull together a care package of Leinenkugel’s beer, Wisconsin cheese, and a package of Andes mints.  Maybe even throw in a discount coupon for some Harley chrome with a personalized note.  Should the Ducks lose, I would send him an Oregon nut— I know what you’re thinking— Hazelnuts and a dead fish (smoked king salmon) to his office in Wisconsin.  I was also willing to throw in a promise of writing only “you done good” blogs about the motor company for a full month.

Must I remind that the Ducks won the game?!

You might want to re-check your email SPAM folder and unblock Northwest Harley Blog email.  I’m sure I sent it.  You know where to get in touch, Keith.  Here’s a cheer in advance of receiving the Leinenkugel refreshments!

Photo created by author at Opuscreative.com

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Jesse Mead, son of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Korey Mead

Few of us can relate and what we don’t realize is that they are right here among us!

I’m talking about families who carry a burden deep inside of lost loved ones and service members who have made a lot of sacrifices while a public is at peace.  Like many of you, I’ve been distracted by the sputtering economy and living life or by the talking heads incessantly doling out two-bit analysis of the political environment.

Is it enough to just say thank you and welcome home to the vets?

You may not know, but Harley-Davidson has been on the front line – right next to the troops – from the factory workers in Milwaukee, who made specialized military bikes, to the soldiers who used them beginning in 1916 throughout WWII.  From 2007-2009 H-D donated more than $1M to the Disabled American Veterans and Mobile Service Office program. Over the years, H-D has supported the Traveling Vietnam Wall, Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, National Veterans Wheelchair Games and more.

Clearly H-D isn’t the only company supporting troops, and they all deserve a shout-out, but it’s disappointing to see a lack luster appreciation for veteran’s returning home at a national level.  Oh sure, there are local gatherings and the occasional public display of gratitude.  And the media will do the occasional story about the lines of people greeting the troops in some cities which is encouraging.

But, “Portlandia” is luke warm.  It seems we’re too busy writing articles and creating media buzz about the new Oregon Ducks uniform or commenting about the Newberg company, Hydro Graphics, that painted the helmets for the Rose Bowl.  Even as a football fan, there is some absurdity in all these Nike funded uniforms…

Is it me or does anyone else see a disconnect for veterans receiving a national welcome home fitting for the sacrifices they made for this country?

Sunset in Kandahar

According to a CNN/ORC International poll released late last year, most Americans agreed with the decision to end the war in Iraq.  Almost eight in ten said they support removal of combat troops from that country.  However, half the nation believes the Iraq war had a negative effect on life here in the U.S. and seven out of 10 say the money spent on the war is one reason for the economic problems facing the country today.  And although 96% are proud of U.S. troops who served in Iraq, just one in three consider the war a victory and more than half call it a stalemate

The fact is there are an estimated 2.6 million living veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and 23 million total veterans dating back to World War II, according to the GAO.  And the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan coming home who may need additional support grows daily.  While we all can express our admiration for veterans, most of us do not fully understand the problems faced by service members or their families when they return.

As a start I propose the creation of a “Welcome Home Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Day.”  A national day of recognition that the people of the U.S. could pay the respect due them.  Until that day comes, I suggest taking time out from our busy lives to give thanks for the sacrifices of those service members who we don’t know.  A small display of kindness and admiration can mean so much to those who expect so little.

I haven’t met my expectations lately in recognizing the sacrifices and wanted to change that today by simply saying… you are appreciated and WELCOME HOME!

Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzwort.  The photo is of Jesse Mead, son of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Korey Mead during the 25th Infantry Division HQ redeployment ceremony at Wheeler Army Airfield in Wahiawa, HI on December 18, 2011.  The 25th ID HQ was the last division HQ under U.S. forces to leave Iraq.  Sunset photo courtesy (U.S. Army, Sgt. Ruth Pagan, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., PAO)

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Harley-Davidson has always held a certain fascination for the monied elite, from Wall Street bankers to Middle Eastern oil sheiks.  They all ride on the essence of the freedom brand.  Since the motor company jettisoned more employees over the holidays it’s now dabbling in a bit of capital resource-allocation and looking for Hollywood’s crucial role in revitalizing the companies pop culture standing. 

We live in a world of brands.  Think Zoo York t-shirts, or Jukijama sneakers.  It’s a thirst for fame. 

Savvy celebs are trying to fuse entertainment and social networking, closing the gap between performer and fan. Even hip-hop “musician’s” using their often limited musical footprint to expand into merch have far exceeded t-shirts and turned to alcohol concoctions to sell “cool”.  So, can we really blame Harley-Davison for flexing their marketing muscle and trying to close the gap with youth in order to survive?

The key is authenticity. 

Harley-Davidson has to choose associations that are credible and organic if they wish to succeed.  Why?  Because the essence of Harley-Davidson is freedom—outfitting confident individuals to assert their true independence.  All their products under the brand reflect this rock-solid individuality.  It’s like an Armani suit.  Sure, you could say it’s part of your wardrobe, but it’s more than just a business suit.  It’s a state of mind. 

In the latest example of cementing their mainstream outreach Harley-Davidson has joined up with Marvel on the official 2012 The Avengers movie promotion.  You can watch the official Avengers movie trailer (HERE).  Little information is available on exactly what the promotion is, but here is a sign-up page (HERE) to enter information and become one of the first fans to know about the promotion.

If you’re thinking this is déjà vu all over again.  You’re right!  Marvel previously partnered with Harley-Davidson on Captain America: The First Avenger movie.  Captain America rode a Harley-Davidson replica of the “Liberator”, a classic H-D motorcycle that was used by U.S. Service Men and Women during World War II.   For the Captain America promotion, Harley-Davidson launched an interactive site and ran a sweepstakes with a customized H-D motorcycle as one of the prizes. They even made Captain America posters available at dealers, and auctioned off a bike signed by the Hollywood elite in the movie to benefit Disabled American Veterans.

For The Avengers, maybe they’ll be riding a new CVO Road Glide?!  The teaser states “You could be immortalized in Harley-Davidson and Marvel’s, The Avengers history.”  Are we talking about funeral’s and a headstone?!

If so, maybe we need to lean into those $10,000 imported padded shoulders of that Armani suit because just like The Avenger it serves as a defensive role and deflects nearly all ill-infused assaults from all manner of scumbags, hangers on, wannabees and true movie biz powerhouses.

Photos courtesy of Marvel and H-D.

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Happy New Years!

Now that the champagne toasts are made and the ball dropped, it’s time to start thinking ahead:  What’s your riding resolution for this year?  Will you ride your motorcycle more often to work?  Take that epic journey or stay close to home?  Will you buy a new ride or enhance the existing one?

Before going forward let’s take a quick look back.

Over the years I’ve posted the occasional summary of the more popular and least liked stories from the past 12 months.  It’s not my “helper-monkey”, but the good folks at WordPress.com state their rankings algorithm is based on how many people read a particular article.  The average is the sum of views divided by the number of days and its gets even more complex if you are the sort of person who likes to verify computations.  I don’t.

The final tallies can be a little mystifying, to be honest.

Are readers giving a “thumbs-up” because they liked the content of the article or just the topic itself?  I don’t find these summaries a really useful exercise because some of the better written articles (IMHO) will sometimes have the fewest views.  It’s the old adage that writing about or reposting the nip slips, exposed undies and ever-presence dysfunction from the celebrity train wrecks for the whole world to see will bring a whole lot more views if that’s your goal.  But, if nothing else, the summary does provide a snapshot of what struck in my readers’ collective fancy during the past year.

In 2011, I posted 88 new articles (about 7 per month).  That brought the total archive on this blog up to just over 800 posts.  I uploaded 165 pictures (or about 3 per week).  The busiest day was September 25th (during the Vagos and HAMC shooting in Reno) with 1,120 views on an article I posted in 2008 (HERE).  Clearly the social behavior and the attraction of the events in Reno was a big draw, but I’m mystified why the more current article (HERE) had fewer views?  Maybe it’s a SEO thing.  I also want to provide a shout-out to the large number of UK viewers who consistently visit the blog.

Here are the 2011 most viewed highlights:

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs Flying Colors in Oregon
OCC Family Feud Ends
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs Are New Media Darlings
Vagos MC Meeting In Grants Pass
Harley SAMCRO Limited Edition Motorcycle
Harley-Davidson’s SwitchBack
Vintage Motorcycles – Honda CB750
Harley Engine History
“Green Nation” Busts On Saint Patrick’s Day
No Angel
The Day Laughlin River Run Changed
Men Of Mayhem
A “Legend Bell” Full of Mystery
Harley Snubbed In Benjamin Button Movie
Operation Black Rain Nets Oregon Mongols

I enjoyed this past year—and I hope you have, too.  If I’ve done my “job” right as editor of this blog, then your visits will have helped make your motorcycle hobby a bit more meaningful.  Hopefully you’ve become closer to your motorcycle and grown your relationship with friends that you’ve met on the road.

Happy 2012!

Photo’s courtesy of WordPress.com and Northwest Harley Blog.

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