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Archive for April, 2012

That would be the 30th Laughlin River Run.

The earliest inhabitants of this Colorado River Valley town were the Mojave people, but this past weekend the valley was full of Harley-Davidson riders with all the necessities (read $$ in wallets) to create a prosperous event.

With 2012 marking the 30th anniversary of the River Run there was plenty of denim and leather on display and Casino Drive even had a fresh layer of asphalt and stripping!  And not one, but two law firms specializing in motorcycle accident cases attended the event with vendor booths.

The official stats have not been released yet, but early indicators from the Laughlin Tourism Board indicate that there was a 40% jump in attendance at the annual motorcycle event and was expected to give the town a $40M boost to the local economy.  In fact, the River Run is the city’s single biggest revenue-generating event and accounts for approximately 10% of the revenue for many hotels, bars and restaurants.

Yep, law enforcement was out in force during the event and at times seemed to outnumber the motorcycle enthusiasts.  There was a stepped up “no colors” policy which was highly visible through-out the valley on electronic reader boards and on signage at the casinos.

I was a day-tripper this year and the weather couldn’t have been better with temperatures in the mid-80’s.  Besides communing with other bikers our group attended the annual “pimpin shrimp” and “pig-from-a-pit” BBQ in Needles where Dave and Manny impressed everyone with their cooking skills.

It was good people, cold refreshments and lots of fun!

Photos take by author.

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Death Valley

I can see it now…

A big room in the basement of a church.  Lots and lots of folding chairs.  Even more Styrofoam cups, the smell of badly burnt coffee in the air.  A platter of cookies that are hard as a bricks.  No one is making eye contact.  A lot of shifting feet and uncomfortable twitching of fingers that have nothing to do with themselves.  A big sign at the front of the room announcing to silence all mobile phones.

Then a person stands up:  “Hi.  My name is [fill in the blank], and I’m addicted to Facebook.”

Yeah, until last Saturday it’s been 187 days since the temperature hit 70 degrees with sunshine in Oregon!  As a result there’s been a lot of folks tethered to the “book” indoors and it’s time to ride.

This week is the Laughlin River Run (30th Anniversary) and nothing’s cooler than riding in some warm fresh desert air.

Clearly I’m due for some good weather riding and luckily I’ll get a chance to take advantage of nature’s air conditioning in Laughlin Nevada later in the week.  Due to work constraints I won’t be riding down and reporting on the trip like last year, instead I’ve had the bike shipped on a transport truck to Las Vegas and will be riding in and around the local area. We’ve got some L.A. buddies who have a place on the Colorado River outside Needles and can throw a sleeping bag unless we opt for plusher arrangements.

Every year it seems like the River Run attendance is getting smaller, but we’ll see if the 30th Anniversary brings an up-tick in people or if gas prices have riders staying closer to home.  They have Ted Nugent as a headliner which is a darn good start to any motorcycle event!

Hope to see you at the event.

Photo taken in Death Valley.

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'80's Vintage T-shirt Logo

As a motorcycle enthusiast you’ve likely changed or upgraded the mufflers on that stock Harley-Davidson.

Maybe even gone so far as to push it up a notch with a full exhaust upgrade, race tuner, cam and dyno tuning to live’n up the motor and eek out a few more ponies.  And wink, wink, nod, nod, I’m sure that EPA certified “cat” remained on the bike to reduce tailpipe emissions, right?

We all know that exhaust mods are a fine line in the environmental sand, yet most motorcycle enthusiasts if ask would state that they un-equivalently have a great appreciation for nature and their experiences with it on the open road.  Maybe even consider themselves “Green.”   I’m not talking about a raging tree-hugger environmentalist or “Hybrid Head” here, but someone who indeed cares about the environment and wants to do their stewardship part.  And by riding a fuel efficient motorcycle it qualifies to a degree to speak with some green conviction vs. the guzzler tax crowd. 

Could we do more?  Sure.  So, let’s talk about the environmental footprint of your favorite refreshment after a long day of riding the Harley-Davidson.

Whether it’s a beverage served on the rocks in a comfy biker bar or at home in a frosted mug or sipped from a flask with riding buddies around a campfire.  The production of whiskey and other spirits requires much more energy than wine or beer. In addition, the distilling process also makes a lot of waste.

If you recall in college 101 we learned that “liquor is quicker” than wine or beer. But producing it uses more energy, ounce for ounce, and nearly all the water that goes into the still emerges as waste.   So, if you’re fully committed to making a difference on this planet or maybe you’re just feeling guilty about that exhaust modification and want to know how the various spirits stack up so that you can do something about it.  Here is the invaluable information:

Whiskey: Single malt Scotch is made from only one grain source, while most American whiskeys are made from mixtures of rye, corn, wheat, or barley. So what’s the greenest? Most single malts are produced by boutique outfits using old-fashioned energy-hogging pot stills, as opposed to the more efficient column-style stills employed by major distillers. And while American bourbons are aged in virgin-oak barrels that are used only once, most of those barrels end up being reused by other liquor makers. Green Suggestion: Maker’s Mark.  The bourbon maker buys local grain and turns its waste into energy. Most of the company’s land is a nature preserve.

Vodka and Gin: Although some vodkas are still made from potatoes, most now come from a mix of grains. Ditto for gin. In terms of distillation, vodka requires more energy and water than most spirits. That’s because it’s distilled down to 95 percent ethanol—some ethanol plants even make vodka on the side—then diluted back to 40 percent. Gins are often made the same way. Green Suggestion: Square One vodka, which is organic and purchases one-quarter of its electricity from a local wind farm through renewable energy credits. TRU2 gin uses lightweight bottles and recyclable corks, and plants a tree for each bottle it sells.

Rum: The mojito enabler is made from molasses or cane juice, and its fibrous leftovers can throw off the microorganism balance in waterways. In 2001, the EPA sued Bacardi for illegally dumping 3,000 gallons of this goop into a river near its Puerto Rico plant. (Many major distillers now treat their water.) Sugarcane is also a notoriously destructive crop, producing massive amounts of wastewater and greenhouse gases. Green Suggestion: Don Qrum. The Puerto Rico-based distiller turns its waste into compost and irrigation water, and uses excess steam from its treatment plant to help power the still.

Tequila: Tequila’s waste problem is as bad as rum’s. For every liter of tequila, you get about 11 pounds of pulp and 10 liters of vinazas, or acidic waste—which ends up befouling soil and water in Mexico’s Jalisco state, where most tequila comes from. Blue agave farmers, meanwhile, have used more and more pesticides since their crops were chewed up by insects during the 1990’s.  Green Suggestion: Casa Noble or 4 Copas, the first tequilas to be certified organic.

Beer: In 2008, New Belgium Brewing Company commissioned an environmental analysis (PDF) of its Fat Tire Amber Ale and found that refrigeration accounted for almost one-third of its overall greenhouse-gas emissions. Glass production was second, contributing 22 percent. Though aluminum production is an environmental disaster, cans beat bottles handily on the carbon front: Pablo Päster, a blogger and sustainability consultant, calculates that shipping cans rather than bottles results in 30 percent fewer emissions. And cans are recycled at significantly higher rates. Good news for your inner frat boy: Kegs are the most efficient vessels of all.  Green Suggestion: New Belgium. The Colorado-based company brews in superefficient kettles and is entirely powered by renewables.

Of course none of this is relevant unless taking into account greenhouse gas emissions and the water footprint to manufacture the product. So, to be fair it takes about 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer and as much as 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda.

There you have it.  A green guide to refreshments for your next motorcycle road trip.

Photo courtesy of eBay, H-D and Jack Daniels (’80’s vintage t-shirt).  Full Disclosure:  Author has no affiliation with any of the above listed spirits manufactures.   Don’t drink and ride.

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Harley-Davidson's new factory in York, Pa.

A new Harley-Davidson motorcycle rolls off the assembly line in York, PA.

You might recall that one of the first moving assembly lines was at Ford Motor Company in 1913.  Until this time automobiles were built one at a time and were quite expensive.  With the Model T, they began experimenting with different production techniques and the conveyor belt system was born.  At its peak a finish Model T came off the assembly line every 10 seconds.

Workers could not stop the line even if parts were wrong.  Workers were not allowed to think on the job.  They were allowed to only do their assigned task and do them ever quicker.  They required almost no skill to perform and were highly repetitive.  Many workers were unfulfilled and became bored and dissatisfied with their jobs.  As a result, absenteeism rose and employee turnover became high.

Fast forward 100+ years and everything has changed, right?.

The “New Factory York” is Harley-Davidson’s largest motorcycle factory.  Once there were 41 buildings on the huge 232 acre plot, but most have been demolished along with 2300 jobs.  The entire manufacturing facility is now housed in one building.  It’s a model of efficiency which H-D plans to “copy-exact” in Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk.  The process is centered on advanced manufacturing techniques that are used at Toyota and Caterpillar that are well known for their quality and efficiencies.

The Milwaukee changes are a com’in… because effective this month adjusted labor contracts went into effect giving the company more flexibility with the workforce.  Similar to the York plant there can be the use of seasonal employees who are not entitled to medical or retirement benefits and receive less pay for the same work done by regular employees.  While still unionized they are paid about $16.80 to $26 per hour versus $30.50 to $38 per hour for regular employees.

But, just like in 1913 not all the workers seem to be infatuated with the changes.  There is a great article written by Rick Barrett at the Journal Sentinel which captures the mixed opinions and whether the transformation has resulted in a better workplace.   We all know that change is messy, but some of the comments had me wondering if some in the workforce would prefer a return to the Model T era.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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Beating a dead horse…  we get to read about another ignorant Oregon motorcycle rider and the foolishness.

In Roseburg on Saturday at approximately 10:55 a.m. OSP Senior Trooper Mark Moore saw a motorcycle with two occupants northbound on Interstate 5 near milepost 120 and noted its speed at 83 mph in a 65 mph speed zone. As Moore was overtaking the motorcycle to initiate a traffic stop, it sped northbound attempting to elude at speeds estimated over 100 mph.

As Moore was trying to keep the motorcycle in sight, it got off at Exit 127 in north Roseburg and became stuck behind traffic on Edenbower Boulevard. Moore caught up to the motorcycle stopped at a red light, noted the license plate and saw the operator of the motorcycle had a female passenger. When the operator saw OSP behind him he sped northbound in heavy traffic on Highway 99 towards Sutherlin passing vehicles in the oncoming lanes traveling at over 100 MPH. OSP terminated its attempt to stop the motorcycle.

At 3:20 p.m. OSP troopers went to the registered owner’s residence and contacted ALEN PATRICK BROCK, age 21. Following an interview with BROCK, he was arrested and taken to the Douglas County Jail where he was lodged for Felony Eluding Police in a Motor Vehicle, Reckless Driving, and Recklessly Endangering a Minor. He was also cited for Violation of the Basic Rule to wit: 107 mph in a 55 mph speed zone.

Troopers also contacted and identified the 14-year old female passenger. After she was interviewed by OSP she was released to her parents from the suspect’s residence.

To Mr. Brock, really, REALLY?!  Thank you for helping label motorcycle riders as misguided and stupid.  Does it feel good to contribute to the increasing insurance rates and providing ammunition for the anti-motorcyclists?

Photo courtesy of C. Road and dennisselisseth.blogspot.com

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I was in L.A. last week driving down part of Route 66 towards the Santa Monica pier and through Beverly Hills enjoying the nice California  weather.

There were more yet-to-be licensed Benzes, Ferraris and Porsches over a three-mile stretch than I’ve seen in the past year.  And here I was in an ultra-cool Nissan Cube rental, arm out the window and for a few blocks co-mingling with the rich and famous.

Speaking of… did you read that the Harley-Davidson president and CEO, Keith Wandell, opted not to have his base salary increased in 2011, according to a proxy statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

On the surface this – “we’re all in it together” – grand gesture would make a person believe that a CEO who accepts a ZERO increase in salary is saying they’re a team player who wants to make a sacrifice for the good of the company.  After all wasn’t it Harley-Davidson management that laid-off hundreds of workers, closed plants and obtained impressive union concessions in a new multi-tiered workforce structure for the survival of the company?

Call me cynical, but when I hear about these it seems more like “camouflage” to deflect scrutiny off the extraordinary set of CEO benefits or at minimum to get publicity and produce significant positive short-term market reaction.

In fact, there are a number of reports which suggest these type of salary tactics are nothing but a ruse or smokescreen as a number of CEOs have adopted these pay schemes.  It’s the kind of opportunistic behavior from those wealthier, more confident, influential CEO’s rather than sacrificial acts they are ‘projected’ out to be.

I certainly don’t know if or what Mr. Wandell’s intent was, but we do know his total compensation in 2011 rose nearly 13% to about $7.2 million, compared with $6.4 million in 2010.  We also know the motor company paid Mr. Wandell a bonus of $365,639 in 2011.  He also received a base salary of $975,037 in 2011, equal to his salary in 2010.

And to be clear this post isn’t about wealth envy or whining about how it must be nice to be rich.  We all know that rich people and bankers are beating the system.  They’re writing off multi-thousand dollar meals with rare wines at places with unlisted phone numbers that you/I can’t get into.  Unless you just woke up in North Korea, then you know that in America, if you don’t like what you earn, where you work or what you do for a living then you’re entitled to leave (quit) and go start a company, further your education or do whatever the hell you want.  It’s clear that company’s exist to make a profit for their shareholders and if the shareholders don’t like what the CEO is doing, or earning then they can fire the board of directors to include the CEO.

But wait there’s even more.  Mr. Wandell received total cash bonus payments, both discretionary and performance-based, totaling more than $2.8 million in 2011, compared with cash bonus payments of about $2.3 million in 2010.  His stock awards were valued at $1.5 million, compared with $1.4 million in 2010, while his option awards were valued at $1.7 million, compared with $1.6 million the previous year.  He also received “other” compensation totaling about $175,000 in 2011, compared with about $84,000 in 2010. The payments included $29,600 in lieu of receiving certain perquisites and personal benefits, nonqualified deferred compensation plan contributions of $68,466, 401(k) plan contributions of $31,850, and life insurance premiums of $13,727. He also received additional benefits that totaled $25,478 consisting of financial planning services, personal use of company aircraft and clothing.

What’s the punch line?

Well given that Mr. Wandell has made things happen, meaning that as “Head Honcho” he made moves that H-D insiders historically shied away from.  He played hardball with dealers, shed crappy brands, cut labor contracts, made major job cuts and closed plants. Some folks were let go just prior to Christmas, but unfazed he continued to trim the fat and raised cash by selling some old investments, like Harley’s semi-secret test track in the Everglades.  He also challenged Harley’s own traditional norms by altering its marketing strategy to attract non-traditional segments, like women and minorities.  He also embarked on an international growth strategy that will eventually bring the all the products, the parts, the lifestyle, and the American V-Twin to enthusiasts worldwide.  The financial numbers speak for themselves.

All this from a guy who came to the Motor Company and did not even ride any kind of motorcycle!  He’s earned a raise.  How hard is it to understand… Harley success = Industry success.

Photo taken by author’s iPhone and post-processed in Snapseed (Nik Software).

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