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Recently it was reported that the typical CEO at the biggest U.S. companies received an 8.5 percent raise last year, taking in $11.5 million in salary, stock and other compensation, according to a study by executive data firm Equilar for the Associated Press.

Over the last 5-years, median CEO pay has jumped by 19.6 percent not accounting for inflation.  That’s nearly double the 10.9 percent rise in the typical weekly paycheck for full-time employment across the country.

It could be, but this isn’t a rant about the typical line worker vs. CEO wage-gap.

If we’re being intellectually honest, CEOs today are required to master a broader range of skills than in the past, when top executives might have climbed the ranks with just one discipline. Companies are bigger, more global and increasingly complicated, and there’s accelerating competition in countries such as China, India and Brazil. Executives must also adapt to quicker technological change, including shifts brought on by autonomous driving, electric vehicles and the widening use of mobile devices.  And then there is the Board, and the increasing requirement that CEOs push their stock price ever higher to collect their maximum possible payout.

So, who are those CEOs at Harley-Davidson, that made Harley-Davidson?  Below is a historical snapshot of the motor company leadership:

Matthew S. Levatich

Matthew S. Levatich — is the current Harley-Davidson President/CEO which he assumed in 2015.  Mr. Levatich was named COO during CEO Keith Wandell’s tenure.

Mr. Levatich, joined Harley-Davidson in 1994. Prior to becoming COO in May 2009, he held wide-ranging roles in the U.S. and Europe. Those roles included Vice President and General Manager of Harley-Davidson’s Parts and Accessories business, Vice President of Materials Management, and President and Managing Director of the Company’s former MV Agusta business. In addition to an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Levatich holds a graduate degree in engineering management and an MBA from Northwestern University. He has served on the board of directors of Emerson, a St. Louis-based global manufacturing and technology company, since 2012.

Mr. Levatich is known as an avid rider and an engineer, that demonstrates a clear vision for the company and talks constantly about focus and alignment and helping the organization remain clear on what it is they’re here to do.  No longer is the motor company the “voice of the executive” rather it’s the “voice of the customer.

Interestingly, Harley-Davidson has evolved from platform teams. Dyna platform, Softail platform, which was largely modeled like the automotive industry. Each platform team was competing for the next big capital investment so they could say now it’s Dyna’s turn to have a major refresh. Or now it’s Softail’s turn. Or now it’s Touring’s turn.  And that doesn’t exist anymore.

In an interview with Cycle World Mr. Levatich stated: “We’re not really in the business of manufacturing motorcycles. We’re in the business of building customers.”  

Keith Wandell

Keith Wandell —  hired from Johnson Controls to serve as Harley-Davidson President/CEO in 2009 — retired May 1, 2015 — only 6-years later.

Credited for leading Harley-Davidson back to profitability by cutting jobs and making its production more efficient he transformed manufacturing through a restructuring plan that generated more than $300 million in annual savings.

Mr. Wandell cut millions of dollars in costs and eliminated several thousand jobs in the manufacturing plants. He brought a sense of urgency to the company, saying he did not want it to be like General Motors and the auto industry that had fallen into deep trouble.

Under his leadership, Harley made significant gains in reaching new customers through growth in international markets and sales to “outreach” segments in the U.S., including young adults, women, African-Americans and Hispanics.  Mr. Wandell also was credited with stoking excitement for a planned electric bike, called Project LiveWire.

Mr. Wandell has been the Non-Executive Chairman of Dana Incorporated since October 27, 2016 and served as its Interim Chairman from September 9, 2016 to October 27, 2016.

James Ziemer

James Ziemer — served as President/CEO from 2005-2009.  Retired in 2009.  Mr. Ziemer is a native Milwaukeean who grew up in the neighborhood next to Harley-Davidson’s original Milwaukee factory location on the city’s west side.

He started with the motor company in 1969 as a freight elevator operator while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He worked at Harley-Davidson for 40 years.  Upon earning his undergraduate degree in accounting at UWM, he joined the accounting department where he spent the majority of his career. He was named the Company’s Chief Financial Officer in 1990. In 2005, he was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson.  When he retired, employees presented Mr. Ziemer with the original wood doors from the freight elevator he operated when he first was hired at Harley-Davidson.

As a sidebar, also in 2009, eleven years after being bought by Harley-Davidson, Erik Buell leaves the company to establish Erik Buell Racing.

Jeffrey L. Bleustein

Jeffrey L. Bleustein — retired as Chairman of the Board of Harley-Davidson in April 2009.  He was Chairman from December 1998 to April 25, 2009.  Previously, he served as CEO from June 1997 to April 2005.

He served at Brunswick Corp in many capacities and was President of Trihawk, Inc., a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, 1984 to 1985. Remember Trihawks?

Mr. Bleustein was a technology consultant with American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF).  In 1969, AMF merged with Harley-Davidson and in 1975, AMF assigned him to help reorganize Harley-Davidson engineering operations.  Led by AMA Hall of Famer Vaughn Beals Jr., and 11 other Harley-Davidson executives (including Willie G. Davidson), Bleustein helped execute an $81.5 million leveraged buyout of the company from AMF on June 16, 1981.

To commemorate the buy-back, approximately two dozen company officers, along with their wives and select motorcycle press, made a cross-country motorcycle trek from the production facilities in York, PA to Harley-Davidson’s main offices on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. This 900-mile independence journey was also a ride to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association, now the official charity of Harley Owners Group (HOG). The ride followed a host of ceremonies at York which included the signing of documents that marked the ownership change, and pulling the first “new Harley-Davidson” motorcycle off the assembly line. This 4-day celebration began a new chapter in the company’s “new” future.

Mr. Bleustein was responsible for notable engineering innovations which included the rubber engine mounts, redesign of the V-Twin and introduction of the Kevlar drive belts.

During Mr. Bleustein’s tenure (circa: 1998), Harley-Davidson bought Buell Motorcycle Company and named founder Eric Buell Chairman of Buell Operations. The first Buell’s hit showrooms in late 1999.

Rich Teerlink

Rich Teerlink  — served as Chairman and CEO until 1999 at Harley-Davidson until he retired.  Mr. Teerlink joined Harley-Davidson in August 1981 as CFO where he enjoyed great success over his 18-year career.  He started with the company just two months after the group of 13 Harley-Davidson managers had bought the company from its then parent company, American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF), in a leveraged buyout.

Mr. Teerlink’s greatest accomplishment was establishing the Harley Owners Group (HOG) in 1983.  Mr. Teerlink joined the Vertex Board in 2002, and while serving on the Vertex Board, he also served on the Boards of Johnson Controls, Snap-on Tools and Quad Graphics.

Mr. Teerlink is also a notable author of More Than a Motorcycle, The Leadership Journey at Harley Davidson book.  Mr. Teerlink retired from the Vertex Board of Directors, effective February 4, 2015.

Mr. Teerlink was inducted to the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in 2015.  Mr. Teerlink was awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws from Marquette University on May 22, 2005.

Vaughn L. Beals Jr.

Vaughn L. Beals Jr. — served as CEO of Harley-Davidson from 1981-1989 and as Chairman from 1981-1996.

In June 1981, it was a challenging time as American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF) wanted to cut and run, but no one wanted to buy a company with a limited line of high-priced, obsolete products and a reputation for unreliability.  Vaughn Beals Jr., and 13-other** Harley-Davidson executives (including Willie G. Davidson), led an $81.5 million leveraged buyout of the company from American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF).

Mr. Beals previously served as a research engineer for North American Aviation and Cummins Engine Company where he negotiated the purchase of logging equipment manufacturer Formac International as he was a minority owner and CEO.  This proved to be valuable during the AMF Harley-Davidson buyout.  He was named Harley-Davidson CEO after the buy-out option.

In 1982, the motor company won an anti-dumping judgment from the International Trade Commission (ITC). This led then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan to impose additional tariffs on imported heavyweight Japanese models, as allowed by the ITC.  The additional tariffs–45 percent on top of an existing 4.4 percent measure–were meant to decrease gradually over five years, until April 1988.

In June 1986, Harley-Davidson went public with a stock offering to raise capital to help pay off the buy-out option.  This was very successful increasing share price from $11 to $24.  Harley-Davidson  used some of the stock sale revenues to buy Holiday Rambler, a U.S. maker of recreational vehicles, for $150 million.  The Holiday Rambler sale pushed Harley-Davidson into the Fortune 500 category for the first time at number 398.  In March 1987 the company asked the ITC to remove the tariffs imposed on Japanese motorcycle imports a year earlier than scheduled.

Willie G. Davidson, V.P. Styling (Left); Vaughn Beals Jr., CEO and Charles Thompson, President (Right)

Mr. Beals was inducted to the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in 2008.

Charles Thompson — served as President and CEO of the restructured Harley-Davidson after American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF) buy-out option.

Mr. Thompson was a long-time Harley-Davidson employee, well-liked throughout the motorcycle industry and served as president and CEO of the restructured company until his health failed in 1982.

William Herbert “Bill” Davidson — was president of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles from 1942 to 1971.  He was the son of William A. Davidson who quit his regular paying job with the Milwaukee Road railroad in 1903 to get into the business of making motorcycles.

William Herbert “Bill” Davidson

Bill Davidson, started working on the Harley-Davidson shop floor of the family business in 1928 after attending the University of Wisconsin.  He won the AMA National Enduro Championship in 1930 and when he wasn’t winning motorcycle races, Bill worked his way up through the company, becoming a foreman, manager of many departments, and finally president of Harley-Davidson in 1942.

In 1963, Bill brought in his son William Godfrey Davidson (Willie G.) on to head up the styling department of the company. Willie G. would end up creating some of the company’s more popular designs, including the legendary Low Rider and the Super Glide which was inspired by the ideas of bike customizers.

In 1965 Harley-Davidson went public as the two families decided to give up control and put the company’s shares on the market.

In 1969, Harley-Davidson was bought by American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF), a leisure equipment manufacturer.  The arrangement proved, at least initially, to be a good one for Harley-Davidson, for it was in the mid-1960s that the company experienced its first real competition after Indian went out of business. The financial resources and stability that AMF was able to provide helped the company battle Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, who had begun exporting their vehicles around the world, placing themselves in direct competition with Harley-Davidson.

Bill stayed on as president under the control of AMF reporting to it’s then current chairman and CEO Rodney C. Gott (Mr. Gott served as AMF president, starting in 1962, and chairman and chief executive, from 1968. He retired in 1978).  Mr. Gott was a Harley-Davidson rider and big motorcycle fan.  As a sidebar: In World War II, Mr. Gott was a decorated veteran who served in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army and on the staff of Gen. Lesley James McNair, chief of ground forces, and was also commander of the 79th Infantry Division Artillery.

In 1971, Bill Davidson was made Harley-Davidson chairman, but reported that he had little power while under AMF’s control.  It was noted that he was chairman of the Harley-Davidson board that never met.  Conflicts with AMF’s strategy and chaotic market conditions led to Bill Davidson’s resignation in 1973.

It was a period of high CEO turnover at Harley-Davidson.  During this time, AMF named John O’Brian and then Gus Davis as president, marking the first time someone other than a Davidson would sit in the company presidents chair.  Other Harley and Davidson family members continued on at the company under AMF’s ownership.  Bill Davidson’s son John was vice president of Sales, and then moved up to become president after Gus Davis.  William J. Harley was engineering vice president until his death in 1971.  His brother John Harley remained at the company until his death in 1976 as the last Harley at Harley-Davidson.

In 1975, AMF put Vaughn Beals Jr. at the head of Harley-Davidson, and Jeff Bleustein was named chief engineer. Bleustein was charged with making manufacturing improvements, which had  become increasingly necessary as production grew and quality declined.  A limited line of high-priced products and a reputation for unreliable motorcycles marked this timeframe in history.  AMF began to lose interest in keeping the struggling motorcycle business afloat.

Rodney C. Gott (Left) and John Davidson, President Harley-Davidson

In a bit of irony, (circa: 09/1977), the motor company unveiled a motorcycle museum in York, PA., that was named after AMF’s CEO — Rodney C. Gott Motorcycle Museum.  A video HERE.

In June 1981, to save the company, and to effect a turnaround, thirteen Harley-Davidson executives, led by Vaughn Beals Jr., put together a plan for a leveraged management buyout. With the financial support of Citicorp, the management team succeeded in taking control of Harley-Davidson from AMF on June 16, 1981, at a cost of $81.5 million.

The role of the new officers after the company buy-out option included: Charles Thompson, president and chief operating officer; Jack Hamilton, Chris Sartalis, Jim Paterson, Kurt Woerpel, Peter Profumo, Jeffrey Bleustein, Thomas Gelb, William Davidson, and Tim Hoelter, all vice presidents. The president of the various divisions were: John Davidson, golf; David Caruso, parts and accessories; Ralph Swenson, York; and David Lickerman, Harley-Davidson International.

Even though he was no longer actively involved with the company, Bill Davidson lived to see the renewal and success that Harley-Davidson enjoyed starting in the late-1980s.

Bill Davidson died in 1993.  He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in 1999.

Walter Davidson — was president from 1907 to 1942.  Bill Harley was chief engineer and treasurer. Author Davidson is secretary and general sales manager and William A. Davidson is the works manager.

In 1936, six sons of the founders are working at Harley-Davidson.  Walter Davidson’s sons Gordon and Walter C.; and William Davidson’s sons, William Herbert “Bill” and Allan; and Bill Harley’s sons, William J. and John.

In 1942 from his death bed,  Walter Davidson named his nephew William Herbert “Bill” Davidson as president and his own eldest son Gordon, as vice president of manufacturing.

Historical Principal H-D Subsidiaries: Holiday Rambler Corporation; Utilmaster Corporation; B&B Molders; Creative Dimensions; Nappanee Wood Products.

Article References:

Vaughn Beals Jr. – Wikipedia
Growing Up Harley-Davidson – Jean Davidson
Harvard Business Review – Harley Leadership U-Turn
Jeffrey Bleustein – Wikipedia
The Morning Call – Harley Is A Classic Turnaround Story
Rodney C. Gott Obituary
Gus Davis Obituary
Cycle World Magazine – Interview with CEO, Matthew S. Levatich
Cycle World Magazine – Rodney C. Gott Motorcycle Museum
Chicago Tribune – The Real Harley-Davidson Story
James Ziemer – Northwest Harley Blog
People – Buy Back Article
Rick Barrett – Journal Sentinel

Harley-Davidson (Buyout) Management Team

**The Harley-Davidson managers post buy-out option: left to right standing: John Hamilton, Dr. Jeffrey Bleustein, Kurt Woerpel, Chstopher Sartalis, and William G. Davidson.  Left to right, seated: James Peterson, Timothy Hoelter, David Lickerman, Peter Profumo, David Caruso, Ralph Swenson, Charles Thompson, and Vaughn Beals Jr.

 

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Multiple Years of Hells Canyon Rally T-shirts

Multiple Years of Hells Canyon Rally T-shirts

A motorcycle t-shirt addiction!

If you are reading this post based on the title then you know I’ve completed the first step, acceptance!

It started out as a day of cleaning the closet and the dresser.  The t-shirts were categorized by:
  • Stack #1 — The newest Harley t-shirts (location based) that I frequently wear during the week
  • Stack #2 — T-shirts with some wear from various HOG events and motorcycle rallies
  • Stack #3 — T-shirts that have significant wear that I save up and pack for those long trips and then I’ll throw them out as I travel to lighten the load
  • Stack #4 — Long sleeve t-shirts only
  • Stack #5 — In the garage for oil clean up.  Typically they were gifted Sons of Anarchy (SOA) tee’s!
Various H.O.G. Rally T-shirts

Various H.O.G. Rally T-shirts

I’m no longer in denial, and have finally accepted that I have a propensity to purchase too many motorcycle t-shirts.  I’ve got several shelves and drawers in a dresser dedicated to everything from tank tops to long sleeve t-shirts.  I’m definitely flirting with excessive and now realize after my day of cleaning that I should just say no!  I could hit the road and wear each shirt and never do laundry for well over a month.

Do you have this problem?

I have t-shirts from so many H-D dealers around the world, then add in those from the various pubs, band/concerts, place-name t-shirts, and an original Big Lewbowski t-shirt that I can’t bring myself to ditch “The Dude.”

I can promise you that nearly any time I go somewhere on the motorcycle, I’m buying a t-shirt there. Why? Because it’s what I like to wear.  But, it also starts out as some regret because when I’m at a motorcycle event and I see a t-shirt that is out of the ordinary I’ll think about purchasing it.  It’s unique.  It’s a color of black that I don’t own!  The graphic design is interesting.  The compulsion is to buy the t-shirt, hope for a good fit after being washed and then add the particular t-shirt to my ever growing collection.

You just don’t understand the extra ordinary strength it takes for me to not buy a t-shirt these days.  In many instances t-shirts have been the only documentation of my rides, a recap of the journey or a memory on one of those bucket list highways.

You may think that it gets better with time, and that as I get older I wouldn’t feel the compulsion to have so many H-D t-shirts, but I am here to tell you that in fact it does not.

I’ve decided I have give up fighting it, and will now spend more time parting with the worn t-shirts by dropping them off at Goodwill or using some for doing a wax and shine on the bike.   Hopefully I’m making a fellow t-shirt “addict” a happier person.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 1.44.35 PMI’ll get right to the point.  Motorcycle sales down.  Revenues down.  Earnings down. Currency issues.  Tough competition.

The company’s Q2 earnings were hard to sugar coat for Matt Levatich, President and CEO.  But he sure tried.

“Our actions during the quarter have had a positive impact. We are encouraged by the momentum at retail as the quarter progressed, both in the U.S. and internationally.”  “We are confident in the strength of our business and the strategies we have in place to maintain our industry leadership and grow our business over the long term,” said Levatich. “Our singular focus on the customer through unrivaled products, unique experiences and our expanding dealer network is the bedrock we are building on to continue to grow our reach and impact with customers across the globe.”

Dealers worldwide sold 88,931 new motorcycles in Q2 2015 compared to 90,218 motorcycles in the year-ago quarter. In the U.S., dealers sold 57,790 new motorcycles in the quarter compared to sales of 58,225 motorcycles in the year-ago period.  In international markets, dealers sold 31,141 new motorcycles during the quarter compared to 31,993 motorcycles in the year-ago period, with sales up 16.6 percent in the Asia Pacific region and down 8.9 percent in the EMEA region, 2.6 percent in the Latin America region and 9.9 percent in Canada.

Second-quarter revenue from motorcycles decreased 11.6 percent to $1.31 billion compared to revenue of $1.48 billion in the year-ago period. Following the company’s decision in April to lower motorcycle shipments, the motor company shipped 85,172 motorcycles to dealers and distributors worldwide during the quarter compared to shipments of 92,217 motorcycles in the year-ago period.

Revenue from motorcycle parts and accessories was $256.8 million during the quarter, down 5.4 percent, and revenue from general merchandise, which includes MotorClothes apparel and accessories, was $77.5 million, up 1.5 percent compared to the year-ago period.

As the new CEO, this is Mr. Levatich’s first solo “ride” on an earnings report after Keith Wandell retired.   You have to give the company cred for its integrity of not over producing its motorcycles, but employees and shareholders can’t be happy with these sales.

Full disclosure:  I have no positions in HOG stocks and no plans to initiate any position within the next 72 hours.  I wrote this article from publically accessible information and expresses my own opinion.  I am not receiving compensation for it and have no business relationship with the company.  I currently own a Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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DRONE-GUYKnown as “remotely piloted aircraft” or “RPAs” in military parlance, drones may well have a coming out party at this years 75th Sturgis rally.

Ellsworth Air Force Base is located approximately 10 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota and about 30 miles from Sturgis. The 432nd Attack Squadron has 195 personnel dedicated to piloting drones to conduct surveillance.  It’s primarily focused on flying in foreign countries, but there are many different drones in the Air Force’s inventory and the question about use as a law enforcement tool during the Sturgis motorcycle rally was recently floated.

Drone_cover_imageI’m talking about something less threatening than the MQ-9 Reaper in the Sturgis sky, but something that will include live-feed video cameras, heat sensors and radar.

Advocates claim they can be used to quickly respond and solve medical problems, help untangle vandalism incidents, protect the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash that transact each night with vendors, catch illegal behavior, and provide documentation for law enforcement.

Is 2015 the year of aerial drone surveillance during the Sturgis Rally?

20130515_drone2_33Well consider the fact that Arial land survey by drone is already in process in South Dakota.  The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is training students to use drones for rescue and hostage situations and South Dakota currently has no Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Legislation preventing the skies from being used for drone flight.

And then if you look just across the state border to North Dakota, a family was arrested with the assistance of a Predator drone.  Rodney Brossart was sentenced to three years in prison, of which all but six months was suspended, for a June 2011 incident in which police attempted to arrest him over his failure to return three cows from a neighboring farm that had strayed on to his property.  Mr. Brossart’s sons were located by a border-surveillance Predator borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which enabled local police to safely apprehend them, according to local newspapers or as reported by the LA Times.

Still skeptical?  Here are some additional drone facts:

  • Between 2005 and 2012, the amount in contracts the federal government awarded for drones: at least $12 billion.
  • Number of companies that are now in the drone business: more than 1,000.
  • Number of private-sector and government requests to fly drones that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved since 2007: 1,428.
  • Number of police departments that have asked the FAA for permits to fly drones: 12.
  • Number of commercial drones that the FAA predicts will be flying in domestic airspace by 2017: 10,000.
  • Price of a drone-proof hoodie being sold by the British company Stealth Wear, which also offers drone-proof scarves and burqas: $481

The question of whether aerial surveillance requires a warrant is ambiguous, with some court rulings ­including a 1986 Supreme Court decision ­allowing warrantless surveillance, while other rulings have found it to be unconstitutional.

Unmanned-aircraft-Coming-to-a-sky-near-youThere was a time when aerial surveillance was so expensive that privacy was a minor issue. But now drones are relatively cheap and can be equipped with sophisticated sensors, so they can vacuum up large amounts of camera imagery and other data, in the same way that advances in computers and communications enable the NSA to collect huge amounts of data from telephones and the Internet.

Law enforcement will clearly advocate that drones support most all of the “unobjectionable” police raids.  However, how long will it be before networks of linked drones and computers “gain the ability to automatically track multiple motorcycles and bodies as they move around a city,” much as the cell phone network hands calls from one tower to the next. The authorities would then combine drone video and cell phone tracking to build up databases of people’s routine comings and goings—databases they can then mine for suspicious behavior.

drones-shropshire-gettyv2And here I thought states using federal highway safety grants to fund discriminatory Motorcycle-only checkpoints was government over reach.

Most people who ride and stay in Sturgis know they are being financially exploited and that today’s “hard-core” Sturgis rider is grayer, and is much better behaved.  None of this is new.  What is new, is the potential use of drone surveillance which is teetering on a privacy razor’s edge.

Note: Oregon’s HB 2710 defines a drone as an unmanned flying machine, not including model aircraft. The law allows a law enforcement agency to operate a drone if it has a warrant and for enumerated exceptions including for training purposes. It also requires that a drone operated by a public body be registered with the Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA), which shall keep a registry of drones operated by public bodies. The law grants the DOA rulemaking authority to implement these provisions. It also creates new crimes and civil penalties for mounting weapons on drones and interfering with or gaining unauthorized access to public drones. Under certain conditions a landowner can bring an action against someone flying a drone lower than 400 feet over their property.  In addition, Oregon was chosen as one of six UAS test sites by the FAA.   More UAS information HERE.

Photos courtesy of internet.

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Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Last spring I happen to be in Hollywood on a work gig and got a Sunset Gower Studio tour.  Sunset Gower has been part of the Hollywood film history since there was a Hollywood.

While wandering through the writers’ suites and the studio lot I walked down this hallway and came across an Easy Rider poster.  The Sunset Gower sound stages were used for the movie.

No one could have predicted that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s small budget film, fueled by motorcycles and amazing music would redefine pop culture.

In fact, it’s impossible to even think about this film without the opening riff of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” echoing in your head.  In the movie industry, it’s rare that a film and its soundtrack break through to the masses.  Easy Rider was an incredible success commercially and culturally (it inspired an entire genre and a hundred knockoffs), and the impact of the soundtrack was revolutionary.

“The idea was to have the music which accompanies the cross-country cycling scenes reflect current times,” Peter Fonda told Rolling Stone in 1969. By compiling prerecorded tracks and music specifically created for the film to make a “musical commentary” and companion to the movie.

IMG_2785Additionally, the Easy Rider soundtrack laid the groundwork for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Pink Floyd-led Zabriske Point the following year and nearly every classic film soundtrack of the next four decades, from Singles to Forrest Gump to Drive.

The soundtrack paints a picture of the counterculture on the brink of the Seventies.   Steppenwolf’s get-on-your-bike-and-ride anthem along with the bluesy dealer epic “The Pusher,” and the classic cuts from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Holy Modal Rounders and the Byrds (whose Roger McGuinn also scored the film) makes an epic film.

As the story goes, Bob Dylan was recruited by Peter Fonda to pen the film’s theme “Ballad of Easy Rider,” (soundtrack) and after jotting out a few lines, told the actor to give the lyrics to McGuinn to flesh out.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Sunset Gower Studio and Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive.

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HD-CrowdMany riders are on the road and in route to the Sturgis Rally.

If you rushed out of the garage before finalizing a list of things to do while in S.D., below is a list of activities Harley-Davidson will be rolling out for rally attendees.

The 2015 models will not be launched at Sturgis.  Last year the motor company started a new trend of  introducing the new model line up during the 3rd week of August after all the press/media noise subsides post-Sturgis and they can garner more mind share.

3rd & Lazelle Street, Downtown Sturgis, SD
Saturday through Saturday, August 2-9, 9am – 5pm

  • Stunt Show – 3 times daily (10am, 1pm, & 4pm) Produced by Ill Conduct Team
  • H.O.G. Rally Point – Join Tina, Thor and other H-D staff in the H.O.G. area. Pick up your FREE event Pin, join the club or renew your membership.  Plus, August 2-8 all H.O.G.® members + one guest are welcome to join us in the H.O.G area  from 3:00pm – 5:00pm for live entertainment, complimentary samples of our new H-D Road House Meats and beer samples.
  • Willie G. ® and H.O.G.® Commemorative Merchandise – You can’t buy it at home! Stop by to purchase exclusive Sturgis 2014 clothing.
  • Genuine Harley-Davidson® Parts & Accessories Display – the latest Harley® models equipped with the full line of custom Parts & Accessories. Check out our 12 fully accessorized bikes!
  • 2014 H-D® Motorcyle LineupCheck out the 2014 bikes, including NEW customized Street motorcycles, RUSHMORE bikes, the Low Rider® and the SuperLow®1200T.
  • Women’s Area – Rebel One hosts the JUMPSTART® Rider Experience and Bike Lift Seminars on how to properly lift a dropped motorcycle. Enter the sweepstakes to win a FREE Riding Academy course or Rental.
  • Weber® Mobile Grill Academy – Get a first-hand look at Weber grills and accessories; Weber Experts will be there to answer any questions you may have about grills, grilling techniques, recipes, and all things grilling!  Join the Weber Family by signing up for Weber Nation and you will be entered to win a Weber Genesis gas grill.
  • Craftsman® Garage Station – Come for a free oil fill-up and tire pressure check! Stay and watch our artists sculpt, paint, and engrave. Take home a cool new design on your bike helmet or a personalized engraving on a free Craftsman cap wrench.
  • Free Bike Wash – Wash away all the Black Hills dust and dirt at the free bike wash from 9am – 4pm. Just bring a dirty bike and a little elbow grease.
  • MDA will sell event pins and host a bike raffle. Enter to win a black 2014 Street Glide!
  • Visa will offer Visa Card membership application and free giveaways to all applicants!

Black Hills Harley-Davidson
2820 Harley Dr.
I-90 Exit 55, Rapid City, SD
Saturday through Saturday, August 2-9, 9am – 5pm

  • Harley-Davidson ® Motorcycle Test Rides – Take a FREE test ride on a 2014 Harley-Davidson® motorcycle, including our new RUSHMORE bikes, LowRider® and SuperLow® 1200T. Come early and ride as many bikes as you want. All riders must have a valid motorcycle license and adhere to riding gear requirements and safety rules.  Demo registration will close at 4:00pm daily.
  • 2014 H-D® Motorcycle Lineup – Check out the 2014 bikes
  • Harley-Davidson® Motorclothes® – Try on our new jackets – even take them for a test ride! All items will be available for immediate purchase.
  • H-D1 Fit Shop – Come experience the feel of a more comfortable, safer ride. Stop by the H-D1 Fit Shop and find your perfect seat and handlebar combination.

Featured Activities:

  • Sunday, August 3 – “Weber® Big Burger Battle Cook-Off” competition. Come to the Weber® display at 3rd and Lazelle St. to watch pre-selected finalists compete in a cook-off!
  • Tuesday, August 5 – The 6th Annual Women’s Biker Belles Ride and celebration sponsored by Harley-Davidson®. Visit www.bikerbelles.com to register and for more information.
  • Wednesday, August 6 – “Weber® How to Grill a Perfect Burger” hands-on grilling class exclusively for H.O.G members led by Weber® Grill Expert, Kelsey Heidikamp.  Classes offered at the Weber® display at 3rd and Lazelle St. at 11:45am, 1:30pm, and 3:15pm. To participate, please send your name, cell phone number, H.O.G. number and preferred class time to HandsOnGrilling@harley-davidson.com. Space is limited so sign up soon! Sign up ends Friday, August 1.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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French Glen, Oregon

French Glen, Oregon

No blog post can touch on the full spectrum of a trip, but I’ve put together some snippets of what our “off-season” ride looked like heading to Laughlin River Run in April.

You might say we got a sense of the diverse charms that spring weather in Oregon provides by starting in Portland and tracing a route up the slopes of Mount Hood and then south toward Bend then east to Burns.

Can anyone say weather woes?  There was wind, rain, heavy thunderstorms, hail, lighting BOOM! and all of this during the first 5 hours of the trip!

Harney County - Oregon

Malheur Lake in Harney County – Oregon

By no means am I complaining, but even with all the technology to expand our knowledge about weather patterns and conditions sooner or later, you’ll have to ride in the rain… and did we ever.  After the 5-hour trip to Burns we are now certified wet-weather professionals!  By the time these cold and weary travelers stopped in Burns we were done with the wind-chill riding.

This part of the trip was like a steeled-toed kick into springs teeth!  Winter reigned.

Plugging In

Plugged in outside of Winnemucca

As a side bar, have you ever noticed the difficulty of heated gear and in routing the cables and making the connections?  I typically avoid “plugging-in” until it’s very cold and  raining.  The extra rain gear and winter clothing is bulky and then we’re trying to route these COAX 2.5mm connectors through the sleeves into a SAE 2-pin connector and somewhere in the mix is either an on/off switch or a single controller that allows you to control the vest or any other item connected to the vest (gloves, pants, socks) as one single zone.  This rarely works well when there are multiple heated garments because they develop hot spots and I’ve had a vest get too hot while the gloves were cool and those dual electronic controller units for two separate zones mean even more wires and more expense.  Yeah, it all looks easy enough sitting in the motel room, but the reality is it takes coordination to get it all on, position it correctly so that you have freedom to move and then it’s a “do-over” after a fuel or rest stop.  It should be easier?

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

At any rate, the next morning we grabbed a sausage biscuit, put on rain gear, “plugged-in” and rode out early from Burns toward French Glen.  We took the French Glen Highway (or Oregon Route 205) to avoid the worst of the rainy weather.  Part of the group was headed directly to Las Vegas (700+ miles) and wanted to put some major miles on vs. the remainder of the group planned a more leisurely ride down to Laughlin with a day or so in Death Valley.

“America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

Ammunition Depot at “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

We headed east then turned south on Oregon Route 205 through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where the summers are short and it’s home to countless migratory birds.  Despite the seeming nakedness of the landscape on most of the route, this area of Southeastern Oregon which OR-205 travels through is a true wonderland of high desert topography. There are no less than four designated scenic byways that take off from OR-205, or is the route itself.  From a motorcycling perspective, the road isn’t all that challenging and like many little used desert highways in Oregon, the actual road surface is in good condition for the entire route.  For a majority of the ride, the road is straight with a few long bends that, fortunately, change your perspective of the wide open landscape occasionally.

Parked at Motel - Hawthorne, NV

Parked at Motel – Hawthorne, NV

I’d like to tell you all about the photographic panoramas and the many intriguing natural geologic pictures I took in the spectacular mountain range, but there was heavy fog, mixed with thunderstorms and for a couple hours outside of French Glen we even rode in full on snow flurries.  And I’m not talking about a blizzard of Snow Geese mind you, but traversing the area in blinding snow.  We did see the French Glen “Historic” telephone booth!

This trip didn’t offer us the time to ride Steens Mountain loop road, or continue over the summit ridge and onto the Alvord Desert.

We did the math.  We double checked weather radar and this was the quickest and the logical adverse weather avoidance route.  We hoped to avoid much of it, but the storm and high winds engulfed the entire state.  As we motored on my mind wondered if this was how the settlers and fortune-seekers who made their way West through gorges and high-mountain lakes had to deal with during their overland route.

By the time we hit the Winnemucca stopover point, the weather was beginning to improve.  At least the snow and rain had stopped.  Winnemucca is a gateway of sorts to the Great Basin, with Idaho and Oregon to the north, Salt Lake City to the east and Reno to the southwest.  It’s located at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95.  We did notice that a strong wind was blowing out of the south.  This was high-wind warnings and there were a lot of semi’s pulled over to the side of the road waiting it out.

After a lot of miles I became convinced that the great state of Nevada had the sole purpose of being an ATV enthusiast’s playground.  Of course, this isn’t 100 percent accurate, but as you ride along the desolate roads it might as well be.  The sand in the air blew into our faces, covering us with a fine layer as we rolled on the throttle and continued south down Highway 95.

The group I was riding in overnighted in “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.  The town is unique with Walker Lake at the foot of Mt. Grant, but more importantly there is the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Ammunition Depot in the area.  At first glance that is incongruous since it’s in high desert east of the Sierra Nevada and at least 300 miles from the nearest ocean.  The Army stores some nasty stuff at what started out life as the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD).  The facility is made up of hundreds of buildings spread over more than 225 square miles and bunkers dot the sagebrush-covered hills which are visible from the highway.  Sadly, back in March 2013 a mortar shell explosion killed 7 marines and injured eight during mountain warfare training in the area.

We overnighted in Hawthorne which is shouldering its share of the economic slump as there are empty storefronts with windows neatly covered with plywood painted white, red and blue stars. We found a Mexican restaurant called Diego’s which was within walking distance of the motel and after a 425 mile day enjoyed some refreshments and good food.

We were headed to Death Valley via the eastern entrance at Beatty and planned to stay over at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 2 (HERE).

Photo’s taken by author except French Glen photo courtesy of Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

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