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Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally - 2010

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally – 2010

At the 2012 Sturgis Rally attendance was up 7% (official est. at 450K) and in all, the city of Sturgis spent approximately $960K to host the 6-day event which generated nearly $1.4M in revenue.  Nearly $400K profit for the city which has more than double the net profit from the 2011 rally at $197K.  There were 1,012 vendors registered vs. 976 in 2011 and gross sales by vendors were $13.1M compared to $12.6M in 2011.

sturgis-flagAnd the man who made Sturgis?  There are several who come to mind, but one near the top of the list would be Steven Piehl, the Harley executive who invented the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  In 1983, Mr. Piehl worked under Harley’s General Sales Manager, Clyde Fessler, and was given 3 months to launch the program.  They promoted the rally to hundreds of thousands of HOG members and is at least in part responsible for the transformation of Sturgis from a biker party into a profit center.  Mr. Piehl was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year and received the JC “Pappy” Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award for establishing HOG.

HD-Sturgis3Motoring USA is the consultant group that essentially coordinates the Sturgis rally for the city as they help line-up sponsors (Harley-Davidson, Dodge, Jack Daniels, Geico etc.), vendors and publish the official rally magazine.  For their 2012 services they were paid more than $308K ($163K commissions/fees and $145K to publish the official guide).  Ironically, the city of Sturgis paid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., $26,944 in licensing fees to use the “Sturgis” name!  Clearly corporate America has found the motorcyclist market and made the profit driven transformation.

Sturgis-night12

Main Street Sturgis at Dusk

Those are a few of the financial aspects of the motorcycle rally.  Sadly, 9 people died at last year’s rally-related accidents and collisions.  In 2011 there were 4 deaths.  And you might have been one of the unlucky riders trapped on the freeway in 2010 after a semi-trailer caught fire (video HERE) and closed the interstate (see above photo)?

It’s also well known that at the Sturgis Rally large numbers of law enforcement descend on the area to make sure those 450,000+ bikers don’t get out of hand.  On any typical week the city has 15 officers to keep the community of 6700 safe.  During rally week it pays a hefty amount for law enforcement hiring people from nine different states.  The city police budget in August is estimated to be in excess of $300K to cover salaries, equipment and other expenses for the event.  Visiting officers are housed and receive two meals a day.  In addition, there are also significant numbers of federal agents (FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service) on hand.

loud-american

Loud American Roadhouse (L)

However, budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance and for 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years.  The value of announcing this information to the public prior to the rally is interesting.  Is it to alarm the public?  Is it an open invitation for the motorcycle clubs to restart some of the “wild times” prevalent in years past?  Historically, more than 20 ATF agents patrol Sturgis during the Rally.  This year there will one agent in Rapid City who will be on call when the rally officially starts on August 5th.

Remember the 2006 rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer?  How about back in 2008 when Sturgis ended with the first shooting in over 20-years where the Iron Pigs (off-duty Seattle LEO – Ronald Smith) had a confrontation with the Hell’s Angels (Joseph McGuire) at the Loud American Roadhouse?  Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident, but I would anticipate if any intelligence or threat hits the radar we’ll see it rain law enforcement personnel sequestration or not.

It wasn’t too long ago, the rough, anti-materialistic, anti-authoritarian attitudes showed up on motorcycles en-masse at Sturgis.  The motor company that helped put Sturgis on the map and was once so revered that men tattooed its name on their arms, is now more about demographics, international expansion in China and India and tapping female consumer spending.  For example, Claudia Garber, Harley’s Director of Women’s Marketing Outreach, worked the 2012 rally to convince affluent, professional women that Harleys are really fun to ride.

Yes, the transformation of Sturgis from a quaint biker party into an enormous profit center is fully complete.  Stay classy Sturgis!

Interstate photo courtesy of Renegade Wheels, other photos taken by author at 2012 Sturgis Rally.  The 2012 Sturgis stats are HERE (.pdf).

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First Responders at Vehicle Fire on I-5

10-years ago changed everything.

That’s the mantra we’ve heard over and over the last couple weeks on the remembrance run up of the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.  Within 24 hours of the attacks the first newspaper had already labeled the site in New York as “Ground Zero.” If anyone needed a sign that we were about to run off the rails, as a misassessment of what had actually occurred that should have been enough. Previously, the phrase “ground zero” had only one meaning: it was the spot where a nuclear explosion had occurred.

But, in certain areas of our collective lives everything did change.  It was an accurate description. Security increased.  The U.S. went to war in two far-away lands.  Ugly barriers went up around public facilities. Navigating airports became a new kind of nightmare.

And since 9/11, counterterrorism has been the FBI’s No. 1 priority, consuming the lion’s share of its budget—$3.3B, compared to $2.6B for organized crime—and much of the attention of field agents is a massive, nationwide network of informants. After ten years of emphasizing informant recruiting as a key task for its agents, the bureau now maintains a roster of over 15,000 spies—many of them paid $100K per case.

Then there is the heightened “ten year” terror threat.  It was frustrating to search the news for facts. Dozens of stories, all using the same stilted cop jargon, told us to be suspicious of every unattended car and empty milk carton we saw, but to bravely go on about our business. Someone said they heard there were truck searches in downtown Portland. I haven’t seen anything like that, but who knows.   The advice is to be suspicious of suspicous swarthy passers-by. Hows that for being politically correct?!

Some will debate that the event has been used as an excuse for two wars, runaway military spending, and the stripping down of our civil liberties.  For me the saddest thing is that the victims of those suicidal monstrosities have been misused ever since.  While I agree that it’s not a good idea to waste a lot of time nursing hurt feelings. Or is it a good idea to wallow in the past either. Too much of the 9/11 ceremonies seems to be doing just that. That and photo ops for our leaders.  Don’t get me wrong, the morning of September 11, 2001, gave me one of the biggest shocks of my life. It’s right up there with the day Kennedy was shot. I can give you minute details of where I was, what I was doing, how I found out what had happened, and how shaken I was.

But does anyone else find these overdetermined celebration and remembrances troubling.  We do need to remember the day we were attacked and should never forget the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters who lost their lives or the families that lost loved ones on that day.  We should never forget the first responders who rushed to the aid of NY that day.  But, shouldn’t the remembrances be more private?

Independent of how you come down on the topic, the sad truth after spending wasting BILLIONS is that we are not any closer to safety and our way of life in the U.S. is attacked every day in so many ways. From desperate people who believe that guns and intimidation are the only way to maintain their self esteem to the undocumented drunk driver with an attitude that they are above the law.  The one thing which doesn’t seem to change is watching the dishonest manipulation of our politicians by those with selfish agendas and those politicians running with open hands and empty values with delusions of power and greatness toward the highest bidder.  (Latest example: Geoff Morrell goes from the Pentagon to BP)

All of that said, I do want to express the sadness I feel for those who lost special people on 9/11 and in our ongoing wars.

Photo courtesy of OSP… First responders on scene of a truck fire on I-5 this week.

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HDS MemorialSelfless courage at the moment of truth…

All bomb technicians in America go through the Redstone school, which is the only one of its kind in the U.S.; there is another similar school in England.  Located on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL the school is a joint Army-FBI effort which has been involved in training members of the 468 law enforcement bomb squads across the nation.

Why is this relevant?  A couple of years ago I attended a reunion from when I was stationed on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.  The reunion was held just down the street from the Redstone Arsenal.  I was able to tour several of the military facilities and remember the heat/humidity.  But, I’ve digressed.

The bomb disposal community is an elite and tightknit group.  They even have a special badge the technicians wear which symbolizes the closeness.  This week William Robert Hakim, a senior trooper with the OSP was honored at an annual memorial ceremony held by the Army-FBI Hazardous Devices School (HDS) where his name was added to the memorial wall.

Mr. Hakim, an eleven year veteran was killed in the line of duty a year ago when an explosive device detonated at West Coast Bank in Woodburn, OR.  The blast killed Hakim and Woodburn Police Captain Tom Tennant.  It also critically injured Police Chief Scott Russell.  Mr. Hakim was a graduate of the HDS school and taught other law enforcement officers about arson and bomb investigations.

Within a couple of days, Mr. Joshua Abrahm Turnidge (32) and his father, Bruce Turnidge (57) were arrested.  You can view the probable cause document which outlines the case against them HERE.  It’s an interesting read if for nothing else than the chronology of the events which led the arrests.  Evidence at the fathers property found Tovex, a highly-explosive gel which is routinely substituted for dynamite.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.  The trial is expected to start September 2010.

A bomb explosion and the severity of the crimes in Oregon stunned many.  I wanted to remember Mr. Hakim on this one-year anniversary.  My condolences to his family.  Mr. Hakim is survived by his wife, Terri, and their 19 year old daughter and 17 year old son who attended the ceremony.

Photo courtesy of the HDS Memorial

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Pearl Harbor

It was 68 years ago today – December 7, 1941 – that bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.  It was a stealthy attack that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, threaten internment of 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii and was a tipping point for the nation which jumped headlong into its 2nd major war of the century.  It was a day filled with sacrifices and heroism – one that should not be forgotten.

Just six years earlier Harley-Davidson founded the Japanese motorcycle industry.  In fact, from the H-D history page it states:

“1935 — The Japanese motorcycle industry is founded as a result of Harley-Davidson licensing blueprints, tools, dies and machinery to the Sankyo Company of Japan. The result is the Rikuo motorcycle.”

Rikuo Motorcycle

Very little is known about the specifics and mindful of the results Harley-Davidson isn’t doing much talking.  It bears a similarity to the clandestine support the U.S. provided Muslim fighters during the 10-years the U.S.S.R. fought in Afghanistan.  Maybe that’s an overreach?   At any rate, the highly ironic consequence of Milwaukee’s quest for export markets in the 1920s resulted in helping Japan ready for World War II.   It was during the “economic slump” of the 1930s that the creation of a Japanese big twin occurred. It’s known that during the 1920s, Arthur Davidson had aggressively pursued new sales openings, including the establishment of the Harley-Davidson Sales Company of Japan.  It had a comprehensive network of dealers, agencies and spares. In fact, the Milwaukee motorcycle stood so high that Harley’s soon became Japan’s official police motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson exports to Japan all but ceased in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash and Great Depression as the global economic crisis crippled the yen. The story might have stopped there but for Alfred Childs, head of Harley’s Japanese operation, who asked: “Why not build Harleys there?”

The motor company was skeptical, but Childs’ persistence finally convince management and the first overseas factory began production at Shinagawa, near Tokyo.  Motorcycles built with tooling, plans, blueprints and expertise directly from Milwaukee — Harley-Davidson built a factory that was considered the most modern in the world. By 1935 Shinagawa was manufacturing complete motorcycles, mainly 74-inch V-series flathead twins.  In 1930, these had become the official motorcycle of the Japanese Imperial Army. Later, when the army became the effective civil power, it declined the chance to convert production to the new OHV Knucklehead, preferring the proven durability of the H-D side-valve twin. It was at this point that the Sankyo corporation forcibly took over control of the “H-D” factory and began selling Japanese Harleys under the Rikuo name. The “74” twin became the Rikuo Model 97.

As it became clear that Japan readied for World War II, Harley cut its losses and got out.  As military demand increased (especially after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937), Rikuo sub-licensed the product to Nihon Jidosha (“Japan Combustion Equipment Co.”). Its “Harleys” were variants of the model 97s, entitled Kuro Hagane (“Black Iron”).

Eerily, the factory had only a few more years to run. Nihon Jidosha was located in Hiroshima.

Research Sources:
Yokohama Kanagawa Prefecture photos of Japanese Harley History HERE.
Classic Bike article (1998) by Hugo Vanneck HERE.
Rikuo (Riku’O) Motor Web Site HERE.
H-D Museum Photos HERE.
FBI History 1930 – 1945 HERE.

Photo courtesy of Nippon News and National Archives.

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native_americanLike many of you I have rolled through the Black Hills of South Dakota with the wind in my face…

Whether a weekend warrior eager for a brief interlude of escapist revelry or it’s a way of life — I think all would agree that rolling through the “hills” offers up an incredible experience.  From rolling plains to majestic mountains — sometimes you have to pull over just to take it all in.  It’s not only a magical place to visit because of its beauty, but also because of its “roots” to the Native Americans who live there.  Most are Dakota, Lakota or Nakota people and known collectively as the Sioux.  The Sioux nation traces its roots to the  “Oceti Sakowin” (Seven Council Fires) and traditional stories place the nations birth in the Black Hills where customs hold the forces of nature as holy.

Having lived in “NoDak” during a more violent time, I’m reminded of Anishinabe decent, a person from the Dakota/Lakota Nations who has been imprisoned since 1976.  His name is Leonard Peltier.  Peltier is serving two life sentences for the deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams during a June 26, 1975, standoff on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

I previously blogged about Leonard Peltier HERE and the significance of the song “Sacrifice” from the album “Contact from the Underworld Red Boy” by Robbie Robertson.  Peltier was convicted in Fargo, N.D., in 1977 and recently was denied parole after having a full parole hearing for the first time in 15 years at the Lewisburg, Pa., federal prison where he is being held.  Some feel he is an unrepentant, cold-blooded murderer who executed two FBI special agents and has neither accepted responsibility for the murders nor shown any remorse.  However, others feel the FBI had no substantive evidence in the trial, essentially framed him and he has unsuccessfully appealed his conviction numerous times.

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

For many Native Americans, Peltier’s imprisonment has come to stand not only for unjust violence waged against Native Americans but also for the theft of the life of a man who has handled his 33 years in jail with dignity and grace.  If you take the time and look deeper into Peltier’s legal situation — compare the 64-year olds poor health and then contrast it with the recent “compassionate grounds” release of the Lockerbie bomber — one can only assume that the public outrage likely didn’t help his chances in the parole hearing.  His best chance now of getting out of prison alive is to receive a pardon or clemency from the president of the U.S.  However, that is unlikely, as Mr. Obama would rather spend time reaching out to Muslims and celebrate Islamic holy month by hosting a Ramadan dinner than address the plight of Native Americans.  To be fair, Mr. Obama did present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Joe Medicine Crow — High Bird in Washington last month.  Photo HERE.

I’m not on a mission to convince anyone of Peltier’s guilt or innocence.  Remember, this all started with a song and I’ve not turned activist fighting for the overturn of the U.S. constitutional court rulings that affirmed the confiscation of Native American lands.  I’m a motorcycle enthusiast who enjoys the Black Hills and appreciates the freedom to take in a week of open roads.  There is more information related to freeing Peltier HERE or if compelled, you can write him at:

Leonard Peltier
#89637-132
USP-Lewisburg
US Penitentiary
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837

Lastly, in doing the research for this post I run across Arron Huey.  A photo journalist with images that are truly captivating of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.  His work was featured in Perpignan at the last Vis d’Or Photojournalism Festival.

Photo courtesy of  LDOC and Travel South Dakota web site.

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