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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.

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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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'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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Mike Zupan (left) and John Zupan (right)

I was on a Southwest flight heading to Sacramento last week reading the in-flight magazine.

There was an article called “Bourbon Barrels” which stated that in Kentucky the number of Bourbon-aging barrels outnumber the state’s residents by more than 360,000.  There are 4.7M aging barrels in use among the commercial distillers.  And that in recent years, the popularity of premium small-batch and single barrel products has skyrocketed to the point where the bourbon industry in Kentucky is in its biggest expansion phase since Prohibition.

While reading this it reminded me of an online article I had read earlier in the week where company executives for Brown-Forman (Jack Daniels) stated that they’ve seen improvements in liquor consumption at U.S. bars and restaurants.  The so-called “out-on-the-town” drinking, a key segment for the spirits companies, had been hurt in recent years by the economy, but with renewed brand development and wider distribution, Brown-Forman stated they are seeing improved net sales growth.

Northeast Marine Drive -Portland, OR.

It was a quick flight, but I had time to read all two-pages of the Oregonian Business section to learn that John Zupan, 66, died.

John who?

John was like many of you who read this blog.  A person who enjoyed classic cars and motorcycles.  He also was the founder of Zupan’s Markets which makes him a grocery store pioneer.  According to my sources he had recently purchased a 2009 BMW motorcycle and was riding it on Northeast Marine Drive when his motorcycle was hit head-on by a motorist.  According to Portland Police reports the car was driven by Edy Porfirio Reynoso-Ramirez, age 32.  Reynoso-Ramirez was driving a 1998 Honda Civic and was speeding in the eastbound lane of Northeast Marine Drive, driving erratically and passing other vehicles.  After the accident Reynoso-Ramirez fled the scene and tracking dogs were used to locate him hiding in an industrial area.  Reynoso-Ramirez was booked into Multnomah County jail with allegations of assault in the second degree, failure to perform the duties of a driver, DUII and reckless driving.  In addition, U.S. Immigration and Customs placed a hold on him.

Edy Porfirio Reynoso-Ramirez (L)

This is a very sad story.  One that occurs to often (drunk drivers (some being undocumented)) and is not easy to get use too.

For some topics, particularly on public health and immigration, summaries are dangerous because they can create the idea that a single or simple solution exists when it’s always more complex.  However, for those who say that the status of the driver is irrelevant, I beg to differ.  If Reynoso-Ramirez were not here illegally, Mr. Zupan might well still be with us.  In Oregon like most all other states acceptable PROOF of residence is a requirement for a drivers license.  It’s unclear if Reynoso-Ramirez has ever been checked to see if he even knows how to drive or if he can even read the road signs? Lastly, by the nature of his illegal status, there is an implied disregard of U.S. laws so, why not drink and drive?  It’s a third world corrupt behavior and one that is problematic.

I’m sure there is a lot of blame to pass around for this accident.  The DMV is at fault for lax documentation measures.  The spirits industry for its continual drive of seeing improved sales or the retail outlet for selling the spirits.  It’s the governments fault because they are lax on immigration.  Geez, even President Barack Obama’s family is embroiled in a similar matter.  His uncle, Onyango Obama, an illegal immigrant was charged with drunken driving in Framingham, MA.  He was ordered by an immigration judge back in 1992 to leave the country, but for some reason just hasn’t gotten around to it. Onyango, who’s from Kenya, is the half brother of the president’s late father and has pleaded not guilty to operating under the influence of alcohol and is being held on an immigration detainer.

Sadly, drunk drivers come in all shapes, sizes and citizenship status’.

I anticipate that this accident will be placed on the back burner by the Oregon media or law makers as to avoid having any debate over illegal immigration and any associated issues.  What’s worse is that many people out there – especially insurance companies- consider motorcycle accidents, even when the motorcycle rider is NOT at fault, the “cost of doing business” and that motorcycle riders have essentially assumed the risk of getting hurt.   Many non-motorcycle riding members of the pubic, in fact, assume that anyone who rides a motorcycle is asking for trouble and if they do get hurt, well then that is the riders fault even if the rider did nothing improper.

Unfortunately the real issue (drunk and reckless driving) will get buried in the media as questions about who will or will not participate in the Ducks next football practice take center stage…

My sincere condolences to the Zupan family.

Photos courtesy of Zupan.com and Fox 12 News

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