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Posts Tagged ‘Mount Rushmore’

2014 Electra Glide Ultra Limited

2014 Electra Glide Ultra Limited

“New? New is easy. Right is hard.” – Craig Federighi, Apple Sr. VP of Software Engineering.

Fresh back from the 110th  Anniversary celebration, where I spent some time on the factory floor, trying to get some spy photos and probing a number of the workers to talk about what’s behind that so-called RUSHMORE name.  Was it real or another marketing slogan by “Mr. Pontiac” himself… Mark-Hans Richer?

Cut away - 103 cu.in. Liquid-cooled Cylinder Heads

Cut away – 103 cu.in. Liquid-cooled Cylinder Heads and Radiator Fan

It turns out that Project Rushmore is a nod to the famous monument that also happens to be near the mother of all motorcycle rallies, Sturgis.

Basically it’s an overarching theme for Harley-Davidson’s internal quest to build a better motorcycle. And while the motor company always stated they took customer feedback and tried to make improvements, even the most casual observer could see that Harley-Davidson’s pace of innovation has been off.  Compounding the dribbles of innovation are two motorcycle trends that have been working against the motor company; the continuing rise of competition, most notably Indian/Victory, and the fall of prices that consumers are willing to pay for a premium motorcycle.

When the “great recession” hit, Harley was arrogant complacent with those easy customer conquests/sales that were financed by home equity and they missed how customers views were changing on premium motorcycles.  It was from this business duress that Harley-Davidson reworked internal processes and procedures while at the same time being forced to become a leaner organization that could work more efficiently at engineering and developing motorcycles.

CAUTION: Blogger about to enter the H-D factory floor...

CAUTION: Blogger about to enter the H-D factory floor…

Layoffs, renegotiated union contracts, temp labor, threats to shut down manufacturing sites, no more music on the factory floor, etc.,… the bad news seemed endless coming from the Milwaukee HQ.

But, the 110 year old company moved forward and internally the Project RUSHMORE name became a rallying cry and served two product goals;  quicker development time (rush) and deeper features (more).   After analyzing and reviewing  successful product development organizations across numerous industries, Harley-Davidson re-worked their engineering, marketing, styling, manufacturing, and supply chain management strategy, and successfully reduced their product development timeline from 5+ years down to just over 3 years.

Clearly the H-D executives, at best, passed off some illusory innovation prior to the 2014 model year!

However, today Project RUSHMORE is real and the results are tangible for motorcycle enthusiasts.  It’s focused on four key areas — Control, Feel, Style, and Infotainment.  The 2014 touring models received significant refinements to shortcomings that the owners have lamented about for years.  The tangible results are that H-D has encapsulated over 100 new features and incorporated over 2,400 new part numbers.  From more aerodynamic fairings and easier-to-use saddlebags to the availability of two Twin-Cooled engines that incorporate precision liquid-cooled cylinder heads.  

After seeing, sitting on and riding the new 2014 touring models it’s easy to state they have a lot to offer and props to H-D for rolling out tangible enhancements beyond the typical new paint scheme.

Photos courtesy of H-D.  Engine cut-away photo taken by author on Milwaukee factory tour.

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Posse at the 70th Sturgis Rally

STURGIS is STURGIS — Since 1938 the Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with some exceptions during WWII, for example the gasoline rationing in 1942.

And as a result, a lot about Sturgis remains nearly the same year after year after year.  There are the RVs, tents, vendors, concerts, people watching and lots of motorcycles.  And did I already say there is a lot of people?  Every year they try to make it bigger, better and fancier.  In fact, this year the musical lineup included folk icon Dylan to heavy metal pioneer Osbourne along with some Motley Crue and ZZ Top in-between.  Each of the big three camp grounds compete with each other to see who can bring in the more impressive talent.

But there feels like a bit of a metamorphosis at Sturgis.  It’s become noticeably more commercial.  Even the Hells Angels had a booth serving up (for a fee) a Sonny B. book signing along with calendar and t-shirt sales!  The rally has turned a corner toward a concentration of commercialized chrome with a sanitized or reserved atmosphere.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s just about moneymaking which doesn’t interest a lot of folks.

Our group persevered through the changes in rally persona, and spent a couple days at the “humble rumble” (i.e. Sturgis) – enjoying all that the town and surrounding area had to offer up – I departed with only one t-shirt!  The Sturgis population of 6500 hosts a few hundred thousand biking enthusiasts and along the way the economic engine collects about $987M in state tourism for the little celebration.

Capitalism at its finest!  And if you don’t think there are many people in attendance… consider this: NYC has 26,402 people per square mile; Sturgis during rally week has 160,427 people per square mile!

In my estimation there are 3-types of people who come to the Sturgis rally. The CASUAL OBSERVER – who may ride, but most likely does not and spends most of the day in t-shirt shops buying “proof” they were at the ‘mayhem’ or event.  Next is the RECREATIONAL RIDER – some who rode there, but many likely trailered their $35K CVOs.  This group offers up the largest opportunity for the vendor booths as the biker subculture fantasy doesn’t come cheap.  The last group is the RODE MINE whose leather jackets patina match the sunburned faces.  You don’t get that bright red tan while sitt’n in captain seats in the Ford F-series pickup!

Willie G

There might even be another group, those who don’t own rain gear, sport offensive tat’s and do tune ups along the way.  They have a true pulse of the V-Twin and a real sense of brotherhood.  But I’ve digressed.  For most the celebration will come to an end and will need to shave and shower and squeeze back into the cubicle.  In other words, get back to work as were going to need to pay off the August credit card bill!

From my vantage a few highlights were: the Kid Rock concert at the “Chip” (Dylan was totally lame!); face-to-face with Harley executives (Willie G., Bill and Nancy); Mount Rushmore achieved the highest single day attendance record on August 10th; witnessing the ear blasting B1-B Bomber fly over on main street; “The Wall That Heals” (a ½ scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial); the AMD World Championship customs; free Macanudo cigars and the Harley-Davidson booth/crew.

AMD World Championship

Speaking of the H-D booth, I want to provide a shout out to the Milwaukee team for a job well done!  In previous years you’d have to commute to Rapid City to see the new model line-up which many riders passed over.  It was extraordinarily convenient to meander up from the Broken Spoke and talk up new features with the well trained H-D personnel who were genuinely interested in chatting it up with riders.

Now for some of the bad news: the 70th Rally saw about double the number of road deaths/crashes vs. previous year averages.  Nine people were killed in the Sturgis area during the rally.  There were no deaths last year.  This number doesn’t account for fatal wrecks in other states involving motorcyclists on their way as was the situation for an Oregon man who crashed on US 12 near Powell, ID HERE.   Granted the higher number of attendees does contribute to potential crashes, but in many instances the accidents seemed due to inattention.  Early stats indicate that fewer people were arrested for drunken driving, but more for drug violation.  Law enforcement responded to 73 injury accidents and 36 non-injury which was similar to previous years.  Total citations for the 2010 rally were down to 1442 vs. 1803 in 2009.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 3 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

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By this time you’ve likely read that this year marked the 70th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

I returned earlier in the week and am just now getting back on the keyboard to ramp up some blogging content from the 12-day vacation.   Wow, that went fast!

For about two weeks I didn’t think about blogging, media organizations or watch TV other than an occasional weather update.  Digital media influences our lives and influences society, but the disconnected wind in the face time was nice.  Besides, the lack of AT&T coverage in and around Lead, SD made it easy to stay disconnected!

The 70th Rally expected to spark a surge in both attendees and vendors.  From my vantage it delivered.  Early estimates are nearly half a million people flooded the tiny town of Sturgis and the surrounding Black Hills.  Last year attendance was in the 380,000 range.  For 2010 the intense influx of visitors brought vendors selling everything from patches, rally gear, handmade jewelry and tattoos.  Harley-Davidson had a solid showcase of the new 2011 models and was well attended being in downtown Sturgis the first time in years.

I’ve attended the rally 3 times now over the last ten years, but this trip brought a few first’s:

  1. No rain outbound to Sturgis – 1200 miles of sunny/hot weather.
  2. First time through the Southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park (via Jackson, WY) – The Grand Teton National Park is incredible and reminded me of trips to the Canadian Rockies.
  3. Mount Rushmore achieved the highest single day attendance record.  Officials stated that 17,600 people visited the national memorial on Tuesday (August 10th). The most in one day since the park started keeping track in 2000.  The Black Hills were jammed full of motorcycles!
  4. Avoided the motel rip-off and thrash – stayed in a vacation cabin south of Lead in the Deer Mountain area.
  5. Attended the first ever Bob Dylan concert – Kid Rock saved the evening with a real performance.
  6. Face-to-face with Willie G., Bill Davidson and Nancy.  – No they didn’t recognize me from the blog.
  7. Riding a motorcycle in a lightning storm… on the return trip… Not to let a little rain intimidate us in Montana, we drove on, only to find ourselves in a drenching downpour, complete with hail, thunder, and lightning.  Who knew there so many motorcyclist survival lightning strike stories!

I’ll be doing a detailed trip update shortly as I pull together my notes and VISA slips to remember where I was when.

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posse_rushmoreWhy does the Federal government discriminate against motorcycles?  National Parks are the biggest offenders. 

A recent example is from a trip to Sturgis to visit the granite monolith of Presidents at Mount Rushmore.  You pull up to the facility entrance and you’ll notice signs of a $10 (Cars, Motorcycles, and RV’s) fee.  Clear thinking people will immediately notice that the price applies to a family of eight touring the Black Hills of SD in a rusted out RV or two-up on a motorcycle.  Huh?  Talk about a rip off!

So, I sent an email to the U.S. Department of the Interior to get the discrimination scoop:

Dear Mr. Interior,

As a motorcyclist I feel discriminated against when visiting your fine monument.  I arrived over the summer to witness long lines of motorcycles, automobiles, vans, and RV’s packed with people eager to park and take photos of the stone Presidents.  To my shock I was required to pay a $10 fee just like all the other vehicles.  Yet, when my lovely “model” passenger informed the heavy soda drinking Park Ranger that we could not fit six people on the prize winning custom Black Harley-Davidson he just sneered and gave us $10 change from the Andrew Jackson…no sir not fair, not very fair at all…is it?

The attached photo (above) is of the posse who spent $80 to enter your facility on motorcycles.

Signed – Mac (Feeling ripped by the Department of the Interior)

The reply from the Interior’s head dude:

Dear Mr. Mac Rant,

Thank you for submitting an email on November 5, 2008, concerning your visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial over the summer. The legislation that established Mount Rushmore National Memorial prohibits charging an entrance fee at the Memorial. No fees have been charged at the Memorial prior to the summer of 1997 when a parking fee was established.

This fee you reference is charged to pay for the cost of the construction and operation of the parking facility only. The new facility was necessary to accommodate the increased length of stay due to the new facilities now available at the Memorial. We determined after much effort that a federal appropriation to build the facility was not possible. Therefore, the National Park Service issued a concession contract for the design, construction and operation of a parking facility.

The concessionaire is allowed to collect a fee that will pay these costs. The concessionaire has set a standard rate of $10 for all personal vehicles. The concessionaire does not make special accommodations for various sizes of personal vehicles. In this method, we hope to keep our policies fair for everyone who visits the memorial. The parking concessionaire is also a non-profit organization, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society. Any income above expenses that might arise from the parking revenues is returned to assist the memorial with operations and maintenance.

We do appreciate your interest in Mount Rushmore National Memorial and you taking the time and initiative to learn more about the management of the memorial.

Signed – Park Ranger Bob

Bummer.  The ‘ol form letter from the government.  How ironic that I’ve been “stone-walled!”  What is it with these government types?  Let’s peel back some of the political layers here.  The DOI is the nation’s principal conservation agency.  It has over 80K employees at over 2400 locations across the U.S.  It has a $15.8B annual budget of which $12.9B are revenues collected from energy, mineral, land sales and recreational management.

rushmore_parkSo, what we have here is an aggressive commercialization situation by parking thugs concessionaire’s and us motorcyclist provide financial assistance way above all others who have a similar desire to visit the park.  This goes way beyond any reasonable common sense test!  Yet we continue to pay and provide the most generous contributions.  Clearly the Park Management knows this is the case.  I’m sure they have attendance reports that show half of the parking fee revenue is generated from motorcycles yet we don’t consume the equivalent parking space.  In 2007, over 2M visitors came to the monument.  I’ve solicited a report via the freedom of information act (FOIA) which will provide detailed information on the revenue break out and I’ll provide an update on the findings.

Given that budgets have grown tighter and the reality of federal appropriations for parks, it would be a good bet that this parking policy will never change.   So, on your next trip might I suggest as a sign of “cage” protest that we use one full parking space per motorcycle and send a message that we’re tired of the rip-off!

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