Three More Sleeps

Black Hills South Dakota

It happens every year in the month leading up to Sturgis. I go back and forth about whether I’m going, the highs and low’s of planning and then it all comes together and a date gets penciled in. Or does it? This year it does.

I’m actually getting my gear together and making a list of those items I will forget. It never fails, you can put it all in a pile and you end up taking those things you really will never need and leave behind the necessities. Of course you can pick up anything you need along the way, but that isn’t the point. I have it sitting right there on the garage floor.

I’ve sent a few messages to people I know who will be there in hopes of meeting up for a beer. I know I want to head out to the Full Throttle to see the progress in person, and do a couple of rides in the area that I haven’t done in a few years. Man, I wish The Knuckle Saloon still had the amateur MMA fights like they used to. Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty going on, it’s just a matter of wandering around.

So, the next decision is which direction to ride on the way up. I’ve taken about every road up and back, mixing up the scenery and giving those few crooks the opportunity to skim my card at the gas pump. Yes, this has happened. Like every trip I take, I always have a goal of meeting some locals in hopes they tell me their life story. It will happen, and I’ll be all ears. That’s okay and it never gets old listening to someone tell me a little about themselves or the community in which they live. Good stuff.

As I sit here typing this, I should be in the garage packing some stuff. I did get my cup holder mounted. I struggled with that. Not from mounting it, but rather if I need it. Really? A cup holder? Hey, it’s a long trip.

I guess Friday morning is only a couple of sleeps away, and there will be plenty of time to gather my crap and strap it down. I’m ready to go – at least in my head I am.

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Sitting on the Electric Fence

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

I’ve been riding motorcycles a long time. Things were way different in the mid-seventies with polyester shirts and bell bottom jeans, but mostly it was the amount of hair I had underneath my helmet. It was simple – bikes were simple, and livin’ just came easy. Low-tech television sets and kick-starters on our motorcycles. I remember it all like it was yesterday. And quite frankly, I’m still wearing polyester shirts and bell bottoms.

But things are changing, even with a motorcycle company that is steeped in history dating back to a day when The Wright Brothers were winging it with the first sustained motorized flight in a pasture in North Carolina. To see history through the eyes of Harley-Davidson is a story that’s been told by better ‘tellers than me. And here we are, minutes away from the LiveWire release this fall, and I’m sitting here on the proverbial electric fence about it.

And here we are, minutes away from the LiveWire release this fall, and I’m sitting here on the proverbial electric fence about it.

I get it. Innovation is essential in all aspects of life making it better. It wasn’t enough to have a cellular phone, we needed a phone that flipped and took pictures. You catch my drift? Heck, I’ve owned cars and trucks without power-steering or air conditioning, so I know the advantages of someone thinking about my conveniences and comfort. For that I will always be grateful.

So why then, would a fella like me be on the fence about a futuristic electric motorcycle built by one of the longest running, most recognized companies in the world?

I consider myself an average guy. I ride motorcycles and have for a long time. I’m an enthusiast, and I like all things two-wheeled. I like the LiveWire but it isn’t something I could see myself owning. I do know this isn’t just about me. There will be plenty of those pre-order’s coming in to the Motor Company’s switchboard by those who want to have one of the first off the assembly line or can appreciate the electric vehicle (EV) segment. If I had the opportunity to ride one I would. But, I don’t know. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of siphoning gas out of your buddies bike to put into your near-empty tank to make it to the next gas station, you haven’t lived your best life. I just like the sound and feel of the combustion engine. Oh, and the smell and taste of combustion engine fuel. Go ahead, tell me you never…

So why am I struggling to embrace what makes the combustion engine and the electric motor motorcycles co-exist? Do you remember when the microwave and the VCR first came to be? Man, were they expensive. Maybe that’s part of my problem. It’s the price tag. As new technology comes forth, the initial costs are high and for a working man like me, who enjoys riding his Road King, the just-short-of-a-ashtray-full-of-change away from $30,000 is a lot of money. Plus, I like to ride further than the estimated range the LiveWire has. Again, I’m not the targeted audience for this particular segment, I’m sure. But I am on the radar of Hair Club for Men.

Plus, I like to ride further than the estimated range the LiveWire has. Again, I’m not the targeted audience for this particular segment, I’m sure. But I am on the radar of Hair Club for Men.

I’ve written in other posts about how Harley-Davidson has painted themselves into a corner. Until the concept of the LiveWire came about, the Motor Company has had a problem of changing anything that might upset their core customer, and that particular bike in the line-up they owned. Fuel injection for those die-hard carburetor customers, radiators hanging off the front, etc. Keeping things the same – fenders, engines, the iconic fairing or saddlebags and even the traditional names of models has been a successful business plan and have all past the test of time. That’s our fault. We have demanded a lot, meaning we have demanded the same.

So where does this leave me? It’s going to be okay. Things are changing around me, and like my father witnessing the changes he did, these changes wait for nobody. There will be things coming in the future that will be hard to wrap my head around but once they’re here, we’ll wonder why it took so long. The LiveWire will be here to stay because just as the EV’s have evolved, they will be refined even more, and in turn, costs will come down. I’m just being the old man I swore I’d never become!

If You’re Going To Ride, Ride To Food

It was my trip to Sturgis in August of 2016 when DJ, Gary and myself stopped for gas in Beloit Kansas when we crossed paths with Staci Wilt. Of course we had no idea at the time what kind of Motorcycle Industry insider she was, or was about to become. But this riding motorcycles has a way making paths cross, building friendships and expanding horizons. And it seems no matter which way I turn on the virtual highway of social media, I see Staci doing her thing. Hey, I know her!

I have a confession. When I first walked over to her at the gas pump to see if she needed anything on her solo trip to the rally, (because Gary, DJ and myself had enough packed between the three of us to supply shelter for a small city) I wasn’t expecting her response. With the small black bag on the back of her Dyna, she had everything she needed. As I walked back to my RV of a Harley, I realized the insanity of my packing skills. 30 miles down the road at the Largest Ball of Twine, we bumped into Staci again – only this time I dazzled her with my familiarity of the area when she asked me directions. And just like that, she was gone.

As I’ve mentioned, she has been building her profiles and making those important appearances at rallies and events, all the while her Dyna was in the shop for a major engine rebuild. But that’s what you have to do. Be seen, be present and be creative. She has all those bases covered. And she knows her stuff.

Her latest endeavor is called Ride to Food. We as bikers like to go places and if you’ve seen my profile, (and not my social media profile) you would see I like to eat along the way. But let’s stay away from those common food chains and strip mall eateries. Lets get together for a beer and a taste of local flavor that requires some searching and exploring. She does some of the legwork for us, and that saves time and broadens our experiences on the road. And she’s also a straight shooter telling it like it is.

Although our paths crossed just that one day, I consider Staci a friend. She gets it. She knows the why’s and where’s of the motorcycling communities and lives the lifestyle. Follow her on social media and her blogs and buy a t-shirt from her. Her blog is worth a read. Until we meet again Staci!

Blue Highway Home

Our years of living have proved one thing – There will always be a blue highway home.

It’s not so much the city streets, but more the connecting highway from where our life has taken us, to the place from which we come from. The slower pace, the faded white lines and the grass growing right next to the highway pulls you to your roots. This highway only works in one direction, and the feeling is always the same. You begin to see things as they were but not oblivious to the changes, and the faces of friends and family appear like photographs. So close to home.

I’ve traveled the blue highway home many times but for me there’s a difference. I never felt the pull of a distant dream that would put me miles away from where I was raised. I’ve chased plenty of those dreams, but it felt more like it needed to be done from the familiar surroundings from where I stood. I’ve talked about this in so many ways, and the question still haunts me. How would the blue highway home feel from the outside looking in?

I’ve talked about this in so many ways, and the question still haunts me. How would the blue highway home feel from the outside looking in?

As time passes, our reference to home is fluid. It depends on the conversation and the depth of knowledge our listener has of us. Do they know the whereabouts of my upbringing? Are they only familiar with my current location, or does it really matter? For those who really know us, there is a sense of understanding that home will always be at the end of that old highway. In a sense, when reflecting, we see things similar to the road that takes us home. Quiet and full of memories, recognizable faces and that back porch light, pulling those thoughts to a place of comfort and familiarity.

We don’t always have the urge to go home, mostly because a part of us never left. Sometimes that blue highway is a source of resentment or angst and best not traveled. But life can be full of these feelings no matter where you go or where you’ve been. For me, the blue highway is a reminder that no matter where you end up, there will always be an open door when looking back.

Finding Enthusiasm

UPDATE: I’m back working in the powersports business. But c’mon, you knew that would happen.

After taking approximately 16 months off from my previous gig at a local dealership I proceeded to haul RV’s around the country. Now I’m back doing what I thoroughly enjoy. After hitting a proverbial wall in the motorcycle business, which left me dazed and confused, I’ve found a new enthusiasm. I wondered if I’d ever get it back. It’s back.

We all know the struggles this motorcycle biz has had the last few years. The industry as a whole has been trying to figure out how to get previous customers to buy again and fresh blood into the sport. I’m positive there is no time being wasted or energy conserved to bring new models and ideas to fruition, while the experts are trying to get a grip on the secret recipe for growth. In spite of it all it’s really a great time to be a part of this. The flip side is getting that enthusiasm back to the dealer principles that have been feeling the weight of sluggish sales and fewer door swings.

But let’s face it, we have a generation or two not interested in smelling like exhaust, their hair styled by a helmet, or putting their disposable income on the counter of their local dealership for a new or gently used motorcycle. And of course, the internet has impacted every facet of this industry – just as it has every other brick and mortar business down the street. Let me be clear here, every business has its challenges – whether it’s competition moving into your territory, price wars or brighter/shinier objects for sale. That’s business. But the internet is open 24 hours a day and has an audience reach that can’t be rivaled. Don’t believe me? Look into the palm of my hand. Or your hand for that matter. That device we hold is our window to the world around us. Plus lower prices, free shipping and 24/7 phone support is pretty attractive, but not nearly as attractive as our friendly staff. Have you seen these faces? You would see them if you would just look up from your window to the world. Human interaction seems to be waning, would you agree?

That’s business. But the internet is open 24 hours a day and has an audience reach that can’t be rivaled. Don’t believe me? Look into the palm of my hand. Or your hand for that matter.

I can sit here and make excuses as to why inventory isn’t being moved, but do we have to make things harder than they really are? Are we truly so absorbed with the larger picture we forget the fundamentals of building a customer base and exceeding expectations during the customer buying experience?

I recently read an article online at Cycle World written by Seth Richards about his experience of trying to buy a used bike. I liked it so much I read it twice. And as a motojournalist, Seth knows bikes. As for me, someone in this business, it hit me square between the eyes. I get it. I know exactly where Seth is coming from. We as dealerships need to understand how important every customer is and how easy it is for a buyer to walk right down the information super-highway to find another bike. Oh, and with their cash in hand.

It’s true. As painful as it is for me to say, I too have walked into a dealership only to leave dumbfounded – and for a host of reasons. Not being greeted or acknowledged, a staff lacking knowledge (or even more so, a salesperson that has never ridden a motorcycle), and a retail space in disarray with faded and dusty merchandise. Attention to details? how about attention to your customers. There are also dealers that do a great job and it shows. These dealers are usually moving more merchandise because of it. I will admit, we all can do better each and every day.

I’ve wondered if the last few years of flat or negative numbers has had a larger impact on dealers than originally thought. With a combination of internet competition, lower profit margins and a switch in consumer interests from things mechanical to digital has dealers scratching their heads. But more importantly, the loss of enthusiasm and focus that pulled so many into starting a motorcycle shop in the first place. I’ve spoken with dealerships that are on the verge of closing if “this year” isn’t any better than the last. Little do they know, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But more importantly, the loss of enthusiasm and focus that pulled so many into the business to begin with. I’ve spoken with dealerships that are on the verge of closing if “this year” isn’t any better than the last. Little do they know, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I encourage you to read Seth’s article in the link above. He has a point – several things going wrong in the sales process cost the dealership not only a valuable sale, but also a more valuable customer. I don’t know Seth personally, but I do know folks that have had similar buying experiences with virtually the same result. The dealer maybe had a couple of opportunities to salvage the deal with Seth, but he left disappointed. I don’t blame him.

While you’re shopping online for parts, gear or bikes, I ask that you give your local shop the opportunity to earn your business. The better your relationship with your dealer, the better things will get all around. Spend a little money locally but don’t be afraid to get online as well. We are quick to rate our online experience, but in the case of Seth’s personal experience I would recommend pulling the dealer principle (if possible) aside and explaining the reason for not buying. Either they will accept this as constructive criticism or they will reinforce your decision to buy elsewhere. Thanks for the article Seth!

Baby Boomers and Bacon

It’s almost like I fell off the face of the earth. I know in one of the last posts I wrote said I was going to get out of this mental funk and start blogging again. Well, the road of life has a way of taking you places, doesn’t it? For a guy who rides motorcycles almost every day, I really never saw this coming. I think some of the mental block I was experiencing was actually from riding my motorcycle. In the last couple of years I rode to Boston, L.A. and Sturgis a couple of times and the many miles of local roads can sure put a lot of stuff into perspective. But it also took some of the fun out of it. I wouldn’t trade any of those miles for anything, but I was at a point where I was riding without appreciating the fact that I was doing what I love so much. Instead of riding to clear my head and put my life – past, present and future into perspective, I was just rolling along with my head in this thick cloud of stuff. I’m not sure, but at one point I decided I needed a change. A big one. One that makes you question your own sanity and shit your pants. Sorry, but that is the only real term I could think of. So without too much hesitation I made a complete career change and now I’m transporting recreational vehicles from the manufacturer to their dealer destinations. In simpler terms, I move RV’s around the country. I know, right?

Since I started my blog I have written so much about riding my motorcycle and the random thoughts that roll around in my head and the life I’ve had growing up in the small town of White City Kansas. I’m sure if you have read any of what I’ve written you will get to know me pretty well. And I must admit this blog has opened up so many doors for me in the powersports industry and I’ve had an opportunity to not only get so much better at this but to also meet so many great people along the way. And it goes even further than that. I have also been contacted by several organizations to be a consultant within the powersports/financial community, talking trends about local, regional and national stuff in the business that I won’t bore you with. Who would have thunk a small town kid from White City would be contacted to write articles for magazines and talk with investors about what goes on in and around my small world? Thank you Jmadog Blog. So with all this I became less carefree and more of a stick in the mud. I think so anyway, others may say I was riding a wave. And what do I do? I take a break from writing and although the riding was still a big part of who I am, I still felt like I needed to figure it all out. Besides, the grandkids and my beautiful daughter moved back to Colorado Springs and I realized how important this was for them but also how difficult it would be for Paw Paw. Did I mentioned I made a career change? Let me tie all this together for you. So I started following the RV industry. Sounds boring, doesn’t it. Well, with all this talk about where the powersports industry was headed – with an aging Baby Boomer customer base and no generation coming in to take their place – I started doing my research. The RV business is on a steady incline and has been for a few years and then it hit me; This is where the powersports/Harley-Davidson customer is going. they’re buying Side-by-side off road vehicles (a growing segment in the industry) and RV’s. But wait, that’s not what made me change careers. I was coming back from Oklahoma after picking up a motorcycle from another dealer and on the radio they were talking about FEMA moving RV’s to Texas and along the coast after the hurricanes and at that point I wanted to be a part of something that made a difference. Not that I didn’t think someone buying a Harley-Davidson wasn’t changing someone’s life but c’mon I think you know what I mean. And so here I am. After traveling twenty-six states in the last two and a half months, driving as of today, 34,000 miles, I can say without hesitation that at this point I’m doing what I need to be doing. I also have plenty of time to think… Just the other day a memory came to me from when I was a kid and we were visiting relatives in Benkelman Nebraska. My folks and all my aunts and uncles would go out for the evening and leave us kids at Duane and Bonnie’s house to entertain ourselves. Great memories with my cousins for sure but when the adults came home my Uncle Duane would cook breakfast and to this day I can still see him doing this and smell the bacon. I haven’t thought about that for a long time. There’s more to this story but I’m sworn to secrecy.

I’m not going to kid anyone. This change has had a steep learning curve when motorcycles came so easy for me. I’ve made a couple of sacrifices and I’m willing to do it to achieve my goals. I’ve never doubted my abilities to adapt to any situation and let’s face it, I’m a pretty likable guy. Just sayin’. As I gather my thoughts and shift a few gears, I will see where this takes me.

Mental Ditch

charger.jpg2

It’s easy to get pulled into the ditch. I can remember in my early teens, driving my ’72 Dodge Charger around town in the winter snow, looking for snow drifts to plow through. This was a great car but it didn’t do well in the snow. Those after-dark Friday nights driving around White City in the snow would often find you getting the front-end pulled into the ditch, often due to a heavy right foot and an out-of-control back-end. Right up there on the center console, next to where your cell phone would have been had we had one, was your gloves. Someone was getting out to push.

So what does this have to do with a mental ditch? I thought you would never ask. It’s easy to get pulled into the ditch of negativity. Sometimes it happens faster than we can react and we find ourselves sliding into a bad attitude or mood. Despite how we felt before it happened, it can suck you in requiring someone else to push you out. We need friends riding shotgun with us to make us understand that we are responsible for our own attitude and that we aren’t responsible for the attitudes of others. And besides, they are willing to get out and give us a push in the right direction – just like we would do for them. Literally and figuratively speaking.

But there are times when even my motorcycle can’t get me out of this mental ditch I find myself in. The best people in my life know when I need a push.

We are at this point in the year where I normally talk about riding my motorcycle and all those wonderful thoughts that roll around in this pretty little head of mine, and believe me those blogs are coming. But there are times when even my motorcycle can’t get me out of the mental ditch I find myself in. The best people in my life know when I need a push, and will gladly get out and give it all they have. After all, we have to be home by midnight.