Gravel Road…King

The struggle is real. I can only imagine walking the hallowed halls of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 2019, the weight of a legacy built by Harley and Davidson brothers pressing down on you. With over 115 years of constructing this legendary icon and searching for the ways and means to continue this brand for another 115 years, must be stressful. A brand that has survived through literally generations is quite a feat, all-the-while forecasting the future wants and needs of their customers and trying to remain relevant in a ever changing landscape. It’s not easy living in the present and the pressure must be tremendous.

I have to hand it to The Motor Company. The last few years they have made a commitment to bring a plethora of new models to market and contrary to what we see about the LiveWire, not all of them are electric. The new Pan America and the Bronx are classic examples of a more forward thinking company. I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After logging several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.

I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.

But these challenges aren’t exclusive to Harley-Davidson. This modern day dilemma finds a cell phone in every hand instead of a throttle. It’s easier to watch a few internet sensations on YouTube doing what we all should be doing – getting out and experiencing life the way it should be. I applaud Harley-Davidson for taking a leap into other segments, and the development of the Pan America and Bronx are a great start. Looking back, maybe the relationship between Buell and The MoCo came at the wrong time. And before you comment under your breath, the Buell Ulysses was a good motorcycle. And let’s not forget the Sportster XR1200. This is a classic example of Harley actually stepping up their game with a model and a market that wasn’t ready. With all the hoopla surrounding the Indian FTR1200, one would think the XR1200 would be a success on today’s showroom floors. We get excited about new models, but if customers don’t make the purchase, plugs get pulled. Another good bike lost to lack of sales.

Just as the Founding Fathers would never fully see the success of the motorcycles they built, they could truly see the effect their motorcycles had on riders of the day. Besides basic transportation, their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going. With all this social media we have now, I believe something is missing. Maybe it’s the social part.

their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going.

I consider myself an average guy. As a Harley-Davidson enthusiast maybe I’m part of the Motor Company’s problem. As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt road or trail in for good measure. My last three Harley’s were touring bikes and right now I don’t need another one. I need something that takes me back to when I first started riding and the joy I felt. A dirt bike? No. Because I still need to commute and have the ability to travel. When selling motorcycles over the years I’ve always said “any of these bikes will take you wherever you want to go, but is that how you want to get there?” And at this moment in my life, my Road King isn’t how I want to get there.

As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt track or trail in for good measure.

Had the Pan America’s release been a few years ago, I would have been riding one. I like it. I also like the direction Harley is going but with it comes the struggle of bringing it’s customers along for the ride. To build excitement for new and old riders alike can be difficult, but not impossible. It can be harder for a company like Harley as they are continuing their legacy. When rumors of the Rushmore Project came out for the 2014 model year, before the Twin-Cooling was introduced, I said in a previous blog post if they build a liquid-cooled bike the masses will buy it. I hope the same for the Pan America and the Bronx.

Long Way Anywhere

After spending the last 15 years or so on Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, I decided to make a switch to the Adventure-Touring segment. I purchased an older BMW GS and honestly, couldn’t be happier at the moment. There are many great bikes out on the market, and I realize that it isn’t so much the BMW GS itself but more so I just needed a change. After my trip to the Sturgis Rally this year, I made up my mind that when I got home I was going to do it.

I’ve been a big fan of the GS series and as a matter of fact, I like the Harley-Davidson Pan America due to be release in the near future. But thanks to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, I’ve wanted a BMW GS for many years. This is one step in the process of getting back to exploring the backroads that are hidden away – much like I did when I first discovered motorcycles. Of course I’m not riding the Road of Bones in Russia like Ewan and Charley, the back-roads of Morris county will have to do.

Of course I’m not riding the Road of Bones in Russia like Ewan and Charley, the back-roads of Morris county will have to do.

But there is a larger point I’m trying to make. Sometimes we need to go back to our roots and find that ember that lit the passion of motorcycling within us. We need to see where we came from to understand where we might be headed – not only as motorcyclists, but also as a industry. It has been reported Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are filming Long Way Up, number three in a series of traveling the globe, while riding the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric bike. When this hit the internet, you could hear a collective groan from the masses. How can you do a Long Way Anywhere on a electric motorcycle with a range of 100 miles? How will you cross streams and climb Yak trails on a street bike with a design more akin to traveling the Road of Potholes?

How can you do a Long Way Anywhere on a electric motorcycle with a range of 100 miles? How will you cross streams and climb Yak trails on a street bike with a design more akin to travel the Road of Potholes?

Unless these Yak trails are in your neighborhood, it might be difficult to do so in the wild without the electrical grid required to get you back home. But here we are – making an adventure from what you might least expect. Putting the excitement into riding and making the adventure about man and machine. Wait, this sounds eerily similar to what Ewan and Charley have done in each of the Long Way series riding their BMW GS’s.

So back to my point. No matter where we’ve been, the roads we traveled or where they may lead us today, we will continue to ride. We evolve – not only as riders but also in what we ride. The adventure is what you make it, whether you are a beginner or have a million miles under your seat. Let’s support the industry we’re involved in and let’s support each other. Let’s see where this crazy ride takes us, but more importantly let’s remember how we got here and how much fun it was. If E-Bikes are the future then I believe the manufacturers will make them the most badass bikes we’ve ever seen. Kind of like we have now? Why not? At least I know I’ve come a long way.

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

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.

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!

Not Always Together – But Never Alone

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Certain days have a way of falling into a special place, kept as memories, that are treasured forever. Yesterday was one of those days – filled with laughter, fellowship, brotherhood and determination.

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A week or so ago, a ride was put together to Cassoday Kansas, a small town that hosts bikers the first Sunday of the month during the riding season. The ride, suggested by my dear friend Gary Meadows, was to invite some friends to ride along with him to meet up with Soldiers For Jesus, MC – Kansas City Chapter in Cassoday. Gary has been fighting the fight with cancer, and this was his way of showing cancer the true power of the love and support he has behind him.

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I’ve ridden with Gary before. DJ, a mutual friend of ours asked if he and Gary could ride to the rally with me a few years ago, and since I was going by myself, I welcomed it. That particular trip was thrown together in what seemed like a matter of days, and not knowing Gary on a personal level, it was clear to me he is someone who’s path I should have crossed many years before. His sense of humor and his sincerity is as genuine as his laughter. DJ, Gary and I had a great time and everything about the trip was effortless. We met up with Dennis Webb and Roger Larmer at the rally which only added to the experience. Thinking about this ride always brings a smile to my face and will go down as one of my best memories riding to Sturgis.

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So as Sunday morning rolled around and the weatherman predicting favorable conditions, we gathered with Gary and his wife Charlene and Gary’s nurse Dee, who came along to offer not only moral support but also to monitor his condition for the ride. In this group that gathered, I realized the wide range of lives that can be touched by such a good guy.

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If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you would know I do some of my best thinking from the seat of my motorcycle. I knew when we pulled out of the parking lot I’d have about 100 miles or so to pull some thoughts together. Sometimes these thoughts can be a mixed bag of emotions, some are reflective, but today it was about being present. Both figuratively and literally present.

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Gary, I can only speak for myself but it was truly an honor to ride with you once again. It was inspiring to see the love and support of your fellow bikers, but also your family. I witnessed the emotions and the power of prayer in the parking lot of a Casey’s. I saw the fellowship with the SFJMC-Kansas City as they wrapped their arms around you. I felt the bond between us when we embraced, and the lump in my throat when we spoke. These things I will never forget. The lives you’ve touched goes beyond the mechanics of the motorcycle – your church family and your community are living proof of that. I know I’m a better man because this path I’m on crossed yours.

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We ride – because that’s what we do. Not always together, but never alone. 

20 O’Clock

Nobody said it was easy. I would go a little further and say sometimes it isn’t much fun. For the last few days as the weather has danced around from comfortable to cold, it’s been a hit or miss as to whether or not to ride. I know what you’re thinking; but Jeff, you always ride. Not always. I seem to be in this transition of psyching myself up to ride in freezing temps. Did I just say riding in freezing temps? Whoa.

I seem to be in this transition of psyching myself up to ride in freezing temps. Did I just say riding in freezing temps? Whoa.

This morning as I sat down to put my boots on, I hesitated whether or not to ride. With snow-showers in the forecast for the weekend and a snow storm brewing up next week, I thought today I might as well put my pull up big-boy pants and ride. After checking the temperature on my phone I pushed the bike out of the garage and fired it up. Now, I’ve mentioned before that I have my junior meteorologist credentials and with that I could feel it wasn’t 30 degrees out. I hadn’t ridden for a couple of days, so I felt like maybe I just wasn’t acclimated to what 30 felt like. It’s all in my head, remember?

Well, the ride in was no fun. The first 10 miles was doable but after that it was obvious I wasn’t prepared for, you guessed it, 20 degrees. I didn’t have my glasses on after pulling my helmet over my head so from where I sat it looked like it was 30 degrees on my Formotion thermometer. It looks like a clock, doesn’t it? Take your glasses off and look again. See it?

This is just the first of many cold rides to work. Like callused hands it takes time to work your way up to the hard stuff. I’ve heard jogging is like this too but I wouldn’t know. So if you pass me on the road while you’re driving to work with your heater on and your coffee cup beside you, don’t feel sorry for me. I choose to do this. Wow, saying it like that makes me sound a little crazy.

 

Shaking the Rug

 

20161010_154312_hdr1On this evening’s ride home I noticed my shadow, stretched long and thin, riding ahead of me as I headed east. It’s getting darker sooner and the temperature is dropping faster as the day quickly comes to an end. Or is it the evening is beginning sooner? We motorcyclists are bracing ourselves and preparing for cooler rides led by our headlights. I’m not sure if its my age or not but cool is now cold and cold is now really cold. It could be I’m just getting old.

I’m not sure if its my age or not but cool is now cold and cold is now really cold. It could be I’m just getting old.

But I still make my mind up to ride. Just since Sturgis I’ve racked up about 10,000 miles on my Ultra Classic and I felt it was time to trade. Coming in with just under 70,000 on the clock, it still had a lot of miles left on it but if I were to continue riding it by next summer it would have had around 85,000 to 90,000. I traded a Road King in on the Ultra and now as you can see, a Road King it is again. I’ve been asked why I would give up the trunk and stereo but honestly I’m a fan of the Road King. It fits me and it’s a kick in the pants to ride.

There will always be a slight transition when you move from one bike to another. I have a tendency to carry more than I need to and this gives me an opportunity to sort and whittle down what isn’t necessary. Much like the bikers of old, we should carry the bare minimum when we ride. I found stuff in my saddle bags that really shouldn’t even be on a motorcycle. Socks? Really? So it’s like spring cleaning for me but only in the fall. I’m sure it won’t take long to accumulate those random items all over again in the next couple of years, but once in a while you just need to shake the rug if you get my drift.

So if you follow along with this blog you see a different bike in the picture. The Road King will evolve a bit over time but for the most part what you see is what you get. Even I find it remarkable to the transitions from a Heritage to a Road King to an Ultra Classic and back again. There sure have been a lot of miles and memories on each and every one of these Harley-Davidsons and I can appreciate each one for taking me on their own unique journey. I can’t wait to see where this one takes me.