Scootin’ America – Kansas Style

 What a leap of faith it takes to dedicate a couple of years time and ride thousands of miles spreading the word benefitting those who need a hand.

 

wp-1461622532956.jpeg

For the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to meet and hang around Adam Sandoval as he travels around to every Harley-Davidson dealership in the United States with Scooter “Trash” Sandoval, his Chihuahua, raising money and awareness for the children of fallen soldiers. Since I work at a Harley-Davidson dealership it was inevitable that we would meet. Scootin’ America indeed.

20160425_094634_HDR[1]

What a leap of faith it takes to dedicate a couple of years time and ride thousands of miles spreading the word benefitting those who need a hand. Now I could write about Adam and his accomplishments, but this has already been done. For me it’s more about what drives someone to be a motorcycle gypsy, putting most of your personal life on hold and hit the highway hoping, just hoping people will show up and donate to a worthy cause. Most people talk about or dream of doing this but that’s where we commonly stop – just short of pulling the bike out of the garage. After all, “it’s just wishful thinking” and “someone else will do it.” It’s one thing to say we want to do something similar to this on our very own motorcycle but to actually do it speaks volumes to a big heart, and a drive to make a difference. Both he and Scooter are going the distance to showing it can be done. Now if only more folks would actually follow through with an idea, just think of what could be accomplished on this big blue planet we call home.

I have to hand it to Adam. Riding a 1996 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide 100,000 plus miles through all kinds of weather would make most people rethink their big idea of riding the United States but I don’t imagine that’s the case here. Adam is sincere and genuine. And appreciative. Even Scooter is happiest when riding or stopping to have their pictures taken. But put yourself in Adam and Scooter’s position; ride, stop, meet and greet, hammer down to the next stop and repeat. The many faces and the endless handshakes, the well-wisher’s and the logistics can wear you down, but in meeting Adam I didn’t sense any of this. He was present in the conversation and took the time with everyone he met. This is a man who believes in his cause, and who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

 

It was an honor to meet you Adam and Scooter, Judge and Julia, who you can follow as HarleyBabe. I wish you all safe travels, and thanks for all you do. And if you see Scootin’ America on the highway or at your local Harley-Davidson dealership, stop and say hello and donate to the cause if you can.

 

 

The Calm Before the Morn’

20160316_073206_HDR[1]

For this split-second, this sliver of my life, I am standing here in the right place at the right time.

Who wouldn’t like to see this every morning? It can be easy to be preoccupied enough to let a moment like this slip away, but I just can’t do that. With the constant hurry and this wierd feeling I need to be somewhere lingering over me, I still want to stop and take it in. All of it.

We motorcyclists are often credited with pinning the throttle or living life on the edge, but sometimes we actually do stop and realize we aren’t bigger than life but actually a small piece of it.

I wonder how many moments I’ve missed over the years because of my own lack of awareness? The ability to stop and appreciate something so big and out of my control is a learned trait and one that may take years of practice. Or maybe a few birthdays to realize life is more than a daily commute. We motorcyclists are often credited with pinning the throttle or living life on the edge, but sometimes we actually do stop and realize we aren’t bigger than life but actually a small piece of it.

This is what I need each and every day to prepare me for what’s ahead. It’s this calm feeling I need before the storm of life hits the shore. Even though the temperature is 36 degrees, just knowing the sun is coming up to warm the skies makes me feel anything is possible. In a matter of moments this sunrise will change and evolve into another day, but for right now it’s majestic and worthy of a moment of my time.

For this split-second, this sliver of my life, I am standing here in the right place at the right time to take this in. Sure, I may be standing in the ditch but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

A Boy and His Machine – My Harley-Davidson Experience

Everyone should experience that “first Harley-Davidson” feeling. I hate to utter the words but yes, it changed my life, but in my case it was for more than one reason. I’ve been riding motorcycles since the ’70s and at the tender and impressionable young age of 12 years old I got my first – a Harley-Davidson X90. This would be the very beginning of a boy and his machine; teaching me the basics of riding and giving me the hands-on understanding of simple mechanics. There are few things I remember about being 12 and the awkwardness in my teens, and there are a few things I’d like to forget. But not the part of riding my first motorcycle – which happened to be a Harley. So was my first Harley-Davidson that experience of a lifetime I speak of? Sort of. But the real experience would come much later in life. Like way after puberty.

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

For the next 32 years I went through a long list of motorcycles, many of which I wish I had back. I owned a little of everything (okay, a lot of everything totaling 30+) including many different makes and models, but it wasn’t until 2006 that I purchased my second Harley-Davidson – an 883 Custom. Was this Sportster the one that changed my life? Yes and no. This bike gave me my first taste of riding that traditional 45° V-twin engine that is so well-loved within the Harley-Davidson community. I liked riding this motorcycle to the point that I realized I needed a bike that would be the one that gave me that feeling. So my second Harley was good, but… By August of 2007 I found a used 2001 Heritage Softail in a beautiful Jade Pearl that just blew me away. This, my friends is the Harley-Davidson that gave me that “first Harley-Davidson” feeling. This motorcycle completely change my whole way of thinking when it came to riding bikes. I finally found a motorcycle that fit me like a good pair of boots. This bike was made for me. It’s like someone at the Harley Factory sat down a said, “we need to build a bike for this guy” and they did. Little did I know they had been building this bike for many years and I just didn’t know it. I do now. This is the bike that opened my eyes to the community around the brand and the motorcycle that Harley-Davidson has built.

As I’ve said before, I’ve ridden a lot of motorcycles and never before have I experienced someone walking over to me at the gas station and asking me “where are you headed?” As if I’m living on my Harley with a bed-roll, sleeping on picnic tables and writing my blog on brown paper bags. When actually I’m headed to Subway for lunch. It’s that mystique of the brand that is Harley-Davidson and it brings people – men, women and children – over to tell me what a beautiful bike I have. It’s almost as if they are missing something in their lives and want to live vicariously through me. I’ve never experienced that with any other motorcycle I’ve owned. I’m okay with that.

26451_1240399618747_599882_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

But more importantly, this bike allowed me to travel outside of that invisible 150 mile radius all the other bikes I’ve owned kept me within. Well, those bikes didn’t keep me there, but it’s all about wanting to ride further and being comfortable doing it. Like a boot, remember? It was on this Heritage I made my first trip to Sturgis. Good times with good people. So it was my third Harley-Davidson that gave me that “first Harley-Davidson” feeling. It’s this bike that put me smack-dab into a culture and lifestyle that I didn’t even know existed, and to think I prided myself for having my fingers on the pulse of all things motorcycle for over 30 years. At least as much as you can being from Kansas and all. I rode that Heritage Softail almost 80,000 miles. It was a tough day when I traded her in for a 2002 Road King. Tough. A lot of miles and a lot of memories behind that windshield. Wow, it’s difficult to even think about it, and it’s funny how I never felt that way about the others. But I quickly found out the Road King was more than capable, and after 3 more trips to Sturgis (among other places) and 45,000 miles in two years, I traded it for a 2006 Ultra Classic. I’m looking forward to the many miles and many more memories on this one. So I must say it isn’t always the first one that means the most; it’s finding the right one. And when you do, you’ll feel it.

IMG_0092IMG_0594

It’s been a great ride and for a motorcycle guy like me, Harley-Davidson has pushed me to ride more miles than I ever thought I would. It’s amazing when two worlds and two wheels collide, and for that I thank The Motor Company.

And now I am editing this post with the latest, a 2007 Road King. Yes, I’m back on a Road King!  10/25/2016

20161010_154312_hdr1

Plugged In

sturgis100_4434

I have this same, eerie feeling now as when the first microwave oven graced our kitchen counter. I was standing there, in complete awe and fully aware of how my life would never be the same. Pretty cool. Harley-Davidson just announced to the world that an electric motorcycle – apply named Project LiveWire, with that familiar Bar and Shield on its faux tank – could possibly be coming to dealers near you. I will spare you the humorous names I’ve come up with. No, on second thought; Electric Glide, Volt-Rod, FXAC/DC and many more. All kidding aside, let’s take a moment to let this all sink in. When the Motor Company came to be in 1903, there really wasn’t any clarification on what kind of motor it would be – combustible or electric. A company steeped in tradition and often criticized for not breaking out of the original mold from which their bikes are built, has shocked the world with this announcement. Yes, I said shocked.

I wrote about the 2014 release of the Rushmore Project in a previous post The Paint is Dry at Harley-Davidson on how the Motor Company may have painted themselves into a corner with those who buy their motorcycles. Tradition can definitely hold you back when your customers expect business as usual. It’s hard to break free of what works so well, but it can also be liberating when you finally do so. If the Rushmore Project, the Street 500 and 750 and now the Project LiveWire are a sign of things to come, then hang on, it’s going to get exciting!

Whether you think an electric motorcycle makes sense or not, it’s truly about making those innovative changes, flexing gray matter and pushing the limits of design and technology. Here’s what impresses me most with the Motor Company. For a 110+ year old company with a reputation of building their bikes using the same parts over and over, they surprised us with something a bit futuristic with very little resemblance to anything within the walls of the Harley-Davidson Museum.  Sure, every company goes through some weird times with ideas and designs, (Harley-Davidson is no exception) but to actually push the limits of what they built the entire company on is surely a sign of new blood and enthusiasm within the Motor Company.

Is it in our near future to see the electric motorcycle capable of touring? Will I be traveling to Sturgis for a week of touring the Blackhills on an electric bike? Probably not in my lifetime, but there was a time when I didn’t think it possible to heat soup in a little electric box in a matter of seconds, either. You must admit, Project LiveWire is cool. We must applaud the Motor Company for stepping up and stepping out of the corner in which we painted them into. That’s right. We held the Motor Company back by our childish wants, needs and desires to hang on to the past. But, Harley-Davidson allowed us to hold them back. Sure, we were comfortable and what the Motor Company was doing worked for so many years. But just as the microwave changed my household forever, I didn’t stop buying soup because of it. I like soup.

I’m excited, not only for the loyalists but the Motor Company as well. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain when limits get pushed. As Harley-Davidson steps out of their comfort zone and goes to the public and asks their opinion, it can only be a good thing. For a company to be that plugged in to their customer base speaks volumes to where Harley-Davidson is headed. So the next time you use any of your modern gadgetry just ask yourself this; would you have it any other way? Welcome to the future.

Please check it out!

Harley-Davidson

Project LiveWire

A Perfect Combination – Why We Ride

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

It’s a contagious kind of passion, not the quiet kind we keep to ourselves. We ride motorcycles, and our enthusiasm shows from the expressions on our faces all the way down to the mark on our left boot. I just watched the film Why We Ride and I am honored as an average motorcyclist to be included in a like-minded and emotional, devoted and fun-loving community. The connection we have is easier to explain to those who already ride, but to those who don’t – you should watch this film. Why We Ride hits the mark and it shines through in the real people featured along the way. Mert Lawwill, you are one of those people who had a direct impact on why I ride. Real people, real stories and true words spoken.

How do you make a film that explains who we are without telling the stories of those who paved the way before us? A beautiful transition from our past to the present looking through a window to how the more things change in motorcycles, it will always be the people and the reasons we ride that remains the same. History, speed, danger and gasoline make for a perfect combination. What better way to express ourselves than with the sounds and smells of a machine that is the extension of our own heart and soul? Just add spark.

We have our own personal reasons for riding and no matter the age of the hand that twists the throttle, the reaction will always be the same. That motion our throttle hand creates tells “our” stories – of who we are and how life changing motorcycles can be. Our lives are so intertwined with the mechanics of the motorcycle that for some it is one and the same. Life changing and life in general all rolled into one.

The language spoken throughout the film is universal and the feelings are mutual. We ride motorcycles by choice but the camaraderie, competition and connection is a direct reflection of what these amazing machines are capable of. Even as a rider, Why We Ride inspires me. It made me proud to be a part of where we’ve been and where we’re going as a sport. It shows the side of motorcycling that is often overlooked by non-riders. Family, in both the immediate and extended sense of the word.

I may not compete at the highest levels of competition or travel around the world as Ted Simon has, and that’s okay. Others ride to share those experiences and that’s all a part of the bigger picture. We are writing the history of motorcycling with every revolution of our wheels and we are making our own memories and participating in the memories of those we ride with. WE are the reason we ride!

A thank you to the makers of Why We Ride and thanks to all who had a part. YOU are the reason I ride.

Let the Ride Happen

100_4081

Well, it’s getting closer to the Sturgis Rally and plans are being made. There is always the buzz of first-timers and regulars who are planning to go, as well as talk of not making it this year. What to take, what not to take and what will be forgotten is always a subject of conversation but the reality is half of what you take you probably don’t need. Who’s to say that once you get there you’ll wish you had a particular item, but who cares, right? I forget something when walking from the living room to the kitchen and I do it quite frequently, so cut me a little slack when it’s a trip you make once a year. In the end, it is just a minor inconvenience, unless it’s the tent in which you are sleeping in.

I don’t know about you, but even as plans are made and the trip is shaping up, there is always the “CANCEL WITHOUT WARNING CLAUSE” written into the Sturgis trip. It can be for even the smallest reason, but it is there right at the bottom of the list of things to pack. I’ve seen bikers call it at the eleventh hour and that’s okay – it happens. There will always be next year, and the same plans will be made, the same stuff will be left on the garage bench and the option to pull the plug will be there. Let’s just hope we don’t have to pull the plug.

This year I plan on taking a couple of detours, maybe through Colorado for a change of scenery making the long way home a little longer. Again, plans change, but for the most part that is motorcycling. Who knows, maybe the trip to Sturgis will end up being a trip to Colorado and the Rally will have to wait until next year (not quite pulling the plug). The number one rule for riding your bike is there are no rules. Well, there are rules – just ask the State Police when they pull you over, but I think you know what I mean. Point the motorcycle in the general direction you want to go, and see what happens. The trip will make itself happen and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. We tend to complicate things more than they need to be and it’s those hard plans that make the trip, uh, harder. Nobody likes harder.

So when you find yourself packing and making plans on where you need to be by a certain time, or telling yourself “I better not forget that” and “we should have been there by now,” you are forgetting what it’s all about. Go where you want, change your mind if you want to and let the ride happen. Sturgis? Sure. But I’ve always said Sturgis is where I turn around, it’s the ride that’s the best part. And what about the forgotten stuff on the work bench at home? It didn’t affect the trip one bit. There should be a Cabela’s down the road, shouldn’t we be there by now?

Moving Bodies and Souls – 110 Years

JLM

One-hundred and ten years is a long time in anyone’s book, especially when it comes to building motorcycles. It’s hard enough to feel passionate about anything for so long let alone beyond generations. That’s why you have enthusiasts building motorcycles for enthusiasts because nobody else can. Some dreams die with the dreamers, but in the case of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company it has kept the dream alive in all of us. In a time when wool suits were the proper riding apparel to ride your motorcycle, Harley-Davidson has been there to see the transformation of the culture and lifestyle of bikers to where it is today. Roads were being built, highways were being connected and destinations became real. What started out as a different kind of transportation 110 years ago, became a form of recreation and a lifestyle for so many. A combination of steel and style moves a nation both physically and emotionally and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles have been there through it all.

Just as any company knows, as time ticks by there are ups and downs, twists and turns, but it turns out that is the exact same thing we enthusiasts seek out when it comes to the roads we travel. It is “the ride” that gets you through it and whether it’s business or pleasure, we take the road less traveled because it is who we are and always will be. Nobody said “the ride” would be easy, but if nothing else, it has always been fun. Moving bodies and souls at the same time was probably not something the Harley and Davidson boys thought much about, but that’s how things ended up. It is Harley-Davidson that represents this country in a way that only it can and it changes you. Freedom, Pride, Emotion and American are a few things that come to mind, and we haven’t even looked at what it’s done to so many from a life-changing experience – and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles change lives. It’s brought people together and created a community around the world to the point of being a universal language – and it knocks down walls that are invisible and man-made.

Nobody said it would be easy, because easy wasn’t a concern 110 years ago. You rolled up your sleeves and you worked hard. You got your hands dirty and you brought your lunch in a pale. You were happy to be working with your hands and you didn’t think about life 100 years from then; we still don’t. But we dreamed, and we still do. And it is dreams that makes this country great, so we keep dreaming. For every road we travel down on our Harley-Davidson, someone before us has traveled that same road on their Harley-Davidson. Whether your ride in Rome Italy or Rome Wisconsin, there’s a good chance you’re not the first one there with your motorcycle. But knowing that also gives you a sense of belonging to something greater than the road traveled. It was created by men with a dream and a willingness to chase that dream on the creation before them. Just like we do today.

It has become a passion for which we have no control over. That passion is transformed into an expression of who we are, and where we are going – both in the sense of motion and emotion. To say Harley-Davidson has changed the way we put our lives into perspective would be an understatement. Some things have no explanation, and we accept that. This motorcycle has helped people through their ups and downs and the twists and turns that life has thrown at them, and it has been a member of the family that has been passed on through generations. It is a symbol and extension of our inner selves that only we know, and that only a few can understand.

So we ride. We ride like those did 110 years ago, and those that will ride when we no longer can. I’ve seen where Harley-Davidson has been, but I can’t see where this road will take us, but I guarantee it will be a great ride. Here’s to 100 more years Harley-Davidson!

Ride Like the Wind

100_4734

Somewhere in a pasture deep in the Flint Hills of Kansas is a limestone rock standing upright placed there by early settlers. Upon that limestone rock are these words; “Man, the wind sure blows hard in Kansas, hang on to this here rock.” When you’re raised in Kansas it really doesn’t seem that noticeable, but I guess you could say that the wind can be a little stiff sometimes. I often think the barbed wire fences that crisscross Kansas were put there to keep your stuff from blowing more than a mile away. As a kid growing up I don’t remember the wind blowing like it does now, but of course then I was a little closer to the ground and usually preoccupied with kid stuff. At least now I don’t have to worry about the wind messing my hair up.

Riding into work this morning on my Road King it was obvious this was going to be one of those days the weatherman warns about, “wind from the South at 15-20 with gusts up to 30 today,” sounds like a warning to most, but here it’s just like any other day. Now if the weatherman said it was going to be dead-calm today, I would be alarmed as that is out of the ordinary.

As a motorcyclist we often hear the phrase “ride like the wind.” I will tell you that if I rode like the wind today, I would be arrested for assault as the ride in was brutal. Normally heading with the wind isn’t bad, but even that was a handful. Riding West was like my world had tilted to one side with the horizon angled sharply while my shirt collar was slapping my face faster than a hummingbird flaps it’s wings. Okay, so maybe that was an exaggeration, it was more like a meadowlark flapping it’s wings, after all that is our State Bird. But, what do you do? We ride motorcycles and that is just part of it. If it’s cold or hot, windy or raining, we ride – at least some of us do. I didn’t say it was fun all the time, and there can be those days when you just have to convince yourself that even if you would have driven the car, you would have hated yourself. I sure wouldn’t want to hate myself.

So next time you are driving through, or better yet, riding through Kansas, don’t let the wind bother you. It’s going to blow no matter what and there is usually a limestone fence post somewhere to hang on to, so just get used to it. As native Kansans are, we just lean into the wind when it blows; hence the earlier comment about being alarmed if the wind stops blowing. That’s how you determine a native Kansan like myself to someone just visiting – if the wind stops, us Kansas folks fall down.

Hello, My Name is Jeff

th

The world really is a small place. Sure, if you pull back from the surface and look at a map, or take the globe off the shelf and give it a spin, it can look like a pretty large and daunting object. But seriously, how many times have you been miles away from home only to run into somebody you know? As random as it seems there is probably a logical explanation for that. For instance, like-minded people hang out or go to the same places, so it shouldn’t be out of the question that within the realm of travel that someone you know would also be there. Traveling on a motorcycle actually puts you in this position. As riders, we seek out the most scenic routes and the likelihood of running into familiar faces is probably high. Even if we are trying to find the solitude that riding a motorcycle brings, it is inevitable that the moment we look up from the gas-pump we will be faced with our neighbor down the street.

We’ve all been there – pumping gas, oblivious to the world around us, when someone calls out our name. We act like we don’t hear it the first time so of course we seem rude, but the second time we hear our name, we look up and then scramble to put a name to a face. We stammer through the conversation saying everything but the wrong name in hopes that it doesn’t seem obvious that their name has escaped us. “Hey guy, it’s been a long time!” He sure remembers me, but for whatever reason I can’t come up with his name and if I try I’m sure I will be wrong. And just as if it couldn’t get more awkward, his wife walks up and calls me by name as well. What did I do to have such an impact on someone’s life that they remember me? And now I have the opportunity to forget two names as they stand there before me. I can’t get my helmet on fast enough.

 This just became that weird feeling when you get on an elevator and say something to the only other person in the elevator and they don’t say anything back. You know they heard you, but…silence. Oh, and there is a gas-pump in the elevator with us.

The standard biker conversation ensues; how’s the ride going, where have you been and where are you heading sort of questions. But the one that caught me off guard was “when did you get a Harley-Davidson?” I’m confused. Most of the people I know are familiar with what I ride so this seemed like an odd question. They were riding a Goldwing so I felt it appropriate to answer their question with a question. “How long have you been riding a Honda?” Now they’re confused. This just became that weird feeling when you get on an elevator and say something to the only other person in the elevator and they don’t say anything back. You know they heard you, but…silence. Oh, and there is a gas-pump in the elevator with us.

Well it seems that at this very moment there is someone out there riding a Honda Goldwing that looks just like me and his name is Jeff. They realized their mistake and I’m off the hook trying to remember their names. I do have three new friends out of this, only one of which I haven’t met yet. It’s a small world and I wonder if I will ever run into this guy. And what will he say when I pull my helmet off and he sees himself on a Harley-Davidson? At least I’ll get his name right.

“Those That Can, Ride”

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

I have been riding now for about forty years and for the life of me I can’t remember how I learned, or if anyone even showed me how to. In my mind it would go something like this-Summer, 1974…Hot and dry as July always goes. Shirtless and shoulder length hair (as the seventies always go) I hop on my first “motorcycle” and tear out in a cloud of dust, shifting through the gears with the front wheel in the air. My friends standing there in awe at my skill and daring attitude. No fear, just guts.

What actually happened is far from that. You see, I had broken my right leg about a month before and I had a plaster cast on it all the way up to my, ahem, crotch. So kick starting was impossible. Heck, bending my leg to put my foot on the peg was impossible. So there it sat. Every day for about a month I would look at it and sit on it all the while my friends were asking “when” and “can I” every five minutes. But July was still hot and dry-my hair was shoulder length and I didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle.

After the cast came off, my poor scrawny leg was weak and I wasn’t very sure-footed. Kick-starting the bike was a bit difficult and I was sure at any time my ankle was going to break all over again. But kick-start the bike I did, and from some place deep inside me I could ride. Ride like I’ve always ridden before…wait, that’s how it was going in my mind. What did happen was more like this-I let out the clutch and I kill it. Kick it again and repeat. But it didn’t take long and before I knew it, I could ride. And it was easy. I was a natural and even though I favored my right leg (always turning left-perfect for the Springfield Mile) it was something that came easy to me. I spent countless hours and miles riding that Harley-Davidson x90 only stopping to cut grass and gas up. I sure didn’t stop for a hair-cut.

I know a few people out there that have tried and found riding motorcycles to be more work than it was worth. Some can catch on like I did but there are a few that either just don’t want to or can’t. I’m good with that. There are plenty of things I’m not good at and I’ll leave that to those that are. What’s the old saying? “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, ride.”