Sunday, September 1, 2013

Harley Davidson 110th Anniversary!

     I stepped outside this beautiful Sunday morning. The heat is less and there is a cool breeze and a few clouds in the sky. Lake Michigan looks calm and blue. BUT, in the distance, or perhaps not even very distant, there is a roar, a throbbing roar. The hogs are out in full force. Yes, it is the 110th Harley Davidson Reunion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is the home of the original Harley Davidson plant and its owners Willie Davidson, and now his son Bill Davidson and daughter Karen Davidson, reside locally.
Willie and his machines. Photo from Journal Sentinel, August 31, 2013
     Local station WTMJ interviewed Willie and his offspring from the balcony of the Harley Davidson Museum here in Milwaukee on Saturday. Below is the website to play the interview.

    Every 5 years the Harley Davidson company throws a big "Welcome Home" birthday bash for any bikers that want to come to Milwaukee. And they did come, 100,000+ of them from all over the world to attend this century plus decade celebration. We have heard interviews from people from Europe, many Australians, some from Southeast Asia, South America especially Brazil, and a couple from South Africa who own a bike which they leave here in Milwaukee. They return to the birthday party every year and then travel outwards on their bike to see the US.  One German couple had their bike shipped to Las Vegas where they met up with it and then made the cross country drive by way of Sturgis, South Dakota, (73rd Annual Sturgis Rally, Aug 1-19, 2013) to the celebration here in Milwaukee. It is exciting that our relatively small American city is the world wide attraction to so many people from all over the world. I have heard that hotels are booked up inside the city well in advance and people are staying all the way to Sheboygan to the north, Racine and Kenosha to the south, and all the way to Madison, the capitol of WI in the west. Some locals are so excited that even though not enthusiasts, they open their home as B & Bs for the bikers.

     Actually these guys and gals were around last weekend, and then more arrived throughout the week. Thursday some of the celebrations started.  Friday night there was a big party at the Maier Festival (Summerfest) Park downtown, and at many area dealers. Live music is a major part of all these events including Aerosmith and Cheap Trick on Friday night. Saturday morning there was the downtown Harley parade starting at the State Fair Grounds, taking Wisconsin Avenue to downtown, and then ending up at Summerfest Park. Many locals, and families who are not bikers get out and line the parade route to see all the bikes, greet the riders, holding "Welcome Home" signs, and especially to feel that thrummm vibration in their sternums. At least 6000 bikers participated in this sternal thumping experience. Saturday night lots was going on again at Summerfest, with bands at 5 stages. There are also street parties Saturday night at Milwaukee and Water Streets, and also Sunday downtown on Juneau. Party central Sunday is the Milwaukee Harley Davidson dealer out on Silver Spring and the plant itself. Many activities throughout the weekend have been at the Harley Davidson Museum. The closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday was even "rung" from Milwaukee out in front of the Museum. And it was not a bell -- it was a VROOM, VROOM -- the sound I have been talking about in this article.  And of course wherever there is a dealer in the whole southeastern Wisconsin area, there is a party which turns into a street fair. There are booths that sell all kinds of accessories, do art that is related to the motorcycle lifestyle, design and sell cycling clothes, and design, paint and decorate your bike itself.  Our neighbor is the controller at the Harley Davidson plant and will be hosting 150 to 200 dealers at his home, just two doors away for an open house from 10 Am to 3 PM Sunday. So we will have some of that specific hog sound right next door. Some of the neighbors have asked the controller to have his guests do a parade around our neighborhood circle drive. And all of these events are free. Where can so much fun be had for the cost of your bike and its gasoline, and your hotel room?

     I heard that there were three marriages that took place this year, under a tent especially placed for this purpose near the entrance to Harley Davidson Museum. One of these ceremonies was filmed on the local TV and it had a few attendees but all around it was the crowd of riders and vrooming sound. I guess that would make an enthusiast's wedding a very memorable one. In the case of one young couple, the gal purchased a beautiful new Harley for her boy friend for $26,000. She said, "I wanted to get him something shiny, so that he would turn around and get me something shiny." Ladies, do you have any idea what she was talking about?

     I am happy that all these riders have brought their business to our fair city. And I even enjoy seeing all the fancy bikes and the people watching tendency in me enjoys seeing the riders as well. Generally they are down to earth people. What has shocked me and made me concerned is that about 80 to 90% of these riders do not wear a helmet. There are maybe 10% where two people are on the bike and one only is wearing a helmet, usually the woman if it is a couple. I had hoped for some improvement in this practice. An accident at freeway speeds and the head injury would either kill or almost worse leave someone permanently damaged. I am a retired physician and have seen the results of a motorcycle accident. In fact one of my patients had been drinking and had a motorcycle accident which involved him dropping the bike which threw him off the side of the road. He has cognitive loss and now neuromuscular deficits as though he had had a stroke. And driving around today, the local pubs all had bikes out front; the riders were likely inside drinking I am sure. I had heard that local emergency rooms were gearing up, and just now, Sunday night, the news reports one accident in Racine, south of Milwaukee in which 2 riders were seriously hurt. They were not wearing helmets.  I can only hope that the further festivities are proceeding with safety.

     I certainly did see some pretty cycles. There was a bright red one at the Highland House where we usually go for supper after our typical Saturday night movie. It had masses of red steel all around the front wheels and the front end was covered with a huge red steel shield all shaped like the tongues of flames. It was gorgeous. Too bad I don't have a photo of it.  And there was another orange one also that was very attractive. If I were going to be a hog enthusiast, I would certainly want a red one. I have always loved red cars. The only reason my current Buick Lacrosse is silver, is because in Japan where the paint is made, the tsunami destroyed the capability of making the red paint that Buick purchases to paint its automobiles. But if I had a Harley, I would have a red one.

     Another thing I have noticed is that there are more women drivers. There have always been many couples but the woman usually rode in back clinging to her man. Now often there are single women drivers, or even, though rarely, the woman is driving and the man is clinging. Interesting gender dynamics going on here. Also at least new to me this year, is a motorcycle which has a fairly wide seat behind the driver and has two wheels back there -- a tricycle, if you will. I have seen several of these but not close enough to know if these are Harley made or not. Now if I had a man who was a hog rider, I could envision myself perched up in that rumple seat with my long blond hair (bleached) blowing over my shoulder, riding through the American vistas as they show in the commercials for Harley. Well, that will have to wait for another life. I am too scared-- what with my doctor training. I plan to stay off these vehicles until I die. Now who knows what's in store for me in another life.

     On the news tonight someone asked what would happen if someone with a different motorcycle make showed up at the Harley party. Well, indeed the reporter found a Honda which was yellow, of all the colors. Some of the Harley riders there were belittling the Honda, but the owners said everyone had been very nice to them and they had not had any trouble. Actually it was a pretty Honda, but of course it didn't have that Harley sound. I learned that the way the motorcycle comes off the assembly line, it does not have that sound necessarily unless it is being custom manufactured from the beginning. Many of the riders purchase additional sound equipment for the bike.  I guess it is the type of muffler that purposely creates that hog sound.

     Well, we are headed out to breakfast at the Wooden Goose, our usual Sunday morning breakfast greasy spoon. I wonder if there will be any red Harleys parked at this establishment. I'm off to find out.................................................................................................................(Time passing.)

There was only one bike at Wooden Goose.
Guess the bikers don't know about this
great dining experience in Mequon, WI

      If you are interested in reading more, here is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lead article for Thursday when the whole celebration began in earnest. The Harley celebration news has even eclipsed the Green Bay Packers news here in southeast Wisconsin.

     Below are some beautiful bikes that were parked near our neighbor's house during an open house for Harley dealers.

Motorcycles all lined up at our neighbors.

Maybe this one could be my red hog in my next life.

More of a burgundy color on this one. I read that the fashionistas say
burgundy is out as a color this fall season, so I don't know.
The fashion magazines say vivid blue is the color for fall. Honest. I read that!

Maybe a nice jewel green.
I asked these people coming to the party, "Where are you from?" I was hoping
for maybe Germany or at least as far away as Texas. But no they are from
 13 miles away, in Milwaukee. Oh well.

This one is nice, red, white and black. No, too youthful for me.

Guess I'll have to do some thinking about style of helmet also, huh?
Lots of nice chrome on this one.

Now we're getting closer. But it's really coppery orange, isn't it?
Ahh! Here we go! Red with orange and charcoal grey accents. This is the one! Put it away for me to be picked up
sometime in ---- I don't know, when will my next life be? 2050 or so? Think we'll be riding hogs then?
Well, the colors are right.

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