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Blue Dog Diaries: August with a vengeance

By Terry Roorda

The month of August is in the offing at last and it’s a good thing, too, because I don’t think I could have held out much longer. As a motojournalist I subsist almost entirely on a diet of American motorcycle news, reviews and scuttlebutt. I thrive on new models and new motors; of industry mergers and bankruptcies and boardroom shake-ups; of casino shootouts, and Sandra Bullock’s love life. These things are my sustenance. These are the things that keep me viable in the desolate wasteland of the spirit some would cynically call a life. And after the last year it’s a miracle I’m still alive at all.

Good lord, what a famine of meaty news bites the last year has been. In my 20 years of covering this culture I’ve never seen the like, and Maytag appliance repair is beginning to look like an attractive career alternative.

There are reasons for this, of course. The industry has shrunk to a handful of players—three to be exact, Harley-Davidson, Victory and Indian. Though in all honesty Victory and Indian are pretty much one and the same outfit, and they’ve been so focused on producing their new Indian Chief that the 15th anniversary of Victory Motorcycle has come to pass with little fanfare and little to show for it except a commemorative paint job on a Cross Country Tour. They also have a redesigned tank badge, and that’s the type of development that has passed for big news during the famine.

They’ve developed a new motor for the rumored Chief, the Thunder Stroke 111, and have hyped it to the point of catatonia, never mind that the only actual motorcycle it’s been displayed in is a replica of Burt Munro’s fabled LSR streamliner, and to many observers it appears that Victory/Indian has become less of a motorcycle company than a short feature video production company. Another press cycle, another video teaser.

Harley-Davidson’s not much better, having introduced a single distinctly new OE model, the Breakout (and even that was a mid-year launch version of their 2013 CVO Breakout). They also applied some commemorative paint jobs for their 110th anniversary, and it’s that anniversary that explains everything they have or haven’t been up to this year. What they have been up to is keeping busy throwing parties all over the world and popping in on the pontiff for a gas tank autograph session. That qualified as big news this year. The Motor Company has also gotten heavily into the concert impresario business, having booked over 60 bands for their anniversary bash and it seems they’re not done yet. That’s more than twice as many bands as played at Woodstock, and H-D’s most recent signing as of last week, John Fogarty, actually played that one, too.

What they haven’t been up to is unveiling their 2014 model year lineup, not to the press or the dealers, and rumors of the impending discontinuance of a number of models including the Road Glide have passed for news in the absence of any formal announcement or introductions.

But now August is indeed upon us and all is about to be revealed. It promises to be the most newsworthy month in many a moon, and I can feel my pulse returning.

It kicks off in grand fashion at Sturgis where on Saturday, August 3, Indian Motorcycle is hosting a monumental unveiling blowout for press and public alike at—fittingly enough—the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum at the corner of Junction and Main at 8:00 p.m. My advice is to show up early—like the day before—because it’s bound to be a real humdinger. And it gets better. At long last you’ll be able to take one of the new bikes for a demo spin starting the following day, and all week long between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., staging out of the Indian Hospitality Center at Exit 30 of I-90.

At the other extreme of August, Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary will likewise be rolling out their new flock of hogs in Milwaukee with demo rides available to one and all at the Powertrain Operations facility in Menomonee Falls (where you can also take a plant tour, should you desire). Rides will be conducted from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Thursday 8/29 through Saturday 8/31.

That’s a whole lot of new machinery showing up over the course of the month, and to fill out your other recreational hours at both Sturgis and Milwaukee will be a positively mind-blowing lineup of big-name musical entertainment. As I mentioned, Harley-Davidson has better than 60 acts appearing over three days at six different venues, the headliners being Toby Keith, Kid Rock (with John Fogarty) and Aerosmith. At Sturgis a like number of acts will be performing at another half-dozen venues in the area. Among the headliners will be…uh…Toby Keith and Kid Rock. (Aerosmith won’t be there. Seems Steven Tyler apparently still has PTSD from his plummet off the Buffalo Chip stage in 2009.) Also appearing at both the Sturgis and Milwaukee festivities, by my reckoning, will be the Doobie Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Buckcherry, Sublime with Rome, and Shooter Jennings. If you miss them the first time, you get another crack at it mere weeks later.

And after all of that activity and excitement has come to a close on Labor Day, we already have a couple of welcome events on tap for early September: a long nap and a trip to the otologist. I do, anyway.

It’s all right here in the diaries.


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