Long Strange Trip for Indian

Editor Scott Cochran –  It occurs to me what a long, strange trip its been.


Harley and Indian enjoy a level of devotion unrivaled in the motorcycle industry.

But, at least I’m still riding.

Ok…I stole that first line from the Grateful Dead’s song, “Truckin.” Written by the band and released in 1970, that song defined a generation and the psychedelic culture of the 70’s.

“Truckin” reached #37 in 1971 and was the only chart success the Dead achieved until “Touch of Grey” was released in 1987 and eventually broke into the top ten.

The story of the Grateful Dead and their music, does have some direct correlation to motorcycling. The leader, Jerry Garcia was a Harley rider as well as Ron “Pig Pen “ McKernan. Their first manager, G.H. “Hank” Harrison was also a motorcycle rider.

In the beginning (1965) the band even used the name “The Warlocks” which was also adopted by a motorcycle club that founded in 1967. The Dead eventually changed their name, not because of the MC, but because of another band in the area was also using the name Warlocks.

The Grateful Dead played over 2,000 concerts (Guinness Record) during their career, and by many estimates played to more than 25 million people, (600,000 at one show!) more than any other band.

But, by the measure of commercial / popular music, radio play the band never sold enough records to be considered wildly successful.

But its fans, The Dead Heads, were the reason for the band’s longevity and the money making machine it eventually became.

A hard-core group of fans, who will stick with you through thick and thin are worth their weight in LSD, (not that I would know what LSD is worth…)

And that’s where I’m going with this months ramble…. Fans.

Harley-Davidson, like it or not, has enjoyed (through the years) the loyalty of a group of customers unequaled by any other motorcycle manufacturer.

The reason, I believe, is not based in the machines, anymore than the Grateful Dead’s rabid fan base was because of the music.

The reason thousands of people followed the Dead around the country and tens of thousands of people inked the Bar and Shield onto their skin is…The Culture.

It’s what the brand said about them. Who the customer wanted to be and who the customer wanted to be identified with.

Whenever you see a “Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac” even though that vehicle is the symbol of the Right-wing upper-middle-class American bourgeoisie (Don Henley’s words) you can be sure the owner is someone who wants to be associated with the 70’s counter-culture movement. Someone who sees themselves as a “hippie” stuck in a white collar world.

The same (sort of) thing when you see a Harley-Davidson bumper stickers on a Honda Prius.

Until recently, Harley-Davidson could lay claim to being the only motorcycle brand with enough heritage to satisfy the owner who wanted something more than just a motorcycle. Today Harley-Davidson’s dominance in that space is being challenged by a revived Indian Motorcycle.

Looking back to 2008, it would have made more sense for HD to buy the intellectual property rights to their old nemesis Indian, instead of spending $109 million dollars on MV Agusta.

I’m guessing it would have been a better investment than the Italian motorcycle maker turned out to be. (not to manufacture Indian motorcycles but to keep anyone else from doing it) But, you can’t prove a negative so speculation is useless.

The common belief is that healthy competition is good for everyone involved.

Competition breeds innovation and prevents companies from becoming stagnant by relying on outdated manufacturing processes and market assumptions.

Indian is certainly bringing new ideas to the heavyweight cruiser market. Their five (5) year bumper to bumper warranty is the first (I know of) in the industry and has convinced many tire kickers to take the plunge, even though there may not be a dealer near them.

Once Indian has established dealers in most major metropolitan areas, the turf wars will really heat up, and it will be interesting to watch the brands as they compete for one another’s customers.

Or….maybe they’ll be able to increase the pie for both brands and sell more motorcycles overall than either would have been able to do alone.

I hope that’s the case.

It’s been a long strange trip for the brand that started in 1901 as Hendee Mfg Co. in Springfield Massachusetts.

And I’m not alone in thinking that Polaris is the last company who has any chance to revive the brand to its glory days.

But if the resurrection is to be successful, Indian will have to find a way to connect with enthusiast who values the intangibles as much as a reliable motorcycle.

The dealers will have a lot of that responsibility on them. They must work hard to foster a “community” of owners and realize their mission is more than just moving units out the door. Their mission must be to establish and nurture the “culture” of Indian motorcycle ownership.

If they do that, and Polaris commits to staying in for the long haul, then maybe, just maybe the pie will increase and we’ll introduce the Zen of motorcycling to a whole new generation.

Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.


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When Doing Your Job Costs You Money

trail of tears last shirtLast month I made a long time friend and advertiser angry. I didn’t do it intentionally and while I wish it hadn’t happened the way it did, I’m not sure what I could have done differently.

Many of you follow our Facebook page. As we go to press with this issue, we have over 81,000 likes, and we’re adding close to 500 new followers per day.

On any given week the USRiderNews Facebook posts are seen by 141,000 people.

We see “motorcycle news” as our primary responsibility and entertainment second.

And that’s what got us in trouble with this advertiser.

For the past 5 years or so, the Trail of Tears Remembrance motorcycle ride, founded and headed by Bill Cason has advertised in USRiderNews. In return we’ve provided them free space at our events. We’ve promoted them on Facebook and, when the Board of Directors splintered and ousted Bill Cason over the vision and direction of the ride, we sided with Bill.

Normally any publication that relies on advertising would stay neutral to not to offend either side. We supported Bill Cason because we trusted him to continue to raise awareness of the past wrongs and raise funds for scholarships for Native Americans.

I won’t rehash the politics behind the split in the TOT. If you’re interested, you can Google it and read several stories from both sides. But after the split, there were two groups competing for riders and both claiming to be the “OFFICIAL” Trail of Tears Ride.    Or read it here  and here

On January 10th, Bill Cason sent us an ad that was to run for 3 months. He didn’t say anything to us about its contents, other than “we would be surprised.”

Well, as you can guess, we were surprised. After 20 years, Bill Cason was ending the ride by saying, “we’ve done what we started to do.”  Download End Of Trail Letter 2013[1] pdf.

So we did what any news outlet would do. We wrote a story about it and publicized it on our Facebook page.

In a couple of hours the website story had been viewed over 19,000 times. The Facebook post was seen by over 45,000 people.

That’s when we received a call from Bill who told us he didn’t want us to put that on Facebook because he “wasn’t ready” to make the news public. He explained he didn’t want the story to get out until the magazine was printed and distributed the middle of the month.

He also objected to the story we put on our website which briefly touched on the controversy surrounding the ride and the two competing rides. Although we did not state that Bill was ending his ride because of the problems he’s had with permits and such, we did state that ever since the split, he has had more trouble dealing with law enforcement and public officials in Alabama and been forced to change routes and plans. All of which are true and factual.

Here’s what we posted online.


Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride founder Bill Cason has called an end to ride. Cason is the original founding member of the charity ride that has originated from downtown Chattanooga for the past 20 years. Cason said, “On behalf of the entire Board of Directors of the Trail of Tears Remembrance Motorcycle Ride, I want to announce that we are at the End of The Trail for our annual charity motorcycle ride. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for 20 great years and your support of our organization.”

Controversy began several years ago when a few Alabama members of the Trail of Tears Board of Directors attempted to illegally remove Cason and several of his close supporters from the Board. The issue was over vendor revenue and political bickering between several of the Alabama cities along the route. Cason said the controversy in the past had nothing to do with the decision to end the ride. “We feel the original goals and mission of the Ride have been achieved.”  In the 20 years of the ride, Cason and his volunteers provided thousands of dollars of scholarship funds to Native American children, and placed Historical Markers in many areas along the Trail. Observers say attendance over the past few years has been dwindling due mainly to the depressed economy and not the two separate competing rides.

After the story broke, we received this from Bill (via e-mail) “Very disappointed in Facebook post. That is not at all the reason the ride is ending. The letter stated the reason. We have completed our mission. We expected you to print only the letter in your magazine. We were not ready for it to go public on Facebook.”

Later we received another e-mail cancelling the ad.

As a publisher who lives and dies by advertising revenue, I’m extremely upset at the news department for doing something that pissed off a paying advertiser, which resulted in a loss of revenue.  As a news reporter, I’m upset that the advertiser didn’t have the good sense to stress to the sales department not the “leak” the story to the news department.

But, as the Social Media manager, I’m proud this incident proved how broad our website and Facebook reach is. When we post something, it reaches more motorcycle riders than any other free motorcycle magazine in the USA.

As  friends of Bill Cason, and long time supporter, we made the decision to run the full page advertisement anyway, thereby costing us more lost revenue by having one less page available as advertising space.

Unfortunately we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Once the post hit our Facebook page, the story was out. Had Bill told us not to publicize it before the issue was printed, we would have honored that request. In this day and time, I guess the notion that anyone wouldn’t think about Facebook surprised me more than anything.

But the other thing that surprised me is that Bill Cason, or anyone else would be so naive as to believe they can “end” the tradition of a motorcycle ride in September that associates itself with the “Trail of Tears.”

Within hours, supporters or organizers of the “other” ride were posting on our Facebook page that the ride “wasn’t cancelled” and promoting their ride up as the “official” ride.

On that “other” ride’s website, they’re already making plans for the 2014 ride and are claiming they own the 20 year tradition.

The simple truth is there’s too much money involved for the tradition to end. It’s sad that Bill and those who worked so hard for 20 years will no longer be there to make sure that money is used to improve the lives of Native Americans and preserve their heritage. Instead, most of that money will fund tourism efforts and pay expenses and staff to promote the event.

And, another sad, but inevitable truth is as time goes on, fewer and fewer people will remember (or care) who started the Trail of Tears ride, or the original purpose. Once the Trail of Tears Remembrance website goes dark, twenty years of dedication by Bill Cason and his supporters will disappear. Gone and forgotten.

For the record, I’m not against any person or group involved in this. I’m just a motorcycle magazine publisher trying to make a living and report the news.

This is one of those times when staying true to our mission, costs us money and friends.  I guess that’s the price you pay when you stick to your principals.

Learn How to Travel Before You Waste Time and Money

(originally published in the December 2013 issue of USRiderNews)

When shall we decide to dance on the razor’s edge and pry off the lid of the bucket where our dreams are stored?  Scott Cochran, 2013

orange hair girlI can vividly remember the first time I heard someone mention they’d ridden a motorcycle across the country. I was 18 years old at the time and I remember saying, “Wow! That’s awesome. What was it like? What was the best thing you saw?”

I was disappointed with the telling because their matter-of-fact accounting of the journey was straight forward and lacking in the adventurous overtones I’d expected such a trip would generate.

And the person involved hadn’t done anything remotely as adventurous since taking that trip, twenty years earlier.

How could someone travel from one coast to the other, 2,600 miles, on a motorcycle, and not have at least one story longer than 3 or 4 sentences?

I suppose you can travel east to west and never leave the interstate system. But, even then there are attractions and pieces of history just off the superslab that beg to be discovered.

And, as I discovered recently, there’s enough to see on I-40 from Oklahoma City to Flagstaff AZ to make interesting conversation.

I once interviewed John Green, of Easyrider Events, and asked him if he could only ride one interstate in America for the rest of his life, which one would it be. He thought for a minute and said, “It would have to be a long one, and have interesting scenery, so it would have to be I-40.”

After two weeks on the road, with 4 days of those spent of I-40, at times riding 90 mph through stretches in New Mexico and Arizona, I have to agree with him.

My travelling companion for most of the ride was Walt Lumpkin. Walt can be considered a “veteran motorcycle tourer.”  He knows the best hotels, (and the worsts) and the best restaurants and diners.

He’s found these gems because he’s not afraid to pick a restaurant and give it a try.

He and I share a common philosophy while on the road. Find a local and ask them to point out the best food. If that doesn’t work, check YELP.

The only “chain” restaurant we both go to in a pinch is Cracker Barrel.

So many of us never have the chance to ride across country. The reasons can range from lack of money, time or opportunity. I don’t want to discount any of those reasons. However, if you’ve got a desire to make a trip like this, I can promise you can find the time and figure out the money.

On this trip I had just ridden CA 2 from Wrightwood to La Canada, (and dodged falling rocks)  and jumped on the 210 heading west.  Igot turned around in Pasadena when I got off the interstate to get gas. It was DSC01108Sunday, just after lunch and I saw a hair salon with an OPEN sign. I’d been thinking about getting a hair cut so I made a U-turn and parked on the street in front of the shop.

The shop was deserted except for the two stylists. One was a woman in her 50’s and the other in her 20’s. You can probably guess which one was sporting bright orange/red hair.

Even though I don’t have a lot of hair to cut, and the procedure didn’t take long,  it still cost me $20.

Thinking I was a local, they offered me a coupon for my next visit. When I explained that I was from Georgia, the red/orange haired one told me she wanted to visit new places and see new things. Then she asked me “exactly where is Georgia?”

I drew her a map and showed her where it was in relation to Florida and I saw her eyes light up as that high school geography lesson came back to her.

On a hunch I asked her if she’d ever been to Death Valley. She said, “Where’s that?” I asked her if she’d ever been to Yosemite or Sequoia National Forest. She said no. I said, “so you want to visit Georgia, but haven’t been to the best places right here in your own state?

I told her I wasn’t trying to be a smart ass, but why dream of going 2,500 miles across country when there was so much adventure waiting for you just outside your own door?

Her response was that everybody she knows can say they’ve been to the places in California, but Georgia and Florida are trips you can brag about. Places your friends haven’t been. Places they may never get to go.

I shook my head and said, “Darling, if that’s the only reason you want to travel somewhere, you’re going to be miserable during the trip, when you get there and miserable coming back. And when it’s over, you won’t have anything worth bragging about.”

I told her the beaches in Georgia and Florida were just like the ones in California. We have malls, restaurants and fast food chains that are duplicates of the ones in Pasadena. With a few minor differences in climate and accents, one place looked pretty much like another. We have more trees and mosquitoes. I didn’t mention the gnats, I figure the mosquitoes were bad enough.

I told her that before she wasted a wad of cash travelling across the country, she should learn how to travel. Learn how to spot interesting places, and uncover hidden gems. Learn to interact with the people you meet on the road to discover what makes a place truly unique.

Avoid the trap of focusing too much on the “destination” and missing the little things that are right there waiting to be discovered.

Travel is a little like an “Easter Egg” hunt. The best trips I’ve taken are the ones where I wander around, uncovering one golden egg after another.

She nodded her head as if she understood what I was saying but the confusion in her eyes betrayed her. I’m afraid she hadn’t comprehended any of what I’d just said.

But she’s young, and there’s hope yet.

Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.

Adios Muther F#*Ker! How to Fire an Employee

rickfairless1Rick Fairless owns a Strokers of Dallas and Strokers Ice House.  He’s been featured on several reality television shows and for a couple of seasons, was the feature on his own Speed Television show.  He’s a superb custom bike builder and has an opinion on just about everything.

Recently RF wrote an op-ed piece in DealerNews where he says he truly dislikes almost all his ex-employees.

Rick says, ” Since I also own a bar, lots of my employees enjoy drinking here after work at my Strokers  IceHouse. Well, when I fire some goon, I tell them that they are not allowed at any business owned by me, including my beer joint. Boy does that piss ‘em off. Even if an employee quits, I don’t want them back up here at my place of business. Yeah, sure, there are always a few exceptions, but not many with me. When an employee leaves me, then I consider them dead and gone forever. I won’t even remember their name in a year or so — and I proudly tell them that. It’s like they were a bad dream that you forget soon after you wake up.”

Read the entire blog post on DealerNews

No Colors Allowed

no colorsby.  Editor Scott Cochran

I didn’t see the notices taped on the front of the entrance doors to the Charlotte Convention Center when I arrived early Saturday morning to man our booth at the Easyriders Bike Show this past January.

Sylvia was in Atlanta working a different show, and I was working Charlotte.

It wasn’t until late that afternoon when I saw them. I made a mental note to investigate the reason for their posting before the show ended.

However, working the booth by myself, I never had that opportunity and, as far as I could tell, the dress code (no colors) had not caused a decline in attendance.

I did think it was ironic that you could get in with a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt but nothing else that appeared to be “club related.”

The following week it became apparent there was more to the story than what I’d assumed.

I reached out to a source inside Easyrider and was told, “This is not a matter that needs any input from the general public or rights groups. If someone is not involved in this it would be best to MYOB.” (mind your own business.) Easyriders Events are neutral ground, we do our best to serve the lifestyle, cultures and subcultures of the motorcycle world. Easyriders Events does not get involved with club business, our only concern is for cohesive coexistence between the general public and the subcultures during our events.”

A few days before the big Columbus Show, Easyrider Events issued a public statement that said in part, “Easyriders Attorneys have been able to provide us with the approval to ALLOW COLORS for all clubs except ONE. The Club that is not allowed knows who they are and will not be admitted into any Easyriders Events………ever. “

For the record, Easyrider Events has been an advertiser in this magazine. I’m friends with the promoter and several of the writers for the magazine. This is a small industry and everyone knows just about everyone.

But, that’s not why I’m taking Easyrider’s side on this one.

The reason is their 40 years of unwavering support for the biker lifestyle.

The motorcycle landscape has changed in the four decades since Easyriders first hit the newsstands in the 70’s. Some of the progressive changes can be credited to its founder Joe Teresi and the magazine’s staff in the early days who gave the “tattooed, long haired bikers” a magazine they could call their own. A magazine that celebrated the rebellious freedom of the two wheel lifestyle.

All that, and a fair amount of incidental nudity. But that’s what goes on in this lifestyle among consenting adults. They didn’t create it, they just reported it.

More importantly, Easyrider Magazine was one of the few, if not the only newsstand motorcycle magazine who aggressively supported motorcycle rights, and helped galvanize MRO’s into formidable opponents of overzealous McCarthyish state and Federal lawmakers.

Joe Teresi himself testified in Congress against laws that would have made it illegal to modify motorcycles.

Teresi and others worked to establish and support fledgling A.B.A.T.E. chapters across the country, often paying their expenses with profits from the magazine, out of pocket, or with donations from advertisers.

Easyriders customers are the hard-core “biker” lifestyle readers and riders. The guys and gals who attend ABATE meetings and have been discriminated against time and time again, in one form or another.

So there’s no doubt in my mind that posting a “no colors” sign was a decision that was made to protect the general public first, and the organization and brand second.

Probably the most outrageous (and stupid) accusation leveled against Easyrider Events is their decision was “profit motivated.”

Think about it for a minute. Easyrider Events took a public relations black eye to protect the moms, dads and kids who attend their events. They knew a small but vocal group intended to stir up trouble and disrupt attendance, (and possibly become violent) but they made the tough call, and I respect them for that.

I’m glad I wasn’t the one who had to make that decision.

Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.

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Million Dollar Custom Bikes? I Ain’t Buying It

it's worth a millionAs editor of this esteemed fish wrapper, it’s my job to stay abreast on the trends in the motorcycle industry, and, believe me, staying abreast is a full time job with me, and one I thoroughly enjoy.

The only thing I like better is a well placed double entendre.

But, enough about me.

I wanna discuss the time I wasted…er.. spent recently watching Sturgis Motorcycle Mania on the Travel Channel.

To be fair, the production value of the episodes was and is outstanding. Produced by Big Fish Entertainment (Bethesda Maryland) the camera work and post production editing are as good as any I’ve ever seen, and frankly much better than anything I’ve been involved with.

But I guess what’s eating my cheese is the ridiculous hyperbole the producers insert into the story line as artificial drama in whatever event they’re taping.

A case in point was their coverage of one of the bike shows. To hype the importance of this show, and create artificial tension between the participants, the narrator says that the value of the winning bike could reach as much as “1 MILLION DOLLARS!”

It was at this point when I paused the DVR, went into my garage and retrieved my bullshit flag. It was obvious I was going to need it a lot during the next 45 minutes.

Admittedly I’m not the foremost authority on custom motorcycles, but even with my head stuck up my proverbial arse most of the time, I think I would’ve heard about builders spending less than $30k in parts and fabrication building show bikes, turning around and earning a cool million when they win this bike show.

With stakes that high the builders would be hiring 24 hour security guards and installing wireless cameras to watch their bikes when they sleep.

This wasn’t the only “contest” on the show that was hyped way beyond the realm of believability.

I suppose the target audience of these type shows isn’t middle aged motorcycle magazine editors.

I suspect these shows are aimed more toward the non-motorcycle riding viewer. Or at least the viewer who has heard the legend of Sturgis and fantasizes that one day he or she will have the funds to participate in what has become known as the “Greatest Motorcycle Show on Earth!”

My apologies to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus people for that blatant tag line rip-off.

But, truth be told the “Sturgis Experience” for lack of a better term is, for those who have yet to attend, the pinnacle of the motorcycle life.

The phrase “This year, I’m going to Sturgis” is to bikers what the phrase “This year, I’m going to Vegas” is to hard core gamblers.

Those motorcycle riders who live as much for the lifestyle as the ride, see Sturgis as the one “must do” destinations before they die.

It’s a desire I completely understand.

There are very few opportunities for working stiffs such as you and I to participate in “epic adventures.”

That’s part of the mystique of the Black Hills Rally. Even if you’re not interested in the gratuitous nudity, the easy to find debauchery, or the simply weird beyond biker weird, travelling to Sturgis promises so much more.

Endless miles of breathtaking scenery. Endless miles of prairies, bisected with mountains wrapped with ribbons of blacktop that are as close to motorcycle riding heaven as you’re likely to see this side of dirt.

Add to it the distance involved just to get there and you have the perfect recipe for a bucket list adventure worthy of wintertime daydreams, without all the made up drama.

Now that I think about it, the biggest prize in Sturgis isn’t winning some bike show, or burnout contest, and there’s not drama involved. The most valuable prize is the experience.

And, as we all know, it’s the things we do, not the things we have, that nourish our soul the most, no drama needed.

Until next time, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled

Will I Care About This When I’m 80?

Francis Gangley, Gadsden Alabama

D-Day survivor and motorcycle enthusiast Francis Gangley, Gadsden Alabama

Editorial – Scott Cochran

I’m sure it’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Pumping gas, putting on your gear in a parking lot, or eating in a restaurant. A total stranger will walk up to you and start a conversation about motorcycling.

It happened to me in Gadsden Alabama. I was at a restaurant counter waiting on my order when 82 year old New Jersey native Francis Ganley walked up and asked me if I was on that motorcycle outside.

Over the next few minutes, I learned Francis stormed the beach (Omaha) during WWII, and when he came home he bought a used Iron Head HD for twelve dollars! When he recalled the decades he’d spent riding various motorcycles, you could hear the longing in his voice to take one last ride before his passing. But, he knew that wasn’t possible. He said he couldn’t trust his knees, and watching him walk, you knew that was an understatement. The strength was no longer there to balance a bike, or even straddle the seat of a trike.

My food arrived, and I thanked Mr. Ganley for the conversation. I told him how much respect I had for him, and wished him a good day.  After lunch, I was outside getting ready to gear up when Francis appeared and asked me if I minded if he took a closer look at my motorcycle.  “That’s a good looking bike” he said, as he walked around it. “I had a FLH once with leather saddlebags.” I could tell there was something he wanted to ask but he wasn’t sure it was appropriate.

“Would you like to sit on her?” I asked.  “Do you mind?” He replied.  “Be my guest.” I said.

I moved in to help steady him in case he decided to straddle the seat as most would, but Francis sat down sideways, gently reaching to the handlebar. What he did next caught me completely off guard.

A big smile lit up his face and he twisted the throttle and playfully said, “VROOM VROOM!”

As his smile faded, Francis said, “I’d give anything to be able to take one last long motorcycle ride, but my knees won’t let me. But I sure do miss it.” I took his photo and thanked him again for his service to our country. He stood by and watched as I cranked up the bike, waved and rode away.

An hour later, as I was carving the twisty roads along Lookout Mtn Parkway and Little River Canyon in North Alabama I caught myself obsessing about deadlines, balance sheets, and business opportunities. I pulled off at one of the overlooks. As it was a Monday afternoon, it was deserted and peaceful. The only sound was the occasional bird and the tick, tick, tick of the v-twin as it cooled.  As I sat there I thought about that old man and our conversation. Here I was, doing the one thing that he longed to do, and I wasn’t fully appreciating the moment.

Sitting there I realized how important it is to occasionally view your life from the perspective of your future. Asking yourself, “Will I care about this when I’m 80?” is a good way to prioritize your life.

I wanted to go back and find him and apologize. I wanted to go back and shake his hand and tell him that from now on I will enjoy every minute I get to spend on two wheels because one day (If I live long enough) that pleasure will be taken from me, just as it has from him.

But there was no going back. Even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to find him.

Godspeed Francis. I hope you feel the breeze one more time before your day ends..

Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.

Forgotten Sacrifices; Forgotten Liberty

The “bloody lane.” Antietam Civil War battlefield

In this business, I get to ride a lot of different motorcycles. Not as many as my buddy Neale Bayly, but more than the average reader.

I know it sounds like a dream job, and in many ways it is. I’m not bragging about it. The downside is most of my mileage comes in big chunks.

I recently flew to western New Jersey, picked up a FLD Dyna Switchback and rode it 900 miles home. Along the way I briefly toured Hershey PA, and the famous Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam.

Then I rode the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway before jumping back on the interstate to hammer the last 7 hours home.

By the time some of you read this, I will have been to Sturgis and back on that bike, (along with my bride) and then to Gadsden Alabama before riding back to Jersey and flying home.

I’ve estimated I’ll rack up somewhere between 6k and 7k miles in 24 days. Oh, and I’ll have to get a magazine edited and published, and oversee the Smoky Mtn Rumble in Franklin NC in between.

I’m not complaining, We have it pretty good, compared to those alive 150 years ago.  I thought about this while I was standing in the “Bloody Lane” at the battle of Sharpsburg, (Antietam as it’s known in the North)

The combined casualties of this one day battle numbered north of 24,000 souls.  Fought on September 17, 1862 it remains the single bloodiest day in American history.

As I stood there in the sunken road and closed my eyes, I could almost hear the screams of agony, the zing of ball shot and the thunder of the cannons echoing across 15 decades of time. Afterwards I found this account of a soldier who fought there.

…as one of the regiments was for the second time going into the conflict, a soldier staggered. It was from no wound, but in the group of dying and dead through which they were passing, he saw his father, of another regiment, lying dead. A wounded man, who knew them both, pointed to the father’s corpse, and then upwards, saying only, ‘It is all right with him.’ Onward went the son, by his father’s corpse, to do his duly in the line, which, with bayonets fixed, advanced upon the enemy. When the battle was over, he came back and with other help buried his father. From his person he took the only thing he had, a Bible, given to the father years before….

You’ll notice the writer makes no mention of the color of the uniform, whether gray or blue. It doesn’t matter and I’m not here to debate the right or wrong.

What matters, and must not be forgotten, are the sacrifices by soldier and civilian alike. The blood of these brave souls (on both sides) established our nation and helped define what it would become. We were brothers fighting brothers, and when it was over, the old Union was dead, and a new Union was born. That fact alone should swell your heart with pride.

Twelve months after Antietam, Abraham Lincoln would deliver his address at Gettysburg. As a proud Son of the South, I see no disrespect to the memory or honor of my ancestors to quote his words here. And while he was at a different but equally bloody battlefield, his message to us was then, and remains appropriate, even to this day.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -” Abraham Lincoln. November 19,1863

It is good we remember this, as we reflect on another tragic September day just 11 short years ago. We should strengthen our resolve, that those dead shall not have died in vain.

Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.

Motorcycle History Buffs Rejoice!

Transcript below the video

Let’s face it. History can be boring. In a country where attention deficit has been described as a national epidemic, a 30 minute television show devoid of celebrities judging something, or adultery and drunkenness among suburban housewives is going to be a tough sell to Hollywood.

Stan Ellsworth, host of American Ride on BYUTV

But history can be fascinating, especially when it’s presented by 6’ 2” 300 lb, former NFL lineman Stan Ellsworth. Ellsworth, using the “open road” as a metaphor for freedom, travels the blacktop ribbons of the USA, and passionately narrates the quintessential story of America.

Right now the show is only available on BYU television. Yes, you read that right. Brigham Young University, ground zero for The Church of Latter Day Saints, is airing a (gasp) show featuring a long haired, bearded biker dude on a Harley-Davidson!

Forgive my sacrilege, but I’m not sure if the rumble is from Ellsworth customized Softtail Deluxe or Joseph Smith’s casket spinning in his tomb in Nauvoo, Illinois. (Smith was the founder of and leader of the LDS Church.)

But either way, American Ride is probably the best show that may never reach a mainstream audience simply because it doesn’t have sex, violence or people acting stupid as its central theme.

Introduced last year, the first season covered the dramatic story of the colonies and the Revolutionary War. For history buffs and motorcycle enthusiasts, (especially cruiser / Harley-Davidson enthusiasts) American Ride is the best of both worlds.

There’s no doubt Ellsworth knows his stuff, and his large and imposing stature, unscripted and enthusiastic delivery keeps viewers’ attention though what might otherwise be dry and boring when narrated by anyone else.

Now in its second season, American Ride continues following the progress of our nation’s early years, leading up to the Civil War.

I screened the first two episodes of season 2 on a pre-release DVD and thoroughly enjoyed each one.

If your cable or satellite company doesn’t carry BYU TV, surf on over to www.byutv.org to catch up on the first season and become a fan of USRIderNews on Facebook as we’ll be giving away season one and season two DVD sets in the coming months.

Does it beat Full Throttle Saloon on Tru TV or the Hairy Bikers on BBC? That depends on your tastes. For me, I’d rather watch American Ride, Full Throttle TV and Hairy Bikers than American Idol, Desperate “Hose Wives” or Jersey Hores, uh Shores any day of the week.

But that’s just me. I could be considered biker trash.

Until next month, ride safe and always take the road less traveled.

The Highway Is For Lovers

View From The Rear
 By:  Sylvia Cochran

Love is what legends are made of, and it’s the number  one ingredient in a good motorcycle relationship. To millions of women, there’s nothing more appealing than a summer day’s ride with a good looking man on a motorcycle.  I probably didn’t realize just how desirable motorcycle men are until I’d been in this business for a few years. I started noticing that more and more of my divorced single female friends and acquaintances would ask, “Don’t you know any single good looking motorcycle guys you can hook me up with?” If I paused, they would almost always continue with “heck, they don’t even have to be that good looking!” What I suspect these women really want is a companion who isn’t “dull and boring.”

Valentine’s is the day we celebrate love and there’s nothing we motorcyclists love more than sharing the highway with the people who are closest to us.  How many of you have been on a ride where everything seemed perfect. The day was warm, but not too warm. There was hardly any traffic, and the road was so smooth that you felt nothing but the breeze. Maybe you stopped for lunch in a little diner beside a bubbling stream, or sat underneath a tree on the side of a mountain soaking in the warmth of the sun. If you’re like me, these little moments are the flowers that add fragrance to our lives. The phrase, “stop and smell the roses” means much more when you take it in the context of motorcycle riding.

At Devil's Tower near Hulett Wyoming

That’s why so many of us “love” our motorcycle trips and especially our motorcycle men. This year I will celebrate being married to my best friend for a quarter of a century. (When you say it like that it seems longer than it really is.) My relationship with Sweetie Pie became richer and more adventurous after he brought that first motorcycle home.

I still remember the first year he rode to Sturgis, without me. We had school age children at home and there was no way I could go. I wasn’t a happy camper those ten days while he was gone, and he admitted he didn’t enjoy it as much without me. We’ve been a dozen times since and I never tire of riding in the Black Hills. I hope this year to return with a close friend who has always wanted to go. It will be fun sharing the trip with someone who is seeing it for the first time.

I’m still looking for those diamond earrings, and I’m sure one of these Valentines Days my Sweetie Pie will surprise me. But I’m not complaining. As long as we get the opportunity to take a long, leisurely motorcycle tour each summer, I’m more than satisfied.
After all, diamonds are pretty to look at, but motorcycle memories are much more fulfilling.

Riding the beach at Daytona