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The Official Web Site of The Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group
Roanoke Valley Harley-Davidson
1925 Peters Creek Road
Roanoke, Virginia 24017
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Sunday Breakfast Rides – Scrambled on the Market – 9 am
Saturday Coffee & Donuts – at the dealership – 9 am – 11 am
1 – Happy Hangover Ride – HOG Hall – 11:30 a.m.
5 – Chapter Meeting – HOG Hall 6pm – Dinner 7 pm – Meeing
18 – Motorcycle Lobby Day – Richmond
19 – LOH Meeting – Rancho Viejo – 4065 Electric Road – 6:30 p,
21 – Dinner Ride – Ragazzi’s – 6:30 pm
25 – Offiicer’s Meeting – HOG Hall – 6:39 pm
The Sound of Thunder
By DOUG THOMPSON
(Roanoke Valley HOG webmaster Doug Thompson rode in the first 11 Rolling Thunders. The article below is an abridged version of an article he wrote following the 1998 ride – his last. A few weeks later he underwent hip replacement surgery and sold his four-year-old Road King. He didn’t resume riding until last July when he brought a 2008 Sportster. In February, he bought a Dyna Super Glide and plans to ride it in Rolling Thunder this year. A shorter version of this article appears in the May RVHOG newsletter.)
He snapped awake at 0500, a full 30 minutes before the alarm was set to go off.
For more than 30 years, he had been waking up at 5 a.m. It didn’t matter which time zone he was in or even if it was daylight savings time. When the big hand was on the 12 and the little one on the five, he was awake.
He crawled into the shower and lay there for 30 minutes, letting the hot water loosen up his muscles and numb the throbbing pain of too many arthritic bones.
But the water limbered him up enough to pull on some faded blue jeans, t-shirt and leather vest. It took some effort to pull on the boots, but he managed. Then he strapped on the leather chaps. Three cups of coffee and several accompanying groans later, he headed into the garage where she was waiting.
She didn’t get much use these days, but she didn’t complain. Instead, she waited patiently under the tarp, waited for Memorial Day weekend to come around, knowing he would polish her up and head out onto the open road.
He worked for the better part of two hours, polishing the chrome, checking the oil level and the tire pressures. Then he kicked loose the stand, fired her up and headed into the morning air.
Not much traffic on Arlington’s Washington Boulevard on a Sunday morning. A few cars. Some slowed to take a look at the gleaming Harley Road King. Few noticed the gray-haired, middle-aged rider. He nosed into the parking lot of Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike and parked besides a half-dozen other Harleys. He noticed two he expected to be here weren’t.
“Afternoon lieutenant, did we sleep in this morning?” After 30 years and they still called him by the rank they knew him by then.
“You know me chief. Just couldn’t get up.”
“We weren’t sure you would make it. Heard you were hard down.”
“Will be in about two weeks. Go under the knife on 12 June.”
He looked around.
“VA Hospital in Albuquerque. He’s fading.”
Each year, the list of those who don’t make it got longer. He’d hauled Crowder on his back through more than 10 clicks of jungle. He’d miss him.
“What about Horsely?”
“Laid the bike down on ’50 in Indiana three months ago. DOA.”
Well, at least it wasn’t age. Or maybe it was. A younger man might have survived.
For the next 90 minutes, they ignored the ravages of age and worries about cholesterol and hardened arteries, wolfing down pork chops, bacon, eggs and hash browns, talking about days that have long since passed.
“They say we will have a quarter million out today. Maybe more than a hundred thousand bikes. Kinda miss the old days when there only a few hundred of us.”
“Yeah, at this rate, there will be more out there than who actually served. Getting hard to tell the wannabes.”
“I can tell. Always could.”
They finished and headed up Columbia Pike to the Pentagon, joining a mass of bikes and the thunder of exhausts in the parking lot. He opened the saddlebag and pulled out the same American flag and black POW-MIA flag he had used for the past 11 years. Along with his Boonie hat. At least it still fit.
An hour later, they were in line, pulling out, headed for the Memorial Bridge and the Mall in Washington. Rolling Thunder was under way.
He’d been on the first one, more than a decade earlier, a much smaller group of Vietnam vets riding their bikes into Washington to protest the U.S. government’s inaction on resolving the nagging issue of what happened to too many American servicemen who were unaccounted for Prisoners of War or still listed as Missing in Action.
Back then, the local law refused to cooperate and the veterans groups looked askance as the mostly long-haired group of motorcyclists who looked more like Hell’s Angels than veterans of a forgotten war.
But Thunder had grown through the years, along with the awareness that Uncle Sam had not done right by those left behind in Southeast Asia. The longhairs were still there, the heart of the movement, but Thunder now included bank clerks, accountants and the widows and children of men who were left behind. Now they got police escorts and the Vets groups were more tolerant.
As he crossed Memorial Bridge, a number of those in the crowd stepped out to slap the hands of those coming in. A young woman handed him a small American flag. He stuck the flag in his handbrake.
They circled the Mall before parking and heading to the Wall. Officially, it is called the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But those who were there just called it the Wall. It takes a while before some Vietnam vets can go there. Some never get up the nerve.
It took Rolling Thunder 1 to get him to the Wall. Afterwards, he was sorry he had waited so long to go.
He walked the length, scanning the dark service for names he knew. He always found them, even when he didn’t want to. One who died next to him. A young man who had one day to go when a mortar round took him out. Another who was already dead when they arrived to extract him. Names and faces that were still clear in his memory after 30 years.
He knelt and prayed with his buddies before leaving. Then they rode back across the Potomac and visited Arlington Cemetery to say hello to some others who didn’t make it.
People looked at the small group of gray-haired men in their motorcycle leathers and gave them a wide berth, not sure of what brought such a dangerous-looking group out to a place of honor on Memorial Day weekend. But it didn’t take long for the rough-looking crowd to quickly outnumber those in their Sunday best.
Later, they sat at Hard Times Café in Arlington and wondered how many more Rolling Thunders it would take before the federal government finally did something.
“How much longer we gonna keep doing this?”
“Until we get some answers.”
Then they parted, promising – as always – to keep in touch during the year but knowing – as always – that they probably won’t see or talk to each again until next year’s Memorial Day weekend.
He wheeled the Harley back into the garage, listened to it idle for a few minutes, and shut her down, covering her with the tarp.
Once inside, he unstrapped the leather chaps, took off the boots, and put them away.
Until next year.
If you own a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle and belong to the National Harley Owners Group, we invite you to join Roanoke Valley HOG. RVHOG membership dues are $25.
To view the application, you must have a PDF Reader program installed on your computer. If you already have a PDF Reader installed, click the link above to view and print the newsletter.
If you do not have a PDF Reader Program installed on your PC, go to Download.com web site where you can download a PDF Reader of your choice. In the search window provided, type in PDF Reader then hit enter, download software you desire.
What is Ladies of Harley (LOH)?
First and foremost, you do NOT have to ride your own bike to be a member and there are NO dues. Any female who is a current member of the Roanoke Valley HOG Chapter is eligible to participate in LOH. It doesn’t matter if you ride your own bike or are the all-important navigator on the back. The most important things are that you love the sport of riding and like having fun. Once you join LOH you will receive an LOH patch and pin. If you haven’t joined yet, you simply check the box on your national application, sign up by calling 1-800-CLUBHOG or visit their web site at www.hog.com.
LOH is where lasting friendships are made — where laughter is heard — where memories are made. It’s where we come together to share our common interest in Harley-Davidson motorcycles. We are eager to spread the word about the awesome world of riding. We talk about Harleys, share riding stories, participate in charity events, etc.
Ladies of Harley normally meets at 6:30 PM the 3rd Tuesday of the month at HOG Hall at the Roanoke Valley Harley Davidson dealership. The meetings are a lot of fun and there are some really terrific women in this chapter that you would enjoy getting to know. Some months we will have a program of interest (stress reduction, communication, make-up tips, exercise and nutrition, etc.) and some months we may decide to eat out. So come to a meeting and let’s exchange ideas and get to know one another.
The history of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle began in Milwaukee in 1903. In Milwaukee, Bill Harley and Arthur Walter Davidson developed a one-cylinder motorcycle. Around the turn of the century the gasoline engine was developed and the one-cylinder motor was introduced. In 1901 the Indians were the first motorcycles and in 1903 Mitschell, Merkel and Yale.This motorcycle was initially built for racing and was powered by a one-cylinder gasoline combustion engine.
In 1903 in Milwaukee, Bill Harley and Arthur Walter Davidson developed a one-cylinder motorcycle. It was a reliable and even a beautiful cycle. And … someone bought it!! In 1905 they had made 11 motorcycles, in 1908 it was 154 and … they had a company, in a little wooden barn, which was build by Davidson’s father. The small company extended quickly and another member of the Davidson family, William, joined them. In no time they hired about 20 employees in an especially build stone-factory.
In 1909 Bill Harley made a project of the first 1000 CC V-Twin. It produced a modest seven horsepower. The 45-degree V-twin would become one of the more recognizable images of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This V-Twin stayed with HD for a long, long time. Maybe it’s hard to believe, but Harley-Davidson didn’t invent the V-twin!! When Bill Harley developed one, he just followed the tendency of the time.
1910 brought the legendary “Bar and Shield” logo that was placed on their motorcycle. This would become the defining symbol of Harley-Davidson to this day. Numerous first place winnings in races, endurance contests and hill climbs give Harley-Davidson more recognition.The “F-head” engine is introduced in 1911. It will be the power workhorse until 1929, when the “Flathead” engine is introduced.
Arthur & Walter Davidson, William S.
Harley and William A Davidson (1915)
The year 1912 saw further growth of the Harley-Davidson Company. Construction began on a new 6-story factory. Harley-Davidson also became an exporter this year and their first overseas sale was made in Japan. In the states there were now over 200 dealerships.
1914 saw the addition on the sidecar to the Harley-Davidson. The Company also formally put their hand in the ring of motorcycle racing this year and would soon dominate the sport and become known as the “Wrecking Crew”.
The F-Twin “Silent Gray Fellow” from 1915
was called that way due to its color and its silent motor
1915 saw the emergence of the three-speed sliding-gear transmission. In 1917, one-third of all Harley-Davidsons were sent overseas to the U.S. Military to fulfill their patriotic call and to aid in the war effort. The following year, roughly half of the motorcycles produced were sold to the U.S. military. In the end, about 20,000 motorcycles were used in the war, most of them Harley-Davidsons. By this time Harley-Davidson was the biggest motorcycle factory in the world with nearly 2,000 dealerships worldwide. In 1918 Harley-Davidson was the biggest motorcycle factory in the world. They even survived the depression. The V-twin was Harley’s specialty, so the company tried to defeat its only remaining rival … Indian. But these days were the toughest, because the motorcycles got out of date and the prices of automobiles decreased (the T-Ford was born).
Therefore, Harley Davidson tried other technical enterprises, like manufacturing parts, side cars and even airplane motor-engines, but they also improved their own products.
The 1920’s saw some changes to the appearance of the motorcycle, which are more recognizable today. One such change was the identifiable teardrop shape gas tank. In 1926, single-cylinder engines were once again available, having been discontinued in 1918. In 1928, the first twin-cam engine and front wheel brakes were available on the Harley-Davidson. With this modification, the motorcycle could reach speeds in excess of 85 mph.
V-Twin from 1923
The 1930’s and subsequent years saw more record breaking and award winning Harley-Davidson’s. In 1932, the three-wheel Servi-Car was introduced and would become a familiar commercial and police vehicle. Along with appearance changes such as the “eagle” design, which was painted on all Harley-Davidson gas tanks, changes were also made to the engine.
These days the biggest Harley ever appeared, the 1340 CC. This motorcycle became Harley Davidson’s trademark. 1936 also became a milestone. That year the Knucklehead was launched and this motorcycle also became the victory over the Indian. And when in 1947 the Panhead was driven out of the factory, Harley Davidson was THE American Motorcycle.
Advertising the V-Twin
First Hydra Glide
In the 1940’s, the Harley-Davidson once again answered the patriotic call and sent its motorcycles overseas to aid in the war effort. In 1941, civilian production on the motorcycle was mostly suspended as the company turned out motorcycles for the war. Because of their commitment and excellence, Harley-Davidson received the Army-Navy “E” award; this wouldn’t be the last time. In November of 1945, civilian production once again started. In 1947, Harley-Davidson purchased the old A.O. Smith Propeller Plant and used it as a machine shop. The parts made here were shipped back to the old factory on Juneau Avenue for final assembly. In 1949, hydraulic front brakes were introduced on the Hydra-Glide models.
the oldest Harley dealer of Europe
In the fifty’s Harley survived another bad period. The British owned 40 % of the motorcycle market with their Triumph! In 1957 fortunately the Sportster was born, the fastest Harley ever. A great success !! Just like the English motorcycle industry, Harley stuck to its technic, style and character. That’s why this motorcycle was so popular for many, many years.
In opposite to the English manufacturers, Harley Davidson survived this decision. Due to the enormous attack from the Japanese from the Far East, the English disappeared without a trace and the American were almost dead. Even the Shovelhead couldn’t save its ass.
1969, Time for a merger with the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF).
However, the quality decreased enormously and the Super Glide and the SLCR Café racer of 1970 got a bad name. But Harley Davidson bought itself out and survived and with launching the new Evolution-motor in 1984, the company managed to create a modern motorcycle, which was still a Harley Davidson.
The beginning of the 1970’s saw a revolution of the Harley-Davidson. In 1971, the cruiser was born. This machine united a sporty front end with the frame and power train of the FL series. 1973 saw the move of assembly operations to a new 400,000 square foot plant in York, Pennsylvania. The year 1975 was the first of four consecutive years that the Harley-Davidson won the AMA Grand National Championships in dirt track racing. In 1977, the FXS Low Rider and the FLHS Electra Glide Sport were introduced to the public. The FXS featured a special lower seat position (hence the distinguishing term Low Rider…). The FLHS was a low cost base line FLH Electra Glide with modifications intended to make the model sportier.
The beginning of the 1980’s saw another change in the partnership of the engine and transmission. In 1980, the FLT model was born with a 5-speed transmission hard bolted to the engine. Also this year, the drive train was replaced with a Kevlar belt. In 1981 senior members of Harley-Davidson bought back Harley-Davidson Motor Company from AMF.
In 1982 Harley-Davidson enacted the Materials as Needed (MAN) application in their production. This would cut production costs and improve the quality of the parts. In 1983 the group H.O.G was founded and became the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club in the world. By the year 2000, the club had over 500,000 members. In 1984 the 1340 cc V-twin engine was introduced, seven years in the making. Also this year, the Softail model became available. The Softail was most primarily distinguishable by hidden rear shock absorbers.
In 1987 Harley-Davidson began its “Buy Back Program” which offered full trade in value within two years on certain models. Also at this time, the Harley-Davidson Company obtained a place on the New York Stock Exchange for those interested in taking a financial stake in the company. In 1988 Harley-Davidson celebrated their 85th Anniversary in Milwaukee, an event that brought forth 60,000 aficionados of the Harley-Davidson. At the end of this revolutionary decade for Harley-Davidson, the FXSTS Springer Softail model was introduced into the lineup. The FXSTS Springer Softail was a modern day recreation of the 1940’s Harley-Davidson. It had the classic biker look with the 1340 cc engine symbolizing the new era of Harley-Davidson.
In the early 1990’s the Fat Boy design was introduced and quickly caught on. The name Fatboy was derived by combining the names of the two atomic bombs “Fat man” and “Little Boy” which were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It was destined from the start to become a Collector’s item among biking enthusiasts and definitely achieved that status throughout its existence. Also in 1990, Construction on a 31 million dollar state of the art paint facility began in York, Pennsylvania. It was finished the following year.
The Los Angeles police is riding Harleys since 1930
Take a look at the amazing gloss of his boots …
or would it be just oil ?!?
In 1991, The Dyna line of Harley-Davidson’s was introduced with the FXDB Dyna Glide Sturgis. 1994 saw the jump of Harley-Davidson into the Superbike racing with the VR1000. The VR1000 featured a dual overhead cam and a liquid cooled engine and showed that Harley-Davidson was not fully averse to manufacturing a race inspired sport bike.
In 1996 a state of the art Parts and Accessories distribution plant was opened in Franklin, Wisconsin. The following year a new Product Development Center opened in Milwaukee. Also in 1997, a 330,000 square foot plant in Kansas City made its first Sportster. In 1998, assembly operations were taking place in another part of the world, Brazil. In the year 2001 Fuel injection was available on the Softail models.
These days, in America, Harley Davidson owns 62 % of the market of motorcycles with 850 CC or more!!
Harleys are, just like porches, fun stuff for people with money and appearance. So, “rich” customers rule the market. It could have been tempting for Harley Davidson to participate in this commercial hype, but when the hype is over, they know the company will still be there and will still sell motorcycles … because of the loyal followers.
For these people, despite of age and appearance, a Harley is the one and only. It is an obviously arrogant, massive and cool cycle, without doing its best for it. However, Harleys aren’t the fastest and manageable cycles’; riding a Harley is incomparable with riding any other bike …
In the mean time, the die hard have to share this experience with the yuppies!!!