Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Who’s says ’13 is unlucky?

Editors note up front: I'm exhausted just rereading this. I only wrote 4 blogs this year and perhaps this mother load will explain why that is!

From day to day (week to week or month to month for that matter) I often don’t know what I’ll be working on. Nearing the end of 2012 I got a very rare opportunity to meeting with some executives in Milwaukee and was passed a Hail Mary  on a big job (for me at least) to work on. I had detailed a bit about that job back in January when the release of the collaboration of Harley-Davidson and Kid Rock. What I’d learned is I’d inadvertently knocked one out of the park for the two parties. This home-run opened many doors and set the tone for me in 2013.

In January I was invited to the table as an illustrator to work on some rebranding for the Harley Owners Group, aka HOG. This was a long endeavor of work that was split up amongst a bunch of artists with different interpretations of what HOG is. We were broken into groups based on style differences and then set loose with themes to play off of. I kind of like this version of working because there’s enough freedom to explore within some boundaries that we can set for ourselves. Along side of the work done for HOG I also got to stay true to doing event poster work as I’d done in the past, working on Half Fast’s Burning Love event poster for their 6th annual Anti Valentines day event.

Coming up quick into February I was re-invited to work on a t-shirt for the Garterbelts and Gasoline in Australia.  This time I was set to outdo myself on the concept of a gal, a Olds Rocket powered auto and as always to sneak a physical rocket into the design somewhere. Just after this shirt came a second one for Vinsetta Garage for the Miss Autorama Pinup Calendar Contest. What I like about this design is we wanted to give a sense of the pinup, but without an identity to the person who may win. Mid February  I was invited to send a CarbElectricCo lamp over to New England for the Art of Speed III where it sold on opening day. One of these days I’ll just have to make a lamp for myself to keep. Wrapping up the end of February, H-D came knocking again for some design work for the 2014 line of clothing. So, I really won’t know what, if anything will end up on the shelf at dealerships.

Early March I was set up in the tight little booth in the basement of Cobo hall for Detroit Autorama. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the show: I love it because it’s like a mid-winter reunion with folks and friends I don’t often get to see. I hate it because it’s several days of work and I really don’t get the time to visit with those folks because I’m stuck in a 6x6 foot booth attempting to make a sale on some of my art and wares. You take a the hard concrete floor with the warm smiles of friends.

With March came the continuation of the Vintage Torque Fest posters for 2013. John Wells who runs the show as a benefit for Helping Hannahs Heart has been a bud for some time and the design freedom I get from him allows for a lot of creative expression and making the show have a little different feel each year. As before we have always done multiple posters: One for Hotrods, Kustoms and Motorcycles. Along side of this there’s the coveted “Drivers Patch” for those who will take their cars, trucks and bike out in the dirt for a spin on a closed course.

In April I found myself taking some time out (as I’m sure I will in 2014) to get all of my tax info straight. There’s nothing like waiting until the bitter end to find out how screwed you are due to owing taxes! It was also in April Harley-Davidson came a knock, knock, knocking again with another HUGE opportunity that I was truly honored to take a stab at: The 110th Anniversary Harley-Davidson Motor Company Poster. It started with three simple concepts. Two of my choosing and one that came down the ladder which was ultimately picked. By request the good folks of Advertising and Promotions wanted to see what it would look like if the 110th was crossed with Woodstock. Though the design was simple in many ways when you break it down, it also created many issues with space and dominance issues. The poster featured 3 big acts: Kid Rock, Aerosmith and Toby Keith as well as a stream of twelve additional acts and 6 sponsors. Needless to say with as many personalities and corporations involved the process of laying things out and getting them approved became a long, arduous task. The minute you move one thing, everything else needs to move with it. Many variations of the art came out, though to most of you probably didn’t notice the differences with color, scale, aspect ratio, etc. This project carried me throughout the month.

In early May came the annual trek to Vintage Torque Fest, this year in Dubuque Iowa.
Spring didn’t come as early as hoped with the dates for the kick off show of the midwest as there was some sleet and snow happing the first day of the event but never the less the hotrods and customs made it out and a good time was had by all those attending the show. Quickly after my return home I jumped into the advertising work on John’s other show: Iron Invasion in the fall. Beyond some smaller gigs and retuning of art for the 110th anniversary poster, H-D came knocking again. This time for a give away voucher for Born-Free 5.

The next thing I know I’m already half way through the year and it’s June already! Hands down, my busiest month of the year! The first weekend of June traditionally kicks off with the Sins of Steel show for Hotrods, Customs and Motorcycles. I had to slam out some work show merch right before the show began but in the end, everything came together. I’d skipped on setting up at the show in favor of helping out. 

The following weekend had been invited to take part in yet another huge honor: Orion Music Festival: Motorbreath Alley Art show. As if you couldn’t tell up until this point in the year, I was ‘slightly’ busy with a ton of bigger corporate work and not much time for myself to generate anything personal, but I did take a little time in May to get back to building a few lamps in the barn where two of them were on display at this awesome Detroit music festival with Metallica

The following week, after much discussion with my counterparts in Milwaukee where I was invited to take part in a cross country “Ride Home”, I found myself enrolled in the Rider’s Edge - riding academy program. Though the thought of a cross country trip was something I’d always wanted to do from an very early bucket list, I first had to conquer getting that pesky license to ride. Mid June I took the 4 day course and honestly, it was life changing and well worth the time. On Sunday, June 16th (Father‘s day) I had completed my testing successfully and the following day I took the test at the Secretary of State to have my official license.

By the last weekend in June, I found myself California bound for Born-Free 5 to set up along side of my buddy John Wells in the Vintage Torque booth. I have to hand it to both Mike and Grant on the show they’ve built; it’s really a mecca of American styled vintage choppers and bobbers. The definite highlight of the trip was when a couple of good folks sought me out at the show: Karen and Willie G Davidson! I was blown away and humbled that they came over to thank me for all the hard work I’d be doing for their company. It was a crazy fast trip where I got a chance to see some of my buddies from Cali that I worked on Deadheads with and also got the chance to attend and vend at this incredible show!

All the while working on the Model Year 2014 branding for Harley-Davidson’s “Project Rushmore” - The largest scale new model launch in H-D's history and simultaneously taking any waking hours from my schedule to keep all the prep and behind the scenes work for Midnight Mass Detroit. June was freaking nuts and I don’t even know how I managed to keep all the balls in the air that I did.

The first week of July I carried on with the MY ’14 work with Harley-Davidson. This was a real time crunch with everything weighing on Midnight Mass Detroit. I remember feeling like a tick about to burst at the seems - being spread to unimaginable odds again like I was in college. The pressure of Project Rushmore in conjunction of launching our own show was getting the best of me. The good news was the H-D work went dormant for the moment long enough to get Midnight Mass Detroit in the record books! Though we’d sold every spot in the parking lot, we still had a lot of unaccounted spots at the show. Never the less, the show went off as well as expected and we were able to donate money to our charity of choice in the end Helping Hannahs Heart. 

Immediately after the show I was back to work again for H-D with a new endeavor for the Veterans of the US military. This project went several rounds as well with different interpretations of the look of the Eagle as well as the banner that was going up in local dealerships across the US for the Military Remembrance Month of November. 

Every other minute spent outside of working, being a father and husband in the family was spend on two wheels. This was all in preparation to putting some miles on my new 2013 Softail Slim to both break in myself as well as the motor. I owe a lot to my good friend Roger for helping me out, being my co-pilot and taking the time to show me the ropes beyond the classroom.

By August, I was really wrapping up aspects of the trip involved in traveling from Washington to Milkwaukee for the 110th anniversary. I had a ton of prep work from contracts on the space to vend from at the show, the insurance to be set up there, poster creation for a limited run of the “celebration poster” as well as the live aspect to the show with a limited edition live silkscreen on site. All the midst of this and also attempting to keep some work flowing in I was working on some side identity projects for folks, wiring some lamps for the show, arranging transportation of the motorcycles to head west, one way airfare for myself and Roger and continuing to put miles on the bike. 

Soon enough I got the call that the trailer coming for the bikes was here. I’d just finished putting lock-tight on the sissy bar I built for the trip and it was time to go. When the Softail was picked up it had 451 miles on it that I put on, not quite half of what I needed for the break in fluids to come out. That night, I was able to obtain tickets to see one of the eight Kid Rock performances at DTE energy theatre and more importantly to me, see my identity work larger than life both on huge canvas wraps as well as on a jumbo screen animated! Kid Rock is an excellent performer and I was really impressed with his scratch session he did in the middle of his set. 

The next couple of days were spent finishing up my display items for the show and pre-packing the truck before I was yet again headed off to DTW for the one way trip to Spokane, Washington. I left with as much as I could get done but two things that weighed heavy on my mind was my dog Rocket was very ill with a stomach issue that was causing some messes around the house for Wendy to clean up behind in my absence. The second thing was I was yet again going to miss my son’s actual birthday again. It’s always hard to make some choices in life when you are trying to balance career and home life. Ultimately, I had made the choice to go (obviously if you have been reading along thus far).

I’m not going to go into an abundance of details on the cross country trip we nicknamed the three-13 ride. I’d already cataloged all my notes that I’d updated along the way in a previous blog and posts to Facebook and Instagram. Read all about that here: http://car-n-art.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-hd110-ride-home-experience-from.html What I will say and have repeated many times that it was ‘ambitious’ of me to attempt. I would say I wasn’t quite as prepared to attempt this as I felt I should be, but never the less, I’m certainly glad I did it! I’d recommend to anyone who has thought long and hard about it to take a day out and ride on highways only and drain, then refill your tank 3-5 times in one direction. The next day come on back home and see how you feel: If you’re ready the next day to do it again, then the next... For a lot of folks out there who bar hop, its one thing, but serious long days in the saddle are taxing. Think about what would be easier on yourself: Figure out all the equipment you’d need up front.

In all it was 1900 miles in 4 days of riding from Spokane to Milwaukee through mountains, rain, 100 degree days, wind, gravel, bugs, twisty road as well as 100’s of miles of just straight shots with nothing but you’re thoughts and smells of the road.  The goal was I had to meet up at an exact time and place with my wife at the Harley-Davidson Museum to set up for the 110th anniversary.

From beginning to end of the 110th Harley-Davidson anniversary was filled with awesome experiences. The crew who put the show on at the Museum was top notch to say the least; I’d never gone to a smoother running show, hands down. I was so busy with my wife and I running the booth I didn’t get much of a chance to get out and enjoy the bands, the demos, the parade or the Museum itself but the time was filled with amazing experiences and people! Some highlights from the show were meeting with folks I’d only communicated over email and phone with. Meeting more of the folks who make up Harley-Davidson MoCo. I was able to donate one of the silkscreened versions of the poster to the Museum itself for future generations to look at down the road as well, Willie G asked for one for his personal collection of art. Again, I was beyond humbled and overwhelmed with the experience. Another highlight was the invite to a private party after Kid Rocks performance where I got the chance to meet Bob Ritchie and thank him for all the help he brings back to Detroit. 

The show went from late August until early September. On Labor day it was time to hit the rode and saddle up for my real ‘ride home’. Slightly worried about traffic on a holiday in Chicago, we left before the sun came up. Wendy in the truck and me back on the slim. The trip from Milwaukee to Detroit isn’t actually that bad in comparison to what I had been doing in previous days of riding to the event! Grand total on the trip of 5 days of riding was 2,283 miles. Not bad for a new rider :)

There really wasn’t a day off either from this long trip, it was straight back to work for me. It seems as soon as I post that I’m away from my desk working, that’s when the work begins to pile up and the requests constantly coming in.  Besides the work requests, I was also able to broker a deal for my 1949 Ford Tudor Sedan to head to northern California with some help from friends! I had taken the car about as far as I wanted to go with it so it was time to let it go to greener pastures and soak up some California sunshine. So part of my September was getting that old girl out the door as well. 

Another highlight of September for me was issue 155 of Cruzin Magazine from Australia did a nice write up on me in the art section! I was super stoked to not have to ‘play the game’ in order to get the press. Understanding that a lot of what happens behind the scenes with these kinds of things with ‘greasing the wheels’ to get what you want out of it, it was certainly nice to have some press based on merit alone.

September finished up with a lot of reorganization after the trip, some more riding on the Slim and some bigger graphics jobs on a larger scale. Lastly, I was able to generate a personal piece called "The Wrecking Crew"

Right into October now it was time again for the second running of the Iron Invasion in the greater Chicagoland area. Because of set up times it was easier for myself to leave a day early and catch up with my friends of Brown Magic Paint Company. Mando came to the rescue for me on a Helmet show called “Skull Canvas” at Barber Vintage Festival by actually turning one design I had kicking around into a real deal. I was so fried from what had been going on in the past months to barely think about translating something onto the helmet. The evening I came down we hung out with his cousin and wife in the neighborhood of where the famous John Wayne Gacie went all psycho clown on a bunch of young men in the area. It was a little creepy to think about while over there but nothing that some good beers and Korean food wouldn’t fix. Friday it was on to the show. The weird thing about this year was how much great buzz came from year one that should have boosted attendance for this second year, but it just didn’t happen even with the extended marketing for this show with shout outs from sponsor Harley-Davidson on their vast social medias. I blame the government shutdown on some instability as everything really looked like the perfect storm for this show.

Later in October I got the chance to yet again work on another Top Secret project for Harley-Davidson. This time, like with Rushmore, everything was closely guarded. So close that even on a air-tight non disclosure agreement (this is the thing that when people ask me “What are you working on now?” I can’t offer up much information because it’s MY ass if something leaks and can be proven to chase back to my trail) I was wasn’t allowed a name, a photo, or anything about this new bike coming out with an entirely new platform. What I knew was it was a smaller CC bike, youth oriented, and a global project for the American born company. I was asked to provide some concepts and eventually had to put my foot down and know at least something outside of some vague descriptions of what the bike was. Eventually the code named “Project G” let down it’s guard a bit, long enough to design up a poster for the international reveal of this bike. 

Early November found me back at DTW for what I thought would be my last trip of the year. This time I was headed to Kanas City, home of the Dark Customs plant line for Harley-Davidson. I got the rare opportunity to be part of the US dealership reveal of the Street 500/750 bikes at the unveiling. We printed up 2000 posters for the event as a give-away to the US dealers and I was onsite at the reveal as a special guest artist to sign and personalize the posters. I was again very honored to take part in a landmark event for HDMC! It certainly not every day I get to take part in a forum like this! 700 posters were pre signed as the audience of nearly 2000 people wouldn’t all have the time to stand in line just for a signature! The signing took place during a ‘cocktail hour’ which in reality was two hours long but my line didn’t seem to cut down until the tables were being folded up and chairs stacked! I missed out on eating so it was time to hit up local buddy Tyler for what was good in his hood. Tyler met me for breakfast in “Lower Bottoms” - the railroad yard district which in my opinion was way cooler than the freshly multimillion re-landscaped downtown. Don’t get me wrong, Kanas City is beautiful, but it’s got this appearance flavor of Disney written on in... like it was solely done to attract tourists and in turn destroyed a little local flavors. The Lower Bottoms looks to me to be unchanged and therefore has the kind of character I appreciate when traveling. 

Once I returned I quickly got the notion that I clearly hadn’t spent enough time in airports or shoved into economy seating aboard an airplane (can you read my sarcasm?) This had already been an epic year for me to this point so it was time to go for broke with one show I’d been wanting to hit for years now: Yokohama Mooneyes.
As soon as I’d returned from Kanas City I called up John Wells again to pick his brain. Knowing it was way too late to even consider going to the show to vend (nor did I really want to as I wanted to see a show for a change) I asked him about the travel and some of his tips. After getting off the phone I started searching for flights to Japan.

I was able to find a flight with the cost of what I was comfortable with, so that pretty much seemed like it was meant to be. Next up it was booking accommodations for the stay in both Yokohama and Tokyo.  With a little help from the world wide net I was able to settle in on both legs of the trip. The down side of things here in the states is that if you want to get there on time with the international date line, you need to leave on Thanks Giving day in order to be there. Not that I’m a huge turkey fan, but this would mean for me two years in a row I was missing out on the family time. The last year I was wrapped up in completing samples for the Kid Rock collaboration art for Harley-Davidson.  

So with my backpack and camera bag packed I headed once again to DTW in the early hours of the morning. Once near the airport the snow began to fall more rapidly and I started to fear that my flight would be canceled. Luckily with some deicing of the flaps, we were only delayed 30 minutes from takeoff with about 5 hours in the air to LAX. Basically with the narrow timeframe of a layover to begin with and the snow delay in Detroit I basically walked off one plane and straight onto the next for another 12 hours of flying. Yeehaw....

After all the immigration and stops along the way of entering a new country I was able to meet up with John nearly where we projected and it was off to Yokohama. I was able to get a proper meal after about 24 hours of travel at this point in an ‘English Style’ Pub and a nightcap to send me into slumberland.  Rest was needed to what was about to happen.

The following day was set-up for the event which I was really only there for moral support and to snap some photos of the place without tons of people around. From about 7am to 10am we where there and then quickly John, Max Grundy and his buddy Pat and myself were headed right back to Tokyo for the day.

We were certainly out of place everywhere we went: loud americans in the subways. I recall how many Japanese were staring at Max’s beard over there, not to say it’s not an impressive beard mind you, but it was as if he was wearing a ski mask to them the way they’d stared. I guess I forget that here in the states, and more specifically in Detroit that we have a pretty diverse culture and mix of people from all over, so I don’t think anyone here stares as much. 

So we went all over in some pretty dense shopping districts. The funny thing was when I was in Japan 6-7 years ago, I’d been to this same Tokyo mall shopping for toys with my buddy Dave. I had a little bit of deja vu, or it could have been the jet lag. As it began to get dark, it was time to head back and rest. I have no idea how many miles we’d walked around through these different shopping districts, but I was feeling it for sure. I felt I was dreaming standing up at a certain point while in Tower Records. Time for sleep: tomorrow was December and Mooneyes!

December 1st kicks off with a bang! In Japan for one of the greatest Hotrod and Custom shows known around the globe. The short cab ride in unveiled some of what was about to shown on the floor with Custom Cars and Motorcycles on the approach. John and I had arrived about 2 hours before it was open to the public. This was a great chance to photograph the show unencumbered by a few thousand onlookers. The “Hero” pass was the only way to fly for sure. The only downside of this was a lot of the set up was still going on: No lights up yet and carpeting was still covered in plastic to keep it fresh. Never the less I’m thankful for the time to be able to shoot without too many people around. 

One thing of note that many folks don’t realize in the states is that its difficult for people abroad to purchase, upkeep, customize and maintain hotrods and customs, especially in Japan where space is at a premium! I’d detailed more about this when I was overseas a couple of years back at Final War in Germany: http://car-n-art.blogspot.com/2011/09/american-at-war.html In the past from what I understand, Mooneyes Yokohama used to ship over select Hotrods and Customs from the states in Shipping containers for the show. As years have gone on, the number of shipping containers has been reduced and not only from the stand point of ‘bang for the buck’ but also as trends change, more motorcycles came over than cars. A heavy presents of the Born-Free builders bikes were on display alongside of the builders booths as well. As for the cars, there were a handful of noteworthy vehicles I saw, but many of the Japanese plated cars were ones that were previously built in the USA and shipped over on an ebay deal. So, if you paid attention to west coast shows and magazines, chances are you’ve already seen many of the vehicles on display at Mooneyes Yokohama.

The motorcycles were really the stars of the show (sorry, car guys). Japan has been noteworthy of building some bad ass bikes for sometime from old american steel. I don’t think I’ve seen more vintage Knuckleheads, Panheads, Shovelheads. Flatheads,  Ironheads and even Evo and big twins under one roof, in one day. Not to leave out vintage Indians, Triumphs,  Hondas, Yamahas, Royal Enfield and weird/rare stuff in between. It was jaw dropping: any which direction you turned there was something new and unique to look at! As the show progressed and became more and more congested with patrons, I found myself feeling a little claustrophobic and wanting to see the sun and breath the air (I get a little antsy around big crowds). When I went outside there was an endless stream of vintage bikes still pulling into the show hours after it began. Where were they going? This show couldn’t possibly fit any more bikes inside these 4 walls!

I got chatting for a bit with Jenny from Trophy Queen about it and she tipped off this newb to what was going on. Apparently there are some strict rules to vehicles being shown multiple times. So many of the bikes that had previously been seen inside the convention center in the past were still at the show, just parked in the underground structure outside. So I again grabbed my camera and headed out to see the spectacle, and I don’t tend to use that word lightly either. I was again jaw dropping inside of this parking structure: Wall to wall badass bikes, crammed in like sardines underground. I was again completely overwhelmed by the bikes!

Soon enough it was time for judging and that meant the show was nearly over. John began his battle cry of ‘Hangaku!’ (or half price/amount) and it was time to start packing it in as we had to shuttle off to Tokyo right after the show. Breakdown only took a short 20-30 minutes and we had a little hike to the rail station with a few switches along the way to check in at the Hostel in Tokyo’s used book district.  John’s friend Nory was a  huge help at the booth and escorted us to the hotel and then for a quick bite to eat.

The following day there were no slowdowns.  I had spoke with a representative from H-D Japan while at the 110th about a potential project on the horizon so I had a meeting with them midday (sorry, no details here I can share) also in the mix was the wholesale district areas with John looking at new and vintage toys alike. But after all the work was done, I was stoked to see something I won’t surely forget anytime soon: Robot Restaurant.

My good friends Roger and Abbie mentioned this Anthony Bourdain show where he’d visited Japan and went to this ‘crazy-ass restaurant with dancing girls, tanks and robots.’ Say no-more my friends, just tell me where to go!  With a little investigation I was able to get the name and website for this Amazing Spectacle! (hey look, there again, two words I won’t use unless I truly mean it) I don’t want to give too much away for some day you may find yourself in Tokyo, Japan... and when you are, you MUST head to the red-light district and sit in the front row of this mind-blowing dinner show. It’s rumored this area is run by the Yakuza: The organized crime syndicate (or mob) and after being there, I can say I saw it with my own eyes: missing fingers and visible tattoos are the telltales here, besides being solicited for sex in route to the location a few times with guys with ‘menus’ of women. So, you’ve been forewarned.

Waking the morning of the 3rd of December I was in a bit of a daze. I think I’d run like I did so many years prior like in college. I was only focused on packing my clothes up and getting caught up online as to what’s been happening back home with the help of a wifi connection. My flight was on time so that was the good/important news. Immediately I was updated with a tag on instagram push notification that I was tagged in a post. I knew some time back I was able to complete an online interview with Smokin’ Shutdown magazine out of Berlin, but what I didn’t know was that this interview was to be printed in a full color, 248 page hardcover book! I’m stoked to be featured and as I write this blog, my copies are in transit from Germany. 

With no rest for the weary, I returned home to jump straight back into work mode on a couple of projects as well as some holiday orders to fulfill. Finally catching my breath for a moment, I wanted to sit down and finally detail some of my year in review. Knowing the year isn’t really over yet, I still wanted write something as I used to enjoy taking the time to write something, and now with adding Father to my list of things to do, I simply just don’t find the opportunities as I did in the past.

I hear when you get ready to die, your life can flash before your eyes (probably the good with the bad) but what I know is 2013 will definitely be in the highlights and I’ll look back at that ‘unlucky ’13’ very fondly.  Special thanks to many folks out there who made this especially ‘lucky’ for me: Wendy & Cass, Mom & Dad, Roger & Abbie, Mike & Jenny, John & Kim, Mel, Dino, Annie, Jack, Michelle, Tyler, Thom, Paul, Willie, Karen, Bill and many more!

Friday, September 6, 2013

My #HD110 "Ride Home" experience from a fresh set of eyes

Day 1, Ride Home: left Detroit at 10am, layover in the twin cities, land in Spokane. 20 minute can ride to Lone Wolf HD to pick up the bikes, then fuel up and hit the road. Leave Washington, ride through Idaho & into Montana. Stop for the night in Butte. Today will be a lot more 'ambitious' ride.

New rider thoughts: mountain highway roads a whole lot different than flat Michigan highway. Counter leaning vs wind and curves are an improvement point to focus on. Broke some new ground riding in rain and wind on the highway. Sore butt, sorer pride.

Day 2, Ride Home: coming to a close. Around 600 miles (about what I'd had under my belt career on a bike in a single day) I'm sore. Butte Mt to Deadwood SD

New Rider thoughts on a long haul: fatigue! It's not just your body being sore: arms, neck, butt, back are one thing. Hands and feet going numb from vibrating but the most important is your mind! Unless your bike is a bagger all decked out with a booming audio system, it's a whole lot of you in your head alone time. This is what a lot of folks like about being on a bike is that alone time, but when it begins to be 12 hours of just sight and smells (I'm taking hearing out because its mostly wind and engine hum) you can start to get a little loopy. I tried singing to myself and that ended up in a new game of 'how many bugs can you eat'. I feel like knowing your strengths and weaknesses should outweigh anything else early on. As long as you are on the road and still have the ability to 'keep with it' both physically and most important, mentally - then keep at it. Things can get dangerous when both start to break down.

Day 3, Ride Home: a whole lot of South Dakota! In the morning we did some touristy stuff: seeing the Crazy Horse memorial and Mt. Rushmore. The Black Hills are beautiful country to ride in and the favorite to date is Custer State Park (16A) with lots of nice scenery and crazy, tight road curves with hairpin corners to really lean the bike into. After all that it was basically a straight line across the state and landed shy of the goal by 60 miles. The heat was very taxing in leathers.

Today's new rider thoughts are about Traffic flow: it's more than just how the traffic moves down a highway. Riding a bike became a bit like white water rafting when passing trucks in the mountains and across windy plains. There's a whole lot of bucking the wind, like eddies and whirlpools you get while rafting. Even 30 to 50 car lengths back you can get into a pillow fight behind a truck and it can be intimidating. It took some time to watch the traffic flow and the conditions of road ahead to find the perfect opportunity to throttle down and pass with confidence. Once you see and feel your opportunity, watch for traffic, make your signal and muscle your way past a truck and be ready for the blasts of air bucking off that big rig. I know I slowed down my pack a few times over with this, but hey, it's a learning curve and better safe than on the pavement 800 miles from home.

Day 4, Ride Home: Crossed from Minnesota to Wisconsin. For my 1000 mile service on the bike a little overdue. Now over 2k on the Softail Slim. Today we make it 'home' for #hd110

New Rider thoughts: With so much alone time in your head, I found myself making many analogies on the road. This particular day while stopped for the 1k mile service, they changed out all the 'break in' fluids on the bike. I got to thinking about that term of breaking in. When you buy a new pair of shoes or boots, you have to break them in slowly so you don't hurt yourself, get blisters, rub the skin off. I sort of compared this with my seat. I was told many times that I didn't want to ride cross country with a springer seat. I'm slightly on the stubborn side and ignored the folks who said that to prove I could. When I rolled into the service department the first question I got is 'how's that seat?' In hindsight I hear those voices of people again saying I should have switched it back to stock, but I didn't. Breaking in is really a little give and take on both the part of the person as well as the article that we think is breaking. I think by this day and 1800 miles on the bike, it was really me who broke in as a new rider as opposed the the bike breaking in for me. I think the bike and I will find a happy medium

Day 5, Ride Home: The final putt in to Milwaukee. We didn't have all that far to travel, just a couple hundred miles that increasingly added a whole mess of traffic. We made it to the museum around 2 in the afternoon and after a quick bite at the motor, it was all work setting up my booth. I didn't get a chance to write this out as I became super busy immediately upon arrival and yesterday I was working from 7am to 10pm. If you are coming out to the HD museum, pop by and say hi! Ill be pulling some silkscreen prints here and there throughout the day exclusively printed and sold at the Carter Fine Art booth across from the AMD bike show

New Rider thoughts: in all the thinking time going down the road I did a lot of comparison to different topics. On the last two days I thought about 'sea legs' if you ever spent any time on a boat it's a simple comparison of cycles to boats. You really get the feel of the bike you need to ride it a lot and at different speeds to get your sea legs. You learn not only to lean with the curves but also with the wind. Take some pressure off your back and your butt. Grip the tank with your knees or kick out your knees to grab some air. When I rolled into downtown Milwaukee i found myself using my floor boards to help steer the bike by applying pressure. I was continuously making adjustments along the way to my pack and my gear to give me some points where I could get a little rest and also learned to do a little bike yoga going down the highway by laying down on the tank for a mile or two. Last night I drove my truck for the first time in a week and it was almost foreign to me and how large it was. I think that's when it really kicked in that I'd got my 'sea legs'

The true 'Ride Home' final day: After spending multiple days at the H-D museum we packed up our booth as the rain began to sprinkle. Finished up late last night and departed early in the am on Labor Day. All things considered on the last leg, it felt easy. Was it any easier than any other day or have I become that much stronger as a rider? Who knows, but it certainly helps to have gone down a road I've been on many times before out of Milwaukee and through Chicago and straight down I-94 to Detroit. This trip is something I won't soon forget and will be something I hope to share with grand kids! 2,283 miles in all. Not too shabby for a guy who just got his 2 wheeler license

Along the way we'd strapped a few GoPro cameras up. Only a handful of useable footage with loose mounts and battery life being the big factor. Take a look at the Three-13 Ride

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

So, I bought a bike

Something I've wanted to do for a long time (that was solidified when I first got my mini bike) was to have a full sized two wheeled motorcycle. Lots of consideration went into the thought process of what I wanted to purchase: New vs Old, Foreign vs Domestic, Form vs Function.

(NOTE: In my ramblings, I include my opinion, which may not be yours. Neither of us are right, or wrong. Some folks like Vanilla and others like Chocolate ice cream, I'm just giving my opinions here)

New vs Old: I love older things at heart! My father once said that anything made after 1945 was crap and in someways, I tend to agree. Things (nearly all things) made before WW2 were really designed to be build and rebuild; serviceable for years to come. It's the reason many old vehicles are still on the road outside of their cool design, it's because they can be! We can't say that about much build after the WW2 as America became a disposable society, but I'll leave that alone at this point as I could go on and ON for some time about that! So, the fact that I love old and I think that vintage bikes have a lot of appeal, I also have this other side of me that knows really how much "free time" I actually have, which is basically none! Since my son came along in my life nearly 4 years ago, I needed to change some of my behavior on where time is spent and whom I spend it with. I certainly didn't want to be the hermit in the garage who his son never got to know or understand. The proof is really in the pudding; if you follow my other blog you will see a lack of posts from a few years back about the Gow Cart project. It's not that I've abandoned the whole thing, it's just on extended hiatus while I concentrate on my career and my family. At this point in my life, I'd like to spend more time enjoying things than laboring on things. Don't get me wrong, I love to tinker and make things my own, but for the sake of a bike, I just wanna ride it.
Bikes that qualified as attractive to me would be in the H-D family are the late forties early fifties WR, EL and FL; even the military WLA or WLD.

So knowing that I have little time for projects, I pretty much ruled out an old bike and settled on the concept of push the button and head down the road. Let's not forget why we build things: it's to enjoy the fruits of the labor! For the New vs Old battle, New wins.

Foreign vs Domestic: This was a bit of a no-brainer for me, but I will admit several years back that I found myself at a new motorcycle trade show and spent a lot of time sitting on the seat of a Triumph Thruxton. For being a 6'2" 200 lb dude, I think I rule out a lot of vehicles based on my size. The nice thing about the Thruxton outside of the looks of the bike was I felt it fit me physically where I was comfortable with my feet on the ground for stop signs/lights. I took a lot of literature away about that bike and headed to the Harley-Davidson display to check out the cruisers. Overall the same price point was going to put me into a Sportster platform which I felt I was a little too big for (lanky here).
A little while later I was asked to do some work for Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Milwaukee and developed a relationship with them. It was at this point it became a no-brainer. As I did with Ford Motor Company (purchasing my 2005 F-150), I strongly believe in supporting the home team when they are the ones commissioning you and paying you. I'll admit there are definitely some very nice bike out there from other foreign manufacturers, from design to engineering, but I have to support local in my case. Case closed, Domestic wins.

Form vs Function: This is something as a designer I battle with all the time. The true marriage between the two is the highlight of any designer or restyler. When someone looks at any designed object you will often see something that doesn't seem to fit or looks out of place. This usually falls into one of these two categories: Form or Function. Some items are added purely for esthetics where others are purely function. When you look at any man made object and identify something as 'wrong' its because it's overly executed in decorative form or tacked on by an engineer for function. Either can be bad if they don't work the two together! I think a lot of motorcycles have this issue, especially when the owner busts open a catalog of chrome doohickies to add to their ride. When looking at custom bikes one of the most attractive features to me is a hard tail (lack of rear shocks present for those unfamiliar with the term) Many bikes have chromed rear shocks right from the factory which call more attention to them which I feel is that bad marriage of form and function together. Yes, shocks make for a more comfortable ride (function), but chroming them to a mirror finish (form) I feel is drawing attention in the wrong direction. So knowing I like the hard tail look, but still didn't want to beat up my back and kidneys, I directed my attention to the softail, thus narrowing my scope.

From the get-go on current model years I was very drawn to the Softail Slim. I couldn't quite put my finger directly on it, but it's minimal styling and 'bobberesque' qualities are what drove me towards it.  I felt it would have been the modern interpretation of what I'd want to do to a bike if I needed to make it my own.  Many of the old cues of the bikes I looked at when first deciding on if I was going Old vs New were there. Even some of the things I enjoy in four-wheel hot rods were there. Later, I learned why. I loved the stubby fenders, the "brawler" front end (sometimes referred to as 'punchy' overseas because the reduced rake on the front forks is reminiscent of a boxers closed, defensive stance in his arms) the mix of polished vs wrinkle finish in the whole bike. I love the laced wheels to the tail lights that reminded me of Ford's 1937 bullet lights on a smaller scale.

A little while later, while at Born-Free 5 I got a chance to meet Casey Ketterhagan who I associated as a Hot Rodder from the Cheaters Car Club in Milwaukee. Casey has since moved on, but the spirit of how he looks at bikes is the same way that Hot Rodders and Custom builders look at restyling cars. What I came to learn was Casey was the lead designer in the Softail Slim bike.

What Casey told me was when he was approached H-D told him to build a bike he'd want to ride. So being in the same vein as Casey, I can now see why I was immediately attracted to this particular bike! It's got true Hot Rod spirit in it.

Making it your own;
Everyone wants something unique, something of their very own. Still trying to stay true to what I was attracted to on this particular bike, I still try and marry form and function. The hard part comes in with making a bike more functional for carrying things you may need along the way without again destroying the look of the bike. Some people are really into bags on bike, I for one, especially in the world of softails don't like the looks of bags on them. Based on the nature of the swing arm rear, bags need to sit higher than on other frames in the H-D family. This is something I'm dealing with now and part of that is identifying how I intend on using the bike itself. A motorcycle will never be a pick-up truck, nor should they be. That's the reason I own a pick-up! 

Part of the restyling I want to do is to add a sissy bar that I will have something to strap things to also while relocating the license plate from the side to the center and also adding a third tail light more at a four wheeled view point. Overall, it's about proportion in anything that deals with design and overall I feel the Softail Slim was done right!  The insert is a 20" sissy I'd been restyling to make it more functional for myself and also subtracting the folding stock license plate from the original design. I had originally thought I'd add an actual 1937 Ford taillight to the bar, but after further review and some mock up, I wanted something smaller to fit the scope of the bar and bike. In the photo I have a Biltwell Model B taillight which fits the look on the scale and also contains the license plate light required here in Michigan.
For now, after I get the sissy bar back from the powder coater, I'll be just doing the simple mods of hooking this up and then ride it. I've got plenty of time to make this my own and change things over the years if I choose.

So that's my story. I know to some folks who maybe reading this by comparing a Softail Slim to the late forties early fifties WR, EL and FL's would be like comparing a PT Cruiser to a Chrysler Airflow. Make no mistake, I know it's apples and oranges. I just made what I believe was the right choice for me, right now. 

Hope you enjoyed the read. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Two American Icons get in bed together, now its up to you to turn them on

As a few of you may know, I got a chance to work with Harley-Davidson a a few projects  at the ass end of 2012. Most of them are still double top secret, but this one just got fully unveiled. As a Detroit artist I was invited exclusively to work on a brand merger between Kid Rock and Harley-Davidson for the new Rebel Soul tour art. At the point where I entered the gig, there was no deal set in stone and the art for the tour was going to make it live or die. So, hey Kev, no pressure, man... Right?!

Over the course of the Thanksgiving holiday week I was tasked to come up with concept art for the project. In 6 days I generated 22-24 pieces of art (you can never call me lazy) but the one you see Bob wearing here was the first idea and my favorite one of them all, too, so I’m glad we think alike. I wanted to do a sort of interpretation of the “Deaths Head” design from -you-know-who- but more modern and from the front.  I incorporated what I thought Bob’s hair might do riding down the road. Of course there was the aspect of Americana that had to be in there from both parties, but I just couldn’t bring myself to doing yet another bald eagle!

The stress really started to overcoming me within a few days... this wasn’t just a logo here, or show flyer there; It was a chance to try and do something great and bust out of some obscure structure that I’ve placed myself in. I pulled 12-15 hour days, including all of Thanksgiving to get the work load done to my liking. At the point where I sent it off I was a wreck. I really hopped that I just didn’t kill some major deal for folks and in turn commit artist suicide by not being up to snuff. It was time have a drink to settle my nerves.

It was worth every minute I put in to have them come back to me with nothing to change. A tag line was added by Kid Rock to the bottom of the art, but overall, it is how you see it.  Both American Super Powers were happy with the art I made and that made me grin!

Now, as many of you could probably guess, this isn’t going to gain me much in the way of personal notoriety; I was the hired gun to make both parties happy. You won’t see my name on this, nor will I guess I’ll ever get a shout out from Harley-Davidson, nor Kid Rock anywhere. So needless to say, I kinda have to toot my own horn if anyone ever wants to know “who did that?” 

At least you can say “I know who did that, and he’s a pretty okay-ish kinda fellow”

From Kid Rock's Website: 
Posted by 
January 28, 2013
In its most thrilling and globally epic anniversary celebration to date, Harley-Davidson today announced an exclusive partnership with legendary musician and ‘American Badass’ Kid Rock, including a Saturday night performance for the company’s 110th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee over this Labor Day weekend.

The first-of-its-kind partnership brings together two legendary American rebels and names Harley-Davidson as a title sponsor of Kid Rock’s Rebel Soul tour, which kicks off Feb. 2, 2013, in Kansas City. Harley-Davidson plans to offer fans unique experiences at each of the 60 planned stops during the Rebel Soul tour. The tour sponsorship is just one aspect of the overarching relationship, which will extend from concerts to retail promotions.

“What’s not to love about Harley?” said Kid Rock. “They are the backbone of American culture, the flagship American brand. I am honored and excited to partner with this legendary icon that has helped to define American freedom at home and abroad. In 110 years no one has done a better job of representing America – there is NOTHING that screams America like Harley-Davidson.”

A unique element of the partnership is an exclusive line of limited-edition, co-branded Rebel Soul merchandise featuring a line coined by Kid Rock: “I can’t hear you over the rumble of my freedom.” Fans will be able to purchase concert-specific merchandise at each show, as well as an exclusive line of merchandise at participating Harley-Davidson dealerships across the U.S. This is the first time either brand has offered such an extensive line of co-branded merchandise.

“Kid Rock puts on a great show and embodies a lot of what Harley-Davidson and our fans stand for – freedom, independence, self-expression and the rebel spirit,” said Harley-Davidson Chief Marketing Officer Mark-Hans Richer. “We’re excited to take an unprecedented ride with him during the Rebel Soul tour.”