Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Greatest Gift of All

A great time was had by all at the FX Caprara Car
Companies annual Christmas party. Unfortunately Captain
Morgan and I tied one on pretty good and I failed to take any pictures myself.... It happens!! That just means I relied on others - so that's what these pictures are. We can clean up pretty good!!

And then shortly after that Christmas day arrived at last. I am thankful for all the gifts I received - and it seems at least one person reads this blog!! That, along with a bottle of Irish Cream, new clothes, and the complete set of Ballykissangel were just some I received. 

I'd like to think I gave as good of gifts as I got.... I gave soft,
cuddly and warm pj pants to my daughter so she can relax during her time off from school (it's her freshman year in college this year). To my son I gave a replica of the bike Jax Teller rode in the last episode of Sons of Anarchy - this is something even his dad doesn't have - giving him the gift of having the upper hand. 

But of all that, the absolute best gift I received this year was
both kids being home for the holidays. Since they're both young adults and finding their own way in life, I don't know how much longer that will happen - so I'll take it while I can get it.

All the while looking forward to the new year - at FXCHD we have lots of good things coming up in 2016. Kate & I will be going to Phoenix for Harley-Davidson's winter meeting. Then on January 23rd we will be hosting our first ever Artistry in Iron Paint Party - something I'm really looking forward to! Also in 2016 look forward to H-D 101 which is for those who want to take the
first step into the world of motorcycling. And we have more in the works, so be sure to check in on our Website Events Page and/or our Facebook Events.

This is my last post for the year - I'm taking this week off to spend with my kids. So, until next year, all of us at FXCHD wish you the best and may you have all that you need in 2016!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Getting down to the wire....

Today is the day of the BIG F.X. Caprara Car Company Christmas party!! And with Christmas happening in 4 more days, we at FXCHD are getting down to the wire making sure all our stuff has been taken care of!! 

For instance, here I am creating emails like this one & sending them out to all our customers, updating our Facebook and Twitter pages, planning events in 2016, creating flyers, and making sure all my warranty claims are filed. Here's a picture of my "desk" (which is really the MotorClothes counter at the back of our dealership) taken this past Thursday:
PLUS I still had to find something to wear to the Christmas party!! I absolutely love to dress-up (part of my modeling days coming through!!) and last year I wore a beautiful dress by Ralph Lauren. This year however, the RL dress I fell in love with was $598, was on sale for $249 when I still had time to get it - still a bit pricey for me (now it's down to $179.99 but too late for me to get!!). So I opted for a 'fancy' ladies shirt by Harley-Davidson - it is where I work after all!! See what it looks like on the hanger >
But despite all the Hustle and Bustle, I still had time to meet up with my girlfriends at The Crystal Restaurant for a Christmas tradition - drinking a Tom & Jerry:
L to R: me (aka Irish), Halo & Black Widow
I've been riding with these beautiful ladies for nearly five years now. Although this past riding season, between our work, family, and other commitments, we didn't get a chance to do our annual ride.... Even in this picture, only the three of us - out of a group of eight - were able to arrange our hectic holiday schedules for a quickie! Hopefully we will have more riding time together in 2016!! 

That being said, Christmas did come a little early for me this year.... Chad, our Service Manager, and Dennis, in our Parts Department got me new cylinders, pistons and jugs for my bike!!! Woohoo!!!
All in all, 2015 is shaping up to have been a pretty good year.... And with the party tonight, I'm betting we're going to end up having a great time. Thankfully I have a good camera in my phone - all the better to take more pictures with so I can 'remember' it all the next morning!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ho Ho Ho - and all that Merry stuff

Harley Christmas Tree Ornaments through the years

Last Friday at FXCHD the staff had our Secret Santa exchange. It’s always interesting when we get the whole crew together, even for just a couple of hours – we tend to take sarcasm, practical jokes and quick come-backs to a new level. (If you're quick witted, can laugh at your self, don't mind a work place environment that takes sexual innuendos to unprecedented heights - then we may want you to work here come Spring Time!)

Dan, our General Manager, playing Santa 
It all started about a month ago when we decided to do a Secret Santa gift exchange in the first place. Last year we did our gift exchange “White Elephant” style – where you can either grab a gift from under the tree or steal a gift from someone else. But for some reason no one stole any gifts so this year we decided to draw names. I was in charge and I can tell you it was tempting to make sure that a certain Cowboys fan got matched up with one of our mechanics….. but I was a good girl this year! So we decided on a $20 cap and I went around to everyone for them to draw names.

"Oh - YOU were my Secret Santa??!!"
Fast forward and the moment of truth. No worries that no one would forget (since I went around reminding everyone). All gifts were present (see what I did there?) – but for some recipients it wasn’t so easy to get them open. When you have co-workers with access to adhesives, duct & electrical tape, and vice grips, there’s a chance the gifts they’re giving are going to be wrapped to the hilt.  Of course alcoholic gifts were given and well received, along with lottery tickets, sharp things, and – what else? – tools.

The next day Santa even took time out of his busy schedule to visit the dealership. (We tried to get Biker Claus but he’s way too busy since there’s a lot of you on the Naughty List.) Santa likes to party and have a good time as well, so we had some fun – see the pictures.

This Saturday is the BIG company Christmas party. FXCHD is just one out of ten dealerships owned by F.X. Caprara Car Companies – soon to be eleven with the Honda car dealership opening in 2016. And each year Billy and Charlie give back to their employees by throwing us a whooper of a party – dinner, drinks and a room. It’s a chance for us to dress up, let our hair down and really live it up. And it's always interesting to see a bunch of Harley folks 'dress up' and hang out with a bunch of car salesmen (but they're all good guys - we do mingle well)!! So keep checking our Facebook page for pictures of the BIG party in the coming week!
Chad and Santa discussing the true meaning of __________ (you fill in the blank!)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Here's to living a life Cage Free

This is my second favorite time of year at FXCHD (my first being the riding
Cage Free? You mean like Free Range Chickens??
season of course!) and it’s not because of the Christmas lights or the holiday parties. It does have something to do with the whole gift giving scene. But mainly because this time of year we get a lot of ‘non-bikers’ buying gifts for their family and friends who are Harley Enthusiasts; and that gives me a chance to show the general public a little slice of the biker lifestyle.

For instance, a few days ago we had an older couple who wanted to buy a H-D GiftCard for their grandson – now in the Air Force stationed in North Carolina. I was showing them the choices they had for the gift card holder, and one of the choices exclaimed, “Here’s to living a life Cage Free.” So the grand-mother looks at me sort of puzzled, “You mean like Free Range Chickens?” After I laughed for a bit I explained what that meant, and I’ll explain for you too:
  • Cage Free: Bikes refer to cars & trucks as ‘cages’ – since you’re pretty much in one, a roll bar cage. You’ve got air bags, a big windshield, and sound proofing which all make for a nice, quiet ride, but also removes you to from the environment. When you’re riding along in a car, you’re more insulated than a rider is on their
    Not this kind of cage either....
    motorcycle. Cage Free means you’re out on your motorcycle.
  • ‘Cage-er’: What we call a person driving a car/truck.
  • Brain Bucket: Helmet
  • MSF: Motorcycle Safety Foundation – an organization that helps to educate motorcycle riders.
  • OEM: Original (Factory) Equipment Parts – stock parts on your motorcycle.
  • Scoot/Scooter: A term that includes any motorcycle.
  • Skid Lid: Usually referring to a non-DOT helmet – one that just has a shell and little padding on the inside.
  • Tar Snake: The shiny material used to patch cracks in the asphalt. They have less traction than regular asphalt, especially in light rain or on hot days (the material has a lower melting point and will get soft or even melt).
Those are some of the most common terms you’ll hear if you’re around bikers long enough. For a more concise list, check out this list of websites: Google Search: Results for "Common Biker Terms"

Until next time, Keep the Chrome Side Up & the Rubber Side Down!!
"You - in the mini-van - how long you in for??"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Doin' the Holidays Harley Style

Our Northern New York Harley Owners Group (NNY H.O.G. for short) had their annual Christmas party this last Saturday - and it was a hoot like always!

In case you didn't know, the Harley Owners Group is the largest factory-sponsored riding club in the world with over a million members. It began shortly after Willie G. Davidson and a few others bought Harley-Davidson back from AMF. The management team organized a series of rides across the country as a way to get out on the road, reconnect with customers, and have fun. Shortly after that "H.O.G." was born.

Anyone can be a member of H.O.G. - as long as they have a Harley that is. Membership begins at the national level and all you need is your bike's VIN number to get started. With wide-ranging benefits that help you see the world, stay connected, get the inside scoop, and protect your ride, you'll never ride alone.
L to R: Dave, Theo, Kim & Joy, Aug. 2014

Once you're a National H.O.G. Member you're eligible to join a local chapter if you wish. You can find your local H.O.G. Chapter by visiting your Harley-Davidson dealership (or any dealership whose chapter you wish to join - we have a few members that live close to another dealership but they prefer ours - you can join/ride where ever you please!). And often there are even more perks at the local level. The time FXCHD had Kim Coates - Tig - and Theo Rossi - Juice - from the TV show Sons of Anarchy visit and sign autographs, our NNY H.O.G. Chapter helped out and so got a private meet & greet with the boys.
Chris & Me

H.O.G. is not a traditional motorcycle club - there is no bottom rocker claiming territory nor is there an initiation process in order to join. We are simply a good group of people who like to ride and have fun - which coincidentally is the H.O.G. motto. If you're new to riding and are looking for more people who share a taste for adventure, rebellion, attitude, and freedom, then I suggest 'test riding' your local H.O.G. Chapter.

So anyways, back to what's important - the party!! Chris was my date this year - she's a FXCHD customer who rides her own and over the years has become a good friend. We drove together to the Eis House restaurant for the party which was dinner and the great Card Game Gift Exchange game. Each person brings at least 1 gift, FXCHD donates 5 gifts, and the chapter buys lots of gifts as well - all under
the tree. Then we shuffle and pass out cards, using four decks. When one of the cards you're holding is called, you go up and get a gift from under the tree - don't unwrap it yet!! Since there are more cards than gifts, we run out of gifts - but that's where the fun
Jasmine helping Papa
begins!! Once we're out of gifts, then you can steal gifts from other party goers. There's usually 3 or 4 gifts that are real popular - but no one knows what's inside yet. When there are no cards left, then we open and see what we got. This year John was not above having his daughter deter would be 'gift stealers' - he had her sit on the gift he wanted to keep (but it didn't work!!). 
One year the most popular 'stolen' gift ended up being a toilet bowl plunger!! When it's all said and done, everyone ends up with at least one gift. But as it always is with our H.O.G. Chapter - it's not about what you got, it's about the fun you had while with good friends.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What you need to know about Dealer T-Shirts

Mike showing me RK Stratman's 2016 1st Qtr dealer tees
We had Mike stop in at FX Caprara Harley-Davidson this past week. He’s a dealer representative for RK Stratman – one of three companies licensed by Harley to make the dealer t-shirts. You know the ones I’m talking about – I know you’ve seen them before.  They have a Harley design on the front and the name & city, state of the dealership on the back – some guy Frank & Mike are picking (on American Pickers) is wearing one; or the last time you went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse you noticed one. I thought you might find it interesting to learn a little more about the ‘Dealer Tee’ ordering process (hopefully I’m right!).

First off – yes, Harley-Davidson dealerships sell more than just motorcycles!! There are leather & nylon jackets, boots, gloves, helmets, casual wear, barware, pet accessories, toys and (on and on) that have H-D logos. Each dealership is independently owned, so Harley leaves it up to each dealership as to what they want to sell in their shop. About half of the inventory comes directly from Harley-Davidson. The other half comes from companies that Harley has licensed to use their logos on merchandise. They'll have this label:

Back to the dealer tees: “What’s the big deal??” you may be asking. Allow me to explain – quite a few bikers collect them as a way to show off where they’ve been. Some guys have rules about collecting tees, like they’ll only get a dealer tee if they’ve ridden to that dealership. Others enjoy ‘showing off’ their home town dealership. And still others only have pocket tees, or ‘Bar & Shield’ tees, or just pin-up girls tees. I have dealer tees from Boston, Atlanta, San Jose, and even Dublin, Ireland - every H-D dealership I go to I get a dealer tee and shot glass. Everyone is a bit different, just as there are many different dealer t-shirts designs.

LtoR: RK, VF Imagewear & Bravado catalogs
And each of the three companies that make dealer tees – Bravado, RK Stratman & VF Imagewear – have new designs available every three months that dealers get to choose from. Artists come up with designs based on a variety of input – both from dealers and customers. Then each design is sent up to be approved by Harley, and after that the manufacturer chooses what color shirts to use for a particular design.

As for the back design – the one that shows off the dealership name and location – there are lots of stock back designs to choose from between the three companies. But the real fun begins when the dealership has a custom back designed just for them. This custom back usually has something specific to that dealer’s area in their back design – the Golden Gate Bridge for Dudley Perkins Company Harley-Davidson in San Francisco, the city skyline for Atlanta Harley-Davidson, or the Empire State Building for Empire Harley-Davidson. Last year I had an idea for a new dealer t-shirt back: I wanted to show off the fact that FX Caprara is located close to the Seaway Trail and Lake Ontario, so I scoured the internet for images. Below you can see the two pictures I submitted to the artists, and the work they came up with. Once we approve the artwork, it is then submitted to Harley-Davidson Motor Company - they must approve the design before it can used.

So there you have it: a little slice of Harley life summed up in t-shirts from dealers across the country and the world. The next time you see a Harley-Davidson Dealer T-Shirt, please do me a favor for me: make a mental note and look to see where that shirt is from. Is it from a dealer close by, the next state over, or even from another country? Then leave me a comment here, on this blog, or on our Facebook or Twitter page – say where you were at (city & state) and where the dealer tee was from. You may find yourself a bit surprised at how many you’ll see once you start looking!!
Top Left: Googled pic of "Motorcycle on Seaway Trail" Top Right: Seaway Trail Sign
Bottom: What the artists came up with - now FXCHD's  newest custom back design

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brace yourself: the “What I’m Thankful For” posts are coming (and we’re no exception)

The day to give friends & family ‘the bird’ is happening tomorrow: Thanksgiving Day! And now you’re about to see everyone & their mother post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter what they’re thankful for. Doing what everybody else is doing is not the ‘norm’ for most bikers. Don’t get me wrong- we are very thankful bunch for what we have and the experiences we’ve encountered. We're just not all that big on broadcasting it to the world. But this year I’m breaking with Biker tradition and actually following the crowd.

Me & Cali
So of course I’m thankful for the usual stuff: the fact that I raised two kids (20 & 18 years old) who are becoming decent adults, my ‘dog’ (who is just as much part of our family as my kids are) to greet me at the door and cuddle with, my husband for putting up with me always having to be right, my horse who is just as much a goof-ball as I am, my job which is more fun than work, the co-workers and customers who have become close friends, my car – especially since I have to drive it for about six months out of the year, and yes, my 2004 Harley-Davidson® Dyna® Super Glide®.

But this year my one “Big Ticket Item” to be thankful for is the Founding Fathers of Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Because without them and their insight to build a motorcycle that became ingrained in American Culture, I don’t think I would have as much to be thankful for.

L to R: Arthur Davidson, Walter Davidson, Bill Harley, William Davidson

Rumor has it that Arthur Davidson and William Harley wanted an easier way to get up to their favorite fishing hole. Bicycles were all the rage in that age, but the boys (in their 20’s) didn’t want the work of pedaling up hill. Bill Harley – with help from Arthur – drew up plans for an engine to go into a bicycle. But when they tested it they found peddle power was needed to get up hills. Back to the drawing board, and with brothers Walter & William Davidson, they began working on the second-generation machine. Eventually the three brothers and one friend produced ‘Serial Number One’ from their ‘factory’ – a 10x15 shed in the backyard with “Harley-Davidson Motor Company” painted on the door.

Serial Number One
Now, nearly 115 years later, HDMC has their main headquarters in Milwaukee – not far from where they first started out. The engines that are the heart of the motorcycle are also built in Wisconsin, and two factories – in Kansas City, MO and York, PA – put together the motorcycles from scratch. If you haven’t yet taken a tour, you should. You’ll see the fenders & tanks stamped out of steel, frames welded together and put on a cart with a build sheet for that particular bike. As the cart rolls into each station workers immediately put what they’re supposed to on that bike – the parts are already there. The logistics of it all are amazing.

And yet when these bikes roll off the assembly line, they are so much more than “just” a motorcycle. It’s the wind in your face, the feeling as the bike leans into the curve, the power as you roll on the throttle, and the exhilaration you feel as you’re flying down the road. When you get a Harley® you’re not just buying a bike, you’re getting an experience – one that isn’t easily matched.

The First Factory - a 10x15 backyard shed
I often wonder: Did Bill Harley and Arthur, Walter & William Davidson know what they were starting? Did they foresee how much Harley-Davidson® motorcycles – like baseball and apple pie – would become part of American culture? The camaraderie bikers feel as we pass each other on the road, giving the ‘Biker Wave’? How we’ll travel 50 miles on our Harley just to get good ice cream? That they’d go from just 15 workers to well over a million employees working in both their factories and dealerships all over the world? If only I could go back in time and ask!!

Sure there were others doing the same thing – putting engines into frames to make motorcycles. But it was these four guys who did it well and did it right. With them I’ve found what I feel is my passion, my true calling for this Life Behind Bars, and for that I’m truly thankful.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Getting a gift for a Biker (a.k.a. Motorcycle Enthusiast)? Here’s what you need to know:

It is a bit early – not even Thanksgiving week yet! – to start talking about holiday gift guides…. BUT with the holiday season about to kick off, I thought I’d get this out there so you can have a fighting chance!! Have that new son-in-law with a Harley® parked in the garage? Or perhaps you drew the name of that co-worker who has more pictures of his/her bike than pics of people in their cubicle…. Never fear – the first ever ‘Life Behind Bars’ holiday gift guide is here!!

First off, it really is the gift that counts with most bikers. So there’s no need to worry if they’ve already got those pair of gloves, or that set of motorcycle themed pint glasses. If we don’t already have it, we’ll use it. And if we already do own the exact same gift you just gave us, we’ll put yours to use once the other one wears out.

That being said – if you’re planning on buying parts for his/her bike, please find out the year, make and model of said bike! At F.X. Caprara Harley-Davidson® we really do want you – and the recipient – to be happy! Trust me when I say that they may be a little disappointed to find out that the gift you got them won’t fit. And we won’t know what kind of bike it is just because it has saddlebags on it – that could be a Switchback, Heritage, Street Glide, etc., etc. A picture can usually help tell us the make & model, but not the year. If we have seen the bike for service we can look it up, but if you’re shopping for Uncle Leo two states away, please know what bike Uncle Leo is riding.

You can get personal, just not too personal – meaning please think three times before sending out their gas tank for a custom paint. Surprise – for most bikers their bike is an extension of them, like an arm or a leg (yeah, it’s that important!). Sure they may have talked about having a picture of Elvira painted on their tank, but then changed their mind. I once freaked out my husband – I got a bigger tank for his Sportster®…. then I had to get a different seat because of how the two fit together…. I sent him a ‘coupon’ exclaiming how I was the best wife in the world to do this for him while he was off fighting for our country (he was deployed at the time). You can probably guess he wasn’t too happy with me until he got home and saw his bike… Luckily he liked it, but it was a close call!

Also, please do not buy a helmet for anyone unless they’re with you trying them on and say, “I want this one!” We’ve had customers find a bike in 5 minutes – and then take half the day picking out their new helmet. There are half helmets, 5/8’s helmets, ¾ helmets and full face helmets. Some with a shield, others without one. Some with a drop down sun shield. Size runs vary depending on the manufacturer – I fit a medium most of the time, but sometimes a large is better. Everybody’s head is a little different, and their sense of style – especially when it comes to a helmet – most decidedly so. If you want them to have a new helmet for safety reasons, please either get them to go shopping with you or get them a gift card.

So now you have an idea of what not to get a biker for Christmas…. Here’s some helpful ideas for what to get them:

  1. Most Harley® Enthusiasts love getting t-shirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses and stickers with the dealership name on it. Especially if you live two states (or more) away, go to your local Harley dealer and get them ‘dealer branded’ stuff. Every dealership I stop at I always get a t-shirt & a shot glass.
  2. GPS may be on a lot of bikes, but motorcycle maps (not made of paper) always come in handy. Have they been talking about riding up through Nova Scotia?? There you go!
  3. Are they a reader?? Books like The Harley-Davidson® Motor Co. Archive Collection, Growing Up Harley-Davidson®: Memoirs of a Motorcycle Dynasty, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance are a good bet. Do they enjoy movies?? Add to their DVD collection with Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, The Wild One, The World’s Fastest Indian, or – of course – Easy Rider.
  4. The open road is available at home or man cave: plenty of home décor can be had for the Harley® Enthusiast. From clocks to signs, from calendars to pint glasses to vintage advertising – allow them to show off their biker side even when they’re sitting on the couch.
  5. One part that’s a universal fit (as long as their bike has a battery) is a SuperSmart Battery Tender. While their Harley® is sitting there it is drawing power from the battery and can drain it in as little as six weeks. In case you’re thinking they can just start the bike in order to charge the battery, I’m here to tell you it’s not. The bike has to be under power -meaning you can’t just start it & let it idle like you can with your car. A $40 battery tender now will save them a $120 bill for a new battery later.
  6. Check around your area for any bike raffles going on and get them a ticket (see if they have to be present to win). For instance the Fort Drum (which is right in our back yard) chapter of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association is raffling off a Dyna® Street Bob® in June 2016, plus cash prizes, all for a mere $20 a ticket. Even if the Biker you're getting the ticket for already has a bike, they'll still appreciate another one! Motorcycles are kind of like potato chips, you can have more than one....
  7. Set the mood with some music: a MP3 Player is a nice gift! Even if their bike has a radio, chances are they can still plug in a device and jam to their own tunes as they roll down the road.
  8. Get them Riding Gear – gloves, head wrap, boots, and goggles. Just double check the shop’s return policy in case of fit issues. 
  9. A picture says a lot of words, a film says 10 times more! Get ‘em a Personal Camera (think GoPro) so they can show you the ride they took through the California Redwoods rather than just tell you.
  10. Still not sure?? Then my best suggestion is to get them a gift card. Bikers can always use extra funds – maybe they need $50 more towards a new leather jacket, or they want to pay down their service bill. It may not seem very personal, but it will definitely be appreciated.

Not into the guessing game? Have them fill out their Wish List on Harley’s website (you can do the same too, you know) which you'll be able to see. But no matter what you decide to give them, most bikers will not consider the gift itself, but the love expressed by the giver. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Enlightened Bikers" - Is there such a thing?

Enlightened: to give intellectual or spiritual light to; instruct; impart knowledge – according to “Is there such a thing as “Enlightened Bikers”?” you might be asking yourself…. Long story short: yes there is, and we need more of them.

As of late we have seen Halloween costumes spark an attack, racism and ‘safe places’ on college campuses, and – sadly – terrorist attacks on the citizens of Paris. This implies some people have gone overboard not to hurt anyone and others the extreme opposite. As for me, there’s a common thread in all of this: too many people are concerned with the opinions of others and are trying to control people into believing as they do. Is this really the reason we’ve been put on this planet?

When I asked that question to Google (because if Google doesn’t have the answer, we’re screwed – right?), it came back with a Wikipedia link. Wiki states: the meaning of life as we perceive it is derived from our philosophical and religious contemplation of, and scientific inquiries about existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness.

“Happiness” – there’s an all encompassing word! Some of the same people who are concerned with the other people’s opinions seem to be placing their happiness on others. For example, “I’d be happier if s/he would spend more time with me,” or, “I’m sad because s/he said I’ve got an ugly face.” When you do that – place or give your power to be happy to someone else, then you play a very dangerous game. When you do that you will forever be ‘the victim.’ Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And she was right.

The majority of Bikers have known this Universal Truth for quite some time. The ‘biker culture’ as we know it today stems from soldiers returning from WWII. They were fed up with society telling them what to wear and how to act and quickly began doing things their own way while riding their motorcycles (but this is where society began to brand all bikers as ‘outlaw’ – a whole other blog topic we’ll get around to). Notable bikers who have exemplified this truth are Bessie Stringfield, Willie G. Davidson, Wayne Rainey and Dot Robinson
AMA Hall of Fame Inductee Bessie Stringfield

For most of us that travel around on two wheels, we know of ‘The Biker Code.’ This is code is a basic understanding of the culture and is less about words, more about action. Even though this code is unspoken, it has been written down and I’ve attached a copy of it below. But still, when we look at the traits of brilliant/successful people, they share a lot with bikers: We are who we are – it’s as simple as that. We give respect where respect is due but do not need anyone to validate or contradict us. It is our responsibility to believe in ourselves, to know our worth. When you come to understand this is when you begin living your adventures in this life and can declare your freedom.

Need more proof that bikers are happier? A study done last year proves that women riders are happier compared to women who don’t ride. (I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the male counterparts feel the same way.) As bikers we’re comfortable in our own skin, we help others, we live for adventure and freedom. Freedom for us to live as we please, and freedom to let others do the same (as long as no one is hurting another). By living a Life Behind Bars we can become better at really living the adventure. And when we achieve that, the world just may be a better place because there will be happier people in it. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Was it Global Warming, or was it Wishful Bikers?

The calendar may say that we are in the first week of November, but this past week - with daytime highs in the 70s – had those of us living in Northern New York thinking the calendar was more like late August. Thanks to the jet-stream quite a few states were experiencing warmer weather, with several states having the hottest year on record. Plenty of people will point to Global Warming as the cause for heating things up when they should be cooling off. But maybe it’s just “Biker Wishful Thinking.”

Heating things up on Planet Earth
Sure, Global Warming (or Climate Change) could be to blame – there seems to be lots of science backing the claim that greenhouse gasses trap the infrared radiation in our atmosphere and re-direct it back at the earth. Although a recent study of Arctic Ice indicates that the threat of Global Warming may not be as horrific as predicted. Scientists have seen an increase in the ice over the last two years. This seems to refute the claim that Global Warming is causing arctic ice to melt and sea levels to rise. But I'm not here to prove or disprove any of these theories - I think that the recent spike in warm weather was caused by me and other Motorcycle Enthusiasts.

This time of year the weather can be unpredictable. Shorter days, temperatures (usually) getting cooler, rain brings a dampness to the air, and frosted windshields in the mornings are all saying that the riding season is nearly done. And once the salt trucks come out then that’s it – it’s over! (Because salt mixing with steel and chrome just isn’t a good thing.) So right now you’ve got a pretty large group of people wishing for just one more week, day or hour of good riding weather. The freedom of riding on two wheels cannot be exactly matched by anything else. And for those of us living North of the Mason Dixon line, where the snow and ice tend to dominate half of the year, we want to extend our riding season - and that freedom - as much as possible.

Subatomic Particles Moving To The Groove 
My mom used to say, “Be careful what you think because it may come true.” I thought she was confusing the whole “be careful what you wish for” bit that I’ve said to my kids plenty of times, but it turns out she was right. (Did you hear that mom??) Scientists have influenced the behavior of subatomic particles they’re observing with what’s on their minds – this has been proven over and over again. And lots of successful people also tell of their similar belief – Henry Ford often said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Given all of that, it’s by no stretch of the imagination that a group of bikers can influence the weather!!

Perhaps all of us “thinking warm thoughts” can bring about good riding weather…. Maybe it was the greenhouse gasses heating things up…. But then suddenly that song by The Rolling Stones pops into my head:

Maybe it was just the Universe smiling on us…. And we bikers living a Life Behind Bars were glad for it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

How planning ahead can keep you out of trouble (most of the time)

     On October 20th, Harley-Davidson Motor Company (NYSE: HOG) announced that they will be cut 250 jobs and puttingmore money into marketing and product development. This is due to the decrease in new bike sales during the third quarter – down 1.4% worldwide. In the meantime, last week Yamaha unveiled their motorcycle-riding humanoid robot at the Tokyo Motor
Show. “What’s going on here?” you might be asking. I call it planning ahead.
Yamaha's Motobot

     Yes – you read that correctly: there has been a robot invented just to ride motorcycles. Why can’t I get that job?? (Oh ya, that’s why!) Researchers will be able to download information that will help develop advanced rider safety and rider-support systems. The Motobot will have full control over the throttle, braking system, clutch & transmission, as well as steering of an unmodified motorcycle. Still in development, Motobot’s end goal is to take a bike down the track at 124mph.

     Much has been advanced in the name of motorcycle safety thanks to forward thinking companies like Harley-Davidson and Yamaha. Gone are the days of drum rear brakes, no front brake at all, no turn signals (unless you count the rider physically indicating which way they’re turning), turning the fuel on, opening the choke and having to kick-start the motor. Now we have ABS braking systems, electronic fuel injection, electric start and real turn signal indicators. But that didn’t just happen – engineers had a plan and brought it to fruition.

     After all, that’s what we bikers do while riding: Plan Ahead. We plan which roads we’ll take, our vacation time, when to get our bikes serviced, plan ‘pit stops’ on the road, and on and on. Of course there’s no way to plan for everything. Not to mention, you don’t want to over plan either – then the experience just feels to “regimented.” There’s a cardinal rule that was taught to me when I first started riding: while on a motorcycle road trip, never make hotel reservations. The reason being is because you don’t know how the day riding is going to pan out. So it’s best to simply ride the planned route and when you feel like stopping, then find a hotel room where you are. This past summer  I did not follow the cardinal rule, and I paid for it!! I’d planned to do about 8 hours riding – but those 8 hours didn’t include the Massachusetts traffic jams I got stuck in. I ended up with a terrible migraine and HAD to stop – so I paid for the hotel room I wasn’t in (a deal I found online that required prepayment) and the hotel room I did stay in.

     Long story short, it’s still a good idea to keep the “5 P’s” in mind. A military acronym which stands for:

Just be sure to leave yourself a little wiggle room for adjustments!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why I love Harley-Davidson (and why you should care)

     Surprise!! I haven’t always worked at F.X. Caprara Harley-Davidson (also known as FXCHD), located in Northern New York, just 30 miles from the Ontario, Canada border. In fact, a lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m originally from Northern California. So here’s a brief history on how I got here from there and why I love working at the dealership.

My mom living vicariously through me...
     Growing up in San Jose – considered part of the San Francisco Bay Area – I was your average tom boy. My mom had me in ice skating, ballet and piano lessons but ever since age 5 I was horse crazy. It took me a while but I eventually convinced my mom that horses were cheaper and I started working at the local riding stable in exchange for lessons. While in high school I’d get weird looks from the guys because I could lift an 80 pound grain sack and ride a dirt bike to check the pasture fences – I guess they thought a girl couldn’t or shouldn’t do that…. but I actually got a kick out of surprising them because I could.

     I did some modeling to pay for college, where I took classes towards an associate’s degree in medical assisting. I thoroughly enjoy helping people and I figured the medical field was the best place to do that. Shortly after college, while working at a medical clinic in Cupertino, I met the man who would become my husband. He joined the Army as an infantry soldier which had us living in Germany for six years. Thanks to military’s COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance), I didn’t have to work – so I enjoyed the freedom and continued to ride horses, and ride BMW motorcycles & drive our 35i on the Autobahn (if you like to go fast, that’s the place to be!!). In 2003 we were stationed at Fort Drum – without COLA I had to find a job fast in order to help support our family. With my medical background I found a job with an insurance company processing claims – I was still helping people but the rules and regulations were stifling. It was eventually my undoing. I got into an argument with one of my senior managers and was fired (and then the senior manager who fired me was fired three weeks later!). I had never been fired from any job before and I thought it was the worst thing – turns out it was the best.

     I applied for and got the cashier job at what was then Iron Block Harley-
Modeling in the 90s
Davidson. I remember I was told by the owners, “There isn’t anything we sell here that people [think they] need. We sell dreams – dreams of freedom and life on two wheels. Then they realize they needed it all along.” I was helping people once again, helping them find life on two wheels. My husband was transferred to Fort McPherson and I was lucky enough to get a job at Harley-Davidson of Atlanta. After years of riding horses, dirt bikes and other people’s bikes, I finally got my first Harley – a 2004 Dyna Super Glide. Eventually our family was transferred back to Fort Drum and I got my job back at Iron Block Harley-Davidson. In May 2013 the dealership was bought by the Caprara Brothers and became FXCHD.

     I love the freedom my job brings! Of course we still have projects to complete, reports to look at, schedules to make, etc., etc. But I also get to share my passion for motorcycling with other motorcycle enthusiasts – customers as well as co-workers. When you go to a big box store, do you get the sense the employees are passionate about the job they’re doing?? When I get to work I talk with our master mechanic about the bike he’s working on, I’ll see a good customer who’ll tell me about their motorcycle trip to ride the Tail of the Dragon, I’ll meet customers who have ridden up from PA and tell them my favorite back roads to get them to the
Celebrating my birthday in 2014
Adirondacks, I’ll show a new rider a selection of riding jackets for both protection and comfort, and celebrate with our District Manager the birth of his first grand-child. And yes, my co-workers are the same way – we all genuinely care for each other (aside from the occasional squabble) and our customers, and all will take time to help each other out. Plus, I get to surprise the  occasional  customer when I say, "Yeah, I ride my own."

     Why should this matter to you?? Well, it might not matter to you at all. But if you like quality over quantity, if you like to know that the employees actually care about you as a person, if you like people who will gladly drop by the part you’ve special ordered, then the simple fact that myself and my co-workers are passionate about our work here at FXCHD should matter. If you would like to experience the freedom of life on two wheels, we invite you to come in and try it out for yourself. If you’re an experienced rider we invite you to stop on in, stretch your legs and grab a hot cup of coffee. Even if you’re not a rider – you’re just looking for that perfect gift for a loved one – come on over and check out what we have. You can even take a cruise by our website, Facebook and Twitter pages to get a taste of what we’re about.

     My Life Behind Bars has only gotten better since the day I got involved with Harley-Davidson, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
My 2004 Dyna Super Glide