Mike has been a contract technical trainer at Harley-Davidson’s University for eight years, and he never tires of being on such hallowed ground. HDU is located at Harley’s corporate headquarters on Juneau Avenue. It’s the site where the first factory – a wooden shed – was built in 1903 in the backyard of the William C. Davidson family home. On a couple of occasions, when I’ve been traveling with Mike, he’s brought me there to see the classrooms where he teaches and meet the Harley staff he works with, many of whom he’s known for decades and are now good friends.
I joined him there this past Friday. He had just finished up a four-day class the day before, and he was tidying things up. We brought our hotspot iPad, and Mike parked me in the third floor breakroom to do my work while he tied up loose ends. With all the friends that stopped by, what should have taken just an hour or so ended up taking all day. It was a hoot! We ran into Becky in the Red Brick Cafe and saw the new Street bike all studded out for ice racing. Kathie, who handles admissions and scheduling for HDU, treated us to lunch at the cafe, and we chatted about social media and shared road stories. The Red Brick Cafe is awesome. Lots of great selections, including a salad bar and a pizza counter. The Margherita pizza I had was freshly made and only had 282 calories in the whole pie! Back in the breakroom on the third floor, longtime pal Anthony pulled up a chair, and he and Mike told stories of the bad old days. It might not have been the most productive day, but it sure was a good one!
Mike’s technical training job takes us all over the country to a variety of Harley-Davidson dealerships. He recently wrapped up a gig in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at Myers-Duren. It’s one of the oldest H-D dealerships, opened in 1914.
The custom-designed, art deco shop at 48th & Peoria has something unusual out front: a Biker Penguin. The penguin sculptures scattered around town were a part of a 2002 fundraiser by the Tulsa Zoo, designed to draw attention to its Black-Footed Penguin exhibit. The giant penguins were purchased for $3,500 or adopted for $2,500. The original 100+ penguins have dwindled to around 50, and some are hidden away inside local shops to avoid vandalism. So it’s a special treat to able to enjoy the Biker Penguin up close and personal.
Hanging with a one-of-a-kind, seven-foot Biker Penguin: just another day at the office for Mike!
The bronze Hill Climber statue in front of the museum weighs 5,000 pounds and stands 16 feet tall.
Once a month, from October through March, Mike teaches at Harley-Davidson‘s service school in Milwaukee, and the class always includes an outing to the H-D Museum. I got to go this time, and so did Russ, Mike’s friend and new contract employee. (Mike has more dealerships wanting training than he can accommodate, so he’s brought Russ on to handle the overflow. Russ has a lot of experience as well as his own business with flexible hours. So he’s an ideal person to help out.)
The Harley-Davidson museum is, to understate it, very cool. There’s a lot of interactive stuff, like a build-your-own-bike station. We got to visit the archives on our tour and see the restoration section where bikes are prepped for posterity. The museum is packed with more than 450 motorcycles and artifacts, dating back to Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
My favorite part was the screen displaying a digital exploded engine diagram. Mike liked posing by the WXA side-hack prototype. With so much to check out, you’ll definitely want to devote several hours. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
Um, stamp out walking? Funny how times change!
This made me want to bling out the motorhome!
Evil Knievel’s bike
While Mike was working the demo fleet at the Sturgis Rally, he met Brittany and Jason who were staffing a souvenir photo booth set up next to the demo area. Brittany and Jason worked for a company called Ignition which creates “event experiences” for Harley and other big companies. Some employees, like Jason, work directly for Ignition, but most of the event staff is made up of contractors like Brittany.
Ignition was looking for people to work at Harley’s 110th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee at the end of August, and since we were going to be there for Mike’s gig, I figured I’d send a resume in. I got the job and was excited for my four-day stint, although I was also a tiny bit apprehensive. I’m an office girl. Had I been made soft by immersion in climate-controlled working environments? Would trading my four-inch heels in for thick-soled sneakers be enough to keep me cheerful on my feet for 10 hours a day?
Turned out I was fine! I had a blast applying 110th anniversary temporary tattoos to bikers who came from all over the world to celebrate with H-D. It was also great taking Facebook souvenir photos in front of iconic landmarks at the Juneau Avenue corporate headquarters. Ignition has developed nifty technology in which pictures taken with their equipment are uploaded to attendees’ Facebook pages with event logos imprinted on them. Very cool stuff. Unfortunately, there were some technology glitches during the event that made it challenging. But, Ignition worked diligently to correct the situation, and we all made the best of it for the partygoers.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I look forward to working for them again next year when we’re traveling to the 2014 bike events for Harley.