Did any of you guys make the Milwaukee celebration? Or Davenport? I did both and had a great time. One of the high points was linking up with Bruce, Joe, Calvin, and Walt when they came down from Manitowac after crossing Lake Michigan on the ferry and their ride down to the Juneau Avenue factory on a 1905 single, 1911 twin, and 1915 twin Harley-Davidsons and chase vehicle (along with mag editor R.S. who also had caught up with them -- and they were hard to catch!)
To see those early "pedal-to-start" 1905 & 1911 Harleys zipping around the old red brick Harley factory on Juneau Avenue and then up the block to the corner of 38th and Highland where H-D, Inc. had a replica of the original woodshed (across the street from where the real one stood) was very very fun! Watching that 1905 Harley (1905 motor/later frame) in action made it much easier to understand why the first Harleys took off so quickly on the marketplace (starting in 1905 -- not 1903). Harley and Davidson really developed a superior machine for the time with a "flexible drive" (adjustable belt tightener), sturdy loop frame most likely copped from the 1903 Merkel, excellent styling (yep), and a good-sized engine probably obtained with mucho Ole Evinrude help. In theory I had concluded all that stuff already in my new book, but seeing the bike in action and hearing Bruce saying how RIDEABLE it is really drove it all home to my great personal satisfaction.
Then, the next day, we went back to the factory and hung around some more. LOTS of people wanted photos of their flashy new bikes with those old machines, and once again the 1905 stole the show. It was so cool looking (no fooling) that it put all the other machines there IN THE SHADE. The 1905 drew your eye like a magnet. There is something almost magical about that little bike. And it didn't hurt that Bruce was wearing a derby hat (provided by Rick M.) so that he looked a lot like Walter Davidson zooming around!
So who then should show up but John Harley! (See Dave Edward's editorial in the October "Cycle World"). Well, we decided, let's ride over to the Milwaukee cemetery where "grandfather" is buried (the original William S. Harley) and pay our respects. We did: with some additional people: my brother Tom (73FLH), Mark J. (38EL), a fellow with a sidecar whose name I didn't catch, a fellow from Colorado riding a Kawasaki, and led by John Harley (98 Road Glide) and Bruce on the '05. At the cemetery it was nice and cool and shady and I asked John if it would okay it they could push the old bikes up on the grave to take some photos. He said, "I think grandfather would like that!" So they did and it was very fitting to see the 1905 single and the early twins next to the big Harley family headstone (which incidently is "gray" granite).
Hope my photos turn out!
That afternoon late we fought our way thru Milwaukee rush hour traffic and rode out to M.L.'s west of Milwaukee and saw some more nice antique Harleys. His place was pleasant and countryish after being in the city. Mist was rising along the river bottoms after dark where there are many old Indian effigy mounds and you can almost feel the ancient spirits flitting about. Then it was a nice warm evening ride back to Racine.
Next day it was on to Davenport via Madison...