Sunday, March 1, 2009


March at last! The first month of an approaching spring, when it'll be time to hop back in the saddle of Miss Velvet again, every time I get a chance. And although the new month is coming in like the proverbial lion, with cold winds and rain all this weekend, that gives hope that March will go out like a lamb in thirty more days. This is the transition month, which serves notice to Old Man Winter that his days are numbered and a new spring is on the horizon. But it's also unpredictable, at least in these parts, where we can go from nearly 80 degrees and air conditioning one day, to 30 degrees, with the heat on again, 24 hours later. It has even snowed in March in the past, but it never lasts long. Too late in the year. The worst of winter is in the rear-view mirror now.

Daytona Bike Week is early this month, starting this next week, if I'm not mistaken, and that annual rally always kicks off the new riding season. Sun, surf, suds, and half-nude, shapely female bodies abound down there each year. I've never been to that fabled biker event, but that don't mean I won't -- someday, given the time and opportunity to do so. And enough money to finance the trip, of course. That's a concern for everyone this year, as it was last year, with the present sucky economy. However, there are definite signs that it won't slow us bikers down a lot. Knoxville hosted the annual Easyriders (magazine) Bike Show just last month and it was a large success. The Harley shop and Coyote Joe's -- my favorite local watering hole and "adult day care center" -- were both packed with bikes, many in here from other states for the event. I have to wonder about Honda's wisdom, since I saw that crowd.

Each year, for the past ten years or so, Knoxville has hosted the annual Honda Hoot rally every summer, over in World's Fair Park. But this year, the company canceled it early-on, back in December, in fact, citing "economic concerns" as the primary reason. It costs Honda a million bucks per year to put the rally on. They, like all the other motorcycle manufacturers, are taking their lumps in these tough times. Sales are slow, to say the least, and credit is tight. But the Honda Hoot last year, when the economy was also in a downturn and fuel prices were soaring to boot, raked in over twenty-five million shekels over the four days it was held. If such outrageous fuel prices as we experienced last summer couldn't keep the bikers away, will this recession do so, when fuel is as low as it's been in years right now? If the Easyriders show is any indication, it won't at all. I'll be watching Daytona with interest, to see if the crowd there is up to the usual levels of the past. If the crowds flock down there, as usual, then it's likely that Honda may have made a major blunder in canceling the Hoot this summer.

Even the venerable Motor Company -- Harley-Davidson -- is taking the same punches as the others. Their sales are on the basement floor also. Our local dealership's showroom here is mainly filled with used bikes, indicating the level to which production of the new ones has been cut back. It matters not that bikes are easier on gas than your average car; that's a great selling point, but when push comes to shove, motorcycles are still primarily leisure products, just like RVs, and that sector has fallen on some very hard times of late. Harley has survived some very tough economic times in the past, though -- like the Great Depression -- and they will survive this crunch as well. They are among the companies that have stood with their head held high and haven't asked for a government bail-out. That speaks well for how the company is managed.

But enough about that gloomy picture. Spring is coming and it's time to ride again. I've had Velvet serviced for the first time, taking advantage of a winter discount the dealer was offering, and I'm ready to go. If you own a bike, are you?? Let's ride!!

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