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Harley's Angels Chapter 01


Wisconsin, 4th of July weekend... early, with morning dew dripping from impeccably manicured grass lawns, middle-aged motorcyclists wearing Harley tees, Harley vests, and Harley chaps roll out from well-kept four and five car heated garages in Mequon, Brookfield, Hartland, and Richfield heading for the Harley-Davidson Museum just south and a bit west of downtown Milwaukee ... The Middle-Aged is loose again, the Harley's Angels, the hundred-carat headline, running slow and loud on the early morning freeway, low in the saddle, nobody smiles, jamming up traffic at speeds of up to 50 miles an hour in the two leftmost lanes ... like Bill Murray on an iron horse, a monster steed with a flatulent anus, flat out through the eye of a beer bottle and up a camgirl's website with definitely more than a quarter given and even more asked for; show the cagers some class, give 'em a whiff of those kicks they'll never know ... Ah, these righteous dudes, they love to screw it on ... the dentist, the orthodontist, the ear/nose/throat guy, the orthopedic surgeon, the claims manager at Northwestern Mutual Life, Fat Freddy, the regional sales manager (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois) from Walgreens, the podiatrist, the owner of the local Harley dealership, Charger Charley, and the owner of a local chain of Kia and Hyundai dealerships ... tense from riding, beards and bandanas flapping, gremlin bells, get back whips, and fully loaded Harleys flashing chrome as traffic on 94 lays trapped, nervous in their riding ability, to let the formation lead like a burst of chrome lightning.

...The run from outstate was on, "outlaws" from all over the Midwest drove their trucks and trailered hogs in packs toward Milwaukee: north from Illinois and Indiana on 94; south from Minnesota and the Dakotas on 94; and from Madison on 94. The hard core, the high spending elite, were the Harley's Angels ... wearing the Harley logo on every inch of their clothing and leaving their families behind in their suburban McMansions. They drove their full-sized trucks with autonomous cruise control, lane departure warning systems, and blind spot monitoring with a fine, unwashed arrogance, secure in their reputation as the wealthiest motorcycle owners in the whole history of Christendom.

From Chicago in a separate formation came financial managers and day traders, known up behind the Cheddar Curtain as FIBs and FISH, they may not have been the kings they thought of themselves as up in America's Dairyland but they could still look down on such as the metric cruisers, sports bikes, adventure bikes, and naked bikes, refusing to wave or acknowledge any of the vastly inferior two-wheeled brands of mere transportation.

On the morning of the Harley-Davidson Museum run, 4th of July 2020, the orthopedic surgeon woke up naked and hurting all over. The night before he'd stayed in the OR late trying to hammer a new hip into an old riding buddy. "I haven't had to swing that hard since I was in med school," he explained, "and he won't appreciate it once he's off the pain meds."

The orthopedic surgeon is five feet nine inches tall, 235 pounds heavy, with a receding hairline, a small goatee, and a timid, nervous energy not calculated to soothe the soul of any potential patient. Beyond that, he has piled up a short record with the Wisconsin Medical Association and Youtube: a couple of iffy pain med prescriptions to friends and family and a cease and desist order from Warner Records regarding a Van Halen song used without permission in a motovlog – and all this without a single criminal complaint, being officially guilty of nothing more than what any middle-aged, middle-class citizen might commit in some personal or professional moment of animalistic weakness.

"Yeah, but that script rap is all bullpuckey," he insists. "Most of the those charges are phony. I’ve never thought of myself as a criminal. I don’t work at it; I’m not greedy enough. Everything I prescribe is natural, because the patient needs it." And then, after a moment: "But I guess I’m pushin my luck, even if I’m not a criminal. Pretty soon they’ll nail me for one of these gosh darn things, and then it’s goodbye doctor, dontchaknow, for a whole lot of years. I think it’s about time I cut out the scripts. You know, I was a pretty good bass guitarist back in college, so I could fall back on that, maybe get an old studio apartment in Dinkytown at the U up in the Twin Cities. Play for cute coeds in the bars by the school. Heck, I could make it there."

On any other Saturday he might have slept until two or three in the afternoon, then gone out for his four o'clock tee time with a handful of other surgeons. But an Independence Day run is the biggest event on the Harley-Davidson calendar; it is the annual gathering of the whole Harley clan, a massive single day drunk that nearly always results in some obscene money spending action and another rude shock for the cagers. No Harley owner would miss it for any reason except for lack of spousal approval or child birthday party. The Independence Day run is the Harley owner’s answer to New Year’s Eve; it’s a time for buying more tees, reassuring old friends they made a smart two-wheeled purchase, and general full-Harley-apparel-wearing madness.

By nine o'clock that morning the orthopedic surgeon was on his feet. Post-op care for the friend with the new hip could wait. Today, the run. He very definitely didn't light a cigarette and carefully pulled on his Harley underwear and Harley pants, his Harley tee and Harley leather vest, his Harley socks and Harley riding boots, and his Harley bandana, all smelling freshly laundered with the eco-friendly, nontoxic detergent his wife buys from Costco. He drank his artisinal, Bolivian coffee while his wife cooked him a breakfast of egg whites and tofu bacon. The children had been at a sleepover the night before. It was already humid outside, and the cul de sac was losing the last wisps of morning fog to the rising sun. The bike was polished and gassed. All that remained was the gathering of credit cards and the addition of a full-sized American flag strapped to the rear luggage box, the flag's colors clashing not at all with Harley colors.

The all important colors … the uniform, as it were, the crucial identity … which the corporate headquarters at Harley Davidson has described with excruciating detail in a press release titled HOG Article 252:

Harley-Davidson parts and accessories had been on the market since 1912, and spare parts even before then. But it was around 1920 that retail parts and accessories packaging began to appear in a burnt orange colour, with black text and graphics. The use of the two colours on parts packaging expanded over the course of the 1920s, but no evidence from this time provides the exact reason for the choice.

Conversely, for decades black and orange was not the sole colour scheme for the well-established Harley-Davidson ‘bar and shield’ logo. In fact, rules for the bar and shield were broader for many years, and colour combinations, fonts and designs varied. During this same period, black and orange remained almost entirely in the domain of parts packaging, while sometimes appearing in printed marketing items and apparel.

The use of the iconic colours on Harley-Davidson apparel began in the 1930s. Caps and sweaters sometimes included the ‘silver wing’ embroidered patch, which presented the bar and shield logo in black and orange with silver wings spread to the sides. In some years, the sweaters themselves were offered in the two colours among many others. Black and orange began appearing regularly on Harley-Davidson apparel on jackets, jerseys and shirts in the late 1960s.

Harley-Davidson took its official logo in a different direction in 1963, with a modernised take on the original bar and shield. Sometimes informally called the ‘diamond’ logo, it was extended horizontally to better fit the shape of a motorcycle gas tank. The version used in printed marketing was often black and orange. All the while, parts packaging continued to employ black and orange.

The bar and shield as it is known today came into regular use for the 1976 model year. Since then, the design of the logo has adhered more to a standard, including the colour combination. The use of the colours became more common across apparel, advertising, communications and other branding.

Today, black and orange are universally thought of as part of the Harley-Davidson identity. And it all started with Genuine Harley-Davidson Parts and Accessories.

This compact description of rancid, corporate-speak is substantially correct except for the hocus pocus about the colors and their use of a "u" in colour. All Harley’s Angels wear these colors and all it means is that they are proud to be a part of the Harley-Davidson family ... everyone knows that black stands for elegance and orange symbolizes energy.

The orthopedic surgeon left the house around ten, taking it easy on the 1 mile run down Brookfield’s main drag, keeping the exhaust note peaked, aware of stares from passing motorists and people drinking their Bloody Marys al fresco for breakfast, barely hitting the speed limits, and accelerating thunderously and leisurely from red lights to meet up with the orthodontist, the claims manager, and Fat Freddy at Eble Park, a sprawling suburban open space containing plastic playground equipment with soft rounded corners, multiple sports fields, and an ice arena. Upon arrival he found the three of them parked in an unshaded area of the parking lot so as to not get any tree pollen or sap on their freshly washed and waxed hogs.

He wobbled to a stop, barely able to hold up the 850 pound chrome monster while getting the kickstand down. "Brothers!" he yelled, fist bumping the waiting trio. "Brother!" they harrumphed ...and having validated their Harleyness they mounted their rolling metal and made noise...booming stentorian noise ...and pulled out past children holding their hands to their ears and parents clucking their tongues in disapproval – for this is what they lived for, making the world know they were the biggest and loudest bad asses on the planet and their passage would be marked through sound of exhaust, shine of chrome, and drip of oil.

At Miller Parkway, 10 minutes from the museum, the formation was ignored by two county troopers, not causing a traffic jam at the junction of 94 and 175. Nobody stopped their cars entirely, just to watch. Others didn't slow down to ten or fifteen miles an hour. As traffic failed to pile up, there were no vapor locks, no boil-overs, and no minor collisions.

The St. Paul exit of 94 has the Harley's Angels rolling gracefully through the Menomonee Valley, a former industrial wasteland now gentrified to resemble the suburbs from whence they come -the shiny new cookie cutter professional buildings surrounded by Kentucky bluegrass sod not quite matching their superior fescue/bluegrass mix in subdivisions back home.

The Angels try to avoid trouble on the road and it's not hard to do so, SE Wisconsin is the mecca for all things Harley-Davidson ...but still even a minor legal infraction can mean a record and a record doesn't go down good with the boys from the Wisconsin Medical Association or the Wisconsin Dental Association, and these Angels have loans -very big loans- to pay on their bikes. Add in impound fees and the scratches they'd have to pay someone to buff out for them from the animals at the impound lot touching their rides and they might not be able to take that fourth vacation of the year to the Caribbean like they promised their wives- and then the real trouble would begin ...broken promises to the wives meant less riding time and less money to spend on bike upgrades ...besides, the idea, after all, is to reach the destination-not lock horns with the wives.