As I write this in mid May, although the sun peaked out for a bit, and mother nature has cruelly teased us with a nice day here and there, the temperature in Seattle today is a balmy 57, and yet another storm is moving in, and according to the stats, we’ve gone 191 days without going above 70! Meanwhile, the legislature is halfway through a Special Session with rumors there is going to be a second Special Session after this one. With any luck we may have spring/summer at the same time these guys go home for the year.
At any rate, this morning I was rummaging through the closet getting dressed, looking at my sleeveless biker shirts and short sleeve dress shirts -- my Utilikilts and short pants and sandals -- wondering if I was ever going to get to wear them again. Then, in the corner of the closet I found a wadded up Harley-Davidson t-shirt that had somehow, I guess, fallen out of the laundry basket and gotten kicked to the back of the closet. I did what all men do; picked it up, sniffed it to see if it was dirty and brushed the dust bunnies off it and put it on underneath my button up shirt. Year round, in Seattle, we have to do the damned layered clothing thing, as you never know what the heck the temperature is going to do at any point during the day.
I’m missing wearing my Harley t-shirts though (at least without another shirt on top), and hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to get into the “HD Shirt Closet” and dig them out. Somewhere along the countless miles I’ve ridden I managed to buy a few HD shirts until their numbers have grown to cause them to take over their own closet in my house. Well, not the whole closet – yet, but a significant portion of the linen closet in the hall is filled with a number -- somewhere north of 100 -- Harley-Davidson shirts. I know there are folks with more, so I’m not claiming the highest number or even a significant number – but they are all special to me, and friends and family just shake their head and mutter under their breath and threaten an intervention.
And they aren’t just any HD t-shirts either, oh no. Somewhere along the line I developed a formula for whether or not I’d buy one, and thus I became a “collector”. Judging from my closet though, I’m likely one step away from being a “hoarder” and showing up on some reality TV show where they visit cluttered up homes with some poor cretin living amongst the piles. I’m not sure how it all started, but it did.
According to the “rules”, the shirt has to be (with very rare exceptions) from an HD dealer I’ve actually visited on my bike. I’ve made some exceptions here and there, but that’s rule number one. Number two: it has to have a “mural” or “picture” back. Those of you who wear HD shirts know they generally have two kinds – plain backs with just an HD logo and the dealer’s name and city, and mural backs with a drawing of some sort of a local scene with a Harley motorcycle and rider posed, or riding, and the name of the town/dealer. And not just any mural either, it has to be a very cool mural. Third, it shouldn’t have skulls or skeletons on the front. Don’t ask me why, I just don’t like them. Fourth, it should (but not required), have a pocket so I can put my cell phone and old man reading glasses there. Fifth, it shouldn’t be black – I have way to many black ones already, as it’s the dominant HD color – and while they make me look somewhat slim(er), I don’t want to look like Johnny Cash all the time. Sixth (and this is a must), it can’t be white. White and me don’t get along – five seconds after I put something white on, marinara sauce or dirty oil or something will mysteriously and magically rain from the sky and land on the shirt. At least with black or another color, the marinara or oil rain stays away and if it does fall, isn’t quite so noticeable. Finally it has to fit. It can be long sleeve, short sleeve or sleeveless, Henley or regular, and generally XL (although oversees it tends to be XXL).
Way back I had thought that as the shirts wore out, I’d cut off the mural back and save them and one day have them all stitched into a quilt so that way when I was an old man in the grizzled-biker retirement home, I’d have a nice quilt of memories of where I’d been. However, the shirts aren’t wearing out because I have so many they don’t get worn to rages. I realize now that with all these shirts, the quilt would be football field size and likely rival the size of the AIDS memorial quilt that when last displayed covered most of the Washington Mall in DC. Ok, so I’ll have a lot of quilts made I guess and rotate through them.
I tend to buy all these shirts on my long cross-country rides. I’ve been known to buy so many on the road I’ve had to ship them home as the saddlebags have only so much space. The Harley-Davidson Road Atlas, which is my bible when on the road, has all the dealers marked and listed (those marketing folks at HD ain’t fools!). It’s great for when you need a part, or even a break from the road, but it’s also the source for t-shirts. I can recall each one I bought, and the trip or ride I was on when I did. When I look at the shirts, I see where I was and the trip all comes back. It’s what I envisioned the still-to-be-made quilt would do.
The oldest shirt I can find I got when I bought a new bike from Downtown Harley Davidson – with the Seattle Space Needle on it. Then there’s the one with a gorgeous Florida sunset and a bike under a palm tree from Peterson’s South, the southern most HD Dealer in the US from my first ride from Miami to Key West. There’s one with an old red barn among maple tress with a vintage knucklehead from a dealer in Bangor, Maine. There’s the one that combines two loves – trains and motorcycles with an old narrow gauge steam locomotive and a bike from Durango, Colorado. I love the sleeveless one with a bike in an apple orchard and Mt. Rainier from Owen’s HD in Yakima, WA, and the one with a WWII pinup girl reclining on a bike in front of the Mormon Temple from HD of Salt Lake City, my hometown. And there’s the one with an old WWII bike in front of Big Ben in London from Warrs of London, and one of a kilted rider (something I’ve done myself being Scottish) from Edinburgh HD. I could go on and on with a story for each one.
So I can’t ride today – but I can remember great times riding while looking at my HD Road Atlas and a closet full of shirts. It suffices for now at least. Whoever at HD came up with the t-shirt idea was a genius. I’m sure they sell more shirts in numbers as well as dollars than they do bikes, and the profit margin is much bigger. And it’s often the closest thing to a real HD bike that many folks will ever get. They visit a dealer, dream and drool, and buy a shirt and live the dream in their head, playing the movie in their mind of them riding off down the road in that shirt on the back of some V-twin. So go buy some t-shirts – it’s what I think keeps HD stock on the rise these days. Just don’t go overboard like I did – or we’ll both end up on a special edition of “Hoarders”.
Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com