Two American Tribes

This summer i have seen America, sea to shining sea. i have ridden her highways and byways, crossed the great Rocky Mountains, the plains and the endless fields of the Midwest. From the town of Otto Wyoming, population 50 to the Big Apple, from baking in the deserts to chilly snow capped mountain passes i have seen her glory. the lyrics to the immortal, “This Land is Your Land” ring in my head

Two events i have seen ; Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and The Gathering of the Vibes music festival. Each very different drawing different crowds but each very similar in their spirit and the spirit of those who make these events huge.

What makes America unique, strong and independent are her people, people who live with passion, play hard and work hard, people with extreme dedication to their lives and lifestyles.

The two groups that attend these events exemplify this spirit profoundly; Harley Davidson owners and Deadheads. Nowhere will you find more loyal, dedicated and staunch believers than these two groups, why?

Harley owns the motorcycle market, 90% hundreds of thousands of bikes at Sturgis are Harleys, a few others like my Yamaha are copies of the V twin, chromed out style. Harley owners are the most staunch consumer group in the country, they would rather fight that switch, when they think motorcycle they think Harley.

The followers of the late band, the Grateful Dead are equally as dedicated, following any replica of the band anywhere they can hear “the music”. the “Vibes” started as a gathering of mourners after the loss of our imposed saint, Jerry Garcia. It is now the largest and best run music festival in the country.

So again why? Firstly, both are as American as apple pie. Harley is American made and proud of it. Relinquishing claims to quality and technology to foreign bikes, Harley sells the image and the family. Harley advertisements never mention statistics, technology or performance, they sell freedom, family and fun. The history of the company is amazing from failed leadership to corporate buyout to a takeover by the employees themselves. the HOG (Harley owners groups) clubs are worldwide, i saw one in Bali. When you buy a Harley you join a family and a good one. Harley owners are community people supporting many good causes, especially anything to do with veterans and our troops.

The Dead come from the music roots of America. The original members played jazz, folk, blue grass and blues and the music has always reflected those roots. The band and its members have always avoided “superstar” status like Mick Jagger or Michael Jackson, Jerry is more of a spiritual leader than star. with only two records in fifty years reaching the top sales charts, yet they hold the record for being the most attended live band in history. I know many who have seen over 200 shows, many fans “go on tour” with the band following them across the country, no other performers have that following.

When a Deadhead greats another at a show he will say ” have a good show” not “enjoy the show” as the fans are as a much a part of the event as the band. The essence of the devotion to the band is covered in several books, Tribes and All i Need to Know about Business i learned from the Grateful Dead. As with Harley they have created a fan base like no other and listen intensely to that base. Like Harley, the band encourages community involvement beyond the shows. Causes like organ donation, voter registration and the amazing story of the Lithuanian Basket Ball team which won a bronze medal in their first Olympics with the financial support of the band. Being a Deadhead requires being a good citizen.

Both Harley and the Dead have loyal long time entrenched employees who put their heart and soul into their jobs. The Dead had the same roadies for decades, well paid and invested in the quality of the show. One roady was so much a part of the family that a song was written about his new born son, a song still song by the band members and tribute bands.

Each following have ritualized attire, common but individualized and always proudly displaying the logo of their source. Harley has its name on everything with a merchandizing program above all. The Deadhead are not far behind, i own GD socks. My Jerry Doll has a place of high esteem on Furthur. i have given Harley and GD dog collars to my respective dog owner friends.

To be in either group is to be American, to have a family and to show your “colors” proudly. Both groups span the generation gap, have an inherent respect for history and age. The followers live just outside the real world, in a world far better and much more free.

2 thoughts on “Two American Tribes”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: Two American Tribes

    AMEN Brian….we love the world, but there is no place like the heart and soul of the USA.Thanks for the description of your wonderful Summer of 2014….at our age the view in the rear view mirror is only getting richer.Capt Joe JenkinsOslo, NorwayRetired Airline pilotlover of Hogs and soul music

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  2. Thank you Brian for this update of your journey, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s deadhead music and the freedom of our hippie days, then riding Harley’s later in life, enjoying the scenery, mountains and fresh sir from canada to Mexico, I appreciate your story of journeys… Nothing better than the freedom that we can live our lives and do it now, you only live once, and you are truly living the American dream, keep that great laughter in your heart and smile on your face. When I think of you and all that you’ve done, there are so many good old sings that come to mind, peace

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