SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

A Rude Trip on a Road Glide?



April 27, 2015
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Okay, y’all know I like Harley Davidson motorcycles. Heck, I even own one and can be occasionally seen rumbling about the highways of Our Fair Salmon City in a puff of V-twin smoke.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Yes, that’s me yelling ouch every time I hit a bump on our oft bumpy byways. Harley is known for many things, putting working shock absorbers on their bikes is not one of them.

I am not one of the “Harley Riders.” I am not that cool. Nor do I have enough facial hair to protect myself from the frostbite one engenders riding a motor cycle in the frequently brisk Alaskan sunshine.

But, as usual, I digress.

Now that I am someone who rides a Harley, I seem to notice their ads on TV more often. Or maybe, it’s that I watch the Slow, Expensive, Uncomfortable, Yet Undeniably Cool American Motorcycle Channel.

It’s channel number 732, right between the Pentagon Bungee Warrior Channel and the I Love Murder She Wrote Channel. I watch those channels too.

Anywhoo, I have been noticing a particular Harley Commercial lately. It is designed to promote the “Road Glide” one of Harley’s more iconic steeds. The idea is that the “road less traveled” i.e. the twisty one, is preferred to the direct line between two points road.

That makes sense, after all people a lot smarter than either Harley or Davidson have been telling us for years that the joy of travel is in the journey and not the destination.

That, of course, is what motorcycling is all about. For example, I often start motorcycle journeys in my garage and end those same journeys……in my garage.

The journey may be to Herring Cove and back or it may be to Settler’s Cove and back. That’s about it for Ketchikan journeys. So clearly, I must be getting something out of the travel in between.

And that is the point of buying a Road Glide, according to Harley.

So how do they communicate that, commercially?

They show a bunch of motorcycles getting ready to hit the road. One of the bikes is awesomely up to date electronically and clearly has a GPS with a map screen. I don’t need a map screen to go from my garage to Herring Cove and back but now I want one just because of the commercial.

What a neat gizmo. Why, I bet the new Road Glide even has shock absorbers. That’s good. This clearly ain’t your grandmother’s Road Glide.

The GPS says it is 989 miles to Juneau, Alaska. I had to watch the commercial a couple of times because the destination zipped by fast and I wanted to be sure it was Juneau, Alaska because there is a Juneau, Wisconsin. And Harley itself is located on West Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee.

Yep, Juneau Alaska, 989 miles.

Which leads to the question, where in the continental United States (cause this aint no Canadian motorcycle) would you be only 989 road miles from Juneau. Well, wait for it, the answer would be “Nowhere.”

No, not this Nowhere. Not this Nowhere that would be about 230 miles from Juneau if there was a road. But there isn’t. There isn’t even a stinking bridge.

Can you imagine how many total bridges it would take to get from here to Juneau? The Federal Government once estimated it would be about 23. That was back in the 1920s, when there was a brief survey of a coastal road link between Seattle and Southeast Alaska.

And people think a single bridge to Gravina would be expensive????

Still, about 13 years ago, the Murkowski Administration was looking at cutting back on ferries and building roads and bridges throughout Southeast Alaska. As always the true motto of Alaska is “Think Big or Don’t Think At All.”

But I digress, again!

About the closest part of the contiguous US of A to Juneau is Seattle, of course, and that’s about 889 miles, so it fits near to the commercial’s conceit.

Yet, I doubt that it sells the Road Glide message to say “Find the Open Road. Drive onto an Alaskan State Ferry and park your bike in the hold for two days. And sit in a solarium and not smoke any pot.”

Anyway, the commercial depicts the bikers in a large urban area with a skyline that looks suspiciously like Los Angeles. When it leaves the city, it is a desert bioclime. It is clearly not Seattle or Bellingham or anywhere near 989 road miles from Juneau, Alaska.

Okay, say you did want to take your Road Glide from Seattle to Juneau by road. Remember the ferry distance is sort of “as the crow flies.”

The real “road” distance from Seattle to Juneau is more than a 1,100 miles because, well because you have to go to Prince George and Prince Rupert before you get on the ferry to Juneau.

You could, of course, drive further north and access Juneau through ferries from Haines and Skagway, but I suspect the advertising company that dreamed up a Road Glide road trip to Juneau was not thinking things that far through, literally. Anyway, it still wouldn’t be anywhere 989 miles.

Natch, I have to note that the whole idea of the Road Glide trip was to “extend” the journey, so eventually you see the bikers at a road crossing, in the desert, deciding to take a more winding path to “Juneau Alaska” and the GPS tells them that is it now “1857” miles to Juneau.

Which it might very well be, if only there was a road.

And a bridge.

Or two. Dozen.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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