The Ride continues…Harley-Davidson Taste of Freedom Tour

By wes DeBow

<p>We rejoin our heroes in Milwaukee Wisconsin this past Labor Day weekend and freedom has never tasted sweeter.<br></p>

We rejoin our heroes in Milwaukee Wisconsin this past Labor Day weekend and freedom has never tasted sweeter. In the final chapter of an ongoing experiment, Harley-Davidson reunited a group of unlikely candidates to ride the open road and participate in an opportunity that will undoubtedly alter their lives in more ways than most would ever imagine.

{“pbembedwidget”:“gallery”,“id”:“15462”,“size”:“medium”,“alignment”:“right”}Cole Rise,, Ray Frenden,, Andy “Astronautalis” Bothwell,, Greg Lutzka, and Mike Chiesa all re-upped for more seat time on the final leg of the Taste of Freedom Tour in the “Brew City” and home of the world famous Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Both Harley-Davidson and Miller Brewing were celebrating their 110th anniversaries and Milwaukee was a rolling party with “bad ass” bikes showing and “The Champagne of Beers” flowing.

But first let’s rewind time a little farther and go back to our unforgettable ride mid-July through Angeles Crest, the Rim of the World, Lake Arrowhead and around Big Bear in the mountains East of Los Angeles. Cole Rise, Ray Frenden and Greg Lutzka shed some light on the subjects of photography, art, skateboarding and their newly found love of riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles…

What was your perspective of motorcycle riding before you got involved with Harley Davidson’s Taste of Freedom tour?

Rise: How often does a construction worker think about igloos? I’d say I thought about motorcycles as much. It was truly the furthest thing from my mind when Harley approached me - a total unknown - which was even more reason to give it a go.

Frenden: I’d never ridden a motorcycle before the Taste of Freedom Tour. My brother-in-law rode sport bikes and I’d stood in proximity to his. That was the extent of my exposure. I didn’t learn anything through osmosis either. I’d long been bike-curious, but I wasn’t born into a family of motorsport enthusiasts and felt like I wouldn’t be able to learn. I’d never even driven a manual transmission before all this started.

Lutzka: Before I got this opportunity I really didn’t think much about riding because it just seemed sketchy to me. Now after being part of the Taste of Freedom Tour and the Riders Edge program I feel super comfortable on my bike and I don’t think about it (being sketchy) as much.

How much seat time did you get prior to the LA mountain run?

Rise: Let’s put it this way… the bike had 6 miles on it, 3 of which were put on by the dealer while testing the engine. I was easily the least experienced of the group, but felt pretty confident I’d be able to swing at whatever came my way after the 3 day training course we took to get licensed, and the collective experience of the crew.

Frenden: Prior to the group ride to Big Bear, I’d taken the Rider’s Edge training course and putzed around my rural Texas neighborhood a bit. I just moved to a town outside of Austin, TX, so I didn’t have an in-built group of friends to go riding with and my work schedule was hectic. I had, maybe, fifty miles on my bike before the trip.

How would you compare riding a motorcycle to flying?

Rise: Riding and flying are incredibly similar, from the wind to the sound of the engine at a comfortable RPM. From a technical perspective, the engines are of a similar size and configuration to the Cessna 172’s I’ve flown, the procedures and acronyms for properly operating the bike are taught in a similar fashion, and your hyper-awareness of your center of gravity as you carve through space, two hands gripping a bar, is just like hang gliding. It’s easy to see how those returning WWII pilots traded their wings for two wheels, gunning it on the open road and gliding through turns. The experience is uniquely individual, and the feeling equally freeing.

How would you compare riding a motorcycle to your normal mode of transportation?

Frenden: Driving my car after the trip was revelatory. There’s no participation. No fun. It just goes. The whole affair of driving a car feels as utilitarian as being a passenger on the bus now. I’m along for the ride and not in charge the way I am on the bike.

How would you compare riding a motorcycle to skateboarding?

Lutzka: Riding skateboards and riding motorcycles are both a thrill in their own way. I’m more cautious on my bike than my skateboard because I kind of just go for it on my board. On my bike I make sure I’m paying attention and that I’m on point with it.

How do you think motorcycle riding will affect your photography?

Rise: Seeing my bike in my driveway is like seeing a plane sitting on the tarmac, ready to take you somewhere else. It’s a great motivator for getting lost on the weekends and exploring new places, which, is kind of important if you call yourself a travel photographer. It’s also a much smaller vehicle than my car, which means it’s easier to pull off on roads where wider vehicles can’t - a big advantage for getting those shots I’ve had to begrudgingly forfeit while driving on four wheels.

How do you think motorcycle riding will affect your art?

Frenden: My work skews heavily towards monsters and sci-fi, but I draw on real experiences to ground the more fantastical elements. I try to keep myself open to opportunities to do new things. Boring lives make for boring work. If I just sit around all day and stare at the same four walls, I probably won’t have much worth saying. This experience definitely adds to the mental Rolodex of subjects I can draw upon. All new things do.

What’s your perspective of motorcycle riding now?

Rise: As you learn, it’s amazing how quickly the cliché’ evaporates and your perspective changes. I’m totally hooked, and tattoos weren’t even a requirement.

Frenden: I never saw myself as being capable of riding a motorcycle, but I was eager to try and prove myself wrong. Flaubert said talent is long practice. I’m inclined to agree. I take solace in that idea. I tell people that are struggling with their art training that if you like something, you do it a lot. If you do it a lot, you get good at it. I like riding, ergo I’m riding a lot. The rest will come with time.

What’s been your favorite part of the experience?

Lutzka: My favorite part is getting out on the roads every day. I skate and then I ride my bike. I’ve already ridden thousands of miles and I haven’t had my bike that long. Experiencing the road every day is my favorite part. It’s just you and the road and you’re in your own zone and you feel free.

Time warp forward to Labor Day and we find ourselves back in Milwaukee. I took the occasion to arrive a day before the rest of the crew and Gina Garde at Milwaukee Harley-Davidson graciously set me up with a beautiful blue, touring package, Street Glide to ride around Wisconsin before the scheduled festivities got under way. With body painted beer maids, female mud wrestling and live music at the Milwaukee N.W. HOG Clubhouse, Milwaukee H-D’s parking lot was a party in itself.

I caught up with the Taste of Freedom gang as things began to heat up and we made our way over to Harley-Davidson’s corporate headquarters on Juneau Ave. where 1500 hard working folks help keep the dream alive for all of us. It’s the site where the first “factory”, a 10’ x 15’ wooden shed, was built in 1903 in the backyard of William C. Davidson’s family home. A perfectly aligned row of glistening 2014 bikes met us upon arrival, ready to be ridden to the H-D museum where we would soon be joining the thousands of Harley enthusiasts who had made the “ride home” from near and far to celebrate the 110th Anniversary. Let the good times roll.

The following day we took in some exclusive tour time at the museum, a peek “behind the curtain” into the archives of this legendary company and beyond. Evel Knievel, Captain America, Easy Rider, classic race bikes, prototypes, the tsunami bike, it was all there and more and we took our time perusing it. To top things off, we were granted the pleasure of a private sit down with Bill and Willie G. Davidson. It’s obvious the Davidsons are passionate about riding and fueled to continue sharing both the fellowship and the freedom that comes with life on two wheels. Their enthusiasm can be summed up in Willie’s advice “Go loud. Go proud. Go like hell.”

Even after 110 years Harley is improving, expanding and pushing forward. I’m sure the founding fathers would be proud to see where Harley-Davidson is today. With the launch of the high tech driven Project Rushmore and the city inspired smaller displacement, water cooled Custom 500 & 750 H-D continues to give us more options and reasons to love the brand and the experience.

Milwaukee came with so many good times it’s hard to list them all. From the camaraderie with friends and fellow riders to conversations with the Davidsons, rides through the countryside in the Wisconsin rain and up the sunny West bank of Lake Michigan, a drivetrain factory tour, Kid Rock and even better was Astronautalis freestyling on the mic with Harley-Davidson’s very own Jeff Wick on the drums live at the Up and Under Pub on Brady Street in the wee hours of the night! Cole “floated” next to his bike while Greg ollied a Forty-Eight. We ate amazing food at Palomino and Sloppy Joe’s, were granted “Top secret” clearance at the Safe House and the list goes on…

By far and away though, the most surreal and memorable experience had to be riding in the Harley-Davidson Labor Day parade. Bar to bar with the Taste of Freedom bunch, along with thousands of other riders we began at Miller Park and proceeded to ride, high five and rev those big, beautiful, American made V-Twin engines through the spectator lined streets of downtown Milwaukee! Milwaukeeans embrace motorcycle riding like no other place in the world and we were feeling the love as we rolled. Cole Rise mentioned that science suggests the elation we were all enjoying was due at least in part to the release of serotonin associated with both smiling and even just simply viewing smiles. It’s safe to say that none of us had ever had so many people smiling at us for riding a motorcycle before. It was really something special, a natural high. Smile and pass it on.


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