Last month, the Renewable Fuels Association custom E85 motorcycle from Paul Jr. Designs made its debut on “American Chopper.” It seems that most companies that commission a custom motorcycle from Paul Jr. Designs never register it, and never ride it. They become corporate lobby trophies after a trade show or two, and many are never started again. That was not the intent of RFA with our new motorcycle and we clearly demonstrated that this past week. The intent is to utilize this motorcycle to start a conversation, and when people see it, it does just that.
I hit the road last week with an ole’ motorcycle friend, Doug Brandmahl. He was the first person I met when riding my Harley to Sturgis 10 years ago this August. His buddies had abandoned him last minute, but he decided to go it alone from Richmond, Va., despite the 1,800-mile ride. We met at a McDonalds in Iowa, and thanks to the Sturgis Rally and the Buffalo Chip Campground, have remained friends over the years. We were in for a treat, a five-state adventure after departing Kansas.
The first stop was at Mid-Missouri Energy just outside Malta Bend, Mo. I saw old corn grower friends, and met many new folks during my stop. Even former RFA board member Ryland Utlaut came by to see the motorcycle. Hundreds of pictures were taken, questions answered, and everyone heard the roar of the motorcycle’s engine. Special thanks to RFA Board Member Chris Wilson for hosting the stop.
The next stop was just a few miles away at Show Me Ethanol near Carrollton, Mo. They were having a board meeting that day, which allowed other RFA members, Eco-Energy, and Missouri Corn Growers Association to be there. They hosted a large lunch for everyone to come check out the motorcycle, along with the local newspaper. I spoke to the group about the motorcycle build process, and being part of “American Chopper.” Special thanks to Rich Hanson for hosting, and The Carrollton Democrat for covering. I look forward to seeing Rich in Sturgis this year! We then made the long trek from there to Indianapolis for the night.
Day two started with a stop at Cardinal Ethanol near Union City, Ind. Jeff Painter hosted the stop, and we were once again allowed to show off the motorcycle to the local group and answer questions. I snapped this picture before leaving.
Before crossing into Michigan, we stopped at a Speedway in Angola, Ind. to fill the motorcycle with E85. It was a perfect example of ethanol’s cost savings benefit. Utilizing E85 versus premium, the fuel of choice for most motorcycle riders, saved us $1.35/gallon.
We ventured on to a county corn grower meeting outside of Lansing, Mich., for a dinner and meeting. Nearly 90 people attended the event, including elected officials and aspiring politicians, but farmers and consumers too. I rode the motorcycle into the machine shop hosting the event and spoke to the group about the ethanol industry, and the motorcycle.
The next morning started at Michigan International Speedway, which I hadn’t visited in a few years. I gave a presentation to the Michigan Corn Marketing Program on the RFA, current policy issues in Washington, D.C. and how we can partner more in the future. After that, we got the motorcycle out for display for the group. Mother Nature could have been more
cooperative, but the RFA motorcycle did chase a pace car down pit road and onto the apron in front of the grandstands. It visited Victory Lane for this photo seen here. Thanks to Michigan Corn’s Executive Director Jim Zook for his hospitality both days.
To slow down the pace of the trip a bit, we went just a few miles to see former RFA Chairman Neill McKinstray. Neill and his wife opened their home to us and it was wonderful to catchup with an old friend. Mike Irmen of RFA board member The Andersons and his wife joined us later that day. Neill and Mike, along with their wives, are avid motorcycle riders, and another perfect stop for this trip.
The next morning, I jumped on the RFA motorcycle and was joined by Neill and his wife, Mike and his wife, and Rod Harris, all from The Andersons to make the 50-mile ride into our next event in Maumee, Ohio. When you are dealing with a one-off custom motorcycle, you never know what you are going to get when you first start riding it. The find this day was a faulty battery, which brought this motorcycle ride to an abrupt end for me. We did make the event a few minutes late, and no one was the wiser. The crowd outside their headquarters was large, where Mike and I addressed the crowd and showed off the motorcycle. Special thanks to both Neill and Mike, and their wonderful wives.
Before departing the area, we filled the RFA motorcycle again with E85 at a Sunoco station supplied by The Andersons.
Crossing back into Indiana, we headed to RFA Member CIE, aka Central Indiana Ethanol. The timing of this stop couldn’t have been better, as they were hosting their customer appreciation day. More than 1,100 invites were sent out and over the two-hour period hundreds of people learned about the RFA, ethanol in motorcycles, and the motorcycle itself. Thanks again to Ryan Drook and Jeff Harts for letting us be a part of their annual event.
We then headed for St. Louis, and despite a tornado warning, an apparent microburst, strong winds and horizontal rain, we made it to Chesterfield in one piece.
First thing Friday morning we visited the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) headquarters. Staff and media could see the motorcycle and learn more about the motorcycle build and being a part of “American Chopper.”
We returned to Kansas City just in time to pick up my daughter from daycare and get Doug on a plane back to Virginia.
The week was filled with lots of miles, laughs, frustration, questions, and heartfelt promotion. The motorcycle will never be just about motorcycles. No matter what you think of motorcycles, people just can’t walk by it without stopping and staring. It is truly a piece of art. Once we have their attention, we can tell our story the way we want it. This has never been about the low volume fuel used in motorcycles, but about all consumers. If you own a motorcycle, it is one of your most prized possessions. If you are comfortable using ethanol in your motorcycle, you will use it in your other engines too. For non-motorcyclists, it is a similar educational process with the motorcycle, just a different road to get there.
This was just one of many outings for the motorcycle, and I hope to see all of you down the road on one of these tour stops.
Ride Safe, Fuel Right.