Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

2nd Annual XL-List Rally

Written by  June 30, 2005

Are you looking for a resource with highly active, knowledgeable and opinionated participants? Would you like to learn how to re-jet your carb, increase your displacement, know which ignition system you should upgrade to and, most importantly, learn how to “Pay the Taxes”? If these topics provide you with just a hint of curiosity, then you need to subscribe to the most active web list for Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, the XL-List. The XL-List officially started in December 1996 and has grown to 1600 subscribers, with another 1,000 who regularly read it from the web page. And if you’d like to join in on some great fun and meet the people that make this group what it is, then you need to plan on participating in the XL-List Rally.

On June 10, 11 and 12, in the countryside just north of Kansas City, the group assembled for their second annual XL-List Rally. After this year’s event, the word is officially out; this rally is a blast! From Maine to California, 76 riders spanning 21 states convened at the Camp Pony Express and shared the camaraderie that makes this group an absolute joy to spend time with. Participation for this year’s event was about the same as last year, but the overall entertainment value was clearly up. With active involvement from the Kansas City Harley-Davidson Assembly plant, a new purpose for the gathering has now been established.

Although the event was planned to officially begin on Friday, some members, anxious to get underway, arrived on Thursday and set up camp. Rains during the week leading up to the rally had left things in a soggy condition, but not to fear, this just presented an opportunity to do some late night mud racing. Event activities planned for the weekend were similar to last year, with assembly plant tours on Friday, an evening meal that night, local group rides on Saturday, live music on Saturday night, and finally breakfast on Sunday before adjourning. Oh yeah, did I mention there was beer? Yes, plenty of beer was consumed throughout the weekend.

The venue site, just south of Maysville, Missouri was the near perfect setting. While there, most participants tent-camped in a large, shaded and mowed semi-circle of campsites. Also available were clean baths, hot showers and an indoor dining area where breakfast was served. The on-site mini convenience store was an added bonus and an outdoor amphitheater with a covered stage and gentle sloping and partially shaded hill provided an excellent setting for the live music. Full amenity camping spots for those who brought equipped campers were also available. Evening rains on Friday and Saturday nights could really have dampened the spirits of this group, but the site clearly exceeded the primitive grounds used for the initial rally of 2004.

After last year’s rally, I’ve become an avid fan of the XL-List. Information I have learned from posts throughout the past year, even as a BT rider (a derogatory term from XLers denoting Big Twin), has been immeasurable! The Motor Company has now taken notice of the enthusiasm and passion from this online community and used this year’s rally as a collection point and sounding board for the Sportster owners. To appreciate the significance of Harley-Davidson being involved in this rally, you must understand that their participation is typically reserved for huge rallies like Daytona and Sturgis.

On Friday, the Vehicle Operations Plant of Kansas City, where all Sportsters are assembled, dispatched one of the original 52 employees from the Kansas City plant to the rally. Al Scott, who looks much like Santa Claus, arrived in the company Ford Excursion with a factory trailer that housed three shiny new bikes, two of which were Sportsters. As the senior auditor, Al’s daily job is to randomly pick a bike fresh off the production line, ride it for 25 miles and then spend the next eight hours looking for any, and I mean ANY, flaws in assembly, functionality or finish. Al then grades the machine in several categories that total up on a scale of 1 to 100. Following the auditing exercise, the bike is placed in the lunchroom of the plant for all to view, complete with a scorecard identifying any deficiencies.

The Motor Company strives to develop employees with a commitment to product improvement that Al lives for. There is no question; he takes his job very seriously! His passion for his role was evident to List members participating in his survey process. For those who wanted to, Al provided a checklist and an opportunity to perform his job, with the exception of riding the bike. Purposely staged on each of the two bikes were flawed parts. The objective was to see if rally participants were savvy enough to find the errors, and some were!. Following each assessor’s attempt to find the problems, Al then kept quiet any findings to eliminate any bias from a previous reviewer. Following each individual’s analysis, Al then requested feedback on what could be done to improve the design of the bikes. He patiently listened to each List member’s recommendations and made notes. His experience with these machines makes him one of the only assembly plant employees who has access to company executives and the engineering department. Over the course of the day and evening, Al collected quite a bit of information from this crowd of passionate owners, and I believe his contribution to the importance of the rally cannot be overstated.

Throughout the weekend, participants spent time getting to know the friends they had only previously met through web posts. They swapped stories regarding their personal histories with Sportsters and admired the customization that each of the machines had undergone. With many of the group traveling several hundred miles to attend, there were plenty of stories to share about each individual journey.

The couple that had traveled the farthest was Dave and Dawn Barrett, from Maine. Dave, riding a highly customized old school Sporty, complete with a girder front end and Z bars, and Darla on a mostly stock, gun metal blue 2003 Anniversary Wide Glide, traveled up to 750 miles a day to complete their journey to the Kansas City area. Their wind and sunburned faces were clear indicators of the abuses of traveling this distance on bikes, but their spirits were not diminished! They had set up their tent and awning near the campfire and keg and it’s likely that everyone who participated in the rally got to meet them and chat, even if just for a few minutes. Like last year, great food was provided to rally participants. S and S Barbeque cooked the two evening meals and both were excellent, particularly the brisket that was served on Saturday. Breakfasts were provided by Camp Pony Express and were just what the doctor ordered after a late night of keg draining and mud racing.

Outstanding live entertainment was anticipated and no one was disappointed! The venue site included a bowl-shaped amphitheater with a few shade trees and a covered stage. Early Saturday night, Crisis kicked off the show with some outstanding covers of favorite metal tunes from bands like Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crew and Rush. The power trio of Steve Kuker on drums, Chris Myers on bass and Lonnie West on lead guitar also played some original songs as well. For just over an hour, Crisis jammed and the group loved it! Following Crisis and while setting up for the next band, Lee Bussy, event organizer, and Reb handed out some excellent door prizes.

The final act of the evening was the Jeff Scheetz Band and they did not disappoint! JSB rocked into the night with original tunes, written by Jeff, that are a mix of funky blues with progressive rock. Their sound is both new and old and unquestionably unique! Jeff’s high energy stage presence and rhythmic virtuoso style was an instant crowd favorite. Keyboardist Ted Gardner, who plays on a 1935 Hammond Organ, complete with Leslie, adds a unique dimension to the music that cannot be replicated. Matt Waddell plays bass and sings with a growling bluesy tone that is the perfect fit. Kent Burnham, who played the drums on JSB’s last two recordings, stood in for injured drummer Aaron Mumma and demonstrated why he is one of the most respected mashers in the Midwest. Clear skies held out, the band jammed and the crowd immensely enjoyed this show.

When the 11 p.m. curfew arrived, much sooner than anyone wanted, event organizer Lee Bussy couldn’t let the music stop, so he volunteered to pay any fine for the show to continue. Jeff graciously agreed for one more on the condition that the audience move in closer. There was no hesitation from this crowd! Their final selection was an old Stones tune, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Ironically enough, those of us there had gotten exactly what we wanted! The music made it a night to remember and a rally not to forget!

The commitment these riders have to their model of motorcycle and to its associated lifestyle is as dedicated, if not more so, than that of any other motorcycling organization. The chemistry and mutual respect these riders share is rarely seen among such opinionated people. Their encouragement for Sportster owners to do their own maintenance and better understand just how these machines work, makes this particular web list what it is today; a tremendous resource of shared knowledge for the Sportster lifestyle. Now with two rallies under their belt and the Motor Company partnering with them, there is no telling what next years rally could have in store. Stay tuned!

Story and photos by Nic