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Sturgis Rally: Inspiration in the Black Hills of South Dakota

16 Aug

Editor’s Note: This blog entry was written by Mike Panasci, Vice President, Mustang Motorcycle Products, Inc.

I’ve been working in the motorcycle industry and riding bikes for more than 42 years now and, truth be told, last week was the first time I ever set foot in Sturgis, South Dakota.

My boss — Mustang Motorcycle Seats President Al Simmons — pretty much insisted I fly with him to Sturgis, along with Gary Kendrick, our vice president of production. Al did the flying, expertly handling the controls of his own eight-seat Pilatus PC-12 turbo prop.

Another directive from my boss was that the three of us had to spend an afternoon riding in the famous Black Hills of South Dakota. After a leisurely tour of the well-traveled loop of Deadwood, Custer Park and the Needles, we approached our ultimate destination — Mount Rushmore.

No photograph I’ve ever seen of the place prepared me for the impact of actually standing beneath this monumental, man-made creation, surrounded by fellow bikers who also stood in awe before these inspirational carved granite figures.

Breaking the reverie, my cell phone indicated I had a voice message. It was the staff back at the Mustang booth with an urgent message for Al to call J&P Cycles as soon as possible. As most riders know, J&P is the premier motorcycle aftermarket retailer, started in the cornfields of Iowa more than three decades ago by owners John and Jill Parham.

As you may or may not know, John Parham publicly announced this spring that he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis back in 2007. There’s no cure for this disease — the only hope for extended survival is a lung transplant.

When Al called J&P, he was told that a suitable donor had been matched to John, and that John and his wife were flying from Iowa to the Cleveland Clinic for the surgery. Meanwhile, the Parham’s son, Zach, who is vice president of operations for J&P, was stuck in Sturgis overseeing the company store. Obviously, it was important that Zach see his father before an operation of this magnitude and time was of the essence.

Could Al fly Zach to Cleveland in time to see his father?

Good question. And it raised other questions. Al’s plane was (more…)