Each and every Harley rider has something with H-D on it somewhere, jacket, shirt, bandana, boots, watch, ring — something.
But there was one rider who had it all: a complete wardrobe, including a housecoat and slippers, toolbox, towels, toilet seat, lawn furniture and umbrellas, ceiling fan, even a Harley toilet bowl brush (the handle is a grip). You name the H-D product and Cliff Meisenheimer had it, used it, wore it, cherished it.
Cliff died March 17, 2015. He was 78 and had been riding Harleys and amassing H-D gear since 1976 when he bought his first bike, a new Sportster. Cliff had spent four years in the Marine Corps and nine years in the Navy. He put in 38 years as a maintenance welder at a Ford plant. After his bike, his Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 truck was his preferred transportation.
And when, at age 75, Cliff decided to give up his bike, he got a little electric scooter, painted it orange and black and put on Harley decals.
Cliff was a charter member of the Alton H.O.G. Chapter, which began in 1987 under the sponsorship of Ted Burleson, then owner of Ted’s Motorcycle World.
Cliff had already joined the national H.O.G. and made his first trip to Sturgis, S.D., in 1984. By his estimate, he was one of the 5,000 or so members who showed up for a H.O.G. breakfast at a Rapid City Howard Johnson’s. Cliff said the planners had expected maybe 200 or so folks. He waited more than two hours to get breakfast that day. And he met and chatted with Willie G. Davidson as Willie was headed out the back door. For Cliff, the wait was worth it. Cliff believed in all things Harley, even waiting for breakfast.
Cliff went to Sturgis for the next 20 years and always made it a point — in fact, one of the highlights of his week — to get to the Harley hospitality set-up, get his annual rally pin and buy lots and lots of H-D merchandise, not just for himself but for relatives and friends.
In 1993, Cliff met Rhonda Keeney. Rhonda had a little experience riding motorcycles around a farm yard, but when Cliff came into her life, like her husband-to-be, it was all things Harley. Rhonda had already racked up a number of miles on bikes, including Cliff’s bikes. She’d taken the safety course and got her license in 1994. She got her very own Heritage Softail Springer in 1997.
“Cliff taught me everything I know about being a biker: how to pack a saddlebag so you’ve always got the right gear handy – and always pack your rain gear,” Rhonda said.
Besides getting his Sturgis pin and more Harley merchandise, there were two other must-see spots for Cliff at the Black Hills Rally. He always visited Stamper, the jeweler that makes Black Hills gold into outstanding works of Harley-inspired art. Cliff would make at least one stop at the shop outside Rapid City. He’d go back to see a piece of jewelry that he hadn’t decided on during the first visit. More likely than not, he bought it on that second look-see. Rhonda and Cliff wore matching wedding bands from Stamper.
The second spot was Spearfish Canyon, a spot Cliff always loved for its beauty, but one that later took on a special significance.
In 1993, Cliff lost his older son, Curt, a mechanic at Ted’s Motorcycle World. Like Cliff, Curt loved to ride and all things Harley. The two had planned well ahead and already had their packets for the 90th Anniversary Rally in Milwaukee. Curt died that May.
Cliff went to the party and took some of Curt’s ashes in his dresser’s tour pack. The box of ashes came open on the ride.
“I guess he wanted out,” Cliff later said.
That August, on Cliff’s annual trip to the Black Hills Rally, the bulk of Curt’s ashes went for a last ride. Up in Spearfish Canyon, 20 or so friends gathered for a picnic, then took to the road near Bridal Veil Falls as Cliff scattered his son’s ashes.
And so, 22 years later, Cliff’s ashes will go on their final ride. His friends will gather at Spearfish Canyon during the rally for a picnic and then a ride so Cliff’s ashes can rest where his son’s were scattered.