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Indian Motorcycle

Indian motorcycles were manufactured from 1901 to 1953 by a company in Springfield, Massachusetts, initially known as the Hendee Manufacturing Company but was renamed the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company in 1928. During the 1910’s Indian became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. Indian’s most popular models were the Scout, made from 1920 to 1946, and the Chief, made from 1922 to 1953.
The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company went bankrupt in 1953. A number of successor organizations have perpetuated the name in subsequent years, with limited success. In 2011, Polaris Industries purchased Indian Motorcycles and relocated operations from North Carolina, merging them into existing facilities in Minnesota and Iowa. A range of new models is due to be released in late 2013. This is a story about the 2013 models and a group of local motorcycle enthusiasts who had a part in the 2013 Indian brochure.
The phone rang one day at Power Brokers and Abby answered. On the line was Bridgit Schock with a strange request. She said that Jim LeTendre came highly recommended to help with a photo shoot she was putting together for Indian Motorcycles. Abby put Jim on the phone and Bridgit said, “My company has been contracted to find some models for the 2013 Indian Motorcycle brochure. I am originally from Brandon and I called my friends around there and they said you knew all of the riders in the area.” She was looking for very specific demographics and gave Jim the requirements she needed for a diverse group of people. “I knew right away who would fit the bill-Mike Fluit, Teresa Jackson and Mark Thompson,” recalls LeTendre. “Mike is a military guy and he had purchased an Indian motorcycle from us but recently traded it in for a Ford Mustang. We got the bike here and sold it for him. He still had his Indian jacket and was a perfect fit. I told her about him and she said ‘In’. One down. Next she said she needed a brunette that was a rider and I had the fit for that too-Teresa Jackson. Two down. The next person I thought of was Mark Thompson. He is a strong rider, a truck driver and he has a killer smile! Three down. I quickly called all three of them and told them about the opportunity and asked them to send in some photos of themselves.” She also needed a couple riding two-up but she already had that covered with Tim Connell and Anne Hill who would come with Jim Gallop, the photographer.
‘Double D’, who has been in previous Indian brochures, was unavailable for the first few days of shooting. He is a truck driver and came from Bike Week in Florida to make the final day. He was so well known in their brochures that he literally came with the business when Indian was last sold to Polaris Industries. Jim Gallop asked Jim L. to stand in, to get out of his street clothes and into some riding clothes. He went back to the hotel, changed into some clothes provided by Indian and came back ready to ride. “I did bring my sunglasses, both clear and tinted,” said LeTendre. “The only reason I ended up in the shoot was Double D could not make it on time. It was good luck for me. Seeing yourself in a national brochure is surprising and surreal,” according to Jim. “I was also thinking the whole time not to screw this up.”
Mark Thompson is a shy truck driver for Dean Foods. He could not believe he would be selected for this. He did not have any photos of himself so he had a friend take a picture of him by his truck. Bridgit said yes immediately. Mike had some shots that he sent over and Teresa sent hers in as well. Bridgit called Jim back and asked if she could call all of them. The schedule worked out great for all of the participants and she offered them the job and that’s how the 2013 Indian Motorcycle gang was assembled.
According to Mark, “When Jim first told me about this, I asked him, why are you calling me? I am not a model. I am out of shape. Is this for real?” Teresa said the same thing. “If it hadn’t been for Jim I would not have believed it. He told me what they were looking for. I’ve always wanted an Indian Motorcycle but didn’t think I could afford one or know anyone who could service it. I like the old classic style cycles, whitewalls and all. I was nervous about handling one but it was very smooth with power and easy to ride. Indian has a style, feel and a vibe. They are different from a Harley and they are unique. And I really like the Indian Bonnet on the front fender. It is cool that they are bringing them back.”
The photo shoot was set to begin on the 10th of April near Okoboji. Being a lifelong salesperson, Jim was immediately intrigued by the process and was anxious to help in any way he could. “I knew I may need backups if one or more of my first people could not make it,” recalls LeTendre. “I started getting feelers out to more people. However, it turned out we did not need any other people as all three were able to work the photo shoot into their busy schedules.”
From the onset, it was obvious that the team would work together well. Bridgit and Teresa hit it off right away, as they are both ad agency people. Bridgit loved Mark’s photo in front of his truck. “He is just a nice big huggable bear,” said Bridgit. Being a military man, Mike fit the profile perfectly but Mike was not 100% in on this right away. Mark was excited originally but started to get cold feet. He was nervous, never having done this before let alone for a national brochure. Mark told Bridgit he would go if Jim goes and when he was told Jim was going, Mark felt better.
Mark and Teresa were both nervous about riding the bikes. “I was nervous after they said it was a $36,000 bike,” said Mark. “However after I got on the bike and rode it around the parking lot for a while the nerves went away.” Teresa took to her bike right away. She was running through the gears in no time. “The bike was actually very easy to ride,” she said.
Everything worked out great except for the rain on the first day. This turned out to be a blessing as it cleaned up the highway and created a great mood for the photo shoot. Mark had to go back to Sioux Falls for a 6 PM work meeting that night but the rest of the group stayed over in Okoboji. It turned out that the manager of Arnold’s Park knew Jim. The park was still a month from opening so they had to do a little clean up work before the shoot the first night after the rain subsided.  Jim Gallop set up some shots for the gang at the Camel Race game. They lit the Ferris Wheel and took photos of the group walking by the attraction and looking at the Indian Motorcycle that was parked there.
The next day was the big shoot. The day started at 6 AM and it was cold. Gallop thought that would be a great setting for a photo shoot. He knew exactly where he wanted all the riders to be at exactly the right time. He was there three days before prepping for the shoot and saw every shot in his head before he ever clicked the shutter. “People look at these photos and they think it just happens,” says LeTendre. “He was averaging one photo for every second we were out there, literally. He knew where he wanted us and at what time. Plus he had a little bit of luck. The rain washed the road the night before and that created a great backdrop for that evening and the following morning.”
Jim Gallop shoots for a lot of different major companies, including BRP (Can-Am), Yamaha and BFGoodrich. On one shoot he said he was hanging out of a helicopter with someone holding on to his belt shooting photos and video of a boat on Lake Havasu, Nevada. He also used to shoot a lot of photos for Marlboro. “He is an artist and a professional but very personal,” adds Jackson. “He remembered all of our names and was able to tell everybody where to be for the shot. He was in command at all times and we respected that.” Mark and Jim L. were on two brand new motorcycles the first morning. They mentioned they rode hard that evening. “80 all the way back to the hotel. What a rush,” says LeTendre.
The second half of the second day was spent shooting by some grain silos. Everybody sat around at the end of the second day and Gallop showed Teresa and Jim L. the photos and how he could manipulate them. “Looking over some of the photos after the shoot, we noticed he re-touched some of them but what was so amazing to me was the lack of manipulation of his photos,” according to Jackson. “He is that good.” Jim L. adds, “We had no idea what to expect and it was all very top secret. We went out for beer and pizza with the crew from the ad agency on the first night. The second night they took Mike downtown and got some photos of Mike and the bike he was riding with a smoke machine.”
It is interesting that none of them had ever ridden an Indian motorcycle before. Mark had been riding a Honda VTX 1800 Retro for the past five years and now has a 2000 Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide. “I have purchased all three of my bikes from Jim. It is a great environment there and the guys are very helpful.” Mark is from Oakland and met his first wife in Utah. “She kept talking about where they were from and she kept saying she was from LA. I thought that was so neat because I was from Oakland. All this time I thought she meant Los Angeles until she mentioned that in the winter they ride snowmobiles. I stopped her and said it does not snow in LA. And she said oh yes it does. I said Los Angeles? She said no, Lake Andes. That was my first experience with someone from South Dakota.”
Mark rode the Chief. “I liked the weight of it. It had a great road presence. The faster we went, the better it felt. It was a neat bike. I liked the looks of it, especially with the bags. It had good power, very smooth and shifted well.”
Teresa, Account Services and Partner with Henkin-Schultz, has been riding motorcycles since 2005. “I have always had a passion for cars and motorcycles. I always felt if a man could do it, so could I. My dad always had a motorcycle and I loved going on rides with him. The freedom of even a quick ride around the neighborhood was the best. I grew up as a tomboy so if there was a go-kart, big wheel or bike I was on it. It was on my list of something to do to challenge myself and grow. Not many women rode at that time so it was something to aspire to and now I’m thankful I have a great group of people to ride with. I’ve bought three bikes from Jim at Powerbrokers and he knows the right fit based on the experience and size of the rider, which helps build trust and confidence in finding the right bike.”
“I would rather ride in the country than in town. That was another great aspect of this photo shoot. We were riding along country roads enjoying the bikes, sights and sounds. I like the camaraderie that comes along with riding and I felt comfortable riding with everyone in the photo shoot,” says Teresa.
“I ride a 2005 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe but I love the look of an Indian bike. That was the closest I could come to an old school look of an Indian. I have always wanted an Indian motorcycle since my dad and I went to a classic bike show and I was fascinated with the Indian Chief light on the front fender and the classic old school style white walls and fringes. You didn’t see many of them out there, however.”  
“What I remember most about the shoot was getting started. Everybody was trying to help me-giving me directions on how to follow the pickup, reminding me to keep pace and all I wanted to do was get on that bike and ride! I was just like a little kid wanting to go. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget and I have LeTendre to thank for that.”
Mike grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa and spent a lot time riding off road through ditches, pastures and cornfields. According to Fluit, “I had my first bike around age 10 or so. It was a 1970 Honda CB175 street bike that was a hand-me-down from my older brother. The street tires were half bald and I stripped it down to bare bones (no fenders etc.). It was hard to ride in the pastures and on the hills but it made me a better rider.  I rode that until I was able to get my hands on a rare three cylinder two stroke 1976 GT550 Suzuki. I would actually jump driveways with it and I have a scar on my stomach from a bad landing. I rode a Honda CB750 for a while before joining the Army at age 18.” Fluit’s attention soon turned to Harleys and he purchased an ’83 Roadster and rode it all over Europe. “It turned a lot of European heads as they rarely saw Harleys over there and I have owned a few more since that time. I really liked the looks of the Indians when Gilroy started making them after settling up the trademark rights, but I wasn’t able to get into one until 2007. I purchased a used 2003 Indian Spirit Springfield at Power Brokers, which I liked the looks of a lot. I finally ended up trading that bike for a 2006 Mustang GT. The Mustang will finally be paid off in a couple of weeks. I’m going to retire from the Army after 20+ years in June, so now I’ll be looking for a new bike. I’m married now, so I’m leaning towards some heavy cruiser that the wife can ride comfortably on. I see Indian has that new motor coming out in their 2014 line. I think I’m going to wait until 2015 after all the bugs are worked out of it and pick up a 2015 Chief.”
“I was shocked when Jim called me. Who in their right mind would have said no? I mean really? Get paid to ride around and test out the newer Indians, while somebody takes some photos? C’mon...sign me up.”
“My most memorable moment was shooting at night in dark alley James Dean style with a lit cigarette leaning up against a brick wall even though those photos never made the brochure. Jim Gallop is very professional and personal.”
Bridgit added, “I have worked with Jim Gallop for years. He called me and asked me if I knew anything about motorcycles and I said of course, I was raised in Sioux Falls. When he told me where the shoot was going to be held I told him I know the area like the back of my hand. This is the second year we have had a shoot for Indian but I had never met Jim LeTendre before I called his company. He returned my call immediately. I told him that I needed some strong riders. Indian motorcycles are going after people that understand the history of the bike. I told him I was looking for diversity. A military person was of interest to us. Jim said he had just the guy and I knew he was right when Mike Fruit showed up for the photo shoot in an old Indian jacket that showed a lot of wear. I had to present an array of talent to the client but Jim’s first three choices were right on target.”
“We were fortunate that the weather was nice,” continued Bridgit. “I was a little pre-occupied with details but still was nervous about the weather. However, Jim Gallop’s brilliance is to take any weather situation and frame it with the object and make it beautiful. Whether it is a storm or a sunny day he uses the weather to his advantage. We had just arrived at Arnold’s Park when the storm hit. We were able to get some incredible shots after the rain stopped. The police at Arnold’s Park and the Sheriff’s Department were very helpful throughout the shoot, clearing the highways and streets for us. The days were long as the best light is the first four hours in the morning and the last four hours in the evening. Jim G. had the whole day planned out. He knew almost to the minute when he would get certain shots at certain times. He also knew the area because we shot here for the 2012 Indian brochure the year before.”
“When we were judging the photos, the agency could not have been happier,” according to Bridgit. “They could tell these people were real and loved to ride. I must admit when Teresa got on the red bike, I was saying Hail Mary’s because she is so small but when she took off, I knew these were the perfect individuals for the brand. Everyone was extremely excited when they saw how each person handled their bike. When we are on a shoot like this, it is always safety first and these guys made that very easy for us.” LeTendre adds, “We can look at every one of the photos and remember the shot. We got to the point where we could almost read Gallop’s mind on where he wanted us. He never yelled at us. He mostly used hand signals. The guy driving the pickup had probably the toughest job of us all. Any sudden stop or swerve would have been disaster for all of us.”  
Jim Gallop said, “In order to look like a rider, you have to be a rider. It does not matter if it is a boat or ATV or motorcycle or even fishing. A fisherman will know right away if someone has cast a reel before and a motorcycle rider knows if someone has ridden before. I have always been an advocate of someone who loves what he or she is doing.  Once we got rolling and everybody knew what we wanted, we used hand signals to move the riders. We were composing on the fly. I was hanging off the back of the truck and they were riding 50 MPH. I wanted it to look natural. Sometimes I would be shooting just a front wheel and a leg. Other times I would shoot full frame of the bikes. The shoot was flawless. Tim, who rode with fellow rider Anne on the back, (friends that came with Jim Gallop) rode so close to the bumper that we were holding on to the fender as Tim was riding under our tailgate. This is not a Hollywood shoot and we are not stunt riders but people do not see those shots as real. Our shots were real. It is always nice to have the police working with you. We could not have taken the shots we did without their assistance. Mark said Jim made the shoot very relaxing. It helped me shoot the shots because I am a rider also. The key is to get everybody relaxed. You have to get people involved in the shoot. The best way to do that is to let them interact with what we are doing. We try to make it fun. Every shot is a planned shot but every shot is also a surprise. Digital allows you to see your shots immediately. The wet pavements were great but we also squeegeed the pavement a lot. The elevator shots were fun. It was a pleasure to work with these guys.”
There were a number of people at the photo shoot working behind the scenes that never appeared in the photos. LeTendre summed up the experience this way, “I learned just how many people it takes to coordinate a brochure,” says Jim. “I also learned that it takes a little Mother Nature luck and a really talented photographer. I had a blast and being in the photos was just a bonus for me. Bridgit complimented me on the selection of people and their attitude. Good Midwestern people evidently make good models. I knew they could do it and it was good to see it come together. The money was nice but it was incidental. It was a great experience period.”
The brochure was ready for Sturgis later that year. The week after Sturgis, a copy of the brochure showed up at Power Brokers. That was the first anyone had seen of them. A lot of hours, coordination, talent, preparation and a few talented bike riders from Sioux Falls went into the creation of this beautiful brochure.
Check out additional photos on Facebook at  TMM





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