Key West: Paradise for Bikers and Consumer Spending

Paradise for Bikers and Consumer SpendingRiding a motorcycle is probably one of the greatest things in the world. It provides clarity that no other experience can deliver. It’s just you, the bike, and the prospect of death.

Three days in the Florida Keys, and I almost got killed twice. Once by a big truck, the other by spilling gasoline over a hot Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE/HOG) engine. (It wasn’t my fault.)

I got blinded by sand, seriously sunburned, and almost passed out from heat exhaustion. The next day was the greatest free air show in the world, and I ate the best fish taco ever from a food cart.

Economic growth and consumer spending is not an issue in Key West—at least it wasn’t when I was there. For example, there were Japanese tourists everywhere, taking a lot of pictures.

Harley-Davidson has been struggling on the stock market. Business hasn’t gone bad, but prospects for double-digit economic growth are tough.

February consumer spending gained the most over the past five months. But there’s inflation creeping in, and it’s part of the numbers.

Harley-Davidson is no longer a boomer stock, and this is a problem for the company. Consumer spending on motorcycles is volatile. If there’s genuine economic growth, people buy motorcycles. If there’s no economic growth, consumer spending cuts out. Because motorcycles are treated like toys or hobby items, they’re one of the first things to go when economic growth vanishes.

Mind you, motorcycles can be cheaper than cars. Cheaper on gas, for sure. If you want to cut back on your consumer spending, dump the car for a motorcycle. It makes taking someone to a doctor’s appointment more interesting.

The Federal Reserve is re-inflating assets, and there is some visibility in the numbers. Real economic growth is still a hard thing to come by, and consumer spending is totally unpredictable.

Key West is one expensive place to visit. The people with money were having a ball. That’s why there’s no problem with economic growth or consumer spending in that town. (See “Stock Market Sinkhole: ‘It Didn’t Look Unstable’.”)

I didn’t get to see Hemingway’s house, but the fighter jets from the Naval Air Station Key West put on a great show. I saw one jet going fast and flat, then the pilot hit the brakes hard. For a split second, the plane was suspended, pointing straight up—and then that’s where it went.

Consumer spending in the Conch Republic is all about fish tacos, cigars, key lime pie, and rum. It is 100% biker heaven, for a day or two. Just watch out for big trucks and gas pumps. Hope that never happens again.