On a cool summer morning it all started on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway with the wind at our backs looking east.
I’m talking about Interstate 84 and the 378 miles which stretches from Portland, Oregon to the Idaho border. Senate Bill 461 took effect in January 2014 which required the use of private funds to be used in the purchase, installation and maintenance of the large brown signs which designates the route to honor all veterans who served and those who became casualties** during the Vietnam war.
There are approximately 20 signs installed to-date and our riding group passed a couple as we headed toward the base of the Blue Mountains to the Wild West city of Pendleton for the Pendleton Bike Week (PBW). We took the Cascade Locks exit and rode across the cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River called the “Bridge of The Gods.”
There we picked up another rider in our group and headed east on highway 14. We stopped in Stevenson, WA at the Venus Café for a bit of breakfast then made our way winding along through the Columbia Gorge through the forest and up steep bluffs. We did a quick stop at the Maryhill winery, traveled past the largely dismantled aluminum smelter plant and then after a short stop in Umatilla we arrived in Pendleton.
This was the inaugural year of the PBW and based on my observations it looks to have sowed the seeds for the start of a recurring big event. Bikers flooded the convention center, took in vendor booths, relaxed with musical entertainment, cruised around town and spent money which was an economic boost for the city!
Some key highlights were:
- There is power in the wheat field and power in the rain because the Rogue Brewery Ale House officially launched the Pendleton Pilsner. They grow their own hops, malting barley, rye, pumpkins, honey and other ingredients for refreshments. The new Pendleton Pilsner is brewed at the Rogues HQ in Newport, Oregon and I’m reminded of that movie… where Frank the Tank states: “Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!”
- Pendleton’s legendary hospitality continues in fine style. The local food was 1st class, the staff at restaurants were most personable and everywhere folks seemed genuinely friendly and appreciative of the motorcycle enthusiasts being in town.
The 100-year old mahogany bar at Hamley’s. We spent a fair amount of time enjoying Pendleton’s iconic “old-west” saloon and taking in the towns ambiance.
- Wildhorse Resort & Casino was most entertaining. Operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the 10-story hotel and resort pulls in the people and the gaming revenue seemed brisk during my short time there. Yes, I contributed to their next expansion project!
- Attendance of Rattlesnake Mountain H-D from Kennewick, WA at the rally celebration added icing to the cake. The dealer brought over a bunch of motorcycles and there was a rather large assortment of accessories, parts and t-shirts for attendees to load up on.
Eric Folkestad, event partners and business leaders are likely making plans for 2016. I chatted briefly with Eric and he deserves a big shout out from the riding community in taking on the risk and pulling together this quality event. Motorcycle rallies are a huge gamble and you have to bring your “big girl panties” to the party because it’s not easy. Note: That is a biker saying and apologies if I offended anyone wearing panties! Granted he’s had practice being the co-owner of the Hells Canyon Rally and then selling his stake to his brother, but for any motorcycle event to be successful you need to bring large groups of riders together, offer up great entertainment, get biker vendors to support the event, cover the civic (OSP, police, 1st responders etc.) duties and hope that you don’t suffer financial ruin in the end.
I’m happy to have participated in the “First PBW!” Congrats on a most successful rally Eric!
Lastly, I wish I could report that there were no accidents, but Mr. Jason Anteau, 43-years-old, sadly died Friday night in a motorcycle accident at the west end of Pendleton. Mr. Anteau worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation, was a Hermiston volunteer firefighter and was attending the rally.
The preliminary investigation revealed speed and distraction were not factors, nor were any of the drivers impaired. More information reported HERE. Obituary HERE. Rally’s can be a recipe for danger, but PBW is very small compared to other high profile events (i.e. Sturgis, Laughlin River Run etc.) where thousands of riders are packed into a congested area. It’s an unfortunate blemish this occurred during the rally and we’re reminded once again how important safety awareness is to the motorcycle community, and how precious life really is. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Anteau’s family and friends!
UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – added link to Mr. Anteau obituary. Also adding that Mr. Anteau was on the Oregon State HazMat Team and was the vice president of the East Desert Diamondbacks chapter of the Iron Order motorcycle club.
UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – The 2016 Pendleton Bike Week will take place from July 22 to July 26th. According to this report co-founder Eric Folkestad said the event met attendance and revenue goals and was able to break even. PBW brought in a total of 5,740 people over the five day event. The event peaked on Saturday, when 2,150 motorcycle enthusiasts arrived at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Photos taken by author.
**Approximately 57,000 Oregonians served “in country” during the Vietnam War with 719 killed in action. Another 5,000 were wounded in action. 39 remain missing in action after 40 years. Of the 333,000 veterans living in Oregon, approximately a third served during the Vietnam conflict. Interstate 205 (I-205) is also known as the War Veterans Memorial Highway and Highway 97 is known as the WWII Veterans Memorial Highway. Thirty-three other states have officially designated highways in honor of Vietnam vets.