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Archive for August, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 9.10.26 AMThe Pacific Northwest…bounded on one side by the pacific ocean and the other side is the mountainous Rocky’s.

It’s perfect for finding a two-lane crowd-free by-way and rolling past acres of lush forest.  Those acres can turn into meandering hours of riding the countryside on a motorcycle.   In fact, the Pacific Northwest HOG rally will be hosted in the picture-esq Northwest (Portland) in a couple of weeks where we will deliver the aesthetic vision of why we ride!

Welcoming the 1000’s of riders to the adventure will be hot and dry weather.  Not only will they encounter the best weather temps, but they will also have to deal with wildfires.  Yes, the west could be described as being on fire!

Wildfires In Oregon and Washington State

Wildfires In Oregon and Washington State

The fires across the region have forced evacuation, burned down structures and created breathing issues for some.  Twenty minutes outside the Portland metro area the air is thick with particulate and smoke permeates the sky for miles across the region.  In Washington state over a 1000 people have been evacuated in Chelan county.  The Warm Springs fire (Countyline 2 fire) in Oregon has exploded into the largest fire at 36K acres.  U.S. 26 is closed at Oregon 126.

According to NatGeo, on average more than 100K wildfires clear 4-5 million acres each year in the U.S.  In 2014, some 1.2 million acres burned in Oregon and Washington and sadly this year it’s looking like a repeat.

Wildfires In Canada, BC

Wildfires In Canada, BC

In scanning the reports I got to thinking about the last time I’ve taken a motorcycle trip during the summer that wasn’t marred with a wildfire.  Of course it depends on how many miles I’ve traveled, but in a typical week long ride during the summer I realized that it’s been a fair number of years where I didn’t pass near or through a burning wildfire during a ride.  I’ve had multiple trips to Sturgis.  Through Yellowstone Park, through Glacier National Park – both with fires on multiple trips.  There was U.S. Route 550 or the “million dollar highway” that had a San Jan National Forest fire.  There was Beartooth Highway (U.S. Hwy 212) and a lingering wildfire.  I’ve taken a couple extended trips up north to British Columbia Canada and the land of lumberjacks was on fire both times.  In most all cases we were not close enough to see flames, but dark smoke and particles filled the sky for many miles as we navigated across the country.

In Washington and Oregon there are now 31 major wildfires currently burning.  See the map.  In Canada BC, there are even more.

In addition to the economic woes that these fires cause it does makes one wonder whether motorcyclists should even consider traveling the west during the height of the summer fire season.

But, life is for living and I’m not talking about the thrill of a car ride snaking through the marquee Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier.  It’s about feeling small in a very big world and how that is a great thing on a motorcycle.  So, I’ll continue to plan motorcycle trips to ride the west – wildfires and all!  Sure some of my photos will be filled with smoke obscuring the mountain views but, just know that I’ll have a big smile underneath that slightly wetted down dew rag covering my face!

Photos courtesy of the Oregonian and NWCC.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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2015 Sturgis Rally Stats

2015 Sturgis Rally Stats

Stat pushers.

Not a day goes by that we’re not confronted with or overwhelmed with statistics or key metrics and the 75th Sturgis Rally is no exception.

But, what’s the one item we didn’t see at Sturgis this year?  Nada.  Not one.  Tickets issued for ape-hangers!  Thank South Dakota ABATE.

Starting July 1st, there are no longer regulations about where to hang your hands!  Ape-hangers are now legal in South Dakota and the $20 fine for riding with your hands too high was wiped off the books as governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 85, effectively abolishing South Dakota law that prohibited such handlebars.

In previous years it was a petty offense in South Dakota if you rode a motorcycle on a public street or highway with the handlebar grips positioned at or above shoulder height.  For law enforcement it was almost an automatic excuse to pull over a motorcyclist.

sturgis_infographic_2_0And then there were the daily public safety reports.  The number of people in attendance, the number of vendor permits, the tons of garbage recycled, the number of arrests, the number of accidents, the number of DUI’s and the motorcycle deaths.  An endless parade of daily stats.  Some of it confusing as the stats didn’t match day-to-day in the media given the spaghetti architecture that makes up the western South Dakota tracking system.

Maybe the City of Sturgis can contract with Booz Allen who recently won the healthcare.gov contract to coordinate and manage the various agency’s reporting data.  How about an infographic at the conclusion of the event so that we can all tweet and share on social media!

It turns out that in previous years, the State Police counted arrests and traffic crashes in and near Sturgis, as well as in the Rapid City Patrol district which is most of western South Dakota, beginning the Saturday before the Rally’s official start on Monday and going through early Sunday morning, on the final day.

That made for eight days of data.

However, this year because it was the 75th anniversary, the Patrol began counting on Tuesday, July 28. So the totals reported each day for DUI arrests and injury accidents didn’t compare exactly, with previous years’ reporting.  They release a special comparative statistics for Saturday Aug. 1 through Saturday Aug. 8, – actually until 6 a.m. Sunday – to compare with previous years.

That means instead of 220 DUI arrests this year as previously reported, the eight-day total was 195 DUI arrests for the Rapid City district, which includes Sturgis and most of western South Dakota.  Even the Puddle of Mudd singer (Wes Scantlin) was charged with DUI.  City managers can now point to the report and state that stats were well below the 244 DUI arrests related to the Sturgis rally last year for the same eight days.

Felony drug arrests this year were at 80 during the eight days, compared with 90 for the same period in 2014. The 12-day total previously reported was 99 felony drug arrests this year, if counted from July 28.  But who’s counting?

Sadly, the traffic fatalities remain well above last year independent of which metric (8 day vs. 12 day period) used.  The total of 12 this year for the eight days; previously the Patrol had been reporting 13 fatalities connected to the Sturgis rally this year, counting from July 28.

Why?  More people, more crashes seems to be the prevailing answer.  That answer seems too simplistic and certainly doesn’t root cause how to have a fatality-free rally.

The Department of Transportation counted vehicles entering Sturgis, as it has been done since 1990.  Final numbers weren’t available, but is projected to be in the 500,000 and 600,000 range.  More than the previous two years, but not as many as the record year of 2000.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles dominate the rally, but was a lot of other breaking news this year.  For example, the underwear world record attempt, failed.  Given all these side shows being reported by the media, the opening of an Indian Dealer in Sturgis and lots of foreign motorcycles in attendance the Harley dominance might be reduced.

Photo courtesy of South Dakota State News  |  Infographic courtesy of Lancetdatasciences.com 

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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