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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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DRONE-GUYKnown as “remotely piloted aircraft” or “RPAs” in military parlance, drones may well have a coming out party at this years 75th Sturgis rally.

Ellsworth Air Force Base is located approximately 10 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota and about 30 miles from Sturgis. The 432nd Attack Squadron has 195 personnel dedicated to piloting drones to conduct surveillance.  It’s primarily focused on flying in foreign countries, but there are many different drones in the Air Force’s inventory and the question about use as a law enforcement tool during the Sturgis motorcycle rally was recently floated.

Drone_cover_imageI’m talking about something less threatening than the MQ-9 Reaper in the Sturgis sky, but something that will include live-feed video cameras, heat sensors and radar.

Advocates claim they can be used to quickly respond and solve medical problems, help untangle vandalism incidents, protect the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash that transact each night with vendors, catch illegal behavior, and provide documentation for law enforcement.

Is 2015 the year of aerial drone surveillance during the Sturgis Rally?

20130515_drone2_33Well consider the fact that Arial land survey by drone is already in process in South Dakota.  The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is training students to use drones for rescue and hostage situations and South Dakota currently has no Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Legislation preventing the skies from being used for drone flight.

And then if you look just across the state border to North Dakota, a family was arrested with the assistance of a Predator drone.  Rodney Brossart was sentenced to three years in prison, of which all but six months was suspended, for a June 2011 incident in which police attempted to arrest him over his failure to return three cows from a neighboring farm that had strayed on to his property.  Mr. Brossart’s sons were located by a border-surveillance Predator borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which enabled local police to safely apprehend them, according to local newspapers or as reported by the LA Times.

Still skeptical?  Here are some additional drone facts:

  • Between 2005 and 2012, the amount in contracts the federal government awarded for drones: at least $12 billion.
  • Number of companies that are now in the drone business: more than 1,000.
  • Number of private-sector and government requests to fly drones that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved since 2007: 1,428.
  • Number of police departments that have asked the FAA for permits to fly drones: 12.
  • Number of commercial drones that the FAA predicts will be flying in domestic airspace by 2017: 10,000.
  • Price of a drone-proof hoodie being sold by the British company Stealth Wear, which also offers drone-proof scarves and burqas: $481

The question of whether aerial surveillance requires a warrant is ambiguous, with some court rulings ­including a 1986 Supreme Court decision ­allowing warrantless surveillance, while other rulings have found it to be unconstitutional.

Unmanned-aircraft-Coming-to-a-sky-near-youThere was a time when aerial surveillance was so expensive that privacy was a minor issue. But now drones are relatively cheap and can be equipped with sophisticated sensors, so they can vacuum up large amounts of camera imagery and other data, in the same way that advances in computers and communications enable the NSA to collect huge amounts of data from telephones and the Internet.

Law enforcement will clearly advocate that drones support most all of the “unobjectionable” police raids.  However, how long will it be before networks of linked drones and computers “gain the ability to automatically track multiple motorcycles and bodies as they move around a city,” much as the cell phone network hands calls from one tower to the next. The authorities would then combine drone video and cell phone tracking to build up databases of people’s routine comings and goings—databases they can then mine for suspicious behavior.

drones-shropshire-gettyv2And here I thought states using federal highway safety grants to fund discriminatory Motorcycle-only checkpoints was government over reach.

Most people who ride and stay in Sturgis know they are being financially exploited and that today’s “hard-core” Sturgis rider is grayer, and is much better behaved.  None of this is new.  What is new, is the potential use of drone surveillance which is teetering on a privacy razor’s edge.

Note: Oregon’s HB 2710 defines a drone as an unmanned flying machine, not including model aircraft. The law allows a law enforcement agency to operate a drone if it has a warrant and for enumerated exceptions including for training purposes. It also requires that a drone operated by a public body be registered with the Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA), which shall keep a registry of drones operated by public bodies. The law grants the DOA rulemaking authority to implement these provisions. It also creates new crimes and civil penalties for mounting weapons on drones and interfering with or gaining unauthorized access to public drones. Under certain conditions a landowner can bring an action against someone flying a drone lower than 400 feet over their property.  In addition, Oregon was chosen as one of six UAS test sites by the FAA.   More UAS information HERE.

Photos courtesy of internet.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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US-FlagGrilling, pool parties and retail discounts.  I’m talking about Memorial Day!

This coming Monday is a day to remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

So as you cue-up your music playlist for a ride on this holiday and/or prep the BBQ’s to spend time with family and friends, it’s important that we take a moment to pause and remember our fallen heroes.

If you’re looking for Oregon Memorial Day events to participate in then visit HERE.

Photo taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Last spring I happen to be in Hollywood on a work gig and got a Sunset Gower Studio tour.  Sunset Gower has been part of the Hollywood film history since there was a Hollywood.

While wandering through the writers’ suites and the studio lot I walked down this hallway and came across an Easy Rider poster.  The Sunset Gower sound stages were used for the movie.

No one could have predicted that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s small budget film, fueled by motorcycles and amazing music would redefine pop culture.

In fact, it’s impossible to even think about this film without the opening riff of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” echoing in your head.  In the movie industry, it’s rare that a film and its soundtrack break through to the masses.  Easy Rider was an incredible success commercially and culturally (it inspired an entire genre and a hundred knockoffs), and the impact of the soundtrack was revolutionary.

“The idea was to have the music which accompanies the cross-country cycling scenes reflect current times,” Peter Fonda told Rolling Stone in 1969. By compiling prerecorded tracks and music specifically created for the film to make a “musical commentary” and companion to the movie.

IMG_2785Additionally, the Easy Rider soundtrack laid the groundwork for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Pink Floyd-led Zabriske Point the following year and nearly every classic film soundtrack of the next four decades, from Singles to Forrest Gump to Drive.

The soundtrack paints a picture of the counterculture on the brink of the Seventies.   Steppenwolf’s get-on-your-bike-and-ride anthem along with the bluesy dealer epic “The Pusher,” and the classic cuts from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Holy Modal Rounders and the Byrds (whose Roger McGuinn also scored the film) makes an epic film.

As the story goes, Bob Dylan was recruited by Peter Fonda to pen the film’s theme “Ballad of Easy Rider,” (soundtrack) and after jotting out a few lines, told the actor to give the lyrics to McGuinn to flesh out.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Sunset Gower Studio and Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Corner Saloon

Corner Saloon

As the nation pauses today to remember the lives lost 13 years ago…

I’m reminded of how many times I have ask or answered the question, “Where were you on September 11?

The typical answer is geographical. Meaning, where you were physically attributes to your Sept. 11 comprehension or experience, of course, but try reflecting on where you were mentally and the emotions you felt in the aftermath.

On that awful day like most, I was angry and confused and to be candid some helplessness did seep in.

Thirteen years later my resolve has waned a bit and it’s getting harder to remember a time when we haven’t been at war or gearing up for “counter-insurgency.”  Sure there is ample room for debate on how and why America got to where it is today, but on this day I’m feeling sadness about the thousands of people who died on Sept. 11 and the thousands more since. I’m sad for the families who lost so much, and the Americans who have perished.

Corner Saloon Field

Corner Saloon Field

Yesterday the good folks at Paradise H-D and the Corner Saloon put their talented marketing minds together and along with a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts we joined together at “Taco Wednesday” to remember the 9/11 anniversary and honor those who choose to serve our great country.

Thank you for your service!

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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75th-Sturgis-LogoThe event has come a long way since it was known as the Black Hills Classic when Clarence “Pappy” Hoel, and some friends from the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club, decided to hold a racing event.

It’s now known as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the 74th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in the books.  

Below are the law enforcement statistics as of 6:00 a.m. Sunday August 10, 2014

14-Sturgis-Stats

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the worlds largest and next year is the 75th Anniversary.  This will undoubtably ensure that attendance will break previous records. There is even a special 75th logo being rolled out for such a legendary event and will be emblazoned on every imaginable piece of merchandise for you to spend some cash.

You can thank Paul Resnick of Hot Leathers who designed the logo for the 75th Anniversary. Hot Leathers is the primary licensee for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. 

Previous Sturgis statistics are HERE.

Photo courtesy of Hot Leathers and Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, inc. (SMRi) 

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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