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I’m talking about the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe who are the native people of Death Valley.

Death Valley

Destination: Death Valley

With multiple weeks of nice weather, our posse departed Portland, Oregon early morning on September 17th with a cold front and threat of rain and the occasional spit of rain drops in the face. We haplessly listened to the V-Twin’s drone on as we traveled east on Interstate 84 for 426 miles.

Long delay due to overturned semi on I-84

Long delay caused by an overturned Concrete semi on I-84

We arrived in Boise late afternoon which was hosting Oktoberfest in the Basque Block part of the vibrant downtown!  We enjoyed some island fare and refreshments on the rooftop tiki patio at The Reef.  Crowds gathered in the closed off streets for authentic German biers, food and of course the occasional chicken dance.  And in what has to be one of the best Idaho cover bands — Pilot Error — rocked the crowd most of the evening.  Here is a video of the band doing a Def Leppard cover with Derek Roy as lead vocal and the awesome Roger Witt – on lead guitar.

As the evening wore on it seemed filled with young college kids who were trying hard to “be” the club scene.  Like those videos produced by I’m Shmacked.

Idaho Basin

Snake River and Great Basin area

The next morning was a continuation east on the mind-numbing straight road of Interstate 84. However, we really clicked off the miles to Twin Falls doing the freeway speed limit which is now set at 80 mph!  We rolled along and were surprised by how many 18-wheelers tried to pass us.

As a side bar, you might recall that in the mid-1970s, Congress established a national maximum speed limit by withholding highway funds from states that maintained speed limits greater than 55 mph. Do you remember the “I can’t drive 55” days?  The requirement was loosened for rural interstates in 1987 and completely repealed in 1995. As of today, 41 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Oregon state legislators who seem to know more than the average citizen about how to protect us from ourselves just recently increased some rural interstate speeds to 70 mph.  Texas is the fastest at 85 mph.

Idaho

In route to Ely, NV

But I’ve digressed.  This part of our arid motorcycle journey took us on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway which runs through the Snake River Canyon. We rode through bright green irrigated fields, crossed the Snake River, saw a waterfall spilling from the top of a high bluff, and watched windmills turning in the stiff wind.  As we headed further south on U.S. Route 93 we split the Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and part of Utah. There were mountains to the East and West, and the traffic thinned to an occasional tractor-trailer hauling freight or cattle.

Our ride ended that day in Ely, Nevada, which was founded as a stagecoach stop along the Pony Express, and later became a booming copper mining town.

We parked the bikes and enjoyed a nice dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.

On the Lonliest Road

On Nevada’s Loneliest Road

The following day we were up early and continued our ride south on one of Nevada’s loneliest roads.  I’m not sure about you, but I find the Nevada desert to be immensely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Even though most of the roads are flat and straight, the scenery is grand and I always enjoy the ride.

Just a few miles south of Ely is a turnoff for the Ward Charcoal ovens.  We didn’t travel down the eight miles of gravel road, but there are beehive-shaped stone kilns built by Mormons around 1876 to produce fuel for the silver and lead smelters serving the mines on Ward Mountain.  As you look across the valley at the Big Basin National Park, there is the 13,000 foot Wheeler Peak standing off in the distant.

More Lonely Road...

More Lonely Road…

We traveled the mostly straight 240+ miles and finally rolled into North Las Vegas and could see the skyline of the famous Las Vegas strip.  Speaking of the city that never sleeps, our posse picked up a lot of traffic at the U.S. 93/I-15 interchange and were immediately greeted with a dude on a sport bike weaving in and out of lanes.  Then adding to the traffic drama he started to split lanes at full on freeway speeds.

I must have missed that part of the training about how motorcyclists should always make sudden moves in heavy traffic!  Most people who’ve had any experience driving in and around Vegas know that it can be a bit treacherous. Cages with locals that always seem to be in a hurry and cabbies are out in force all day and night driving fast and cutting across multiple lanes.  Add to that the tourists trying to navigate a new city on the freeways and it’s a perfect storm of distracted drivers.

After all the traffic hustle and bustle I was looking forward to parking the bike for awhile and relaxing around the pool for a day.  That evening we took on the “clickers” (i.e. porn panderers) who stand on every corner of the Strip and aggressively try to shove advertisements for adult entertainment in your face.

Selfie

Departing Las Vegas

Don’t take me wrong, Las Vegas has world-class restaurants, cool bars, amazing entertainment and great weather, but after a couple of days of breathing air freshener the casinos pump into their ventilation systems to mask the reeking of camels, cigarillos, cigars and those slot machines going ding-ding-ding… I’m ready for some fresh air and wind in the face!

We did have an opportunity to walk through the sprawling Harley-Davidson dealer across from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.  We checked out the new Milwaukee Eight touring bikes and spent some time chatting with a knowledgeable sales person about the 2017 differences.


It wasn’t too long (about 48 hours) and Las Vegas was in our mirrors as we rode out into the desert on Hwy 160.  We departed the city early so that we could tour through Death Valley before it got too hot.  It was still in the high-70 degree range as we departed.  We increased altitude going through Red Rock Canyon National Park toward Pahrump as the desert landscape morphs from sandy, rocky terrain dotted with low brush and creosote bushes.  Big stratified rock formations and hills define the valleys in the distance, closing in on the road periodically before opening up to a wide expanse of flat desert floor. It’s a wonderland of muted color.
Rearward pic

Looking back on Hwy 190

We fueled up in Pahrump which is an interesting town.  Like in the rest of Nevada, gambling is legal in Pahrump, and there are several casinos to take advantage of that fact. But, unlike Las Vegas, the casinos in Pahrump are present but not dominant. They’re smaller and a little less intimidating.  There might be some wisdom in staying overnight in Pahrump instead of the hectic scene in Vegas. Certainly the traffic situation would be a lot less stressful.

At the Death Valley junction we turned west on Hwy 190 and headed for Furnace Creek where the Native American tribe known as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California are located.

Initially it was was quite comfortable, but as we descended into the valley it felt like someone was turning up an oven.  It was still early and the temps were in the high 80’s but by the time we stopped in Furnace Creek it was 100 degrees.  Surprisingly hot for the end of September, but the scenery is spectacular!

Death Valley

Death Valley – Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

It’s some of the best “landscape” on the planet that looks a bit like you’ve arrived on Mars. There’s nothing growing out there higher than your knee yet it will be forever etched in your memory as not just one of the greatest motorcycle rides ever but one of the most beautiful.  At one place in the park you can look down at one of the lowest points on earth at -280 feet in one direction and up to the highest point in the continental U.S. in another (Mt. Whitney, at 14,494).  It’s an amazing color contrast.

Existing Death Valley

Exiting Death Valley

We scurried on out of the national park and headed toward Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 395.  The first real town you come to is Lone Pine. In the early to mid 20th century, the area around Lone Pine, particularly the Alabama Hills, which lie between the highway and the Sierra range, was a popular setting for western movies.  Just west of town you’ll get another nice view of Mt. Whitney.

By the time we rode through the Inyo National Forest the desert heat had faded and we were getting hit with cooler air.  Much, much cooler as we gained altitude and it started to spit rain drops.  Not enough to soak the road or require rain gear, but enough to make it a bit uncomfortable.  Our ride on this day ended at Mammoth Lakes which is a ski and outdoor-sports town.

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Surprisingly it rained most of the night, but the sky cleared up in the early morning and we departed Mammoth Lakes with the temperature only in the high 40’s.  A brisk start to our riding day as we continued north on Hwy 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra’s.  We rode around Mono Lake, and we climbed to another 8100-foot ridge, which offers a great view back to the Mono basin before starting back down past the turn-off for Bodie.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

The last real town before your reach Nevada is Bridgeport.  We stopped at the Bridgeport Inn, for breakfast.  A nice place built in 1877 and about 23 miles from Mono Lake.  It’s a family run historic period Victorian hotel, old Irish pub, and fine dining restaurant.  After warming up a bit we continue our ride and crossed into Nevada about 50 miles after Bridgeport. Aptly named Topaz Lake covers the state line next to the highway as you cross.

We arrived in Reno for the start of Street Vibrations 2016. Downtown was rumbling with motorcycles of all shapes and sizes for the fall rally which marks the last big motorcycle rally of the season for the west. There was no shortage of vendors and having been to the event a number of times we repeated some of the events over a couple of days.

The Posse

The Destination: Timbisha Indian Country Posse

Part of the posse departed early Saturday morning and some headed out late morning to return back to Portland.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t take many photos on the return trip from Reno as I’ve been on these roads a lot over the years and just focused on riding home vs. scenery.


In summary, we traveled over 2100 miles in 8 days with no mishaps, tickets or mechanical malfunctions. What more can you ask for?

 

Street Vibrations UPDATE:  There was some disappointing  news surrounding Street Vibrations which I learned of upon my return.  Jeffrey Sterling Duke, 57, of Georgetown, Calif. was shot to death on Interstate 80 near Truckee on Saturday night.  According to law enforcement he was semi-associated with the Vagos Motorcycle Club and his Facebook page noted that he was a Green Nation Supporter.

According to officials three motorcyclists rode up to the victim and fired multiple gunshots before taking off.  It’s not clear if this shooting is associated, but you might recall that five years ago this past weekend, members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs exchanged gunfire during a deadly brawl on the floor of a casino in Sparks.

Randy Burke (Road Shows) applies some media “spin” and explains why the Street Vibrations Rally is not to be blamed for the shooting.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog
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Eastern Sierra Mountains

Eastern Sierra Mountains

We left the last blog post talking about heading to Death Valley via the eastern entrance and planning to overnight at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

When we got up it was 36 degrees in Hawthorne so, we waited for a couple of hours to let things warm up some before pointing our tires at Tonopah which is at the crossroads of US 95 and US 6.  There were some dramatic views of the snow-capped Sierra Mountains.

Highway

Highway 95

The most prominent symbol of a boom-and-bust history in Tonopah is the Mizpah Hotel at the center of the city. Built in 1907 and ’08 on the site of one of Jim Butler’s old camp sites, the five-story hotel was immediately the center of glamour and elegance in dusty, hard-working Tonopah. It had steam heat, electric lights and elevator service, and advertised itself earnestly as “The Finest Stone Hotel on the Desert.”  Some trivia about the town is that back in 1957 the reclusive/crazy billionaire Howard Hughes married Jean Peters in room 33 at the L&L Motel in Tonopah.

Tonopah

Goldfield County Court House

In 1979, after nearly 60 years of decline, Tonopah erupted in its second mining boom of the 20th century with Anaconda’s molybdenum mine north of town.  Fleets of buses hauled the men out of town to work.  And then one day the boom was over as the market for moly went so bad that even mighty Anaconda had to close down its operation and sit on its $240 million investment.

Goldfield High School

Goldfield High School

These days the nearby Tonopah Test Range (TTR) is one of the main economic foundations of the town.  There are approximately 250 military and civilian workers at TTR conducting aeronautical research and development.  It’s located in the northwestern portion of the Nellis Air Force Range in south-central Nevada and its facilities are located approximately 30 miles South East of Tonopah.  The F-117 was initially based on the Tonopah range, also known as Mellon Strip, where the F-117 Stealth fighter became operational in 1983.

Death Valley East Entrance

Death Valley East Entrance

Tonopah is clearly in a steep decline, but the 2500 or so people who call Tonopah home would probably disagree that it’s a “ghost town.”

And speaking of ghosts, the next town we rolled through was Goldfield.  Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, and it soon became the largest town in Nevada with over 30,000 people. Only 440 people remain in Goldfield now, so it’s kind of a ghost town, but people still pan for gold.  The Goldfield Hotel is said to be haunted by a lady of the evening who was chained to a radiator while giving birth by George Wingfield who owned the hotel. She died and her child was thrown down the mineshaft that the hotel was built over.  There are many web sites that talk about how you can see her in room 109 and hear her baby crying on dark nights.

Death Valley looking at Furnace Creek

Death Valley looking toward Furnace Creek

The massive old high school now stands empty and is falling down, and the castle-style Esmeralda County Court House is an architectural curiosity of the Edwardian variety, is open to visitors. Inside are the original Tiffany lamps and there is a plaque on the outside of the building about the 1902 prize fight for the Lightweight Championship of the World between Battling Nelson and Joe Gans.  It was hailed as “The Fight of the Century” and the biggest purses in the history of prize fighting: $20,000 to the champion Nelson and $10,000 to Gans, the black challenger.  The fighters battered each other for 42 punishing rounds before Nelson, bloodied and sagging, fouled Gans in a clinch.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

At Beatty, NV we headed West on Highway 374 then pointed tires onto Highway 190 as we dropped down into the northern part of Death Valley into the small way-station of Stovepipe Wells.

We got one of the last rooms at Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel which offered up terrific views of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the surrounding mountain ranges.  The people were nice, but the restaurant wasn’t anything special and the room was like a low budget Sturgis motel that included the room rate overcharges.  The rates only went higher at other locations and we were glad to have a place to throw some bags, take a shower and have some refreshments.

Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells

It was interesting place to take in the dark night sky and try to find satellites and the various planets with the naked eye passing overhead.  It’s one of only a few places in the world where you can do this.

All the cold weather in the region turned out to be a blessing down in Death Valley.  The temp’s were in the mid-80’s and we enjoyed some very nice riding in the desert.

The experience the next day was a mix of desolate desert landscape along with the Furnace Creek oasis which opened in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company.  These days it has the world’s lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level.

We rode out to the Harmony Borax Works that processed borax ore in the late 1800’s and looked at photo’s of Twenty Mule Team wagons that hauled the ore to the railhead 165 miles away.  We also rode into the area called Artist Drive. It’s an impressive place with all the multi-colored claystones from ancient ashfalls that generate the different colors formed in the mountain.

Death Valley is over 3 million acres of designated wilderness and includes hundreds of miles of trails in all directions. The terrain is as varied as it is extreme, from vast sizzling desert and rocky canyons to historic sites and snow-capped peaks.

Artist

Artist Palette on Artist Drive

We enjoyed riding around the desert floor, but it was mid-afternoon and time to leave the valley.  We pointed the tires south and proceeded toward Las Vegas via Pahrump, an “RVer’s Paradise” that is easy to reach and easy to forget.

Aquarius Hotel

Aquarius Hotel

As we got closer to Vegas the Red Rock Canyon lit up with the afternoon sun making me wish for a few more hours to visit and photograph, but we needed to cover the next 110 miles in time to meet up with the rest of the “Wolf Pack” aka the riding posse in Laughlin for dinner.

Sure, the rain and cold during the first 5 hours of the ride were hideous, but overall the ride didn’t feel rushed and in taking three days to ride down to Laughlin it allowed us plenty of time to see some terrific scenery and experience the various environments.

I’ll avoid doing an in-depth summary of the Laughlin River Run event.  We’ve all been out to Oatman and have the “been there and done that” t-shirt.  A Mohave Daily News report stated there were more than 45K bikers in town.  I think that number was inflated because cruising down Casino Drive just didn’t have the same clogged feel as previous years.  The good news is no motorcycle-related fatalities as part of the event were reported.

RoadGlide Heading East

On the RoadGlide heading East

One item I want to mention was the Friday night BBQ near Needles.  The posse attended the annual “Dave’s BBQ” on the Colorado River.  He pulls together a high quality event each year for the folks visiting Laughlin that includes grilled shrimp and tri-tip and everyone is hooked on the luscious dishes from chef Manny.  We were all licking our fingers and asking for more.  A big shout-out and thanks to the BBQ crew for pulling it all together!

It was great to see everyone and the BBQ was one of the highlights of the trip.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Death Valley Map

Death Valley Map

I’m not talking about the Miami Heat or the Glenn Frey (Eagles) song from “Beverly Hills Cop.”

Rather, the smothering dome of high pressure from Montana to Arizona that has immersed the northwest in a heat wave.  The nighttime heat is especially excessive.

And as I read about the numerous river rescues over this past weekend a story about how the mercury rocketed to 129 degrees in Death Valley National Park, which tied the record for the hottest June day anywhere in the country and reminded me of a trip to Laughlin River Run.   I wasn’t certain, but the highest temperature ever recorded on earth was 134 degrees in Death Valley in 1913.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

At any rate, we were headed to the Laughlin River Run and rode through Death Valley a couple years back (HERE).  It was the end of April, but it was hot below sea level!

We entered Death Valley from the West entrance on Highway 190.  We traveled east and there was flat and spectacular scenery with sculpted hills and shifting sand dunes.  We went from high level vistas to the below sea level and enjoyed the hottest place in the U.S.

RK-DeathValleyAbout 20 miles into the park we stopped at Father Crowley Point and ran into a group of riders from Germany.  We made another stop at Stovepipe Wells village for a photo opportunity of Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes then headed east on Daylight Pass Road to Beatty, NV.  It’s an immense area and we were in route to Las Vegas and spent little time standing still experiencing the dry heat.

I’m not a fan of riding in extreme heat and the Harley seems to have no “issue” producing high levels of engine heat even on a cool day so 100+ degree ambient temperature just adds to the discomfort.  I’ve tried mesh jackets, t-shirts and leather jackets with vents adjusted wide open.  Very little relief from evaporative cooling occurs and  I’ve learned to just carry much more water than is typical.

Photo’s taken by author.  Map courtesy of Death Valley Nat. Park.

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That would be the 30th Laughlin River Run.

The earliest inhabitants of this Colorado River Valley town were the Mojave people, but this past weekend the valley was full of Harley-Davidson riders with all the necessities (read $$ in wallets) to create a prosperous event.

With 2012 marking the 30th anniversary of the River Run there was plenty of denim and leather on display and Casino Drive even had a fresh layer of asphalt and stripping!  And not one, but two law firms specializing in motorcycle accident cases attended the event with vendor booths.

The official stats have not been released yet, but early indicators from the Laughlin Tourism Board indicate that there was a 40% jump in attendance at the annual motorcycle event and was expected to give the town a $40M boost to the local economy.  In fact, the River Run is the city’s single biggest revenue-generating event and accounts for approximately 10% of the revenue for many hotels, bars and restaurants.

Yep, law enforcement was out in force during the event and at times seemed to outnumber the motorcycle enthusiasts.  There was a stepped up “no colors” policy which was highly visible through-out the valley on electronic reader boards and on signage at the casinos.

I was a day-tripper this year and the weather couldn’t have been better with temperatures in the mid-80’s.  Besides communing with other bikers our group attended the annual “pimpin shrimp” and “pig-from-a-pit” BBQ in Needles where Dave and Manny impressed everyone with their cooking skills.

It was good people, cold refreshments and lots of fun!

Photos take by author.

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Death Valley

I can see it now…

A big room in the basement of a church.  Lots and lots of folding chairs.  Even more Styrofoam cups, the smell of badly burnt coffee in the air.  A platter of cookies that are hard as a bricks.  No one is making eye contact.  A lot of shifting feet and uncomfortable twitching of fingers that have nothing to do with themselves.  A big sign at the front of the room announcing to silence all mobile phones.

Then a person stands up:  “Hi.  My name is [fill in the blank], and I’m addicted to Facebook.”

Yeah, until last Saturday it’s been 187 days since the temperature hit 70 degrees with sunshine in Oregon!  As a result there’s been a lot of folks tethered to the “book” indoors and it’s time to ride.

This week is the Laughlin River Run (30th Anniversary) and nothing’s cooler than riding in some warm fresh desert air.

Clearly I’m due for some good weather riding and luckily I’ll get a chance to take advantage of nature’s air conditioning in Laughlin Nevada later in the week.  Due to work constraints I won’t be riding down and reporting on the trip like last year, instead I’ve had the bike shipped on a transport truck to Las Vegas and will be riding in and around the local area. We’ve got some L.A. buddies who have a place on the Colorado River outside Needles and can throw a sleeping bag unless we opt for plusher arrangements.

Every year it seems like the River Run attendance is getting smaller, but we’ll see if the 30th Anniversary brings an up-tick in people or if gas prices have riders staying closer to home.  They have Ted Nugent as a headliner which is a darn good start to any motorcycle event!

Hope to see you at the event.

Photo taken in Death Valley.

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Closure Notice at AMC

The American Motorcycle Classics (AMC) Harley-Davidson dealer in Albany, OR., is going out of business at the end of the month.  They’ve called it quits.

Years ago the business was run by John Lewis, Sr.  He retired, moved to Las Vegas and sold the business to his son, John, Jr.   The G.M. was Joe Saltarello.  Was it the poor economy?  Sure didn’t help.  Were other H-D dealers complaining how Albany was cannibalizing their business which is only good for the consumer?  Did they invest in the business?  Depends on your definition of “invest.”  Maybe John, Jr. was having problems making the payments to Sr., who may have held on to the real estate and now decided to liquidate the assets, cut his losses, sell the real estate and call it a day?   Or, maybe they were FORCED out by the H-D motor company?

Hey, now that is an interesting question.  Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above.  Who knows?  If you do know send me a note.  I’m discreet.

Here is what we do know.  Over the last two years H-D is trying to consolidate its dealerships one way or another.  H-D may have just sent a letter of retirement to Albany/John Jr.  In essence it withdraws approval for the H-D franchise.  I called and spoke to the finance manager at AMC earlier in the month and he indicated that H-D was “forcing them out.”  Similar to the Chevrolet and Chrysler dealership forced closings.  Maybe it was sour grapes, but his statement went something like “HD was demanding they expand the store” and while they had committed a half-million $$ in infrastructure investment to H-D in what could be viewed as mini “Super Store” … they just didn’t have the sales revenue for such an investment, essentially being forced out by the manufacturer.  It’s not clear if AMC was selling a reasonable volume of licensed products, but I think it’s unlikely given the location.  The finance manager also stated they were doing about half the motorcycle sales volume they once garnered 4 years ago so clearly the economy has had a relevant impact.

Businesses fail all the time so what’s the point of this post?

Well, AMC H-D is well known in the northwest for being the cheapest H-D dealer in Oregon.  If I had interest in a new motorcycle I would always call or drive down and get pricing whether it be a motorcycle or parts.  That then became my new starting price to leverage any deal at a local dealer closer to the Portland metro area.  I never did purchase a motorcycle there,  but I have 4 buddies who all purchased motorcycles during the last 2-4 years from Albany.  They obtained below MSRP on every purchase, including additional discounts on aftermarket parts and walked away saving $1000’s and big smiles!

And even though they saved all those $$’s… cheapest does not always work.  You can’t always make it up on volume and it now seems that little was dropping to the bottom line to keep the doors open and make the payments.   We’ve seen this behavior in other type businesses.  A person will throw an “open sign” up in a strip mall and offer cheap prices — way below the current market — but in less than 24 months they disappear.  It means they were not making enough money, and just screwed up the market for everyone else.

AMC H-D had a “No pancakes, No S*****t, no rock band, no bull” slogan which was essentially an anti-social slam toward other dealers who subscribe the post-sales mantra.  But you know what?  That doesn’t work for some folks.  Yeah saving a few bucks is important (always!), but many of us are motorcycle enthusiasts and are looking for a dealer that will be in business (long-term), one that’s like a social “club” to hang out, talk shop, talk custom modifications and they are willing pay a little extra $$ to have that option.  Personally I like the fact that Paradise personnel (Mike(2)) know who I am and will call me by name when I walk into the dealer.  We’re not BFF’s, but I know, that they know, that I over paid a few hundred $$ for that privilege on my last motorcycle purchase, and for me it’s more than just a money transaction – its genuine relationship building – AFTER the sale.

Maybe this is what happened at Albany?  They had “A Beautiful Mind” moment.  Did you see the movie?  In the movie Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a mathematician who won the Nobel Prize for developing the concept of non-cooperative game theory.  In case you’re not familiar with the theory, it roughly means that to make the best decisions, you have to consider the actions of your competitors.

This may sound harsh, but in my view, the AMC H-D building was “lipstick on a pig.”  Functional, but not a place you’d socialize or hang-out long.  I’ve been there in the early morning and remember how they didn’t even have coffee for customers?!  Call me Mr. shallow.  From an outside-looking-in viewpoint,  the company didn’t have much of a Facebook presence, didn’t do any blogging or customer outreach, the email system announcing sales totally sucked and defied any reasonable logic from a marketing viewpoint, and did I say the web site was dated?  At the end of the day it just didn’t look like they were putting a lot into promoting the business or appealing to those who were looking for more of a social gathering atmosphere at their local dealer.  Yeah they could “splain” that all off as low overhead giving YOU the customer the best price, but when every other dealer around you is struggling and willing to lower/match prices to compete and your shop has no amenities… you’ve cast your destiny

There are consequences other than it’s “Christmas in July” for Paradise H-D, Salem H-D and Team Latus!  There is the loss of 10-19 people who are no longer gainfully employed – and I’m not trivializing this because the folks there are hard working people and deserve better – but, PowerSports Network (powered the website) loses a customer and AMC H-D also sponsored the Pioneer H.O.G .Chapter (newsletter PDF HERE).  It was the first northwest chartered H.O.G. chapter (#4085), and it now has no home.

I’m sorry to see the dealership close and I’m sure for many of you it feels like losing an old friend.  I’m just glad I don’t have any pre-paid expensive special parts on order!

Photo courtesy of American Motorcycle Classics.

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Cold Creek Inn - Mt. Shasta (Background)

Day 1: (PDX – Mt. Shasta City)
The posse departure date for Laughlin was April 25th. Unfortunately, that morning rain came down in sheets and the wind blew like a hurricane. It is spring in the northwest after all and with the instability…showers produced a mix of rain and small hail with an occasional snow flurry back to rain.  So, rather than enjoy t-shirt riding, we enjoyed getting to know our rain gear and re-learning how to use heated gloves!  Scattered showers continued through the valley off and on, but it got warmer (maybe we were just getting use to it?) as we made our way south.

We rode straight down I-5 and it was an uneventful trip until we hit the Siskiyou pass where snow flurries started.  Fortunately nothing was sticking to the road and we continued on to Mt. Shasta City where we overnighted at the Cold Creek Inn.

Hwy 207 from South Lake Tahoe

We grabbed some dinner at Strings Italian Café and spent the evening re-packing rain gear and warming up.

Day 2: (Mt. Shasta City – Minden, NV)
Temperatures continued to be cold (sub-freezing) when we woke, but the sun was shining which helped thaw out the heavy frost on the bikes.

We plugged in and headed south down I-5 to Red Bluff.  In the first hour we crossed over Lake Shasta.  Bright blue sky with deep blue water made for some awesome photos unfortunately I never stopped to take any pictures.   I’ll add that to my bucket list.  The lake for all practical purposes look full.  And there is still a lot of construction on the I-5 roadway in and around the bridge.  After arriving in Red Bluff we took Hwy 99 South to Los Molinos and Chico.  We proceed south on Hwy 99/162 past the Oroville Wildlife Area to Yuba City then toward Lake of the Woods State Wildlife to Sacramento.  We did a bit of looping in the area and finally made our way east to Folsom on Hwy 50 or the El Dorado Fwy.

Minden, NV - Looking at South Lake Tahoe

We rolled thru Pollock Pines then the Eldorado National Forest via Hwy 50 then Hwy 89/50 thru South Lake Tahoe.  The temperatures remained cool through the 4500-5000 foot level of the national forest and while the road was dry there remained large amounts of snow in the ditches.  We fueled up in South Lake Tahoe and proceeded onto Hwy 207 which runs up and over the mountain after plenty of switchbacks to Minden, NV where we overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express.

Minden is located near the center of Carson Valley and about 15 miles south of Carson City.  We grab dinner at the Carson Valley Inn (Katie’s Country Kitchen) after learning that the CV Steak house closed shop on Tuesdays.

After dinner we were still chilled to the bone with a couple days of electric gloves so we hit the hot tub in the hotel and that seemed to permanently correct the “chilled” situation for the rest of the trip.

Mono Lake

Day 3: (Minden – Las Vegas)
The next morning continued on a bit of a warming trend as we picked up Hwy 395 and headed south.  We meandered along the valley floor and crossed back over the state line into CA., near Topaz Lake.  It was early but fishing boats dotted the lake I suppose to take a shot at capturing another trophy trout.

Bridgeport was the first fuel stop of the morning and where we paid about $25 to fill a 5-gallon motorcycle tank!   Not well know, but Bridgeport hosts the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC).  It’s one of the most remote and isolated military posts and conducts training exercises for military personnel headed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The base is located about 21 miles from the city center on Hwy 108 at Pickle Meadow, but we chatted up some guys in a non-descript white standard issue military van.

Sierra Mountain Range - Hwy 395

As we rode on it wasn’t long before we caught our first glimpse of Mono Lake.  “Mono” means “beautiful” in Piute and besides being an oasis in the great basin it is an awesome sight.  As we continued around Mono Lake we quickly climbed to another 8100-foot ridge where aspen forest dotted the landscape and then we started back down the to the valley floor.  We continued south and near Crestview is a turnoff on Hwy 203.  For many in southern CA., this is the road to Mammoth Lakes and a ski resort.

We ate lunch at a local Denny’s in Bishop, the unofficial capital of Owens Valley and the biggest town on Hwy 395 south of Reno.  The town sits at about 4000 feet, but just a few minutes prior to arriving we were nearly at 9000 feet.  On the way into Bishop I remember looking off east and seeing a large radar array.  I didn’t recall seeing any information and always on the lookout for something new I researched it on my return.  It’s the CARMA Deep Space Satellite Dish Array Complex and turns out to be one of the largest university operated radio observatories in the world known as the Owens Valley Radio Observatory.  Who knew?!

Death Valley

We continued on and arrived in Lone Pine which is between the highway and the Sierra range and was popular for filming western movies.  In fact we passed the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film history and enjoyed a spectacular view of Mt. Whitney (14,494 ft) which is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states.  We took Hwy 190 east which runs though Death Valley National Park.

We entered Death Valley from the west entrance on Hwy 190 and traveled east.  The 3.3 million acres of spectacular scenery with sculpted hills and shifting sand dunes.  We went from high level vistas to the below sea level and enjoyed the hottest place in N.A.  About 20 miles into the park we stopped at Father Crowley Point and ran into a group of riders from Germany.  It seems to me that we end up chatting with folks from Germany about every year in the desert because they ride rented H-D’s with Florida plates.  Last year we met a group riding in the Grand Canyon with snow.  We made another stop at Stovepipe Wells village and another photo opportunity of Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes then headed east on Daylight Pass Road to Beatty, NV., as we needed to make some miles after meandering around in the park.

Below Sea Level

At Beatty we headed south on Hwy 95.  About an hour outside Las Vegas near Indian Springs I saw a big shadow roll over me from the sky and at first I was thinking it was a bird.  I looked back over my left shoulder and it turned out to be a Predator drone making circles in a landing pattern at Creech AFB.  The base use to be called Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, but was changed a few years ago and it’s now home to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and the 432d Wing “Hunters.”

We arrived in Las Vegas and bedded down in the “Hangover Suite” at the MGM.  I kid you not the hotel gave us a mid-week deal on the suite that cost the same as a normal room. We were living life large… at least for one night.

Laughlin Aquarius Hotel/Casino

Day 4: Laughlin
We hit it a bit hard the night before… some a lot more than others… and as a result we made a leisurely mid-day departure out of Vegas and headed toward Laughlin on Hwy 95.  At the Boulder City/Laughlin junction we did an inventory of fuel thinking we could make Searchlight without any issues.  We hadn’t planned on the fierce headwind and as a result my bike ran out of fuel about 7 miles to soon.  We leveraged a tube from one of the tool kits and used a water bottle to transfer some gas from one of the newer bikes which have 6+ gallon fuel tanks.  According to H-D the “check-engine” light which was triggered by the lack of firing due to fuel issue will re-set after about 50 starts and work normal.  I may need to go in and just have them reset it… assuming the cost is minimal to free?

After approximately 1200 miles we finally arrived at the Laughlin River Run and Aquarius Hotel/Casino in time to park our bikes, grab a refreshment and take in a few vendor booths.

The BBQ Crew

Our original plan was to crash at a buddies place in Needles on sleeping bags, but on a whim we decided to check room availability at the Aquarius.  They had rooms, be it 5X the standard budget rate on any other week, but our age group isn’t fond of sleeping bags and hard floors so we opted for plusher surroundings and paid the elevated rates.  Yeah, we’re lame, but showers are nice every couple days!

Summary
Over the next couple days we meandered around the local area, hit the pool once and chatted up the new motorcycle products with vendors and attended a couple of BBQ’s put on by one of our buddies friends from L.A.  First came Big Ed’s BBQ in Bull Head City with authentic Mexican dishes, Fajitas, Spanish rice and other seasoned food that melted in your mouth.  Then there was Big Dave’s in Needles on the Colorado River…   there were dry rubs, spicy pastes and marinated flavor that permeated the meats and provided a wonderful taste.  The shrimp was a killer with the wide range of heat from differing chilies.  Major shout out to the L.A. posse for the awesome hospitality!!

The "Van Down By The River"

Due to work constraints I had to have my bike shipped back to Oregon and caught a flight home late Sunday (May 1), but other members of the posse did a two day return.  Back-to-back nearly 600 mile days means they get the tired butt award!

I would be remiss if I didn’t make a comment about attendance or the Mongol MC.  The Aquarius seemed to be ‘home base’ for many of the members and the valet area had a number of tables with a mini-bar set up to refresh patrons.  The Aquarius had implemented a “no colors” policy that prohibited members of any biker club from displaying their membership patches while in the casino. And some “guests” apparently weren’t aware of the policy and wore colors but, they agreed to comply once they were informed by casino staff.  Indeed there was a large and very visible Metro Police contingent at the hotel as well.

Full On Shrimp...

I’m pleased to report that while motorcycle clubs of all dispositions turned out for the River Run, none caused any major problems for either the casinos or the police this year.  Sure the Aquarius management made the call to restrict casino access to registered guests only from about 6 pm- to-midnight Saturday, but rumors were overblown or simply untrue that motorcycle clubs were the issue.  The hotel made the decision earlier in the afternoon after observing that guests were having difficulty accessing parking lots, games and restaurants due to the sheer volume of visitors and put up the restriction.  As a guest I can tell you it help moved people in and out of the property and performed much better than previous years I’ve stayed at Harrah’s where arm badges and motorcycle passes wasted a lot of time getting off property.

Looking Back At A Great Road Trip

It’s true that attendance was observably down.  Yet, it felt plenty busy vs. jammed up or crowded.  I’m not sure if it was the weather (cooler/windy than normal) or economic as fuel prices approached $5/gallon at many locations.   In my viewpoint the cooler weather helped keep people in the vendor booths — buying — as you weren’t looking for shade or AC to avoid the heat.  If you attended and have some ideas on why attendance was down let me know.

The official stats from this report indicate that arrests were down (31 arrests vs. 34 in 2010).  Six were arrested and charged with felonies including drug possession and grand larceny.  Police issued 199 traffic citations vs. 229 in 2010.

All in all it was a really successful rally/weekend.

Photos taken by author.

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