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Hamsters Logo on Fuel Tank

Hamsters Logo on Fuel Tank

In the Andes, guinea pigs have a festival devoted to them, which includes contests for the biggest, fastest and best-dressed furry friend.  A Hamster fest has yet to be founded, unless you’re thinking of the motorcycle group?!

The Hamsters’ Motorcycle Club (HMC) is an elite and somewhat secret group of motorcycle riders.  Charter members were Arlen Ness, Dave Perewitz, Donnie Smith, Ed Kerr, Jim Leahy, Barry Cooney and Steve Allington.  A who’s who of the motorcycle industry!  It began in 1978 at Daytona Bike Week.   As the story goes Jim “Jimmy” Leahy and others were in the Mystic Sea Hotel.  They were taking a nap and when they woke up no one was around.  No money, no food and peeved about being ditched Jimmy started calling them Hamsters.  He drew pictures of Hamsters on a bunch of paper plates and wrote Hamsters M/C on each of them.  Before placing them on doors he personalized the names of the charter members.  The idea was it would aggravate his posse, but instead they all laughed about it and the name stuck.  Jimmy went and had black shirts with white letters made up that said Hamsters M/C.  Later the MC was dropped and they call themselves enthusiasts.

Hamster_LogoThe rodent stuck as the mascot which graces bright yellow t-shirts.  The club is selective about new members, but it includes blue collar workers to doctors.  You don’t just join the club.  You must ride with the group 6-7 years and then you’ll receive an invitation to join. There are now 240 members with chapters as far away as Italy, England and Japan.  These days the Hamsters are about as opposite you can get from the outlaw bad guy clubs.

It takes three things to become a Hamsters member:

  1. Owning a custom bike
  2. Riding a custom bike to South Dakota’s Sturgis rally with the group, at least two years in a row
  3. Receiving an invitation to join by another member

The Hamsters have ridden to Sturgis for 25 consecutive years and never followed the same route.  The Spearfish Holiday Inn has served as the Hamsters’ headquarters for several years although approximately 20+ Hamsters purchased townhouses behind the hotel known as Hamster Hill Lane.  The annual dues are $100 and Hamsters who don’t attend at least one function each year are voted out.  Some years there are no new members allowed into the club. Some years there are as many as seven. The average is two.

The Hamsters are famous for a lot things, but two notable items I wanted to bring to your attention is the Hulett Ham-n-Jam in the land of no overpasses (Wyoming on the way to Devil’s Tower) and their generosity and major fundraising for charitable functions.  Many of the Hamsters are world-renowned motorcycle and motorcycle parts builders who donate items to be auctioned off at charity events.  The group’s generosity and ability to raise funds/donations is staggering.

I would be negligent if I didn’t also mention the high profile and weird coincidence of Bruce Rossmeyer (Daytona H-D) and Clifton “Click” Baldwin (Carolina H-D).  Both Harley-Davidson dealer owners, both on the way to the Sturgis Rally riding from dealer meetings, both members of the Hamsters Motorcycle Club/Group, both in deadly motorcycle accidents (Wyoming and Montana respectively) while passing a vehicle turning left on a two lane country highway.  Both passed away one year apart, neither were wearing helmets and both accidents were reportedly misjudgments.  It’s truly sad and a tremendous loss for the communities and families.

I’m reminded of the prophetic Marvin Gaye song “Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying…”  Let’s hope for better days ahead…

Photo of courtesy of Hamsters.

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St. Mary Lake - Glacier

St. Mary Lake - Glacier

If you’ve never driven a motorcycle on the Going-to-the-Sun road it’s clearly one of the top 10 national park experiences you should have.

We rolled out early on the “Sun Road,” as it’s known, and were treated to views that exceeded the Canadian Rockies.  Largely because the cloud coverage made way for some spectacular open air views in the various pull outs.  There is significantly less traffic (shuttle buses and tourists) when traversing the park East to West.   We didn’t have to contend with crowds at any of the prime view pullouts.

H-D on the "Sun Road" - Glacier

H-D on the "Sun Road" - Glacier

From pockets of thick, forest lining the many lakes to Logan Pass to the mountain-goat-crowded alpine high country and then back down to West Glacier on the park’s western border…  the road offers a visual assortment of outdoor views that anyone will enjoy.  The “Sun Road,” which initially was called the “Transmountain Highway,” rolls through the Crown of the Continent and offers up some road entertainment.   It’s narrow, precipitous in places, and in a constant state of repair due to the annual freeze-thaw cycle.

Glacier Mountain Flowers

Glacier Mountain Flowers

It wasn’t always clear that the “Sun Road” would follow its current path. There were debates over the best routing of a cross-park road. Some wanted it to run all the way to Waterton Lakes in British Columbia, and others were arguing for it to go by Gunsight Pass.  In the end the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (the precursor to today’s Federal Highway Administration) decided the current route made the most sense. Once that decision was made, National Park Service landscape architects worked with Bureau of Public Roads engineers to, as much as possible, blend the road into the mountain environment.  The road is truly an engineering marvel and is a National Historic Landmark.  It spans about 50 miles through the parks interior and winds around mountainsides and cliffs.  Planners insisted that the bridges, retaining walls, and guardrails be made of native materials and to this day that mind-set prevails.

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

We pulled off at the Logan Pass visitor center.  This area is pinched tightly between Clements Mountain and the southern tip of the Garden Wall, and offers up terrific views that carries the Continental Divide through the park’s interior. Farther north are the bulk of the park’s glaciers and you soon realize that it would take a lifetime to really know everything that the park has to offer.  Many of the park visitors motor up the pass aboard a Red Jammer, one of Glacier’s renowned fire engine-red, open-air touring buses that debuted in 1937.  Supposedly they gained their nickname for the way drivers “jammed” their way through the gears.

The Red Jammer

The Red Jammer

We made our way down to West Glacier where it looks like time has stood still in this remote corner of Montana.  The log buildings haven’t changed much since they were built in 1938.  Any “inappropriate development” has been curtailed and the village has maintain its historic character.  There was a lunch break in Kalispell and we had a great drive along Flathead Lake and rolling farmlands.  The weather was comfortable as scattered clouds floated along the mountain range.  We were making good time for a layover in Missoula.

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Just after St. Ignatius we connected with Hwy 200 and about 20 miles prior to I-90 we hit major road construction.  It was as if the contractor won every bid to re-surface the road, rebuild water culverts and widen bridges.  It was massive and to be candid riding a weighted down motorcycle on very loose and deep gravel was intense.  The “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution” was an understatement!

We finally arrived in Missoula and met up with the other half of the posse from when we split paths in Canada.  Dinner and refreshments at MacKenzie River Pizza Company was a great break as we compared riding route and construction stories.

The next morning all I could think of was — No forest fires here!

Road Construction

Road Construction

This is usually the season for hot, dust-dry and smokey air in Western Montana.  Maybe an occasional thunder shower with little rain, but lots of fire-starting lightening.  However, our Missoula departure was met with flash-flood pouring rain.  We’re talking a wet-to-the-bone soaker!  Even with a full-face helmet it was miserable as we experienced 167 miles of heavy rain on I-90.  It didn’t stop until we exited in Coeur D’ Alene and was a half-hour into eating our lunch at a Denny’s!  I experienced for the first time rain gear seepage and damp jeans.  WTF?!  Sure that amount of rain qualifies as a season-ending event to the wildfires, but it was so intense and broad across the state that even I was looking for a culprit… maybe that hydrocarbon use is REALLY to blame for the glacier shortening and sea level rise which in turn effected the rings around the sun and the atmospheric motorcycle riding conditions in Montana?  A quick iPhone WeatherBug scan indicated that Spokane was at the edge of any possible rain and we decided it was time to head as directly as possible to sunnier sky’s.  By the time we hit Ritzville then south on Hwy395 toward the tri-cities it was re-hydration time and the layers started to peel off.  After several more wind surfing riding hours through the gorge we made it home.

Posse Pizza Dinner

Posse Pizza Dinner

A couple of closing thoughts on this great 8-day, ~2000 mile ride. The internet is for sharing.  It’s where we go to reveal our thoughts and describe experiences.  When going on a motorcycle road trip you encounter an array of fascinating landscapes, people and structures.  This trip brought with it some weather challenges for which we were mostly prepared and we adjusted to them.  There was also a lot of terrific riding, fun and now a historical travelogue.  At the end of the day, when you get home, it’s about having a few moments away from the daily routine and being able to share those memories with friends and family.  Thanks to the posse for a great time!

The 107 to 47 Journey — Part One HERE; Part Two HERE; Part Three HERE

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Banff Departure - Wet and Cold

Banff Departure - Wet and Cold

When rain begins flowing off the front and back of your motorcycle helmet you can’t help but have a dampened riding spirit, but there is a saying in Alberta… “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

Well we waited several minutes, but the early morning departure out of Banff didn’t change the hard cold facts.  It was 47 degrees and wet!   Where did this damn winter weather come from?   Indeed there were ominous black clouds circling around the town and after we fueled up and traveled 10 minutes down the road they busted loose.  We were not caught unaware.  Parking under an overpass we climbed into full rain gear.  Yet, the steady downpour seemed to soak everything.

Frank Slide - Frank, Alberta

Frank Slide - Frank, Alberta

We determined our rain gear was worth every penny, but hardly a fashion statement as we fumbled around trying to get it all on.  They are typically a bit musty smelly after being rolled up for months, heavy to wear and somewhat long, but they did the trick and kept us dry.  The good news in all of this?   After about 30 minutes and before we reached Radium Hot Springs the rain was history, the road had dried out and we spent time discussing wildlife (Coyote, Deer etc) seen in route through Kootenay National Park.  Despite being named after a radioactive element the hot springs has none and is has the largest pool of 103 degree water in Canada.  As cold as the day started it was most difficult not to check in and grab a few hours in the hot spring!

Border - Chief Mountain

Border - Chief Mountain

Exiting Radium the posse split up.  Part of the crew wanted to travel more miles and make it to the “Going to the Sun Road” in St. Mary, Montana.  Others wanted to steer clear of any rain and elected to navigate toward a more southerly and warmer route to Cranbrook and then to Missoula, MT.

We were part of the “more miles” crew and the cold weather limited our sightseeing and photo stops, but a couple items stood out.  First was the Frank Slide in Frank, Alberta.  Frank is a coal mining town in the Crowsnest Pass.  Back in the early 1900’s the east side of Turtle Mountain broke free and the slab of limestone rock covered 1.5 miles destroying most of the town and killing 76 people.  It’s now a regional tourist attraction.  The second was tucked away in the rugged mountains — the little town of Fernie, BC.  It is fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains and has a ski resort (Fernie Alpine Resort) with the highest annual snowfall of any resort in the Canadian Rockies.

St. Mary Lodge and Resort - St. Mary, MT

St. Mary Lodge and Resort - St. Mary, MT

We crossed the Elk River, home of the cutthroat trout and forged on toward Pincher Creek, Twin Butte and through the Waterton Lakes National Park.  Finally we rolled into the U.S. border crossing at the tiny Chief Mountain Alberta/Montana outpost on Highway 6 (Alberta) and Highway 17 (Montana).  After riding for hours in very remote, very wooded and very sparsely populated areas, one is reminded that you’re on the world’s longest undefended border. It’s a catchy yet increasingly imprecise term for the U.S.-Canada frontier.  The northern border is mostly out of the spotlight.  As authorities on both sides ratchet up efforts to curb bustling traffic in illegal drugs and guns it’s odd that the U.S.-Mexico border draws far more attention — and more American resources.  But again I’ve wandered…

St. Mary Lodge Cabin

St. Mary Lodge Cabin

At about 6pm local we arrived at the Saint Mary Lodge on junction Hwy89 and the “Going to the Sun Road” which runs through Glacier National Park (Montana).  It was a long riding day.  Fortunately we’d made reservations weeks in advance and secured the remaining cabins vs. a replica Indian tepee.  The place was fully booked!  There was no cell phone service and the Hughes Net Satellite internet was malfunctioning… so, we were off the tweet grid!  Side note: if you plan to go this route an alternative is to stay in Pincher Creek, Alberta where they had several motels and you won’t have to make reservations months in advance for the Park service lodge. Had we known this we would have avoided the rustic cabin adventure.

After grabbing some fairly good grub at the Snowgoose Grill we crashed with four TV channels looking forward to the next days ride through Glacier park.

The 107 to 47 Journey – Part One HERE; Part Two HERE; Part Four HERE.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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custer gravesI like spirited debate and don’t shy away from conflict and this is a bit longer than many of my posts so, I apologize up front for those of you looking for instant gratification.

One topic where the “elephant” in the room needs to be introduced and brought out into the light of day is the issue of motorcycle fatalities.

I dislike being morbid, but there are motorcycle trends that we should stop and take notice of:

  • Motorcycles represent 2.5% of all registered vehicles but 11.3% of traffic deaths.Motorcyclists ages 50 and older who die in wrecks has grown from 14% to 24% since 1997.
  • Motorcycle ownership among riders aged 40 and over has increased dramatically, from 15.1% in 1980 to 43.7% in 1998.45% of motorcycle drivers killed in traffic crashes were not wearing helmets.
  • Engine displacement of motorcycles involved in fatal crashes have increased, from ave. engine size of 769cc in 1990 to 959cc in 2001.In 2005, the motorcycle fatality rate was 73 per 100K registered motorcycles compared with 13.7 per 100K passenger vehicles.
  • Speeding are bigger factors in fatal crashes of Supersport and Sport bikes compared with other classes of motorcycles – 4X higher.

This data connects with the Harley buying demographic and rider assumptions of the boomer generation. Houston we have a problem! From celeb wrecks to average Joes getting older the incidents have jumped, even if little noticed in the media especially here in Oregon. For the last 3+ years all the articles written about motorcycle accidents include some type of statement to the effect of “financially secure baby boomers looking for adventure” are the main cause of serious accidents resulting from inexperienced riders combined with more powerful motorcycles. Blah, blah, blah…

This type of reporting is boring and somewhat irresponsible! There is little to connect the two unless you compare Sport Bikes which attract the below 30 something demographic. And if older people have decreased motor skills then why aren’t there increases in automobiles accidents due to increasing horse power? Yet many media outlets claim riders are killing themselves due to rookie inexperience. Yet the accidents continue

The latest internet searches provided the following:

  • On Friday, October 26th, there was a fatal crash on Oregon 217. It was the middle of the day, clear skies, dry road and in the mid-60’s (which in itself is unusual for a Northwest winter!) when Craig E. Lewis (Camas, WA), 61, motorcyclist rear-ended a car in the south bound lane. The Tigard police (Jim Wolf , spokesperson) stated that the motorcyclist was making a lane change and didn’t notice that traffic had stopped.
  • Then early October an organized “ride” to a biker funeral from Medford to Portland turned deadly when three people were injured North of Salem in a motorcycle crash. The large group of motorcyclists were northbound on Interstate 5 as part of an organized ride. Near milepost 265 northbound, 37-year old Patrick H. Lucas of Molalla, was on the northbound shoulder on his motorcycle, waiting to join the ride. According to witnesses, the group slowed down to allow Lucas to fall in the back of the pack, but he instead attempted to merge into the middle of the group. He hit 69-year old Jerry W. Worthington of Butte Falls, Montana and they both went down. A third motorcycle ridden by 60-year old John H. Jensen of Wilderville, Oregon collided with the first two and a fourth motorcycle driven by 56-year old Patrick A Treece of Coos Bay, ran over the wreckage.
  • And back in September, a lady died and the passenger was injured on Oregon 219 south of Newberg. Carolyn Caylor, 51, of Okanogan, Wash., was killed and Shel Rae Claddagh, 38, of Canby was injured. The two were found by Caylor’s husband and stepson, who were on other motorcycles in the three-cycle tour, about six miles north of Newberg. The cycles were about a quarter-mile apart and the relatives went back to look for the women when their three-wheel 1994 Honda Goldwing disappeared. They were found down a 40-foot embankment after the motorcycle missed a sharp left curve.

I feel very sorry for all these families. I truly do. I don’t know the situation for sure, but nationally the accident data tells a story that judgement errors are making it more and more deadly to be a motorcyclist. This is alarming to me as I like the open road and it might be something our posse will want to get involved or address?

The Oregonian recently reported that the number of registered motorcycles rose 61 percent from 1995 to 2005, from 3.8 million to 6.1 million. The number increased 83 percent in Oregon during the same period, from 59,468 to 108,958.

This is a useless statistic. More bikes on the roads, more accidents – duh! Stats are a tricky thing. To understand the fatalities there would need to be collision reconstruction to identify crash causation (cause analysis) and recognition experts to help identify if alcohol and/or drug impaired the driver etc., for every motorcycle accident. Things like speed, road conditions, urban vs. rural setting etc. are needed to assess trends. And if the stats are higher for those riding high-performance sport bikes vs. cruisers. The reports don’t do this, rather they measure the broad fatality rates, as measured by deaths per 10,000 registered motorcycles and per million vehicle miles traveled. This number has steadily climbed while at the same time the overall motor vehicle fatality rate has fallen. Troy Costales, administrator of ODOT’S Traffic Safety Division, said there are about three motorcycle fatalities in rural Oregon for every one in an urban setting. The No. 1 cause, he said, was excessive speed going into corners.

It’s not just Oregon. In Montana more motorcycles are on the roads too. There are now about 80,000 bikes, which is compared to about 50,000 in 2005. This year in Montana 34 people have died in motorcycle crashes which compares to 27 last year. If you look outside the region in Iowa the upturn in Deer movements accounted for 10 deaths in Iowa – 9 of the 10 were not wearing helmets. And in South Carolina they are on a pace to exceed the 106 fatalities of last year. Even Michele Obama (wife of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) campaign van collided with a motorcycle on a two-lane country road in central Iowa on October 9th. Fortunately it only sent the motorcyclist to the hospital.

One notable exception is in Washington State. Motorcycle fatality collisions have decreased as a result of troopers focused attention on motorcyclists who were driving under the influence, speeding and driving negligently. As of August 31, there were 43 deaths resulting from collisions involving motorcyclists. For the same time period last year, there were 61 deaths. From April 2007 to July 2007 (peak riding in the NW), Washington troopers doubled the amount of arrests of motorcyclists who were driving under and influence and increased the amount of citations issued to those riders who exceed the posted speed limit by two-thirds.

There is no easy explanation why the motorcycle death toll continues to increase, but ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) the motorcycle advocacy group believes better training for bikers and educating other motorists will decrease motorcycle deaths. I have to agree. I’m not trying to mandate helmut laws so, save your clicks. You do what you think as I’ve only presented some stats.

Just be very careful out there!

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group rest stopOn Sunday (August 12th) our last day of the “Sturgis Ride”, we were up very early and on the freeway at 6:30am. We had some major miles to make on this day. Plugged-in and doing the speed limit in Montana just seemed damn fast that early in the morning! We didn’t see any cars for miles.

Butte is on the Northwest of Yellowstone on I-90. Nicknamed “the richest hill on earth,” Butte has more than 2,000 miles of underground mines. Originally started as a gold mining town in 1864. The discovery of silver and copper kept people around there. Butte is known for its rich history in Copper Mining. The Berkley Pit was the world’s largest open pit mine, spanning from 5,600 feet wide and 1 mile deep. People from all over the world, Finland, China, and Ireland were attracted to the riches that Butte’s hills held. The mines they created are still there, and some of them are deeper than 3,500 feet.
welcome to or
But enough history…we had some major miles to cover!

We stopped in Spokane for lunch, but it was a quick gas-n-go with gourmet burgers at Wendy’s. At the H-395 South exchange outside Spokane we veered off toward the tri-cites. It was a gas-n-go day.

After 650+ miles and 13 hours in the Harley seat it was good to see the Welcome To Oregon sign.

And so every August for what seems like a hundred years,
Amid a great thunder, topless girls and crunching of gears,
We all rode ours to the South Dakota Black Hills!

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YellowstoneWe left Saturday (August 11th) early thinking it would be slow going thru Yellowstone and hoping to put some significant miles on the bikes before lunch. A couple of us were “plugged-in” due to the cold temperature. We took the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. A 52-mile drive from Cody up the rugged canyon carved by the North Fork of the Shoshone River to Yellowstone National Park. The route climbs from the historic town of Cody past Buffalo Bill Reservoir and up the rugged volcanic canyon carved by the North Fork of the Shoshone River to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
ridn in yellowstone
East Yellowstone is a very scenic approach to Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, we had to deal with forest fires and you couldn’t see much. The fire was near the West entrance of the park, but the smoke was making visibility poor. The fire activity on the Columbine Fire. We learned that the West Entrance was closed due to fire so, we decided to take the Gardiner/North Exit.

We made several stops along the way for photos and gas as we headed toward the North Entrance. We got to see geothermal wonders, historic sites and the great scenery of Paradise Valley. We had a bio break at Mammoth Hot Springs just before existing the part at Gardiner where The Roosevelt Arch is located.
mammoth hot springs
This was the first major entrance for Yellowstone at the north boundary. Before 1903, trains would bring visitors to Cinnabar, Montana, which was a few miles northwest of Gardiner, Montana, and people would climb onto horse-drawn coaches there to enter the park. In 1903, the railway finally came to Gardiner, and people entered through an enormous stone archway. Robert Reamer, a famous architect in Yellowstone, designed the immense stone arch for coaches to travel through on their way into the park. At the time of the arch’s construction, President Theodore Roosevelt was visiting the park. He consequently placed the cornerstone for the arch, which then took his name. The top of the Roosevelt Arch is inscribed with “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” which is from the Organic Act of 1872, the enabling legislation for Yellowstone National Park.
North Entrance
After a rather long day (not in number of miles) of riding we finally pulled off in Butte, MT for gas. The posse was beat and elected to call it a day. Stayed at the Motel 8 and had dinner at a Perkins. We ended up showing the bartender how to make Spanish Coffee’s and drank our fair share while musing about the long day we needed to the next day.

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MontanaOn Monday (August 6th) we completed the approx 325-mile trek from Billings to Spearfish, SD and the final leg to Sturgis.    The Best Western Clock Tower Inn didn’t have breakfast included with the room so we did a quick coffee/muffin breakfast right next door and head out on the road by 9am.  The scenery is beautiful and the weather was hot.  At the first gas stop the heat was quickly rising so a few of us stripped off jackets we had because it was already 90 degrees and we still had 200 miles to go.  The cruising was along high plains and long stretches of flat straight road, Indian reservations and free range cattle ranches.  In addition to the cattle and antelope visible from the road, the sky was a bright blue with some light clouds thrown in for color.  
Montana Lunch Stop
All in all, a great ride to Spearfish. The reason we rode to Spearfish and not Sturgis directly was logistics as several of us were staying at Black Hills State University.  Sturgis is population 6,000 during 50 weeks of the year and during the motorcycle rally the population grows to a few hundred thousand depending on who you ask and how you add the numbers. All that said, obviously getting a place to stay in Sturgis is near impossible so the outlying cities are the best lodging bet.  

We reached Spearfish about 3pm in the afternoon and were greeted by college dorm attendants who lived in the dorm.  Of course, they were getting what was probably equivalent to a few months mortgage payment in exchange for a few nights at the dorm, but it was nice enough and there were a lot of riders doing the same thing as us.  Some of the crew went on to Rapid City, SD…to a real hotel!!  The remaining members of the posse had dinner at one of Spearfish’s local grub spots.

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