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National Military Appreciation Month

Thank you for your service!

National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) is celebrated every May and is a declaration that encourages U.S. citizens to observe the month in a symbol of unity.

NMAM honors the current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom.

Let’s celebrate, recognize and appreciate the men and women who make us who we are!

Photo taken by author.

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HOG Lewis And Clark Touring Rally

Lewis And Clark Touring Rally

Harley Owners Group registration is now open!

It starts on July 10th in Portland, Oregon and ends July 21st in St. Charles, Missouri.

It’s a throw back to 2002 when HOG led a contingency of riders along the route made famous by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during their 1804 – 1806 expedition.  I didn’t attend the original ride, but wrote about it in a post HERE.  I’m sure the box of commemorative “swag” from HOG only contributed to the adventure and road stories.

From the Pacific Ocean to the banks of the Mississippi River in Missouri, the touring rally will take Harley-Davidson riders to 9 cities along the famed route, numerous museums and interpretive centers, as well as some spectacular wind in the face riding.  It’s an especially great opportunity to ride the famous Bear Tooth Pass and explore Yellowstone National Park.  Here is a post with some photos from when I traveled this route back in 2013.

It’s not an inexpensive touring rally as registration on the members.hog.com website is $450.  It does include numerous meals, commemorative merchandise and special gatherings with fellow participants as part of the event package.

Notes from the website state: Maximum Capacity for the rally is 300. Full members may invite 1 guest on the tour.  The member must register the guest under his/her member number and purchase one of the above packages.  Cancellation: Prior to May 1, 2017 there is no cancellation fee. May 2, 2017 – July 3, 2017 a 50% fee will be imposed ($225).  If the Rally Package has been mailed to members they will need to return the rally package before a refund will be issued.  Cancelation deadline is July 4th, 2017.

Alert: You might not have this issue, but I was registering for the Pacific Northwest Rally earlier in the day and had numerous issues with the HOG website hanging.  I was using a MacBook with Safari browser, but couldn’t get the site to work. I called the HOG Support phone line and it was suggested that I use Google Chrome browser, which I did and it worked fine with that browser.

Photo courtesy of HOG website.

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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.

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Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 4.19.44 PMRiding in the wind or doing research on motorcycle insurance!  Insurance research is not something any of us look forward too, but is a necessity.

Getting unbiased information on products and services along with specific pricing can be a challenge.  And we know that motorcycle insurance is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but should include liability coverage, collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  That last item is key because it’s a well known fact that many riders are underinsured.

Every state requires motorists to carry some minimum level of insurance; this minimum level will vary from state to state. Regardless of the state, however, the minimum level of coverage is only sufficient to cover minor collisions; any collision that is serious enough to send you to the hospital will quickly run over the policy limits, typically within the first few minutes of the collision. Nevertheless, as long as a motorist carries this minimum level of coverage, the motorist is meeting their legal obligations. But the minimum level of insurance is insufficient to cover anything more than a minor collision and because of this motorists who do select this minimum level of coverage are termed “underinsured.”

And if you have the misfortune to be hit by an “underinsured” driver, the driver’s insurance policy will likely be insufficient to cover your injuries.  I’ve learned this first hand and in the last couple of months it was reinforced when Scootin’ America, who was raising money and awareness for the children of fallen soldiers by visiting Harley-Davidson dealers across N.A., was injured by an underinsured driver and life-flight to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh.  He’s recovering well!

Most know that your motorcycle liability coverage provides financial protection in case you cause an accident. Comprehensive and collision coverage pay for damage to your motorcycle under various circumstances. But, the question to ask is: “Will you get protection if you are in a serious accident with a driver that has no coverage or is underinsured?”

A good policy can protect motorcycle riders and their families from potential financial disaster.

The good folks over at Reviews.com reached out to me with information they pulled together. They’ve spent six weeks creating a guide to walk riders through finding and choosing a policy, including how to decide how much coverage is necessary, which discounts to take advantage of, and how to stay safer on the road. They found three nationwide options that provided the best all-around coverage. You can see their full process and findings HERE and make your own decision about insurance needs. Their stated goal is to get the research into the hands of people who may find it helpful which I’ve offered to help re-post.

Full Disclosure: I have read through the web site, but have not used this service. I have no advertising relationship with Reviews.com.  I received no compensation from Reviews.com or an insurance provider for posting this information. I’m passing along the insurance advocacy information to help protect motorcycle riders and their families. Reviews.com does have an advertising relationship with some of the insurance offers included on their review page.

Photo courtesy of Reviews.com

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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.

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PBW-Logo“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.” — Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), National Lampoon’s Vacation

As riders across the northwest embark on wheeled tours this summer — two and three-wheelers, like the iconic movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation — in the pursuit of some quality wind in the face time with friends it’s important to be vigilance and travel safely.

According to the American Automobile Association, the number of travelers on the roads this summer could be the highest in ten years because gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in five years.

Rally season is coming up fast and I wanted to highlight the Pendleton Bike Week (PBW) on July 22nd – 26th.  In its inaugural  year and what riding a motorcycle is all about.  Great Rides, Concerts (Too Slim and the Taildraggers), Hamley’s Steakhouse, 45. Cal Poker Run, the PBW Motorcycle Show, and REAL Western hospitality at the Hardtail Saloon.

What about the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR) in Baker City you ask?

Eric Folkestad, is one of the founders of the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, sold his interest in the event to his brother, co-founder Steve Folkestad, and is helping promote this new motorcycle event in Pendleton. The HCMR is remains intact and runs July 9-13th.  They plan to cross-promote each of the events.

My viewpoint is that most riders won’t go to both events as they will likely make a choice. However, another rally won’t hurt the northwest and provides calendar alternatives for folks.  A key sponsor is Rattlesnake Mountain Harley-Davidson, Kennewick, and they will have a sizable chunk of real estate at the Pendleton Convention Center, headquarters for the rally. Wildhorse Resort & Casino is also a sponsor.

The Folkestad brothers deserve a big shout-out for making both rallies about safely riding the scenic byways of Eastern Oregon and not about partying and debauchery.

Pendleton is an appealing venue and the rally is a perfect ‘back to the basics’ ride in the west and social event with old friends.

See you there!

Photo courtesy of PBW.

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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.

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