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It’s official.  The Great American Solar Eclipse and the potential for catastrophic disaster has produced the first ever Oregon Motorcycle Solar Eclipse Advisory: AVOID RIDING MOTORCYCLES, August 18 — 22, 2017 is the stated recommendation.

Plan to have a good time watching the 2-minute daylight-to-twilight event (around 10:15 am), but just don’t travel anywhere by motorcycle for 5-days!

Huh?  How did we get to this place?

The “once-in-a-lifetime” excitement and buzz surrounding the eclipse is now at Defcon 1 with less than seven days before the interstellar event.  For months people have been on an obsessive pursuit of the perfect photo location.  Get outside advertisements and turn your Oregon journey into a legacy have been everywhere,  Eclipse 101 brochures, guide pamphlets, and preparedness articles are in overdrive across all forms of media.

Advisory: Avoid Motorcycle Riding August 18 – 22, 2017

But, there is this bazaar pre-cog of an impending apocalyptic doom that is permeating the eclipse narrative given that hundreds of thousand of people and their vehicles — perhaps millions — will converge on the already severely overcrowded highways.

Can you spell Oregon anxiety and fear?

Media ratings often drive the “never miss an opportunity to drum up catastrophic hysteria:”  Did you set up a generator ‘war room’ in your basement in case of a state-wide breakdown of electricity and communication?  Did you rent a satellite phone to update your social media channels from Steens Mountain?  Does your family have an evacuation route and disaster preparedness plan?  Did you stock up on SPAM and water?  Do you have a full tank of gas?  Did you buy extra coolant and oil for the engine?  Do you have jumper cables?  Did you purchase a spare tire for your spare tire in case it goes flat?  Did you drain your checking account and now walking around with thousands of dollars in your wallet?  Do you have paper maps in case the cell phone grid goes down?  Did you take a first aid course?  Do you have a roll of duct tape?  Did you buy a package of souvenir: “The Path Of Totality” toilet paper?

Seems silly, but maybe the media should ask us if we remembered to breath?

Is the sky truly falling or is the daily drum beat of “chicken little” prudent preparedness?

I don’t think we want the celestial spectacle any darker and will know soon enough.  Though we might make fun of them a little, looking back, we may also sympathize, but after a long season of eclipse anxiety and survival doomsaying, condensed with all the scientific history, phony viewing glasses and hype — we should all be so lucky as to have yet another boring Monday on August 21st.

TIME photo modified by author with original courtesy of TIME.  TEAM Oregon photo courtesy of web site.

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Lewis and Clark; The Expedition Returned 2017

I’m a H.O.G. member, but not the type of person who displays an undying passion for the patches and pins or for that matter in attending a lot of H.O.G. events.  Sure, I’ve participated in the occasional H.O.G. rally, got the t-shirt and then headed home. Riding is primarily a solo activity for me and it’s more about riding in the wind, not the rally destination.  
 
Although there was this one time in Hawaii where it was all about the food.  The Aloha State Chapter #44 (Maui H.O.G.) were in the middle of a rally.  I wasn’t riding a motorcycle on the islands, but they were most gracious and let me enjoy some excellent pulled pork at their Luau!  We also had the opportunity to meet Cristine Sommer-Simmons, the book author of ‘Patrick Wants To Ride‘ fame.

But I’ve digressed.

Lewis and Clark Expedition Swag

A riding buddy and I decided to register and took a couple weeks last month to ride along with the H.O.G. Lewis and Clark; The Expedition Returns posse.  There were 182 register bikes for the tour which basically followed most of the same Lewis and Clark routes from Seaside, Oregon to St. Charles, Missouri.  They deviated a bit on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains which only added to the adventure.

 

Before I jump in and provide some insights about the ride, I want to say that H.O.G. is a class act.  Yes, there was a pricey registration fee, but the swag and goody bag we received for the expedition was detailed, high quality and exceeded my expectations.  The hotel registration process via the H.O.G. web site worked well and we had no issues in any location.  Big shout-out to Harley-Davidson, Team MKE, Paul Raap (H.O.G. Regional Mgr), Paul Blotske (H.O.G. Contractor) and the H.O.G. planners for making it simple and a great experience!

Lewis and Clark Expedition and Routes

 

Now keep in mind this wasn’t a “group ride” where 182 bikes departed simultaneous every day with a ride captain.  We were free to forge our own path (with some solid guidance) and ride with who we wanted and at our own pace.  H.O.G. provided a travelogue with approximate mileage and points of interest along the way for each day’s schedule.  In some cases they included passes for the various parks and/or sight seeing destinations.  This process worked well.

Ride Details:

Day 1, (Tuesday, July 11) — Had us traveling to the Oregon coast to visit the Fort Clatsop National Historic Park  where the Corps of Discovery wintered from 1805 to Spring 1806.  After 18 months of exploring the West, the Corps of Discovery built an encampment near the mouth of the Columbia River. They wintered at Fort Clatsop into 1806 before leaving the Pacific Ocean to return to Missouri and the route we were going to follow.

That evening Mike Durbin and Paradise Harley-Davidson (Tigard, OR) sponsored the gathering for dinner.


Highway 14 looking west at Mt. Hood

Day 2, — We were traveling east and heading to Lewiston, ID.  Along the route we could visit the Rock Fort Campsite which is a natural fortification located on the shore of the Columbia River, and where the Corps of Discovery set up camp on their journey home.  There is the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, the Sacajawea State Park Interpretive Center, and the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park

That evening we were at Hell’s Canyon Harley-Davidson for dinner. 

 
Unsolicited Comments About Portland Traffic:  It was common practice to ask other H.O.G. members where they came from, how far they rode etc., and when we mentioned being from Portland, people were compelled to tell us about their bad experiences riding around in Portland/metro traffic.  The H.O.G. HQ hotel for this event was the Jantzen Beach Red Lion and folks would drone on about the congestion, freeway crashes and the lengthy delays which were awful in the record Portland heat.  About all I could say was “True that, and apologize for the apocalyptic congestion.”  Then I’d add something about those new spiffy ODOT RealTime signs — you know, the big electronic signs that relay the obvious?!

Day 3, — Took us to Great Falls, MT.  There were multiple stops suggested to riders.  The first was the Nez Perce National Historical Park.  The 
New Perce were critical to the success of the Expedition by providing food and supplies. 

It was hot riding so, we left Lewiston early morning and as a result the park wasn’t open and we toured the exterior.  Lewis and Clark actually split up at what is called today Travelers’ Rest State Park.  Lewis went to the north.  On the north route, you could see the Lewis and Clark Pass, Museum of the Plains Indian, and Camp Disappointment   Clark went to the south, where you could see the Lost Trail PassCamp fortunate Overlook  the three forks of the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park, and the Gates of the Mountains.

Highway 12 heading toward Lolo Pass

We were on Highway 12 headed over Lolo Pass for much of the morning. You’ve undoubtedly seen the photos of the sign that says “Curves next 99 miles…”  Yeah, that one and it’s named one of the best motorcycle roads in the country with lots of sweeping curves and several tight ones.  The elevation at the top is 5,233 feet in the northern Rocky Mountains and the temperatures were quite nice.  Road conditions in some areas were a bit dicey and unfortunately a female member of the H.O.G. group veered up against the guardrail and crashed.  She survived with a number of broken bones, but as I understand it, spent multiple days in the hospital. As we rode by the crash, her motorcycle freakishly went 75 yards up highway 12 and across both lanes of traffic and was sitting upright on the left side of the road, as if someone just parked it there on the kick stand.  Very strange.

That evening the group all got together for dinner at Big Sky Harley-Davidson.


Day 4, — (Friday, July 14,) — Took us to Billings, MT where we spent a couple of days.  There were a couple of stops planned.  The first was t
he Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center in Great Falls.  We also made sure to take time to see the Great Falls of the Missouri including Rainbow Falls before leaving the area.  

Great Falls, MT is actually situated on the northern Lewis return route, and Billings, MT is on Clark’s southern route.

Rainbow Falls

We took the more scenic route on Highway 89 south through the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and then picked up Highway 12 east to Highway 3 south into Billings, MT.

That evening we had dinner at Beartooth Harley-Davidson, but to be candid we were getting a bit tired of the pork sliders or burgers and salad.


Day 5, — Was a “down day” from our ride schedule to allow riding in the Billings, MT., area.  Some jumped back on for full 400+ mile experience and rode to Livingston, MT., on I-90 then headed south on Highway 89 into Yellowstone National Park to see ‘Old Faithful.’  

Twin Lakes, along the Beartooth Highway

We decided to half that mileage and rode up Highway 212 to Red Lodge Montana and then over Beartooth Pass into Wyoming.  In Red Lodge, the annual Beartooth Rally was in full swing with a few thousand motorcyclists enjoying the area so, going over Beartooth Pass was slow riding, but we did enjoy the switchback curves.

It’s a great ride with some incredible vistas, but not for the faint of heart.

That evening we enjoyed a nice steak and ignored the gathering at Beartooth Harley-Davidson!


Day 6, — Had us traveling to Bismarck, ND., and it began early to avoid the sweltering heat. 

Across the NoDak Plains

We’d been riding in heat advisory’s across Montana for a few days and now the humidity was increasing!  One stop as we departed Billings was to tour Pompeys Pillar National Monument.  Pompeys Pillar was named by Clark and he and other members of the Corps of Discovery chiseled their names into the rock itself.  I believe this is the ONLY physical evidence that the Lewis and Clark Trail actually existed and took place. 

We rode on to Bismarck, ND.  There were additional stops along the way that included the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan.  I lived in Bismarck back in the day so, we ignored the extra miles and the point where Sacajawea and Toussaint Charbonneau joined the Corps. 

We enjoyed dinner at a local pub/restaurant while listening to some old Peter Frampton music on the jukebox! 


Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Day 7, — (Monday, July 17,) — The H.O.G. group headed west across the Missouri River from Bismarck and then we all rode south down Highway 1806 to Pierre, SD.  About 15 miles south of Bismarck we stopped at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park & On-A-Slant Village and toured the area which provided a great example of Native American encampments Lewis and Clark would have encountered on their journey.

Missouri River riding south on Highway 1806

We rode along Highway 1806 south down the Missouri River pretty much to the North Dakota – South Dakota border while watching out for farm equipment on the roads.

From there, we had a couple of routes to follow into Pierre, SD., though most of the Missouri River between Bismarck and Pierre is covered by the Lake Oahe Reservoir and the road follows the east side of the lake all the way into Pierre.

Pierre, SD., City Park

We had dinner at Peterson Motors Harley-Davidson in Pierre, but actually moved over to a city park on the river and tried Bison Burgers for the first time!


Day 8, — (Tuesday, July 18,) — Due to other commitments we departed the Lewis and Clark H.O.G. group on this day and started our return trip back to Oregon.  We intended to spend a couple of days in Boise, ID., to take in the Pacific Northwest H.O.G. rally and meet up with some other riders there.  The next couple of days were about laying down some miles and we avoided the wandering of site seeing.  We rode from 
Pierre, SD to Rapid City, SD on I-90, and skirted the Black Hills National Forest.

We traveled along Highway 18 and then took a wrong turn at Lingle, SD and ended up a few miles from the  Nebraska border before having to backtrack, riding through Fort Laramie on Highway 26 and then on to I-25 and Casper, WY., where we overnighted.


Day 9, — Had us traveling to Idaho Falls, ID., and we departed early to avoid the afternoon heat.  We were riding toward the Grand Teton National Park and Jackson when about 30 miles west of Dubois, WY, we encountered a fatal head-on car accident. 

The Road Glide and Grand Teton’s

We arrived at the scene at 12:30pm and the road had been closed since 9:30am.  We had to endure a 3+ hour wait which put us behind and more importantly it put us riding in the hottest part of the day. 

The 50 miles from Jackson, WY to the border town of Alpine, WY was like walking a marathon with all the backed up traffic. 

We finally made it to Idaho Falls, ID on US26 by early evening.  

Day 10, — We continued our travel west to Boise, ID on the two-lane US 20/26.

There are views of high desert, Atomic labs and of course Craters of the Moon Monument with it’s vast ocean of lava flows and scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush.We stopped for some site seeing, but didn’t explore any trails.

We arrived in Boise, ID before 3pm and met up with some other riders who arrived from Portland.

Day 13, — (Sunday, July 23,) — After a couple days of enjoying the local rides and taking in the city life along with parts of the Pacific Northwest H.O.G. Rally (While at the rally in Meridian, ID., I had a chance to test ride a new 2017 CVO Street Glide with the new M-8 engine. I will do a post on that experience soon) we returned to Portland, OR via the most direct route on I-84.

We finally arrived back in Portland that evening after touring over 3,500 miles with a number of new stories from the adventure in retracing the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  In addition, we got to hang with a number of great H.O.G. members!

We could relate to Meriwether Lewis who wrote in September 1806:

Today Captain Clark will pen a letter to Governor Harrison and I shall pen one to President Jefferson informing them officially of our safe return and providing the details of our expedition. My hope, and that of Captain Clark, is that our work over the last two and a half years will accomplish this administration’s goals to expand the Republic westward and inspire future generations into even further exploration and adventure. — Meriwether Lewis 

Updated August 15, 2017:  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left from St. Louis, Missouri with the Corps of Discovery and headed west in an effort to explore and document the new lands bought by the Louisiana Purchase.  To read more about Lewis and Clark, visit the National Geographic site dedicated to their journey or read their report of the expedition, originally published in 1814.  There are a number of period correct maps HERE.

Photos taken by author.

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Old McKenzie Pass Highway (OR 242)

The Old McKenzie Pass Highway (OR 242) will officially open to all traffic on Monday, June 19, 2017.

The narrow, twisting roadway and high elevation (5,325 feet) make the highway too difficult to maintain and keep clear during the winter months.

Many of us look forward to the annual opening and to traverse lava fields, snowcapped peaks and cruise along rushing rivers which highlight this scenic highway to central Oregon’s Cascade Mountain passes.

Heading east-bound, OR 242 travels through Lane, Linn, and Deschutes counties, beginning at the junction with OR 126 near McKenzie Bridge and ending at the junction with US Highway 20 and OR 126 at the City of Sisters.  From Sisters, Oregon heading west, the route travels past hay meadows and ascends 2,000 feet through ponderosa pine forests.  The road follows an old wagon route, emerging from the forest at Windy Point and provides a dramatic view of Mt. Washington and a 2,000-year-old lava flow.  The 25 mile, 4,000 foot descent snakes down switchbacks to the dense Cascadian forests and ends near the McKenzie River.

Few realize that the McKenzie Pass is also known as the Craig’s McKenzie Salt Springs/Deschutes Wagon Road.

The backstory — in 1862, John Craig was was one of 50 men hired by Captain Felix Scott to build a trail from Eugene over the Cascades. By then the rush of westward-bound Oregon Trail pioneers had slowed, but the discovery of gold in Eastern Oregon prompted a flood of people heading eastward. Scott’s plan was to sell Willamette cattle to the hungry miners east of the Cascades.

As Scott’s road-building crew neared the lowest route across the mountains they encountered miles of snow and jagged lava fields at McKenzie Pass. Craig favored chipping out a road through the lava fields, but Scott decided to skirt the lava fields in favor of a notch at Scott’s Pass on the shoulder of North Sister that was 1000 foot higher, steeper and crossed more snow. Scott’s route was later abandoned and is known today as the Scott Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness.

After working for Scott, Craig spent the next 15 years working for himself while championing his vision of a lower crossing through McKenzie Pass. In 1871 he formed the McKenzie, Salt Springs and Deschutes Wagon Road Company and began to build his toll road. He cut trees, chipped and chiseled a roadbed out of the jagged lava fields just north of North Sister to form a McKenzie Pass crossing lower than what was available at the time.  By the Fall of 1872 his road open and began collecting tolls of $2 for a wagon, $1 for a horseback rider, 10¢ for cattle and 5¢ for sheep. After its completion he won a federal contract to deliver mail from the Willamette Valley to Camp Polk in Central Oregon over the road. In summer, the mail was carried on horseback. In winter it was carried on John Craig’s back. To accommodate the mail carrier, a small cabin was built about half way across, in which he could spend the night.

For many years John Craig carried mail from the Willamette Valley to Eastern Oregon, by horseback in the summer and on his own back in the winter.  After attempting to ski Christmas mail over McKenzie Pass in the winter of 1877, he was found frozen beside his mail pouch in his shack atop McKenzie Pass.  Mystery still shrouds the details of his death.

The U.S. Forest Service decided in 1920 to make the highway a tourist-friendly route over the mountains, so engineers took care to align it for sightseeing, with spectacular views of volcanic peaks, including the Three Sisters, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, Broken Top and even the more distant Mount Jefferson to the north.  The road became a seasonal scenic highway in 1962 with the completion of the Clear Lake-Belknap Springs section of OR 126.

The highway is a local favorite and should be on everyone’s Oregon highway bucket list.

References:

The John Craig Story
McKenzie Pass
John Craig – A Pioneer Mail Carrier, by Ruth E. Richardson – 1963

OR 242 map/photo courtesy of Google.

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Spring is here! Flowers are in bloom, birds are chirping, the sun is shining on many days in the Northwest, the days are longer and people feel more energetic.  Many want to get out to a happier place and enjoy the wind in their face.

Interestingly, it’s been reported that the Daylight Savings time change can be dangerous for some and researchers have shown there are increases in motor vehicle accidents.  Lack of sleep impairs driving ability, and driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as distracted driving.

Speaking of distracted driving

If you’ve been on a motorcycle for any length of time you’ve seen it all.  Talking on the cell phone, driving slow and looking down on the freeway, reading email at stop lights only to get honked at, eating and drinking, grooming, fiddling with instrument controls and GPS and talking with a passenger while using their hands for expressions. 

These are just a few of the common types of distracted driving habits that negligent drivers engage in across the northwest.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.28.44 PMAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine Americans are killed every day in automobile crashes that involve a driver who is distracted by some other activity while behind the wheel (Norton, 2015). As distracted driving crashes continue to claim lives, state agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) are working to develop countermeasures that will may convince drivers to drive more responsibly.

Despite all the efforts to implement safe driving campaigns which have included things like billboard slogans, graphic video clips, television (TV) and radio ads, publications and legislative initiatives; the crashes continue to increase. As reported by Kullgren (2015), fatal crashes in Oregon spiked from 217 to 288, or 33% from September 23, 2014 through September 23, 2015. During this same time period, total deaths increased from 238 to 312, or 31%; pedestrian deaths increased from 33 to 54, or 64%; and motorcycle deaths increased from 40 to 46, or 15%.

When drivers overstep the inattentive line as they willfully impose their own level of risk on others they become socially and legally responsible. Drivers who allow themselves to be distracted by their multi-tasking activities are increasing the risk factor for themselves and imposing that dangerous limit on motorcyclists, passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. This increased risk to which others are subjected is similar to other driver behavior’s that are considered aggressive and illegal: going through red lights, failing to yield, exceeding safe speed limits, reckless weaving, drinking and driving, driving drowsy, road rage, etc.  In addition, distracted driving causes auto insurance to go up for everyone and state legislators feel the need to control more of our lives via instituted laws.  

And speaking of legislators, today starts Oregon’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month with a big kick-off event in the capitol.  If you want to read more about the Distracted Driving Epidemic in Oregon see this report which details the problem, identifies some solutions and highlights the sobering facts.

Be alert out there!

UPDATED: April 18, 2017 — Noah Budnick, Director of Public Policy & Gov. Affairs for Zendrive published a blog post with some excellent data on Distracted Driving.  Interestingly was the finding that Oregon was the LEAST distracted of the states, however, the city of Portland was in 10th place of cities that were most distracted.  You can read the blog post HERE or download the report.

References:

Kullgren, I. K. (2015, September 30). More Oregonians are dying in car crashes, new data show. The Oregonian. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/09/more_oregonians_are_dying_in_c.html

Norton, A. (2015). Texting while driving: Does banning it make a difference? HealthDay. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/texting-while-driving-does-banning-it-make-a-difference/

Photos courtesy of ODOT

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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 2014-06-04 at 2.35.53 PMDo you agree with the adage — “You are what you ride?”

While I don’t claim the axiom is foolproof, there are many observable examples that support the concept — from the successful lawyer driving to the office in a tire-shredding German sedan and then rides a chopped and stripped down Forty Eight on the weekends, to the general contractor who most days is in a tool-ridden F-250, but prefers to ride a CVO Limited, the grand American cruiser for the long road trips.

I fell hard for Harley-Davidson (over 20 years ago now) and it took me more than three models later to acquire the current riding spirit of the Road Glide.

I’ll admit it.  I enjoy the attention that comes with owning motorcycles of the Harley-Davidson caliber — parking lot discussions and drive-by salutations from strangers.  Sure it sounds pretentious, but I’ve spent way too much time behind the handle bars of a Honda and Yamaha to resist metaphorically blowing my own horn.

Right or wrong, many of us place a great deal of importance on what we ride. Critiquing others freely, we are likewise judged by the sheet metal of our ride.  Because, like it or not, motorcycles are a reflection of ourselves — a view into our wind in the face wandering soul.

Think about it.

We often purchase what fits our current character and life status. Everything from the color to the style and model is carefully and deliberately selected.  Much of our riding and our life for that matter, is spent developing this ride persona — and it evolves as we do.  Our environment may change from year to year where a mortgage or a kid in college influences what sits in the garage — as would the line of work, the economy, the community and our circle of friends.  Whether we currently own the motorcycle of our dreams does not mean the statement is any more or less true.

As we know, not everyone can live with a Harley-Davidson status symbol — whether they intended to or not. Just go to any dealer and look at the low-mileage castaways in the used area. Those owners moved on to a more practical ride or abandoned the entire motorcycle “lifestyle.”  An association with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is an extension of ourselves and a natural consequence of the freedom of the road culture. Like clothing, we dress in leather, steel and rubber, the same as we do with cotton or silk. Color, texture, design and shape — we’re being seen in public with our best “outfits.”

But, there is one great equalizer for all this pomp and circumstance activity — the gas station!  It’s the one place where we gather like creatures in the desert at the waterhole, replenishing empty tanks. The perfect spot to critique both motorcycle and rider while staring through polarized shades at the others from a distance.  I might dismount and swipe a credit card at the pump as fellow bikers draw conclusions based on my re-fueling habits.  I’m not bothered by that — after all, I’m doing precisely the same thing they did just minutes earlier.

Vanity comes in many forms, and even the modest will present their motorcycle with some defiance — like wearing blue jeans to a formal event.  It’s just a different perspective.

You may deceive society by how you look and the way you dress, your manner of speech and education, the neighborhood you live in or the reach of your bank account, but none of this really matters in a material world.  Because in that moment of judgement, you are inevitably what you ride.

Photos courtesy of H-D
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