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 Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus what?

Developed by a home schooled 19-year old garage hacker, Palmer Lucky, created Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset that uses 360-degree head tracking to make it feel like you’re inside a different world.  For example, looking to the left or right will automatically pan the scene in either direction, making it feel as natural as looking around in reality. The eyewear also provides parallel images for each eye, which is the same way your eyes perceive images in the real world.  Facebook recently acquired Oculus for $2B, yes that’s B as in BILLIONs, recognizing it had many untapped applications when it bought the company.

Still don’t understand?  Here is a horse riding experience video.

We’ve all either read or heard about the Harley-Davidson Fit Shop where the local dealer will take you through a step-by-step process literally seating you on a bike and switching out components such as seat, handlebars, suspension and foot controls until they find a combination that fits you.

Always Be Closing...

Always Be Closing…

But, if you’re very early into the motorcycle “consideration” purchase phase and unsure of riding or unclear about the whole motorcycle lifestyle thing, what then?

That’s where the Oculus Rift could be leveraged.  It was made specifically for gaming when it was initially introduced, however, people are using the headset to drive tanks in the military and medically explore the human body, among other fascinating applications.

I’m sure I’ve sparked some interest or debate as to whether Harley-Davidson could really use the technology to good effect.

Why not?

H-D could surely leverage the technology to provide consumers who are unsure if they want a motorcycle, have little knowledge about them or the experience and not sure what kind to purchase.  For some enjoying luxuries that are unaffordable in the real world, this might be just the ticket to spending time in a riding (virtual) environment.

FUSAR Technologies - The Guardian

FUSAR Technologies – The Guardian

For grins, let’s call it the Harley-Davidson Virtual Reality Motorcycle Simulator (HDVRMS).  Potential buyers would sit on a motorcycle mock up, place the headset on, grab the handlebars and the entire system is then hooked up to a computer programmed with virtual reality riding software/content.  This would be very high-quality footage in the motorcycle simulator.  Think UHD/4K video.  Basically, H-D would put multiple hi-rez cameras on the front/side/back of a motorcycle and ride it through the streets of Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles or through any national park or canyon road with twisties.  The footage would go to a digital film room for editing and then it would be incorporated into the computer system that would run the virtual-reality motorcycle simulator.

Imagine the possibilities.  Riding Highway 101 down the California coast.  Drag racing your favorite Pro Stock champion would be no problem.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle in downtown New Delhi dodging tiny rick-shaw’s full of banana trees.  No problem, select it in the computer and go.

Still not buying it?

How about the potential of integrating the technology into Harley-Davidson product development?  You can watch Ford’s virtual reality technology in action in this video.  Essentially, VR would allow Harley-Davidson to test scenarios and designs, and experience products before they are even made.

If not product development or supporting sales then there is the opportunity that an augmented reality motorcycle helmet could save your life.  Young motorcycle riders could attend motorcycle training on the H-D VR simulator so that they can hone their skills and become more proficient on the street.

FUSAR Technologies is doing just that on Kickstarter.  Called the Guardian, it’s a DOT approved helmet with an Android board, two wide-angle cameras and bits and pieces that is fully integrated and connected to the device and motorcycle that allows the motorcyclist to have a full cognitive awareness of what’s going on around them.

The one problem for Harley-Davidson?  It could become so real and addictive sitting in the comfort of the dealer or your home that you actually never get outdoors to ride!

Photos courtesy of Oculus Rift/ Sergey Galyonkin, HD and FUSAR

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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LDMC StandinsIn case you missed it, it might have been the untold story of the cast on the TV series called The Devils Ride.

Sure the actors members of the Laffing Devils outlaw motorcycle club have an appearance that is designed to intimidate the general motorcycling community… what with those glove-free hands, unwashed Levi’s, well-used black t-shirts and conditioned leather vests.

The Devils Ride, which started out as a reality TV show centered on the hard-hitting San Diego biker club drama, has really settled into its soapy role.  Each episode is dumb-and-dumber as the audience is told numerous times about what just happened, as if 6-minutes of commercials made us forget that the script and actors are the shows weak spot.

But, the big reveal on this Oscar weekend is this newly uncovered “second-team” of stand-ins performing (HERE).  Could it be the stand-in actors from the TV show?   We know that stand-ins are the unsung heroes of movie making and are picked based on height and body shape similar to the stars of the show.  Stand-ins are helpful to the production process and you’ll notice in the video they fulfilled a rather tedious task in a bar scene which has yet to air on the TV show.

This video is either poetic justice or a bit of karmic retribution from all us viewers who have no time for mediocre and who believe a baseball cap should be worn in the direction that your life is traveling!

As Ringo Star said in the movie “Hard Day’s Night” when ask “Are you a Mod or Rocker?” he replied “I’m a Mocker!

And guilty I am.

Photo courtesy of College Humor.

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110-burnoutTo commemorate 110 years on 1/10, H-D released a video of a celebratory burnout.

The epic burnout footage was filmed late last summer during the anniversary kick-off party at the Harley-Davidson Museum, but the video was released yesterday.

Nice!

There was no fine print about it being a professional driver on a closed course and don’t try this at home…but, they did overlay in 8 point font:

“Burnouts look great on film, but in the real world are hard on tires, wheels and other mechanical parts.  Love your bike.  Be respectful to your neighbors. Ride safely.”

Photos of the anniversary kick-off event are HERE on Facebook.  Other H-D videos HERE on YouTube.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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Robert Joseph "Sandman" Johnston

Robert Joseph “Sandman” Johnston

Mister Sandman, bring me a dream.
Make her the cutest that I’ve ever seen.
Give her two lips like roses in clover.
Then tell her that her lonesome nights are over.

It’s ironic how this song, which was most notable in the movie “Back To The Future“, mimics the reality behind the reality TV show called The Devils Ride.

I’m referring to Robert Joseph “Sandman” Johnston, a member of the Laughing Devils MC and one of the more popular characters on the reality TV series.  He was arrested for attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a man during a burglary just prior to Christmas.

Mister Sandman’s Melis

Mister Sandman’s Melis

There is some speculation (HERE) that Mister Sandman wanted to surprise his ex-wife? — SATIRE ALERT — with a belated Christmas gift.  After realizing that he’d misplaced the house keys he let himself in and then discovered another man in the bedroom, and became concerned… came to her defense by stabbing the “assailant” three times in the back.  The police somehow misunderstood his good intentions.

I’m sure the show producers are salivating over all the possible plot twists for a second season.  This is all just another sad chapter of reality TV – salacious, exploitative, celebratory violence, abusive and predatory behavior – not to mention an extraordinarily colorful life of a motorcycle club member.  Not only do we have to turn the channel to avoid the “vast wasteland” called The Devils Ride, we have to endure nit wits like Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson, uneducated goofs who are followed around, their every activity plastered on magazines and online, who’ve got nothing to say.  They’re not entertainers, and to keep it real there isn’t much reality in reality TV.

And before you fire-up the keyboard to tell me that I don’t get The Devils Ride or am stupid or there is something inferior about me or I’m just not as far out there on the motorcycle outlaw frontier as Sandman is…  Keep in mind that The Devils Ride is the creation of the Santa Monica production company Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment and that show producer, Eric Bischoff is the author of the acclaimed memoir Controversy Creates Cash.

There are a number of things I am looking forward to in 2013 and high on that list is that The Devils Ride implodes and gets cancelled.

Previous posts: Laughing At The Laughing DevilsLaffing Devils Are The New World OrderThe Laughing Devil Tickle Monster;

Robert Joseph “Sandman” Johnston photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.  Melis photo courtesy of Twitter page.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Slowly but surely, things are getting better—or so we’d like to believe.

The unfortunate truth is the recession has sent an alarming number of families into financial distress for the first time. Unemployment remains high. Home foreclosures continue. The Portland Police Bureau respond to what seems like an ever increasing number of calls involving people struggling with mental health crisis, including suicides.  Visits to food banks have reached record levels. The increasing demand for services—and diminishing state and local resources—is straining the community safety net for people in need.

I don’t have answers to the economic issues.  But undeniably, the sensation of air molecules colliding with one’s face is refreshingly life-affirming.  To be in the wind: Free. Untethered. Sans obligations, financial, agendas, appointments, offices, annoyances.  Life’s problems just don’t seem as bad…

In part, it’s the reason for the tag line of this blog Whatever it is… it’s better in the wind” which I created back in July 2007.  The thinking was all a person needs is a few bucks for a used bike, $20 bucks for some fuel, a couple t-shirts, some free time, and a couple like-minded friends to enjoy the sensation. If you can’t scrape that together, then at least roll down the windows on the SUV, and enjoy a few moments of well-deserved Wind.

And speaking of wind in the face… a couple years ago I blogged (HERE) about Scott G. Toepfer — an emerging documentary photographer with a love of motorcycles and adventure.  His posse set out across the Western U.S., to experience the spaces between here and there, and to see what becomes of them on the road.

It turns out that Mr. Toepfer finally aggregated the content he captured from their rides over the last two years and release the short film (HERE – 17 min) which tells the story of their adventures.  It’s certainly worth a watch and may even be an inspiration for getting out in the wind!

Photo courtesy of Scott Toepfer.

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By now the campground dust has settled after the 70th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which brought thousands of motorcyclists and music fans to the legendary Buffalo Chip.

There were raucous crowds mixed with top tier entertainment at the “Chip” this year.  Even Pee Wee Herman lived through it to write on a blog for The Huffington Post about his experience.  See his video HERE.  But, overall it cemented the venue as one of the better entertainment locations with an array of art, vendors, food and people gawking (responsibly of course!).  The selection of musical guests resulted in one of the biggest music festivals of its kind in South Dakota. Doing a bit of name dropping, the entertainment included; Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Motley Crue, the Scorpions, ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Lee Rocker, Tesla, Drowning Pool, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Guess Who, Trailer Choir, Buckcherry, Orianthi, Stone Sour, Jason Aldean, Williams & Ree and Disturbed.

But here’s the rub… there were a lot of people going to/from the Chip.  I was part of the 5 mile commute from town to the campground traffic jam that ran from the Buffalo Chip to I-90 on Tuesday night (August 10th) as rally-goers sat on over heating motorcycles for a couple of hours on what locals call the annual “biker crawl” to catch the Bob Dylan/Kid Rock show.

The Chip celebrated it’s twenty-ninth year of operation.  That’s twenty-nine years of motorcyclists trapped in wicked heat and traffic grid lock.  There’s no excuse for an experience like this.  In Sturgis there were NO law enforcement officers directing traffic nor were there any Buffalo Chip staff.  Just grid lock. What went wrong and why is there no traffic coordination?  Were people improperly trained?  Did too many people overwhelm the event or have budgets been cut so slim that the job can no longer be done?  It’s a case of pointing fingers.

Bob Dylan at The Buffalo Chip -- 2010

Ron Woodruff is the owner of the Buffalo Chip campground who I’m sure has great pride having overseen the tremendous growth and World Wide recognition the “Chip” has earned as one of the premier concert venues in the mid-west.  Tried to correct this situation, he has and last fall he tried again to get the Meade County commissioners to take corrective action, but the commissioners defeated a Woodruff backed bill which would have set aside money to purchase land for a shortcut from the major campgrounds to I-90.   I’m sure the meeting went something like this: “We don’t need no road that will only be used for two weeks out of the year. It will kill the vendors who depend on Main and Lazelle traffic for their business.”

The dust settles on "The Chip"

But as a business, the Sturgis town council and the Buffalo Chip should never be happy when people attend the rally, put down hard earned money for music concerts and have a bad experience for any reason.  It’s a simple situation.  How many times a year can someone afford to drop $300 for two people to go to a concert, drink a few beers, eat a Gyro and buy a t-shirt?  Not many.  So, they need to listen to the customer and make changes.   How about traffic police coordination? How about traffic alerts?  Or Twitter updates on the expected delays or reasons?  How about park and ride buses with express lanes?  Something.  Anything!

And while I’m on this rant… how about that lame video set up on the Chip stage?   Hey Ron, 1979 called and said they want their VCR camcorder back!  Are margins so tight that a short-term rental of a couple video JumboTrons for people to see the artists or the Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Contest be out of question?  Lastly, there use to be a TV segment on ABC called the “Fleecing of America”… I suggest a segment called the Sturgis “Fleecing of Every Motorcycle Music Fan?”  You see those stop signs that help create the grid-lock, become after the Chip concert, mixed with Monkey Rock and Full Throttle motorcyclists into a law enforcement sobriety stop as police officers stood in the street wafting for alcohol with their scientifically trained nose.  When they found an offence they processed tickets speedier and more efficient than the Hertz rental car return!

Were there irresponsible riders?  Oh yeah, and many of those who participated a bit more than others caught a free ride out of the traffic jam.  Yep, the Chip truly captures the essence of the motorcycle lifestyle, but it’s time for some changes.

Photo’s taken at the Buffalo Chip.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Devils Tower

STURGIS to ASHLAND – We spent some of the previous couple days riding the Black Hills with stunning canyons, small towns and historical landmarks at every S-turn.  It wasn’t all about the Sturgis vendor booths!  As a quick side-bar I want to do a shout out to the owners (Matt) of the Recreational Springs Resort which is a campground and motel and was within a short walking distance of the cabin we stayed.  We ate food at the resort and the hospitality was top notch.  I highly recommend the place.

Posse at Devils Tower

Back to the ride – If memory serves me correctly this was our seventh day on the road as we departed the 70th Sturgis rally around noon.  We wanted to get a couple hundred miles under our belt after doing a brief drive-by tour of Devils Tower and Hulett, WY.   Getting a couple hundred miles west would be a reasonable jumpstart for our return trip home.

The ride out to Devils Tower has a number of long sweeping curves and some beautiful canyons and high plains.  Located in the northwestern northeastern corner of Wyoming the tower rises 1267 above the Belle Fourche River.  Initially known as Bears Lodge, the park has 1347 acres covered in pine forest and grasslands.

Ah, Looks Like Rain?

It is a sacred site for many American Indians (Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota).  Reportedly President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.  There are over 7 miles of hiking trails of which we did maybe 300 feet in the summer heat and most notable is the 200 climbing routes to the summit.  I’ve been here two other times and there are always climbers trying to summit.  And yes, it was the landmark filmed in the 1977 movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Lightning Storm In Ashland, MT

After a few tourist photos in and around the tower we rode into Hulett for lunch and refreshments to cool down.  With a rest stop completed we headed northeast on Hwy 112 (Hulett-Alzada Hwy).  We hit a couple of rain clouds that “spit” a little on us prior to reaching Alzada at the Hwy 212 junction, but thus far the trip didn’t require us to pull out the rain gear.  Amazing!

That was short lived as we soon witnessed the western sky fill with menacing storm clouds.  The day prior we made motel reservations in the small town of Ashland, Montana.  Not even a two horse town, but it turned out to be a brilliant move.

Ashland, MT - Rain Storm

About two hours prior to our arrival in Ashland the weather situation turn nasty.  Not to let a little rain intimidate us we continued riding only to find ourselves in a drenching downpour, complete with hail, thunder and lightning.  A true gully washer!  The lightning was problematic and on more than one occasion the thunder “booms” had us thinking about the odds of getting struck.  Even more lightning became visible on Horne Creek Butte as we traversed the southern tip of Custer National Forest.  Being from the west coast it’s rare to have/see lightning let alone be concerned about getting hit on a moving vehicle.  [Post Ride: evidently there are a number of motorcycle survival lightning strike stories… who knew?!]   Eventually we made it to the motel as the sky open up with more rain and lightning.  We caught some of the storm action by way of the iPhone video HERE and watched as the gravel parking lot flooded.

Ashland, MT Sunset

In the room we stripped rain gear off and started working to get it dried out for the next day adventure.  AT&T continued to deliver no phone service so the option of working out an alternative ride plan was a challenge.  It was fortunate that a gal from the motel offered to shag us some to-go burgers in her automobile and we didn’t get further drenched seeking out some dinner.  Bikers streamed into the motel only to find it full.

ASHLAND to MISSOULA – It’s often said that a clean bike runs better, but after the previous days drenching downpour and “road foam” we dismissed that rationalization as being one for the vain and continued on with the grime laden motorcycles.

The weather looked questionable so we kept the rain gear handy and put on some extra clothing to fight off the colder temps as we rode though Big Sky country.  We continued west on Hwy 212 and re-fueled near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  This area memorializes the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.  Having been there a couple times in the past we rolled on by and made our way onto I-90.

Eastern Montana is a typical high plains environment which means the area is generally treeless, semi arid and low humidity.  We hit some rain showers which required rain gear between Billings and Bozeman, but by the time we grabbed a late lunch in Butte the daytime temps and summer sunshine returned to the typical August norms.

At Lolo Pass

After a 468 mile day we decided Ruby’s Inn and walking across the street for chicken wings and refreshments at Hooter’s was the only way to go.

MISSOULA to CLARKSTON – This is the link between the Missouri River and the Columbia River through the Rocky Mountains.  From Missoula we headed south toward Lolo and traversed U.S. 12 to the Idaho – Montana border. This 99-mile S-turn filled byway, stretches across north-central Montana and Idaho.  It follows the Lewis & Clark explorers’ route through the ancestral homeland of the Nez Perce people. It’s a winding two-lane road through the Clearwater River Canyon, and passes through the Nez Perce National Historical Park.

We stopped at Lolo Pass for a photo op and water break.  Later in the afternoon we grab some lunch at the “Cougar Canyon” station.

More than a few riders have been surprised at just how much fun riding a Harley touring model can be.  While no one would claim the touring models as sportbikes, they certainly can be ridden in a sporting manner.  The key is finding a comfortable pace that carries your speed through the turns with minimal braking.  The combination of excellent two-lane pavement with a multitude of twists and turns made this route a joy to ride.

It was a relatively short day in overall miles, but with the summer temperatures stuck in the mid-90’s most of the day it felt (at least my body did) like a 500+ mile day.  We rolled into Lewiston, crossed the river into Washington state and overnighted at a Best Western.  A nice place and after a long cooling off session in the motel swimming pool the group headed to Paraiso Vallarta for some Mexican dinner specials.

CLARKSTON to PORTLAND – Early in the morning we motored out of town to put some significant miles on the scooters before the summer heat took its toll.  We continued on Hwy 12 to Dayton then through Umatillia, crossed back into Oregon and headed west on I-84.  There was a short stop for lunch to slam down a “Bozo Burger” near Boardman, but it was the only luxury stop otherwise it was gas and go and back on the road.  It was 2,947 cumulative miles later that I pulled into the driveway of home.

Near Hood River

Motorcycling teases us with the freedom to be on the road.  We stop when and where we wanted too, slowed down and experienced the country firsthand.  We breezed through the towering mountains and blue skies and traveled across the plains.  Sturgis for a third-time was a charm!  I hope this travelogue makes you want to get out and ride to new places.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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