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Firestone-Tire-SafetyIn Oregon, support for a ban on smoking in cars with kids is well on its way to the Governor.   Senate Bill 444 which passed the Oregon Senate last week would allow police to ticket drivers who were caught smoking in their car if anyone under 18 was present after they were pulled over for another offense.

It’s another example in a long list of arbitrary and capricious “nanny state” regulations, but it passed easily.

The action is no different than what the “Soda Jerk” – NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg – has attempted by imposing his will for the sheer sake of being a true believer in the lifesaving consequences of HIS health agenda.  It would be similar to – and I hate to even provide the idea – the Portland Mayor forcing top-shelf restaurants such as Andina and The Chart House to no longer serve bottles of wine as a way to fight alcoholism.

Independent of what I think about this second-hand cigarette smoking measure, I’m unapologetically against “nanny state” regulation and government highhanded scolding through regulation.  These so-called “substantive bills” seem to have no limit to the government imposing their will for the sheer sake of it.

But, I’m not blogging to rail about poor parenting skills, or scold people for excessive Cherry Coke consumption or promote a car smoking ban.  Rather, once the regulators keep kids safe from second hand smoke where do their idle hands focus next?  Likely on our bedrooms with unmanned vehicles spying monitoring from the back yard patio?!

According to this report (.pdf) only nine % of Oregonians think the government spends money wisely.  The fact that state legislators spent any time on a second-hand smoke issue – which isn’t on anyone’s top 10 list – just amplifies the point.

If a mental break is needed from addressing big issues like PERS reform, streamlining the tax code or fixing the corrections budget, take some time to ponder the number of Oregonians who are effected by road conditions.

As regulators race to Salem complaining about drivers on their cell phones “parked” in the left lane… slow down and look at the poor conditions of the pavement.  I invite you to check out the pavement on OR 217, where fewer than 100K+ vehicles travel daily.  It’s so severely rutted that sections are dangerous for motorcycle travel.  Automobiles changing lanes pepper cars with loose asphalt from the rutted right side to the rutted left lane and bounce around until they settle into the ruts.  It’s worse during the rain… which is 300 days of the year!  The last time major repaving occurred on OR 217 was back in 2006.  Prior to ‘06 it was repaved in 1994.

There are sections of OR 217 that should be classified as “structurally deficient” and signs should be erected in places similar to the “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution” in Washington State.

The funding and road repair priorities in the state are a big issue.  The second-hand smoke while driving bill is nothing but a distraction and disguised to make voters believe regulators are doing something in the capital.

Hey Salem… we’re watching!

UPDATE: March 28, 2013 – The Oregon Legislature tried to pass a similar smoking bill (HB 2385) in the 2009 session.   And according to this report seven states currently ban smoking in automobiles with children under the age of 18 years old.  Interestingly, there are currently 17 states which ban smoking in vehicles while transporting foster children, including the state of Oregon.  The report provides a number of reasons to support smoke-free vehicles when children are present.

UPDATE: June 4, 2013 – The Oregon House yesterday passed Senate Bill 444 in 43-15 vote against the objections of some lawmakers who groused about it as a “nanny state” provision.  The bill will allow police to ticket smokers if the were pulled over for another offense.  The violation would cost $250 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.  The bill now heads to Gov. Kitzhaber, who has said he will sign it. 

Photo courtesy of Firestone.  Full Disclosure: As an aging blogger and survivor of smoking parents and lifelong non-smoker myself I’m sure the Smithsonian will be looking for a location to display my corpse.

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Random-CheckpointIn Oregon non-DOT motorcycle helmets are ALLOWED by definition under ORS 801.366.  See page #59 (HERE).

Independent of your views on the usage of these helmets, many riders would agree that motorcycle-ONLY safety checkpoints are inappropriate.  Yet in spite of the activism and involvement from the motorcycle community to stop or prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-ONLY checkpoints the progress hasn’t always been favorable.

Case in point is the Court of Appeals for the New York Second Circuit which backed roadblocks for the purpose of issuing motorcycle citations.

The back story is that in 2007, the New York State Police began using federal taxpayer grant money to target these motorcyclists with the stated objective “to detect motorcycle safety violations and ensure proper registration and operator compliance with New York State’s motorcycle license requirements.  The first roadblock was set up on October 7, 2007 to hit participants returning from a motorcycle rally nearby in Connecticut. Signs were posted on Interstate 84 ordering motorcycle riders to “exit ahead” while a uniformed police officer directed traffic into a rest area. From there, a total of 280 motorcyclists were detained and forced to undergo “full-blown inspections” that generated 104 traffic tickets. The most common citation was for improper helmet.

In 2008, a total of 17 roadblocks were held, detaining 2278 motorcyclists who were issued 600 tickets for infractions that had nothing to do with safety. Another 365 citations were issued for use of an unapproved helmet. Several detained bikers sued the state police after they were detained 45 minutes or more.

In U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe rejected the motorcyclists’ argument that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applied to this case.  To get around the constitutional need for individualized suspicion of wrongdoing before a seizure, courts have created a “special needs” doctrine that allows roadblock programs serving a particular government need.

In this situation, the state produced statistics that showed motorcycle fatalities dropped 17 percent in the same year that motorcycle helmet ticketing increased 2175 percent, and Judge Sharpe agreed this was proof that the roadblock’s primary purpose was safety. The courts then must balance whether the government need to enhance safety is greater than the interference with individual liberty.

The appellate judges agreed with the lower court’s analysis that it was:  “Applying this balancing test, we conclude that the well catalogued public interest in highway safety is well served by the safety checkpoint program and outweighs the interference with individual liberty in this case,” the second circuit ruled in a brief, summary opinion. “Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that there was no constitutional violation.” A copy of the summary order of November 29, 2012 is at: Wagner v. Sprague (US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 11/29/2012).

I choose to wear a DOT approved helmet, but I dislike discriminatory checkpoints.  Have you been to the Laughlin River Run lately and rode out to Oatman, Arizona on the Oatman-Topock Highway?  How about return to the hotel from a concert at the Buffalo Chip during Sturgis week?  Random LEO check points are the norm.  Officers invade your personal space to check for alcohol.

Could Oregon be next to implement similar “safety” initiatives?  Hopefully not, but you might recall that at an ABATE rally in Olympia, WA a few years ago it become a photo op for “profiling” riders and law enforcement writing down license plate information (video HERE).  In 2011, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5242  which outlaws profiling of motorcyclists and earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law California Bill AB 1047 which outlaws motorcycle only checkpoints.

If motorcycle only checkpoints raise your blood pressure then write or ride to the Oregon capitol in February and talk to your state legislators.  Explain to them that there is no reason why anybody in any state should be profiling any particular group including motorcyclists and you want them to stop it.

Photo courtesy Doug Chanco.  The 2012 Biker Rally at the Capitol HERE.

UPDATE:  Added the link to Oregon helmet law history HERE.

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Seattle Motorcycle Unit Selects Harley-Davidson Electra Glide

The Pope blessed a couple of motorcycle tanks earlier in the month in prep for next years  110th Anniversary ride in Rome and now the Seattle Police department has selected a new ride.

Does it get any better for the motor company?!

As background, the primary duties of the Seattle Motorcycle Unit are traffic complaint enforcement, high congestion traffic control and enforcement, accident reduction enforcement, escorts, and special event traffic control.

Motorcycle officers are assigned to geographic districts throughout the city on a daily rotation. The use of traffic districts is intended to give the motorcycle officers a more thorough knowledge of the traffic problems in the varied City neighborhoods and to provide consistent traffic enforcement citywide.

There were five motorcycles evaluated by the unit: the Kawasaki Concours, the Honda ST1300PA, the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, the Victory Commander and the Harley-Davidson Road King. Thirty-one officers helped narrow down the selection by riding each one of the five motorcycles for one week and evaluating them.   The department chose to stay with Harley-Davidson, but switched from the Road King to the Electra Glide.

Analysts project that quarterly revenue for the motor company will fall 19% year-over-year and this new purchase can only help earnings.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson, Electra Glide

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The 2012 Progressive International Motorcycle show will soon hit the northwest on December 16-18th at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

Attendees can check-out new bikes from Aprilia, Beta, BMW, Brammo, BRP, Darwin, Ducati, Erik Buell Racing, Gas Gas, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Husqvarna, Indian, Kawasaki, KTM, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Norton, Star, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha.  There will also be the latest aftermarket parts and accessories.

Not only will there be new bikes, but the show is jammed pack with other events and activities.

There is the Learning Curve – an interactive stage with industry experts presenting a variety of motorcycling topics for both new and experienced riders including adventure riding, motorcycle maintenance, increasing bike performance, seminars for women riders and more.   There will be Demo Rides for licensed motorcyclists.  There is the Custom Bike Show – where motorcycle builders will showcase elite-level custom motorcycles competing for a piece of a $90,000 cash purse prize and a chance to compete in the U.S. Championship, at the Daytona Beach Motorcycle Show, in March.

The Smage Bros will have a motorcycle trials stunt riding show and attendees will also get a chance to create their own motorcycle design at the Kawasaki Design-A-Bike kiosk, featuring a brand new digital spray-painting technology available only at these shows.

See you there!

Photo courtesy of Progressive.

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Thermal factors such as air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity and humidity all contribute to our riding comfort.   Or some would say DIS-comfort?!

My trip in April through the Willamette and Modoc National Forest to Laughlin and then most recently the ride to the Hells Canyon Rally reminded me how stubbornly, Mother Nature refuses us the ability to control these thermal factors.

During those trips, I was plugged in for multiple hours during the day to combat the rain/cold weather and it got me to thinking about my H-D heated clothing.  I’ll do this on occasion as I meander along the highway listening to the engine noise as a musical backdrop.

I bought my current heated vest and gloves back in 2000 after returning home from a bitter cold trip to Reno.  It was during Street Vibrations and it snowed on the surrounding hills in late September.   I recall leaving Reno wearing multiple pairs of socks, long-sleeve t-shirts, handkerchief around the face and ski gloves and it wasn’t enough. Snow was falling on the ground in Susanville and by the time I arrived in Grants Pass I was nearly frozen.  Vowing to never let that happen again I immediately went out and bought the gear for future trips.  I always pack it on the bike if I think the weather has a chance of being dicey where I’m going.

It’s well known that when colder outside temperatures occur, the nervous system restricts blood flow to the extremities to maintain the body’s core temperatures. The toes and the fingers quickly become uncomfortably cold.  Other factors like wind chill aggravate the situation even more. Also, the presence of moisture increases thermal transfer significantly and causes heat to escape more rapidly and cold to penetrate faster.

Clearly the type of clothing we wear, the physical activity levels and individual physiology are elements of thermal comfort we can control.  So, I started wondering… did H-D design and make this gear or was it outsourced.  My search led me to Gerbing’s heated clothing, which is the sole supplier of Harley-Davidson heated gear.

Back in the 1970’s Gordon Gerbing owned a small machine shop just south of Seattle that primarily produced parts for Boeing airplanes. Several of his employees rode motorcycles to work all year, even through the Seattle winter chill and dampness. Gordon made note of their discomfort when employees arrived at work after a cold morning’s winter ride and he decided to look for a way to keep the riders warm. He devised a way to “wire up” motorcycle clothing with heating pads and connect the pads to the bike’s electrical system.

Over the years Jeff and Wendy Gerbing assumed management of the business and it’s a family affair.  As the technology improved they won more deals and then in 1999, Harley-Davidson selected Gerbing’s to be the sole supplier of Harley-Davidson label heated clothing.  Basically the wire inside the garment consists of bundles of stainless steel strands, twisted and wrapped in a thin Teflon-derived coating. They alter the number of these strands in each wire to custom-tune the amount of heat. By using these wires either in a heating pad, in a woven pattern or in a ribbon matrix they can further tune how the heat is delivered to the body.

In the fall of 2008 Gerbing’s moved into a new 30,000 sq ft facility located in Tumwater, WA., and this year they announced plans to expand into North Carolina (Stoneville) with a new plant that will create 158 jobs by 2015.  They will open an 88,000-square-foot facility and the company plans to invest more than $1.2 million in building upgrades and equipment with help from state, county and local incentives.

These days Gerbing’s clothing is not only popular with motorcyclists but includes hunters, fishermen and professional athletes. Among its customers are teams in the National Football League and Major League Baseball as well as law enforcement and the military.  The new facility in North Carolina is also part of a move to relocate the company’s manufacturing operations to the U.S. from China, where Gerbing had difficulty obtaining deliveries on time.

After 10+ years of use, I for one truly appreciate their heated clothing and it’s especially rewarding to hear in this economic climate about a manufacture bringing jobs back to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Gerbing.

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Oregon Trail Interpretive Center - Baker City, OR

On Friday we were up early to grab coffee and breakfast before making our way out to the ‘Devils Tail’ and Hells Canyon Dam.

It was rather obvious while eating my scrambled eggs and looking out across the vendor parking lot that there were some hard-living characters who had run wild the night earlier.  They weren’t totally burned out, but obviously moving a little slower.  It got me to thinking about how Harley like virtually every other motorcycle manufacture, is facing a huge, looming crisis; the ageing of its core clientele.  Like every other market they touch Boomers dominate the motorcycle industry, especially for those expensive touring cruisers that generate so much profit for the corporate coffers.

Depending on whose data you reference; AMA states the average age of its members is 48, the American Motorcycle Industry Council’s most recent survey (2008) has the average pegged at 43 years old (up 5 years from 1998) and a JD Power and H-D survey has the average at 49 years old.  It would seem that motorcycling is no longer a young man’s sport.   Based on my observation this morning I would concur and while I didn’t see anyone trading their favorite ride in on an RV, I did see a lot of interest in the Boss Hog trikes and customers lining up for demo rides.  Most were intrigued with how to navigate the parking lot in reverse gear.

Hells Canyon Dam

I’m not sure about you, but I’m the kind of person who gets satisfaction when my mechanical stuff is humming.  It puts a smile upon my face and makes me feel glad all over.  I felt that way on the ride out to the Hells Canyon Dam.  The departure temperature hung in the mid-60’s – cool for eastern Oregon — and looking around the horizon it was clear there was going to be a mix of rain showers and blue sky.  Yeah, we were going to be dancing between the rain drops all day long on this ride.

We traveled out on Baker-Copperfield Hwy (Hwy 86) toward Richland, through Halfway with a brief pit stop at the Scotty’s Outdoor Store just prior to Oxbow as we headed back to the bottom of the canyon.  Hells Canyon is on the border of Idaho and Oregon, and the ride is deep in the valley alongside the Snake River.  Yeah that one — the one where Evel Knievel attempted his X-1 Skycycle jump over the canyon, unsuccessfully, back in 1974.   Many people will disagree when you remind them that the Hell’s Canyon is North American’s deepest river gorge at almost 8,000 feet, 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, but it’s true.

Posse On Devil's Tail

And as a bonus it has one of the most famous rides in the area — the Devil’s Tail — a 22 mile route from Oxbow, Oregon to Hell’s Canyon Dam. There are hundreds of S-curves and twisty’s with picturesque views.  The Devil’s Tail is not for the novice, and requires attention to riding. Last year we talked to a motorcyclist who misjudge the road and dump his bike.  Fortunately they had only minor injuries.

Baker City "Rain Out"

Back in the day this road was used to deliver workers and supplies to the site of the dam construction when it was being built in 1966. Today Idaho Power employees use it to access the dam and outdoor hobbyist use it for recreational access.  At the end of the road the dam and water were nearly level with the road.  As you drive across the dam we were greeted with a loud “whooshing” sound and at the visitor’s center which is a short, but steep ride below the dam we took pictures of the large volume of water flowing through to make hydro electrical power.  It’s a spectacular sight and the close proximity means you literally feel natures power.

Interstate 84 North - Departing HCMR

We reversed directions and headed back to the Sunridge Best Western where we met up with some other riders who arrived late-afternoon.

On Saturday the weather was a mixed bag.  The morning started out partly cloudy with the occasional sun burst, but the Whitman National Forest was socked in with storm/rain clouds which is where the posse planned to ride for a ghost town tour.  We downed some breakfast and remained optimistic the day would bring something better.  It turned out that optimism was sorely misplaced!

Hwy 14 - West of Umatilla

Thinking it would clear later in the day we elected to hang out in the vendor booths in downtown Baker City and wait it out… but, rain is a life metaphor – into every ride a little rain must fall, right?   Well it did.  I know the Folkestad’s like to state that the HCMR has never been “rained out” and I’m not sure what criteria they use, but it started raining around 1pm with showers at first and then turned to a steady hard rain from 2pm through most of the night.  We graced the downtown area refreshment centers and talked shop with the High Desert H-D folks from Meridian, ID.  Downtown was jammed and by the time we returned to the motel restaurant/bar it was packed with wet riders who called the day a total bust.  Good for Baker City businesses, but it seemed the weather conditions were conspiring against us.

Near Maryhill Winery - Goldendale, WA

On Sunday morning you could smell the cool breath of mother nature as we wiped off the previous night rain soaked seats.  Unlike Western Oregon, the majority of the landscape in Eastern Oregon is wide open which allows riders to see the lay of the land and it provides plenty of time to take it all in.  For me I enjoy Eastern Oregon because it’s different.  The people are different (in a positive/good way), the weather is different, it looks different and the roads are different.  It seems that people have a habit of never appreciating a place until you’re about to leave it.   I had some regrets that I didn’t get time to explore the ghost towns, but we were about to point the bikes north hoping for a dry day!

We rode out of Baker City on I-84 and encountered cooler temperatures as we traversed the Wallowa Mountains.  The sun shined brightly and by the time we stopped to re-fuel in Pendleton is was actually warm.  We cut over to Umatilla and rode Hwy 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River.  The pull toward home and returning to “normal” life was getting stronger as the pace quickened back to Portland.  We dodged some rain drops near “The Couve” and got home in time to learn that yes, the self-proclaimed “King” — Lebron James — was still not a NBA champion and that my friends means the only place celebrating more than Dallas that night was Cleveland!

In spite of the ‘rain out’ on Saturday the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally was a great experience.  If you have not attended it should be something on your bucket list!

Postcard From Hells Canyon – Part 1 HERE.

Photos taken by editor. Previous HCMR posts: 2010 HERE, 2009 HERE

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Motorcycle enthusiasts in any given year will lobby and go to the mat on legislation issues that affect their hobby in the Northwest.

In Washington state one such bill was SB 5242  —  known as the biker profiling bill – it recently passed into law.   The bill prohibits singling out bikers for police stops without a legitimate reason. Motorcycle profiling is defined as when law enforcement officers single out people who ride motorcycles or wear biker “clothing,” stopping, questioning, searching or arresting them without legal grounds.

Motorcycle clubs who feel they have been singled out over the years see this as a major victory.  However, it’s a win for all motorcyclists in a way that the media isn’t really talking much about. Let me explain.

You might recall that I blogged about the NHTSA who recently made funds available to state, county and local law enforcement agencies to run “motorcycle only” checkpoints. The funds were recently applied for and granted in Florida, and as you can imagine during Daytona Bike Week there was a motorcycle only checkpoint in operation and the bikers-as well as the AMA- went ballistic.

Under the new Washington State law this supposedly cannot happen. Washington State Police (WSP) has stated that although they would not have applied for the funds regardless, that would not have stopped sheriffs and city law enforcement from applying. However, under the new bill they cannot … until someone decides to run county or city legislation to override the state law…

UPDATE: May 16, 2011 – Interesting and well articulated alternative viewpoint from Brian O’Neill (LEO) on how SB 5242 targets the wrong folks (police officer training) and this will get in the way of disrupting gang activity in Washington state.

Photo courtesy of Photobucket

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