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The jester who stole the kings crown…Bob Dylan.

He rode a 1966 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead and loved to ride to get away.  Once when riding through the countryside, he commented that “The police are really friendly around here; they are all waving at me.” Later he learned they wanted him to stop because he had no helmet on.

And speaking of getting away.

It’s about time to load up for the long haul and head east where the thunderclouds hover over grain bins on soybean fields.  I’m talking about the Black Hills Motor Classic, which most of us just call Sturgis.  And the jester himself is playing at the Buffalo Chip on August 10th!

Road-to-Sturgis Game (circa: 1989)

Getting on the “Road to Sturgis” reminds me of that video game by the same name which Harley-Davidson released in 1989.  The game is about a biker who’s trying to get to Sturgis for the annual biker event, unfortunately it’s only days away and you are on the other side of the country. You’re main objective is to get to Sturgis within days, but to gather enough fame to become legendary as the ultimate biker.  You start off the ride determining wealth, charisma, riding ability, mechanical ability and brawler skills…in case you need to work as a bouncer along the way.  After selecting your stats you begin outside a local bike shop where you can spend some of your money to upgrade your bike. Sound familiar?!  Things like brakes, springs and even whole engines can be upgraded but every Harley has to be unique and you have to make it look different.  You’ll also want to buy some extra sturdy clothes because being on the road on a motorcycle is not easy.

Unlike the real world, the riding sequences had very little scenery and were quite lame.  The game suffered from a very limited appeal and these days it’s a challenge to find much of any information about it.  The game did have something that made people want to come back, probably the idea of riding alone on a motorcycle from coast-to-coast is something that appeals to a lot of us.

The Sturgis rally was started in 1938 by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club as an event for Harley riders and their families.  Until he died the founder of the club, J.C. “Pappy” Hoel, would oversee everything, right as rain.  This year it’s the 70th Anniversary and no place in western S.D. will escape the roar and hum of the motorcycle engines.

If you’ve got a few extra bucks on you and can get your scoot to I-90 and exit 32 you’ll be in for a real treat.

Photos courtesy of H-D.

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You could define a good day when everything goes your way, when nothing can take you out of your motorcycle riding rhythm.  No work and stress or minor irritations are brushed aside because of the euphoric emotions flowing with the wind in your face.

That was the vibe heading into the 2010 Good Vibrations in Salem/Keizer this past weekend.  It had the perfect concoction for a motorcycle rally – deep blue clear skies, mid-70 degree weather, and a solid line up of vendor booths along with some good music mixes.  Arguably the chamber-of-commerce would view it as a successful inaugural motorcycle rally – independent of key indicators – as the city rolled out the red-carpet with the goal of helping the mid-valley economy with tourism dollars.  Our group did a 4-hour drive-by on Saturday as we rolled down and explored the asphalt ribbons of Hwy 219 through the farming valley.  The dust has now settled and the rumble of bikes is all but a memory of the rally so it’s time for some feedback.

1.    Marketing:  Do more advertising, and do it earlier.   Leverage low-cost word of mouth motorcycle clubs disti lists, social media etc., to get the word out.  Even with a blog post, and all the talk about an Oregon motorcycle rally with friends, relatives and business associates the attendance wasn’t contagious.  We arrived at the registration hotel (Keizer Renaissance Inn) along with about 4 other motorcycles to have the receptionist tell us that the event was “SPREAD OUT” all across town and we were not at the ‘hub’ of the event.

2.    Maps: Provide one!  Provide an event map on the web site.  Provide an event map on the pocket flyer.  Make .PDF maps available for e-distribution.  Train the hotel employees on how to answer ‘visitors’ question about what is going on.  Admittedly I’m unfamiliar with the inner Salem/Keizer streets and finding some parts of the rally venue was like an exercise in trying to escape the legislature tax hikes.  It was near impossible.  We looped the bridges on Hwy 22/99E/221 so many times it felt like movie Ground Hog day!

3.    Balanced Police Presence: local police were everywhere (biking, walking, Segways) and the ever visible patrol cars on side roads made the event lose some of the ‘festival’ vibe. If they would have been enforcing the anti-littering laws against all smokers throwing their butts everywhere they’d rake in thousands vs. needing comprehensive street patrols and zero-based-tolerance of straight pipes modified exhausts.

4.    Wine Tour: Do more to dispel the negative perception that motorcyclists are wildly racing through farm country on winery tours – “just sipping”, of course – to the next watering hole.  I received a number of emails and comments that it’s no wonder people don’t take motorcyclists serious if they don’t operate sober and safe.  Need to change the overall messaging.

The impact of tourism in Oregon is powerful.  According to Travel Salem, in Marion and Polk counties tourism employs more than 5,600 people having an estimated economic impact in 2009 of $452M.  While I don’t agree with how everything was implemented at this year’s rally I do want to provide a major shout out to Randy Burke and Road Shows Inc., team for all their hard work in bringing what hopefully is an annual motorcycle event to the state.

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I was up early this morning thinking about the Arizona law, which takes effect July 29th.  I wouldn’t have been thinking about illegal immigrants, but for the fact that a drunk driver hit a family members parked car last night which meant that for part of my evening it was spent with law enforcement observing their DUI process.  I’ve come away with a new appreciation about a suspect’s immigration status.   More on this in a future post.

As I was saying… there I was shaving thinking about AZ when on KINK radio I heard the DJ’s talk about the large motorcycle rallies planned this weekend and for drivers to be on the lookout for an increase in motorcycle traffic.  Cool!  Nice to see the ODOT motorcycle safety program in action.  I still believe the variable message signs would be a good and highly visible option, but with a pesky ‘just-say-no’ traffic engineer controlling the “ON” switch… radio ads will help.  In addition, ODOT provided the below press release to all major media outlets:

“Share the road safely with motorcycles

With two large motorcycle rallies happening in Oregon this weekend, ODOT is urging drivers and motorcyclists to watch out for each other and share the road safely.

The BMW Motorcycle Owners of America are holding their 2010 international rally in Redmond July 15-18. The Good Vibrations Motorcycle Rally will take place in Salem and Keizer July 16-18. Both rallies are expected to attract hundreds of motorcyclists from around the state and the nation.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on four wheels or two, we all have to do our part to share the roadways,” said Michele O’Leary, ODOT’s Motorcycle Safety program manager.

A motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on our roads, often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. It’s crucial that drivers always make visual checks for motorcycles by double-checking mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes, merging and at intersections.

Motorcyclists have responsibilities too. They should follow the rules of the road, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted, and always wear a helmet and full protective gear.

Although Oregon is far below the national average for motorcycle fatalities, in 2008, 46 motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes in Oregon. That’s far too many family members, friends and neighbors lost in often preventable incidents.

ODOT offers safety tips for drivers and motorcyclists:

Drivers

  • Remember, motorcycles are vehicles with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
  • Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Remember that road conditions, which are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles, pose major hazards to motorcyclists.
  • Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Don’t tailgate.

Motorcyclists

  • Always wear a helmet and protective clothing.
  • Allow time and space to react to other motorists or changing road conditions.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Motorcycle rider training and education save lives. TEAM OREGON offers classes for beginner to advanced riders.

For more information on ODOT’s motorcycle safety program visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/motorcyclesafety.shtml.”

Oregon state will have a kaleidoscope of motorcyclists traveling over the roads the next 72 hours.  Drivers might notice our tattoos, leathers and even winch at the exhaust noise, but most of all the riders will appreciate the fact that you took notice and we’ll get home safe!

Update: July 19, 2010 — A early scan of the motor vehicle accident reports suggest that this past rally filled weekend was relatively safe for motorcyclists.  The exception being where OSP was dispatched to an accident involving two motorcycles on Highway 20 near milepost 14. The incident was the result of a bucket which blew out from the back of a pickup onto the roadway.  A 2001 BMW K1200LT motorcycle, operated by BENJAMIN JONSSON, and passenger CARA JONSSON, both age 54, from Spruce Grove, Alberta Canada was westbound on Highway 20 near milepost 14 when they came upon the bucket. BENJAMIN JONSSON was able to successfully swerve and miss the bucket.
However, a 2003 BMW R1150T motorcycle, operated by FREDERICK HERZOFF, age 61, and passenger  as ANNETTE HERZOFF both from Paradise City, California were also westbound traveling some distance behind JONSSON’S motorcycle.  FREDERICK HERZOFF attempted to swerve around the bucket and in doing so crashed into the back of JONSSON’S motorcycle. JONSSON and HERZOFF were not traveling together.
All four riders were transported by ambulance to Saint Charles Hospital in Bend. BENJAMIN and CARA JONSSON sustained minor injuries. FREDERICK HERZOFF sustained serious injuries and ANNETTE HERZOFF critical injuries. All four riders were wearing helmets.

Photo courtesy of ODOT.

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Keyser Söze is the fictional character in the 1995 film The Usual Suspects.

It’s a great movie and in pop culture slang Keyser Söze is a shorthand reference to being fooled by the actual villain into believing in a villain that doesn’t exit.  That’s how the “Does anyone else feel they’ve been Keyser Sözed?” or the “Keyser Sözed Syndrome” was born.

We’ve seen several motorcycle rallies get Keyser Sözed over the past year.  Typically the villain is the gloomy economy in cities which can’t support a motorcycle rally cost, but a contributing factor has been the perception issue of ‘biker clubs’ (villain that doesn’t exit) and concerns for additional peace officers to secure the event and their costs.  Peace officer expenses have been named as one of the top expense issues for motorcycle rallies across the U.S.

None of this is stopping Randy Burke, President of Road Shows Inc. (Street Vibrations fame) from working on a motorcycle rally in Salem/Keizer, OR at full throttle.  Keizer city council has yet to make any commitment to the July 16-18 event beyond voting to try and secure some funding.

Will Oregon get Good Vibrations or suffer the Keyser Sözed Syndrome?   Who knows.

But, Sherrie Gottfried, sales manager at the Keizer Renaissance Inn is hoping for good vibes.  She made a pitch to the city council last month vying to have Keizer be the “hub” of the event.  This is the first year for this event which was already scheduled in Salem (although little info exits about the event there) and it now looks like Keizer wants to draft behind the 3-day event.  The Good Vibrations rally will likely have bike competitions, bike shows, entertainment, concerts, poker runs, wine country tours and is expected to attract thousands to the area.

Who is Randy Burke (aka Roadshows Inc.)?  I’ve provided shouts out in the past HERE for his efforts to make Street Vibrations a success.  His company, Roadshows Inc. is a private company categorized under Entertainment Promotion and located in Reno, NV. Online records indicate it was established in the ‘90’s and incorporated in Nevada. Current estimates indicate the company has an annual revenue of $500,000 to $1 million and they employ a staff of approximately 5 to 9.  They are also a fully licensed entertainment booking agency, licensed private event security and event management company.  In addition to Street Vibrations, they produce events in Palm Springs, Lake Havasu, Mammoth Lakes, Myrtle Beach, SC and Milwaukee.  With more than 17 years in the event business they know how to make motorcycle rally magic!

I think this is a unique opportunity for a bike event in Oregon which can grow and is a perfect complement to the northwest activities already underway.  It’s time for a major motorcycle rally in the state!

Full Disclosure:  I’m not affiliated or do business with Roadshows Inc.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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2009 Shriners Children Hospital Toy RunThis past Saturday was Portland’s annual Shriners Children Hospital Toy Run.

The major organizer and motorcycle advocacy group for the event is ABATE and this year marks 30 years.

The weather was dry, but it was cold.  In fact, the temp gauge registered a new low (28 degrees) on the motorcycle.  As I left the neighborhood I noticed leaving tire tracks on the frost covered asphalt.   I met up with the posse for breakfast and the main roads had already received a quick spray of glycol-based de-icers on the overpasses and bridges.  By the time we finished breakfast and drove toward the Tri-Met parking lot the frost had mostly evaporated.

This year’s turnout was nearly as large as last which brought out more than 6,000 riders.   But, more importantly it’s a lot of toys collected for sick kids.  The Toy Run brings together Harleys, Hondas, clubbers, and even the occasional Vespa.  The ABATE members held a motorcycle raffle to help raise money for the hospital and shortly after noon the police escorted riders followed a Tri-Met bus full of toys to the Shriners Hospital.

It was a great toy run and I want to provide a major shout out to the organizers and sponsors:  ABATE; Tri-Met; Paradise H-D; Latus H-D; Columbia H-D; Thunder Mountain MC Rescue; Star Rentals; Megan James Band; H.O.G.; Schulz Clearwater.

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The title is reference to the U2 song, but it’s fitting for the ABATE/Shriners Toy Run which is this Saturday, December 5, 2009.

Rider participation reached new highs last year with more than 6400 motorcycles participating in the toy run and bringing generous levels of donations for needy kids.

The weather looks like it will be most cooperative and I look forward to seeing you on the ride.  More information is available on the ABATE web HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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Music_ToyRunThe 8th Annual Musician’s Toy Run Benefit is set for this Saturday, November 7th at Trails End Saloon.   The ABATE/Shriner’s Toy Run is a motorcycle event sponsored by ABATE of Oregon where hundreds of riders take toys to the children at Shriners Hospitals for Children.  The actual Toy Run will take place on December 6th.

Like previous years, all toys collected and funds raised during the Musicians Toy Run Benefit are donated to the ABATE Toy Run which benefits Shriner’s Kids.  Last year’s musical event was a huge success, raising over $5000 and 6 large bags of new toys for the ABATE/Shriners’ Toy Run.  The venue for this year’s event is at Trails End Saloon in Oregon City, 1320 Main Street. The party will start at 3pm and entertain you untill 1am.  More information is available on musicians and the schedule is located HERE.

Be there for some great entertainment!

Photo courtesy Francinewest.com

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