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IMG_3406The World’s Fair came to Spokane in 1974.  Forty years later the first tri-state Pacific Northwest HOG rally came to town and is now in the books!

Several of us rode up and took part in the event along with over 1600 other attendees plus a mix of locals and volunteers.

Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson hosted the PNW HOG Rally at its 11-acre complex. The rally had good music, food, refreshments and local vendors from the biking community.  At one point there were over a 1,000 motorcycles parked on the grass in front of Lone Wolf H-D to enjoy the festivities.

Lake Coeur d'Alene

Lake Coeur d’Alene

A few shout-outs from this blogger:

  • Thanks to Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson for being a great host.
  •  Kudos to J.T. Hasley (H.O.G. Events Manager) and Bob Klein (Harley-Davidson) for supporting.
  • Terrific job on the printed maps and rides that made it safe and fun.
  •  As a company sponsored riding club how can I not thank Harley-Davidson and Harley Owners Group for bringing it all together.
  •  Lastly, a sincere thanks to the many volunteers who made us all feel welcome and put in some long hot days to make the event a success.
Closing Dinner Celebration

Closing Dinner Celebration

A job well done!

A few of us stopped in at Cruisers on the state line where many roads lead there and one that goes right through the joint.  I’m not sure if my hearing will recover from either the band or the deafening loud pipes as folks motored through.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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PacificNW-RallyEach week motorcycle rally’s seem to rise as the temperatures and if you attend one the smiles are contagious!

I wanted to bring your attention to the first ever tri-state H.O.G. rally which occurs July 24-27th in Spokane Valley, Washington.

No doubt you’ve seen on TV documentaries, rumor or cameo showcases in the media where a rally is deemed a magical place.  It’s hard not to notice the spectacle of all things chrome and leather symbolizing the culture of Harley-Davidson.  Motorcycle rally’s are an American icon and you can’t mistake the looks, the sound and the feel of a H.O.G rally!

Some of you will undoubtedly try and tell me that there is no new blood coming to the H.O.G. rally’s.  That they’ve become nothing more than the equivalent of a state fair.  Conventional, cliche, and common.  And then I always seem to get an email or two reciting the Sturgis Rally statistic… the average age of a Sturgis attendee is about 52 and the only young people there are usually brought in as staff.  So, take your eyes off of the bartender from Raleigh trying to earn college tuition for the year with the pronounced cleavage and take notice of all the AARP people behind her.

My advice is if you don’t have fun at rallies then, give up!  Don’t go because whining is so 1999.

Like many of you, however, I enjoy motorcycle rallies.  It’s that simple.  The people, the energy, the passion, the spirit, the vendors and, of course, the motorcycles. It’s a great opportunity to have real conversations with other enthusiasts.  And, I’m a sucker for information, for your story.  I want to hear everybody’s story.

It’s tough to narrow down a list of things that I like about a motorcycle rally, but after the most important—wind in the face journey—here are a few:

People Watching—The cast of characters you see at motorcycle rallies are unlike people you’ll see at any other type of event, bar none. And the funny thing about it is this – they’re not just hardcore bikers.  I’ve seen kids to grandparents, from plumbers and bus drivers to attorneys and Wall Street traders. From long hair and long beards to clean cut and clean shaven. From party-crazed to people that could be your next door neighbors.

What’s New—Rally’s are the place to find some of the newest bike products and gear. This is where manufacturers and distributors launch new merchandise, show off their stuff and try to start a buzz with their best customers.  In addition you’re likely to get wind of a special place to take your bike for a “once-in-a-lifetime” journey, whether it’s a major ride or a side trip. And you’ll know it’s worth experiencing the ride for yourself because the people at rallies live for this stuff.

Showcase—Motorcycle rally’s are the ultimate place to showoff your bike. This is why many of us spend every free hour riding, cleaning, fine tuning or just staring at our motorcycle. Whether you ride the newest model or decades-old legend, rallies are where like-minded folks can talk about their rides and showoff the latest accessories.

Downtime Fun On The Road—Concerts featuring rock and country bands that I care about. Regional food and refreshments from the best local hangouts. Bike shows and parades. Biker gear and apparel from national and independent brands.

Passion—Riders who show up at a motorcycle rally are passionate about their bikes.  It’s easy to sit down and talk for hours, sharing stories about the sights you’ve seen, the terrain you’ve covered, and the roads you’ve traveled.

What’s your favorite part of a motorcycle rally?

See you in Spokane Valley!

Photo courtesy of H.O.G.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Idaho Praraie

Somewhere in Idaho…

Five friends, 2200 miles, 15 fuel stops, and Ten Sleep Canyon – priceless!

Sure it’s a nod to MasterCard, but priceless experiences are better when shared and now that I’m back from some extended work travel that is my intent.

It was a sunny Saturday (August 24) and the leather-clad group rolled east like Pacific Northwest thunder to where more than 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts were expected for the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary festivities in Milwaukee.  

Looking down on Jackson, WY

Looking down on Jackson, WY

The group had laid out a casual route plan, but embracing total spontaneity of the open road to see where ever the wind might take us wasn’t really in the cards for this trip.  We did eat when we got hungry, slept when we got tired and would drink refreshments when the bikes were parked at a motel for the night.

Three of us in this group had made a northern journey in 2008 for the 105th Anniversary (HERE), but on this trip we decided to take a more southern route.  That meant a lot more freeway travel and covering some very familiar road for at least the first 500 miles.

Pano of Grand Teton's

Pano of the Grand Teton’s

Boise, Idaho was like déjà vu all over again, (weren’t we just here?) and we must have been thinking about that Toby Keith song, I Love This Bar & Grill because we landed at the Reef restaurant again.  We met a couple Canadian float plane pilots at one of the pub stops and shared some interesting stories.

Grand Teton's

Grand Teton’s

The next morning we departed Boise after a McD’s power breakfast and headed toward Jackson, WY.   We initially planned to take Highway 20, through a desolate place known for the National Reactor Testing and then maybe a quick stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Climbing down a lava tube sounded like fun, but it was another incredibly hot day.  Too hot to be walking around on black lava in motorcycle gear so we took the faster route and continued on I-84/I-15 to Idaho Falls.  

Heading toward Ten Sleep

On Hwy 26 riding toward Ten Sleep

From there we rode out on Highway 26 to Swan Valley then rode on Highway 31 (Pine Creek Rd) through the Targhee National Forest into Victor, ID where we picked up Highway 33/22 (Teton Pass Hwy).  This road took us through the western end of the Teton Pass and southern part of Teton Valley.  There were some great views!

We overnighted in Jackson, WY., which has a cowboy theme about the place.  Downtown has a daily gunfight and there are a lot of shops to spend $$ in if you like the tourist thing.  We had dinner at the Rendezvous Bistro which had outstanding food and to die for Meatloaf!  Strongly recommend the place if you’re in the area.

The next morning we headed out on Highway 191/89 and admired the majestic mountain view of the Grand Teton’s.  The park gets over 4M visitors each year, but the traffic on this day was light.  We stopped for a couple of photo ops, but continued on.  We were leaving the “high-country” and at Morlan, we took Highway 26 east and rode toward Riverton then on to Thermopolis.  There was a sign when we entered that said it was “the world’s largest hot spring” and is situated in a state park.  We stopped for lunch at a local dive that was having issues with the grill vent.  The entire place smelled like an open BBQ, but the burgers went down well.

Pano of Ten Sleep Canyon

Pano of Ten Sleep Canyon

We continued on to Ten Sleep Canyon.  Once a little known backwater, Ten Sleep is today a premier limestone climbing area in Wyoming.  

The Posse at Ten Sleep Canyon

The Posse at Ten Sleep Canyon

At Worland we rode out on Highway 16.  It’s called The Sweet 16 for being the easiest route to Yellowstone Park due to the gentle curves and lower grades.  This 92 mile corridor is a great ride and should be added to your bucket list.  From the town of Ten Sleep, US 16 leaves agricultural land and heads east along Ten Sleep Creek and through a spectacular canyon.  The canyon is filled with vivid colored limestone and dolomite rock walls and the cliffs take on a life of their own with shapes and faces.  The road continues into the Big Horn Mountains, which offers up lush grasslands, alpine meadows and glacier lakes.  The road crosses over the Powder River Pass at an elevation of 9,666 feet and then makes a steep descent (6-7%) into Buffalo.  There we rode on I-90 east and overnighted in Gillette. 

This riding day was truly a highlight of the road trip in my view and one that is most memorable.  It was filled with lots of mountain eye-candy, painted desert and Wyoming wonders.

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 2 (HERE).

Post Script:  I neglected to include a shout out to MC who couldn’t make this trip.  He and Sherry were excited to make the journey “home” and planned to ride out and join our group in Milwaukee.  Unfortunately MC was hit by a driver (HERE) who was trying to beat a red light while attending Shark Week III in St. George, Utah in early August.  We missed you MC and all of us are looking forward to future rides together!  You can follow MC’s recovery progress HERE or on his blog HERE.

Photos taken by author. 

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4-Corners By Harley-Davidson – Part 3

Beartooth Pass Scenic Highway

Gaining Altitude on Beartooth Pass Scenic Highway

This is a continuation of Part-2 HERE, of our 4000-mile journey to 4-Corners that led us through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

Billings to Bear Tooth Pass – Yellowstone – Bozeman, MT – On this morning we said “Hasta la vista, baby” to one of the riders in our group who had to peel off and take a more direct route home to Oregon.

Beartooth Pass

On Beartooth Pass

The rest of the posse was heading to Wyoming’s highest paved primary road…the Beartooth Scenic Byway.

It’s on Highway 212 and runs about 70 miles south and then west from Red Lodge in Wyoming to Cooke City, in Montana. The online data states that the Beartooth Pass summit is at 10,947 feet although our GPS from the top was reading 10,957 feet.

Beartooth Pass

Riding Across The Top Of Beartooth Pass

It didn’t matter because it felt like we were on the top of the world and could see 100’s of miles!

It is an incredible road to ride a motorcycle on and although I’ve never been there, I believe it would compete with riding through the Swiss Alps for excitement.   The road is essentially in two parts – the lower section that rises as you head south out of Red Lodge and the upper part at the higher elevations.

Descending Beartooth Pass

Descending Beartooth Pass

The views on the way up are terrific and it is a difficult decision whether to continue riding or stop every ¼ mile and take pictures.  We did some of both, including GoPro’s mounted on the helmets to video record parts of the trip.  We met other riders along the road and they all had big smiles on their faces as if we had all found a long lost secret riding location.

Some parts of the upper section of Beartooth Pass had gusty winds that were inconsistent from bend-to-bend that required our attention and it was much colder at the higher altitude.  Nothing more than leather jackets, and the slopes were steep and the views were spectacular.  On top there was snow in the shadow parts of the mountain.

Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park

We made several photo stops on the way down as we headed toward the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone Park.

In the summer this is a dramatic entrance with a rich diversity of landscape compared to other entrances to the park.  Traffic was very light and just after we entered the park at 7,365-feet altitude, we cut between the 10,928-foot Abiathar Peak and the 10,404-foot Barronette Peak.

Bison in Lamar Valley

Bison in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is home to large amounts of Bison, some of which we met on the road meandering along without a care in the world.  We exited the park at Gardiner where The Roosevelt Arch is located.  The top of the Roosevelt Arch is inscribed with “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” which is from the Organic Act of 1872, the enabling legislation for Yellowstone National Park.

The Roosevelt Arch

The Roosevelt Arch – Yellowstone National Park

We continued on to Bozeman, MT., and overnighted at the rather nice Best Western Plus Grantree Inn.  There was an upscale sports bar and restaurant in the hotel and we grab dinner there and chatted with some of the locals.

Bozeman to Shelby, MT – The next morning we fueled up early and motored north on US Route 86.  It’s also referred to as the Bridger Range Scenic Drive.

On US Route 86 - Bridger Range Scenic Drive

On US Route 86 – Bridger Range Scenic Drive

It’s about 40miles and intersects with Highway 89 north of the town of Wilsall.  The road follows the eastern flank of the Bridger Mountains.  Once the road enters the National Forest, the views are a bit more limited due to the thick forest, but there are still enough open areas to keep the drive interesting.  The Bridger Bowl ski resort is about 20min from Bozeman.

Smith Valley

Smith River Valley

There are no services along the route, but what an incredible scenic road!  If you ever get a chance ride this route do it.  The road is a nicely paved and provides excellent views of the mountains which dominated the view to the west.

We connected up with US Route 89 which is the “Backbone of the Rockies” and links seven National Parks across the Mountain West.  We rode through the The Smith River Valley.  Stopped for a late breakfast at the Branding Iron Café in White Sulphur Springs.

IMG_3393ADeparting White Sulphur Springs meant we were on the Kings Hill Scenic Byway as it winds through the Little Belt Mountains.  We passed through the Lewis and Clark National Forest and savored the rugged beauty.

As the scenery turn flat there were gravel roads that crisscrossed US Route 89 all the way to Great Falls.  It was hot with a lot of wind buffeting on this day and in Great Falls we stopped at Big Sky Harley-Davidson for a soda break and to look for a t-shirt.

Glacier National Park - Going The Sun Road

Glacier National Park – Going To The Sun Road

We departed and connected with I-15 north and headed toward Shelby.  Several miles up I-15 we stopped at the Mountain View Co-Op in Brady for fuel.  We ran into some old farmers there and spend a good deal of time chatting about various items from how loud the bikes were to the price of wheat.  It was almost like a TV show!

We arrived in Shelby and overnighted at the Comfort Inn.  It was an interesting hotel with part of it being on Indian reservation and had gambling in the lobby, but the rooms in the new section had just opened and they had friendly service.  We walked down the hill and ate dinner at the Ringside Ribs which was full of hungry truck drivers.

Riding the Going To The Sun Road - Glacier National Park

Riding the Going To The Sun Road – Glacier National Park

Shelby to Sandpoint, ID (via Going To The Sun Road and West Glacier) – We departed fairly early the next day and motored out on Highway 2 west bound.  We were headed for the “Going To The Sun Road” at St. Mary and east entrance of Glacier National Park.  We rode through Cut Bank then Browning and when refueling in St. Mary we took some time for refreshments.

If you’ve never driven a motorcycle on the Going-to-the-Sun Road it’s clearly one of the top 10 national park experiences.

Going To The Sun Road

Riding the Going To The Sun Road

There is significantly less traffic (shuttle buses and tourists) when traversing the park east to west and we didn’t have to contend with large crowds at any of the prime viewing pullouts.  The road offers a visual assortment of moutain views that anyone will enjoy.  It’s narrow in places, and in a constant state of repair due to the annual freeze-thaw cycle.

We didn’t pull off at the Logan Pass visitor center.

Lake

Lake McDonald

We’ve been down this road before and the visitor center crowds are not our gig.  The view of the Clements Mountain and the southern tip of the Garden Wall were terrific.  Many of the park visitors motor up the pass aboard a Red Jammer, one of Glacier’s renowned fire engine-red, open-air touring buses that debuted in 1937.  Supposedly they gained their nickname for the way drivers “jammed” their way through the gears.

"Glides" on the Going To The Sun Road

“Glides” on the Going To The Sun Road

We had GoPro camera’s running through much of our way down to West Glacier where it looks like time has stood still in this remote corner of Montana.  The log buildings have changed very little since they were built in 1938.  Any “inappropriate development” has been curtailed and the village has maintain its historic character.  There was a quick break at the village and we were making good time so we continued on to Kalispell.  We motored on and thought about stopping in Libby, but continued on to Bonners Ferry then connected with Highway 95 south for Sandpoint, ID.

Bonner's Ferry, ID

Bonner’s Ferry, ID

We had left the plains-induced sweat running down our backs for cooler temperatures and it was nice riding.  Although I have to admit that the cumulative riding over the previous 11 days had started to wear on me.   We were heading toward home at this point so the time to pull off and take photos were few.  We were really about getting through some miles.

It had been a 345 mile day through some slow going,  RV and tourist ridden roads, but we were in Sandpoint and checked into the La Quinta Inn before 6pm.

Sandpoint, ID at the La Quinta Inn

Sandpoint, ID at the La Quinta Inn

We showered and had refreshments at Connie’s.  We intended to eat at a Thai restaurant, but ran out of patience and instead had dinner at Connie’s.

Sandpoint to Portland – The next morning we were again up and on the road before 7:30am because we had a 430+ mile day and the forecast was searing heat.  We headed out of town and caught a glimpse of the city’s new downtown by-pass as we headed across the Sandpoint Long Bridge.  It was slow going on Highway 95 to Coeur d’Alene, but we pick up speed once we connected with I-90 and then Highway 395 through the Washington State farm land.  We pulled into the Country Travel Plaza for a fuel and refreshment stop as the heat of the day wore on.  We had a late lunch at C&D Drive In at Boardman and then rolled into Portland around 5pm.

After 400-miles the sun sets on the "Glide"

The sun sets on the end of the 4-Corners “Glide” adventure

It’s not often that you get to ride for the pure enjoyment of the open road and the excitement of what’s around the next curve.

We were on the road for 12-days, visited eleven states, made new friends, discovered a part of history and rumbled across 4000 miles of the U.S.  There were smells, wind gusts, moisture hungry lowland desert, tall pines and scented blooms along with blazing sun, searing heat, rugged landscape and mountain peaks that reached up and touched the clouds.  It was a most rewarding trip and riding the adventure with some classy motorcycle buddies was priceless!

That was the 4-Corner’s ride in August 2012.  It is now history forever saved on the internet!

This is multi-part blog post.  Part 1 – HERE and Part 2 – HERE.

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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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

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Kearl Module Transport Project

It’s a classic battle.  On one side are the corporations who would inject millions of dollars into struggling rural economies and justify the action as an economic benefit pitted against National environmental groups who state it will pose a threat to public safety and a risk to the environment.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

If you live in the northwest and have ever made it to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally then you’ve likely traveled over Lolo Pass, (U.S. Highway 12).  I’ve ridden this route several times to and from Sturgis.  In fact, last year our group traveled this route from the East going West and were amazed at the high-quality level of what seemed like freshly laid asphalt.  The route hugs the serpentine banks of the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers and road signs bear the silhouettes of the 19th-century explorers Lewis and Clark.  There is a particular interesting segment of the highway where you’ll read signs proclaiming the next 99-miles is nothing but S-curves.  And they are not kidding!  The National Scenic Byway is a treasure and one that should to be experienced by motorcycle enthusiasts slowly in appreciation.

So what’s the issue?  Well it’s complicated… a local issue having global impacts.

It’s not well known, but Imperial Oil and ConocoPhillips are planning to ship hundreds of tons of oil equipment up the Columbia River, destined for the Kearl Lake oil sands project near Fort McMurray in Alberta as part of the Kearl Module Transport Project (KMTP).  Once those shipments reach Lewiston on the Washington/Idaho border they will then be loaded on to gigantic, multi-lane wide trucks weighing upwards of 500,000 lbs (semi-trucks generally max out at 80,000 lbs), and from there, the equipment would inch its way along Idaho’s stretch of U.S. 12, through the Clearwater National Forest, into Montana and points beyond (See map above).  These so-called “megaloads” could be up to 3-stories high, occupy 24 feet side-to-side (the full width of U.S. 12) and be 200 feet long.  The companies will spend more $21 million for permits and hundreds of highway modifications to accommodate the loads.

What we have here is a French company shipping Korean-made products on Dutch trucks to a Canadian work-site, that has the potential to destroy one of our most prestigious scenic byways and flagship motorcycle routes in the northwest!

Emmert "Mega-Load" on U.S. Highway 12

I realize it’s easy for anyone, including myself to lob a dismissive one-liner… but, does anyone think this is a one-time occurrence?  I don’t.  In fact, Imperial Oil, hopes to move 207 separate “modules” to Fort McMurray. For each load it will take the trucks nine nights to cover the route through Idaho and Montana.  Sure there were some modifications made and paid for by the companies, including additional pullouts along the route and raised or buried power lines — so the route could handle the shipments — but, the route is being actively marketed as a gateway to a valuable yet relatively undiscovered oversized shipping corridor—primarily utilizing Highway 12 — that ties the Pacific Rim to Canada and the interior U.S.  The Lewiston port’s website states in a section titled “Columbia-Snake Corridor and Highway 12: The West Coast Alternative.”

“The carbon footprint, transportation, permitting and strategic planning costs of utilizing this route [are] significantly less than shipping through alternate marine routes importing into the United States with the same destination.”

As is always the case in these type situations both sides ‘lawyered up’ and in record time it was run through the Idaho Supreme Court who in January ruled/approved 4-shipments through the “permanent” corridor.  More information is available in a well researched and fact-filled article by Alex Sakariassen (Missoulan News) that provides a great overview of the various factors in this issue that impacts Idaho and Montana residents; now and in the future.

Since the ruling, the second “mega-load” left Lewiston last Thursday night.  And as you might expect, winter weather got worse and the “mega-load” was held in position for, as Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) claimed, “routine vehicle maintenance”.  The short journey is now taking at least 11 days!   And if that wasn’t enough to make you scratch your head, Emmert International is using Idaho State Police (ISP) as escorts for the ConocoPhillips mega-load transports.  Emmert is footing the bill, but Idaho lawmakers still have to give their authorization/approval for overtime and associated costs for Idaho troopers to accompany the mega-loads.

Next up is surely a Discovery Channel series…  chronicles of the “mega-load” where the burly, bearded, sleep deprived, derring-do drivers and swashbuckling navigators traverse Lolo Pass with the threat of activists breaking rigs or plunging into the ice-cold river to haul their indispensable cargo to the Canadian oil mines… An ideological conflict and adventure on Monday nights at 9pm central.  Advertising sponsors could be BP and that would bring an end to a great highway for motorcyclists!

UPDATE: February 28, 2011 – According to this report Imperial Oil confirmed that due to weather delays they will be downsizing the 30 “mega-loads” into 60 smaller loads for the freeways and bypassing the more direct route on Hwy 12 through Idaho and Montana.   So, after telling the public for more than a year there were no alternative routes…suddenly the oil company gets slowed down and they find an alternative route…somethings fishy in Idaho!

Photo’s courtesy of Boise Weekly (Emmert); NY Times (Map).

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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.

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