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Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally - 2010

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally – 2010

At the 2012 Sturgis Rally attendance was up 7% (official est. at 450K) and in all, the city of Sturgis spent approximately $960K to host the 6-day event which generated nearly $1.4M in revenue.  Nearly $400K profit for the city which has more than double the net profit from the 2011 rally at $197K.  There were 1,012 vendors registered vs. 976 in 2011 and gross sales by vendors were $13.1M compared to $12.6M in 2011.

sturgis-flagAnd the man who made Sturgis?  There are several who come to mind, but one near the top of the list would be Steven Piehl, the Harley executive who invented the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  In 1983, Mr. Piehl worked under Harley’s General Sales Manager, Clyde Fessler, and was given 3 months to launch the program.  They promoted the rally to hundreds of thousands of HOG members and is at least in part responsible for the transformation of Sturgis from a biker party into a profit center.  Mr. Piehl was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year and received the JC “Pappy” Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award for establishing HOG.

HD-Sturgis3Motoring USA is the consultant group that essentially coordinates the Sturgis rally for the city as they help line-up sponsors (Harley-Davidson, Dodge, Jack Daniels, Geico etc.), vendors and publish the official rally magazine.  For their 2012 services they were paid more than $308K ($163K commissions/fees and $145K to publish the official guide).  Ironically, the city of Sturgis paid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., $26,944 in licensing fees to use the “Sturgis” name!  Clearly corporate America has found the motorcyclist market and made the profit driven transformation.

Sturgis-night12

Main Street Sturgis at Dusk

Those are a few of the financial aspects of the motorcycle rally.  Sadly, 9 people died at last year’s rally-related accidents and collisions.  In 2011 there were 4 deaths.  And you might have been one of the unlucky riders trapped on the freeway in 2010 after a semi-trailer caught fire (video HERE) and closed the interstate (see above photo)?

It’s also well known that at the Sturgis Rally large numbers of law enforcement descend on the area to make sure those 450,000+ bikers don’t get out of hand.  On any typical week the city has 15 officers to keep the community of 6700 safe.  During rally week it pays a hefty amount for law enforcement hiring people from nine different states.  The city police budget in August is estimated to be in excess of $300K to cover salaries, equipment and other expenses for the event.  Visiting officers are housed and receive two meals a day.  In addition, there are also significant numbers of federal agents (FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service) on hand.

loud-american

Loud American Roadhouse (L)

However, budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance and for 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years.  The value of announcing this information to the public prior to the rally is interesting.  Is it to alarm the public?  Is it an open invitation for the motorcycle clubs to restart some of the “wild times” prevalent in years past?  Historically, more than 20 ATF agents patrol Sturgis during the Rally.  This year there will one agent in Rapid City who will be on call when the rally officially starts on August 5th.

Remember the 2006 rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer?  How about back in 2008 when Sturgis ended with the first shooting in over 20-years where the Iron Pigs (off-duty Seattle LEO – Ronald Smith) had a confrontation with the Hell’s Angels (Joseph McGuire) at the Loud American Roadhouse?  Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident, but I would anticipate if any intelligence or threat hits the radar we’ll see it rain law enforcement personnel sequestration or not.

It wasn’t too long ago, the rough, anti-materialistic, anti-authoritarian attitudes showed up on motorcycles en-masse at Sturgis.  The motor company that helped put Sturgis on the map and was once so revered that men tattooed its name on their arms, is now more about demographics, international expansion in China and India and tapping female consumer spending.  For example, Claudia Garber, Harley’s Director of Women’s Marketing Outreach, worked the 2012 rally to convince affluent, professional women that Harleys are really fun to ride.

Yes, the transformation of Sturgis from a quaint biker party into an enormous profit center is fully complete.  Stay classy Sturgis!

Interstate photo courtesy of Renegade Wheels, other photos taken by author at 2012 Sturgis Rally.  The 2012 Sturgis stats are HERE (.pdf).

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That would be the 30th Laughlin River Run.

The earliest inhabitants of this Colorado River Valley town were the Mojave people, but this past weekend the valley was full of Harley-Davidson riders with all the necessities (read $$ in wallets) to create a prosperous event.

With 2012 marking the 30th anniversary of the River Run there was plenty of denim and leather on display and Casino Drive even had a fresh layer of asphalt and stripping!  And not one, but two law firms specializing in motorcycle accident cases attended the event with vendor booths.

The official stats have not been released yet, but early indicators from the Laughlin Tourism Board indicate that there was a 40% jump in attendance at the annual motorcycle event and was expected to give the town a $40M boost to the local economy.  In fact, the River Run is the city’s single biggest revenue-generating event and accounts for approximately 10% of the revenue for many hotels, bars and restaurants.

Yep, law enforcement was out in force during the event and at times seemed to outnumber the motorcycle enthusiasts.  There was a stepped up “no colors” policy which was highly visible through-out the valley on electronic reader boards and on signage at the casinos.

I was a day-tripper this year and the weather couldn’t have been better with temperatures in the mid-80’s.  Besides communing with other bikers our group attended the annual “pimpin shrimp” and “pig-from-a-pit” BBQ in Needles where Dave and Manny impressed everyone with their cooking skills.

It was good people, cold refreshments and lots of fun!

Photos take by author.

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“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name; it felt good to be out of the rain.”  –America (1972)

Next week I’m planning to get out of town for a few days and attend the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR) in historic Baker City, OR.   I’m not sure about that “get out of the rain” statement though.  In May we’ve received 2.5 inches of rain, witnessed the Columbia River hit flood stage and most distressing is that 23 of the last 31 days were below normal average temperatures.  Somewhere in the 20 degree cooler range.  It’s made Portland colder than Fairbanks Alaska.  Yes, I said Alaska!  That one to the north.  Sad but true.  Of course we’ve had nothing like the tornado’s that the poor folks in Missouri have had to endure.

Back to HCMR.

Along with several buddies, I plan to take the northwest weather in stride and join hundreds of other riders at the annual rally in Eastern Oregon.  Along the way we’ll transition from blogger, salesman, Dentist or other career-minded individuals, into an increasingly tight group of riders hurtling down – hopefully – sun-drenched desert roads. My buddies come from all walks of life.  We all share a common bond of depressed housing prices, kids, ex-wives, friendship and a passion for motorcycles, in particular, Harley Davidson.  Some in the posse fall into that middle-aged guy demographic that the motor company likes to reference.  We’ll hit the road where the weather can be frigid or burning, the wind sideways or in your face; it is a constant and exhausting companion, but rally’s like this have the power to replenish you.

HCMR is open to all riders.  Despite the differences between riders–weekend warriors and the motorcycle clubs, BMW off-roaders and the youth group on sport bikes – the common experience of riding a motorcycle carries an irrepressible sense of kinship.  To experience HCMR is a paradox of discomfort and adrenalin rush, desolation and breathtaking scenery mixed in with the freedom of the road.

I’ve blogged about HCMR previously in 2009 HERE and 2010 HERE.  The payoff is huge, especially amid the stunning visual of canyons and jagged mountains that make up the landscape of eastern Oregon.  Add some of the best motorcycling roads and refreshments at the Geiser Grand Hotel and you’ve got a winner –duh!

See you there.

Photo courtesy of visit Oregon web site.

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Sarah Palin Rides In Rolling Thunder - 2011

Well the end of the world didn’t happen earlier in the month as Harold Camping of Family Radio had predicted.  In fact, Mr. Camping first predicted the end of world back in 1994 and I’m not sure how many doomsday predictions we’ll give the Christian broadcaster before skeptics scoff at his antics and totally dismiss the message.

And, speaking of doomsday…

To hear the “rumbles” – and, I’m not talking about the thousands of bikes which appeared at the annual Rolling Thunder bike rally in Arlington, Virginia which draws attention to American troops who have gone missing in combat and remain unaccounted for – rather I’m talking about participants in the ride who expressed mixed feelings when former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) hoped onto a Harley and joined thousands of riders.

I don’t know about you , but this has a bit of that “spoiled little Daddy’s uptown girl lives rent free” smell to it.  Average talent and giant hype.  When I listen to her speak I hear the marketing machine.  Palin talking about military hardships?!  It’s like listening to the building receptionist droll on and on about the hardships of the African child she supports through TV commercial contributions.  She’s speaking the words, but her connection and understanding of the hardships are highly suspect.  Like the Creedence Clearwater Revival song… it’s true, some kids are born with a silver spoon.  But, there are a lot of us who didn’t even have spoons, wooden or plastic!

You’re likely thinking, blah, blah, blah… it’s just politics so chill out, Mac.  You’re right.  Maybe I’m feeling a little envious that I couldn’t participate…

Okay.  Independent of political leanings and politician likes, I do believe the involvement of a high-profile politician can only boost the visibility of the veteran’s event, raise contribution awareness and help energize America to not forget.  That is a good thing.   Thank you Sarah Palin!

Photo courtesy of AP

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Starting in 1994 with only 1,500 bikers participating, Street Vibrations has grown into the nation’s 6th largest bike event.  It was estimated (no info supplied on how) that slightly more than 25,000 motorcycles attended Street Vibrations in 2010.  About the same as previous years, however, hotels like the Peppermill, Grand Sierra Resort, the Nugget and Atlantis all reported shorter stays for guests on average vs. other years.

During the event period there was an increase in motorcycle accidents.  It’s unclear if the increase was attributable to the split-event in Sparks which many riders complained about.  Here is how the stats break down:

Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) arrested 39 people of which 21 were DUI arrests.  There were 15 accidents investigated, which included 2 fatal crashes, including one with a motorcycle.  In total there were 8 injury crashes and 5 crashes involving property damage only.  NHP didn’t report which arrests involved only motorcycles.

Reno Police reported making 72 arrests for various offenses stating alcohol was a factor in most.  They handed out 533 traffic citations and placed 4 people in civil protective custody (public intoxication).  They also handed out an additional 428 traffic warnings.  There were 6 stolen motorcycles (which the Pepper Mill Casino seemed to be hit most often) and 10 stolen tour packs (saddle bags).

Stealing saddle bags? That is just down-right mean! I hope they set up sting operations in the future to take down the jerks.

In addition, there was a brawl reported between 30 people (unknown if it was bikers?) that left one man stabbed in Sparks and was sent to the hospital.  The Carson City man was treated with multiple stab wounds which were non-life threatening.

Speaking of large groups… it’s unclear if related to last month’s HAMC and Vagos MC shootout in Arizona (Chino Valley, north of Prescott) where 27 people were booked on charges ranging from attempted murder to participation in a criminal street gang and where more than 50 rounds were fired between the two clubs… but, there was an extraordinarily large mass of the “Green Machine”, and the “Red & White” along with support clubs like the “Miscreants” on the corner of 4th and Virginia Street on Saturday.  I was on the street at the time and the atmosphere was most tense, it looked as if a confrontation would explode similar to scene’s from the problem-oriented “Hot August Nights” event.  Even the few LEO’s looked somewhat threatened.  Fortunately no confrontation occurred and within a half-hour the groups had mostly cleared out.

And speaking of the Reno police, they worked a lot of overtime and were paid based on a grant called “Joining Forces”.  The “Joining Forces” grant program is one of the many Nevada Office of Traffic Safety’s proactive safety initiatives coordinated directly with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide grant funding for special enforcement campaigns, education, equipment and training throughout the calendar year.  There are currently 28 law enforcement agencies in Nevada that participate in this program. Some of those enforcement campaigns include DUI saturation patrols and checkpoints, speed enforcement, traffic signal enforcement at identified high-accident intersections, and crosswalk & pedestrian safety enforcement initiatives.

Lastly, is my rant about the fact that Nevada has over 49,000 miles of road and nothing is more treacherous than the I-80 and U.S. 395 interchange (known by locals as the “Spaghetti Bowl”) in downtown Reno.  Motorcyclists have seen at least 2 years of congested traffic flow from this construction project, but more important is trying to navigate through or ride over and avoid the deep crevices and cracks in the concrete.  It’s dangerous for motorcycles and get it done already!

Stat sources: Daily Sparks Tribune #1#2News 4Carson Now.

Photo’s taken at the event.

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The Sands Hotel (Orange) From Silver Legacy

Previously I blogged about how Street Vibrations 2010 turned into Street Frustrations 2010 HERE.

Sure, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that can go wrong with any major event the size of Street Vibrations and after months and months of hard work the folks running this event know if they just pulled off another stunning performance or if it’s all over in minutes after it starts.  Unfortunately it was over before it started…

I wrote a letter to both Reno’s Mayor Bob Cashell and to Randy Burke of Road Shows Inc., who is the event producer.  I want to thank them both for a quick response and am sharing the information I received:

Reno Mayor – Bob Cashell via Marcia Morse

Mayor Cashell asked me to thank you for your comments and let you know it was not the City of Reno that changed the format for Street Vibrations.

It was the promoter, Randy Burke with Roadshows.  His contact information is: http://www.road-shows.com/contact.php . The City of Reno will be meeting with him soon to discuss this situation and get back to the regular format for next year.

We are sorry that this has happened to a wonderful event and promise to make next year a better year.

Marcia

Marcia Morse
Administrative Secretary to
Mayor Robert Cashell
P.O. Box 1900
Reno, NV  89505
775-334-2001
775-334-2097 Fax
morsem@reno.gov

Randy Burke – Road Shows Inc.

Thank you for your input about Street Vibrations Fall Rally 2010.

The City of Reno provided us with our downtown Reno layout in January 2010. After five revisions, we agreed to their plan. We had heard from our bikers that they wanted bikes, not vendors, on Virginia Street. We were wrong, shame on us.

We will meet with the mayor of Reno next week to discuss bringing vendors back Virginia Street for 2011.

Best Regards,

Randy Burke
Roadshows, Inc.
admin@roadshowsreno.com
775-329-7469

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police_bikeAs you may recall the situation happened at the Roadhouse bar with four off duty, out-of-state law enforcement officers and a firefighter, all members of the Iron Pigs – a police motorcycle club – who get into a heated confrontation with some Hells Angels members on the last day of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  The confrontation ends when Ron Smith pulls his Glock 23 and shoots Joseph McGuire a HAMC member.

I blogged about the incident and posted several updates HERE, HERE and HERE.

Many readers weighed in with comments between support of the police to those who where very distrustful.  Some comments became derisive after the South Dakota court threw out the assault and weapons charges and then later dismissed all the indictments.

Recently Charles Remsberg, an author of three best-selling law enforcement training textbooks, and contributor to the PoliceOne site has posted an interesting “Behind The Scenes” recap of the shooting.  Part 2 of the report is HERE.  His report provides deeper insight into the minutes leading up to the shooting, the psyche of the various folks involved, the injuries and a bit of the grand jury transcript.  Granted Mr. Remsberg writes from a LEO point of view, but does so after nearly three decades of work where he earned the prestigious O.W. Wilson Award for outstanding contributions to law enforcement and the American Police Hall of Fame Honor Award for distinguished achievement in public service.

To be fair, and after reading Remsberg’s report some of my initial implications were inaccurate.  However, I do think my overall assessment was correct, at least based on the information that was released at the time.

At any rate check out the good report and you be the judge.

UPDATED: January 28, 2009 – Part 2 of the report HERE.

UPDATED: February 25, 2009 – In a plea agreement Joseph McGuire (HAMC) pleads no contest to simple assault (versus aggravated assault) and was sentenced to one year in the Meade County Jail.  According to Rapid City Journal, McGuire’s sentence was suspended as long as he does not break the law.  No fines were imposed, but he can not attend this years rally.

UPDATED: May 7, 2010 – Detective Ronald Smith has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department.  Even though all charges were dropped the suit alleges the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.  This was an embarrassment and the lawsuit contends his reputation was harmed.

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