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In 2011 it was Prineville’s first experience in hosting the Run To The Cascades motorcycle rally.  According to Aaron Myhra/Fonzie Productions Inc. (Event Promoter), who acquired the rights to the event, it was a success and positive for the community.  The rally was resurrected after being absent for 10 years.

However, there were a few reports about an overbearing amount of law enforcement, and complaints of live music being cancelled.  Go HERE for more information.

Now let’s jump ahead to last weekend.  The Run To The Cascades was in Redmond, OR at the Deschutes County Fairground and  as I previously posted HERE the event was shut down by the police following a confrontation between biker groups (Mongols and HAMC).

Mr. Myhra has since provided an explanation of the events leading up to the closure:

It is with a heavy heart that we are making this public statement today. Our greatest priority when putting on Run To The Cascades (RTTC) is always the safety & enjoyment of the public. This is why we moved RTTC to the Deschutes County fairgrounds, made gate admission more affordable, and brought in amazing vendors & entertainment. This event is a 9/11 memorial/freedom celebration. This event is an opportunity for us to all gather in our community, young and old, to honor the lives lost on 9/11. RTTC is an event created to honor the men & women that have, and those who currently, serve our country—including their families at home—in order that we may gather freely, without fear of condemnation or discrimination.

The irony is, we did gather for this purpose, and Saturday morning following the 9/11 memorial parade through downtown Redmond, we met back at the fairgrounds for a freedom celebration. After the parade, there was a Color Guard Presentation of our National and State flags by respected Native American veterans from Warm Springs. A greeting from Redmond mayor George Endicott, a Vietnam veteran, followed the Flag Ceremony. Mayor Endicott welcomed us all to the city, and even went on to say that he had asked his PD to give some tolerance and understanding.

Following Mayor Endicott’s welcoming speech, local pastor, Preacher Bob, gave an inspiring talk about the freedom that millions have sacrificed their lives to defend, while reminding us to be aware and diligent of the many freedoms we are loosing daily as we go about our busy lives. He read the following words from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

We, the staff & volunteers of The Run to the Cascades Motorcycle Rally, are appalled at the abrupt closing of our event because of a “potential” threat of violence. Contrary to reports, there were NO conversations by law enforcement officials, or even an attempt made by law enforcement to have conversations with either party, who were allegedly involved in a 30 minute “verbal tussle” that handled itself, with both parties involved exiting the fairgrounds without incident.

Law enforcement abruptly shut down the event HOURS AFTER both parties had peacefully exited the event, telling ALL participants, via the PA system, to exit the fairgrounds IMMEDIATELY. Law enforcement stood by and watched as thousands of people driving trucks, motor homes, cars, and motorcycles tried to exit out of the one gate law enforcement had left unlocked. This occurred as thousands of confused people were trying to make their way into the fairgrounds for the evening showing of the Knights of Mayhem and the Foghat concert. Had it not been for the brave and quick response of our staff & volunteers, who had very limited information as to why we were shutting down—literally stepping in front of moving vehicles and directing the chaos—people could have been seriously injured or worse.

Vendors, campers, and attendees with no plan of leaving until later in the evening, or at the event’s conclusion Sunday morning—following the bike blessing and church services—were forced out of the fairgrounds, some of whom had been legally drinking. This action, on the part of law enforcement, put event-goers & many other innocent people in our community into harm’s way. We have since received reports that several DUI’s were issued in Deschutes County following the mandatory exit.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department and the Redmond PD shut down our event in its final hours with several SWAT teams present; reminiscent of Waco, Texas, and many other instances of what occurs when there are abuses of state power over the public. The ensuing mayhem, anger, & confusion caused by the unnecessary event cancelation, put more lives in danger than any “verbal tussle.” Thousands of disappointed attendees, vendors, sponsors, media partners, & event organizers are now left with a very unsettling and unsatisfying experience. We had professional security services on the grounds; they, in conjunction with local law enforcement, could have come up with a dozen different ways to handle a “perceived threat,” and allowed the event to continue to its conclusion.

We ask you, the public, for some patience as we prepare to responsibly, and legally, respond to this act of tyranny, while assessing the damage it has caused everyone involved. There have been many questions of refunds; as more information becomes available, it will be posted on our website http://www.runtothecascades.com . Refunds should also be sought from those responsible for illegally shutting down the event; law enforcement, the fair board, and county commissioners.

We would also like to clear up a couple points of misconception: We worked closely with fairground director Dan Despotopulos in pre planning and during our event. Dan was charged with informing us that law enforcement was making arrangements to close our event and it is our impression that he did not agree with plans pay grades above his had made. Secondly as soon as RTTC was made aware that the police were even thinking about closing the event—approximately 2 HOURS before it actually happened—we ceased charging at all gates! We are members of this community and have no interest in charging our neighbors and out-of-town guests for something the police might, and did, shut down without cause.

Thank you for your patience, support, and cooperation as we move forward.

Aaron Myhra

UPDATE: September 17, 2012 — I was in Central Oregon this past weekend.  I grabbed a coffee and happen to read a report in the TSWeekly where the Redmond police are urging fairgrounds officials to never host another biker rally. “This event is something I will strongly advocate to never be held here again,” Redmond Police Capt. Brian McNaughton told reporters.

Photo courtesy of Run To The Cascades web site.

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Here’s the thing… “If you look around the room, and you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”  

It’s not my quote, but some interesting words of wisdom by Lorne Michaels of SNL fame which might apply to this past weekend in central Oregon.

At the 2nd annual Run To The Cascades in Redmond, where hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts gathered to celebrate a remembrance of September 11th and to salute the men and women of our military along with the fire and police departments were met with a clash between the Mongols and Hells Angels motorcycle clubs.  According to witness reports, around 5 p.m. Saturday, a large Mongols group approached the Hells Angels members already at the event – the HAMC had a vendor booth there – and “demanded the Hells Angels group leave immediately.”  It was reported that weapons were brandished.  Once word of the confrontation went out to law enforcement it prompted police and sheriff’s deputies to enter the fairgrounds and stand by while the Hells Angels group packed up and left.

Other witnesses reported that the Hells Angels group intended to return with more people to settle the dispute, and at that point, sheriff’s deputies and police contacted fairgrounds Director Dan Despotpulos “and strongly recommended the event be closed in order to protect public safety.”  The fair director agreed and they immediately began closing the event.

I wasn’t at the rally, but can imagine the disappointment!  Are these “life-threatening” events occurring more often at rallies?  I don’t know, but the result is the same on future events.   Similar to the Laughlin River Run melee a few years ago or most recently at last year’s Street Vibrations shooting in Reno/Sparks between the HAMC and Vagos.

The sudden closure of the Run To The Cascades rally meant the closing-night concert by the classic rock group Foghat was cancelled. It’s unclear if event organizers will be on the hook for any refunds.  There were also reports that some people who had camped out at the campground were reluctant to leave, but were then threatened by law enforcement that if anyone stayed they would receive trespassing citations.  Nice indictment of the innocent.

Did law enforcement over react?  Where was the Oregon law enforcement intelligence for the event?  Did the motorcycle club “offense of proximity” only serve to reinforce the symbolic weight the emblems carry for biker clubs?  Did the motorcycle clubs brazen intimidation threat accomplish exactly what was intended?  Did this action sear a pitiful brand on the character of thousands of innocent, respectable, law-abiding men and women in Oregon who are the enthusiast representatives of an admirable sport?  Has Oregon just exited a transformative club period and now set to experience a new “threat on wheels”?

Motorcycle club business is none of my business, but when the public is exposed to these individuals are we to just ignore the incident and continue on with adding mustard to our bratwursts and t-shirt buying as if it didn’t happen?

UPDATE: September 17, 2012 — I was in Central Oregon this past weekend.  I grabbed a coffee and happen to read a report in the TSWeekly where the Redmond police are urging fairgrounds officials to never host another biker rally. “This event is something I will strongly advocate to never be held here again,” Redmond Police Capt. Brian McNaughton told reporters.

Photo taken by author at AHDRA drags in Woodburn, OR.  Poster photo courtesy of Run To The Cascades web site.

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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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With the prospect of thousands of motorcyclists visiting Oregon roads this coming weekend could it be one of the deadliest?

I hope not, but on July 15 – 18th two major motorcycle rallies take place in Oregon.  The first is the BWM International Rally in Redmond, OR.  It’s been 9 years since the BMW National Rally has been held in the state and area businesses are rolling out the welcome mat.  There is the Redmond 1000 long distance ride (1000 miles in 24 hours) for motorcyclists along with more than 100 vendors who have set up shop on the rally grounds.  In addition, Redmond is the starting point of the 2010 Rally Coast-to-Coast.

BMW National Rally -- Redmond, OR

On the same dates is the Good Vibrations Rally in Salem/Keizer.   Rally activities are happening at Salem Harley-Davidson, Oregon State Fairgrounds, Spirit Mountain Casino, and the cities of Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, and McMinnville.  The Good Vibration event is produced by Randy Burke, President of Road Shows Inc., and is modeled after his very popular Street Vibrations Rally held every year in Reno, NV.  The Oregon rally has the added value of wine tastings at Willamette Valley Vineyards and Orchard Heights Winery.

Northwest Motorcycle Rides

Both rallies bring desperately needed tourist dollars into the state, while providing riders with some fantastic summer weather, Northwest scenery, winding roads and top tier entertainment.  But why has Oregon State Police (OSP) yet to acknowledge the existent of the rallies in their media press release process?  And is ODOT so heads down on pothole repair to plan a state-wide advisory to “WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLES ON THE ROAD” campaign using the variable message signs around the state?

In the last 4 weeks we’ve seen 4 motorcycle related deaths and 2 riders seriously injured on Oregon roads:

1.    On July 10, 2010, a Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by WILLIAM ROY ANDERSON, age 60, from Aloha, was northbound on Highway 97 near milepost 17 when it failed to negotiate a curve and struck a guardrail.  ANDERSON was ejected from the motorcycle onto the highway and then run over by two commercial trucks traveling in opposite directions whose drivers were unable to avoid him.  ANDERSON was pronounced deceased at the scene.

2.    On July 8, 2010, a Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by JAMES C. HEADRICK, age 56, from Dallas, Oregon was northbound on Interstate 205 near milepost 10 when it came upon slowing traffic.  The motorcycle crashed into the back of a stopped 1998 Honda Civic driven by WALID M. SALLOUT, age 28, from southeast Portland, in the left northbound lane.  The motorcycle’s passenger, MELVA HEADRICK, age 61, from Dallas, was ejected off the motorcycle, over the concrete center barrier and landed in the left southbound lane.  No reported deaths from this accident.

3.    On June 26, 2010, a 2003 Harley Davidson operated by RAYMOND SCOTT McMAHON, age 49, from Bandon, was westbound on Highway 42 near milepost 26 followed by his brother on another motorcycle.  McMAHON entered a curve too fast, traveled off the highway into a ditch and then was ejected from the motorcycle as it went airborne.  McMAHON came to rest on the highway and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

4.    On June 17, 2010, JEFFERY DEAN RANDALL, age 39, from Klamath Falls, was operating a 1990 Kawasaki motorcycle eastbound on Highway 140E near milepost 29.  As RANDALL was negotiating a left curve the motorcycle travelled on to the gravel shoulder where he lost control.  The motorcycle crashed into a rock, ejecting RANDALL.  RANDALL was pronounced deceased at the scene.

5.    On June 11, 2010, a 2007 Honda Goldwing three-wheel converted motorcycle operated by DYRL ARNOLD SPENCER, age 64, was southbound on a straight stretch of Highway 395 near milepost 129 when it traveled partially off onto the right gravel shoulder.  SPENCER tried to bring the motorcycle back onto the highway but lost control, crossing both lanes and going off the opposite shoulder where it crashed into a tree about 30 feet off the highway.  SPENCER was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The state generated these stats in one of the wettest early summer riding seasons in 10+ years.  It’s only 3 days until we see a major influx of riders…

Please be careful out there!

UPDATE: July 12, 2010 — I received a response from the Governor’s Advisory Committee on motorcycle safety (Michele O’Leary) which stated there are no plans for the State Traffic Engineer to change the “NO” response on variable message sign use.  Good grief!  I’m starting to wonder if a rally the size of Sturgis would even convince the Oregon State Traffic Engineer to use the signs?!  However, there is more being done about safety awareness:

  1. Billboards are out on Hwy 97 and I-5 at Keizer for motorist awareness.  Radio spots are currently running, bus transits have ads and print ads are running.
  2. They just printed a new motorcycle map that is being made available at both rallies. The map is full of safety messages along with some awesome riding routes,. They also have some other safety information from the advisory committee.
  3. The Chair of the Governor’s Committee (David Peterson) will be at the BMW rally evangelizing safety.
  4. There is work in process on a communication/press release for the motoring public to be aware of what’s going on.

Michele notes: “We’ve been losing a lot of motorcyclists involved in group rides this year so please spread the word and encourage everyone to ride sober. Our concern with the Good Vibrations Rally in Salem/Keizer is the wine-tasting activity they’re doing and what safeguards they will have in place.”

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.

Accident information/photo courtesy of OSP.

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