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Red Rocks

Red Rock Canyon In Route To Laughlin

Year-end stories are always interesting to me.

Publications around the world rate stories, detail online traffic numbers, select the best leaders and generally give readers a special year in review.

On the national stage here are a few of my more notables:

We had what I’d call the best supporting furniture award…that went to the empty chair that actor Clint Eastwood spoke to throughout his speech at the Republican National Convention.  We narrowly re-elected a president.  John Edwards and Roger Clemens, both escaped conviction.  There was the epic fall of Lance Armstrong.  There was the Korean pop singer, Psy and that Gangnam Style video which skyrocketed a catchy tune into YouTube superstardom.  We bought more than 48 million iPads, weathered a couple of hurricanes, and cheered for the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner who, broke the sound barrier from 24 miles up.

Baker City at HCMR

Baker City at HCMR

When I look back on the motorcycle rides there was:

LAUGHLIN RIVER RUN – in April the Road Glide was shipped to the Las Vegas desert.  Then it’s a short 100 mile jaunt through the desert to Laughlin, NV and it’s a great way to escape the Oregon monsoon rain to enjoy the heat of the canyons.  And being close to the Colorado River and between two mountain ranges in the Mojave Desert there are a lot of scenic rides with panoramic views to enjoy.  Not to mention the motorcycle rally itself.

HELLS CANYON MOTORCYCLE RALLY – in June, some riding buddies took off on 3-days of enjoying nature’s perfume – the sweet smell of rain showers on the cedar and pine forest – into the Cuprum-Sheep Rock country.  At times, the cold rain made us wish for a fishing lure and then there were other times the motorcycle tires were inches from the edge of a 1,000-foot drop-off while in the next instant the left-view mirror came pretty close to scraping a craggy rock wall on the grade coming up from Hells Canyon Reservoir into the mountains…  it’s always an exciting adventure in Baker City!  But hey, that rain is a “summer” adventure in Oregon.

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

FOUR-CORNERS MOTORCYCLE LOOP – in late August the posse set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-miles epic journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back home.  Moab, the 4-corners and Bear Tooth Pass were the highlights.  It was amazing scenery and viewing it all from back-roads on a motorcycle made it all the more fun.  The trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through mud-flows so deep on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway that we could have caught trout with the right fishing gear!  The gist of the ride was exploring Moab and 4-corners, but the searing summer heat kept us from really getting to know the area well, and it gave me lots of ideas for future trips.

STREET VIBRATIONS –  One of my favorite ways to end the Northwest riding year is this late September trip to Reno.  The drive is pretty quick and it always guarantee’s the heat of the valley inter-mixed with cool mountain meadows and panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crux of the ride is of course the rally and wide assortment of builders and vendor booths along with coming back with a to-do laundry list of possible winter projects for the motorcycle.  It’s not like we’re going to be loafing around on the couch this winter, right?!

Street Vibrations 2012

Street Vibrations 2012

That was my look back and it helps to motivate me to plan for 2013.  A couple of rides already blocked out on the calendar are the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary in Milwaukee and “Shark Week” in Utah.

In looking back on 2012, we also need to keep in our thoughts and prayers those who were met with tragedy this year, whether from storms or gunfire here at home, or on a battlefield on foreign soil.  May 2013 be safer, healthier and happier for all of us.

Photos taken by author.

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Happiness is doing what you love and given the northwest rain, gale force winds and cold weather means – I’m not feeling the motorcycle love! So, what else is there to do, but look ahead to the new year and map out some rides?!

A couple of trips that I’m hoping to budget for:

  • Drive a portion of Route 66 – Ideally this trip would include a large chase truck which is better suited to bringing back memorabilia collected on the way to wherever, but the route being considered is Phoenix to Flagstaff and Grand Canyon.  Then on to Kingman with a drive-by in Laughlin for the late April River Run.
  • Ride the ferries – British Columbia offers up remarkable scenery and where else do you go during the U.S. July 4th holiday?!   Nothing is more spectacular than a ride through Olympic National Park, catch the Port Angeles Ferry to Victoria then Buchart Gardens with dinner and libations.
  • Make a return trip to Sturgis – we’re 202 days out and this year marks the 70th anniversary.  It was just a couple years ago several of us rode to the Black Hills.  It wasn’t the first time, but it did celebrate the inaugural Black Hills State University dorm room in Spearfish, SD.   The Sturgis rally defines the term “cluster” so I’ll likely settle for a day well-spent in and around the little South Dakota town…followed by a hot shower and a soft bed before quickly departing to enjoy more of the ride.
  • Oregon State H.O.G. Rally – 2010 marks a combined Washington and Oregon State H.O.G. Rally.  It starts in Pendleton, OR on August 24th and ends in Coos Bay, OR on August 27th.  A week of riding and nearly 1500 miles with 8 dealer stops.  The current ride route is  through 4 states.
  • Good Rockin’ Tonight – I’m talking Street Vibrations in Reno, NV (September) and the reference is to cover bands playing rock hits from the classic acts back in the day.  We’ve got a new culture these days as folks go to dance clubs and move to the bass-heavy productions of studio wizards…but, back in the day it was Montrose (some of you are old enough to remember this exact performance!).  The 19 year old Sammy Hagar stood on stage and rocked the crowds.  However, Street Vibrations is where the cover bands imitate the greats.

What’s in your future ride inventory?

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Ludacris

When you dine with the devil, bring a long spoon.” — Machiavelli

Having a ‘thug’ like Ludacris anywhere near your marketing campaign may not be a good thing.  Yet, Harley-Davidson has decided having a pitchman who glamorizes a life of guns, violence, drugs and is disrespectful of women is EXACTLY what’s needed to turn around motorcycle sales.

The “hoes in different area codes” rapper has released many songs that convey and represent his morals.  Even President Obama said he wouldn’t let his daughters listen to his rap, but did admit Ludacris was a ‘great businessman’.  Political pandering is not my point here.

Recently H-D collaborated with RIDES Magazine to create custom bikes for recording artists Ludacris and Shawnna.  This promotion was in part to gear up for the release of their album “Battle of the Sexes”, where the artists worked with RIDES and “New York Nick” Genender, shop owner of NYC Choppers, to create bikes that reflect their individual personalities.  There is a behind-the-scenes video of the build HERE and more videos/photos can be viewed at RIDES.  In addition, they’re giving away a motorcycle to one lucky winner: a customized 2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom, created in part with suggestions by RIDES readers. Learn more about the bike or enter for a chance to win HERE.

Is this a shrewd advertising move to use a pitchman who’s going to draw attention to a community that H-D wants to sell motorcycles to or is this a mistake to promote and associate the H-D trademarks with a person that espouses violence, degrading sex and substance abuse?

Does anyone remember how fast Pepsi pulled the ‘musician’ from its soft-drink advertisements in 2002?

Photo courtesy of H-D and RIDE.

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HCMRFor the folks who live in Oregon it seems like 3 seasons of: almost winter, winter, still winter as we wait on the final and 4th season – road construction

Now that ‘road construction’ is upon us and warmer weather is getting repeatable it’s time for the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.  It all happens June 12-15 in historic Baker City, OR and this year marks the 10th anniversary of the rally. The rally is open to all bikes and bikers.

BC_MapOn Friday (12th) the Plymouth Tavern, in Plymouth Washington is the Official Lunch stop for the rally.  Being at the east end of SR-14 it is a good location for riders vectoring in from all points northwest.   Jason, the owner, will be serving up specials for HCMR riders and you can check out HERE for more info.    Riders coming from the East may want to consider High Desert H-D in Meridian, ID. as a meet up location.  

A couple of key points to pass along from the organizers after you get settled in Baker City, be sure and stop by the HCMR booth at the Sunridge Ride Center.  They have new Official clothing, registration and info that you can’t get anywhere else.  Additional vendors are located at Ride Center and Downtown, they will be open Friday, Saturday pretty much all day and Sunday till noon.   There are a number of watering holes:  These would include Sonny’s Bar & Grill at the Sunridge,  Golden Crown on Campbell St, Stockman’s Bar, Brew-In-Stein, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Main Event, Geiser Saloon all on Main Street or the Idle Hour on Broadway.  Friday night most riders will want to take the Shuttle (you’ll need your wristband from the registration packet for this) to the Baker High School where hundreds of bikers will be camped.  Eric, co-founder of the rally, will be showing classic motorcycle movies in the campground after dark.

Don’t forget that Saturday is about the RIDES.  With the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, The Devil’s Tail, The Ghost Town – Gold Rush Loop or Strawberry Mountain on the riding agenda there is no time to waste.

If you’re not going to this rally you’ll miss some great rides and fun time!

Photo courtesy Google and Pine Valley Lodge.

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helvetia_bwYesterday was an awesome day here in the northwest.  Absolutely a marvel for motorcycle riding in early April with the temperature reaching 70+.  And yes there were motorcyclists everywhere!

As many of you know it’s been a long and rain-filled winter with the last 8 weeks being wet every weekend.  For a data point, during the month of March the ski slopes on Timberline received 103 inches of snow!   So, while the day could have been filled with yard projects and other obligations they would just have to slip out as the rumble of bikes were calling and before the weather changed I would roll on the throttle.

I pulled off the motorcycle cover, rolled up the storage gear and smiled in anticipation of great day.  A quick wipe down of some winter dust that slipped under the cover and the shine returned with eagerness.  I threw a leg over the bike and rolled it out of the garage.  A quick check-down of mechanic specifics then the start button was pressed.   The engine roared to life after a long winter hibernation.

april_rideThe bike lurched forward and mile after mile rolled under my feet.  The warm sun pierced the leather as I headed north for a “destination burger” at Helvetia Tavern.  You’ll recognize the place as the rustic building with a baseball cap collection ceiling and friendly staff.  The “two cows and make them cry” lunch is a bit of trek north, but this was more about enjoying the weather with fellow riders than an  intellectual debate over the ground round.  In my opinion, the Helvetia burger is the closest thing to an In-and-Out burger in northwest.

We departed for quiet towns in Washington County where the two lane roads had very little traffic.  The beauty of the northwest on a sunny day is captivating as our route took us through the wine and fertile fields of the farm valley.  Motorcycle riding can be rejuvenating for the soul as you get lost in the moment.  Fellow bikers know this and how difficult it can be to express with words.

This first multi-hour trip of the year is a promise of great riding for an entire year.

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Elena at Chernobyl

Elena at Chernobyl

Next month marks the 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine. 

I stumbled onto Elena’s site several years ago, but had misplaced the URL until just recently.  She travels a lot on her Kawasaki Ninja (ZZR-1100) and one of her favorite riding destinations leads North from Kiev, towards the Chernobyl “dead zone”, which is about 80 miles from her home.  She has photographed and documented her motorcycle radiation travels into the “Zone of Alienation” and it’s well worth the read.

As background — On Friday evening of April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl-4, prepared to run a test early the next day to determine how long the turbines would keep spinning and producing power if the electrical power supply went off line. While dangerous they ran this test previously.  Several alterations were made to the generators to lower the power output.  As a part of the preparation, they disabled some critical control systems – including the automatic shutdown safety mechanisms.

Shortly after 1:00 AM on April 26, the flow of coolant water dropped and the power began to increase.  At 1:23 AM, the operator moved to shut down the reactor in its low power mode and set-off a chain of events.  In a matter of seconds the reactor went from 5% output to 100 times its normal level.  The coolant water flash-boiled, triggering a huge steam explosion which leveled tons of concrete and steel including the 2000 ton cap on the nuclear containment vessel.  Many of the 211 control rods melted and then a second explosion, whose cause is still the subject of disagreement among experts, expelled fragments of burning radioactive fuel core and allowed air to rush in — igniting several tons of graphite insulating blocks.  Once graphite starts to burn, it’s almost impossible to extinguish.  Hundreds of volunteers died on the scene ill prepared for this type disaster.

WPPSS Cooling Tower - Satsop

WPPSS Cooling Tower - Satsop

The public alert about the release of radioactive material didn’t come from Soviet sources, but from Sweden on April 27 where workers at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant (680 miles away) were found to have radioactive particles on their clothing and they were determining the source. It took 3 days before all permanent residents of Chernobyl were evacuated due to unsafe levels of radioactivity.   It took 9 days and 5000 tons of sand, boron, dolomite, clay and lead dropped from helicopters to put out the graphite fire. Over 2M acres (or 1/5 of the usable farmland in the Ukraine) was, and still is unusable.

There have been military and research reactor deaths (e.g. Idaho; Tokai-mura), but the Chernobyl disaster has the distinction of being the only commercial nuclear power plant where radiation-related fatalities occurred.  The last 2 reactors at Chernobyl remained operational and online until shut down in 2000.  Chernobyl has been renovated and is now home to more than 500 residents. Those include nuclear scientists, maintenance officials for the Chernobyl power plant, liquidation officials, doctors, physicists, and most of all, radiation physicists. Visitors to the Zone of Alienation can stay at a local lodge in the Chernobyl suburbs.

While I like taking long motorcycle rides on empty roads the requirement of a Geiger counter mounted to the handle bar would be a deterrent!

Footnote: the northwest has it share of  “reactor rides.” There is Trojan (decommissioned), Columbia Generating Station (near Richland/Hanford and only pacific northwest running plant), and WPPSS at the Satsop site which shines on as a $2.25B economic default.

Photo courtesy of Elena web site.

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riding_happyIt’s been a roller coaster of a year. Full of accomplishments, but also a collision with the economic crisis has left many of us feeling cautious, nervous, and frustrated.

When I was younger there was little emphasis placed on making New Year resolutions. Resolution taking wasn’t actively encouraged yet as I progressed in years the concept became more interesting to me.  New Year resolutions seem too much about self improvement, attempts to try to change an aspect of oneself that one is not happy with (weight, personality, career etc.).  However, I’ve tended to look at resolutions more from the perspective of how to improve my motorcycle riding year and if I do look back at 2008 rides I review what could have gone better with the trips to improve future adventures.

I know that I’m NOT the only person in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening and have ranted my displeasure.  But, one conclusion I have come to for 2009 is to try and reject more of the negative thoughts that enter my head like mischievous demons.  Sure narrow minded customer service employees simply do not listen to what I’m saying because their bosses only give them 10 seconds to categorize me into the correct enquiry channel – ‘new orders’, ‘complaints’, ‘refunds’, ‘accounts’ etc. Or irritating advertisements for products that no one needs, or are so generic that they simply do not need advertising like electricity or soap.  Yes we have a bunch of clueless bozos steering the ship and corporate gangsters are stealing us blind.  But these situations shouldn’t prevent us from admiring the great things we’ve accomplished over the year in all its wonderful, and occasionally painful, glory.  My hope is that colleagues, family and friends will notice the [blogging] difference. Not only for the first month of 2009, but for the whole year!

In thinking of my motorcycle New Year’s resolutions I want to…

  1. Write more articles on rides and riding.
  2. Write about northwest motorcycle legislation directions.
  3. Ride more even when weather is less than cooperative.
  4. Make some major modifications to the Harley.
  5. Plan another multi-week adventure – and write about it.

What are you thinking about for your New Year’s resolutions?

 

Photo courtesy TLCGraphic

 

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