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I’m talking about the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe who are the native people of Death Valley.

Death Valley

Destination: Death Valley

With multiple weeks of nice weather, our posse departed Portland, Oregon early morning on September 17th with a cold front and threat of rain and the occasional spit of rain drops in the face. We haplessly listened to the V-Twin’s drone on as we traveled east on Interstate 84 for 426 miles.

Long delay due to overturned semi on I-84

Long delay caused by an overturned Concrete semi on I-84

We arrived in Boise late afternoon which was hosting Oktoberfest in the Basque Block part of the vibrant downtown!  We enjoyed some island fare and refreshments on the rooftop tiki patio at The Reef.  Crowds gathered in the closed off streets for authentic German biers, food and of course the occasional chicken dance.  And in what has to be one of the best Idaho cover bands — Pilot Error — rocked the crowd most of the evening.  Here is a video of the band doing a Def Leppard cover with Derek Roy as lead vocal and the awesome Roger Witt – on lead guitar.

As the evening wore on it seemed filled with young college kids who were trying hard to “be” the club scene.  Like those videos produced by I’m Shmacked.

Idaho Basin

Snake River and Great Basin area

The next morning was a continuation east on the mind-numbing straight road of Interstate 84. However, we really clicked off the miles to Twin Falls doing the freeway speed limit which is now set at 80 mph!  We rolled along and were surprised by how many 18-wheelers tried to pass us.

As a side bar, you might recall that in the mid-1970s, Congress established a national maximum speed limit by withholding highway funds from states that maintained speed limits greater than 55 mph. Do you remember the “I can’t drive 55” days?  The requirement was loosened for rural interstates in 1987 and completely repealed in 1995. As of today, 41 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Oregon state legislators who seem to know more than the average citizen about how to protect us from ourselves just recently increased some rural interstate speeds to 70 mph.  Texas is the fastest at 85 mph.

Idaho

In route to Ely, NV

But I’ve digressed.  This part of our arid motorcycle journey took us on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway which runs through the Snake River Canyon. We rode through bright green irrigated fields, crossed the Snake River, saw a waterfall spilling from the top of a high bluff, and watched windmills turning in the stiff wind.  As we headed further south on U.S. Route 93 we split the Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and part of Utah. There were mountains to the East and West, and the traffic thinned to an occasional tractor-trailer hauling freight or cattle.

Our ride ended that day in Ely, Nevada, which was founded as a stagecoach stop along the Pony Express, and later became a booming copper mining town.

We parked the bikes and enjoyed a nice dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.

On the Lonliest Road

On Nevada’s Loneliest Road

The following day we were up early and continued our ride south on one of Nevada’s loneliest roads.  I’m not sure about you, but I find the Nevada desert to be immensely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Even though most of the roads are flat and straight, the scenery is grand and I always enjoy the ride.

Just a few miles south of Ely is a turnoff for the Ward Charcoal ovens.  We didn’t travel down the eight miles of gravel road, but there are beehive-shaped stone kilns built by Mormons around 1876 to produce fuel for the silver and lead smelters serving the mines on Ward Mountain.  As you look across the valley at the Big Basin National Park, there is the 13,000 foot Wheeler Peak standing off in the distant.

More Lonely Road...

More Lonely Road…

We traveled the mostly straight 240+ miles and finally rolled into North Las Vegas and could see the skyline of the famous Las Vegas strip.  Speaking of the city that never sleeps, our posse picked up a lot of traffic at the U.S. 93/I-15 interchange and were immediately greeted with a dude on a sport bike weaving in and out of lanes.  Then adding to the traffic drama he started to split lanes at full on freeway speeds.

I must have missed that part of the training about how motorcyclists should always make sudden moves in heavy traffic!  Most people who’ve had any experience driving in and around Vegas know that it can be a bit treacherous. Cages with locals that always seem to be in a hurry and cabbies are out in force all day and night driving fast and cutting across multiple lanes.  Add to that the tourists trying to navigate a new city on the freeways and it’s a perfect storm of distracted drivers.

After all the traffic hustle and bustle I was looking forward to parking the bike for awhile and relaxing around the pool for a day.  That evening we took on the “clickers” (i.e. porn panderers) who stand on every corner of the Strip and aggressively try to shove advertisements for adult entertainment in your face.

Selfie

Departing Las Vegas

Don’t take me wrong, Las Vegas has world-class restaurants, cool bars, amazing entertainment and great weather, but after a couple of days of breathing air freshener the casinos pump into their ventilation systems to mask the reeking of camels, cigarillos, cigars and those slot machines going ding-ding-ding… I’m ready for some fresh air and wind in the face!

We did have an opportunity to walk through the sprawling Harley-Davidson dealer across from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.  We checked out the new Milwaukee Eight touring bikes and spent some time chatting with a knowledgeable sales person about the 2017 differences.


It wasn’t too long (about 48 hours) and Las Vegas was in our mirrors as we rode out into the desert on Hwy 160.  We departed the city early so that we could tour through Death Valley before it got too hot.  It was still in the high-70 degree range as we departed.  We increased altitude going through Red Rock Canyon National Park toward Pahrump as the desert landscape morphs from sandy, rocky terrain dotted with low brush and creosote bushes.  Big stratified rock formations and hills define the valleys in the distance, closing in on the road periodically before opening up to a wide expanse of flat desert floor. It’s a wonderland of muted color.
Rearward pic

Looking back on Hwy 190

We fueled up in Pahrump which is an interesting town.  Like in the rest of Nevada, gambling is legal in Pahrump, and there are several casinos to take advantage of that fact. But, unlike Las Vegas, the casinos in Pahrump are present but not dominant. They’re smaller and a little less intimidating.  There might be some wisdom in staying overnight in Pahrump instead of the hectic scene in Vegas. Certainly the traffic situation would be a lot less stressful.

At the Death Valley junction we turned west on Hwy 190 and headed for Furnace Creek where the Native American tribe known as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California are located.

Initially it was was quite comfortable, but as we descended into the valley it felt like someone was turning up an oven.  It was still early and the temps were in the high 80’s but by the time we stopped in Furnace Creek it was 100 degrees.  Surprisingly hot for the end of September, but the scenery is spectacular!

Death Valley

Death Valley – Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

It’s some of the best “landscape” on the planet that looks a bit like you’ve arrived on Mars. There’s nothing growing out there higher than your knee yet it will be forever etched in your memory as not just one of the greatest motorcycle rides ever but one of the most beautiful.  At one place in the park you can look down at one of the lowest points on earth at -280 feet in one direction and up to the highest point in the continental U.S. in another (Mt. Whitney, at 14,494).  It’s an amazing color contrast.

Existing Death Valley

Exiting Death Valley

We scurried on out of the national park and headed toward Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 395.  The first real town you come to is Lone Pine. In the early to mid 20th century, the area around Lone Pine, particularly the Alabama Hills, which lie between the highway and the Sierra range, was a popular setting for western movies.  Just west of town you’ll get another nice view of Mt. Whitney.

By the time we rode through the Inyo National Forest the desert heat had faded and we were getting hit with cooler air.  Much, much cooler as we gained altitude and it started to spit rain drops.  Not enough to soak the road or require rain gear, but enough to make it a bit uncomfortable.  Our ride on this day ended at Mammoth Lakes which is a ski and outdoor-sports town.

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Surprisingly it rained most of the night, but the sky cleared up in the early morning and we departed Mammoth Lakes with the temperature only in the high 40’s.  A brisk start to our riding day as we continued north on Hwy 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra’s.  We rode around Mono Lake, and we climbed to another 8100-foot ridge, which offers a great view back to the Mono basin before starting back down past the turn-off for Bodie.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

The last real town before your reach Nevada is Bridgeport.  We stopped at the Bridgeport Inn, for breakfast.  A nice place built in 1877 and about 23 miles from Mono Lake.  It’s a family run historic period Victorian hotel, old Irish pub, and fine dining restaurant.  After warming up a bit we continue our ride and crossed into Nevada about 50 miles after Bridgeport. Aptly named Topaz Lake covers the state line next to the highway as you cross.

We arrived in Reno for the start of Street Vibrations 2016. Downtown was rumbling with motorcycles of all shapes and sizes for the fall rally which marks the last big motorcycle rally of the season for the west. There was no shortage of vendors and having been to the event a number of times we repeated some of the events over a couple of days.

The Posse

The Destination: Timbisha Indian Country Posse

Part of the posse departed early Saturday morning and some headed out late morning to return back to Portland.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t take many photos on the return trip from Reno as I’ve been on these roads a lot over the years and just focused on riding home vs. scenery.


In summary, we traveled over 2100 miles in 8 days with no mishaps, tickets or mechanical malfunctions. What more can you ask for?

 

Street Vibrations UPDATE:  There was some disappointing  news surrounding Street Vibrations which I learned of upon my return.  Jeffrey Sterling Duke, 57, of Georgetown, Calif. was shot to death on Interstate 80 near Truckee on Saturday night.  According to law enforcement he was semi-associated with the Vagos Motorcycle Club and his Facebook page noted that he was a Green Nation Supporter.

According to officials three motorcyclists rode up to the victim and fired multiple gunshots before taking off.  It’s not clear if this shooting is associated, but you might recall that five years ago this past weekend, members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs exchanged gunfire during a deadly brawl on the floor of a casino in Sparks.

Randy Burke (Road Shows) applies some media “spin” and explains why the Street Vibrations Rally is not to be blamed for the shooting.

Photos taken by author.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.35.53 PMDo you agree with the adage — “You are what you ride?”

While I don’t claim the axiom is foolproof, there are many observable examples that support the concept — from the successful lawyer driving to the office in a tire-shredding German sedan and then rides a chopped and stripped down Forty Eight on the weekends, to the general contractor who most days is in a tool-ridden F-250, but prefers to ride a CVO Limited, the grand American cruiser for the long road trips.

I fell hard for Harley-Davidson (over 20 years ago now) and it took me more than three models later to acquire the current riding spirit of the Road Glide.

I’ll admit it.  I enjoy the attention that comes with owning motorcycles of the Harley-Davidson caliber — parking lot discussions and drive-by salutations from strangers.  Sure it sounds pretentious, but I’ve spent way too much time behind the handle bars of a Honda and Yamaha to resist metaphorically blowing my own horn.

Right or wrong, many of us place a great deal of importance on what we ride. Critiquing others freely, we are likewise judged by the sheet metal of our ride.  Because, like it or not, motorcycles are a reflection of ourselves — a view into our wind in the face wandering soul.

Think about it.

We often purchase what fits our current character and life status. Everything from the color to the style and model is carefully and deliberately selected.  Much of our riding and our life for that matter, is spent developing this ride persona — and it evolves as we do.  Our environment may change from year to year where a mortgage or a kid in college influences what sits in the garage — as would the line of work, the economy, the community and our circle of friends.  Whether we currently own the motorcycle of our dreams does not mean the statement is any more or less true.

As we know, not everyone can live with a Harley-Davidson status symbol — whether they intended to or not. Just go to any dealer and look at the low-mileage castaways in the used area. Those owners moved on to a more practical ride or abandoned the entire motorcycle “lifestyle.”  An association with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is an extension of ourselves and a natural consequence of the freedom of the road culture. Like clothing, we dress in leather, steel and rubber, the same as we do with cotton or silk. Color, texture, design and shape — we’re being seen in public with our best “outfits.”

But, there is one great equalizer for all this pomp and circumstance activity — the gas station!  It’s the one place where we gather like creatures in the desert at the waterhole, replenishing empty tanks. The perfect spot to critique both motorcycle and rider while staring through polarized shades at the others from a distance.  I might dismount and swipe a credit card at the pump as fellow bikers draw conclusions based on my re-fueling habits.  I’m not bothered by that — after all, I’m doing precisely the same thing they did just minutes earlier.

Vanity comes in many forms, and even the modest will present their motorcycle with some defiance — like wearing blue jeans to a formal event.  It’s just a different perspective.

You may deceive society by how you look and the way you dress, your manner of speech and education, the neighborhood you live in or the reach of your bank account, but none of this really matters in a material world.  Because in that moment of judgement, you are inevitably what you ride.

Photos courtesy of H-D
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Sturgis Rally 2016 -- 76th

Sturgis Rally 2016 — 76th Year

Life is about choices. What to wear, what to eat, where to ride… And if you pondered each one in advance, trying to get it exactly right, you’d be left far behind and barely make it out of your house.

There’s something unique about touring by motorcycle whether it be spontaneous or calculated.  Some riders want a state-by-state listing of the best motorcycle roads with in-depth descriptions of each highway and ratings for the road’s scenery, surface quality, and a description of the best greasy food stops.  They obtain motorcycle maps, get motorcycle trip tips, reviews, suggestions, and more.  Others are just fine to point the front wheel in a direction with back roads, freeways and cornfields without ever looking at a map.

I’m having some personal restlessness and feeling a bit starved for rides this year. I was aiming for Laughlin, Sharkweek/Sturgis and Reno, but circumstances eliminated the first two.  I don’t need to worry about Reno, yet. Although, when I last looked, I see all the local hotels have already raised their rates for those dates.  Then I remind myself that the best rides I take are never the trips to any of the big rallies anyway.

And speaking of the heightened motorcycle adventure called Sturgis (August 6-13th) — prep is in full swing for the 76th Rally celebration which starts in a couple weeks.

Last year Harley-Davidson announced that the motor company is now the “official motorcycle” of the annual Black Hills Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota (through the year 2090!). And until November 2015, nobody had ever successfully trademarked the name of a city, but Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. is the official sponsor of the Sturgis Rally and it has trademarked “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” “Take The Ride To Sturgis” and “Sturgis Bike Week.” The corporation has also trademarked the official Sturgis rally logotype or picture mark. The oldest of these trademarks dates to 1997 and the most recent was registered in 2011, just before their suit was filed.  The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc., won that trademark infringement case against Walmart.

But, I’ve moved off topic where every American should try at least once the Legendary Steak Tip Dinner at the Loud American Roadhouse (no colors policy strictly enforced).

Harley-Davidson dropped a press release to outline all their plans at the 76th Sturgis Rally (HERE).  A quick re-cap is:
  • The Harley-Davidson Rally Point is a their permanent year-round space in Sturgis that will feature events and live music daily from the stage.
  • Kick-off Party for the 76th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Friday, Aug. 5, at 3 p.m.
  • Rides:
    • Mayor’s Ride featuring Grand Marshal Ben Bostrom, Monday, Aug. 8.
    • Harley-Davidson Editor’s Choice Bike Show, Tuesday, Aug. 9- Registration 8 a.m./Awards 4 p.m.
    • First Ever Angel’s Ride, Friday, Aug. 12 – The number of women riders is on the rise.
    • Free Motorcycle Demo Rides on the 2016 line-up.  Staging for demo rides takes place in the parking lot behind the Community Center
  • The Project RUSHMORE Experience is a behind-the-scenes and hands-on look at H-D’s latest touring motorcycle technology
  • H-D Fit Shop and Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories area is new this year will have a “Quick Install” area for 30-minute or less installations of selected accessories for your motorcycle.
  • Better than a selfie stick!  Pro Bike photos taken of you/your bike to post on social media and an option to purchase the photo as a keepsake.
  • Hollywood Harley Bikes from the movies Captain America and Avengers will be on display including Steve Rogers and the hero bike from FX’s Sons of Anarchy TV show will be located on a red carpet area

In addition, there are many, many other “not-to-be-missed” activities around town, in the camp grounds and at various music venues.

Whether you are spontaneously twisting throttles to South Dakota or making a road trip that is highly calculated — Enjoy!

@HarleyDavidson social media is providing wall-to-wall coverage at #LiveYourLegend.  The official H-D Sturgis App, is at:  www.h-d.com/sturgis.

Photo courtesy of H-D.
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"Wind in the face..."

“Wind in the face…”

I’m headed out for some quality “wind in the face” time…  We’re Milwaukee, WI bound and going to take in the 110th Anniversary celebration.

In my mind, most of the fun is in the journey across the country, but once we arrive it will be three days of events both big and small to excite and entertain all who attend. Sixty bands with top tier musical acts daily. Factory tours, museum tours, demo rides, and plenty of refreshments and Milwaukee hospitality…you name it and the motor company has thought about it along with the great city of Milwaukee we’re clearly going to be wow’ed.  If you need more info on the 110th Anniversary go HERE

I know that for many the recession/depression-like economy over the past few years has limited many a family budgets.  And sustaining a cash flow causes everyone to rethink rally expenditures.

So if you can’t attend, local artist, Doug LeTendre, is the guy behind “Little Pictures by Doug, LLC“. He makes cards in honor of everything Milwaukee and Wisconsin. It’s unique artwork that is original, hand-made cards for only $20 for a pack of ten.  He’s now working on a card to commemorate the H-D 110th Anniversary.

It’s some cool art.  Click on Doug’s cards to see a sample of his original art. 

I’ll see you in Milwaukee to wish Harley-Davidson a happy 110th Anniversary!  Ride safe my friends.

Photo courtesy of Hallmark.

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Long-way-thereWritten by Graeham Goble on June 2, 1972.  Nearly 40-years ago!

Only in his early 20’s when he left home in Adelaide to pursue a music career in Melbourne, Australia.  He became home sick and initially traveled back and forth by car every three weeks to see his family.  The trip often took over 9 hours and the idea for the song came from one of those long trips home.

This is all a set-up for that moment in the fall of ’76 when I was driving through the snow covered heartland of North Dakota and heard this song for the first time.  One of the things you’ll notice about North Dakota is how proud NoDaks are of their state.  Another thing you notice is how geographically diverse North Dakota is. It’s of course flat in most parts, but intermixed with a lot of rolling hills and green. And there are sections of the state that have buttes as far as the eye can see.

But, I’ve digressed.

Nodak-RGIt was the early days of FM radio.  You remember radio without advertisements, right?!  And I hear these swirling strings and then cappella harmonies and the track proceeds to positively rock out.  For nearly 10-minutes!  The youth of today have never heard a song uninterrupted for 10-minutes on radio.

I’m talking about the song, “It’s A Long Way There” by The Little River Band (LRB).

“People on the road are getting nowhere
I’m on the road to see
If anything is anywhere and waiting just for me”

It’s one of those songs that sounds as great today as the day it was released.

LRB-Album CoverI came home, ripped off the album shrinkwrap and dropped the needle and…  with big speakers, and large amps you could actually see the instruments come alive in the speakers.  In those days it was not an earbud nation!

What I truly enjoyed most about the seventies music was it wasn’t cookie-cutter.  There was even a time I thought I had a future in music.  It was really a long way to where I was going.  Sometime I’ll tell you my history, because I haven’t been writing this blog drivel forever and it took me years to find a niche.

That was 1976 and now, in 2013, LRB is still touring the U.S., but sadly with NO original members. Through a bizarre legal situation, the original members lost the rights to the ‘Little River Band’ name and Trademark.  Now it’s Birtles, Shorrock and Goble (BSG).

Harley’s touring bikes are built for American roads and as you lollop along with the engine thudding crank up  LRB, and “It’s A Long Way There”.  It’s an exquisitely recorded gem from the good ‘ol days that is a perfect companion for that road trip playlist. HERE is a more recent performance.

Check it out.

Photo’s taken by the author, album cover courtesy of LRB.

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Slowly but surely, things are getting better—or so we’d like to believe.

The unfortunate truth is the recession has sent an alarming number of families into financial distress for the first time. Unemployment remains high. Home foreclosures continue. The Portland Police Bureau respond to what seems like an ever increasing number of calls involving people struggling with mental health crisis, including suicides.  Visits to food banks have reached record levels. The increasing demand for services—and diminishing state and local resources—is straining the community safety net for people in need.

I don’t have answers to the economic issues.  But undeniably, the sensation of air molecules colliding with one’s face is refreshingly life-affirming.  To be in the wind: Free. Untethered. Sans obligations, financial, agendas, appointments, offices, annoyances.  Life’s problems just don’t seem as bad…

In part, it’s the reason for the tag line of this blog Whatever it is… it’s better in the wind” which I created back in July 2007.  The thinking was all a person needs is a few bucks for a used bike, $20 bucks for some fuel, a couple t-shirts, some free time, and a couple like-minded friends to enjoy the sensation. If you can’t scrape that together, then at least roll down the windows on the SUV, and enjoy a few moments of well-deserved Wind.

And speaking of wind in the face… a couple years ago I blogged (HERE) about Scott G. Toepfer — an emerging documentary photographer with a love of motorcycles and adventure.  His posse set out across the Western U.S., to experience the spaces between here and there, and to see what becomes of them on the road.

It turns out that Mr. Toepfer finally aggregated the content he captured from their rides over the last two years and release the short film (HERE – 17 min) which tells the story of their adventures.  It’s certainly worth a watch and may even be an inspiration for getting out in the wind!

Photo courtesy of Scott Toepfer.

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Dan Lyons wrote a terrific analysis of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in Newsweek.

Bottom line, we live in a mobile world.  Zuckerberg recognized that we’re moving to an access world and rather than try to convince everyone to go back to the past, to keep surfing on PCs, he bought Instagram for a billion dollars, which has a great app (even though no profits) because he didn’t want to be left out of the future.

We live in an attention economy.  Where the most important element is access.  If you’re not available to everybody at a very low price, if not free, your destined for the scrapheap.  And in an era where we’re on information overload, only the incredible takes hold and survives.

Speaking of incredible…

Summertime will be here before you know it and many of us have started planning our annual motorcycle road trip/vacations.  But, before you head out I suggest you download National Parks.  Developed by National Geographic it’s a new travel app highlighted by lush photographs from the vast National Geographic archives.

The application content spans from Maine’s Acadia to Utah’s Zion, National Parks and features information on thousands of points of interest, all tagged with GPS coordinates and complemented by recommendations from National Geographic editors.  It includes global and interactive maps enable filtering by activity and seasonality, and travelers can share experiences via Facebook, Twitter and email while collecting custom-designed stamps for each park they visit.

Best of all its FREE and available for iOS.

We all know that National Geographic projects are separated from rival efforts by the incredible photography and this app doesn’t disappoint.  Information on each park is accompanied by a photo gallery including both contemporary and vintage shots, and the images are stunning, especially on the iPad.

And if you’re like me,  you’ll want to snap some photos of your own and, National Parks also offers tips and tricks from National Geographic staff photographers to help make that motorcycle adventure a picture-perfect experience.

Facebook Mobile illustration courtesy of Kelsey Dake.  Photos courtesy of National Geographic.

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