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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.
All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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2015 Sturgis Rally Stats

2015 Sturgis Rally Stats

Stat pushers.

Not a day goes by that we’re not confronted with or overwhelmed with statistics or key metrics and the 75th Sturgis Rally is no exception.

But, what’s the one item we didn’t see at Sturgis this year?  Nada.  Not one.  Tickets issued for ape-hangers!  Thank South Dakota ABATE.

Starting July 1st, there are no longer regulations about where to hang your hands!  Ape-hangers are now legal in South Dakota and the $20 fine for riding with your hands too high was wiped off the books as governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 85, effectively abolishing South Dakota law that prohibited such handlebars.

In previous years it was a petty offense in South Dakota if you rode a motorcycle on a public street or highway with the handlebar grips positioned at or above shoulder height.  For law enforcement it was almost an automatic excuse to pull over a motorcyclist.

sturgis_infographic_2_0And then there were the daily public safety reports.  The number of people in attendance, the number of vendor permits, the tons of garbage recycled, the number of arrests, the number of accidents, the number of DUI’s and the motorcycle deaths.  An endless parade of daily stats.  Some of it confusing as the stats didn’t match day-to-day in the media given the spaghetti architecture that makes up the western South Dakota tracking system.

Maybe the City of Sturgis can contract with Booz Allen who recently won the healthcare.gov contract to coordinate and manage the various agency’s reporting data.  How about an infographic at the conclusion of the event so that we can all tweet and share on social media!

It turns out that in previous years, the State Police counted arrests and traffic crashes in and near Sturgis, as well as in the Rapid City Patrol district which is most of western South Dakota, beginning the Saturday before the Rally’s official start on Monday and going through early Sunday morning, on the final day.

That made for eight days of data.

However, this year because it was the 75th anniversary, the Patrol began counting on Tuesday, July 28. So the totals reported each day for DUI arrests and injury accidents didn’t compare exactly, with previous years’ reporting.  They release a special comparative statistics for Saturday Aug. 1 through Saturday Aug. 8, – actually until 6 a.m. Sunday – to compare with previous years.

That means instead of 220 DUI arrests this year as previously reported, the eight-day total was 195 DUI arrests for the Rapid City district, which includes Sturgis and most of western South Dakota.  Even the Puddle of Mudd singer (Wes Scantlin) was charged with DUI.  City managers can now point to the report and state that stats were well below the 244 DUI arrests related to the Sturgis rally last year for the same eight days.

Felony drug arrests this year were at 80 during the eight days, compared with 90 for the same period in 2014. The 12-day total previously reported was 99 felony drug arrests this year, if counted from July 28.  But who’s counting?

Sadly, the traffic fatalities remain well above last year independent of which metric (8 day vs. 12 day period) used.  The total of 12 this year for the eight days; previously the Patrol had been reporting 13 fatalities connected to the Sturgis rally this year, counting from July 28.

Why?  More people, more crashes seems to be the prevailing answer.  That answer seems too simplistic and certainly doesn’t root cause how to have a fatality-free rally.

The Department of Transportation counted vehicles entering Sturgis, as it has been done since 1990.  Final numbers weren’t available, but is projected to be in the 500,000 and 600,000 range.  More than the previous two years, but not as many as the record year of 2000.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles dominate the rally, but was a lot of other breaking news this year.  For example, the underwear world record attempt, failed.  Given all these side shows being reported by the media, the opening of an Indian Dealer in Sturgis and lots of foreign motorcycles in attendance the Harley dominance might be reduced.

Photo courtesy of South Dakota State News  |  Infographic courtesy of Lancetdatasciences.com 

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DRONE-GUYKnown as “remotely piloted aircraft” or “RPAs” in military parlance, drones may well have a coming out party at this years 75th Sturgis rally.

Ellsworth Air Force Base is located approximately 10 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota and about 30 miles from Sturgis. The 432nd Attack Squadron has 195 personnel dedicated to piloting drones to conduct surveillance.  It’s primarily focused on flying in foreign countries, but there are many different drones in the Air Force’s inventory and the question about use as a law enforcement tool during the Sturgis motorcycle rally was recently floated.

Drone_cover_imageI’m talking about something less threatening than the MQ-9 Reaper in the Sturgis sky, but something that will include live-feed video cameras, heat sensors and radar.

Advocates claim they can be used to quickly respond and solve medical problems, help untangle vandalism incidents, protect the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash that transact each night with vendors, catch illegal behavior, and provide documentation for law enforcement.

Is 2015 the year of aerial drone surveillance during the Sturgis Rally?

20130515_drone2_33Well consider the fact that Arial land survey by drone is already in process in South Dakota.  The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is training students to use drones for rescue and hostage situations and South Dakota currently has no Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Legislation preventing the skies from being used for drone flight.

And then if you look just across the state border to North Dakota, a family was arrested with the assistance of a Predator drone.  Rodney Brossart was sentenced to three years in prison, of which all but six months was suspended, for a June 2011 incident in which police attempted to arrest him over his failure to return three cows from a neighboring farm that had strayed on to his property.  Mr. Brossart’s sons were located by a border-surveillance Predator borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which enabled local police to safely apprehend them, according to local newspapers or as reported by the LA Times.

Still skeptical?  Here are some additional drone facts:

  • Between 2005 and 2012, the amount in contracts the federal government awarded for drones: at least $12 billion.
  • Number of companies that are now in the drone business: more than 1,000.
  • Number of private-sector and government requests to fly drones that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved since 2007: 1,428.
  • Number of police departments that have asked the FAA for permits to fly drones: 12.
  • Number of commercial drones that the FAA predicts will be flying in domestic airspace by 2017: 10,000.
  • Price of a drone-proof hoodie being sold by the British company Stealth Wear, which also offers drone-proof scarves and burqas: $481

The question of whether aerial surveillance requires a warrant is ambiguous, with some court rulings ­including a 1986 Supreme Court decision ­allowing warrantless surveillance, while other rulings have found it to be unconstitutional.

Unmanned-aircraft-Coming-to-a-sky-near-youThere was a time when aerial surveillance was so expensive that privacy was a minor issue. But now drones are relatively cheap and can be equipped with sophisticated sensors, so they can vacuum up large amounts of camera imagery and other data, in the same way that advances in computers and communications enable the NSA to collect huge amounts of data from telephones and the Internet.

Law enforcement will clearly advocate that drones support most all of the “unobjectionable” police raids.  However, how long will it be before networks of linked drones and computers “gain the ability to automatically track multiple motorcycles and bodies as they move around a city,” much as the cell phone network hands calls from one tower to the next. The authorities would then combine drone video and cell phone tracking to build up databases of people’s routine comings and goings—databases they can then mine for suspicious behavior.

drones-shropshire-gettyv2And here I thought states using federal highway safety grants to fund discriminatory Motorcycle-only checkpoints was government over reach.

Most people who ride and stay in Sturgis know they are being financially exploited and that today’s “hard-core” Sturgis rider is grayer, and is much better behaved.  None of this is new.  What is new, is the potential use of drone surveillance which is teetering on a privacy razor’s edge.

Note: Oregon’s HB 2710 defines a drone as an unmanned flying machine, not including model aircraft. The law allows a law enforcement agency to operate a drone if it has a warrant and for enumerated exceptions including for training purposes. It also requires that a drone operated by a public body be registered with the Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA), which shall keep a registry of drones operated by public bodies. The law grants the DOA rulemaking authority to implement these provisions. It also creates new crimes and civil penalties for mounting weapons on drones and interfering with or gaining unauthorized access to public drones. Under certain conditions a landowner can bring an action against someone flying a drone lower than 400 feet over their property.  In addition, Oregon was chosen as one of six UAS test sites by the FAA.   More UAS information HERE.

Photos courtesy of internet.

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HD-CrowdMany riders are on the road and in route to the Sturgis Rally.

If you rushed out of the garage before finalizing a list of things to do while in S.D., below is a list of activities Harley-Davidson will be rolling out for rally attendees.

The 2015 models will not be launched at Sturgis.  Last year the motor company started a new trend of  introducing the new model line up during the 3rd week of August after all the press/media noise subsides post-Sturgis and they can garner more mind share.

3rd & Lazelle Street, Downtown Sturgis, SD
Saturday through Saturday, August 2-9, 9am – 5pm

  • Stunt Show – 3 times daily (10am, 1pm, & 4pm) Produced by Ill Conduct Team
  • H.O.G. Rally Point – Join Tina, Thor and other H-D staff in the H.O.G. area. Pick up your FREE event Pin, join the club or renew your membership.  Plus, August 2-8 all H.O.G.® members + one guest are welcome to join us in the H.O.G area  from 3:00pm – 5:00pm for live entertainment, complimentary samples of our new H-D Road House Meats and beer samples.
  • Willie G. ® and H.O.G.® Commemorative Merchandise – You can’t buy it at home! Stop by to purchase exclusive Sturgis 2014 clothing.
  • Genuine Harley-Davidson® Parts & Accessories Display – the latest Harley® models equipped with the full line of custom Parts & Accessories. Check out our 12 fully accessorized bikes!
  • 2014 H-D® Motorcyle LineupCheck out the 2014 bikes, including NEW customized Street motorcycles, RUSHMORE bikes, the Low Rider® and the SuperLow®1200T.
  • Women’s Area – Rebel One hosts the JUMPSTART® Rider Experience and Bike Lift Seminars on how to properly lift a dropped motorcycle. Enter the sweepstakes to win a FREE Riding Academy course or Rental.
  • Weber® Mobile Grill Academy – Get a first-hand look at Weber grills and accessories; Weber Experts will be there to answer any questions you may have about grills, grilling techniques, recipes, and all things grilling!  Join the Weber Family by signing up for Weber Nation and you will be entered to win a Weber Genesis gas grill.
  • Craftsman® Garage Station – Come for a free oil fill-up and tire pressure check! Stay and watch our artists sculpt, paint, and engrave. Take home a cool new design on your bike helmet or a personalized engraving on a free Craftsman cap wrench.
  • Free Bike Wash – Wash away all the Black Hills dust and dirt at the free bike wash from 9am – 4pm. Just bring a dirty bike and a little elbow grease.
  • MDA will sell event pins and host a bike raffle. Enter to win a black 2014 Street Glide!
  • Visa will offer Visa Card membership application and free giveaways to all applicants!

Black Hills Harley-Davidson
2820 Harley Dr.
I-90 Exit 55, Rapid City, SD
Saturday through Saturday, August 2-9, 9am – 5pm

  • Harley-Davidson ® Motorcycle Test Rides – Take a FREE test ride on a 2014 Harley-Davidson® motorcycle, including our new RUSHMORE bikes, LowRider® and SuperLow® 1200T. Come early and ride as many bikes as you want. All riders must have a valid motorcycle license and adhere to riding gear requirements and safety rules.  Demo registration will close at 4:00pm daily.
  • 2014 H-D® Motorcycle Lineup – Check out the 2014 bikes
  • Harley-Davidson® Motorclothes® – Try on our new jackets – even take them for a test ride! All items will be available for immediate purchase.
  • H-D1 Fit Shop – Come experience the feel of a more comfortable, safer ride. Stop by the H-D1 Fit Shop and find your perfect seat and handlebar combination.

Featured Activities:

  • Sunday, August 3 – “Weber® Big Burger Battle Cook-Off” competition. Come to the Weber® display at 3rd and Lazelle St. to watch pre-selected finalists compete in a cook-off!
  • Tuesday, August 5 – The 6th Annual Women’s Biker Belles Ride and celebration sponsored by Harley-Davidson®. Visit www.bikerbelles.com to register and for more information.
  • Wednesday, August 6 – “Weber® How to Grill a Perfect Burger” hands-on grilling class exclusively for H.O.G members led by Weber® Grill Expert, Kelsey Heidikamp.  Classes offered at the Weber® display at 3rd and Lazelle St. at 11:45am, 1:30pm, and 3:15pm. To participate, please send your name, cell phone number, H.O.G. number and preferred class time to HandsOnGrilling@harley-davidson.com. Space is limited so sign up soon! Sign up ends Friday, August 1.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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4-Corners By Harley-Davidson – Part 2

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This is a continuation of Part-1 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.

Cortez to Meeker, CO – When we plotted our original route to 4-Corners, I don’t think any of us imagined riding in such dry, scorching heat through unimaginably desolate terrain.  It seemed like the buzzards were the only thing alive and they were circling patiently overhead for a couple days.  As a result, we decided it was time to head north for some cooler weather.

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass – 10,708 Feet

On this morning’s departure the buzzards had taken the day off. We headed east on Highway 160 toward historic Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We stopped at the Durango Harley-Davidson dealer and picked up a t-shirt and exchanged some information about where to ride with other motorcyclists.  We then headed north on Highway 550 toward Silverton and then Highway 110, over what is also called the “Million Dollar Highway” toward the little the town of Ouray — “The Switzerland of America.”  We allowed for plenty of time to ride this route as the winding roads go through mountains and we knew there would be stops for photos and time to enjoy the vistas, waterfalls, deserted mining towns.

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

The GPS displayed 10,708 feet when we crossed over the summit and started to descend into Silverton.  I’m not sure what the town is like in the winter with its 300+ inches of snow that falls each year. We stopped for fuel and a soda break then rolled onto the main part of the Million Dollar Highway – north from Silverton to Ouray.  I’ve heard a couple  different reasons about why it has its name. It is either because it cost a million dollars a mile to build, or because the fill they used to make up the road has traces of gold and silver contained within it. Whichever is true, it is still a great name for a road.  The road itself is a terrific ride, but there are some parts where you have to pay close attention with steep drop-offs and no guard rails. In other places the road hugs the side of a steep slope of a mountain and in others, it has great bends which are ideal for motorcycling.

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

About 20 miles from Ouray after going around a mountain switch back the weather changed quickly.  We could see dark clouds rolling up the mountain valley, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and it started to spit some moisture.  We pulled over and hunted for rain gear which somehow had relocated to a deeper part of the hard bags in the days of searing heat.  It was a good call, because in less than 15 mins there came lightening and a gully washer.  As we rolled through Ouray it was hailing BB sized hail and the road was literally flowing with a mud/water mix.  We could see blue sky and kept rolling through the weather.  By the time we arrive in Ridgeway it stopped.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

We finally arrived in Meeker and overnighted at the Elk Mountain Inn.  We ate a Mexican dinner at Ma Famiglia which was an extremely satisfying meal with great service.  We discussed riding to Sturgis since we were headed north and needed to start thinking about our return route.  The next morning coffee was on early and the hosts were very pleasant.  We wanted to clean the motorcycles after riding in the mud flow outside Ouray the previous day and they offered us a hose, buckets and cleaning soap.

On Wyoming Highway 70

On Wyoming Highway 70

Meeker to Torrington, WY – We were up early to clean the mud residue off the motorcycles.  Afterward we rolled north toward Craig on Highway 13/789.  Once we passed into Wyoming we headed east on Highway 70 where it passes over the Continental Divide and then descending onto the junction for Highway 230 north.  We picked up Highway 130 east and rode by Lake Marie and Mirror Lake while crossing through the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 - Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 – Medicine Bow National Forest.

In Centennial we stopped for fuel at the Trading Post and then continued east on Highway 130.  At Laramie we got on I-80 east and headed toward Cheyenne.  It was a quick trip to Cheyenne and then we headed north on I-25 and then at Exit 17 is where US Highway 85 (Torrington Road) branches off to the northeast.

We arrived in Torrington fairly late in the day and tried a couple of motels which were full of bikers before ending up at the Motel 6.   It was the only place with vacancy and that should have been a red flag.  It was being renovated or had closed and then sort of reopened, but didn’t know what it was going to be in final form?

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over...

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over…

All the signs were removed from the building and significant remodeling was stalled.  We were fortunate to have A/C and a bed/shower, but I can honestly say don’t stay at this place until they get it finished.  We ate dinner at Deacons Restaurant and the hearty steak meal helped offset the strange motel situation.

Torrington to Rapid City, SD – On this morning we got up early and traveled the 8+ miles for a photo op on the Nebraska state line.  We did a U-turn and headed back onto the route that is known as the “Traditional” way for riders to get from northern Colorado to Sturgis.

We started to notice a lot more motorcyclist as if the NO vacancy signs weren’t a clue the night before.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

We continued on Highway 85 north and headed to the town of Lusk.  Lusk was full of Bikers, and coincidently was having a big parade.  We had planned to get fuel there, there was a long wait at the gas station and one of the law enforcement officers who had traffic block mentioned that we should just head to the next town.

This stretch of road is heavily patrolled, but despite that we witnessed a number of bikers running near 90mph, though I don’t recommend it.  In fact, we came up on the first accident of the trip on this road.  It looked like an overloaded motorcycle dumped their load and skidded off into the ditch.  If anyone had been hurt they were already gone by the time we rolled past as the tow vehicle was picking up the motorcycle.

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

About halfway between Lusk and Newcastle is Mule Creek Junction with a nice rest area and it’s possible to head east on Highway 18 from there into Custer, SD which is what we did.

We rolled through Custer and past the Crazy Horse Mountain Monument and stopped in Rapid City.  We paid double the going rate for a room at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel and spent the remainder of the day and evening enjoying the typical Sturgis activity.

Knuckle-8We were only in town for 24 hours, but managed to hit The Knuckle Saloon for refreshments, One-Eyed Jacks Saloon for dinner, and see plenty of billboards, souvenirs, belt buckles, t-shirts, music and people watching on Main Street well into the evening.

Rapid City to Billings, MT – The next morning was another early rise.  It was a beautiful sun-drenched morning.

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

There was a quick sausage biscuit (yeah, we eat well on the road!) at Burger King and it was on the road again.  It was going to be an “Interstate Day” – all the miles would be on the freeway.  We motored west on I-90 toward Sundance then Gillette and Sheridan.

As the miles clicked by I gazed out over the landscape, it was not hard to imagine the challenges faced by those who struggled to forge a living from this land 150 years ago. It says something about the human spirit that they even tried.  When you’re rolling along on the freeway you soon learn to really hate semi-trucks and RVs.

Buffalo Country

Buffalo Country

These behemoth’s create their own wind patterns and take no issue with trying to out run motorcycles cruising above the speed limit!

Much of this route is prairie with long stretches of straight road.  Just outside Hardin we rolled past the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument at the Highway 212 junction.  We’ve ridden Hwy 212 a couple of times when returning from Sturgis, but this time we needed to make up some miles.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Passing by Little Big Horn I remember seeing the 135th anniversary signs of the battle.  It was late 1875, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians left their reservations, outraged over the continued intrusions of “whites” into their sacred lands in the Black Hills.   They gathered in Montana with Sitting Bull to fight for their lands.  The following spring, two victories over the US Calvary emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876 – the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

A couple years ago I blogged about the Guidon, an artifact found/auctioned off from that battle.

It had been another hot day and we arrived in Billings at the Holiday Inn Express on the edge of town.  It was a new hotel and had all the amenities.  We headed to the pool and then I remember having dinner at a Subway shop up the road followed by some DQ ice cream.  There were a number of bikers returning from Sturgis who overnighted at the hotel and we made some new friends.

This is a multi-part blog post.  Part -1 HERE and Part – 3 HERE.

Photos by author.

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4-Corners Route Map

4-Corners Route Map

It doesn’t get much better than a tour of America’s most famous roads aboard its most famous motorcycle.

To be clear,  this wasn’t the SCMA sanctioned ride to the four-corner cities in the U.S. (San Ysidro, CA; Blaine, WA; Madawaska, ME; and Key West, FL) in 21 days or less.  I’m talking about the 4-corners of Arizona/ Colorado/New Mexico/Utah which is a leisure trip in comparison.

Cruising Toward Boise

Cruising Toward Boise

I’m very late in posting a summary, but about 10-months ago, three of us set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-mile 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 to Oregon.

My view is that any motorcycle is better than a car, and not for the biker type reasons, it’s because you engage with the environment and the people in a far more intimate way. When it rains, you get wet, when the temperature drops, you get cold, and if those sound like reasons to take a car, then you just don’t understand – feeling the air and the weather rather than viewing it through a windshield or soaking in the experience of the environment instead of merely looking at it truly is the only way to go.

Boise Street Celebration

Boise Street Celebration

On this road trip, Moab, the Million Dollar Highway and Beartooth Pass were my most memorable highlights.   The road trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to multiple days of 100+ searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through hail and torrential rain storms with “mud-flows” on Colorado’s Highway 110 where fishing gear seem appropriate!  Nothing we couldn’t handle and it all made for the adventure of touring by motorcycle.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

The romance and history of the great American road trip is a powerful draw.  I’ve wanted to ride through Monument Valley since seeing an image in an American motorcycle magazine smuggled into an electronics amplifiers lecture in college: an abandoned gas stop, tumbleweed, a rusting Phillips fuel sign you could almost hear squeaking in the hot, dry breeze and, down the road, a post-war Ford tilted into a ditch, its sun-bleached side peppered with bullet holes.  Yeah, we all know the imagery; 20th century Americana, the open road, the songs, and the countless films – so, let’s jump into the actual ride:

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Portland to Boise –  I’ve blogged ad nauseam about riding from Portland to Boise on various trips to Sturgis and won’t bore you by repeating the details.  We departed early and it was about getting some miles under our tires with I-84 being the fastest route east.  We overnighted in Boise where the perpetual street scene celebration seems to always be running.  We grabbed some dinner at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant.

Cruising the CO. River

Cruising the Colorado River on Highway 128

Boise to Spanish Fork, UT –  We departed Boise fairly early and continued to roll on the freeway through semi-arid rolling hills.  We were not fully into the “tourist” mode until we stopped in Spanish Fork, UT outside Salt Lake City.  We did a quick stop at Timpango’s Harley-Davidson.  The 6-acre complex and building was the brainchild of Dave Tuomisto and was a great story.  It was a mega-dealer – almost a mini-museum – and part of Harley-Davidson’s growth strategy, but during the “Great Recession” fell on bad times and Joe Timmons purchased the dealer for pennies on the dollar.  It’s a unique complex and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.

Wide Open Skies

Highway 128 Heading Toward Moab

The most memorable item I recall from this part of the trip – I’m writing this post nearly a year later – was the incredible amount of road construction on I-15 in and around Salt Lake City.  It’s as if there was a mass-transit revolt by residents and the state decided to build enough lanes to accommodate traffic into the late 21st century.  There was no time for day dreaming as car’s cut us off and darted across multiple lanes.

At Arches National Park

At Arches National Park

Spanish Fork to Moab –  On this day the ride was all about mountains.  US-6 leads to Moab and Arches National Park and from the first mile we were climbing.  The grade was mild so the elevation stretched out for miles until we finally reached the summit at 7500 feet.  All the while peaks with short scrubby trees surrounded us.  US-6 between Spanish Fork and Price has the honor of being one of America’s most dangerous roads owning it to a mix of heavy trucks, RVs and cars traveling at freeway speeds through narrow canyons.  There were 519 fatal and serious accidents from 1996-2008.

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

The descent from the summit was much quicker though it didn’t seem all that steep and we ended up on I-70 at a Papa Joes Gas-n-Go station where we fill up the fuel tanks.  We headed east on I-70.   Most people will take Highway-191 at the Crescent Junction interchange into Moab.  There are over 8500 cars that travel this road daily.  We decided to take a less-traveled route that adds only a few miles and you come into Moab from the back side on Highway 128.

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

This spectacular 44-mile scenic byway meanders along the Colorado River and the lack of vehicles was a bonus. About halfway you pass a viewpoint of the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers which is set against the peaks of the La Sal Mountains.  It was an impressive scenic ride with the red sandstone walls rising up around us as we watched the colors of the sunset.  It was a day of searing heat and we headed to the Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn pool to cool down.  We had dinner at the Moab Brewery and reviewed the “tourist” plans for the next day.

4-Corners National Monument

4-Corners National Monument

Moab to Cortez, CO (with stop at 4-Corners Monument) – We awoke early to get a jump on the desert heat and rolled out of town in the cool morning toward the River Canyon.  The plan was to ride the loop in Arches National Park and do some tourist sightseeing early then rumble toward 4-corners.  There have been good books written about Arches and this simple post will not do it justice.

4-Corners National Monument Plaque

4-Corners National Monument Commemorative Plaque

We rode most of the 36-mile round trip scenic drive.  We rolled through the petrified sand dunes between “Courthouse Towers” and “The Windows.”  We stopped and walked around a bit at “Balanced Rock” and again at Elephant Butte near the “Parade of Elephants.”   Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or were we dressed appropriately to walk the 1.5mile hike into “Delicate Arch.”  We took a lot of photos and then exited the park.

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

We headed south on Highway 191 where the only sound was of the V-Twin rumbling off the canyon walls.  Horses nuzzled the rough cottonwoods by the riverbank and the red sandstone walls rose up around us again as we headed toward Monticello and Blanding.  I don’t exactly remember which route we took to Montezuma Creek – all roads looked similar – but we ended up in Teec Nos Pos, AZ and then connected to Highway 160 for the 4-corners monument.  We paid the fee to get into the park and walked around, did some shopping at the Indian vendor stands which wrap around the monument area.  It was cool to stand on the 4-corner disc and straddle the four states.

cortez-motelIt was getting late in the day and we really needed to find a town large enough to host a motel so we departed.  We headed north on Highway 160 and overnighted in Cortez, CO., at the Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suite.  It was another scorching day of heat so a quick dip in the pool was in order and then we headed to dinner to discuss the next day riding plans.

This is a multi-part post.  Part-2 continues HERE.

Photos taken by author.  Map courtesy of Apple.

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At The 70th Sturgis Rally

Can you feel it?  It’s in the air. The annual Sturgis celebration (Black Hills Motorcycle Rally) is in full force.

Every year, about this time I get a lot of hits on the blog from previous Sturgis articles I’ve written.  Especially the 2008 article about the first shooting in 20 years between the Iron Pigs and HAMC.

Last year I went to the 70th Rally (blogged it HERE) and raved about the music (except Dylan), the food, the rides and, of course, the people.  I took it all in, and enjoyed every minute of it. Was it my best Sturgis ever?  I don’t know what the future holds, but it was pretty good.

This year had all the makings of being a major contender, but reports of the legal action surrounding the Rally trademarks and who can sell (legally) t-shirts with the name “Sturgis” along with reports about the economy has put clouds over the event.  Some motorcyclists have suggested that the core H-D customer has gotten older, sold their motorcycles and become tired of the event.  Some veteran riders have complained the Sturgis rally has lost its outlaw edge, attracting too many bankers and lawyers with top-of-the-line $30K+ Harley-Davidsons and not enough old-fashioned hard-core bikers.

I won’t argue that the meaning and appeal of motorcycle rallies change as you get older, but I’m thinking it’s neither the economy, trademark disputes or aging demographics.  Maybe Sturgis has just got…. OLD?!

The event has largely remain unchanged for the last 10+ years.  There are some who look forward to the Sturgis routine. They are the same people who return to the same spot year after year. They take the same riding routes.  It never gets old.

However, there are no easy dollars anymore especially in this new economy and it makes me wonder if there is still a place for bloated, over-commercialized rallies?  Many would argue yes.

I won’t be immersing myself in all things Sturgis this year.  I elected to spend the time and $$ riding down Hwy 101 along the pacific coast range through the Redwoods and then over to the Sierra Nevada mountains and through Yosemite.  That’s why I’ve been off line for the past couple weeks.  It was time to ride, but I gave South Dakota a break.

How about you.  Why didn’t you attend the mother of all rallies this year?

UPDATED: August 11, 2011 – Another item which seems to remain consistent year-over-year at the rally are the stats.  The South Dakota Highway Patrol logged the following incidents during the Sturgis motorcycle rally as of 6 a.m. Thursday:

• DUI arrests: 151 (Sturgis 140, Rapid City 8, Southern Hills 2, Badlands 1)
• Misdemeanor drug arrests: 96 (Sturgis 69, Rapid City 17, Southern Hills 10)
• Felony drug arrests: 36 (Sturgis 19, Rapid City 13, Southern Hills 4)
• Other felony arrests 1 (Southern Hills)
• Total citations: 834 (Sturgis 503, Rapid City 176, Southern Hills 89, Badlands 66)
• Cash seized: $1,853 (Rapid City)
• Concealed weapons arrests: 6 (Sturgis)
• Vehicles seized: 5 (Sturgis 2, Rapid City 3)
• Injury accidents: 64 (Sturgis 33, Rapid City 14, Southern Hills 13, Badlands 4)
• Fatal accidents: 2 (Sturgis)

Photo taken at 70th Sturgis Rally

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