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Posts Tagged ‘Troops’

Sunset H.O.G. Poker Run

The attacks of September 11, 2001 shaped the nation and the course of history.

Prior to this date most people would not have considered the possibility of an enemy attack on U.S. soil.  Nine years later it’s easy to forget that 2,749 lost their lives and seven buildings were destroyed. Recently President Obama announced the withdrawal of 90,000 combat troops from Iraq, marking the “end of America’s combat mission”, but who would have believed we would have a death toll of over 4,000 troops from the two wars?

I recall the events not to dwell on the tragedy, but to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, to honor the veterans and to remind myself that terrorist fanatics want to destroy the very principles of freedom and democracy that I write about on this blog. Sure the posts are slanted toward issues more relevant to motorcyclists, but it’s the same principles of freedom none the less.

We all remember where we were and what we were doing that day.  After watching the towers collapse, seeing the Pentagon and the western Pennsylvania crash I remember feeling a sense of desolation and anger.  But, I also remember how proud and inspired the first responders as well as Rudi Giuliani made me feel by their actions.  I remember the World Series just 6 weeks later in New York, the opening pitch by George Bush and a stadium full of people determined to not let this act change everything.

And speaking of freedoms, I’m not even a little conflicted about the $100M development of a mosque near ground zero.  I think it’s in poor taste and no matter how you spin it; the people behind the mosque are using our open arm kindness as a weakness.  And here is where hipsters will inundate my inbox with missives telling me I don’t know jack, that I’d better do the public a favor and stop writing, but pure and simple it’s an insult to the victims of 9/11.

There are and will be many motorcyclists paying tribute on September 11th.  There is “America’s 9/11 Ride” that raises money for families of active-duty first responders’ children.  There is the “Ride With The 40” which honors the hero’s of Flight 93 and lots at a the local level.  Here in the northwest is the 18th Annual Sunset HOG 9/11 Poker Run which is open to all flavors of motorcyclists.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll just watch a documentary or participate in one of the rides.  I plan to do something to support the victims and remember the attack.

Photo courtesy of Sunset H.O.G.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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By this time you’ve already heard that our President, Barack Obama, a man who ran on a platform of hope and change, is getting us deeper into Afghanistan.  Isn’t Al-Qaeda in Pakistan?  And, if the Soviets couldn’t win there, why can we?  A country owned by China with disastrous financials (that’s us, in case you didn’t recognize your homeland).

If you join the armed forces to serve your country, to pay your bills, you’re entering Hotel California.  It seems you can never leave.  You jumpily wait for people to attack you or detonate IEDs.  Coming home to a country that pays you lip service, but doesn’t give a rip because people can’t find a job.  If you come home at all.  And if you do return, you’re likely traumatized.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is paying record bonuses and their Chairman Lloyd Blankfein says the firm is doing God’s work.  Huh?  What deity does Mr. Blankfein pray to who wants to see the populace suffer?  Used to be Wall Street helped build America, now traders just profit off exotic investment instruments.

But there is good news (sarcasm alert!).  The enormous financial outlay of the 8+ year war has brought into sharp focus Bagram Airfield, where off-duty soldiers can obtain everything from Kyrgyz massages to purchase a BK burger.  Including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  According to AFP reports, the dealer for those away from the front lines sells about 4 motorcycles a month to U.S. servicemen.  With another 30,000 troops being deployed, and most of them set to take off or land on Bagram’s runway in route to fight the Taliban it means H-D should expect a sales increase proportional with the troop surge.  In fact, I just read a post on the H-D forum from a soldier who bought a 2009 Night Train yesterday.  Congrats Army_Train85 and thank you for your service!!

Obama’s speech wasn’t all that inspirational for me, but he did state (you can read the full text of his speech here) that sending the extra troops will cost the U.S. military $30 billion dollars this year — or $1 million for each newly deployed soldier.  That’s high-finance and hard for me to wrap my head around it.  In fact, it’s difficult for me to understand the cost ($28 a head) of each and every meal prepared for U.S. soldiers on the base cost more than most Afghans earn in a month.  That alone might explain the attraction to the Taliban-linked narco-terrorists.  Sigh. I wish there was a better way…

At any rate, as Bagram turns into a military “boom-town”…H-D is poised to take advantage.

Photo courtesy of Corbis/Shaun Schwartz.

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Schweitzer Summit

Schweitzer Summit

I hadn’t been hiking on Schweitzer since 1979.  Not much has changed.  That’s how it is with the physical world.  It outlasts all of us.  We’re just a blip in time.  Sure we think we’re forever, but despite all the hosannas, even Michael Jackson’s music will soon be forgotten.  It’s not human nature…we’re talking Mother Nature!

Last August in route to the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary celebration I posted about the posse travels and stop in Sandpoint, Idaho which is home to Schweitzer.   And again over this past July 4th holiday weekend I found myself disconnected from everything deemed important and traveling the “long-bridge” across Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced: ‘pond –oh– ray’)… the largest natural lake in Idaho.  The lake is 65 miles long and over 1100 feet deep in some areas which explains why the Navy continues to perform underwater acoustic testing at an old WWII base.

LibertySchweitzer mountain is an amusement park of the mind.  Rather than going on rides, being turned upside down by some mechanical contraption, you look at the Selkirk Mountain landscape and your mind does somersaults.  How did this happen?  It’s hard to imagine a glacier which was part of the continental ice sheet forming a lake over 800 feet deep as far away as Missoula, Montana.   Now it’s only a “small” remnant of all that glacial action.

One evening relaxing from a mountain hike I happen onto HBO and watched the Nicholas Stoller movie, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” starring Jason Segel and Kristen Bell.  It’s a comic look at one guy’s herculean task to deal with and get over a recent break-up.  Overall the movie was better than I first thought and afterward’s I caught the local news who were in an uproar over Sarah Palin’s resignation.  Palin was born in Sandpoint, and her father, Charles R. Heath, was a science teacher and track coach. I attended school where Charles taught after my father pulled orders for a tour in Vietnam and we relocated closer to relatives. Even though the Palin family moved to Alaska when she was an infant many in the area have a source of pride in her connection to the city.

Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Oreille

I couldn’t help but connect the dots between the movie and how the resignation were seemingly intertwined.  Palin was like the ex-girlfriend they’re SO over, never want to see again, have already forgotten about – really it’s OVER – but they can’t stop talking about her.  Whatever you think of Palin, her argument for resigning seemed logical and the only “incoherent rambling” was coming from the obsessively focused media who couldn’t stop talking about her resignation and her potential TV show…yep, they are SO over her!  I half expect to see Keith Obermann (MSNBC) crying because he has no one to help drive up his viewer numbers.

Instead most folks that I visited were asking: Have you seen all the Michael Jackson coverage on TV?  Or speaking of resignations, how’s work going?  And what’s going on with all the IED troop casualties in Afghanistan?  It was a hysteria filled July 4th news cycle, but I’m thinking everyone needs to take a moment of pause, get some wind in the face, hike a mountain summit and enjoy becoming placed in natural perspective.

Photos taken at Sandpoint and Schweitzer Summit.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s official: just one day left until the political ads stop clogging up the airwaves!  As the presidential candidates dart across several states arguing that victory is at hand it’s only hours “My friends”, until we return to the endless barrage of Elvis crooning Viva Viagra and the talking heads covering the O.J. story, or what Britney revealed or the hunt for Florida toddler Caylee or…anti-sagging-pants mandates and city ordinances!

It has been the longest and most expensive presidential contest ever – maybe the best and worst of times – but, no matter who you voted for the winner of the election will inherit (in no particular order):

  1. 46M uninsured Americans (15% of the U.S. population)
  2. Unfinished construction of the 700 mile, $49B U.S. – Mexico border fence
  3. Home foreclosure at an all time high and a 23 year high of late mortgage payments
  4. 140,000 troops serving in Iraq and 30,000 in Afghanistan
  5. 26 states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and 2 (MA. and CA.) that don’t
  6. Oil consumption at 20.7M barrels per day – U.S. produces 8.5M barrels per day
  7. Customs and Border Protection processes over 1M passengers, 70K containers and 300K air, sea, and land vehicles per day
  8. TSA screens 2M passengers and nearly the same number of pieces of checked luggage per day
  9. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts on average of 135K national security background checks per day
  10. NAFTA trade barriers which hurt Harley-Davidson

Frankly I’m feeling like a good neighbor.  I got involved, got connected, took local action with others in the community and voted.  I hope you do too.

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