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US342Street Vibrations is a 4-day event that brings two-wheel enthusiasts from all parts of the country to show-off customs, parade the vendor booths and enjoy the entertainment.  Oh did I mention the local rides?  Yes, there are plenty from Virginia City to Lake Tahoe as well as the various poker runs.

The weather (mid-90’s) really made for a positive experience this year.  Our entourage spent time riding out the Virginia City loop, but mostly we stayed in downtown to mingle with the crowds, talk motorcycles with riders and vendors and take in all that the casinos had to offer up in terms of entertainment.  The vendor booths were busy with crowds most all day long.  Of course there was the monster jump at the Grand Sierra Resort by Ryan Capes who broke the (ramp-to-ramp) record on a motorcycle.

Left Of Center

Left Of Center

And there were lots of bands with some top tier talent, but I enjoyed the non-headliners more. There was Saddle Tramps on the Jagermeister Super Stage and most notable was Left of Center who played the Brew Brothers pub at Silver Legacy on back to back nights.  Our group also caught a comedy club act in the Catch A Rising Star lounge which made the $15 per ticket expense seem like a bargain after all the craps table losses!

The motorcycle festival didn’t pass without incidents, however.  There were several motorcycle accidents including one fatality which I posted previously HERE.  In fact, on our ride back from Virginia City we came upon a motorcyclist who lost control and struck a wall on Griner’s Bend, a sharp curve at the south side of Virginia City on State Route 342.  In addition, Police reported there were 72 arrests made at Street Vibrations even though it was considered one of the more peaceful events! Most of the arrests were alcohol related, including 23 for public intoxication.  The police also issued 77 traffic citations and responded to six reports of stolen motorcycles.  It was a busy weekend for LEO, but what I most appreciated was the lack of SWAT teams armed with semi-automatic rifles marching in Virginia City and other areas.

tat_SSBack to the rally.  I missed the roller derby battle between the Rose City Rollers and the Battle Born Derby Demons, but you have to make a call since you can’t take it all in!  The sponsors brought back the firework display which had disappointed many last year when it was cancelled.  And then there was the tattoo expo which put body art on display and inspired one of the posse to get inked.  A big shout out to Randy Burke, owner of Road Shows who puts on Street Vibrations because it was a great event and the rally was kept fresh with some new activities.

Posse Dinner

Posse Dinner

On Sunday morning we were up early because it was all about miles and putting on as many of the 546 miles we needed to do before the heat baked the day.  From Susanville we took CA-44 through Lassen National Forest.  We headed up toward Old Station and then took CA-89 toward the town of Mount Shasta.  I like riding this route. The road is good and traffic is moving fast for a two-lane road.   It has a varied and interesting scenery.  About 60 miles south of Mount Shasta there was a forest fire in early August that raged through the area.  I believe it was the Hat Creek Complex.  More photos HERE.   We didn’t know it at the time, but there was another forest fire filling the air with smoke.  A thin layer at first, but it increased through-out the day.  It was from the Boze fire, an 11,000-acre fire near Tiller, OR and with the southerly trade winds blowing it meant we rode in it nearly all day long!

I-5_SunsetWe entered the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, rolled onto I-5 and pressed on through beautiful scenery.  Arriving at the Oregon border we crossed the 4300 foot mark at the Siskiyou Summit which is the highest point on I-5.  We then dropped down in the Rogue River valley through Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass.  Occasionally, I’d catch a whiff of toasted brake lingering in the air, proof that not everyone enjoyed the ride as much as we were!  We traversed the three passes of the Umpqua Valley and after Roseburg it was back to rolling hills.  We continued to deal with forest fire smoke.  There was a small mechanical delay which baling wire fixed in short order with a shift linkage, but otherwise we were all about miles and stops were limited to fast food and fuel.  It took just under 12 hours to make the trip home.

It was a good and safe Street Vibrations trip!

Road Trippn’ to Street Vibrations 2009 — Part 1 HERE; Part 2 HERE.

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posse_lkviewAfter an early morning continental breakfast we brought the bikes to life in the motel parking lot and after a quick fuel stop we shake, rattled and rolled down the US 395 trail.

The road encourages a relaxed pace and many of the trappings of modern travel are just not on this road.  About 40 miles north of Alturas, 395 reaches California and the confusing little town of New Pine Creek.  It consists of barely more than a couple of stores.

Goose Lake

Goose Lake

The California map says it’s in California, yet the Oregon map says it straddles the state line, which at least in practice, it does. The actual location of the state line is a bit confused and about 20 years ago, California officials reviewed the line and concluded that the line should actually be a bit farther north. But locals still don’t seem certain about where it is. Nonetheless local California residents have Oregon mailing addresses (that’s where the post office is), which confuses all sorts of bureaucrats, from cops to tax officials and the uncertainty about location prompts all sort of thrash to reduce taxes and other fees. It used to be that Oregonians had to sneak their kids into the local school, which is (probably) in California. The Oregon welcome sign is on the north end of the tiny town, but the California sign is right in the middle of town on State Line road, though that probably isn’t where the line actually is.  I know that I’m on the “line” — the Oregon/California border in New Pine Creek when I see the shop called “Just Stuff“.  Never a customer parked in front of the building, but it remains open after all these years!
Reno_Skyline
We continue on and nearby the Goose Lake State Park is a large shallow lake that straddles part of state line area yet it’s so remote reservations are not necessary.  We traversed around Alturas and through Likely, Ravendale and Litchfield.  Somewhere along this route we hit about 10 miles of the worst road surface I’ve encountered on previous rides. I dislike that tar base with loose gravel and the DOT thinking that we’ll let the vehicles drive over the gravel until the road is no longer loose!

At Standish we fueled up and avoid backtracking to Susanville by way of the cut-off road.

Reno_NeonThis area is nestled in a high-desert valley in northeastern California, bordered by both lush evergreen forests and arid sagebrush.  First a rugged trading post for Nobleas Train wagon trains, in 1854, pioneer Isaac Roop wrought the first permanent settlement by allotting a large piece of his land for the city, which eventually would be named for his daughter Susan.  The days it’s know more the High Desert State Prison with the high-security, lethal electrified perimeter fence.

We skirted Honey Lake and rolled into Reno by mid-afternoon.  The posse unloaded and enjoyed all that Reno and Street Vibrations could offer up in the form of some nighttime refreshments.

Road Trippn’ to Street Vibrations 2009 — Part 1 HERE; Part 3 HERE.

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Two-LaneThe weather, the gambling action, the leather and the chrome all attracted higher attendance for Street Vibration 2009.  Maybe the lack of hype or the “sky is falling” press about impending club-on-club violence helped?  There was a positive “vibe” in the city which I’ve not observed in a couple years.  I ask and didn’t hear much from street vendors about the current recession is the new normal… yada, yada.

As I roared out of Reno yesterday on my way home I thought about this video — “Rockin’ The Beer Gut” — a bit of truth wrapped up in a humorous ditty that tells us even though we have dangerous unemployment and we may not be perfect, don’t work on Wall Street making millions, it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!  And fun at Street Vibrations we had!  The 546 mile ride back gave me plenty of time to try and recall what stood out from years past — there was that monster jump at the Grand Sierra Resort by Ryan Capes who broke the standing 254 foot (ramp-to-ramp) record and then turned around and broke his own new record by clearing 316 feet on a motorcycle, then there were the Motorcycle “Clubs,” more than a dozen all getting along, but mostly it was about the scenic journey on two-lane tarmac with green mountains to sage brush desert which was fantastic.  The weather (mid-90’s) didn’t hurt and put the FUN back into the experience.  As well as tens of millions to the local economy.  I certainly left my small share!

The event didn’t pass without incidents, however.  More riders often means more accidents.  First, there were several motorcycle accidents on US 395 related to the set up for the monster jump.  Then there was a lady who was on the Harley-Davidson demo bike ride and wrecked.  A couple on U.S. 50 who crashed just east of Spooner Summit which sadly resulted in the only fatality at the event.  Then on our ride back from Virginia City we came upon a motorcyclist who struck a wall on Griner’s Bend, a sharp curve at the south side of Virginia City on State Route 342.  It turned out that 6 people were injured Friday afternoon, two of them seriously, in four separate accidents all involving loss of control.  The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) reported there had been 18 motorcycle accidents over the course of the rally weekend.

The final attendance tally and the economic $$ impact will be out in a few days, but from my perspective it seemed like more people and the street crowds were bigger.  Not as record breaking as a few years ago, but none the less significant.  I plan to provide an trip chronology and will post it up over the next few days.

UPDATE: September 29, 2009 — AP is reporting that there were 72 arrest made at Street Vibrations even though LEO consider the event largely peaceful.  Most of the arrests were alcohol related, including 23 for public intoxication.  The police issued 77 traffic citations and responded to six reports of stolen motorcycles.

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Virginia City

Virginia City

What a great couple of days. Terrific t-shirt weather, easy riding and we’ve been here in Reno with a bunch of good riding friends.

On our third day (Friday) we seperated into a couple groups and one drove the Virginia City, Carson City to Reno loop. Those of you old enough to remember the TV show Bonanza might be interested to know that the Ponderosa Ranch, home of the Cartwright’s is in the area.  Many believe it it’s in Virginia City, but actually Virginia City only hosted a back lot for the filming of the TV show.  The Ponderosa Ranch was actually a theme park in Incline Village, near Lake Tahoe.  It was shut down in the late 1990’s, but you can read lots more HERE.  Bonanza ran from 1959 to 1973 and was behind Gunsmoke as the longest running Western TV series.  I have an aunt who co-wrote a couple of the shows, but I don’t have a clue which ones.  It’s a cool area to ride in and the Ponderosa Pines are massive and the views are spectacular.

We arrived in Virginia City (pop. 1000) which still has much of the same character and ambiance it was famous for, and some of the same businesses (brothels), for which it is now infamous.  Named after the Comstock Lode which was an exceptionally large and rich mineral deposit of Silver, the city is directly built over the “lode” and was mined for years.  We leisurely wandered through many of the old buildings. Most have been converted from saloons and brothels to retail stores: cowboy clothes, leather goods, tourist trash, etc., however you can still see much of the original building details: large mirrors found on walls behind the various bars, the bar itself, or areas set aside for the honky tonk piano, gambling tables, and the infamous stairway to the rooms upstairs where a hard working miner or cowboy could find friendly companionship.  We enjoyed a $5 combo hotdog and beer lunch while watching the SWAT teams invade, oops I mean lurk in doorways in this rustic city.  Estimates had the biker crowd in Virginia City as high as 15,000 during the busiest part of the event.  Afterward the hotdogs we headed east out of town toward Carson City.

Speaking of the “companionship” business.  All indications are it’s going strong…. several of us made our way over to Mound House (about 6 miles east of Virginia City) to what’s called “The Ranch”…a set of connected trailers owned and operated by Dennis Hof for a “what’s-a-nice-girl-like-you-doing-in-a-place-like-this” tour.  Dennis is a TV personality and most visible as the owner of the Bunny Ranch and who starred in the reality TV show Cathouse: The Series on HBO.  I met him last year.  This year it was slow due to the poker run being on Saturday.  Sponsored by the Hells Angels and called the “Cat House Poker Run” many motorcycle enthusiasts go from business-to-business and participation is high…we had other plans. 

Skynnyn Lynnyrd Band

Skynnyn Lynnyrd Band

From the Ranch we rode to the Carson City Harley dealer.  The new building is located on 2900 Research Way just off US 395.  It took us awhile to find it because last year it wasn’t in this location!  We ran into the other half of the riding posse who were getting some parts and enjoyed various activities from burn outs to rock bands at this venue.

We headed back into Reno after a long and fun day. We grabbed dinner at the Eldorado Hotel in the Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant called Golden Fortune. Afterward we did a bit more vendor booth hopping and decided to catch a Harrah’s show.  Turns out that Skynnyn Lynnyrd (a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band) rocked out the plaza for some good sets. For comparison here is a video of Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1977.

Read more about the Street Vibrations trip at Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5.

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I was up early on day 2 and stood for a moment in the motel doorway, contemplating the Road King as though it were some postmodernist sculpture in the sunrise. Its gleaming chrome “big twin” engine, pipes, polished black-on-black fenders, beach bars and seven-inch headlight is nirvana in terms of form and function. I suspect the low grade headache has more to do with the tequila shots from the El Aguila Real restaurant the previous night than the crappy pillow.  It was time for some caffeine.

The rest of the crew was stirring and we headed across the street to the Tall Town Café & Bakery for some melt-n-your-mouth handmade cinnamon rolls.  Even from the outside you can tell this ‘Ol School bakery means business and the eggs with home-made biscuits and gravy were perfect for the short 250 mile ride into Reno.

After breakfast we brought the eight bikes to life in the motel parking lot and the neighbors likely wondered when was the quiet possession of their homes revoked?  The sound makes your heart beat a little faster and we shake, rattled and rolled down the US 395 trail.

The road encourages a relaxed pace and many of the trappings of modern travel are just not on this road.  Like the Doobie Brothers song “Clear as the Driven Snow“… “I keep rolling, and rolling, and I can’t stop, and I can’t stop…” there are no big box stores, no chain motels, no fast food chain restaurants and a couple hand painted billboards.  In fact at the Oregon – California border in New Pine Creek there is a shop called “Just Stuff“.  I’ve never seen a customer parked there in all my years riding to Reno, but it’s still there!  And near by the Goose Lake State Park is a large shallow lake that straddles the state line area and it’s so remote reservations are not necessary.

We cruised thru Alturas, Likely, Ravendale and Litchfield.  There is a running joke in this part of the country that the GNP is your choice of rocks, junipers, or sagebrush.  Not much happening in the high desert, but I did learn that the WNBA basketball player Kayte Christensen attended elementary school in Likely.  How unlikely! 

At Standish we filled up and chatted a bit with some High Desert State Prison guards making a shift change at the high-security, lethal electrified perimeter fence prison. We skirted Honey Lake, avoid speeding tickets and rolled into Reno by mid-afternoon.

The crew unloaded and enjoyed all that Reno and Street Vibrations could offer up in the form of some refreshments.  A couple of the “sig others” arrived in town and we had an awesome dinner in a local Italian joint called La Strada.

Next up is the Virginia City, Kit-Kat and Carson City tours.

Read more about the Street Vibrations trip at Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5.

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This past weekend I rode the OR HOG (Sage-Snow-Surf) Motorcycle Rally.  More than 300 motorcycles arrived in Pendleton, OR.  We started our day from Vancouver, WA and headed East on State Route 14, also called the Lewis and Clark Highway.    It winds its way through the Columbia River Gorge along the river then up over steep bluffs, forest and finally makes it way into grasslands.  It’s about 180 miles and two-lane road after you depart Camus, WA.  You end up at the junction of I-82/395 just across the state line from Umatilla, OR and about 40 miles from Pendleton.

We were most fortunate as the wind was behind us with blue sky and mid-80 temperatures.  We rode past the Stonehenge, the Maryhill winery and near Goldendale we got a great view of the aluminum smelter.  I made a mental note to do a bit of research on this plant as I recalled it belching smells in full production a few years ago, but on this day it looked abandon.  It turns out that Brett Wilcox purchased the plant in 1996 for $67M.  It needed to be temporarily close (as the workers were told) in 2003, however, the owner of the plant sold off the power it purchased from producing aluminum on the open market at a hefty profit that went directly into the pockets of executive management.  Everyone was laid off and retirement funds disappeared. (Source: HERE)

Finally we arrived at the Red Lion in Pendleton and picked up our HOG packet, signed the release forms and then headed downtown.  Pendleton is located in Umatilla County and is situated along I-84.  For reference it’s south of the tri-cities (Richland, Pasco, Kennewick) area of Washington.  Beside being labeled by the National Drug Intelligence Center (PDF) as a major distribution stop for many drug traffickers en route to the tri-cities from the Southwest Border it’s also home of the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team (BENT) and home of the famous Pendleton Roundup.  

Pendleton got its start as Goodwin Station in 1865 as a stop on the Oregon Trail.  The town’s name was changed to Pendleton in honor of Ohio senator, George Hunt Pendleton.  The Rainbow is Pendleton’s oldest continuously open and operated bar and restaurant and the oldest doing business at the same location.  Many know that that the Chinese came to the area to work the gold mines and many were employed by the railroad.  As the area grew, they soon became an integral and somewhat hidden, part of the local economy.  The Chinese operated laundries and underground opium dens and were relegated to Pendleton’s seedier side. But I digress.  Back to the OR HOG Rally…

We parked the bikes on main street near Hamley’s Steak House for a little grub and some refreshments.  I introduced myself to Larry (HD head tattoo above), met JT (regional HOG director) and took in some county music in the courtyard.  We headed to the restaurant and order up some fresh Salmon (yeah, go figure!) in this truly amazing steakhouse.  Most notable besides the Western stylized décor are the nude photo’s of famous Western outlaw wives!  We received a Pendleton hat for drinking some and Linda/Lynette of the Kiwanis introduced us to the “save-the-date” for the 2009 Bikers in the Blues motorcycle rally.

Up early Friday and headed South on US 395.  I like to think of this route as Oregon’s “mother road”.  US 395 is a 1400-mile stretch which runs from the Canadian border in Washington state to San Diego, CA.  We rode out through Pilot Rock then in the middle of one of the small gorges there is a junction to OR74 which enters Morrow county and then Heppner Hwy.  Heppner has upgraded from years ago when I passed through on Eastern OR hunting trips.  With the Willow Creek dam you’d think it was a major water recreational resort.

We separated from the “official” OR HOG Rally route which veered off to Condon then on to Welches, OR for an overnight in the “snow”.  Instead we headed directly to the “surf” part of the trip, arriving in Seaside in time for a well deserved happy hour and to meet some friends who rode directly to the coast.

On Saturday we were treated to a one-in-a-million type day on the OR coast.  Mid-70’s, blue sky and NO wind.  Did I say there was NO wind.  Incredible!  It was a rare t-shirt riding day and Santiago invited everyone over to his Manzanita “Villa” for breakfast…there we were…perched high on the sand dune above the valley in the hills we were treated like royalty at the Hotel Piccolo Mondo in Acquappesa, on the Calabrian coast in Italy.  Very Tuscany!

For now I’ll reserve another post/rant about the “Goin’ Coastal” aka the Seaside Biker Fest.  Suffice to say it was most lame.  Sure there was a tattoo artist, bike builder and a couple t-shirt vendors…but, I’ve seen more activity at Taco Wednesday’s than in Seaside.   We manage to have a lot of fun even without vendor booths to spend our money.

Here is what I’ve learned on the OR HOG Rally.

  1. It’s HOT in Pendleton and cold in Seaside.
  2. The smell of wheat fields and ocean air isn’t something you get in a car
  3. Harley riders cannot be stereotyped.  There is the rich and famous to trailer trash and all in-between!
  4. Harley riders are some of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet.

The event was well planned out and Cindy (HOG Director) Wayne Schumacher and the HOG Rally Committee deserves a shout-out.  The rides were long, scenic and PERFECT weather.  There’s no pleasing everyone and I say get out and ride, whether your doing a poker run, rally or just on your own this is the time of year to get into the Northwest riding zone.

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