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Rowena Crest - Mayer State Park

Rowena Crest – Mayer State Park

“I want to work in a cube behind a desk while my friends are out exploring the world on motorcycles this summer!”

…Said no one ever.

It sounds crazy when it’s phrased that way.  I know this might surprise you, but being a motorcycle blogger has nothing to do with sitting in a dimly lit room hunched over a laptop slowly developing carpal tunnel while eating Cheetos and drinking Diet Coke.  I know… Shocking.

Bikers For Christ Meeting

Bikers For Christ Meeting

It’s about capturing those wind in the face moments from the road.

We’ve had a truly incredible run of good weather here in the Northwest.  Summertime is in full swing and these warm, sunny days have the roads filled with bikers.  It’s possibly record setting for the number of days without rain in July and last Saturday I had the chance to put on 200+ miles riding to Tygh Valley and around Mt. Hood.  Some buddies were headed to Run 21 for a couple of days and I was doing a ride along for the day to get some “seat miles” before I set out on another longer trip to Utah/Nevada in a few days.

Hwy 197 heading toward Tygh Valley

Hwy 197 heading toward Tygh Valley

Run 21 is put on by the SE Portland Chapter ABATE of Oregon.  The event is an old-school biker rally and has been held annually for 14 consecutive years.  There is a great outdoor concert venue nestled in Tygh Valley and according to the rally flyer there was a good line up of music this year.

Our group headed out east on I-84 mid-morning and there was a strikingly white Mt. Hood in the distance against bright blue sunny skies.  We stopped for lunch in Hood River, and as we departed you could take in the scent of peach and pear trees in the warm fresh air.  At Mosier we took the Highway 30 scenic road up to Mayer State Park and the Rowena Crest.  From this vantage you can soak in the wide-angle views of the Columbia River and the Gorge.  There happen to be a “Bikers For Christ” meeting at the crest with 30+ riders in attendance.

Mt. Hood from Hwy 197 looking West

Mt. Hood from Hwy 197 looking West

We headed south at the junction of I-84 and Highway 197.  We stopped in the small farming town of Dufur for some refreshments and walked through the historic Balch Hotel lobby.  Nice B&B if you’re ever in need of a laid back weekend.

We continued on toward Tygh Valley where the rest of the group planned to exit for the camp ground.  Unfortunately at the junction of Highway 197 (The Dalles-California Hwy) and Tygh Valley Road (map HERE) there were two motorcycles involved in an accident.

Tygh Valley Motorcycle Accident

Tygh Valley Motorcycle Accident

It was about 3pm and according to the Wasco County Sheriff department the two riders were side-by-side and somehow got hooked up and went down.  No automobile was involved and no citations were issued.  One rider was taken by ambulance to Mid-Columbia in The Dalles and the other rider was taken by Life flight to Emmanuel Hospital in Portland.  No names or additional information about the riders conditions were reported.  Hopefully all goes well for these riders.

On Highway 26 and Mt. Hood

On Highway 26 and Mt. Hood

I had to backtrack a little around the accident on old US Hwy 197 (Tygh Valley Rd) and then headed west on Highway 216 (Wapinitia Hwy).   This is a nice two-lane road that skirts through a short section of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and into the forest boundary.  I intersected with Highway 26 and headed up over Government Camp and then back into Portland.

It’s an awesome time to be outdoors on a motorcycle, and I hope you’re taking the opportunity to put some serious miles on your bike.

Photos taken by author.

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long-road4I’m going to just put this right out there.

I’ve grown tired of this special level of dampness and moisture falling from the sky!

After a teaser dry and summer-like start – yeah, the usual shrill voices started to whine about a drought after two days – May took a sharp right turn and began dumping winter rains and providing us with well below average temperatures.  Earlier this week we had 1.19 inches of rain at PDX that not only set a record for the date, but was the rainiest day of 2013.

Adding to the buckets of moisture were 7 reporting stations in the state that set record low maximum temperatures with Portland recording a high of 50 degrees, smashing the previous record of 55 degrees.  It tied the record for the 3rd coldest maximum temperature since record keeping began in 1940.

I was thinking about this and noted the condition of my wiper blades while getting gas at the local Shell station when the kid from “Cali” stated he was just starting to get use to the two weeks of sun and a couple days of rain.  Being somewhat agitated about having to endure weeks of the Portland Fluoridista ad’s, I reminded him of the fact that in Oregon we don’t fluoride our water, we don’t get out in the rain (or sun) to pump our own gas and we never, ever vote for sales tax.  I didn’t intend to go-off on mini-rant and realized that I should have been satisfied that the kid put out his cigarette in a timely manner and stopped texting on his cell phone long enough to take my credit card and put the spiked-price fuel nozzle in the tank.

If you’re not from here, you won’t understand.  But, I’ve digressed.

This weather reminded me how much I appreciate summer riding and that I’m longing for the immensity of the open road and voices in the wind.  I’m ready for it to be here already!

Photo taken by author.

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NOAA-MapYou’re the CEO and going down your quarterly earnings check list:

  1. Still in business after 110 years – Check
  2. Secured music talent for 110th Anniversary Party – Check
  3. Number one seller of motorcycles to young adults (18-34) – Check
  4. Increase 2013 first quarter revenue to $1.57B (up 10%) vs. $1.43B a year earlier — Check
  5. Increase 2013 first quarter income to $224.1M vs. $172M a year earlier – Check
  6. HOG shares up 2.1% to closed at $54.31 – Check
  7. U.S. dealers sold 34,706 new motorcycles, down 12.7% from a year earlier – Ooops!

Colder temperatures and the wet climate set the stage for the quarterly sales miss.  At least according to Harley-Davidson CEO, Keith Wandell who stated in last week’s earnings call… “By far, the vast majority of the (sales decline) was weather related”.

Temp2-MapInteresting.  The earnings call didn’t signal any major marketing changes for the brand, instead pinning some of the losses on external factors such as rainfall in many parts of the country, the weak economy and the unseasonably cold weather.

Are the only unemployed consumers who keep getting rained on Harley-Davidson consumers?!

Generally speaking home sales and auto sales are up.  It would seem that management neglected to remind us about Superstorm Sandy, how federal tax returns have been delayed and how fuel prices are unsettling to consumers.  To be fair some retail outlets selling spring apparel, home and garden were depressed due to wintry conditions, but looking at the weather for an impact on Harley-Davidson consumer spending seems a bit trivial.

I spent the last week in Arizona and if you plotted temperatures from dawn until noon, you’d observe an alarming warming trend.  If you extended that trend line for the next 4-months, you’ll clearly notice that ice caps will melt and the poor polar bears will be swimming more.

We’ll soon know if the good weather in the upcoming quarter provides a recovery to more normalized sales volume.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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Thermal factors such as air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity and humidity all contribute to our riding comfort.   Or some would say DIS-comfort?!

My trip in April through the Willamette and Modoc National Forest to Laughlin and then most recently the ride to the Hells Canyon Rally reminded me how stubbornly, Mother Nature refuses us the ability to control these thermal factors.

During those trips, I was plugged in for multiple hours during the day to combat the rain/cold weather and it got me to thinking about my H-D heated clothing.  I’ll do this on occasion as I meander along the highway listening to the engine noise as a musical backdrop.

I bought my current heated vest and gloves back in 2000 after returning home from a bitter cold trip to Reno.  It was during Street Vibrations and it snowed on the surrounding hills in late September.   I recall leaving Reno wearing multiple pairs of socks, long-sleeve t-shirts, handkerchief around the face and ski gloves and it wasn’t enough. Snow was falling on the ground in Susanville and by the time I arrived in Grants Pass I was nearly frozen.  Vowing to never let that happen again I immediately went out and bought the gear for future trips.  I always pack it on the bike if I think the weather has a chance of being dicey where I’m going.

It’s well known that when colder outside temperatures occur, the nervous system restricts blood flow to the extremities to maintain the body’s core temperatures. The toes and the fingers quickly become uncomfortably cold.  Other factors like wind chill aggravate the situation even more. Also, the presence of moisture increases thermal transfer significantly and causes heat to escape more rapidly and cold to penetrate faster.

Clearly the type of clothing we wear, the physical activity levels and individual physiology are elements of thermal comfort we can control.  So, I started wondering… did H-D design and make this gear or was it outsourced.  My search led me to Gerbing’s heated clothing, which is the sole supplier of Harley-Davidson heated gear.

Back in the 1970’s Gordon Gerbing owned a small machine shop just south of Seattle that primarily produced parts for Boeing airplanes. Several of his employees rode motorcycles to work all year, even through the Seattle winter chill and dampness. Gordon made note of their discomfort when employees arrived at work after a cold morning’s winter ride and he decided to look for a way to keep the riders warm. He devised a way to “wire up” motorcycle clothing with heating pads and connect the pads to the bike’s electrical system.

Over the years Jeff and Wendy Gerbing assumed management of the business and it’s a family affair.  As the technology improved they won more deals and then in 1999, Harley-Davidson selected Gerbing’s to be the sole supplier of Harley-Davidson label heated clothing.  Basically the wire inside the garment consists of bundles of stainless steel strands, twisted and wrapped in a thin Teflon-derived coating. They alter the number of these strands in each wire to custom-tune the amount of heat. By using these wires either in a heating pad, in a woven pattern or in a ribbon matrix they can further tune how the heat is delivered to the body.

In the fall of 2008 Gerbing’s moved into a new 30,000 sq ft facility located in Tumwater, WA., and this year they announced plans to expand into North Carolina (Stoneville) with a new plant that will create 158 jobs by 2015.  They will open an 88,000-square-foot facility and the company plans to invest more than $1.2 million in building upgrades and equipment with help from state, county and local incentives.

These days Gerbing’s clothing is not only popular with motorcyclists but includes hunters, fishermen and professional athletes. Among its customers are teams in the National Football League and Major League Baseball as well as law enforcement and the military.  The new facility in North Carolina is also part of a move to relocate the company’s manufacturing operations to the U.S. from China, where Gerbing had difficulty obtaining deliveries on time.

After 10+ years of use, I for one truly appreciate their heated clothing and it’s especially rewarding to hear in this economic climate about a manufacture bringing jobs back to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Gerbing.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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I didn’t watch it.  Living in the U.S. we typically recoil at the concept of royalty, but it reminded me of my own wedding.

It happened 3 weeks ago!

I know what you’re thinking… “aren’t you of that age where walking down the aisle once again with hope and opportunity in front of you… isn’t that a concept for the youth?”   It’s not exclusive and although I have a bit of the Joni Mitchell school of relationships in me… do you really need a piece of paper from the upstairs choir keeping us tied and true… there is something to be said about standing up to testify in front of family and friends that seals the deal and causes you to cast aside your old kit bag and start anew.  It’s revived a feeling of optimism that life is in front of me instead of behind me.

Don’t despair,  it won’t affect my opinions and rants, however, in the last month time constraints have taken a toll on the number of blog posts.  The wedding, a road trip to Laughlin and working the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual trade show — not necessarily in that order – meant little keyboard time.  And if you haven’t been to NAB, it’s worth a visit. Unlike your typical consumer electronics show, content takes center stage.

L to R: Paul Maibaum; Kurt Sutter; Anthony Medina -- "SOA"

And speaking of content, I had an opportunity to sit in on a session (short video clip HERE) called “Sons of Anarchy: Grit and Texture in Small Town America” where Kurt Sutter, along with the “Sons” director of photography Paul Maibaum and production designer Anthony Medina shared information about their creative vision and techniques as to how they capture the gritty stories of the outlaw club.  It was an interesting session that illuminated real-world examples of filmmaking and television production.

Then it was buckle up as our small posse rode to Laughlin, Nevada for the 29th “River Run.”  Yes, you read that correct.  In April, we decided on a whim to ride the 1200+ miles to the rally and it was an utterly fascinating experience.  On the day of departure snow levels were down around 1500 feet and rainfall was the 3rd highest in 71 years.  Average temperature in April was 47.8 degrees.  Needless to say there wasn’t much chance of t-shirt weather as we headed south to the drier and warmer desert.

I’m working on a trip summary and will post it shortly so that anyone interested can re-live the experience.

Photo courtesy of NAB.

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You (almost) thought it would never happen but, finally, winter is waning.

Let’s face it, riding anything (including a riding lawn mower) in the northwest has been a chilling and damp experience!  And we still have many cold, wet days ahead even though spring is supposedly here.

Portland (OR) normally receives an average of 3.71 inches of rain during March, but at the end of the month we had received 6.49 inches (5th highest on record) and there were 29 days of measurable rain breaking the old record of 27 days.  And on the very last day of month was the first time we witnessed the temperature gauge hitting 60 degrees… the latest date in recorded history to reach that mark.  Yep, a lot of records were broken and not necessarily in a good way.

But, no worries if you like the drizzle it’s going to be another soggy week throughout the area with high temperatures reaching all the way up to the mid- 50s.

My point is that I’m trying to sketch out my spring and summer riding entertainment and the weather is making it difficult to visualize.  What with all the boating, hiking, photography, local festivals and drinking of refreshments over the BBQ I’m not sure if I can fit it all in which is largely dependent on when the rain will subside.   Last year I laid a plan out HERE and was fortunate to have the budget to complete three (Laughlin70th SturgisStreet Vibrations) of the five trips as well as the Hells Canyon rally.  It was a lot of miles and a good riding year in my book!

One which will be difficult to repeat as the Zac Brown Band song, “Toes” rolls around in my head…

“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today…”

It got me to thinking about all those miles last year and the first surprise to me is how much better motorcycle clothing has become.  It use to be a worn out leather jacket to carry you through summer and winter riding, augmented with a vest or long sleeve shirt or two.  Now days there are heated hand grips, heated clothing and a variety of wind blocking jackets with reflective piping.  In addition there are all these Gore-Tex waterproof pullovers, neckerchiefs and face masks that do exactly what they were meant too.

Let’s see, if drizzle falls at about 3-4mph and big rain drops fall at about 7-8mph… then the difference of a walk in the rain vs. a motorcycle ride in the rain is about ten times the speed.  Ten times as much water hits you per second.  I won’t go into the mathematical proof here, but think about that and the fact that rain is hitting the rider horizontally, not just vertically.   First the air gets cold, then the rider is hit with a wall of spray from trucks that is mixed with oil residue all the while the face shield accumulates condensation … Is there any wonder why so many motorcyclists try and limit their riding in the rain?!  But, I’ve really digressed.

Time to hit “repeat” on the iPod and sketch out my riding plans…for when there is less rain!

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Devils Tower

STURGIS to ASHLAND – We spent some of the previous couple days riding the Black Hills with stunning canyons, small towns and historical landmarks at every S-turn.  It wasn’t all about the Sturgis vendor booths!  As a quick side-bar I want to do a shout out to the owners (Matt) of the Recreational Springs Resort which is a campground and motel and was within a short walking distance of the cabin we stayed.  We ate food at the resort and the hospitality was top notch.  I highly recommend the place.

Posse at Devils Tower

Back to the ride – If memory serves me correctly this was our seventh day on the road as we departed the 70th Sturgis rally around noon.  We wanted to get a couple hundred miles under our belt after doing a brief drive-by tour of Devils Tower and Hulett, WY.   Getting a couple hundred miles west would be a reasonable jumpstart for our return trip home.

The ride out to Devils Tower has a number of long sweeping curves and some beautiful canyons and high plains.  Located in the northwestern northeastern corner of Wyoming the tower rises 1267 above the Belle Fourche River.  Initially known as Bears Lodge, the park has 1347 acres covered in pine forest and grasslands.

Ah, Looks Like Rain?

It is a sacred site for many American Indians (Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota).  Reportedly President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.  There are over 7 miles of hiking trails of which we did maybe 300 feet in the summer heat and most notable is the 200 climbing routes to the summit.  I’ve been here two other times and there are always climbers trying to summit.  And yes, it was the landmark filmed in the 1977 movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Lightning Storm In Ashland, MT

After a few tourist photos in and around the tower we rode into Hulett for lunch and refreshments to cool down.  With a rest stop completed we headed northeast on Hwy 112 (Hulett-Alzada Hwy).  We hit a couple of rain clouds that “spit” a little on us prior to reaching Alzada at the Hwy 212 junction, but thus far the trip didn’t require us to pull out the rain gear.  Amazing!

That was short lived as we soon witnessed the western sky fill with menacing storm clouds.  The day prior we made motel reservations in the small town of Ashland, Montana.  Not even a two horse town, but it turned out to be a brilliant move.

Ashland, MT - Rain Storm

About two hours prior to our arrival in Ashland the weather situation turn nasty.  Not to let a little rain intimidate us we continued riding only to find ourselves in a drenching downpour, complete with hail, thunder and lightning.  A true gully washer!  The lightning was problematic and on more than one occasion the thunder “booms” had us thinking about the odds of getting struck.  Even more lightning became visible on Horne Creek Butte as we traversed the southern tip of Custer National Forest.  Being from the west coast it’s rare to have/see lightning let alone be concerned about getting hit on a moving vehicle.  [Post Ride: evidently there are a number of motorcycle survival lightning strike stories… who knew?!]   Eventually we made it to the motel as the sky open up with more rain and lightning.  We caught some of the storm action by way of the iPhone video HERE and watched as the gravel parking lot flooded.

Ashland, MT Sunset

In the room we stripped rain gear off and started working to get it dried out for the next day adventure.  AT&T continued to deliver no phone service so the option of working out an alternative ride plan was a challenge.  It was fortunate that a gal from the motel offered to shag us some to-go burgers in her automobile and we didn’t get further drenched seeking out some dinner.  Bikers streamed into the motel only to find it full.

ASHLAND to MISSOULA – It’s often said that a clean bike runs better, but after the previous days drenching downpour and “road foam” we dismissed that rationalization as being one for the vain and continued on with the grime laden motorcycles.

The weather looked questionable so we kept the rain gear handy and put on some extra clothing to fight off the colder temps as we rode though Big Sky country.  We continued west on Hwy 212 and re-fueled near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  This area memorializes the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.  Having been there a couple times in the past we rolled on by and made our way onto I-90.

Eastern Montana is a typical high plains environment which means the area is generally treeless, semi arid and low humidity.  We hit some rain showers which required rain gear between Billings and Bozeman, but by the time we grabbed a late lunch in Butte the daytime temps and summer sunshine returned to the typical August norms.

At Lolo Pass

After a 468 mile day we decided Ruby’s Inn and walking across the street for chicken wings and refreshments at Hooter’s was the only way to go.

MISSOULA to CLARKSTON – This is the link between the Missouri River and the Columbia River through the Rocky Mountains.  From Missoula we headed south toward Lolo and traversed U.S. 12 to the Idaho – Montana border. This 99-mile S-turn filled byway, stretches across north-central Montana and Idaho.  It follows the Lewis & Clark explorers’ route through the ancestral homeland of the Nez Perce people. It’s a winding two-lane road through the Clearwater River Canyon, and passes through the Nez Perce National Historical Park.

We stopped at Lolo Pass for a photo op and water break.  Later in the afternoon we grab some lunch at the “Cougar Canyon” station.

More than a few riders have been surprised at just how much fun riding a Harley touring model can be.  While no one would claim the touring models as sportbikes, they certainly can be ridden in a sporting manner.  The key is finding a comfortable pace that carries your speed through the turns with minimal braking.  The combination of excellent two-lane pavement with a multitude of twists and turns made this route a joy to ride.

It was a relatively short day in overall miles, but with the summer temperatures stuck in the mid-90’s most of the day it felt (at least my body did) like a 500+ mile day.  We rolled into Lewiston, crossed the river into Washington state and overnighted at a Best Western.  A nice place and after a long cooling off session in the motel swimming pool the group headed to Paraiso Vallarta for some Mexican dinner specials.

CLARKSTON to PORTLAND – Early in the morning we motored out of town to put some significant miles on the scooters before the summer heat took its toll.  We continued on Hwy 12 to Dayton then through Umatillia, crossed back into Oregon and headed west on I-84.  There was a short stop for lunch to slam down a “Bozo Burger” near Boardman, but it was the only luxury stop otherwise it was gas and go and back on the road.  It was 2,947 cumulative miles later that I pulled into the driveway of home.

Near Hood River

Motorcycling teases us with the freedom to be on the road.  We stop when and where we wanted too, slowed down and experienced the country firsthand.  We breezed through the towering mountains and blue skies and traveled across the plains.  Sturgis for a third-time was a charm!  I hope this travelogue makes you want to get out and ride to new places.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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