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NHTSA Highway Crash Data For 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released highway crash fatality data for 2018.  While the overall trends of Motorcyclist fatalities declined 4.7 percent is encouraging, the report shows that 4,985 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2018 (244 fewer from the 5,229 fatalities in 2017) is still too many.

Sadly in Oregon, the number of motorcyclist fatalities increased significantly in 2018!

Below is a snippet of some report details:

Nationwide:
■  2018 vs. 2017 Motorcyclists Fatalities — 244 fewer fatalities, 4.7% decrease.
■  Motorcyclists Killed in Traffic Crashes — 2017 (5229); 2018 (4985)
■  From 2009 to 2018 the proportion of motorcyclist fatalities increased from 13% of the fatalities to 14%
■  Alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes — Motorcycle riders had the second largest percent decrease (-10.1%) from 2017 to 2018
■  Motorcyclist fatalities in urban areas increased by 33% since 2009 versus rural areas decreased by 15%

Map of Oregon Motorcyclist Fatalities (2018)

Oregon:
■  2018 vs. 2017 Motorcyclists Fatalities — 20 additional fatalities, 38% increase
■  Motorcyclists Killed in Traffic Crashes — 2017 (54); 2018 (74)
■  Motorcyclists Killed Involving Speeding — 2017 (27); 2018 (23)

Important to note with this release, NHTSA introduced its new Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST), a modernized crash query tool that lets users not only query fatal crash data but also generate estimates of crashes and people injured in crashes. The upgraded functionalities in the new tool include generating multi-year trends, estimates of alcohol involvement, and charting/tabulation/mapping of query results. The tool, along with instructions on its usage, can be accessed HERE.

Photos courtesy of NHTSA

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Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE:HOG) reported the third quarter 2019 financial results in a press release HERE.

Key indicators the motor company reported was revenue from motorcycle and related products fell 4.9% Y/Y to $1.07B in Q3.  Motorcycle shipments were down 5.8% to 45,387 and gross margin fell one point to 29.9% of sales.  The company stated it expects shipments of 38,500 to 43,500 motorcycles in Q4 and 212K to 217K for the full year.

In other interesting financial sound bites; Harley’s Q3 marketing spend was up over 30% with efforts on the LiveWire and LowRider S television spots running in major markets across the U.S.  International retail sales were up 2.7% driven by growth in both developed and emerging markets.  In addition, Harley-Davidson gained 2.2 percentage points of market share during the quarter within the Touring and Cruiser segments, which represents approximately 70% of the total 601cc plus industry.

In the attracting more people to riding and keeping riders riding space (i.e. the 2027 strategic imperative) — in Q3 the company gained deeper analysis and insights on why people engage, participate and disengage from riding.

Lets call it a “participation lifecycle!”

H-D Marketing and Brand Amplification

Harley-Davidson now has an acute focus on how to influence each customer at their buying decision points to build the total number of committed Harley-Davidson riders.  By 2027,  the company will expand to 4M total Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S., grow international business to 50% of annual HDMC revenue, launch 100 new high impact motorcycles and do so profitably and sustainably.  Lastly, Harley added Amplified Brand as a growth catalyst in the More Roads to Harley-Davidson’s growth plans.

For example Harley-Davidson refreshed their brand look at major events during Q3 including Sturgis, World Surf League and Spartan races and recently announced we will be the presenting sponsor at next summer’s hotly anticipated Hella Mega music experience tour featuring Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy.  The Hella Mega Tour being promoted by Harley-Davidson is the co-headlining tour of rock bands Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer. The tour was announced on September 10, 2019 and includes dates from March to August 2020.

Navigating Section 301 Tariff Process

You can’t have a finance report these days and not talk about TARIFFS!  The dizzying series of trade and tariff events over the last few months has pushed the trade war front and center into Harley-Davidson.  How to navigate the Section 301 Tariff process, prepare for any impact etc., is a challenge in of itself.  For the full year 2019, Harley-Davidson now expect impacts of recent EU and China tariffs to be approximately $105 million. This is a $5 million increase from prior expectations and is driven by an increase in Section 301 tariffs, which continue to shift with the breeze as part of global trade negotiations.

It appears that some developed nations will slip towards recession, and governments and companies keep hoping the signs of economic weakness in China would push all the parties to a “deal” table faster.  Harley-Davidson looks to continue mitigating the impact of tariff increases through tariff classification, tariff engineering, first sale, and other methods.  Some of which may have an impact on U.S. manufacturing jobs.
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Q3’19 Press Release:  HERE
Investor Slides:  HERE
Transcript of Q3’19 Financial Call:  HERE
More Roads Plan:  HERE
Hella Mega Tour:  HERE
Section 301 Tariffs:  HERE
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Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson
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Somewhere on CA. Highway 139

Somewhere between Bieber and Sheepshead on CA. Highway 139, you’ll find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

Add to that being kissed with semi-warm September sunshine and you’d be in a place that many of us on motorcycles call happiness.

Sure we could set the cruise control on Interstate 5, but the fun ride to Reno, Nevada for the fall Street Vibrations Rally is coincidently also the shortest route leaving Portland to Eugene (Hwy 58) to Klamath Falls then on OR39 which becomes CA139 through much of the Modoc National Forest and Tule Lake to US 395 into Reno.

Interestingly, OR39 runs through the mixed-up little town of Hatfield.  The California map says it’s in California and 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, because Hatfield is an unincorporated community in both Siskiyou County, California, and Klamath County, Oregon.  At any rate, the junction of Oregon Route 39, California State Route 161, and California State Route 139; all three routes terminate at a four-way junction in the community.

If you live in the Northwest you know that the Oregon summer ends and autumn starts for many motorcycle enthusiasts by making the pilgrimage to the 25th annual Street Vibrations Rally.  It’s often the last nice weather ride of the season.  Nothing replaces wind in the face on the Harley-Davidson, a playlist with heavy bass, and a distant horizon when needing a little adventure.  Some may argue that the make and model of the motorcycle doesn’t matter, that the joy comes solely from the open road—frankly, they’re right.

Street Vibrations officially closed on Sunday.  Over five thousand people were expected to attend the multi-day event and from my vantage the number of riders in town for the celebration exceeded that estimate.  There were over 250 vendors with motorcycle gear, food stalls and six stages of great live music!  Most notable was Heartless—a tribute to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and they delivered the sound and spirit of the sisters classic rock-n-roll songs.   Video snippet below:

 

On Friday we rumbled along the 26-mile route from Reno to Virginia City—called Geiger Grade Road—with thousands of other riders who cruised into the historic mining town.  The route offers several curves along a cliff side and views of rolling hills with sagebrush to the pine tree-covered mountains.  It’s a thrilling experience, but the road routinely catches riders off guard and can become an accident quickly.

We soaked up the 81°F day and continued riding the loop to Carson City Harley-Davidson for more motorcycle accessories, themed art, crafts, apparel, music and ended the day back through the Carson (“wind tunnel”) Valley.  Mainstream meteorology suggests that “windy” conditions are anything sustained above 15 miles per hour, but we joked later that our helmets began inflicting what felt like a wind concussion on that segment of the ride.

I-5 Return Route With Cold, Rain and Wind

Speaking of navigating hazards… they are part of everyday life for motorcycle riders—we’re experienced riders, and typically get the local weather forecast before riding. If extreme temperatures are predicted, we might consider a different route and/or a different departure day if it’s practical. It was clear from Friday’s weather reports we’d be riding through less-than-ideal conditions—read MUCH COLDER and wet.  What?  Rain at Street Vibrations!  We enjoyed the 80°F temperatures  Wednesday through Friday, but now fast-moving storm along with a freeze watch was in effect with heavy rain expected Saturday mid-morning and all day Sunday.  In addition, the Oregon passes would receive snow down to 3500 feet and we had at least two major mountain passes to traverse above that altitude.

Postponing our departure wasn’t an option so, we opted to end the festivities early and leave on Saturday and avoid the worst of the early winter storm.

Estimating wind chill is a complex calculation involving ambient temperature and wind speed.  It goes something like:

Temperature’s Influence = ( ( Predicted High Temperature – ( Temperature Base = Your Minimum Acceptable Temperature – ( Predicted High Temperature – Your Minimum Acceptable Temperature ) ) ) / ( Your Ideal Temperature – Temperature Base ) ) * 100 then factor in Wind’s Influence = ( ( Low, High and Gust Wind Speeds Averaged – Your Minimum Threshold For What’s “Windy” ) / ( Your Minimum For What’s “Hazardous” – Your Minimum For What’s “Windy” ) ) * 100 and finally there’s Precipitation Influence, Minimum Visibility and the wildcard algorithm of Road Conditions.  When in doubt always multiple by 100!

If you tracked all that, then you’ve likely developed a customizable motorcycle weather application for the iPhone and already talking a “deal” with the motor company.  I’m not a mathematics wiz, but I know for a fact that warm and comfortable riders have more fun!  Thirty minutes outside of Reno did not fail to disappoint—bringing heavy black clouds, cold torrential rain, hail showers along with snow on the higher elevations of the Plumas Mountain Range.

Riding in the rain doesn’t make me unique—it’s one of the things you do on the road.  Motorcyclist spend the money on riding gear with features or materials to keep warm(ER) and dry.  But, very cold temperatures and the first major rain of the year in Nevada means the oil rises to the top of the highway in a soapy like mess and combined together makes a person go from “Get your motor running” to “Sux2BU” pretty quick.

No one thought we were “cupcakes” just because we didn’t want to ride in the cold/rain/snow.  Fortunately Harley’s heated gear has gotten far more user-friendly over the last ten years and we pressed through the worst of the weather for 560 miles and now have another story to tell.

Arrest Stats for 2019 Street Vibrations.

Photos take by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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The number of businesses investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) technology continues to grow.  Harley-Davidson is one company that recognizes the benefits and has started to leverage IoT both internally as part of their manufacturing process and externally with the new H-D™ Connect service.

WTF?  Isn’t this a motorcycle blog Mac?  You lost me at that inter-web-thingy!

First off, lets set some context with a bit of IoT background:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is used across industries such as manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, agriculture, automotive and industrial markets.  Think connected cars, smart buildings, smart homes and smart city grids.  You’ve likely interacted already with internet-enabled appliances (refrigerators, washer/dryer, garage door openers), there are smart TV’s, there are wearable health trackers.  Need more specifics?  Think RING doorbells, NEST  thermostats or Philips Hue lightbulbs.  Just a few product examples that highlight IoT-based value creation.

The key point here is VALUE creation.  It involves performing activities that increase the value of a company’s offering and encourage customer willingness to pay.  That is the heart of any business model.  Simply connecting a “thing” to the Internet isn’t enough—you must be able to ensure that the data generated by that thing can be leveraged to enable new business benefits.  Whether that benefit is reducing your business’ costs or enhancing your customers’ experiences with new services, the systems chosen to power an IoT deployment must work reliably, be easy to manage, and help you get to real business.

That’s enough context.  Let’s circle the discussion back to motorcycles.

You may not know, but Zero Motorcycles produced a prototype of its first electric motorcycle in 2006 and began marketing them in 2008. In 2013 the company produced a mobile app enabling communication with the motorcycle using Bluetooth; effectively using the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect owner, motorcycle, and service facility.  The app allowed the rider to configure their motorcycle in a number of different ways. For example, it can be configured for a more energy efficient ride or for a higher performance ride using only the app. One of the rider benefits is that the app can also inform you of your current battery capacity as well as an estimation of how far you can travel on the charge.

In addition, the Zero Motorcycles can communicate directly to the manufacturer, dealer, or repair shop. Most vehicles today can communicate with the mechanic by being plugged into a computer, but it requires a trip to the garage. The Zero Motorcycle app allows the motorcycle to send that diagnostic information directly to the mechanic over the internet no matter where you are.  If a rider experiences mechanical problems with the motorcycle, all they need do is to tap the help button located in the app. The information is transmitted and the rider can get troubleshooting advice on location as well as having the company schedule a service appointment if desired. Rather than taking days to get your motorcycle into a mechanic for diagnosis, it is all done in minutes.

Now lets chat about the new H-D™ Connect service; a cellular telematics control unit (TCU) that functions as an (LTE) enabled modem connecting the 2020 LiveWire™ and select 2020 Touring models to the cloud.  It’s built on the IBM Cloud and launched earlier this week.  The H-D Connect (a $12/month fee-based service – FREE 1st year) service remotely connects you to your motorcycle through the Harley-Davidson App on your smart phone.  The fact that Harley-Davidson marketing boldly claims they “will lead the electrification of motorcycling”, is a stunning statement-of-hype when they basically imitated a 6-year old service from Zero Motorcycles!

H-D Connect uses built-in cellular (LTE) connectivity with the IBM Cloud, IBM artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and IoT to enhance the rider’s experience as well as keep the rider in the know with motorcycle status, notifications and alerts.  The rider is always “plugged in”.  Riders can check the battery charge status or the fuel level, available range, tire pressure (on TPMS-equipped models), ride mode (on equipped models), odometer, Infotainment software updates where applicable, and riding statistics.  There is even a GPS-enabled stolen vehicle tracking feature that lets riders share the motorcycle location with law enforcement.

It’s been reported that Harley-Davidson used IoT sensors as far back as 2013 along with other applications to keep track of production on its manufacturing facility in York, Pa., and can complete a new motorcycle every 86 seconds.  But, clearly Harley-Davidson’s desire to make money in the internet-connected space is not limited to physical motorcycle sales; other revenue streams become possible after the initial product sale, including value-added services, subscriptions, and apps, which over time might even exceed the initial purchase price of the motorcycle.

As more and more of our daily life is internet-connected and “recorded” by computers communicating with other computers, riders (myself included) have a legitimate concern about security.  There’s been very little information made available from Harley-Davidson in regards to how they will ensure the privacy of both rider, their riding data and the motorcycle stats.  How often are data logs taken from the motorcycle, streamed to the cloud and then reviewed, stored and archived?  Is the data encoded in a proprietary format, is it encrypted and who can review the data?  Does it require a double-top secret decoder?  The LTE cellular link is ideal to connect the motorcycle and it’s sensors to the dealer and motor company, but it also seems fairly simple to obtain or review that data for evidence that might be used later against the rider.

Any new technology hooked up to the web has the potential to become a surveillance device, even if it’s original purpose was benign.  Law enforcement “cartapping” or using “things” for surveillance has been possible for years, but maybe we should dwell on the benefits that we as a society can reap from this technology.  The new H-D Connect service and Harley-Davidson’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform may provide a reduction in motorcycle fatalities, provide increased benefits of predictive driving in real-time and a more energy efficient future once we’re all inter-connected to smart city grids.

We’ll know soon enough if Harley-Davidson’s internet-connected motorcycles and services actually increase the value of the company’s offering and encourage customer willingness to pay more.

Additional Information:

How Many Turns in a Screw? Big Data Knows — WSJ Paywall
IoT Makes Motorcycles, Helmets Safer, Smarter — Information Week
Harley-Davidson to Redefine Riding with IBM Cloud — IBM PR
How Smart Connected Products Are Transforming Companies — Harvard Business Review

Photos courtesy of Bosch and Deloitte

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2018 Softail Lineup – Eight all-new models

When is “new,” “all-new,” “brand new,” “built from the ground up new,” “the newest,” “newer and refreshed,” advertising claims of an existing or previous Harley-Davidson really new?

Is there no objective basis by which to measure when a motorcycle is actually “new?”  What do you think?

It’s been reported that motorcycle enthusiasts are holding on to their old, reliable wheels for longer stretches of time, but Harley-Davidson wants to change that and has rolled-out the “brand new” 2018 #FreedomMachine models. Dealer launch video is HERE.

Send in the millennials and let’s make a deal!

Or in other words,  what the company is hopeful for after the ‘largest ever product development project’ was undertaken.

All-new Softail mono shock rear suspension

They may not look very different, but the 2018 changes to the engine, frame and suspension over shadow any “new” colors, new handle bar position or new seat thread design.  “All-new” is really what we’ve been promised to modernize these traditional bikes and it’s not a rehash of the old.

The quick read is that the Softail and Dyna product lines, as riders have known them previously, are gone.  The Dyna family is discontinued and the Dyna nameplates are now Softails!

Softail Big-Twin cruiser models

That’s the provocative and on the 2018 model revamp, all of the models that used to be in the Dyna’s lineup — the Fat Bob, Low Rider and Street Bob — rolled into the Softail lineup — Softail Slim, Heritage Classic, Deluxe, Fat Boy and Breakout — Harley completely redesigned the Softail chassis.  Not a minor cosmetic change, but a complete overhaul of the entire frame and suspension.  The new under-seat mono shock rear suspension aims to offer improved ride quality, traction, and control while the triangular swingarm maintains the classic lines of a hardtail frame.  The revamp also includes key accommodations for last years release of the Milwaukee-Eight, the first four-valve-per-cylinder heads engine packaged into the classic 45-degree V-twin.

From the styling department, all the new 2018 bikes have a much darker and aggressive paint scheme.  It’s largely a brooding “protester” feel with colors matched and with a “masked” or blacked out engine. There are smaller changes to individual models such a color-coded inner fairings, new wheels (including a 21” one for the Road Glide) and different exhaust finishes.  Oh and don’t forget that riders can now pair Bluetooth headsets with the stereo to remain wirelessly “connected” — on its top-of-the-line touring models.

I’ll address the hype right here: Your motorcycle and your smartphone are starting to have a lot in common, though only one can be used to take a selfie — at least for now.

115th Anniversary Eagle Badge

Lastly, the motor company announced the 115th Anniversary edition motorcycles.  There will be two limited-edition, serialized designs with 115th Anniversary Eagle and special anniversary paints available on nine different models in 2018 to celebrate the birthday.

But, what about that peculiar

In the social media and PR launch extravaganza for the 2018 line up earlier this week, Harley-Davidson quietly discontinued the V-Rod.

Discontinued V-Rod

The 2017 V-Rod Muscle and Night Rod Special are the final iterations of the VRSC (V-Twin Racing Street Custom) line.  You may recall this motorcycle had the Revolution engine that was co-developed with Porsche and based on the VR-1000 Superbike that Harley used in competitive drag racing.  It had a hydro formed tubular frame, a gas tank under the seat with round-topped airbox cover up front posing as a gas tank.

This was often referred to as the Harley for the non-Harley motorcycle rider and was a testimony that engineers and the brand were capable of doing something very different.  It was introduced in 2001 and discontinued 16-years later.

It would seem that Harley-Davidson is no longer “building products that fulfill customers dreams on the drag strip!

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson Press Release

In mid-August, Harley-Davidson rolled out a press release (on the Canadian news wire) to announce the launch of a global campaign that embraces “The Freedom of The Open Road.”

It’s part of a 10-year global strategy to build the next generation of Harley riders and the new brand platform is “All for Freedom, Freedom for All” which comes to life with videos containing user-generated and filmed content that shares moments of the open road by riders past and present.

The ambitious campaign goal is to increase Harley’s brand relevance and inspire those “sleeping license holders”  to experience the same freedom that all current Harley riders feel with the wind in the face and ultimately to purchase a motorcycle.

The Harley-Davidson marketing group is using the #FindYourFreedom hashtag to generate social media awareness.

It’s common knowledge that when using a hashtag, you are categorizing your post and is viewed as a valuable tool when marketing your brand.  The objective of course would be to find a hashtag that has never been used previously and one that would really set the campaign apart from all the other social media noise.  However, there is another large company with an equally large brand that is already using the #FindYourFreedom hashtag with an associated marketing campaign.

They spell it:  J E E P  — you know, the company with an adventurous lifestyle that requires an adventurous vehicle!

While you can’t legally own a hashtag, the marketing 101 manual suggests that you chose one that people will associate with your brand, by leveraging a distinctive phrase or word associated with your company and messaging that marketing execs would, at best, like to see go viral or, at worst, contribute to the marketing campaign in a very positive way.

Think about it.  Harley-Davidson just launched a multi-year campaign and is encouraging motorcycle fans to join the social media conversation of a larger Jeep fan base!

The marketing folks may have actually “muddied” the Harley-Davidson brand or made it vulnerable by this hashtag gone wrong.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson and Jeep.

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Lewis and Clark; The Expedition Returned 2017

I’m a H.O.G. member, but not the type of person who displays an undying passion for the patches and pins or for that matter in attending a lot of H.O.G. events.  Sure, I’ve participated in the occasional H.O.G. rally, got the t-shirt and then headed home. Riding is primarily a solo activity for me and it’s more about riding in the wind, not the rally destination.  
 
Although there was this one time in Hawaii where it was all about the food.  The Aloha State Chapter #44 (Maui H.O.G.) were in the middle of a rally.  I wasn’t riding a motorcycle on the islands, but they were most gracious and let me enjoy some excellent pulled pork at their Luau!  We also had the opportunity to meet Cristine Sommer-Simmons, the book author of ‘Patrick Wants To Ride‘ fame.

But I’ve digressed.

Lewis and Clark Expedition Swag

A riding buddy and I decided to register and took a couple weeks last month to ride along with the H.O.G. Lewis and Clark; The Expedition Returns posse.  There were 182 register bikes for the tour which basically followed most of the same Lewis and Clark routes from Seaside, Oregon to St. Charles, Missouri.  They deviated a bit on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains which only added to the adventure.

 

Before I jump in and provide some insights about the ride, I want to say that H.O.G. is a class act.  Yes, there was a pricey registration fee, but the swag and goody bag we received for the expedition was detailed, high quality and exceeded my expectations.  The hotel registration process via the H.O.G. web site worked well and we had no issues in any location.  Big shout-out to Harley-Davidson, Team MKE, Paul Raap (H.O.G. Regional Mgr), Paul Blotske (H.O.G. Contractor) and the H.O.G. planners for making it simple and a great experience!

Lewis and Clark Expedition and Routes

 

Now keep in mind this wasn’t a “group ride” where 182 bikes departed simultaneous every day with a ride captain.  We were free to forge our own path (with some solid guidance) and ride with who we wanted and at our own pace.  H.O.G. provided a travelogue with approximate mileage and points of interest along the way for each day’s schedule.  In some cases they included passes for the various parks and/or sight seeing destinations.  This process worked well.

Ride Details:

Day 1, (Tuesday, July 11) — Had us traveling to the Oregon coast to visit the Fort Clatsop National Historic Park  where the Corps of Discovery wintered from 1805 to Spring 1806.  After 18 months of exploring the West, the Corps of Discovery built an encampment near the mouth of the Columbia River. They wintered at Fort Clatsop into 1806 before leaving the Pacific Ocean to return to Missouri and the route we were going to follow.

That evening Mike Durbin and Paradise Harley-Davidson (Tigard, OR) sponsored the gathering for dinner.


Highway 14 looking west at Mt. Hood

Day 2, — We were traveling east and heading to Lewiston, ID.  Along the route we could visit the Rock Fort Campsite which is a natural fortification located on the shore of the Columbia River, and where the Corps of Discovery set up camp on their journey home.  There is the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, the Sacajawea State Park Interpretive Center, and the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park

That evening we were at Hell’s Canyon Harley-Davidson for dinner. 

 
Unsolicited Comments About Portland Traffic:  It was common practice to ask other H.O.G. members where they came from, how far they rode etc., and when we mentioned being from Portland, people were compelled to tell us about their bad experiences riding around in Portland/metro traffic.  The H.O.G. HQ hotel for this event was the Jantzen Beach Red Lion and folks would drone on about the congestion, freeway crashes and the lengthy delays which were awful in the record Portland heat.  About all I could say was “True that, and apologize for the apocalyptic congestion.”  Then I’d add something about those new spiffy ODOT RealTime signs — you know, the big electronic signs that relay the obvious?!

Day 3, — Took us to Great Falls, MT.  There were multiple stops suggested to riders.  The first was the Nez Perce National Historical Park.  The 
New Perce were critical to the success of the Expedition by providing food and supplies. 

It was hot riding so, we left Lewiston early morning and as a result the park wasn’t open and we toured the exterior.  Lewis and Clark actually split up at what is called today Travelers’ Rest State Park.  Lewis went to the north.  On the north route, you could see the Lewis and Clark Pass, Museum of the Plains Indian, and Camp Disappointment   Clark went to the south, where you could see the Lost Trail PassCamp fortunate Overlook  the three forks of the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park, and the Gates of the Mountains.

Highway 12 heading toward Lolo Pass

We were on Highway 12 headed over Lolo Pass for much of the morning. You’ve undoubtedly seen the photos of the sign that says “Curves next 99 miles…”  Yeah, that one and it’s named one of the best motorcycle roads in the country with lots of sweeping curves and several tight ones.  The elevation at the top is 5,233 feet in the northern Rocky Mountains and the temperatures were quite nice.  Road conditions in some areas were a bit dicey and unfortunately a female member of the H.O.G. group veered up against the guardrail and crashed.  She survived with a number of broken bones, but as I understand it, spent multiple days in the hospital. As we rode by the crash, her motorcycle freakishly went 75 yards up highway 12 and across both lanes of traffic and was sitting upright on the left side of the road, as if someone just parked it there on the kick stand.  Very strange.

That evening the group all got together for dinner at Big Sky Harley-Davidson.


Day 4, — (Friday, July 14,) — Took us to Billings, MT where we spent a couple of days.  There were a couple of stops planned.  The first was t
he Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center in Great Falls.  We also made sure to take time to see the Great Falls of the Missouri including Rainbow Falls before leaving the area.  

Great Falls, MT is actually situated on the northern Lewis return route, and Billings, MT is on Clark’s southern route.

Rainbow Falls

We took the more scenic route on Highway 89 south through the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and then picked up Highway 12 east to Highway 3 south into Billings, MT.

That evening we had dinner at Beartooth Harley-Davidson, but to be candid we were getting a bit tired of the pork sliders or burgers and salad.


Day 5, — Was a “down day” from our ride schedule to allow riding in the Billings, MT., area.  Some jumped back on for full 400+ mile experience and rode to Livingston, MT., on I-90 then headed south on Highway 89 into Yellowstone National Park to see ‘Old Faithful.’  

Twin Lakes, along the Beartooth Highway

We decided to half that mileage and rode up Highway 212 to Red Lodge Montana and then over Beartooth Pass into Wyoming.  In Red Lodge, the annual Beartooth Rally was in full swing with a few thousand motorcyclists enjoying the area so, going over Beartooth Pass was slow riding, but we did enjoy the switchback curves.

It’s a great ride with some incredible vistas, but not for the faint of heart.

That evening we enjoyed a nice steak and ignored the gathering at Beartooth Harley-Davidson!


Day 6, — Had us traveling to Bismarck, ND., and it began early to avoid the sweltering heat. 

Across the NoDak Plains

We’d been riding in heat advisory’s across Montana for a few days and now the humidity was increasing!  One stop as we departed Billings was to tour Pompeys Pillar National Monument.  Pompeys Pillar was named by Clark and he and other members of the Corps of Discovery chiseled their names into the rock itself.  I believe this is the ONLY physical evidence that the Lewis and Clark Trail actually existed and took place. 

We rode on to Bismarck, ND.  There were additional stops along the way that included the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan.  I lived in Bismarck back in the day so, we ignored the extra miles and the point where Sacajawea and Toussaint Charbonneau joined the Corps. 

We enjoyed dinner at a local pub/restaurant while listening to some old Peter Frampton music on the jukebox! 


Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Day 7, — (Monday, July 17,) — The H.O.G. group headed west across the Missouri River from Bismarck and then we all rode south down Highway 1806 to Pierre, SD.  About 15 miles south of Bismarck we stopped at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park & On-A-Slant Village and toured the area which provided a great example of Native American encampments Lewis and Clark would have encountered on their journey.

Missouri River riding south on Highway 1806

We rode along Highway 1806 south down the Missouri River pretty much to the North Dakota – South Dakota border while watching out for farm equipment on the roads.

From there, we had a couple of routes to follow into Pierre, SD., though most of the Missouri River between Bismarck and Pierre is covered by the Lake Oahe Reservoir and the road follows the east side of the lake all the way into Pierre.

Pierre, SD., City Park

We had dinner at Peterson Motors Harley-Davidson in Pierre, but actually moved over to a city park on the river and tried Bison Burgers for the first time!


Day 8, — (Tuesday, July 18,) — Due to other commitments we departed the Lewis and Clark H.O.G. group on this day and started our return trip back to Oregon.  We intended to spend a couple of days in Boise, ID., to take in the Pacific Northwest H.O.G. rally and meet up with some other riders there.  The next couple of days were about laying down some miles and we avoided the wandering of site seeing.  We rode from 
Pierre, SD to Rapid City, SD on I-90, and skirted the Black Hills National Forest.

We traveled along Highway 18 and then took a wrong turn at Lingle, SD and ended up a few miles from the  Nebraska border before having to backtrack, riding through Fort Laramie on Highway 26 and then on to I-25 and Casper, WY., where we overnighted.


Day 9, — Had us traveling to Idaho Falls, ID., and we departed early to avoid the afternoon heat.  We were riding toward the Grand Teton National Park and Jackson when about 30 miles west of Dubois, WY, we encountered a fatal head-on car accident. 

The Road Glide and Grand Teton’s

We arrived at the scene at 12:30pm and the road had been closed since 9:30am.  We had to endure a 3+ hour wait which put us behind and more importantly it put us riding in the hottest part of the day. 

The 50 miles from Jackson, WY to the border town of Alpine, WY was like walking a marathon with all the backed up traffic. 

We finally made it to Idaho Falls, ID on US26 by early evening.  

Day 10, — We continued our travel west to Boise, ID on the two-lane US 20/26.

There are views of high desert, Atomic labs and of course Craters of the Moon Monument with it’s vast ocean of lava flows and scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush.We stopped for some site seeing, but didn’t explore any trails.

We arrived in Boise, ID before 3pm and met up with some other riders who arrived from Portland.

Day 13, — (Sunday, July 23,) — After a couple days of enjoying the local rides and taking in the city life along with parts of the Pacific Northwest H.O.G. Rally (While at the rally in Meridian, ID., I had a chance to test ride a new 2017 CVO Street Glide with the new M-8 engine. I will do a post on that experience soon) we returned to Portland, OR via the most direct route on I-84.

We finally arrived back in Portland that evening after touring over 3,500 miles with a number of new stories from the adventure in retracing the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  In addition, we got to hang with a number of great H.O.G. members!

We could relate to Meriwether Lewis who wrote in September 1806:

Today Captain Clark will pen a letter to Governor Harrison and I shall pen one to President Jefferson informing them officially of our safe return and providing the details of our expedition. My hope, and that of Captain Clark, is that our work over the last two and a half years will accomplish this administration’s goals to expand the Republic westward and inspire future generations into even further exploration and adventure. — Meriwether Lewis 

Updated August 15, 2017:  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left from St. Louis, Missouri with the Corps of Discovery and headed west in an effort to explore and document the new lands bought by the Louisiana Purchase.  To read more about Lewis and Clark, visit the National Geographic site dedicated to their journey or read their report of the expedition, originally published in 1814.  There are a number of period correct maps HERE.

Photos taken by author.

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