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Archive for the ‘Living Life’ Category

U.S. Army – Fort Jackson, SC

Originally called Armistice Day, it recognized the end of WW I, which coincidentally ended 101 years ago this month.  Interestingly, German troops were still well inside France and Belgium during Armistice.  Then in 1938, it became an official holiday, set aside to honor veterans.  Then on June 1, 1954, it was renamed Veterans Day to honor all — dead or alive — those who have served the country in war and peace.

Yeah, I’m writing a blog post from the comfort of a warm office, which pales in comparison to literally every single service member serving today.  In fact, it even pales in comparison to every military spouse because I’m not managing a household with kids, all alone, while a loved one is deployed overseas.

Military (Family) History

But, I can acknowledge how proud I am of family and friends who’ve served along with those currently serving our country with honor.

I can also take a moment to remember my cousin and the seven brave men of Fox Company, 2/4 Marines (2ND PLT, F CO, 2ND BN, 4TH MARINES, 3RD MARDIV, III MAF), who were killed in action at Quang Nam, Vietnam on 08 April 1967.

Some know that my connection to military life is personal and direct, but many Americans don’t have a clear idea of military sacrifices.  The military is at war and the public is at peace being busy with the Hashtag shaming/activism movements.

Here are just a few examples of the social media movements that you may have followed:  #AllLivesMatter, #HimToo,  #MeToo, #TakeAKnee, #SurvivorPrivilege, #YouOkSis, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less), #HeForShe, #OrangeTheWorld, #BringBackOurGirls, #EverydaySexism, #NotAllMen, #YesAllWomen, #WhyIStayed, #IWillGoOut, #GenerationEquality, #BoycottNRA, #TheResistance, #Resist, #OccupyWallStreet, #IfIDieInASchoolShooting, #IceBucketChallenge, #IStandWithAhmed, #OscarsSoWhite, #NODAPL, #Ferguson, and Boycott #[co. name here] etc..  IMHO, the hashtag activism is lame and probably not been as effective as doing real world engagement!

But, I’ve digressed…

F-35 Lightning II

There is something very special about people who serve, the kind of discipline, the kind of passion that they have, and the dedication.  I’ve seen that up close and have a lot of pride!  Many give little thought to the hardships of multiple deployments, the frequent family moves or the sacrifices of the military community.

For some, this post may come across like an empty gesture.  But, I personally want to thank you and express my heartfelt respect and gratitude for all who have and are serving in the military.  Thank you for the risks you take and the sacrifices you make.

We know you’re fighting for the rights and freedoms of all of us and you’re the unsung heroes.  We do care!

P.S. Congrats and much respect to the U.S. Army special operations team responsible for killing what the The Washington Post obituary called an “austere religious scholar.”  Give me a break!  The Washington Post and editors are totally full of BS for a headline glorifying the savage murderer and brutal raper who encouraged ISIS followers to commit heinous acts of violence — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now a dead “religious scholar!”

Double-Click References:
Harley-Davidson WW I Role:  HERE
Hidden Heroes:  HERE
Veterans Day Proclamation: HERE
DoD Facts:  HERE
Vietnam Conflict Extract Data File: HERE
Other NW HOG Veteran Oriented Blog Posts: HERE

Photos courtesy of DoD and taken by author

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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As you know, I’m a motorcyclist licensed in the State of Oregon.  I’ve written many blog posts that represent motorcyclists and advocate for the passage of laws that improve motorcycle safety and result in motorcycle awareness and driver accountability.

My perspective comes from years of riding motorcycles and having first hand knowledge of friends who have been injured when drivers don’t see motorcycles and the dramatic consequences.

Speaking of motorcycle accidents, the following are examples of common motorcycle accident causes:

• A car makes a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle, usually because the driver is not looking for, or does not otherwise see, the oncoming motorcycle.

• A vehicle pulls out of, or into, a side street or driveway, also usually because the driver does not look for, or otherwise see, the motorcycle.

• A car rear ends a motorcycle because the driver is inattentive or distracted, usually by a mobile electronic device.

• And the all-to-common motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcyclist!  There have been a number of motorcycles that inexplicably missed a curve on a clear, dry road and left the roadway.  Many suffered injuries or death after striking a tree, roadside sign, utility pole or boulder.  Be it age related (yes, I said that!), pushing the limit of the riders skills or the capability of the motorcycle, driving impaired — both by drugs and alcohol — or by fatigue and exposure — riders need to constantly tweak riding habits to stay sharp.

In tracking the U.S. states information, searching and following-up on the Oregon data of various motorcycle accidents in the news, it seems that negligent drivers are often not being cited for any violation when they cause a motorcycle accident. Moreover, careless drivers are typically only being cited for routine traffic violations, and reckless drivers are being cited only for careless driving.  I’ve also read about simple cell-phone tickets being cited when drivers cause severe accidents.  If you try and track motorcycle accident cases, they are usually not referred to the District Attorney’s office unless there is a fatality or a drunk driver involved. Careless and even are facing very little to no criminal repercussions for their conduct and instead being given a traffic violation or no traffic violation at all.

That’s all about to change!

Back in 2017, Oregon began to address this issue by passing HB 2598, which expanded Oregon’s Vehicular Assault Statute, ORS 811.060, to protect motorcyclists and their passengers from reckless drivers, making it a Class A Misdemeanor for a reckless driver to injure a motorcyclist or passenger. That same year, Oregon passed SB 493, which made it a Class A Misdemeanor for a criminally negligent driver to seriously injure a vulnerable user.

However, under the current statute, motorcyclists, moped operators, and their passengers are not, even though they are equally susceptible to being directly struck and seriously injured by a careless, or criminally negligent, driver as the other road users.

But, effective January 1, 2020 is Senate Bill 810.  Signed into law back in June, the Bill modifies the definition of “vulnerable user of a public way” to include persons operating or riding on moped or motorcycle.  The law (801.608, “Vulnerable user of a public way”) enhances penalties for motorists who kill or injure motorcyclists, as well as other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, highway workers or bicyclists.

Oregon has taken an important step to protect riders and their passengers. Oregon now joins the State of Washington along with several other states by treating motorcycles and mopeds the same as other vulnerable road users by significantly enhancing the penalties against careless and criminally negligent drivers.

Thank you Governor Brown!

UPDATED:  November 1, 2019 — Removed the 1st – 4th priority scheme under motorcycle accident causes paragraph (see comment below) as it was misleading.  Added a reference HERE to the NHTSA Highway Crash Data for 2018.

Photos courtesy of ODOT and GHSA

Oregon Crash Statistics & Reports    |    Invest in yourself and Stay Sharp HERE!

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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The Andrew J. Weber Panamanian Tour

Have you ever had the thought, “That would make a great story!” when it comes to your family history… this is exactly that, “Once upon a time moment.”

 

To add historical context and a colorful backdrop, the year was 1968.  It was one of the most tumultuous single years in history.  Soviet armed forces invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia–Prague Spring; North Korea captured the Navy intelligence vessel U.S.S. Pueblo; The Tet Offensive, an all-out effort by the Communists to inflict terminal damage on the South Vietnamese regime; U.S. ground troops killed many Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam; both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated; Summer Olympic protests recorded black-gloved fists in a salute to the Black Power movement; Richard M. Nixon wins the White House and Apollo 8 carried the first humans to orbit the moon.

It’s difficult to truly appreciate everything that occurred in 1968 even as we watched it play out on TV.

This story begins as a lovely autumn day 50+ years ago, to the month, when my father (U.S. Army – now Retired) arrived with a team of nine military personnel in the Panama Canal Zone.  It’s a journey over a short period of time that will lead him and our family from Fort Bliss, Texas to Kwajalein Marshall Islands and then to the SAFEGUARD AntiBallistic Missile System (ABM) in Nekoma, North Dakota.

Panama Canal

But, first some historical context on Panama.  It’s country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a 48-mile-long man-made waterway, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route.  It’s designated as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

You’ve likely heard of the Panama Canal, but you may not know how it works.  The Canal is a system of locks that allows ships to ascend and descend in steps, like a staircase.  The lock system lifts a ship up 85 feet to the main elevation of the Panama Canal and down again.  The Gatun Dam moderates the amount of water in Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created solely to reduce the amount of excavation work that was required to build the canal.  The Dam’s hydro-electric generating station provides electricity to operate the locks and a wide range of other equipment in the canal zone.

USS Sturgis – Moored at Fort Belvoir, Virginia

Gatun Lake is a critical element of the Panama Canal, acting as a reservoir of water for the operation of the canal locks.  Every time a ship transits the canal, each lock chamber requires 26 million gallons (the equivalent size of 35 olympic sized swimming pools) of water to fill it from the lowered to the raised position; the same amount of water must be drained from the chamber to lower it again as the water passes from the lake into the sea.

As the tale went, in early 1968 there was a severe water shortage that jeopardized both the operation of the Panama Canal locks and the production of hydroelectric power for the Canal Zone. The large amounts of water required to operate the locks and the water level on Gatun Lake fell so drastically that operations at Gatun Hydroelectric Station were curtailed.  Brown outs and total black-outs from a complete loss of electrical power became the norm.

Andrew J. Weber

Shrouded in military secrecy, was the Andrew J. Weber, a floating power plant equipped with three 1,650-kw diesel generators and two 8,400 kw gas turbine sets, that was designed to provide 20 MW of on-demand electrical capacity.  Enough to supply approximately 25,000 homes with electrical power!

The military often prefers strange, far-flung and obscure parts of the world for testing because the Pentagon doesn’t like to advertise them.  Such was the case for the power barge which was obscurely in route to KWAJALEIN, Missile Range (KMR) in the Marshall Islands.

Marshall Islands Location

The increased demand of electrical power for missile-tracking radar at the SECRET Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site was it’s planned duty station, however, the demands of the Vietnam War had significantly increased traffic through the Panama Canal and while transiting the canal en route to Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR), the Secretary of the Army redeployed the “Power Ship” in October 1968 to the Panama Canal Zone at Gatun Lake.

Another historical context for this story is that a few months prior, the USS STURGIS (look, there is a name reference to motorcycles!) a WW II Liberty cargo ship (previously named: Charles H. Cugle) was converted into a 10 MW floating nuclear power barge/ship and was already on location, but could not fully meet the electricity demands.  This electrical shortfall added to the decision criteria of the Andrew J. Weber being redeployed to the Panama Canal Zone.  The electrical power produced by the Weber and Sturgis replaced the power from the Gatun Hydroelectric Station, and freed up the lake water for canal lock navigation use.

U.S. Army Air Defense Command

The USS Sturgis was the first “ship” to be deployed and the only one in the U.S. Army with a nuclear reactor power plant.  The MH-1A plant was a pressurized water reactor and one of a series of reactors in the U.S. Army Nuclear Power Program.  Program Video HERE:

In 1968 we lived in El Paso, Texas just off the Fort Bliss military base where my father was stationed.  Fort Bliss was home of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM).  The military installation was instrumental in training personnel on Air Defense Artillery missiles, such as Nike Hercules, Nike Zeus, Nike X, and the Sentinel Missile System (renamed to the SAFEGUARD AntiBallistic Missile System (ABM)).

But, I’ve digressed and want to return to Panama.

Arnulfo Arias Madrid was a Panamanian politician, doctor, and writer who served as the President of Panama.  He took office on October 1, 1968 and demanded the immediate return of the Canal Zone to Panamanian jurisdiction and announced a change in the leadership of the National Guard.  President Arias removed the two most senior officers and selected Colonel Bolivar Urrutia to command the Guard.  The Guard staged a coup and removed Arias from the presidency. He served for eleven days!  The overthrow of Arias provoked large scale student demonstrations and rioting in many areas.  The military seized power, suspended civil liberties, censored the press and deployed combat troops to help the police make hundreds of arrests.

Fairbanks-Morris Model 38D-8-1/8 Diesel Engines

It was during this political strife that my father arrived with a team of nine military personnel.  In fact, the day before the team (notable members: Roger Ashpole, R. Cunningham, Dave Mathews) arrived, the Chief of the Panama Police was assassinated.  They rucked it over to Balboa, Panama, (Atlantic side of the canal power system) in civilian clothes due to the U.S. being cast as villains in the coup and immediately initialized start-up procedures of the power barge.  They spun up the Fairbanks Morris Diesel Engine/Generators and gas turbine sets and operated three shifts–3 guys to shift 24×7.

Speaking of Diesel engines, the power barge had three massive Fairbanks Morris 16 cylinder opposed Diesel engines and two GE LM1500 gas turbines to produce over 20 MW.  The Fairbanks-Morse Model 38D-8-1/8 is a two stroke cycle engine with an upper and lower crankshaft and detonates in the middle.  They were compressed air started and had a pressure release valve on top of the engine.  You’d pull the lower air handle while pulling the top valve until it started firing.  The engine was known to have oil everywhere all the time.  In fact, drip pans were a “feature” mounted on the side of the huge block that routed leaking oil back into the motor.

The team’s mission was to provide tactical electric power and environmental control capabilities to the canal zone in defense of the economic interests of the U.S.  The power barge augmented the USS Sturgis and was able to establish a power generation grid in the canal zone.  Eight months later the nine-man team was replaced by a “small” Army company of 125 men.

My father stated that “Life in Panama was not hard, but it was strenuous and the investment of sweat-equity was worth it.  It was an interesting time and it was nice working as a liaison with civilian personnel to help restore stability and the operations of the Panama Canal.”

Don’t stop reading!  The tropical sun is about to come out and all will be clear.

Kwajalein Marshall Islands

As mentioned above, the Andrew J. Weber power barge was in route to KWAJALEIN, Missile Range (KMR) before being redeployed to the canal zone.  Shortly after my fathers Panama Canal assignment we departed Fort Bliss and relocated to the tropical island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese, say: “Yokwe Yuk” versus welcome.  Kwajalein Island is one of 97 that make up the Kwajalein Atoll and is situated 2100 miles SE from Honolulu.

The island, a two-mile long flat boomerang strip of land dominated by the runway and dotted with palm trees, tranquil beaches and stunning aqua water with coral reefs are all set under an unrelenting equatorial heat.  No one just drops in on the island.  For security reasons only staff and their dependents can live on Kwajalein, tourists aren’t allowed. Everyone (military and government contractors) are there in a professional capacity as the island has no private housing.  No one actually lived on the island of Meck, that houses a launch facility, which meant a 25-mile helicopter commute for my father every day over water from Kwajalein.

Kwajalein Test Facility

When we lived there and today, no cellphone network exists on the island, residents relied on landline phones which were dotted all around the island, including in the supermarket and on the beaches. There was no Television, but today TV is provided by Central Pacific Network (CPN), a service of the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). The Army operates a small fleet of vehicles for official use, but for “islanders” the main mode of transport is bicycles, everyone has one.  Underneath the relaxed veneer is a strict security protocol.  There were things we couldn’t photograph and doing so would likely get you a permanent pass off-island.

Systems Technology Test Facility constructed on Meck Island on Kwajalein Atoll

The tropical environment of the island makes it sound like a wonderful playground, with work merely an afterthought. Rest assured, the business of the missile range is extremely serious.  The radar facility is part of the Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base. They provide range instrumentation, missile launch facilities, mission control center, range safety, meteorological support, and support space operations.  The site hosts a suite of unique instrumentation, located on eight islands throughout the Kwajalein Atoll and provides space-, ground- and sea-based sensors of real-time target acquisition and tracking data to a command-and-control center during various Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests.

An ICBM target launches from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands on 03/25/19

For example, earlier this year (2019), the military launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missiles (Minuteman III) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and tested the reentry vehicle on the 4,200-mile flight over the Pacific Ocean to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands which is now know as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

After a couple of years living the island life in flip-flaps we departed the year-round heat and humidity and relocated to the SAFEGUARD AntiBallistic Missile System (ABM) in North Dakota. We arrived in a particularly intense cold month, the angle of sunlight was stark and non-penetrating, and snow drifts covered everything.

The Complex was authorized by Congress in 1969 and construction began in 1970 for the purpose to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China.

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC)

The Safeguard system was a cluster of military facilities in Cavalier County, N.D. and consisted of several primary components, the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR), the Missile Site Radar (MSR), the Spartan missile launchers, co-located Sprint missile launchers, and Remote Sprint missile launchers (RSL).

As originally proposed by President Johnson in 1967, the system, then known as Sentinel, was supposed to provide protection for major cities against a ballistic missile attack.  The “Pyramid” as it was called by locals, was located in Nekoma, N.D. and was the main control of the Safeguard system. It housed the computers and a phased array radar necessary to track and hit back at incoming ICBM warheads. The facilities were a technological marvel at the time. The structure is 80 feet tall and has four-foot-thick concrete walls sloped at a 35-degree angle to protect it against a potential nuclear blast. Each face of the structure had the ability to scan the landscape and skies for targets coming from any direction.  The MSR provided launch and control for Spartan, and the shorter-range Sprint anti-ballistic missiles.

Dependent Housing – Nekoma, N.D.

The facility was later re-named the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). The ABM debate in the Senate and the impact of the SALT II treaty proved to be a turning point—as the facility became active in April 1975, fully operational in October 1975 and was shut down in February 1976.

The Library of Congress has an extraordinary set of images documenting the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in various states of construction and completion.

At various times from 1973 to 1976, both my father, and I worked at the MSR.  We spent a lot of time in the underground power plant and it was rather impressive. There were several Cooper-Bessemer Company, 4-cycle, turbo-charged, dual-fuel (diesel or natural gas), V-12 engines which supplied electricity to the complex when commercial electricity failed or when there were mock attack tests. The engine turned a 2-ton fly wheel connected to a General Electric generator. The complete unit weighed 35 tons and was shipped in via rail to the facility during initial construction.

RSL #2

In addition, we worked at the four Remote Sprint Launch Sites (RSLs).  The MSR could command the launch of Sprint missiles located at the RSLs.  The Spartan missiles were designed to intercept incoming warheads at high altitude at distances in excess of 400 miles.  Sprint missiles are a super quick-reaction missile used to knock out enemy warheads at close range.  A Sprint launch is dramatic….its acceleration is immediate, stunning and literally as fast as a bullet (zero to Mach 10 in 5 seconds! Video HERE.).

The history of the SRMSC is fascinating on many levels and I’ve only scratched the surface.  If you like deep dives,  please check out David Novack’s comprehensive web site HERE.

Unclassified CIA Sidebar: The Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR) was a test site for ICBM missiles along with the testing validation for SAFEGUARD.  And then there is this from an unclassified CIA document (page 40):  “In September 1969 in connection with an estimative paper on the Soviet ICBM designated the SS-9. CIA analysis indicated that the new Soviet missile, then nearing deployment, had powerful capabilities, but they were uncertain exactly how powerful. An unanswered question was whether the multiple warheads of the SS-9 were fitted with individual guidance systems to direct them precisely to dispersed US missile silos. The Nixon administration was just then seeking public and Congressional support to develop and deploy an antiballistic missile defense system, the Safeguard ABM. To provide a rationale for the multibillion-dollar ABM system, Laird and the Pentagon seized the Soviet development of the SS-9, claiming that its triple warheads were individually targeted (Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle, or MIRV). This weapon, military analysts declared, would enable the USSR to destroy the bulk of the US Minuteman ICBM force in one strike and demonstrated the Soviets’ intention to develop a first-strike capability. The US ABM system, they argued, was an essential antidote.  The antidote became the Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense site (Nekoma, ND) which was later re-named to the the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).

We departed North Dakota and relocated to Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  Fort Belvoir is home to a number of important U.S. military organizations and has nearly twice as many workers as The Pentagon.  More on this station duty at a later time.

Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense site

So, lets connect the dots on this rather long post… we started out in Texas, the home of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command learning about HAWK and NIKE missile systems.  Then a power generation assignment in Panama to stabilize and keep the canal operating.  That led to an assignment in the Marshall Islands at the Kwajalein Missile Range and then an assignment at the Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense site in North Dakota.  All of it relates to the Ballistic Missile Defense program which represented many years of missile defense training, maintenance and operations.

Why is this important?  These were “good ‘ol days” for lots of now older folks -and one that they/we were quite proud of – the learning experience and doing something useful. Most of us look back and smile because there are a few times in anyone’s life when you have a chance to have a special place in the world’s imagination. One of those times was during the Cold War.  Our family didn’t choose to have a role in the Cold War, and for the most part we didn’t complain about being moved around and part of the Ballistic Missile Defense program.

SRMSC Power Plant Control Room

Although the thrill of gas turbine sets spinning up in the middle of night while going into “Alert Status Mode” remains strong, the former missile launch sites—once protected by high fences, search lights, and armed guards—are no longer on the front lines of America’s Cold War.

 

P.S.  Today, the Andrew J. Weber was one of 16 vessels scuttled as part of a military target practice program in 2001. The 6,000 ton Andrew Weber was sunk July 19, 2001. It currently lies at a depth of 12,600 feet, about 250 nautical miles south east of Agana, Guam.

P.S.S.  Since the late 1970s, the USS Sturgis had been part of the Reserve Fleet, sometimes colloquially called the “Ghost Fleet.”  In October 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $34.66 million contract to decommission, dismantle and dispose of the ship in Galveston, Texas where it was towed that winter.

P.S.S.S.  Today the topside of the North Dakota SRMSC appears exactly as it did during its existence as an active launch facility.  The only part of the original SRMSC installation still in use is the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) which the U.S. Air Force operates as part of its space track and early warning system.  The SRMSC was made available to the highest bidder via an online auction by the GSA.  The winning bid of $530,000.00 was accepted in December of 2012 and the sale closed in February of 2013.  The new owner is the Spring Creek Hutterite Colony of Forbes, N.D. The Hutterites are a faith group with 45,000 or so members living in several hundred colonies scattered across the North American prairies with a lifestyle similar to the Amish and Mennonites.  In addition, the Cavalier County Job Development Authority (JDA) purchased about 40 percent of the land, including the tactical buildings, for $435,000 from a legislative appropriation. That group is invested in the site because of it’s historical significance in the community.  They have plans to create a “historical interpretation,” at some point in the future.  Related to the RSLs, Mel Sann purchased RSL #3 (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places) site and another was bought by James and Anna Cleveland.  The Clevelands renovated the RSL site into a home and it was previously reported they are trying to sell it for $1.25 million.  Mr Sann runs tours during the summer at RSL #3 and you can get more information HERE.

 

Note:  This article was developed from discussions, personal notes and photos with my father.  In addition, I’ve chronicled a bit of family history from my own experiences, family discussions along with research from various news outlets and internet sites.

Photos courtesy of Time Magazine (’68 Cover); Map data (c) OpenStreetMap (and) contributors, CC-BY-SA; MISSILE DEFENSE AGEN; Stars and Stripes; Library of Congress; Ed Thelen’s Nike Missile Website; U.S. Army; SRMSC Facebook Page

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Jessi Combs:  July 27, 1980 – August 27, 2019

Sadly, television personality and professional driver Jessi Combs died Tuesday in Oregon trying to break a land speed record in a jet car.  She was 39.

Jessi Combs was born in the Black Hills of Rapid City, SD. and had a lifelong desire to become a race car driver.  She was a fearless young lady.

She was on the dry lake bed of the Alvord Desert pursuing a land speed record in the North American Eagle (jet-powered vehicle) on August, 27th 2019 on the dry lake bed.  The details of the crash have not been released at this time.

North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger

Land speed records have been set or attempted in the past on the dried lake bed of the Alvord Desert.  The Alvord Desert is located in Harney County, in southeastern Oregon.  It is roughly southeast of Steens Mountain.

In 2013, Jessi Combs broke the four-wheeled women’s land speed record there at a speed of nearly 393 mph in her 52,000-horsepower, 56-foot-long,  North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger — a reconfigured F-104 jet — on the 13-mile course. Then, in 2016, Combs broke 440 mph and was dubbed the fastest woman on four wheels.

In 2018, during a shakedown run, she set a new record of 483.227 mph.  Unfortunately, a panel fell off the car and dangled at 488 mph until part of it broke off and went into the intake on the left side.  There wasn’t a lot of damage, but enough where they had to pack up the pits and take it back to the shop in order to fix the first 2 turbine blade levels.

The group’s stated goal was to break the land speed record of 763 mph, which was set on Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1997.

Jessi was an icon in the industry, and my thoughts are with her family and loved ones.

UPDATED: November 12, 2019 — Earlier this month the Harney County Sheriff’s Department and the North American Eagle race team released information regarding the cause of the crash. It was determined after extensive investigation that a failure in the front wheel caused the accident. In a press release, Lieutenant Brian Needham of the Harney County Sheriff’s Department said:

“Based on the evidence collected and examined at the scene of the crash and the evidence recovered by the North American Race Team, it appears that there was a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object on the desert. The front wheel failure led to the front wheel assembly collapsing. The front wheel failure occurred at speeds approaching 550 mph.”

Photos courtesy Jessi Combs Instagram and website

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I didn’t typically think about it this way, but I was putting out product.  I’d write something and I occasionally gauged the reaction. Sometimes I’d get e-mail, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I’d write something I knew was good, but it wasn’t the kind of thing that motorcycle enthusiasts respond too. And then there were times I’d throw some snarky attitude out there to see if it sticks and I’d get surprised.

Like you I’ve aged.

My attention span became a precious commodity.  Time availability and the time demand trade-offs were always present.  And then there are the apps — email, social networks, blogs, micro-blogging and, yes, news outlets that have deployed an infuriating number of push alerts and notifications to distract.  Do we really need another reminder to post to Facebook?  No, I didn’t see that cat video post from a distant cousin?  Did I need that annoying notification that it’s been 4-days since my last photo posted to Instagram?  Buzz, Ding, Ding!  A friend of a friend of a friend just started a live video!  Who?

My time and your attention deserved more respect!

And speaking of time, you may have noticed that I took a sabbatical for a couple years.  Sipping coffee and admiring other motorcycle blog posts was a nice break and a different mindset.  I also spent cloudless summer days riding along the Northwest back roads reflecting on how I’ve run the Northwest Harley Blog for well over 10 years.  It started out as a hobby to capture the various motorcycle trips and riding experiences.  A secondary benefit was to shine light on issues and concerns affecting the motorcycle community along with the occasional rant or statement of ingratitude toward the motor company mixed in.

Thinking back, I approached my career like it was an investment: spreading risk and reward across a portfolio that included a full-time role in one industry, another side hustle in unrelated fields and an unpaid skill-building labor of love/writing — this blog.  But, after a couple of job changes the blogging, social media and content publication activity became a 50+ hour a week gig and during my “free” time the motorcycle blogging creative juices went MIA.  I was editing content, on the internet and social media all hours as part of my job to increase conversion rates, build up authority in a niche and increase a brands likability quotient.  I took actions daily and witnessed firsthand the difference social media and blogging could make in terms of organic search visibility, website traffic, leads, share-of-voice and stepping potential consumers through a sales funnel.

I developed a severe case of writers block, was off balance and needed a digital detox!  I did break the cardinal rule of blogging and just… stopped.  Mea culpa.

Fortunately,  I was able to enjoy some wind in the face time.  I’ll spend some time in separate posts and share some of those trips with you.  But first, I wanted to explain the absence, and to let you know — I’ll be slowly coming back, though the topics I tackle may be wide(r) and more varied.

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It’s official.  The Great American Solar Eclipse and the potential for catastrophic disaster has produced the first ever Oregon Motorcycle Solar Eclipse Advisory: AVOID RIDING MOTORCYCLES, August 18 — 22, 2017 is the stated recommendation.

Plan to have a good time watching the 2-minute daylight-to-twilight event (around 10:15 am), but just don’t travel anywhere by motorcycle for 5-days!

Huh?  How did we get to this place?

The “once-in-a-lifetime” excitement and buzz surrounding the eclipse is now at Defcon 1 with less than seven days before the interstellar event.  For months people have been on an obsessive pursuit of the perfect photo location.  Get outside advertisements and turn your Oregon journey into a legacy have been everywhere,  Eclipse 101 brochures, guide pamphlets, and preparedness articles are in overdrive across all forms of media.

Advisory: Avoid Motorcycle Riding August 18 – 22, 2017

But, there is this bazaar pre-cog of an impending apocalyptic doom that is permeating the eclipse narrative given that hundreds of thousand of people and their vehicles — perhaps millions — will converge on the already severely overcrowded highways.

Can you spell Oregon anxiety and fear?

Media ratings often drive the “never miss an opportunity to drum up catastrophic hysteria:”  Did you set up a generator ‘war room’ in your basement in case of a state-wide breakdown of electricity and communication?  Did you rent a satellite phone to update your social media channels from Steens Mountain?  Does your family have an evacuation route and disaster preparedness plan?  Did you stock up on SPAM and water?  Do you have a full tank of gas?  Did you buy extra coolant and oil for the engine?  Do you have jumper cables?  Did you purchase a spare tire for your spare tire in case it goes flat?  Did you drain your checking account and now walking around with thousands of dollars in your wallet?  Do you have paper maps in case the cell phone grid goes down?  Did you take a first aid course?  Do you have a roll of duct tape?  Did you buy a package of souvenir: “The Path Of Totality” toilet paper?

Seems silly, but maybe the media should ask us if we remembered to breath?

Is the sky truly falling or is the daily drum beat of “chicken little” prudent preparedness?

I don’t think we want the celestial spectacle any darker and will know soon enough.  Though we might make fun of them a little, looking back, we may also sympathize, but after a long season of eclipse anxiety and survival doomsaying, condensed with all the scientific history, phony viewing glasses and hype — we should all be so lucky as to have yet another boring Monday on August 21st.

TIME photo modified by author with original courtesy of TIME.  TEAM Oregon photo courtesy of web site.

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Have you ever thought about what a member of the military eats when deployed?

Those splashy marketing videos never seem to show it and we’re left to wonder what’s in those MRE’s.

When we commemorate the men and women who have died while in military service we tend to talk about “the troops” in an abstract form these days.  Bumper stickers remind us to “support the troops,” which is the functional equivalent of a bumper-sticker request to “imagine world peace.”

The nightly news, when they depart from the daily Trump “Groundhog Day” spotlight, will sometimes feature “In Remembrance” lists of “The Fallen,” which quickly scroll across our screens—distancing ourselves from them—their complexity, their individuality, their family, their humanity, before the next re-run of Seinfeld begins.

Memorial Day involves parades and a variety of solemn services, but most often, it involves barbecues.  Which for many allows us to be ignorant of what “the troops” service entails in the first place.  It’s not, of course, that “the troops” don’t deserve our admiration; it’s that they deserve much more than one day or weak displays of convenient gratitude on a bumper sticker or the empty logic of “support our troops” in a Twitter tweet.

The National Moment of Remembrance Act, encourages all-Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who died in service to our nation.

So on Monday, May 29th, please take a moment to reflect and ask what it’s like, what it’s really like, to be a soldier.  And honor those who died in service to our nation.

The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs has posted a list of Memorial Day events across the state on its website.

Photos taken by author’s father in Vietnam.

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