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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The 38th year of the largest motorcycle gathering on the west coast was scheduled for April 23-26th.

Earlier, the longstanding promoter of the event, Dal-Con Promotions, had no plans to return in 2020 and went “dark.”  In January, the motorcycle rally status, which draws tens of thousands of riders to Laughlin every year, wasn’t clearly known and the local chamber of commerce declared it OFF and removed it from the organization’s event calendar.

News reports surfaced in late February that Jerry Jackson, of Five Star Exhibits, Inc., negotiated and acquired the intellectual rights — including the rights to the trademarked Laughlin River Run title and the event was back on.  Although, Five star Exhibits stated they were not a promoter of events and would not contract with entertainers and/or food and beverage concessionaires.  The web site was refreshed with new information, but without a promoter, motorcycle enthusiasts were expecting a different experience from past years.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Laughlin River Run has officially been CANCELLED.

It’s disappointing not to be able to enjoy this time in our lives with other motorcycle enthusiasts, but the health and well-being of everyone is paramount.

Photo courtesy of Five Star Exhibits

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Blue Mountain Scenic Byway

The Oregon Department of Transportation is responsible for furnishing and maintaining directional, regulatory, warning, and informational signing on the state highway system.

Can you explain the significance behind every color and symbol used in Oregon’s road signs?  How about the inspiration behind the center line that has divided roads for decades?

ODOT Signs

It was interesting to learn, that the first modern centerline was painted in 1917. White was chosen by its designer, Edward Hines, who was inspired after seeing milk spill from a delivery wagon on a newly-paved road.  In 1935, highway officials gave local governments options when it came to painting centerlines. They could be either yellow, white, or black, depending on the color of the underlying pavement. By 1955, 49 states had adopted white stripes to divide their traffic lanes.  The ONLY holdout, Oregon, who preferred yellow, arguing that it was safer.

The federal government balked at such a ridiculous suggestion and threatened to withhold $300 million in highway funds. Oregon begrudgingly complied, but likely felt vindicated in 1971, when the federal government mandated that centerlines now be painted yellow, with white stripes reserved for roads where traffic drove in the same direction. (Lines on the sides of roads didn’t gain traction with officials until the mid-1950s. Before that, edge markings were prohibited. They were finally advocated in 1961, and then mandated in 1978.)

Route Signs

How about when Oregon Department of Transportation spent $680,000.00 to switch out 400 speed limit signs for House Bill 3402 when it passed in 2015 and increased the speed limit to 70 MPH on selected roadways.  At $1,700.00 for each sign…that is some kind of phenomenon speed sign!

If you’re like me, as you ride by a roadway sign, you likely understand the signage on a subconscious level and that’s why the designs were chosen in the first place.

Colored signs were erected along a stretch of roadway in the mid-1950s. The signs led to two cities: Utopia and Metropolis. Drivers were later polled about which sign color they preferred. Green came out on top at 58 percent, followed by blue (27 percent), and black (15 percent).

Many road sign features have interesting origin stories.

IMPORTANT: Riding on painted lines reduces grip when it rains.

REMINDER:  “White lining” is NOT legal in Oregon.  This is the act of lane-splitting or when a motorcycle travels along the white line between two adjacent lanes of traffic.

Photos courtesy of ODOT.

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Gridlock Traffic

With breweries (84 in Portland area), donuts and great bookstores, Portland is a dream to ride around and visit — until you get stuck in traffic.

Allstate Insurance has Portland as home to some of the worst drivers in the U.S., ranked at 181 out of 200 on their list of “Best Driving Cities.”

Not long ago, Portland also landed on a list of the top cities for drunk driving (compiled by QuoteWizard).

Now there is a study, published by Apartment Guide, that showcases Portland in the top-10 list of “The Worst Cities for Commuters.”  The city takes the No. 7 spot as one of the worst cities for commuters.  Number one is Los Angeles and number two is Seattle.  Studies for Portland indicate that in large part the congestion comes from roads and highways that haven’t been expanded to accommodate the large influx of millennial newcomers who have moved into the city/area.

For any of you who have experienced the brutal gridlock traffic and tried to ride around with traffic in Portland, it’s no surprise.

There is good news if you like higher taxes.  In November, the Oregon Transportation Commission sent the Legislature a report (PDF) outlining how ODOT and local governments have met specific requirements in order to trigger gas tax increases.  It’s called The Conditional Motor Fuels Tax Increase Accountability Report.  The report ensures a funding package and that all of the statutory conditions required to trigger the first two-cent motor fuels tax increase will become effective January 01, 2020.

Yea, more gas tax!

If you are interested in the grading of major roads in and through communities (good, fair, or poor) or so riders can see what they’re getting for their increased taxes, check out this website that was developed by ODOT.

But wait, there’s more…

Governor Kate Brown (who theoretically is responsible to set an example for state employees!), flies on a private jet to the Sunriver airport to meet with the Oregon Forest & Industries Council. When the backlash became louder and the media noted that the “green” optics looked rather poor, the governor’s office went on a charm-offensive and provided a ‘PR message’ stating that “the decision to travel by (private) plane was made to accommodate a busy schedule.”

Flying Private Jet

Don’t we all have “busy” schedules?  What does that say about the Brown administrations environmental credentials?

Any reasonable person would view a private jet as being something for the “privileged” few, but it now seems to include state employees.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m on-board the “Keep Oregon Moving” legislation, but rubbing the voters faces in the my time is more “valuable” and I have the power to fly over traffic congestion seems very tone deaf. Once this became public, Governor Brown’s office stated she would report the private flight as a gift, as required by law.

But, it’s not the only example.  Consider that on October 31st, the State of Oregon Aviation Board (the OAB is appointed by the Governor) members flew by private planes to a meeting in Sunriver for a hearing on the Aurora State Airport runway expansion while citizens who will have to live with the consequences of a decision needed to drive 3 hours each way to give 2 minutes of testimony!  I’m guessing, but if they were confronted I would anticipate their decision to travel by private plane was to accommodate their very “busy” schedule.

Does anything seem wrong about this?

The “do as I say, not as I do” optics are extremely poor given the Governors push for a cap on carbon emissions and her administrations advocacy that citizens need to pay more taxes and make more sacrifices for climate change.

I love planes!  But, private jets are the worst form of transportation if you are concerned about carbon emissions so, please stop lecturing me about climate change and demanding more sacrifices.

#hypocrites #mimicking #celebrities #privileged #elites

Photos courtesy of ODOT, TomTom and Instagram (Jet)

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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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Real ID Driver License Example

Do you remember the $300 million in federal taxpayer money wasted for Cover Oregon?

The State of Oregon shutdown its planned healthcare exchange in 2014 which never launched. Former Governor Kitzhaber had staked his reputation and his reelection bid on promoting State-based health and welfare programs.

Given all the in-fighting and blame among employees in the Oregon Health Authority, Cover Oregon was becoming a political liability so, the state quickly pivoted to a blame-Oracle narrative and instructed Attorney General Rosenblum to justify and pursue litigation.

Real ID Information

Now it’s Déjà vu all over again.

I’m talking about the Real ID Act and the State of Oregon Driver License.

The state and/or the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) looks to be unwilling to take responsibility for its own system failures in trying to comply with the federal Real ID Act.

 

Here are some facts:

• Oregonians are not required to change their standard driver license or ID card. The current card will continue to be valid until it expires, and you can use it for everything you use it for today – including air travel until October 2020.
• When your driver license or ID card expires, you have the option of renewing your standard license or ID card (prior to July 6, 2020) or getting a Real ID version on July 6, 2020.
• From the DMV stats page: There are approximately 4.1 million registered vehicles in the state of Oregon. Of those, about 3.2 million are passenger vehicles with nearly 3.1 million licensed drivers.  Those drivers are served by 60 DMV offices around the state.
• The State of Oregon is not yet compliant with the standards of the Real ID Act and CANNOT provide a Real ID option until July 6, 2020.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given Oregon multiple extensions to-date, but their last and final extension means the state has to provide a Real ID option prior to October 2020.
• The DHS will not recognize driver licenses with out Real ID for air travel after October 2020.

The State of Oregon has received constant warnings about being prepared and providing Real ID licenses, but the project, its problems, its scope, its goals, its costs, its risks, its timing, its milestones, its deliverable, and its schedule didn’t seem to be understood by many until DHS extensions stopped.  I’m not certain, but I anticipate government representatives making the rounds on TV pontificating whining how the State of Oregon teams faced so many legacy issues, including complex IT structures, manual processes, insufficient visibility into systems and dwindling resources to comply with this federal act.

Oregon DMV Locations

Let’s do the math — assuming all 3.1M Oregon licensed drivers get a Real ID license during the “90 day window” (July 6, 2020 – Sept 30, 2020) that is 34,444 drivers renewing licenses per day.  Divide 34,444 drivers by 60 (# of DMV offices across the state) that is 574 drivers per day, filing paperwork and renewing their licenses.  Of course the 90 days isn’t totally accurate as the DMV offices are not open 7-days a week and in addition, the highest number of drivers will be in a smaller number of the overloaded metro offices.

I’m not going all Chicken Little on you, but it looks like the “sky is falling on the Oregon DMV” and at best, this is a political embarrassment for Governor Brown.  At worst, it’s another example of Governor Brown’s administration  accountability or lack there of, for procedures in important areas and may set off another round of state employees lobbing rocks over the fence in a defensive, accusatory and inaccurate ways.

In fact, earlier this week it became all about offense as government officials started amplifying the spin on TV and recited:  “Avoid the long DMV lines next year and instead either get one or plan to use your current passport for air travel.”  Clearly this is an effort to change the narrative of Real ID implementation delays which I read with deep skepticism.

Who will help rescue the state from its own incompetence this time?  Why has the state kept key details on the reason for Real ID delays concealed from the public?  Why has no media outlet demanded an answer on the reasons of the delay?  How will the state triage and combat lengthy wait times?  Will the state redirect employees from the DMV headquarters and staff from other state agencies and departments— to reduce the wait times at field offices?

The State of Oregon owes the public a duty of transparency on the Real ID project!

 

Real ID Background:
On September 11, 2001, America was attacked.  While prior to September 11th, states were already implementing numerous security measures to counter issues with counterfeit driver’s licenses (DLs) and identification cards (IDs) and dated licensing procedures, after September 11th states accelerated these efforts to ensure that their driver’s licenses and identification cards were secure.

The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005.  On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005” (H.R. 1268, P.L. 109-13), which included the “Real ID Act of 2005.” Title II of Real ID—“Improved Security for Driver’s License’ and Personal Identification Cards”—it was based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”  It establishes standards that state-issued driver licenses and identification cards must meet in order to be accepted for certain federal purposes.

More information on the Real ID Act, federal funding and extensions is:  (HERE)

Photos courtesy of Oregon DMV and Google Maps

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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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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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.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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