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Posts Tagged ‘2020’

Montana Border on Highway 200

Last month I posted about plans to ride through Glacier National Park.

I started making plans a couple of months prior to the ride looking for the slowest, curving roads with mountains and throwback motel stopping points to minimize pandemic exposure.

The reopening of Montana’s tourism amenities and services started in early June, which meant they were open a couple months prior to our arrival, with the exception of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation which was closed “until further notice.”  Canada also blocked all non-essential travel into the country so any mini-tour loop into BC or Alberta was off limits this trip.

It turns out that 2020 was a record-breaking year for the fact that there were NO forest fires during the days we visited the park to disrupt the spectacular views. There has been a fire in Glacier National Park almost every year of its existence with the exception of 1964 as the only year with no fires on record. Fires are a naturally recurring part of the forest lifecycle, but seeing Glacier with pristine clear air was an exceptional gift this time.

We traveled northeast crabwise across Washington state and spent a night in Sandpoint, on the northern tip of Idaho. It’s located on the magnificent 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille, surrounded by the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains. The next morning we traveled east on Highway 200 alongside the lake, then alongside the Clark Fork River.  We made a breakfast stop at a terrific family owned bakery in Clark Fork, called The Pantry.

Once we crossed over into Montana, we took a short detour to the remote end of Sanders County and traveled over the new $13.5 millon Heron Bridge.  It replaced a 95-year-old, one-lane bridge connecting Montana Highway 200 to the community of Heron. The original bridge had the ribbon cut on Nov. 23, 1952, but was originally fabricated in California and was already 32 years old when first installed across the river.  It had been deemed insufficient for growing traffic across the Pend Oreille River near Metaline Falls, Washington when it was moved and re-constructed at Heron.

“Sun Road” Glacier NP

After the bridge tour we rode north on Highway 56, Bull Lake Road, which is about 36 miles long and dead ends at Highway 2 just west of Libby. The landscape in the area is very diverse from low elevation timber and lakes to the outstanding peaks in the Cabinet Mountains and Scotchman Peak area.  We rode along the Kootenay River on Highway 2 to Kalispell then north on Highway 93.  We overnighted in Whitefish, MT a gateway to Glacier and a nice resort town. With a mixed array of shops, coffee houses and restaurants it reminded me of Jackson, WY charm.  There are plenty of places to enjoy a Going-to-the-Sun IPA with a great view of the mountains.

Glacier National Park, MT

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation closure created an impediment to traveling the Going-to-the-Sun road through the park and then looping back on Highway 2.

The road/gate entrance to the park was closed at St Mary. An optional route from Glacier north across the Canadian border to visit the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was a barrier as well since the Canadian border was closed.

At any rate, we began at West Glacier for a slow out-and-back ride on the 50-mile-long road.  There were incredible views of glacial-carved valleys, jagged peaks and pristine wilderness. A benefit of the pandemic was those famous red busses which departed from Lake McDonald Lodge were shut down and not running on the roads this year.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road was the National Park Service’s first to cross the trans-continental divide. It’s a landscape impossible to adequately describe in words or capture in photos when riding into that ‘big sky’ that Montana is famous for.

The west tunnel–a 197-foot long tunnel features two arched openings that let you look out to Heaven’s Peak and the Upper McDonald Creek valley while behind the handlebars. The Alpine section–is a six percent climb between the Loop and 6,646-foot high Logan Pass. There’s a section of the road called The Weeping Wall. A waterfall cascades 100 feet down, over the rocks and onto part of the road and down the other side of a 4500 foot cliff drop-off.

The Posse

The views! The curves! It’s like a real life painting.

For all its scenic wonders, the “Sun Road” is not without a few negatives: overall, the roads were in good shape and well-maintained, but there were a couple of rehabilitation projects and construction delays can be a major buzz-kill with all the crowds. The speed limit is slow-to-stop with much of the ride quality depending on the crowds and RVs.

The end of our round trip ride took us back into touristy West Glacier, town. Afterward we headed back to a Whitefish pub (via a motel shuttle) to try out a flight of their whiskeys and celebrate the completion of a beautiful ride.

Glacier is a place to be savored and a place to come back to again and again. It was great to get a break from the relentless protest, COVID-19 media drum beat and to reconnect with the land by motorcycle.

Photos taken by the author. 

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Sturgis City Council Release

The Sturgis City Council voted 8-1 last night to host the rally and announced today that the 80th Annual City of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will move forward.

However, there will be significant changes designed to reduce the large crowd gatherings in the downtown core with the intent to “safeguard the community and residents.”

That there is a true definition of dichotomy.

The City Council decision, given most all other large outdoor events and indoor concerts around the U.S. have been canceled or rescheduled, is an interesting one. The annual rally will generate millions in revenues for the host city, but no mention of that trivia in the press release.

Buffalo Chip Email Blast

According to Sturgis Rally stats, in 2019 there were 490,000 rally visitors — at least 70 times the estimated 2019 population of Sturgis (6,500), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  In other words, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees in 2019 were the equivalent to half of the state of South Dakota’s estimated 2019 population of 884,659.

Read the full City Council release HERE.

A few items known as of today that will be implemented at the event:

  • Attendees will be asked to practice social distancing and follow CDC guidelines.
  • Enhanced safety/sanitization protocols will be carried out in the downtown area.
  • City sponsored events including opening ceremonies, parades, B1 Flyover, and live music at Harley-Davidson Rally Point are cancelled.
  • Photo towers will NOT be installed.
  • Temporary vendors will be required to abide by state and federal protocols and guidelines related to COVID-19.

I’m not trying to “COVID Shame” anyone thinking about or planning to attend the motorcycle rally.  But, remember a long, long time ago when the freedom of riding across the U.S. and attending a rally didn’t bring this type of risk?

Images courtesy of City Council and Buffalo Chip.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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According to an article by @bob_tita in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ – Paywall), Harley-Davidson plans to reopen its factories this week at lower production rates and stated it will be sending dealers an attenuated range of new motorcycles — meaning, time for a COVID-19 course correction.

You may recall that Harley’s U.S. assembly plants and most of its dealers closed in March as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Currently, as many of the company’s 698 U.S. dealers make plans to reopen, Harley’s director of product sales, Beth Truett, stated in a memo, which was viewed by the WSJ, that about 70% of them likely wouldn’t receive any additional new motorcycles in 2020.

The motor company is pivoting from the “More Roads” plan to now focus efforts and energy to appeal to customers of premium-priced brands with limited availability.

Speaking of availability… By definition, excellence is scarce.  Harley-Davidson has leveraged “scarcity” previously. Underproduce motorcycles and limit distribution, which creates long waiting lists that in turn create an exclusivity mystique. Will it work again?

And speaking of premium positioning…

Harley-Davidson Eau de Toilette – Example of brand dilution!

Price alone won’t make a brand premium and few companies can thrive on limited market coverage and low volumes by commanding premium prices in a particular niche.  One thing is sure: motorcycle customers are price-sensitive, even if they are ready to pay a premium price for a … Harley lifestyle.

This means Harley-Davidson has to be able to truly earn the added value.

Data supports what we already know to be true about premium brands: people with lots of money buy nice things. Whether you’re talking apparel (i.e. Phat Farm, Polo, Timberland and Tommy Hilfiger), Tequila, hand bags (i.e. Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada), restaurants or footwear, it’s easy to recognize the pattern that the nicest, most expensive brands are favored by consumers with the highest household income. What is less obvious, are the fewer instances when wealthy people opt for the less-expensive, or when average-income people make deep trade-offs to purchase really pricey things.  There are a whole lot more average-income people than there are excessively wealthy ones.

Strong brands have a strong identity. Mediocrity doesn’t captivate or win the motorcycle sales race. There is a rule of thumb that says that a company ought to be able to explain its brand identity in seven words, give or take a couple.

The clock is ticking Harley-Davidson!

So, what is it about “premium-ness” brands that are able to inspire consumers to say “no” to some things so they can say “yes” to a brand that’s often or slightly out of financial reach? That’s the Harley-Davidson opportunity.  Finding the nooks and crannies to up-sell consumers on “premium-ness” choices—especially a candy coated brand in the top tier of the motorcycle pack.

The Harley downside risk is the “Porsche Effect“… becoming known as an SUV manufacturer that also produces a few sports car models rather than the premier sports car brand that also makes SUVs.

I’d like to better understand how Harley-Davidson can retain a premium brand identity if combustion engines, once the top tier of American motorcycle engineering, are being replaced by e-motors (LiveWire) that can be built by almost anyone, and if motorcycles feel and act like smartphones that you no longer even have to own?  It’s likely that the V-Twin motors of the future will no longer be a distinguishing brand characteristic.

New competitors are knocking on the Milwaukee door and customers are better informed, have tougher requirements and are able to interactively rate and influence companies and their products.

In the end, what Harley-Davidson claims about it’s premium brand doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not consumers believe it enough to pay more for it.

Photos courtesy of Twitter Bob Tita/WSJ and Harley-Davidson.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s a reference to a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name (video). Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time. Interestingly, the song addresses no specific issue and prescribes no concrete action, but simply observes a world in upheaval.

“Changes” is a relevant topic as the Oregon Legislature passed hundreds of bills last year during the short summer session.

I won’t bore you with the “Sustainable Shopping Initiative” and the HB 2509 upheaval, but what follows are some changes in 2020 that motorcycle enthusiasts might be interested in knowing more about:

HB 2017 — Vehicle registration fees are a-changin!  In 2020, some vehicle fees in Oregon will be based on miles per gallon (MPG) as part of “Keep Oregon Moving,” a major transportation funding program. If you have an electric vehicle or a car that gets more than 40 miles per gallon, you’ll have two options. You can pay the full fee up front to register or renew your tags, or you can pay a lower fee and a monthly per-mile charge for miles driven in Oregon if you join OReGO. The net-net is, drivers with more fuel-efficient vehicles end up paying more in registration fees. I’ve reached out to DMV for a statement on specific changes related to electric motorcycles and will update this post with any information. SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM. Oregon is one of a handful of states aggressively pursuing new registration fees (read more tax $$) for electric vehicles, in a preemptive move to capitalize on the shift to electric that is leading to lower gas taxes.

HB 57 — Were you recently pulled over and did the law enforcement officer fail to notice your change of address sticker on the back of your drivers license… which led to an even long(er) traffic stop? Good news!  HB 57 ends change-of-address stickers because Oregon DMV will no longer require stickers on drivers’ licenses, permits or ID cards when people change their addresses. It was estimated that ending the sticker program will save $550,000 a year in printing and postage costs. Those savings will go into the State Highway Fund to “support local and state roads.” Oregon law still requires driver license, permit and ID card holders to update the DMV with a change of address within 30 days of moving.

HB 2015 — Oregon becomes one-of-thirteen other states providing driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. Proponents of extending driver’s licenses to immigrants argue that licensing undocumented residents will lead to fewer hit-and-runs, more trust between immigrants and police, and increased revenue for DMV. Opponents assert that granting licenses to undocumented residents reduces the incentive to follow immigration laws and would lead to increased voter fraud, ID fraud, bank fraud and easier for terrorists/criminals to obtain fraudulent documents.

Whether or not you get twisted up around an ideological axle on this topic is your choice, but Oregon’s HB 2015 — the Equal Access to Roads Act — signed in July 2019, now allows undocumented immigrants to obtain their driver’s licenses, though they still aren’t eligible to vote. While undocumented immigrants don’t have to prove citizenship, they will still be required to pass a driving test, pay a fee, and prove they’re current Oregon residents. House Bill 2015 removes the requirement for individuals to provide proof of legal presence when applying for a driver license or ID card. However, after January 1, 2021, individuals applying for a standard driver license or ID card must still provide proof of full legal name and identity, date of birth, Oregon residency, and a Social Security number. If an individual has not been assigned a Social Security number, they must sign and submit a written statement with their application. The law was passed in 2019 and is only applicable for a standard Oregon driver license or ID card. Important to note is that standard driver license or ID card is not Real ID compliant. All other requirements such as proof of name, identity, date of birth and Oregon residency stay the same.

You might be asking why was this law signed in 2019 if it doesn’t go into full effect until 2021? According to the DMV talking points — they are implementing a number of changes in 2020, including a new computer system and the introduction of Real ID compliant cards in July 2020. Waiting until January 2021 allows DMV to update the technology to accommodate the undocumented immigrants law change. Oregon and 13 other states and Washington, D.C. currently issue driver licenses to individuals who do not provide proof of lawful status.

SB 998 — Oregon passes a version of the “Idaho Stop” law.  SB 998 now allows bicyclists to yield at stop signs rather than come to a full and complete stop before proceeding through an intersection. If you ride a motorcycle in the city of Portland, you’ve likely observed that bicyclists rarely come to a complete stop at stop signs. In 2020, bicyclists now have the option of yielding—rather than coming to a complete stop—at both stop signs and flashing red lights. Red lights still require a full and complete stop, and bicyclists must still yield to pedestrians and right-of-way traffic, and maintain a safe speed.

SB 792 — Do you like spending time at the salvage yard looking for motorcycle projects? Maybe you plan to start “Bill’s Cycle Heap” business this summer? A vehicle dismantler is anyone who takes apart motor vehicles. This often includes recovering, rebuilding, reselling or recycling parts from worn out or damaged vehicles. SB 792 modifies laws related to vehicle dismantler certificates and the plates and registration transfer from totaled vehicles. Notices submitted to the DMV stating that a vehicle has been totaled will allow the transferring of plates and registration from that vehicle to another. The transfer can’t take place if a salvage title was previously issued.

HB 2017 — The thrill of paying more $$ for fuel!  HB 2017 means Oregon’s current gas tax will jump up by 2 cents, the second of four increases approved in 2017. The Oregon Department of Transportation will use some of the additional funds (estimated at $60 million) to improve state roadways, and the remainder will go to Oregon cities and counties.

HB 3452 — U.S. Highway 26 across Oregon is officially designated a POW/MIA Memorial Highway now.  HB 3452 was sponsored by Central Oregon lawmakers.

A list of bills passed by the Oregon House in the 2019 session is: HERE

UPDATE: January 9, 2020 — Per Customer Assistance (Chelsi) at Oregon Department of Transportation (DMV) —  “All motorcycle fees (electric or otherwise) are the same. They are not based on the same MPG scale as passenger vehicles. Thank you for using our online services.”

Photos courtesy the State of Oregon and Creative Commons.

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New Year’s Eve is one of the largest global celebrations, marking the last day of the year and for this year marking the end of the decade.

Are you one of those? You know… the type who likes to argue that 2019 isn’t *really* the end of the decade. Because there is no year 0 in the Anno Domini system which our calendars are based on and the first year ever was year one (1) therefore, the first year of any and all subsequent decades is the one ending in one (1).

Merriam-Webster offers up that it’s defined by popular culture and common usage so, decades end after the 9 year and I’m holding steady with that definition to close out the decade!

Lets move off the Anno Domini system.

A new year is a naturally introspective time, it’s a renewal—starting with a clean slate so’s to speak. Most will consider the year’s past challenges, celebrate the year’s past accomplishments and look forward to the future. It often provides a time to set new goals. Maybe a new motorcycle adventure, new gear, a new project bike, set a new mileage goal, turn the motel miles in and really tent camp at the 80th Sturgis Rally or maybe you dream of a cross-country adventure on Harley’s new Pan America(ADV) motorcycle and resolve to ride the Trans-America Trail across the U.S. from coast to coast—off road!

I don’t typically make a New Year’s resolution, but I think if pushed for something in 2020, I am going do more of what I enjoy—ride more, learn something new with a wrench, and improve my riding. Then again, I resolve to ride more often than annually anyway.

Some of you are already aware of this, but for those who aren’t, Team Oregon has an outstanding rider training program for all skill sets. Check them out.

Happy New Year to you and yours! Lets ride into a happier year and watch out for yourselves and watch out for your brothers and sisters in the wind.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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