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Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

MC (right) at Laughlin River Run 2014 with Shark Week III Crew

MC (center) at Laughlin River Run 2014 with members from the Shark Week III Crew

According to this recently published survey, Utah has the second best drivers in the country.  Using statistics primarily from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the compiled results scored every state on the quality of their drivers.

It is apparent to me that whoever conducted that study has never driven in St. George, Utah and they never talked to MC.

Who is MC?

Just a motorcycle enthusiast, from Oregon, who on July 31, 2013 was part of a multi-state group riding through the area attending the Shark Week III motorcycle rally. He had split from the group early that morning and was heading home to attend a friends wedding ceremony.  It was around 7:30 a.m., as he traveled northbound on Bluff Street through the Red Cliffs Parkway intersection.  While doing so, there was a left turn yellow light and he was initially cut off by a southbound car making a left turn toward Red Hills Parkway. The  first car missed MC before he was hit in the side by a second car also making a left turn on a yellow/red light.  (Note: This intersection is now under construction and will have a flyover to help prevent accidents!)

Bluff Street will now pass over Red Hills Parkway

Bluff Street will now pass over Red Hills Parkway

Although MC was wearing full protective gear, he had head trauma and the impact left MC with significant injuries to his left leg.  It’s St. George county protocol for trauma patients to be flown directly to University Medical Center in Las Vegas as a matter of course, but MC’s blood loss was so severe due to multiple open fractures, the onsite EMT decision was made to fly him to Dixie Regional Medical Center.  You can read the local newspaper report HERE.  Previous blog posts related to this incident is HERE.

The Sheriff who was on the accident scene (MC was lucid enough to give his cell phone to the officer and had him call) called us and we arrived at the accident within 15 minutes and prior to the life flight landing on scene.  Perhaps an ambulance ride directly to Dixie Regional Medical Center should have occurred, but I won’t second guess or revisit the sequence of events.  In fact, Dixie Regional Medical Center created a recovery video testimonial HERE.

There is an old biker adage that many of you have heard before.  “There are those who have been down and those who are going down.”  It’s often described almost as a self-fulfilling prophecy—a mental process whereby an individual subconsciously creates the belief in the inevitability of that event.  The point is, I don’t buy into it and don’t think of accidents as a right of passage to be a motorcycle enthusiast.  I’ve certainly dumped a dirt bike more times than I care to admit, but I never viewed it as inevitable or part of the hobby—I just made some poor choices.

MC

MC at Bryce Canyon, Utah – 2013

Like many things in life there are inherent dangers with motorcycling.  Risk is part of the package.  An accident can have all sorts of negative repercussions.  And any accident that involves someone you know or is a good riding buddy only amplifies the situation.   From a psychological perspective it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the entire riding group to weigh the risks and rewards of riding and question why do it.  But, I’ve digressed.

The EMT’s put MC on life flight and we helped clear the wreckage from the Red Cliffs Parkway intersection.  The underinsured driver was cited for failure to yield to oncoming traffic and attempting to beat a red light while not paying attention to the rest of the traffic in an intersection.  The male driver was in his girlfriend’s well-used Honda.  Clearly the vehicle driver penalties in the state of Utah are not proportional to the suffering inflicted onto MC.

MC was in St. George’s Dixie Regional Medical Center for exactly 12 weeks and underwent 12 surgeries before being transported home to Oregon.  In Oregon there were more doctors, more surgeries, more physical therapy and mountains of medical forms.

Five months after the crash, MC reached the point where a fixator was removed from his foot.  And a few months later, May 2014, he underwent his 15th surgery—”de-bulking”—to remove the surplus transplanted muscle tissue from around his ankle.  There’s been a lot written on his path to recovery HERE (warning – graphic images).  The scope of this life-changing accident has been very challenging, but through it all MC remained mostly positive with the help of friends and family. There was also significant outreach from the motorcycle riding community especially the Shark Week III crew who deserves a big shout-out!

Today, a year later,  MC is mobile and self-sufficient.  For the most part, life is returning to a more normal pattern.  Those of us who know him, know that the year has been one of the hardest in MC’s life.  The medical decisions, the money worries and trying to smile every day and be grateful didn’t come easy.  It’s unclear if MC’s best motorcycle riding days are yet to come or if the risk-reward ratio tipped somewhere along the line.  Only he can answer that question.  In reality, it is possible for a motorcyclist to never go down. Ask around. You’ll be surprised how many motorcyclists have never actually been in an accident. Oh sure, they’ve had scary moments, war stories even. But, most have never been down in any kind of a serious way.

The dog days of summer are upon us, and I believe all MC really needs to think about is how much body hair does a guy have to remove from your face before golfing.

This blog post is to mark the 1-year anniversary and to provide a quick shout-out to all the folks who for the last 12 months provided prayers and positive vibes.  You’ve been awesome and we’re all grateful that MC is doing so well!

Photo’s taken by author and courtesy of MC.  Road map courtesy of UDOT.

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Shark Week III - Utah

Shark Week III – Utah

This blog post is a continuation from HERE.

The next day we decided to avoid the large group ride, instead to venture on our own ride.   We planned to do an approximately 300 mile loop to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

Though one of the smallest of southern Utah’s national parks, it’s visually stunning, particularly at sunrise and sunset when an orange wash sets the rock formations ablaze.   There are steep trails that descend from the rim into the 1000ft amphitheaters of pastel color daggers, then continue through a maze of juniper trees in the high-mountain desert.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The high altitude meant cooler temperatures (80°F)  than in St. George.  And if we were looking for solitude on the road we wouldn’t find it out here.  The crowds and RV’s had arrived in force clogging the park’s main road as we watched ill prepared visitors explore the trails.

The Native Americans once called this colorful landscape of jumbled rocks and sedimentary canyons the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow and it was easy to see why when you snapped a photo.

'Glidin' Bryce Canyon

‘Glidin’ Bryce Canyon with Sandcastle-like Spires

We made a number of stops in the park and walked around for photo op’s and then made our way back to the entrance.

Prior to leaving the park we had a late lunch in the Cowboy’s Buffet and Steak Room.  Yeah, they had National Park prices, but it was quite tasty food.

Afterward we headed back through the park to St. George and the oppressive heat.

Bryce Canyon Panorama

At Bryce Point Overlooking Bryce Canyon – Panorama

The St. George’s forecast was Howard Beale-esque.  “We’re hot as hell, and we didn’t want to take it anymore!”  Apologies to actor Peter Finch’s rant as the “mad as hell” broadcaster from the 1976 film “Network,” but Utah was in a sizzling grip of triple-digit temperatures and we were getting sick of it!

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos

It was the first time I could recall where I’ve been on a motorcycle ride and unable to sit outside during the evening.  At 11pm at night it was in the high 90’s.  We didn’t need to watch the news to understand there was a heat advisory.

We sat in the A/C room looking over maps and determining what direction or ride to take on the next day.

Tunnel Riding Toward Bryce Canyon

Tunnel Riding Toward Bryce Canyon

We had a member of the posse that attempted an “Iron Butt” ride.  He departed a couple days later than the main group on Tuesday, July 30th and was scheduled to arrive that evening from Portland, OR to St. George UT (approx. 1034 miles) in less than 24 hours ride.  He arrived around 9:30pm with all the documents and gas receipts in hand as well as a navigation unit with the stats to validate his ride.  Congrats and BIG props for that accomplishment!

"Big Ben" Completes Iron Butt - 1034 Miles!

“Ben” Does An Iron Butt – 1036 Miles Under 24 Hrs!

One of our riders (MC) had to split from the group and return home early for a friend’s wedding.   He planned to leave early the next morning and the remainder of our group had decided to ride out early to Las Vegas, stay overnight and then loop back north on Highway 95 and take a couple extra days for our return ride.

It’s very difficult to write/post the following…

More Bryce Canyon

The Land Of Sleeping Rainbows

We awoke early Wednesday (July 31st) morning to get a jump on the heat of the day.  We were just getting out of the showers and packing up the gear about 7:30am when the cell phone rang…

It was the sheriff and he stated that “MC” was hit by a car in the Bluff Street-Red Hills Parkway intersection.  This was about 3 miles from the hotel.  The person who got the call rushed up to the intersection.  The rest of us got there about 10-15 minutes later.  We arrived to see the paramedics working on him and prepping him for Life Flight.  Once the helicopter took off we helped clear debris and gather up some personal belongings.

Life Flight Takes MC

Life Flight Takes “MC” To Dixie Regional Medical Center

We talked to St. George Police Sgt. Craig Harding about the accident.  He stated that “MC” was traveling northbound on Bluff Street through the Red Cliffs Parkway intersection.  This is the last red light leaving town!  There is some disagreement by multiple eye witnesses whether “MC” was on a solid green or just changed to yellow light. While traveling through the intersection, “MC” was initially cut off by a southbound car making a left turn toward Red Hills Parkway.  Some witnesses reported that “MC” yelled at the first car before being hit in the side by a second car who had clearly run the light and was also making a left turn.   None of it mattered as the driver of the second car was cited for failure to yield to oncoming traffic.

The impact left “MC” with significant injuries to his left leg (multiple compound fractures).  He was in surgery for nearly 4 hours.  He has a broken collar bone, severely smashed ankle/foot, head trauma (3” gash around the left eye) and other miscellaneous cuts, scrapes and bruises to his arms and hands.  He was coherent at the accident scene and the reason why we got the phone call so fast.

"MC" Enjoying The NV Desert And Ride On Hwy 93

“MC” Enjoying The NV Desert And Ride On Hwy 93

It’s one thing to read and blog about motorcycle accidents, but quite different being there in person and knowing the rider.  The 4 mile ride to the hospital was very difficult.

In the trauma center doctors told us they were extremely concerned with the potential loss of his foot.  In fact, they prepped “MC” while in his pain medicated state about how he could lose the foot.  We all thanked God that he was alive and not paralyzed.  Dr. Clark told us following the accident in the trauma center…“The boot might have saved the foot… but, the helmet saved his life!”

We stayed at the trauma center for a couple of days until significant others arrived in St. George.   We then started our return ride home be it with some riding anxiety and shaken confidence.

The EMT’s, Life Flight personnel, the trauma doctors, and nursing staff all deserve a HUGE debt of gratitude.  Also a shout-out to Dr. Clark!  Yeah I know that a shout-out from this blogger is not nearly enough, but it’s a small start and I’m sure when “MC” is feeling better he’ll show them this post.  I also want to send a big shout-out to Mike aka “Shark Daddy.”  He rushed to the scene prior to the Life Flight arrival and helped in an immeasurable way by talking and holding onto “MC” as he was being worked on by the EMTs.

Lastly, I want to extend a special thank you and evangelize my appreciation and gratitude to the Shark Week organizers and attendees.  During the closing awards dinner the group passed a hat around and collected over a $1000 cash and presented it to “MC” in the hospital to help out with medical expenses.

Ron “Stray Mutt,” you and the group are absolutely awesome and I can’t begin to remember or list all the names of our new “best friends!”  Just know that we’re telling everyone about the groups generosity and kindness.

Final comment is to “MC”… get well buddy so that we can all ride another day!

Part 1 of this blog post is HERE.

UPDATE: August 13, 2013 – It’s been almost 2-weeks since MC’s accident.  All the prayers and outreach have helped because the news and trend on his recovery and foot/leg is positive each day.  Thank you!  He was recently transferred to an Acute Rehabilitation Unit where he is undergoing intensive physical therapy.  MC is in good spirits along with getting terrific support from his sig other (Sherry).  Both have an attitude to push forward and through the healing/rehab process and I’m sure we’ll continue to hear good news.  Yesterday he spent a couple hours in a hyperbaric chamber with enriched oxygen to increase blood flow and to help heal his foot. 

Unfortunately he is facing mounting medical expenses.  The driver of the automobile (using his girlfriend’s car) had minimal insurance coverage and MC is unemployed and under insured.  We’re looking into fund raisers to help, and appreciate everyone’s continued positive thoughts and prayers as we work on a plan to get him transported back to Oregon.

UPDATE: August 21, 2013 – MC was scheduled to be release from Acute Rehab today, but unfortunately he suffered a major heart attack while lying in bed this morning.  MC was rushed to the Dixie Regional Medical Center ER for emergency surgery.  He will be back in the ICU within a couple hours. Reports are that the angioplasty and stent placement surgery is going well.  Sadly, this is exactly where MC started out twenty-one days ago almost to the exact hour. The trauma doctors at Dixie are awesome and he’s in a good place if this was going to happen.

UPDATE: September 18, 2013Many are already aware of this, but in case you just landed on this blog post and didn’t know, you can now get updates or follow MC’s recovery progress HERE on Facebook or on his blog HERE.

Photos by author.

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Fire near Goldendale, WA casts smoke on I-84

Fire near Goldendale, WA casts smoke on I-84

“The boot might have saved the foot… but, the helmet saved his life!”  said Dr. Clark, Dixie Region Medical Trauma Center.

But, let me go back to the beginning.

You haven’t heard from me for several days because I was on a ride to southern Utah for the annual Shark Week gathering.

Shark huh?

backward-picI’m not talking about the Discovery Channel event this week, but a semi-secret society of Shark Nose owners (a.k.a. Road Glide or ‘Glides’) that meet up on an annual basis and talk about the joy of wrenching and riding a ‘Glide’.  More importantly was the opportunity to ride through Zion National Park and see Bryce Canyon up close.  You know, those sorbet-colored, sandcastle-like spires and hoodoos that look like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

Mineral Hot Springs

Mineral Hot Springs

So we loaded up the iron steeds and rolled out of Portland early in route to St. George, Utah.  It seems that ‘Gliders’ like to awaken and ride off early.  Not me so much, but I conformed with the posse knowing that the previous 5-days had record heat and getting a lot of miles under our belt prior to the real oppressive heat would be a good thing.

We planned to take three days to cover the approximately 1100 miles to St. George.

On the first morning it was some good and quite riding with the gorge wind on our backs.  The first bit of change was due to a fire near Goldendale, WA., which blanketed I-84 and much of eastern Oregon with a thick blanket of smoke, but we rode on.  We did a quick ‘drive-by’ at the Oregon H.O.G. event in Pendleton, but it was largely winding down on Saturday (July 27th) so we continued heading east.

Downtown Boise, ID

Downtown Boise, ID

The first overnight stop was in Boise which seems to have a perpetual Basque street party anytime we arrive.  I didn’t see any Basque athletes, but supposedly they are famous for their feats of strength.  Something about dragging around a 1500 pound rock attached to a belt.  We did see some husky dudes that likely played on the college football team.  We ate dinner at the Reef Restaurant and enjoyed some refreshments in the Tiki Bar.

Snake River Panorama

Snake River Panorama

We rolled out early the next morning and were making good time on the interstate.  We crossed the Snake River at Twin Falls and headed south on Highway 93.  We decided to overnight in the small copper mining town of Ely, NV.  It’s located at the cross-road of highways U.S. 50 (“Loneliest Road In America”) and U.S. 93.  There is a newer La Quinta Inn that was quite nice and we ate dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican restaurant.  There was a group of riders coming in from Cali that all rode Screamin’ Eagle touring models.  It looked like a dealer convention and we chatted with them for a while and share some stories.

It's a long road...

Highway 93 Stretches Across the NV Desert

The next morning (Monday – July 29) we continued on U.S. 93 where the road stretches across the Nevada desert with very few services.  We had a light wind at our backs and I recall Molly Hatchet’s, “Flirtin’ With Disaster” sounding especially good.

I know, a third-rate boogie band.  But, it was different in the seventies.  It was overplayed to death back then, and the boomers know it by heart and get a nostalgic thrill every time we hear it today.  You see country records rarely had any presence north of the Mason-Dixon line, and southern rock bands dominated the airwaves, to the point where we got imitation acts, like Molly Hatchet, third generation stuff that was easily dismissible, except for the hits.  And that’s what the rednecks and the northerners had in common. This sound. It brought us together. Because it could not be denied. And it was always played by southerners. First, the Allman Brothers. Then Lynyrd Skynyrd. Then the Outlaws and Molly Hatchet.

But I’ve digressed.

Showers roll across the desert

Showers Roll Across The Desert

In the town of Panaca we took Highway 319/56.  The road continued to be flat and most straight with a few zig-zag’s across the irrigated farm land.  At the Beryl Junction, we made a brief stop at a John Deere farm implement business/gas station and then we rode south on Highway 18.  It was too long and the heat became oppressive as rode down into the valley.  Most of day we were at higher altitudes and it was comfortable, but about an hour outside St. George, Utah it felt like a furnace.

Arrived at Shark Week III

Arrived at Shark Week III

Off to our right I noticed that the afternoon sun was casting shadows on Snow Canyon State Park.  It’s a canyon about 15 minutes from St. George carved from red and white Navajo sandstone in the Red Mountains.  Finally we had arrived in St. George.   We checked into the Shark Week III event at the Lexington Hotel and after a day of desert heat we were badly in need of food, showers, air condition and some rest.  Mostly showers!

After showers and some dinner we thought about sitting outside with some chairs in the parking area, but it was too hot.  We did wander the parking area and chatted up the planned events with the other ‘Gliders’.  It’s a great  group of folks and was nice to meet some fellow ‘Gliders.’

The blog post continues HERE which provides more details on the Dr. Clark comment.

Photos taken by author.

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4-Corners Route Map

4-Corners Route Map

It doesn’t get much better than a tour of America’s most famous roads aboard its most famous motorcycle.

To be clear,  this wasn’t the SCMA sanctioned ride to the four-corner cities in the U.S. (San Ysidro, CA; Blaine, WA; Madawaska, ME; and Key West, FL) in 21 days or less.  I’m talking about the 4-corners of Arizona/ Colorado/New Mexico/Utah which is a leisure trip in comparison.

Cruising Toward Boise

Cruising Toward Boise

I’m very late in posting a summary, but about 10-months ago, three of us set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-mile journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

My view is that any motorcycle is better than a car, and not for the biker type reasons, it’s because you engage with the environment and the people in a far more intimate way. When it rains, you get wet, when the temperature drops, you get cold, and if those sound like reasons to take a car, then you just don’t understand – feeling the air and the weather rather than viewing it through a windshield or soaking in the experience of the environment instead of merely looking at it truly is the only way to go.

Boise Street Celebration

Boise Street Celebration

On this road trip, Moab, the Million Dollar Highway and Beartooth Pass were my most memorable highlights.   The road trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to multiple days of 100+ searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through hail and torrential rain storms with “mud-flows” on Colorado’s Highway 110 where fishing gear seem appropriate!  Nothing we couldn’t handle and it all made for the adventure of touring by motorcycle.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

The romance and history of the great American road trip is a powerful draw.  I’ve wanted to ride through Monument Valley since seeing an image in an American motorcycle magazine smuggled into an electronics amplifiers lecture in college: an abandoned gas stop, tumbleweed, a rusting Phillips fuel sign you could almost hear squeaking in the hot, dry breeze and, down the road, a post-war Ford tilted into a ditch, its sun-bleached side peppered with bullet holes.  Yeah, we all know the imagery; 20th century Americana, the open road, the songs, and the countless films – so, let’s jump into the actual ride:

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Portland to Boise –  I’ve blogged ad nauseam about riding from Portland to Boise on various trips to Sturgis and won’t bore you by repeating the details.  We departed early and it was about getting some miles under our tires with I-84 being the fastest route east.  We overnighted in Boise where the perpetual street scene celebration seems to always be running.  We grabbed some dinner at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant.

Cruising the CO. River

Cruising the Colorado River on Highway 128

Boise to Spanish Fork, UT –  We departed Boise fairly early and continued to roll on the freeway through semi-arid rolling hills.  We were not fully into the “tourist” mode until we stopped in Spanish Fork, UT outside Salt Lake City.  We did a quick stop at Timpango’s Harley-Davidson.  The 6-acre complex and building was the brainchild of Dave Tuomisto and was a great story.  It was a mega-dealer – almost a mini-museum – and part of Harley-Davidson’s growth strategy, but during the “Great Recession” fell on bad times and Joe Timmons purchased the dealer for pennies on the dollar.  It’s a unique complex and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.

Wide Open Skies

Highway 128 Heading Toward Moab

The most memorable item I recall from this part of the trip – I’m writing this post nearly a year later – was the incredible amount of road construction on I-15 in and around Salt Lake City.  It’s as if there was a mass-transit revolt by residents and the state decided to build enough lanes to accommodate traffic into the late 21st century.  There was no time for day dreaming as car’s cut us off and darted across multiple lanes.

At Arches National Park

At Arches National Park

Spanish Fork to Moab –  On this day the ride was all about mountains.  US-6 leads to Moab and Arches National Park and from the first mile we were climbing.  The grade was mild so the elevation stretched out for miles until we finally reached the summit at 7500 feet.  All the while peaks with short scrubby trees surrounded us.  US-6 between Spanish Fork and Price has the honor of being one of America’s most dangerous roads owning it to a mix of heavy trucks, RVs and cars traveling at freeway speeds through narrow canyons.  There were 519 fatal and serious accidents from 1996-2008.

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

The descent from the summit was much quicker though it didn’t seem all that steep and we ended up on I-70 at a Papa Joes Gas-n-Go station where we fill up the fuel tanks.  We headed east on I-70.   Most people will take Highway-191 at the Crescent Junction interchange into Moab.  There are over 8500 cars that travel this road daily.  We decided to take a less-traveled route that adds only a few miles and you come into Moab from the back side on Highway 128.

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

This spectacular 44-mile scenic byway meanders along the Colorado River and the lack of vehicles was a bonus. About halfway you pass a viewpoint of the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers which is set against the peaks of the La Sal Mountains.  It was an impressive scenic ride with the red sandstone walls rising up around us as we watched the colors of the sunset.  It was a day of searing heat and we headed to the Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn pool to cool down.  We had dinner at the Moab Brewery and reviewed the “tourist” plans for the next day.

4-Corners National Monument

4-Corners National Monument

Moab to Cortez, CO (with stop at 4-Corners Monument) – We awoke early to get a jump on the desert heat and rolled out of town in the cool morning toward the River Canyon.  The plan was to ride the loop in Arches National Park and do some tourist sightseeing early then rumble toward 4-corners.  There have been good books written about Arches and this simple post will not do it justice.

4-Corners National Monument Plaque

4-Corners National Monument Commemorative Plaque

We rode most of the 36-mile round trip scenic drive.  We rolled through the petrified sand dunes between “Courthouse Towers” and “The Windows.”  We stopped and walked around a bit at “Balanced Rock” and again at Elephant Butte near the “Parade of Elephants.”   Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or were we dressed appropriately to walk the 1.5mile hike into “Delicate Arch.”  We took a lot of photos and then exited the park.

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

We headed south on Highway 191 where the only sound was of the V-Twin rumbling off the canyon walls.  Horses nuzzled the rough cottonwoods by the riverbank and the red sandstone walls rose up around us again as we headed toward Monticello and Blanding.  I don’t exactly remember which route we took to Montezuma Creek – all roads looked similar – but we ended up in Teec Nos Pos, AZ and then connected to Highway 160 for the 4-corners monument.  We paid the fee to get into the park and walked around, did some shopping at the Indian vendor stands which wrap around the monument area.  It was cool to stand on the 4-corner disc and straddle the four states.

cortez-motelIt was getting late in the day and we really needed to find a town large enough to host a motel so we departed.  We headed north on Highway 160 and overnighted in Cortez, CO., at the Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suite.  It was another scorching day of heat so a quick dip in the pool was in order and then we headed to dinner to discuss the next day riding plans.

This is a multi-part post.  Part-2 continues HERE.

Photos taken by author.  Map courtesy of Apple.

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Red Rocks

Red Rock Canyon In Route To Laughlin

Year-end stories are always interesting to me.

Publications around the world rate stories, detail online traffic numbers, select the best leaders and generally give readers a special year in review.

On the national stage here are a few of my more notables:

We had what I’d call the best supporting furniture award…that went to the empty chair that actor Clint Eastwood spoke to throughout his speech at the Republican National Convention.  We narrowly re-elected a president.  John Edwards and Roger Clemens, both escaped conviction.  There was the epic fall of Lance Armstrong.  There was the Korean pop singer, Psy and that Gangnam Style video which skyrocketed a catchy tune into YouTube superstardom.  We bought more than 48 million iPads, weathered a couple of hurricanes, and cheered for the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner who, broke the sound barrier from 24 miles up.

Baker City at HCMR

Baker City at HCMR

When I look back on the motorcycle rides there was:

LAUGHLIN RIVER RUN – in April the Road Glide was shipped to the Las Vegas desert.  Then it’s a short 100 mile jaunt through the desert to Laughlin, NV and it’s a great way to escape the Oregon monsoon rain to enjoy the heat of the canyons.  And being close to the Colorado River and between two mountain ranges in the Mojave Desert there are a lot of scenic rides with panoramic views to enjoy.  Not to mention the motorcycle rally itself.

HELLS CANYON MOTORCYCLE RALLY – in June, some riding buddies took off on 3-days of enjoying nature’s perfume – the sweet smell of rain showers on the cedar and pine forest – into the Cuprum-Sheep Rock country.  At times, the cold rain made us wish for a fishing lure and then there were other times the motorcycle tires were inches from the edge of a 1,000-foot drop-off while in the next instant the left-view mirror came pretty close to scraping a craggy rock wall on the grade coming up from Hells Canyon Reservoir into the mountains…  it’s always an exciting adventure in Baker City!  But hey, that rain is a “summer” adventure in Oregon.

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

FOUR-CORNERS MOTORCYCLE LOOP – in late August the posse set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-miles epic journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back home.  Moab, the 4-corners and Bear Tooth Pass were the highlights.  It was amazing scenery and viewing it all from back-roads on a motorcycle made it all the more fun.  The trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through mud-flows so deep on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway that we could have caught trout with the right fishing gear!  The gist of the ride was exploring Moab and 4-corners, but the searing summer heat kept us from really getting to know the area well, and it gave me lots of ideas for future trips.

STREET VIBRATIONS –  One of my favorite ways to end the Northwest riding year is this late September trip to Reno.  The drive is pretty quick and it always guarantee’s the heat of the valley inter-mixed with cool mountain meadows and panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crux of the ride is of course the rally and wide assortment of builders and vendor booths along with coming back with a to-do laundry list of possible winter projects for the motorcycle.  It’s not like we’re going to be loafing around on the couch this winter, right?!

Street Vibrations 2012

Street Vibrations 2012

That was my look back and it helps to motivate me to plan for 2013.  A couple of rides already blocked out on the calendar are the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary in Milwaukee and “Shark Week” in Utah.

In looking back on 2012, we also need to keep in our thoughts and prayers those who were met with tragedy this year, whether from storms or gunfire here at home, or on a battlefield on foreign soil.  May 2013 be safer, healthier and happier for all of us.

Photos taken by author.

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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About 40 years ago, a social movement arose to destroy the establishment.  People wanted to take on the man and return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution.   Some would argue that today we have a similar movement with the people loosely called the “tea partiers” who today are motivated by runaway federal spending vs. the war during the Woodstock days.

Taking it to “The Man” refers to the government, leaders of large corporations and other authority figures in general.  Sprinkle in an array of conspiracy theories involving the Fed, the big banks and black helicopters and you’ve got Harley-Davidson investing heavily over the last year in what I call taking it to “The Man” advertising.  It’s advertising which appeals to the man who is born free, but he is everywhere in chains…

You see these advertising movements are built by marketing people who hope consumers will put their faith in unrestrained passion and zealotry to buy motorcycles.  The assumption is that the people are pure and virtuous, and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures so let’s stick it to ‘em.  But, what happens when Harley-Davidson (the motor company) becomes the manipulator and shadowy corporation or the ‘elite and rotten authority figure?’

So it is according to AMC H-D in Albany, OR.  Based on their most recent communiqué, the Milwaukee Motor Company decided that starting in March there would be a policy change which prevents dealers from advertising any sales storewide.  So, taking a page from H-D’s own corporate marketing campaigns and doing their own mini-version of “Stick it to the Man” type of advertising…AMC H-D created their own tea party movement and broadcast there plans to have a 20% off sale (excluding motorcycles) all year long!  If the item you need isn’t in stock then you’ll get a 15% reduction when you place the order.

Talk about counter-establishment.  Pure advertising genius!

So what’s in play here.  First and foremost is a job-less recovery is making it darn hard for any motorcycle dealer.  Second, H-D would like to continue to be viewed as the premium brand or “exclusive” product and thus does not want to be attached to a “sale” image with their brand.  Lastly, the dealers who prefer to operate in the higher margin “dealer markup” mode are likely pressuring H-D to stop the undercutting from lower margin dealers who have yet to succumb to the mega/bistro/resort level expense in renovating a dealership.  Remember Timpanogo?

We all know that if you want service after the sale, knowledgeable and friendly staff, a quality product, and pancakes on Sundays, you’re gonna pay for it!  The question is just how much more.

Photo courtesy of AMC H-D.

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