Archive for April, 2010

April Is a Great Time for a Southwestern Motorcycle Trip

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Riding home from the Laughlin River Run a few days ago I was struck by how many motorcycle travelers I saw. These were not people going to or from the rally, but they were clearly traveling. They were in groups and each bike was loaded with gear.

Route 66 signs for sale
Route 66 signs for sale in Laughlin

The reason this struck me as surprising is that my group, the OFMC, takes its trips in the summer. That’s when the weather is cooperative. Heck, in Colorado, April is frequently our snowiest month. If you plan a motorcycle trip in Colorado in April you’d better be prepared to change or abort your plans altogether.

Of course, the result of this is that we have taken trips to Las Vegas and Laughlin and other places in Nevada, and in Arizona, and we have roasted. Last time we hit Laughlin it was 115 degrees. Yow! In contrast, when I was there a few days ago it was in the 70s. At night it even got chilly sometimes. BIG difference. And more than that, the desert was actually green. I never knew the desert ever got green. But I’d never been there in April.

So it occurs to me that these people I saw are smart. They’re taking motorcycle trips through the Southwest and they’re doing it in April. I’m sure that even in Nevada and Arizona, if you’re at a high enough altitude, you could still run into snow in April, but it’s probably not too big a threat. So I’m already pushing some of the more flexible OFMC guys to consider doing one of these southern trips next year that we’ve discussed but avoided. All we have to do is go at the right time of year. And that ain’t August.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Laughlin River Run finale and exodus in pictures

Biker Quote for Today

Ride fast and take chances!

Reflections on the Laughlin River Run

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Riding to Oatman during the Laughlin River Run

I’ve been to the Sturgis rally for a few days but the Laughlin River Run is the first big motorcycle rally that I’ve gone to for the entire rally. Here are a couple thoughts on the event, as well as a vignette.

Money and Friends

If you really want to have a good time at a rally you had better bring a ton of money and come with your buddies. I stayed one night, at the beginning of the rally, at a hotel on the strip and it was cheap. The next night I needed to find other quarters because the $30 rate I paid went up to $160. That was why I brought my tent and sleeping bag.

Of course most people come with friends, so they can split that $160 per night five, six, seven, maybe eight ways. That’s a crowd in a room but people do it. And then you have buddies to cruise around with. Being by myself, I met some people and talked with some, but much of the time it was a matter of figuring out what to do with myself. It helped each day to have some objective. One day it was getting a new battery in my bike. Another it was finding a new place to stay. On still another it was doing my laundry. That’s right. When it comes to motorcycle rallies, I’m one wild, partying animal.

Laughlin in April

When we’ve been in Laughlin previously it was summer and at that point heat was spelled L-A-U-G-H-L-I-N. Why would anyone come to Laughlin in July when you can come in April and actually enjoy the weather? Unlike other times, I could walk around for hours and be perfectly comfortable.

More than that, April seems like a really good time to travel in the Southwest altogether. Far away from the rally on my way home I’ve been surprised with the number of motorcyclists traveling in groups who are obviously out on a trip, and not to Laughlin. What a great time to do it! You miss the peak of the tourist season and you don’t roast. The OFMC considered going to Texas last summer, but I raised the issue of heat in Texas in July. This is the time to do those trips.

Money for Nothing

Of course there were vendors all over Laughlin, Bullhead City, and even along the roads in the area set up to sell bikers anything under the sun. Late in the day Saturday I ran across a group of young entrepreneurs who I believe were making a killing.

These young guys, probably in their late teens, were at this point giving away bottled water. Free. Great, I took a bottle. You need to drink water when you’re in Laughlin, even in April. So I walked on and twisted the cap off and it just came right off. No ripping sound as the seal was broken. And I got to thinking.

You don’t suppose those kids collected a whole bunch of empty water bottles, rinsed them out, and refilled them to sell at the rally do you? Well, why the heck not? The product is free to you, there’s a huge market, and in a few hours you’ve made some real cash. I figure they had sold out most of what they had, they were feeling flush, and they figured there was no point in hanging around to sell the last few bottles. Give them away and let’s split.

By the way, I’m not squeamish so I went ahead and drank the water and I’m still alive and healthy.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Crime report: Biker revs motorcycle engine, makes noise at Laughlin River Run

Biker Quote for Today

Keep thy eye on the tach and thine ears on the engine lest thy whirlybits seek communion with the sun.

Ken’s Awesome Trip to Laughlin

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

OK, I’m a pretty rugged guy, and I don’t mind sleeping on the ground or in less than comfortable conditions. But I met my match here in Laughlin, where I came to report on the Laughlin River Run.

dry camping site oneLet’s face it, motorcycle rallies are expensive events. If you have buddies with you to split the hotel room rate that is quadruple what it normally is you can get by. Alone, as I am, you figure out something different. I figured I would camp.

Getting on the Web I found an RV park that offered “dry camping” for $10 per person per night. Great! I can do that. Well, I had no idea that “dry camping” is a known term for RVers who understand it means a place to park the rig with no electric or water hook-ups. And in this case, it meant a piece of dirt scraped semi-level by a bulldozer, with nothing but dirt and rocks.

my new homeOK, I’m game, I figured I’d give it a try. Of course, the wind was blowing like a banshee and by the time I got the tent up everything I had, especially the inside of the tent, was covered in a quarter inch of dirt. I’m talking serious filth.

So I slept there my first night and actually slept well, but the dirt was too much for me so I grabbed a motel room for $30 for the next night, the last night before the rates went up to $160.

Where to sleep the next day and the rest of the rally? Hmmm.

Well, as luck would have it, I found out about a state park just south of Laughlin and went to check it out. It’s beautiful! And the campground is gorgeous. And they had lots of spaces. I checked in and that’s my new home. The pictures will give you a bit of an idea of the difference between my first camping site and the new one. I don’t mind a little dirt but when you’re talking a heck of a lot of dirt, even I rebel.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Laughlin River Run 2010: Forget Laughlin, the action is in Oatman

Biker Quote for Today

The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.

Day Two on My Way to Laughlin

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Biker Quote for Today

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a flat tire and dead battery.

great motorcycle road in UtahSo I put this quote at the beginning of this post, rather than at the end where it would normally go. Logic probably tells you there’s a reason for that, and it’s not too hard a guess.

There I was yesterday, ready to ride off to the Laughlin River Run, all geared up, and I pushed the starter button and the bike wouldn’t start. What’s with this timing?

Clearly the battery was dead, so I needed to charge. I recently bought a connector so I can hook my batter up to the charger without having to dig to the battery, so this seemed like the perfect time to set it up. Disconnecting the cables I found significant corrosion on the negative post and I’m sure that was my problem. So I charged for an hour and took off, bringing the charger with me just in case.

My only possible concern crossing western Colorado on I-70 was the two passes I needed to cross and sure enough, on Vail Pass the road was wet but not icy. Earlier or later in the day and it could have been ice, and that would have been treacherous. As it was, I made good time and arrived in Grand Junction around 6:30.

This photo, by the way, is of a road in the area where I’m headed now. Today I ride to the end of I-70 and turn south on I-15 to Cedar City, where I have arranged accommodations with a member of the Motorcycle Travel Network. This will be my first experience with this situation. I had also hoped to stay in Kanab, UT, on my way home with an MTN member but they are going to be gone, to a BMW rally in Moab.

So it’s on to Laughlin.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Laughlin River Run welcomes spring in the West

Heading to the Laughlin River Run

Friday, April 16th, 2010

I need desperately to get away from this computer and the Laughlin River Run is my salvation. I’ve never been to it but this rally, April 21-25, is said to be the West Coast’s biggest motorcycle event. I’ll take three mostly leisurely days getting there, spend probably four days there, and then another three not-necessarily-leisurely days getting home.

motorcycle rallyIt’s going to be an interesting trip in a lot of ways. Two of my overnights will be, I hope, arranged via the Motorcycle Travel Network. This is an organization that bills itself as “The Only Bed and Breakfast Network for the Traveling Motorcycle Enthusiast.” I mentioned it once before, and now I have joined. There are members in both Cedar City, UT, and Kanab, UT, and I’m hoping to stay with one on the way out and the other on the way back. I’ll certainly report back on my experience with this.

The rally itself is kind of an unknown. There is an official site but when you click on the link for the event schedule all you get is a note that says “2010 Events Schedule coming soon!” Well, considering the rally starts in 5 days, just how soon can we expect something?

From what I can tell, a different casino has some rock band each night, and they’re all the usual washed-up old timers still beating that same dying horse they’ve been on for years. I don’t guess I’ll be hitting any of those shows.

The only scheduled events I can find anything out about are on Saturday, April 24, which appears to be the real day for the rally. These two events are a custom bike show at one casino and the actual ride that was the genesis for the rally. I guess the rest of the time is just “come relax, spend money in our casinos, and hand out with a lot of other bikers.”

We’ll see. Whatever it turns out to be I’ll certainly be reporting back on that, too.

Update on site hack

Of course, the reason I so desperately need a break from the computer is all the hours I’ve spent trying to undo the damage caused by the asshole who hacked this site. While all the malicious code has been neutralized, the jerk also created thousands of spammy links on other, presumably hacked, sites pointing to my site to dynamic .php pages their code created. This has overwhelmed my legitimate incoming links so search engines are now convinced that this site is all about this stupid drug.

This crap is killing my traffic. If it weren’t for the many legitimate links that people have created to the site over the years there would be little, if any, traffic. So if you would like to do me a huge favor, put up as many links as you can on motorcycle forums or any motorcycle-related website. The more new links I can get the more chance I have of diminishing the effect of the hack. Thanks.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Electric motorcycles, bike theft, ABS–Bits and pieces of motorcycle news

Biker Quote for Today

For some there is therapy; for the rest of us there are motorcycles.

More on Hacking

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I’ve made a lot of progress but this website is still suffering the effects of being hacked. I’ve come up with some answers to some of the questions that were driving me crazy and I thought you might be interested.

screen shot of so-called key words

By the way, this image is from Google Webmaster Tools, showing what in Google’s mind my website is all about. Yeah, sure, this website is all about male potency drugs. You bet.

But that’s what I finally figured this is about. You see, nobody ever saw the junk pages that were planted on my site. There was only one thing that outwardly suggested something was amiss, and that was the Google ads on the site. Those are supposed to be related to the subject matter on the site, so you would think on the ads would be for motorcycle parts, gear, rental, whatever.

But no, the ads showing were for this drug, because the junk pages the hacker inserted were all about C—–. (I’m not going to name the drug because I don’t want it associated with this site.) That caused Google to display ads for the drug, and presumably someone was getting more traffic to their sites where they sell the stuff. And that’s why some asshole caused me all this trouble.

And it’s stupid! No one comes to this site for those drugs. All they managed to do was kill my traffic. I can tell you exactly how many people clicked on the drug ads since the hacking was done and you can count them all on two hands. Meanwhile, it has taken me countless hours to fix all this.

Apparently this is pretty common for this product. When I went looking for remedies to my problems I found that there is a whole category of advice for webmasters facing exactly this problem. Seems to me like Google ought to be doing some serious examination of who benefits from this and kicking some advertisers out of their program.

Fortunately, things are slowly getting back to normal, at least as far as Google is concerned. But I still need to do the same sort of recovery work with Bing, Ask, Yahoo!, and any other search engines worth the trouble.

So what have I learned from all this? It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember it and have to look it up every time, use a REALLY strong password. I admit, my previous password was too simple. I didn’t figure my site was worth anyone hacking. I was wrong. Now my password is longer, has lower case, upper case, special characters, and doesn’t spell anything. Can I remember it? No way. But I don’t think a burglar is going to break into my house and search through my papers to find the password to my website.

Now if I could just have two minutes alone with this asshole and a baseball bat . . .

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
AMA contest offers on-track riding school and a byline

Biker Quote for Today

Never be ashamed to unlearn an old habit. Site Hacked

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

I am so angry. I had been troubled lately looking at my website statistics because in the last week or so the traffic has been way, way down and that didn’t make sense.

So I decided to do a Google search for myself, as I have often done, searching for the two words “colorado” and “motorcycle.” Guess what came up. Take a look at this bit of screen capture.

search results image

Look at that. That’s my URL but someone stuck in some text for C—– (not going to use that word here). Bastards!! Why do these assholes do this? Can anyone possibly be making money in this way?

So I contacted my web host and hopefully they’ll be able to rectify the situation. I am so pissed.

And now I’ll put in the regular end of column stuff, though this is nowhere near a normal blog post.

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MotoAdventureGal update: Made it to Machu Picchu, broke her hand

Biker Quote for Today

Go like hell, You’ll get there quicker!

Coffee Run Time Again, and This Time on Bikes

Monday, April 5th, 2010

It was just a year ago when I went on my first ever poker run, except no one rode motorcycles. It was the ABATE District 10 Coffee Run and the weather was miserable. Well, the Coffee Run for 2010 was held this past weekend and this time the weather cooperated. We rode bikes.

There was a lot of interest for me in this run because of all that has happened in the past year. A year ago I was a new ABATE member and when I showed up at this run I didn’t know anybody. I’m not an overly gregarious person and it can be hard for me to mix comfortably with strangers. But I learned long ago as a newspaper reporter that as long as I assume a role I can play that role instead of being simply me. So I shifted into reporter mode and talked to a bunch of people, got a lot of good story ideas, and felt pretty good about it all.

This year was so different. I walked into a crowd of people I knew, greeted and was greeted, and was happy to see some folks I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. Folks I met last year at the Coffee Run, as a matter of fact. I didn’t have to play a role, I could just be me. And of course, as I always do, I did come up with some good contacts for some story ideas. Any journey starts with the first step. It can be hard to take that step but once you do you’re on your way and from then on it just gets easier.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
MSF President Tim Buche discusses motorcycle safety studies

Biker Quote for Today

Crawl, walk, ride

And Then There Were Two Motorcycle Crash Studies

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

For months now there has been some question as to whether the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) would or would not fund the motorcycle crash study to be conducted by Oklahoma State University (OSU) researcher Dr. Samir Ahmed. After an initial rejection, the MSF board did reconsider but ultimately decided to stick by its original decision.

Apparently a big part of the reasoning for that is that the MSF was deep into negotiations with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to conduct a very different, “naturalistic,” motorcycle safety study. That study was announced yesterday. Whereas the OSU project will place cameras and sensors in specific locations to record accidents that occur there, the VTTI study will mount those cameras and sensors on specific motorcycles and track what happens. Presumably, for the study to be really effective, someone is going to need to crash with all that gear on their bike.

Or, maybe I’m wrong about that. VTTI will be tracking the riders whether they crash or not, and presumably will be developing some relevant data even if they don’t crash. Not sure; I’ll be talking with MSF President Tim Buche tomorrow so I’ll need to ask him about it.

In the meantime, Dr. Ahmed has $3 million from the feds to proceed with his study and he intends to do so. When I spoke to him yesterday after hearing about the VTTI study he said he and his team are ready to go as soon as they get the last details ironed out. They expect to start collecting data in May.

Ahmed was also very outspoken in his anger at the MSF and Tim Buche. He feels the MSF jerked him around, claiming that they would not fund his study because it wouldn’t investigate enough crashes to develop statistically valid data, when in fact they already were planning to spend their money elsewhere. That’s another thing I intend to ask Buche about tomorrow.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
MSF expands motorcycle rider training programs, raises the bar on minimum competency

Biker Quote for Today

Biking skillz or Hospital billz