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Actions and Consequences

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I was listening to NPR in the car this morning and I heard a story come on about how many Gulf-area fisherman, impacted by BP's oil spill in the gulf, were going to have difficulty collecting from BP's $20-billion relief fund because they run cash-only businesses.

The article didn't exactly fill me with sympathy. But the part that really raised my ire was this:
Not paying taxes is, of course, illegal. But St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro says it would be unfair to penalize the fishermen now for past misdeeds.
Wait a minute, Craig. Are you saying that, just because they've been cheating on their taxes, they shouldn't be excluded from benefits where they have to show documented income? Is the implication here that actions shouldn't have consequences?

Now I'm a pretty laid-back guy. I'm passionately moderate about a lot of topics. But, as a taxpayer who has dutifully (if not painfully) paid his fair share of taxes, I'm actually appalled that it might even be suggested that the people who didn't pay taxes in the past are now victims because they can't collect money now. Sure, their livelyhood has been tragically impacted by this disaster. And if they had been paying taxes on that livelyhood like the rest of us have to, I'd be the most sympathetic man alive. But it sounds like, by avoiding taxes, they were just collecting an advance on the money they'd otherwise be getting.

So here's my final solution to this problem: if the fishermen and dock workers want to claim that they're financially impacted, that's fine. They can claim and offer whatever documentation they have to prove they they should be making a certain amount of money. But then they have to pay back taxes dating back to when they either a) first moved to the area, or b) last filed a similar-sized tax return.

I mean, that seems fair enough to me. Or, like the rest of us have to, they can just live with the consequences of their actions.

Civic Duty

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Well, it's happened again. For the third time in the last 8 years or so, I've been summoned for jury duty, this time by Multnomah County. The second time, my avid readers will remember, was in Marion County a couple years ago. My first experience with jury duty was in the early 2000s, pre-blog, where I was on a three-week trial where I learned that the seats in Clackamas County's jury seating area are painfully uncomfortable..

my summons

I shall go one again to be part of a jury of someone's peers. Perhaps. Perhaps I won't get selected, like I wasn't selected for Marion County.

Probably the worst thing about jury duty, besides having to miss work for a few days or more, is that I have to arrive downtown (where there's no parking) sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 AM. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm usually still in bed at 7:30, so this is going to be pretty rough. I'll probably have to get up by 6 to catch a bus before 7.

Anyway, I shall show up and do my part... and then hope that they rotate everyone else in Multnomah County into the pool.

Hells Canyon Rally Day 4

Monday, June 14, 2010
Monday, June 14th, I woke up on my own at 6 AM for day 4 - the ride home - of the Hells Canyon Rally.

Our day started out on a disappointing note. Our trailer had been driven east for us; it was supposed to be driven back west for us, too. However, it appeared that our driver changed his plans at the last second, leaving us in the lurch. The trailer's owner stepped up to drive it home himself, forgoing the ride back with us.

View Larger Map

We all loaded up the trailer and were on the road by 7:30 AM. From Baker City we took OR-7 back towards John Day. With the weather report calling for highs in the low 70s, I had opted to wear a mesh jacket. As we went through a 5125 ft pass, then another 5200 ft pass on US-26 before John Day, I was regretting the decision.

We tried stopping in Prairie City for breakfast, but every place that said "breakfast" was closed. We continued on to John Day and had our morning meal at the Outpost Pizza Pub & Grill.

We charged west on US-26, back through the Picture Gorge, and soon found ourselves in Prineville. With half of us (myself included) running on reserve fuel, we filled up there before inching out of town in heavy construction traffic. The road opened ahead of us and we darted up to Madras, where we sat in traffic again. From Madras on, our normal high-speed sport-touring tamed, as the density of other vehicles on the road grew from "rare" to frequent".

Through Warm Springs we went, still cold. Then we started climbing Mt. Hood, where it mysteriously didn't warm up at all. We all stopped at the rest area near Government camp to put on warmer clothes and to bid each other farewall; we'd be parting ways on the road and unable to say goodbye then.

When OR-212 forked off of US-26, I kept going straight. Everyone else took OR-212 back towards their home with a big friendly wave. I was sad to leave the group, but happy to be heading home.

Bug hits on my motorcycle

Looking back, it was an incredible trip with good friends. Our group was lucky; we had no accidents and no tickets in our 1,200+ miles of riding. Being the slowest rider, I was never more than a few minutes behind the lead rider; our skills were all within a reasonable distance. We rode competent motorcycles that performed admirably, if not flawlessly.

What's left of my front tire after the trip.

Would I do it again? With the same crew, yes!

The rally itself was definitely designed for the cruiser (read as: Harley-Davidson) rider, so we didn't quite fit in with the leather-clad culture. We found ourselves on the periphery of the rally itself; there, yes, but almost actively avoiding the crowds. Still, it was a fun atmosphere to be in, and I'm thankful to have been invited and to have had the opportunity to go.

... and I slept really well the night after I got home.

Hells Canyon Rally Day 3

Sunday, June 13th, we all woke up early and significantly less hung over than Saturday for day 3 of the Hells Canyon Rally.

Eager to get out early and beat the rush, we were on the road by 8:00 AM, heading east on OR-26 towards Hells Canyon. Riding with the snow-capped Blue Mountains in the background was incredible! 40 minutes later we stopped in Richland at Annie's Cafe for breakfast. It was small, quaint, and friendly... and much faster than Saturday's breakfast.

We left and continued east, stopping at Scotty's for gas just before the Idaho border (and Mountain Standard Time). From 86 we turned up the road and went 30 miles along Hells Canyon to the dam. The roads were decent and pleasantly empty, but there was occasional debris and someone was, at some point in the past, over-zealous with the crack sealant. My tires would occasionally slip and inch or two, which was mildly disconcerting. Still, riding in the canyon was exhilarating and beautiful.

Scotty's Hells Canyon Inn on Oregon 86

We stopped at the dam for a few pictures, then went the visitor center another half-mile further up the road. The river looked like it was flowing fast - and it was - but (and this is according to the visitor center person), at 35000 cfm, was still over 20000 cfm less than it was during the record rainfall a few days prior.

Me, in front of the Hells Canyon Dam
After relaxing and waving at the small groups of bikers that were coming along the road, we turned around and went back, taking a leisurely pace. After re-crossing back into Oregon, we stopped at the campground in Oxbow to hang out in the sun - it was beautiful and about 80 degrees.

View Larger Map

From there we hopped back down a few more miles to the Hells Canyon Inn (right next to the aforementioned Scotty's), where we stopped to have drinks and appetizers. We almost had a tree frog in our fries; it jumped down from the table's umbrella a split second after we moved our appetizer plate!

The view back along the road from the Hells Canyon Dam Vistor Center

We were back on the road soon for a quick ride to Baker City. I was at the back of the group; I had to stop and clean my visor because I could barely see through it. The rest of the group kept going. I started enjoying the ride alone but I mysteriously managed to catch up with the group right before Baker City.

At the trailer we showered in the high school showers, which were nicely deserted as most of the other riders had packed up to head home. The water had started running in the trailer and the waste water tank had filled up. The trailer's owner nobly took it off to get emptied. We then all had cigars and a drink before headed dowtown for dinner. We ended up at the Geiser Grand. I, along with several of my friends, capped the trip off with a succulent prime rib meal.

After dinner, we went back to the trailer to throw a frisbee around, discuss the ride home, smoke more cigars, and enjoy the amazing sunset, with Venus and a crescent moon hanging just over the horizon. A wonderful and beautiful end to our trip. The next day was the ride home...

As a rule, happiness in motorcycling can be as simple as a clean visor. In my case, however, happiness rarely lasts more than 60 seconds.

Hells Canyon Rally Day 2

Saturday, June 12th, we all woke up early (and, yes, slightly hung over) for day 2 of the Hells Canyon Rally. Part of the problem was that, at the high school where a hundred or so people camped, bikes were starting at 5:30 AM. And by "bikes", I mean "cruisers", and by "cruisers" I mean "Harleys with the loud pipes on them". I stayed in bed sleeping until 7:30 or so.

Oh, and I'm going to go on record here and say that I'm not a fan of public showers and toilets. Call me modest, but I generally prefer at least a curtain, if not a door.

We were on the road before 9 AM, ready to enjoy an amazingly beautiful and warm (but not hot) day. We were going to ride the Gold Rush Course, which would take us through Granite and Sumpter and the Lehman Hot Springs. Heading north through Haines, we stopped for breakfast at the Frontier Restaurant. While we waited for our food, I realized I'd left my hat and my tire pressure guage back at the trailer. While we waited for our food, we discussed the day's ride: we all wanted to hit the hot springs. While we waited for our food, we did a lot of things, because it took over an hour to get served (and two of us got our meals 10 minutes after the other three.)

Part of the reason that we wanted to do the Gold Rush Course on Saturday was that the Canyon Course - the ride that included the Devil's Tail - was popular and was generally cruised on a Saturday. That meant that those of us on sportier rides would be wanting to travel at a different pace. We opted to save that ride for later.

Saturday's ride. The La Grande details are a little iffy, but we just stopped there for gas:

View Larger Map

Continuing north, we fueled up in La Grande, then hopped on I-84 west for a couple miles. We then took OR-244 to the hot springs - but they were closed. We continued on through the beautiful Umatilla National Forest to Ukiah, then turned toward Granite on National Forest Development Road 52, where we continued to enjoy the scenery at it passed by at absurdly high speeds. Hoping to cut back over towards Baker City and find another hot springs, we turned onto Nation Forest Development Road 73, but the road was impassable due to snow. At least this one was clearly signed... which we ignored.

Stopped by snow on road 73

While we were stopped at the end of this obscure road, an older gentleman rode up to us, stopped, an promptly dropped his motorcycle. Fortunately, it was on the left side, "where [he] always drops it".

A brief pause to enjoy the scenery of the Umatilla National Forest

So we turned around and decided to take National Forest Development Road 51 back toward La Grande. Aside from one section of it that had a huge number if potholes, it was a fun road. On I-84, our lead rider apparently didn't know where he was going and, at the last second, cut over to take the wrong exit. Whatever. He caught back up to us as we were fueling up and caught the appropriate amount of heckling for the move. We tried to find another hot springs, but it was closed, too. Defeated, we finally made time getting back to Baker City.

We cleaned up and went to downtown Baker City, which was full of bikers and generally lively. We ate some fairly mediocre Chinese food at a place called Jimmy Chan's, then stopped by to see the festivities at the event area. They were holding a raffle in which two of the top prizes were very nice revolvers!

Eventually we went back to the trailer, lit a fire, had a couple drinks, and just relaxed. A lot of people were firing up their Harleys to ride (helmetless) across the campground to use the high school restroom, a move that made me (with my motorcycle safety hat on) roll my eyes.

Exhausted from the day's spirited ride, we called it a night around midnight, all of us quickly falling into a deep slumber.

Hells Canyon Rally Day 1

Friday, June 11th, is when I headed out with several friends* to the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally in Baker City, OR. One of my traveling companions has an awesome fifth-wheel trailer and had found someone to drive it east for us, so we had loaded that with most of our gear that we'd need once there.

I spent the night at my adventure buddy's house on Thursday evening, then early Friday morning we met up with the rest of the gang. I was on my recently-purchased 2007 Triumph Sprint ST, he was on a 2007 Yamaha FJR1300. There was also a 2008 FJR1300, a 2009 Moto Guzzi Norge, and a Suzuki V-Strom 650 that was a few years old.

We started out taking Hwy 224 through Estacada, where we gassed up, then continued out until just past the Ranger Station. It was raining lightly the whole way - not weather I was looking forward to. We tried to turn on National Forest Development Road 57, and thought we had, but we got a about 3 miles and ran out of pavement. After about 1/4 mile of slipping in the mud, we turned around and went back to the Ranger Station to ask for directions.

Finally found 57 and took it to National Forest Development Road 58 (57 runs out of pavement). 58 was narrow and only one lane wide, but it was nice, but it didn't take long for us to start spotting some snow patches. Obviously not an often-traveled road, at one point we went through a fallen tree that looked like it had only recently been cleared. However, at about 4500 feet of elevation, we were stopped by snow and, after getting about 10 feet into it, had to turn around.

Here's our route, though imagine that we had to turn around most of the way down 58 and use the rest of 57 (which, though it's on the map, Google doesn't recognize) and swing past Timothy Lake on our way to 26. Besides that, the map is accurate:

View Larger Map

So it was back to 57 for us. The next 6 miles were completely unpaved (except for a bizarre 400-foot stretch of straightaway). My bike felt loose, and I almost lost it on some of the turns, even at only 25 mph. Finally we got to Timothy Lake and found pavement again; our speeds increased dramatically.

Eventually we made it to US-26, briefly, before turning off onto OR-216 toward Maupin. We covered the 29 mile stretch with amazing celerity and, after descending on twisty roads, ate lunch in Maupin at the Rainbow Tavern.

Welcome to Wheeler County

After Maupin it was more twisties for a bit. Being the slowest rider in the group, I had fallen behind everyone... and fell behind even more when I we ran into cattle (not literally). A group of ranchers was herding at least 60 head of cattle down the highway. The few miles after that had intermittent area of cow-produced low traction.

I caught up to everyone just in time to get drizzled on a bit. So we stopped in Kimberly to put on rain gear. Then we stopped 20 minutes later to take it off. Eventually we met up with US-26 along the John Day river. We traveled through part of the beautiful Picture Gorge and stopped for pictures.

Oregon Picture Gorge

We made it to John Day by 5:15 and put a final tank of gas in the bikes. We left John Day heading east on US-26. For a few miles we were followed by a sheriff, which made me a little nervous. Fortunately, he turned off. We then turned onto OR-7 to go straight to Baker City. Ended up following a train of about 10 cruisers, going 25 mph slower than us. We followed them for 20 miles until we found a straightaway (with only one cop, and I didn't see him!) and we passed everything. The highest elevation along 7 was 5300 feet... and it was COLD!

We arrived in Baker City by 7:30 or so. As a group we parked our bikes at the High School (where the fifth-wheel trailer was) and took the truck downtown, being sore from 350+ miles of riding. Dinner was at the Baker City Cafe where we downed beer & pizza. The evening wrapped up with more drinks and hanging out at the trailer.

* Important note: please note that, in order to respect privacy, I don't generally use the names of other people. Sometimes it seems like this blog is all about me, but I'm the only non-public person I know that I have permission to write about.



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