By Tom Niemela
“No trails, whatsoever!”
That was the edict that came down from the U.S. Forest Service (Mt. Hood) approximately one month before the event. I couldn’t believe it. Always priding myself on offering the A riders a killer off-road, challenging trail experience at my rides, this would be tough. The rangers claimed that last year’s Black Dog ride had riders going places that weren’t on the submitted map. I even met with one ranger and he showed me pictures, of which I didn’t recognize the locations. Sure enough there were tire tracks, but how could they be sure they were from my group? And how could they even say that street-legal, licensed motorbikes couldn’t go in places that are open to the public? Fortunately, Hood River County seemed willing to work with us on trails, but then a fire-danger ruling came down and trails on their lands were closed. More on this later.
This year was the lucky thirteenth. Not being superstitious, I wasn’t too concerned, but as things played out, it was an odd year indeed, with both highs and lows. My buddy, Vernon Wade, made an incredible push (after last year’s ride) to have a contingent of his fellow sidecar enthusiasts show up for this year’s event. Wow, he did an awesome job by inviting almost a dozen folks associated with the Ural North American Company (www.imz‑ural.com). The head honcho from the Ural N.A. main office, Gary, showed with assorted friends, riders and enclosed trailers. These sidecars ranged from shiny, new bikes, to hardcore, knobbie-laden dirt hacks. A day or two before the event, Vern’s friend, Dave, showed up and they both proceeded to give rides for everyone - that was a BIG hit!
Since the USFS would only let us use roads, we had to make the best of what little challenging sections were available in the powerline spots, so we threw in everything we could for the A riders. But overall, the course was just 2-track at it’s worst. What to do if you’re in this situation? You give them miles, and plenty of it. Saturday’s course was about 185 miles and Sunday’s course was approximately 135.
We’ve created a tradition the last couple years of offering a night ride. This year was no exception as the riders started lining up at dusk for the Friday-night ride. This was a short jaunt up to the summit of Government Camp, then a twisty road ride up to the Timberline Lodge for a break. The historic Timberline Lodge is where the movie “The Shining” was filmed, FYI. Of course the riders could partake in the food and beverage offerings of the lodge, then they caught a very fun, twisty single-lane paved ride back down to Government Camp, then an easy road ride back to camp.
That night everyone was milling around, checking out all the bikes, benchracing, rekindling old friendships and having a great time. We were busy getting things ready for Saturday morning’s signup.
Saturday morning came bright and early as our signup Goddess, Laura Claypoole and her awesome helpers organized everything in an efficient manner. This year we had the honor of Blue Ribbon Coalition’s own Don Amador attending the event. Don and I go back a few years from some SoCal rides and this was his first time in the Mt. Hood area. He had a BRC signup tent next to our signup and I was glad to see a number of riders sign up for this organization that helps protect keeping our riding areas open. Hey, I even signed up for a life membership.
At 7am we commenced into the rider’s meeting, then segued into the start-check game. It was a typical challenge of riding between specifically placed cones for points. The sidehacks had to go through backwards, so everyone had a challenge. After about 45 minutes of this, Gunny Claypoole came up and said, “Tom, we need to do something different. You have riders lined up clear to the other side of the campground!” Where we had the game set up, it was in a spot where I could only see about 20 bikes. I went around the corner and sure enough there were bikes lined up as far as I could see! Egad! We quickly stopped the game and started checking riders through as fast as we could, deciding to nix the start game for everyone at the finish, so all things would be equal. Unbelievable. Eventually, all 200 riders were checked out and we let out a sigh of relief.
Suddenly my cell phone started ringing with various people calling in with issues such as one sidecar with a leaking tranny case after hitting a boulder. Fortunately, they had some spare oil and were able to nurse the wounded hack back to the campground. Then I received a call about an injured rider - dang! Evidently Kelly Kinser had highsided in a turn and broke his collarbone. I loaded up my pickup and headed over the top of Lolo Pass to rescue him. Fortunately he was in good spirits, considering the situation. I hauled him back and poured him into the good hands of his wife and family. They then took him down to a local hospital in the town of Sandy.
In the afternoon riders started trickling in and the stories commenced. There were flat tires, crashes, Kodak moments, etc. The sweep crew eventually all came in and all riders were accounted for. After 185 challenging miles, the riders were pooped. That night’s campfire stories were bigger than everyone’s anticipation for Sunday’s ride.
Sunday morning again came bright and early and the usual signup, rider’s meeting and start went through the same process, except we learned from the previous day’s experience and dropped the start game. This day’s ride would go over to Wamic and back and all the riders would ride the entire Barlow Road, which is the final leg of the original Oregon Trail. Along the way, however, the riders came upon an old-style wagon train, going the same direction (thankfully) on the Barlow Road. The rangers neglected to let us know ahead of time about this screw up, so things were somewhat tense as the riders trickled through the wagon train. Fortunately the train pulled off the road and the riders trickled through slowly in a friendly manner, although a few wagon people were less than friendly.
At the finish, we had the usual games, then the prizes were handed out to winners, including prizes for hard luck, long distance, youngest rider, etc. This year we were blessed with Stephanie Kaszka as our trophy girl, and she did an awesome job! Then the two-day prizes were handed out, including the $300 cash prize to a surprised Scott Critchfield. After that, everyone said good byes and started to pack up for the drive home. Fortunately Kelly Kinser’s collarbone was in a sling and he was doing well.
This year’s ‘no trail’ mandate from the rangers put a low note on the event, but we played their game and did not use any trail. It will be interesting to see how things pan out for next year. We find it interesting that we had the squeeze put on us at the same time that Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is trying to push through a wilderness bill for Mt. Hood N.F. that will in effect double the size of the existing wilderness. We think this is a bad idea and will cripple the already small OHV opportunities in the Mt. Hood N.F. To read more about this bogus proposal, go to our message board on our website at: www.blackdogdualsport.com We also have the help of BRC to fight this. We could use any and all help from all OHVers on this!
A few notes about this year’s ride: this year’s t-shirts had pictures of the Claypoole’s new pooch, Brutus. Brutus is little and black, so became this year’s mascot for both the Black Dog and Rat Dog rides. Mad props to plenty of folks such as: The Kaszka Family for their help with signup, rollcharts and trophies, plus the usual suspects of Dan Hatcher, Claypoole’s, Randy Beadle, Jim Dukes, Milo & Dale Juenemann, Vernon Wade, Walt Koch, Frank Noe, John Hughes, Ilse’s Massage, Rick Higgins, Barrell’s, and Ron Rice. We would also like to thank this year’s sponsors: Beaverton Honda-Yamaha, Moose Racing, Clarke Plastics, IMS Products, Trailtech, Thumpertalk.com, Affordable Trophies, BRC, AXO, Oregon & Washington DSR, Ural and the OMRA. Hope to see you at the upcoming Rat Dog on September 18!