The 14th Annual, 2005 Black Dog AMA/Suzuki National Dualsport Ride!

By Tom Niemela

You can view all my photos by CLICKING HERE!

This year’s Black Dog started off decent, then things dropped like a ’57 Chevy over the Grand Canyon , then astonishingly rose again.  The Mt. Hood National Forest is governed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and they had done some recent downsizing with the area and the usual ranger I dealt with for so many years took a forced, voluntary retirement. Great for him (I’m jealous) and this meant there was a new ranger I would need to communicate with on the event route and permit. This new person was Doug Jones and I wanted to make a good first impression.  I made a couple phone calls, played phone tag and eventually sent a map of proposed routes for the two-day ride.  Mr. Jones replied back with some typical questions and concerns, which I answered and things were looking great.  Then he replied that the event was to use NO trails whatsoever, other than the overused and shrunken McCubbin’s Gulch OHV Area.  I then replied to him explaining that our dualsport tour did not have the entire group riding over the A trails and explained dualsporting, how it worked, the typical riders, etc. 

That’s when all Hell broke loose.  Mr. Jones replied back with basically “take it or leave it” and “I don’t have time for this” type attitude.  Well, you read it for yourself and my response by going to this link:

Lucky for me I know a few heavy hitters in the industry and was able to motivate many people to send letters and email to the Mt. Hood Supervisor, Mr. Gary Larson that their obvious biased attitude was unacceptable and that we are a legitimate public user and should not be discriminated against.  Blue Ribbon Coalition also got involved and before long word got to the USFS National Chief in Washington D.C. Bosworth.  Suddenly I had people calling and emailing me apologizing for Mr. Jone’s response and how could things be patched up.  More on that later.

On to the event.  As per usual, Dan Hatcher and I spent almost the entire week up on the mountain setting up the courses, working logistics and generally riding our fannies off.  Dan no is the best and is the most reliable person I know when it comes to setting something like this up, plus he’s a great voice of reason and a helluva rider.  We also had help from the Juenemann Brothers, Milo and Dale, also incredibly accomplished and reliable riders.  Quite honestly we have the most fun setting up the event, which is no easy feat.  It’s quite difficult to lay out just one course, but since this is a national event, it requires two days of routes.  The usual challenges of trying to provide the riders with something new every year that is still scenic, historic, and still has some challenge is monumental.  Can’t forget about having gas stops every so often and providing for food at lunch either.  Do all this in an area where amenities are far and few between and there are still hurdles such as marking the course, roll charts, prizes, volunteers, camping issues and well, you get the idea.  Still, no matter how we stress each year, when the riders come in at the end of the ride and tell us the kind words about the ride, suddenly all the work and stress makes it worthwhile, and we miraculously get motivated to do it all over again next year.


On about Wednesday prior to the ride, Mr. Jones’ manager, Malcolm Hamilton, came down and spent an hour discussing the situation that had developed between us and the USFS.  I had heard good things about Mr. Hamilton from a friend of mine in Arizona , who informed me that he had transferred to Mt. Hood .  He was very professional and sounded generally open to our plight, plus he brought the permit, which we signed and he sent off.  We walked away from that meeting feeling a bit better about the overall scenario.  At the end of the day’s ride I had a voicemail on my cellphone from Mr. Jones asking if he could come down the next morning and talk with us also.  When he showed up the next morning, we were apprehensive on both sides, but Mr. Jones seemed motivated to “bury the hatchet” and move forward.  We chatted with him for about an hour also and it seemed like maybe things can move better for responsible OHV use in the Mt. Hood N.F in the future.  I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to some Joe Schmoe who did not have contacts – he would have been S.O.L. We feel the USFS did the right thing, but it still remains to be seen when the rubber hits the road.  We hope they weren’t just playing “C.Y.A.” and are actually willing to work more with us. We plan on giving them that opportunity within the next few months as we propose routes for next year’s Black Dog.  Stay tuned on that. 

Come the end of the week, the usual suspects started showing up and staking their claims in the Mt. Hood Village Campground.  Was great to see my reliable and trusted friend, Randy Beadle, back again after a hiatus last year that left him unable to help much.  Again other trusted friends also showed like the Barrells, Dan no’s girlfriend Dawn, Claypooles, Ron Rice, more Juenemanns, Frank Noe, and Walt Koch.  This event would NOT happen without the skilled expertise of these people that we so deeply rely on and we cannot thank them enough.  Ilsa showed up again all the way from Alaska to offer her massage services for the rider’s tired muscles at the end of each day.  I swore I would partake in her services, but alas was again too busy to follow through – dang!  Sorry Ilse – next year?  J 

Friday night came and so did the rains.  Days prior the skies had been typical Spring-like weather, but the forecast looked dark for the weekend.  On a positive note, there wouldn’t be much, if any, dust!  Part of the USFS’s limits on our event was that we could only use Still Cr. Road once during the weekend, and we don’t feel right sending riders on pavement rides, which they could do on their road bikes, so we cancelled the usual Friday-night ride.  As hard as it was raining, there wasn’t too much angst over canceling the night ride from the riders.  Being an every-other-weekend Dad, I showed back up around 8:30pm with my daughter, Ariel.  As I was pulling in, Frank and Walt stopped me and said they’d reserved a cabin for me on the other side of the campground – how cool!  Since I don’t have a trailer, camper or nothing, my camping arrangements generally involve living in a tent, which would have been a pain due to the showers.  After the usual campfire stories and benchracing, Ariel and I finally retired to the cabin around 1AM. 

Rollcharts: this was the beta test of a new process for us making rollcharts.  For the past few years I have tried to find a solution to making rollcharts, so the riders wouldn’t have to cut-and-tape them together.  Every other club in the universe is basically in the same scenario and the only solution thus far was to make huge copies, then take them down to Kinkos in huge, full-length, eight-wide originals, then run it through their massive, roll copy machine.  Needless to say, Kinkos was proud of this copy machine and the costs were over the top, so we’ve only tried it once in the past.  This year though, I had discovered a custom printer and software (expensive!) that would print out on thermal paper and actually worked with my pc’s operating system.  I was apprehensive as to whether it would work for the event and made backup plans if it didn’t.  Once I got to my cabin that night, I started printing out rollcharts.  They started spewing out of this new printer quickly and I soon discovered that I could print 16 charts per roll, so the rollcharts were piling on the floor like an elephant on Ex-Lax! 

5AM came rather early, needless to say and poor Ariel really had a tough time waking up.  We finally made it though and Gunny Claypoole was as usual already up and moving about in the dawn light.  Thank God he had coffee brewing and his wife Laura was getting her usual organized process for signup started.  Laura does an incredible job of setting up and operating the signup tent, especially since, when it comes to signup, I’d make a good plumber.  I really appreciate her help, plus her friends like Judy also showed to help.  Plus out of the blue, the Kaczka’s from Washington showed up and basically jumped in and started helping too.  For some crazy reason, the Kaczkas have helped out now for a few years.  We’ve never really asked them, but John & Cherie and their lovely daughters Stephanie and Cassandra always show and generally raise our event by another level. We can’t thank them enough! Setting up the rollcharts for the riders was amazingly easy – just separate each rollchart with one, quick snip of the scissors.  No more cutting and taping, baby!  Cherie soon had the long, lengths of rollcharts hanging over the frame of the EZ-Up and was handing them out to the elated riders.  Another plus with these rollcharts is that they roll up more compact inside the rollchart holders and are less apt to bind up or tear.  We’ve now decided this is a big hit and has set a new standard for rollcharts.

After signup, it was time for the rider’s meeting and I informed everyone about the course, the challenges presented by USFS, the safety concerns, lunches, etc.  Then it was time for the start checkpoint and the riders trickled out one by one.  For the start, Dan no and I decided to have a sound test.  We were hoping for someone from the USFS to help out on this, but they were absent.  We set up a points-paying system where for every decibel away from 100db, the riders would receive a point, then triple it.  For example, if a bike’s sound measured 91db, they would receive nine points, then tripled would earn them 27 points, thereby rewarding the quiet motorbikes.  Fortunately only one rider actually received -6 points!  The overall awareness of the riders using very quiet exhausts is good to see, since loud exhausts are our own worst problem!

Since the USFS would only allow us to use Still Creek Road once during the entire two-day event, it was used first thing on Saturday’s ride.  Once they crested the summit of Still Creek Road , they crossed over the dike at Trillium Lake , which is possibly one of the most photographic spots in the entire Mt. Hood Forest .  After that the riders went on a very fun spin around Mud Creek Loop and then ended up back on Hwy 26 to the first gas option at CJ’s Chevron.  After that they went by Frog Lake , a frisky old two-track, then found themselves at the first checkpoint, where Joe & Julie were challenging the riders with games for points.  The riders then dove into Allison’s Tunnel Of Love and worked their way through an old snowmobile trail with a few windfalls to keep them on their toes. 

Then the course did a short gravel-road stint over to McCubbin’s Gulch OHV Area, where there were separate options for A, B and C courses.  The C course stayed on gravel road for a nice, easy cruise, while the B course led the riders on an easy powerline trail section with a few surprises.  The A option had over 15 miles of single track that was peppered with rocks that either moved as you rolled over them, or they were attached to the center of the earth, i.e. inanimate.  The last trail was the best as the riders had to slither through thick sections of brush, go around and over windfalls – basically first and second-gear format.  Good times.

After McCubbin’s Gulch, it was a short stint down the tarmac to the lunch and gas stop at Pinegrove Store.  Ron Rice had another challenge for the riders for points and everyone topped off their stomachs and tanks.  The course then wound its way back to the old, historic Barlow Road, where the course first went East from Bonnie Crossing, came back over the top on a scenic single-lane road with a stunning vista of Mt. Hood, and returned to Bonnie Crossing again, where the riders then went West on Old Barlow Road to the summit by Pioneer Woman’s Grave.  After that it was all pavement back, due to the USFS saying we could only use Still Creek (dirt) Road once for the entire weekend – bogus indeed. 

At the finish, we had a couple challenges again for the riders as they had to play a poker machine for points, plus ride a slow test, but with a flair: the beginning of the test had some cones that the riders had to zig zag around, meanwhile going as slow as they could without touching their feet on the ground.  We figured out that with the sidecars [to be fair], we would make them go through it ‘backwards’ and they could not stop.  Plenty of entertainment and one, self-proclaimed expert rider on a green KLR650 (with initials of DB) even did a bail much to everyone’s astonishment – okay, enjoyment too.  J 

After the sweep crew all got in, it was time for the Barrells to start their dinners of hamburgers and hot dogs, complete with potato and regular salad and sodas for the riders.  The weather that day had been awesome for the riders as most of the course had enough moisture to keep the dust down and not get drenched.  That night I again started the big pile of rollchart printing inside Randy’s trailer as everyone partied around the large, group campfire.  Dan no, Crazy Lee Riddle and I all took turns with the gitfiddle and sang (or at least tried to) through the night.  The natives were indeed restless.

Day two again started out very early at around 5:30AM with me showing up with armloads of rollcharts to greet Gunny, Laura, Julie and Cherie.  Signup ensued, followed by the rider’s meeting and the first riders out after about 7:30AM.  At the start Dan no and I again did a game for points and the riders were off.

Sunday’s course was completely new.  You see, there are only three ways out of the Zig Zag area, due to land locked sections of wilderness.  In all past years we had gone out and back either via Still Creek Road or Old Lolo Pass.  This time we directed them to the town of Estacada via extremely windy paved roads (all dirt roads are blocked with massive gates by Longview Fiber) that were very fun, even though there was no dirt.  Once in Estacada, the riders stopped for gas and a receipt of some kind (to bring back to the finish for additional points) and then headed out more windy roads working their way to road #45.  

Going up #45 Road the riders slowly were presented with narrowing roads and eventually split options for A, B and C routes.  The C route went it’s typical road-only for the big bikes and hacks.  The B option had the riders slithering through a windy old quad trail to keep people awake. The A option suddenly became more of an AA option due to the sprinkling of rain. One particular uphill became slicker than Crisco on a kitchen floor, so had riders scattered throughout it.  A few riders made it up over the top onto a panoramic vista on Goat Mountain , which unfortunately couldn’t be seen due to an influx of fog. 

Everyone’s route came back together after this and continued on #45. One other split ensued for the B and C routes and then it descended on back down a killer, windy road to Highway 224, then to lunch/gas at Promontory Point.  The Barrells had another checkpoint here too for everyone’s entertainment.  From lunch everyone made their way back on more great two track and gravel to the finish for the final games for points.

At the end of the day, many people said it was one of the best Black Dogs ever due to the lack of dust! This was good to hear, since we had our water trucks out in full force soaking up the dust. The rollcharts were spot on (our goal!) and nobody got lost or hurt (very much!). We plan on changing the format and having a different type of event for ’06.  We’re considering an overnighter somewhere, possibly staging from a different location and/or running in a different location, so stay tuned.  Again, we cannot thank our excellent sponsors enough and we urge you to always support them, as they support us!  These sponsors include Beaverton Honda/Yamaha, Clarke, Moose, IMS, Baja Designs, Rooster Performance, Trailtech, and Guts Racing,  Hope to see you all again at next year’s Black Dog National!