By Tom Niemela
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My buddy in Hood River, Rick Higgins, was due for some surgery in a week, and will be out of riding commission for about four months, so he wanted to give it one last hurrah before he's laid up. So my buddy, Stevie Ray, and I headed over in the early A.M. to meet "Rocket Rick" at his shack by the golf course in "The Hood". The weather was absolutely gorgeous! We also planned on attending Vernon's Annual Easter Bunny BBQ shindig afterwards. When we arrived at Rick's, Joe Lawry was also there, so we were lucky enough to visit with him and give him a hard time. Joe was in a serious traffic accident last year and dinged himself up pretty good. Fortunately, he's tougher than nails and doing quite better these days. I hope I am as awnry as him when I'm in my 80's. We then left, went up and unloaded the bikes close to the town of Parkdale.
After donning our gear, we headed up to the top of Middle Mountain and dropped down the Goat Trail. The trail was dusty in sections, then snow - weird! We dropped down that and continued on some of last year's Black Dog AA trail until we came upon a two other riders. We visited with them, then Stevie Ray was complaining about his hydraulic clutch acting up again, so we made our way back to the truck where he could attempt some repairs. After Stevie Ray added more fluid to his ailing clutch, we then headed East up Road #17 and more killer trail. There was plenty of downfalls on the trails and we had to constantly clear it out, but the trails were nothing short of stellar. In fact, as usual, we will have some new routes and trail for this year's Black Dog.
That's when we REALLY hit the snow. We tried all sorts of ways to get through the white stuff, but it was just too deep and frozen. We tried going up from the bottom of the trails, but couldn't make it. We then went around and tried to drop in from the top of the trails, but it was deep there too. Stevie's clutch was continuing to run out of fluid again too, so we decided to limp our way back to the truck. Only about a 28-mile ride, but still fun!
After loading up the scoots, we then made our way to Vernon's Easter Bunny BBQ. Vernon is the one who showed up at the 2001 Rat Dog with the rockin' Triumph Tiger and sidehack. Check out the cool photos of Vern in action in the 2001 Rat Dog pictures section.
When we got there the party was in full swing. There were plenty of cool bikes of all flavors and sizes. There was even a vintage 1969-ish Hodaka Ace 90, plus newer Triumphs, a classic Norton, two Urals with hacks (one in full camouflage), KLRs, Harleys, Goldwings, etc. There looked to be about 50 people, complete with great chow, beverages and a piņata getting beat up by a gaggle of gleeful kidlets. We had the pleasure of visiting with Vernon and Amy, plus also met Mary, Harley Bob (who grew up in Athena, OR where the Hodakas were designed), Dave B. of the Oregon_DSR and his family (Kim, Nathan and Chase), Joel, and various others. After trying some barbequed rabbit, and visiting with plenty of great folks, we then made our way back home. All in all a short, but awesome ride, and a great party at Vernon's.
My buddy Jim Dukes and I did a quick 2-hour jaunt on the Beemers before we gorged ourselves at his in-law's house for Easter Dinner later that day. Nothing marathon, or wild, just a trip up Skyline Drive to Dixie Mountain Road and made our way to Scappoose, Oregon and back. We stopped briefly to get photos of us doing our best Jay Springsteen imitations.