For those of you who missed the first Sportbike Northwest event, held in September in the Columbia River Gorge, we've decided to run a recap.
Pulling into Stevenson on Tuesday afternoon, two days before the event you’d have to wonder if there was going to be a Sportbike Northwest event at all. A fire in Cascade Locks, just across the Columbia River, had turned the Skamania County Fairgrounds into a Red Cross Evacuation Center. I crossed my fingers and hoped they’d get the fire contained by Thursday. They did.
Above/right: The Event Staff rides out Thursday afternoon on a scouting trip for 2004
One couple, Mel and Cheryl couldn’t wait for the event to begin, so they pulled in Wednesday night, set up camp, went for a ride, came back and hung cute little kitchy Christmas lights in their area. Sportbike Northwest had begun.
Thursday other attendees began arriving. Most notably was the arrival of Harvey Gilkerson on his FZ1000. While traveling down the Wind River Road, Harvey had a little visit from a bee, in his helmet. The bee decided to polinate Harvey's snot and flew up his nostril. Harvey took a spill and the only sign of the bee was a stinger in Harvey’s neck. Harvey picked the bike up, patched it back together and rode all weekend with the rest of us.
As for the rest of the crowd, everyone received a 16 page program loaded with rides and things to do in the area. Thursday and Friday were open, with little agenda, so most took off riding at their leisure.
Friday evening closed with Doug Mayer of Muzzy’s doing a 1 ½ hour tech talk in the beer garden on the northwest side of the fairground. Interesting banter about pipes, jetting, drag bikes and a theory that tires will play the final role in the future to determine who wins and who losses at the track.
Saturday was the busy day. We started the morning with breakfast served by the Stevenson Volunteer Fire Department. The Breakfast raised $700 for the crew, less their expenses. Riding Skills journalist David Hough took the floor there in the rec hall that morning and discussed performance cornering and other assorted subjects while riders ate.
Next up was the 200 mile Poker Run. First checkpoint was at the campground and utilized a dart toss to kick it off. Riders then headed up to Vista House in Oregon (Shown above photo courtesy of Brad Allan), Rowena Plateau near The Dalles and then to Maryhill loops road. For many this was their first experience on these select portions of the Historic Columbia Gorge highway built by Sam Lancaster and Sam Hill in 1916. Twisties galore! Next years poker run will be a different route and we’ll work to keep riders off I-84 as much as possible.
Maryhill Loops Road was a treat for many. This road is closed to the public, but we worked with the powers that be to open it, as suggested by Brian Bosworth of Destination Highways. Riders were able to go up and down for three hours riding 24 hairpin turns in each 3 ½ mile direction. One rider did the road 30 times that day. Some crusty cow pies on the road raised a little concern early in the afternoon, but within one hours they had pretty much all been ground away (by anyone running Dunlops of course). We’re looking into working with the county to clean the road in the morning next year.
Back at camp, Rone Echervio and his brother had whipped up a fantastic dinner that topped any rally food I ever had. You see, Rone’s brother is schooled in cooking with a history of working Bellagio and other fine rooms in the US. Tasty pork & veal meatballs, a heavenly marinara sauce, garlic bread and salad awaited riders upon their return (a bit of wind followed us back through the Gorge that afternoon).
The night ended with Harvey laying out the bounty of door prizes and The Motorsports Show’s very own Dave Preston calling out ticket numbers. Preston’s comical ramblings kept us in stitches. Harvey’s excellent curation of door prizes meant everyone walked away with something.
All in all we had 150 participants. On a fairground that accommodates 1,500 people it looked small, but that was a great turnout for the first year. Aside from Harvey’s fall, we had one minor injury when a rider dropped his bike on a turn near Trout Lake. The best news was no one got a speeding ticket all weekend. The riders that came were the riders who love to ride. No poseurs, no one popping wheelies, or doing burnouts – just motorcyclists who get their kicks in the turns.
The volunteers who provided the needed support to pull this off did an excellent job. Everyone who put time in is listed at the Sportbike Northwest website, www.soundrider.com/sbnw. I’d also like to tip my hat to the sponsors who took a shot with us on our first year.
When I returned home on Monday, it was a no-brainer to pick up the phone, call down to the Gorge and book 2004. As long as people keep coming and everyone has a good time, I’ll keep putting the event on.
One final note is that the event date this year bumped into The Ride For Kids, PIR racing and VME’s Isle of Vashon fund raiser. In 2004 the event will be the third weekend in September so we can steer clear of these other events. See you then!
Tom Mehren/Fall 03