We WON!: Sound RIDER! wins Prestigous AMA Road Event Organizer Award

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Sound RIDER! takes prestigious AMA award

One November sunday, I got up at 5 am to fly to Las Vegas so I could attend the 2011 American Motorcyclist Association’s awards banquet. I’d been summoned to attend, with Sound RIDER! having been nominated again as Recreational Road Event Organizer of the Year.

Alaska Airlines de-iced the wings of the plane and we taxied down the runway. As the plane lifted, I thought about the day AMA’s road riding manager, Eddie James, had asked us to nominate our Rally in the Gorge event as AMA’s Northwest Regional Road Riding Rally. I put my application in, it was granted, and there we were under the spotlight of the largest motorcycle organization in America.

Photo: Rob Dingman, President/CEO of AMA; Tom Mehren, Sound RIDER!; Greg White, Motorsports Personality. Photo by Peter terHorst

We started producing the Rally in the Gorge in 2003 as Sportbike Northwest. With the help of Scott Reneaud, Bonnie Ecker and Herb Larson of AMA district 27 (WA), we put on a great show year after year. People like Bruce Scott, Harvey Gilkerson, Connie Adams and Paul Teft have been instrumental in carrying the rally along, and in 2012 we’ll celebrate its 10th year.

Things went well with the rally, so in 2005 we decided we could slide a few other categories into the event and call it the Rally in the Gorge, sticking with the sub-headings (and sub-websites) of Sportbike Northwest, Sport Touring Northwest, Dual Sport Northwest and Maxi Scoot Northwest. AMA was well aware we were focused not just on younger riders, but riders across the age demographic, and this pleased them.

But the rally wasn’t our first event. Our first foray into events was in 2000 when we ran the first 3 Pass BLA$T event, taking riders 200 miles through the Cascades on a predetermined route that they could ride any time from April to September. Riders needed to do the ride in the time it took to do it at the legal speed limit, but that was undisclosed. "I simply got on my bike and rode" said Jerry Party who won the first place prize that year.

Then came the rally.

In 2006, I worked with Tom Samuelsen of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling to produce a multi-day on-road/off-pavement tourthe Trollhaugen Dual Sport. That eventually morphed into the Sasquatch Dual Sport tour as we know it today, that I work closely with Bob Owen to produce.

In 2009, we ran the final 3 Pass BLA$T and focused on an up-and-coming event, the Café to Café Grand Tour. We ran out of passes to cross, but good food is everywhere!

Throughout the amalgamations and development of our current events, we worked closely with the AMA to put as much promotion, smarts and creative thinking behind each one.

Dave Hembroff, who took the reigns of the road division in 2006 (Eddie James moved on and passed away in a motorcycle accident shortly after), has been instrumental in making connections for us with BMW, KTM and Yamaha over the years. Besides that, he’s always been a supporter of ours as we’ve developed each event.

Imagine if someone said they wanted to produce a multi-day Sportbike rally back in 2003. Anyone with $1 of net worth would have jumped back. But the AMA stuck with us, providing guidance, promotion and insurance policies not available anywhere else. Today, we produce some of the most responsible and fun motorcycle rides and events on the planet.

I arrived in Las Vegas shortly after noon on that November sunday and perused the program, only to find we were up against Americade and IBA Sports.

AmericadeI know that one. Big rally on the east coast. So big the promoters make a single living off the event. They do it right, year after year. I’ve never been, but I need to go and steal their better ideas.

IBA Sports. I think I know what that one is? A check on the Mango phone confirms it It’s the Iron Butt Association!

Good god, why did I even pay for a plane ticket!?

So there I am in a fancy Vegas hotel and Greg White (you remember him from Speed Channel) is calling out the nominees. I want to crawl under the table. Then Ashley Phillips (world record holder for most attractive woman motorcycle racer) calls out the winner.

'Sound RIDER!'we WON!

In my former life I spent 25 years in the music business by day, and played in club bands at night. I have hours of stage time. But I have to be honest, I’m a little chocked up and nervous at this point.

I’m 200 feet back from the stage, and eventually jog to the stage to kill the dead air time, then accept the award and do the obligatory photo.

Ashley, with mic in hand, asks "So what kind of work goes into making your road riding events happen?"

At this point I do my best Tim Eyeman and …

"It’s a lot of work. We put on the AMA Northwest Regional Rally, a Grand Tour, a five day dual sport tour and a five day road tour’. Ashley’s eyes bulge at the idea of our insanity. I proceed. "We couldn’t do this without the support of the great team back in Seattle as well as the AMA. Dave Hembroff, thanks for all your support, everyone in Events Services, and Rob Dingman (AMA CEO) for creating a great team to work with. Eddiethis one’s for you!"

TM/Winter 2012


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