Posts by Chris Brotherton

Chris Brotherton is a staff writer and the author of Moto Man Rides Again!
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MotoMan: McDowell Creek

 

McDowell Creek Falls. photo by Chris Brotherton

Despite the fact that ski resorts are still open and operating for Memorial Day, the weather in the valley is still mild enough to take a ride. If you want to head towards the mountains without hitting snow, but still take in some sensational views, head east on Highway 34 past Lebanon to McDowell Creek Falls.

McDowell Creek Falls is about 11 miles outside of Lebanon, Ore. There are trails to hike on, mostly following the creek. The rocks are crawling with lichens, the moss thick on the trees from the amount of moisture in the air. The smell of the wet forest hangs in the air as you walk along the soft, pine needle laden path through the trees.

There are three parking lots; lower, middle and upper. The lower and middle lots are both on the right side of the road, but the upper lot is at the top of a hill just before you take a sharp right turn. This lot is a little more private and is a good place to start the loop of the trail system. This is also where you will find the bigger and more powerful waterfall.

There is a wooden observation deck at the top where you can watch the falls and take pictures from the top. If you follow the path down, you will encounter the wooden walkways that lead you down to the lower level, just about the creek. There is another observation deck there as well. From here, you can see how high the waterfall is, plus see all the greenery on the walls of the cliffs surrounding the falls.

The walkway continues on over the creek, offering a few photographic opportunities then ends on the other side of the creek where wooden walkway ends, and dirt trail begins. This trail leads you along the path of the creek to the road. The road is slow enough usually that crossing is not too big of an issue. Once on the other side, following the path will take you to a footbridge. Once across the bridge, there is another set of falls a little ways up the path.

This set of falls has stone steps that lead to the top of it. This one is a little bit of a climb and about halfway up you really start feeling the weight of the armor in your riding jacket.

Once at the top, there is a beautiful view looking down through the forest. From this point, you can either turn around to go back the way you came, or if you continue along the trail, it will lead you through a dense forest of native trees and shrubs, and then back to the upper parking lot.

There are picnic spots at all three parking lots and bathroom facilities at the middle and lower parking lots.

If you are looking for a quick getaway for the day, or for a nice back country tour in the Willamette Valley, McDowell Creek Falls makes for a great place to have lunch and take a little down time exploring. Make sure to bring a camera, and your rain gear.

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MotoMan: In the Buff

Although spring is here in the Willamette Valley and the riding season has begun, for those who don’t ride year round, the temperature isn’t stable yet. The downside to this is that if you take off for a ride during the afternoon hours, there is a chance that you won’t be getting back until after the sun has gone down. Once that happens, the temp drops like a rock.

Packing extra gear can get a little bulky sometimes. However, there are some products out there that are both protective and don’t take up very much space when you pack them. One of those products is The Buff. This microfiber garment is one of the most versatile pieces of headwear out there.

The Buff is woven on a specially designed loom to give it a smooth, seamless tubular shape. The lack of seams means more comfort for the wearer, preventing material and stitches from bunching up against a rider’s skin. This is good news when you want to wear it with a helmet.

This solid tubular construction also means that there are no stitches that will wear out over time or get caught in buttons or zippers on your riding gear. This translates into a long-lasting product that you can rely on to keep performing.

 

click to view source

The Buff is thin enough that it can be comfortably worn under a helmet, and is long enough that it will protect both your head and neck. The thin material is wind resistant and does a great job of keeping the elements off your neck.

However, because of the versatility of this product, you don’t have to wear it only while you are riding. The Buff can be transformed into a head wrap, keeping unruly helmet hair under control.

On a hot day, if you soak The Buff in water and pull it all the way down around your neck, it makes a great way to keep you cool. There are tutorial videos on The Buff website, that show you all the different ways to wear it.
At a retail price of around $20, The Buff is a versatile product that can easily fit in a jacket pocket or tucked in a corner of your luggage, so I never leave mine at home.

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Moto Man: Bike Rally

Sturgis South Motorcycle Rally 2010

Image by jwinfred via Flickr

Spring is here, and it is motorcycle rally season! So why not hit a free one?

The Cottage Grove chapter of the Star Riders, a Yamaha-riding group, puts on the annual Bike Fest in downtown Cottage Grove the first Saturday in May, rain or shine.

This will mark the seventh year that Chapter 339 of the Star Riders group has put on their little shindig, and it just keeps getting bigger every year.

They block off a street in downtown Cottage Grove to make room for all the vendors, food booths, and the games bikers play.  Someone always there to sew patches on your jackets, and of course, people will be on hand to sell you new patches.

The games are a favorite among spectators. Since this is a family friendly event, so are the games. In one game the passenger tries to eat a small donut that is dangling off a string as the driver tries to run the bike as slowly as possible under the donut without putting their feet down.

There is also a bike show, with a $100 prize for the best in show, and other cash prizes for first place in three different categories.  Once again, any make of bike is welcome to participate in the show.

The Star Riders have also set up a poker run — a staple of bike rallies, in which you ride to different establishments collecting a playing card at each place.  The rider who has the best hand at the end, wins.  However, the Star Riders are also giving a prize for the lowest hand.

Star Riders chapter 339 chapter puts together a great rally.  They aren’t sissy about it either.  Regardless of weather or even the unexpected presence of  the local outlaw motorcycle gang (the Mongols), the bike fest goes on.

For more information, visit their website

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MotoMan: “Beyond the Law”

It never fails. You plan the perfect ride, one that is just a high-speed blast through the mountains, exercising every demon in your body in order to work out that deeply hidden outlaw biker inside you, and Mother Nature tells you differently. Torrential downpours or a foot of snow suddenly appear overnight.

There is another way to work out that inner biker. Pop in a movie about hard core bikers.

In 1993, Charlie Sheen starred in a movie about Dan Saxon, an undercover cop who went deep inside the world of outlaw bikers to infiltrate the drug and gun trade that they had set up.

Charlie Sheen’s character, Dan Saxon, at first, tries to make some purchases. However, people figure him to be a cop right away, including a motorcycle mechanic named Virgil, who actually teaches him how to be an outlaw biker. He also teaches him how to blend in and get close enough to the leader of the gang, Blood (Michael Madsen) to start making contraband purchases.

However, the closer he becomes to the gang, the more he starts to become like them. Dan finds himself fighting inner demons that he has spent years hiding. For a while, he seems to be losing to them, but in true Charlie-Sheen-winning style, he pulls out and puts his demons to rest.

The thing that sets this movie apart from most movies in the biker exploitation genre is that it is based on a true story. The real Dan Saxon went undercover and made one of the largest outlaw biker gang busts in history. After the whole incident, he was put into the protection program and moved to an undisclosed location. He was an extra in this movie; however, the role he played was never revealed, in order to protect his identity.

Although this movie isn’t quite the same as actually heading out for a ride, it is easy to get caught up in the action and the riding scenes. Charlie Sheen also does a really good job of playing the part of a biker, and Michael Madsen is always good at playing the heavy.

Beyond the Law” is currently playing for free on Hulu.com for your viewing enjoyment.

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Moto Man: Electric Motorcycles

The swedish experimental electric motorcycle E...

Image via Wikipedia

Chris Brotherton, Staff Writer

Hybrid and electric vehicles are taking off right now because gas prices are steadily climbing and not showing any signs of coming back down. This particular issue is also driving up motorcycle sales, which is a good thing. However, what if you could still ride to work or school and only stop at a gas station to laugh at a Prius owner? If you had a Zero, you could.

Zero Motorcycles is a company started in 2006 around Santa Cruz, Calif., that has taken the lead in the electric motorcycle world. They currently offer two off-road models, the MX for track and jumps, and the X for technical trails. They also have two street models. One is a strictly street bike and the other is a dual sport. Dealerships are popping up all over the country, even internationally.

The street and dual sport models are quite similar and both would make great commuters. With a top speed of about 67mph, both would easily keep up with traffic on Highway 34 and with a range of about 58 miles, you could easily ride to school and back home before needing a charge. Meanwhile, you will never have to change the oil or buy gas.

There is a down side to this, however. The charge time. Standard charge time is about two hours. However, the street and the dual sport models both come with a quick charge mode that cuts the charge time almost in half. Admittedly, it is much easier to just stop and get that tank of gas, but that gas is going to cost you $10 for about two and a half gallons. It costs approximately 48 cents to recharge a Zero.

Now for the real kick: how much? Base price for the dual sport model is $10,495, with the street model costing just $500 shy of that. The quick-charge option costs almost another $600 for both models. Considering what you get for this price, that really isn’t too bad. The lack of gas and maintenance costs alone will almost pay for the bike in a year.

Another good thing about buying one of these new “green” machines is that you will be eligible for the 10 percent federal tax credit, and the Oregon Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Charging Tax Credit. This additional tax credit will net you another $1,000 worth of savings.

However, if you plan to do long distance traveling, the Zero isn’t for you. As a commuter and tooling around town bike, it is perfect. You don’t pay for gas or add harmful fumes to the air. And you still get the freedom of a bike.

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Moto Man: Beginning of the Riding Season Warning

Chris Brotherton, Staff Writer

With the good weather heading into the Willamette Valley, the number of motorcyclists will be increasing. Unfortunately, this will also increase the amount of motorcycle accidents.

These accidents have several contributing factors, including car drivers who aren’t used to seeing bikes out on the road, riders who aren’t used to being on their bikes, and of course the unpredictable weather.

As a rider, you can take certain steps to help keep yourself safe out on the road. One of the first things you can do is take a few short rides before heading out on the first long trek of the season.

Second, make sure that you dress appropriately. Just because it isn’t raining when you left the house, doesn’t mean it won’t change once you get on the road. Comfort is the first key to safety on a bike. Cold hands and wet legs are a huge distraction.

Also, once you do head out on the road, keep an extra eye on the cars. Drivers are even less likely to notice bikes in inclement weather.

By using a little common sense, you can keep from becoming a member of the spring motorcycle fatality statistics.

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Moto Man Rides Again: My New Ride

Chris Brotherton, Staff Writer

A little over a month ago, I sold my motorcycle.  It is a little difficult being “MotoMan” without a moto.  So, I was on the hunt for a new bike.

Moto Man's new bike, a 1993 Suzuki Intruder 800. by Chris Brotherton

I only sold the old bike because the seating position hurt my left knee.  A combination of tearing it up while mountain biking as a kid and trying to tuck it underneath me while riding was just causing me too much pain.  I needed something with a more relaxed seating position.

For two weeks my friend, Rob Coates, and I spent hours scouring Craigslist looking for something that met my criteria.  I wanted a cruise-style bike, 750cc or larger, preferably a V-twin — within my price range.  Everything  we found that came close to matching that description was either sold by the time we found it, or the seller never got back to us.

In a fit of frustration, I turned to Facebook.  I posted my preferences for a motorcycle, mentioned that I was flexible on some things, as long as it would suit my needs.  “If you have anything or know anyone with anything, please contact me.”

Within about 20 minutes, a friend of mine from Newport, Ore., messaged me.  He said he had a 1993 Suzuki Intruder 800 he was willing to let go for $900.  I sat on an Intruder before and found it to be very comfortable.

I looked at them on Craigslist, but couldn’t find them for less than $2500 — out of my price range.

I called Scott Schroeder, the owner of this Intruder.  “Does it run?”

“Of course.  I went through it myself.”

“Would it make it from Newport to Corvallis?”

He laughed a little then answered, “I am positive that it will.”

The bike had been a trade-in at his motorcycle shop, and Scott was just sitting on it.  That was Tuesday night.  I told him I would see him on Thursday, rain or shine.

Thursday morning I threw my riding gear into the back seat of my car, picked up Rob, and headed to Newport.  I was a little nervous thinking about riding home in the horrible weather that was supposed to be on its way.

Once I found Scott’s shop, he showed me the bike.  It had a little oxidation here and there, but nothing that would hinder its performance.  Then he stuck the key in the ignition and fired it up.  It purred to life with the loping idle that is common with V-twins, and an exhaust note that weakened my knees.

“Take it for a test ride,” he suggested.

I knew I wanted it before I reached the end of the block; however, I had to take it out to the highway to see what it would do.  Once I cleared the last light heading east, I opened it up.  It jumped to 70 mph as fast as I could bang the gears.

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

After my test ride, I gladly handed over the cash, and Scott handed me the title, a brand new front tire, and a shop manual for it.  I thanked him profusely, as he had provided me with a bike that fits me and alleviated the headache I was getting from shopping around.

But the best part is: When I got back to Corvallis, I had no pain in my knee.  Finally, I could enjoy riding a motorcycle again.

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Moto Man Rides Again: Memories of the Last Conference

Chris Brotherton, Staff Writer

The heat in the van was keeping the six passengers and the driver comfortable, despite the dropping temperatures outside. The van pounded down the freeway as rain and snow mix spattered against the windshield. Destination? The Associated Collegiate Press journalism conference in Hollywood.

by illustir via flickr/ click to view source

As I watched the miles of highway pass by, I thought about my last trip to California by motorcycle for last year’s conference.

Hunter Thompson, my favorite author, wrote a story about a ride he used to take from San Francisco to San Jose, along California State Highway 1, in the middle of the night.  I wanted to run this route myself, on my own bike.  I was determined to make it happen, so I started planning.

I was going to head down Interstate 5 and cut across to Highway 1 at Sacramento, the quicker way.  However, at the last minute, the weather reports started calling for snow in Ashland.  Damn.  I was forced into taking the coast route.

The day of the trip, I strapped my bags to my bike, got suited up, fired up the engine, and headed out of town.

By the time I hit the mountains heading to the coast, I began to question my sanity.  I decided to just kept persevering, thinking that it couldn’t rain forever.  However, I decided I was gong to turn around and get my car if it didn’t stop by the time I made it to the California border.

Pulling into Brookings, Ore., it was sunny and starting to warm up.  I started getting excited, thinking that the trip was actually going to work out for me.

Before leaving the house, I had looked at the map and learned that Highway 101 went inland once it hit California, and someone in Brookings said there was no rain the rest of the way to San Francisco.

I was going to get a chance to warm up and dry off.

What I failed to notice on the map, however, was that although the highway went inland, it also gained about 2000 feet in elevation.  It wasn’t raining any more, but the ambient temperature dropped about 15 degrees.

I was wet and cold, but I was committed.  In the end, I spent a total of 15 and a half hours in the saddle.

I arrived in San Francisco stiff, sore, and shivering.  I was still too sore to do the ride down Highway 1, so my motorcycle just stayed parked for the weekend as I worked the kinks out of my knees.

For the trip home, I took I-5 the entire way, as the weather was very nice.  For a while the hardest part was keeping cool enough.

So, there I was, on another trip to a journalism convention in California.

Knowing that I would have to be in the van for a long time, I must admit I was a little wary of letting someone else drive all the way to Hollywood. However, the more I thought about how I could be out there on a bike in the horrible weather, the more relaxed I became as a passenger in the heat of the van with rain-snow mix on the windshield.

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LA night lights from the Griffith Observatory. by Tony Brown

Long, Strange Nights in Hollywood

Chris Brotherton, Staff Writer

When most people hear the name Hollywood, visions of movie stars and magic come to their minds.  However, after spending the weekend in this magical place, I have discovered that there is much more to it than magic.

This past weekend, the journalism department of LBCC attended the Associated Collegiate Press journalism conference in Hollywood, Calif.  During the day, most of us were inside the protective confines of the hotel conference center, not really interacting with the outside world.

LA night lights from the Griffith Observatory. by Tony Brown

Half of my group arrived early, so we decided to do some touristy stuff.  Our hotel was on the same block as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, a famous Hollywood attraction.  After snapping some shots of famous people’s hand and foot prints, we started walking back to the hotel.  Suddenly a guy asked if we would be interested in seeing a taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”  So began a trip into the nuts and bolts of Hollywood.

After getting into the building, Gary Brittsan and I waited in line with everyone else.  During this time, the audience was instructed on how to act.  We were warned that there was sensitive sound equipment, so if a cell phone went off, or you talked during the show, you  would be escorted out.  For these people, this was their life.

Once inside the studio, it was nothing but business.  The business of being funny.  By the time the whole show was over, Gary and I both had sore hands from clapping and sore throats from hollering and laughing.

After such a wonderful time in the studio, it was time for dinner.  Gary and I hit up the local In-N-Out for some animal-style burgers.  There was no place to sit, and there seemed to not be a place opening up soon, so we headed back to the hotel to eat.

Friday, after the conference, I decided to strike out on my own.  I headed down to La Brea Avenue to see if the tar pits were within walking distance.  They weren’t, but I was able to find the Jim Henson Company, with a giant Kermit the Frog perched up on the top of the building.  Originally the Charlie Chaplin studio, his signature can be found in a cement step near the front gate.

A little further on I found Sunset Boulevard.  I thought that I should find something interesting down there, as I always hear about Sunset and the action there.  This section of Sunset was dead.  I headed back to Hollywood Blvd. to see what kind of action was going on there.

While waiting in a crosswalk, I ran into a filming crew from HBO, out filming for a new series called “Nightlife.”  Their job was to go out and interview drunk people to see what kinds of strange things they had seen while in Hollywood.  Although the premise for the show wasn’t an Emmy-winning one, it was entertaining and a great opportunity to watch journalism at work.

The guy who was in charge of interviewing was very skilled at the art of interacting with people.  He could play around a little bit, making small talk and getting them to realize that he was just a normal guy.  Then once he got them to say yes to being on camera, he was all business.

After two hours with the HBO crew, I decided that it was time to head back up for some rest before filling my head with more journalistic knowledge at the conference in the morning.  Even though the side of Hollywood I saw was nowhere near the glitz and glamour everyone expects it to be, I would still go back and do it all over again.

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Moto Man Rides Again- What Bike is Best for Me?

Chris Brotherton, Staff Writer

Spring is begrudgingly waking up and rubbing the sleep from its eyes, and with it,  riding is fast approaching.  Many motorcyclists are just now starting to dust off their rides and get things ready for warmer weather and higher gas prices that are on the way.

However, there are many motorcyclists out there that are currently bikeless.  Whether it is because they had to sell their bike in order to upgrade, or they have never owned a bike before, now is the time to shop. The nicer the weather gets, the higher the prices are going to go.

The first thing you need to look at is your experience level.  If you have never even thrown a leg over a bike, then your first one probably shouldn’t be a 600cc repli-racer.  There is a really good chance that you will kill yourself.  Also, buying a brand new bike isn’t a great idea.  If you drop a bike that already has a few “beauty marks” then you are less likely to be as upset.
Next, you should consider what type of riding you are going to be doing.  Are you interested in exploring backwoods?  Are you ready to take off across the country, or are you more interested in just cruising around town?

If you are looking for a bike that will get you around town, down the highway and around the backwoods, then a dual sport is what you are looking for.  One of the most famous examples of this is the Kawasaki KLR 650.  This bike isn’t the greatest at tight trails, but it will explore fire roads in comfort and keep up with freeway traffic while still getting over 40 miles per gallon.

If your goal is to pack up and take off on a cross country tour tomorrow, then a full dress touring bike like a Honda Goldwing should be on your shopping list.  With amenities such aas a radio, cruise control and adjustable air shocks, you can ride in comfort while the spacious hard luggage compartment holds your clothes and supplies in waterproof protection.

For most however, commuting is going to be the name of the game for their bikes.  The cruiser or standard style is great for this.  These bikes can run in displacement from 250cc all the way over 2000cc.  They have a foot forward seating position and can be fitted with all manner of accessories, such as bags and windshields, to help make your commute easier on you.

The most important thing is to not rush out and buy a bike just because you think it looks cool.  Take your time and shop around a little bit.  Throw your leg over a couple of bikes before choosing one.  The more comfortable you are, the safer your ride is going to be, and the more likely you are to ride your new gas saver.