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Baker City: Motorcycle Central
By Joshua Dillen
Baker City Herald
High-revving and rumbling excitement arrived in Baker City this weekend as thousands of motorcycles thundered into town for the annual Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.
Brothers Steve and Eric Folkestad of the Portland area started the event in 2006.
The event’s origin goes back six more years, however.
The Folkestads rolled east to Hells Canyon in 2000 with about 10 friends along for the ride. The brothers fell in love with the area and its great roads, and they returned each year, with small groups.
“This is the center of the greatest riding universe in the Northwest, if not the whole nation,” Steve Folkestad said. “There’s more great roads that connect in Baker than just about anywhere in the country.”
In 2006 the brothers decide to advertise the event and see if anyone responded.
Hundreds of riders did, and now the rally is one of the bigger annual events in Baker County.
The Folkestads like to think this rally is different than others without the commercialism associated with other big rallies.
“We don’t want it to be bigger than Sturgis, we want it to better,” said Eric Folkestad, referring to the annual rally in South Dakota that is the nation’s largest and most famous.
The brothers reach out to the bikers who attend the Hells Canyon Rally for donations, and they sell T-shirts along other riding gear that helps to pay the costs of putting on the rally. The rally has also raised money to buy equipment for Turbo, the Baker City Police drug-detecting dog, and two enduro motorcycles the department uses.
Every year there is a Motor cycle show on Saturday that showcases the most outstanding and unusual bikes. Bill Gilliland, originally from Baker City, owns an auto repair shop and lives in Waldport. His 1948 Indian Chief with a Goulding side car won the People’s Choice and Best Trike/Sidecar award.
“I found the bike in a barn 12 miles outside of Baker. I hauled it to Waldport and rebuilt it in my barn,” Gilliland said. “I finished it a week ago, just in time for the rally.”
Sarah Stemper and her mother, Betsy Winkler of Wink and Twink Embroidery, LLC of Kuna, Idaho, sell the official patches of the rally and other motorcycle clothing accessories. Riders paid $2 for the patch that included sewing it on to their vest or other clothing. $1 from each sale of the patches is donated to Baker City Police and contributes to the fund that pays for the cost of feeding and caring for Turbo.
Winkler did have a slight problem with the police in Baker City and cornered one of the officers at last year’s rally.
“I have a bone to pick with you; I’ve never met the dog that I have been feeding for four years now,” she said. “They brought the dog over so I could meet him.”
Deblin McKnight, CEO of Green Light Technology Inc., sells a magnetic device that triggers traffic lights for motorcycles. The product is called the Green Light Trigger. Her senior project in college led to the purchase of the company from the devices inventor and patent holder.
McKnight, 24, recently bought her only competitor.
“So I have a monopoly on the market now, which is nice,” she said. “That’s the Redlight Changer. They have a bigger sales base than we do.”
Jeff Robinson, owner of My Wild Ride Motorcycle Lighting and Accessories in Belgrade, Mont., built a turbocharger for his 2003 Harley V-Rod. The system cost him about $2,500 to build compared to the $6,000 price tag of an incomplete retail system that requires even more money to complete.
Robinson is working with Mark Dobeck of Dobeck Performance to design a turbo kit for motorcycles that will cost about $6,000. Their goal is to sell a complete system with all of the components included.
Robinson developed the system as a result of some bragging to friends.
“I ran my mouth for three years saying I was going to turbocharge my bike. Finally last winter, I took the matter into my own hands and built it,” he said.
Dave Thomas, owner of High Desert Harley-Davidson in Boise, said this is the perfect area for a motorcycle rally. The formula includes but is not limited to scenic roads, great lodging and receptive locals.
“Baker City is firing on all cylinders,” Thomas said.