It’s always nice to get out of town for a while, but it’s also nice to get home. Most people probably didn’t even notice I was gone for most of last week – that is unless you were at the city council meeting and saw I was missing or wondered why Brent was taking photos during Heritage Days instead of me.
I had the opportunity to attend the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America’s International Rally in Salem, Oregon (about 500 miles from here). It was held a the State Fairgrounds and was a great venue for some 5100 or so participants. The weather was much nicer than it was when it was held in Redmond in 2010 and Salem really made us feel welcome.
Although we don’t have the facilities to handle such a crowd, even at the Barter Faire Grounds, this rally proves that motorcyclists are one of the niche groups that Sandy Lorentzen told the Oroville Chamber of Commerce we should be trying to attract. Present company excluded, today’s “biker” is often retired and/or upper middle class and likes to travel to see new sights. The highlands around Oroville and Tonasket on both sides of the valley have some great riding roads, many of them undiscovered by a large portion of riding public. But those who do know can’t say enough online about making the loop run from say Oroville to Tonasket via Loomis and back or heading up to Chesaw to stop in at the tavern or checking out the museums at Molson before going on to journey the backroads.
While people came from all around the country and Canada to the rally, speaking with fellow ralliers in Salem it was surprising the many different ways people from Washington, Idaho and British Columbia made their way to Oregon and the different routes that they were planning on taking back home. My home group happens to be the Valley BMW Riders, which is mostly made up of riders from the Okanagan Valley, but I’m one of a few Yanks that belongs. They have their own Last Chance Campout at Oroville’s Veterans Memorial Park in mid-October each year and just that small group I believe has a noticeable impact on the economy when they spend their dollars at the local restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations.
Lorentzen and Vickie Hinze, owner of the Pastime Bar and Grill, are working to try and get the Run for the Border guys and gals from the Harley Owners Group to stay overnight, rather than heading back to Wenatchee the same day. With 200 to 300 motorcyclists descending on Oroville each May we want to show these people what our areas all about. In addition to fine riding roads we have a great lake parks, museums, hiking trails, fishing holes and much more.
“Heads in beds” and getting people to stay an extra day or two is what we should be working towards when it comes to tourism. It really does come down to trying to get people to spend their dollars in order to make the tourism part of the economy work to our advantage. They’ve learned that lesson in Osoyoos, just north of the border. It’s time we take the lesson to heart and join with them to show people just what makes our region unique Like the Welcome to Oroville sign in the old photo on our newspaper office wall says come stay “for an hour or a lifetime.”