How I Learned to Love the Bomb and Fry My Butt in Utah
How I Learned to Love the Bomb and Fry My Butt in Utah: STAR Days
Ogden, Utah, about a half hour putt outside Salt Lake City is one of those best kept secrets you hear about. But when this rider/writer ventured there recently to experience the STAR Days rally, he got more than he bargained for.
They sat Life is a matter of timing, and this time Ogden was experiencing a record breaking heat wave... 105 degrees F as in Farfrigginhot! Like it was reaching critical mass. I had to keep ice in my tankbag to make sure my film wouldn't melt. Stuffing some in the pocket of my jeans helped, too, except for the frostbite where frost usually never bit. But despite the brain fogging temperatures and freezer burn, I'd have to say it was a cool deal, all five days running.
You inquiring minds are no doubt asking so what the hell is STAR Days? An astronomy club hootenanny? Nope. First some decrypting of the acronym STAR. It stands for the Star Touring & Riding Association, a 30,000 member and growing organization dreamt up by its International Prez, one Allan Cease who calls Tucson home when not out riding his "Hot Chili" Yamaha decorated with Tabasco sauce bottles. Not too coincidentally Yamaha happens to make Royal Star, Road Star and V-Star cruisers and STAR is all about Yamahas and the people who ride them so naturally Yamaha Motor Corp. had a blue and white tent offering test rides all through the event. That included the V-Max I blasted around on for five days, and I mean blast. There's good reason why this hotrod has been in production for twenty years. You could also throw a leg over their 145 hp sport tourer FJR1300, the canyon carving FZ-1, and the aggressively styled Road Star Warrior.
STARpeople rallied by the hundreds at the Weber Country Fairgrounds just outside Ogden where the activity schedule included a custom bike show, poker runs, timed rally runs, riding and customizing seminars, a Star-be-que and a benefit auction all of which raised $61,000 for the Feed the Children program.
A big reason STAR chose Ogden was its great riding opportunities. Everywhere you looked there was a Kodak moment twitching in the crosshairs of your camera. Utah has count-em, 27 designated State Scenic Byways and the most national parks of any U.S. state, five to be exact. Ogden's nearby Snowbasin mountains catered to the 2002 Winter Olympics and during the winter season the slopes are crawling with skiers. Now Utah is also famous for its Bonneville Salt Flats where things with wheels try to break records set by other things with wheels... bikes, cars, bikecars, carbikes, two wheels, three wheels, four wheels, 18 wheels. But you don't want to break any land speed records in Ogden.
It's a cruising kind of environment that you want to savor. It's got one of those historic 1800's storefront downtowns that could stand in for some Western TV series. Speaking of Hollywood, lo and behold who do I bump into at the Marriot Hotel when its AC system broke down and they bought every portable electric fan at the local Wal-Mart and passed them around? Well, I found the people making the new bigger and better version of the classic "Benjie" film? Yep, right there in Ogden. Doggone it, not only that, but Ogden is actually the location where they film that series "Everwood" that's supposed to be in Colorado. Nope, Ogden.
"Og" as we call it also happens to be home to the largest producer of automobile air bags in the country, says the bartender who serves me my allotted beer. Did I mention you have to get a permission slip to drink alcoholic beverages? This is Utah remember and they have rules about such things. After some R&R, I was back on Max for further explorations like riding over to Promontory Point where the famous golden spike connected the nation by transcontinental railway on May 10, 1869. One of my favorite "tourist sites" was the nearby, like ten minutes, Hill Air Force Base where I had my picture snapped next to full size replica of the first A-bomb. I was feeling positively radioactive with happiness because inside the seriously huge museum they had more airplanes than most third world air forces including F-16s, Warthogs, B-52s and even an SR-71 Blackbird.
Since I grew up with Godzilla in my crib, I just had to visit the Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park on East Park Boulevard. I was in Hadrosaur Heaven. Six acres chocked full of 100 life-sized dinosaurs plus a cozy little museum with a huge T. Rex and even a super rare Ultrasaur, one of only two found in the country.
Back trolling through the downtown area, you find yourself facing Union Station, about any way you face since it's so huge. Inside you'll find a Natural History Museum, train and vintage cars exhibits and way up their on the "Have Gun, Will Travel" wish list is the John M. Browning Museum bristling with the original 1911 Colt , the famous BAR and every other pistol, shotgun, rifle and machinegun ever designed by Browning. You don't have to shoot holes through stop signs to appreciate the design, workmanship and history, but it helps.
Back at the fairgrounds, after the tasty Star-be-que, STAR members brought out their wallets for the rally auction, again benefiting Feed the Children. Up on the block was a brand new 2004 Royal Star, but the item that brought a hushed silence to the room was an American flag flown in battle in Baghdad and along with it a pack of "Most Wanted" playing cards and 5 Iraqi dinars. You could hear a pin (not from a hand grenade) drop as the letter accompanying the flag was read to the audience.
A number of vendors gravitated to the rally including California's Baron Custom Accessories (http://www.baronscustom.com/), builders of radical custom Yamahas and the parts to make them so. The Missouri based Cycle Care Products (http://www.cyclecare.com/) helped keep bikes spiffy and clean while the ProMetrix company out of Phoenix displayed their trick floorboards, pulley and rotor covers (http://www.prometrix.biz/).
On the last day of the event Ogden's historic 25th Street looked like Main Street at Daytona or Sturgis with Yamahas and STAR riders partying into the evening. And then it was adios Ogden. The next STAR Days rally is being planned as we speak. Yamaha or not, you're invited.
For more info contact:
STAR Touring and Riding Association
1870 W. Prince St.
Ogden Utah Information:
Ogden Convention & Visitor's Bureau: http://www.ogdencvb.org/
George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park & Elizabeth De Shaw Stewart Dinosaur Museum: http://www.dinopark.org/
Union Station: http://www.theunionstation.org/
Browning Firearms Museum: 801-629-8535.
Hill Air Force Base Aerospace Museum: www.hill.af.mil/museum