Return of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club – Biker Sees Red Over Proposed Park Fee Hike

“What are you rebelling against, Johnny?”
“Whaddaya got?”

–The Wild One, 1953

Doug LaMalfa and I are Facebook friends, but I take it with a grain of salt.  It’s not like we know each other, unless he remembers the time I called him up back in 2009 to ask about the $25,000 in state taxpayer funds he spent repairing his $29,000 Ford Mustang. The rightward-leaning Republican was 2nd District Assemblyman back then, and at the time, California’s legislators enjoyed exceedingly generous travel perks, some of which were rescinded after my award-winning investigate piece, “Beyond Driven,” appeared in the Sacramento News & Review.

In 2013, LaMalfa was elected to serve in the know-nothing, do-nothing Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, where he has rarely failed to toe the party line, from taking the science out of government decision-making to declaring Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu president of the United States. Apparently, someone in the party has ordered the rank-and-file to troll constituents via social media, and for some odd reason no doubt deeply rooted in masochism, I “friended” LaMalfa on Facebook.

Most of my new friend’s posts (I realize it’s a staffer writing them, but let’s pretend) seem specifically designed to infuriate me and the latest was no exception:

“The National Park Service has proposed significant fee hikes on Lassen Volcanic National Park, arguing these increased fees are essential to cover the cost of expanding other National Parks across America, and paying for backlogged management of existing parks. Vehicle entry would increase from $10 to $25, foot entry would increase from $5 to $12, and motorcycle entry would increase from $5 to $20.

“How will these fee increases impact you and your family? Please share in the comment section below.”

Now the thing that popped my cork, besides the feigned interest in my opinion,  may not be so obvious to you, unless you’re a motorcyclist. Apparently, the good people who run the National Park Service, as well as their enablers in Congress, have decided to jack up motorcycle entrance fee at Lassen Volcanic National Park by 400 percent, from $5 to $20.

As a long-time motorcyclist, I’m so insulted that for the first time in my life I’m ending a sentence with two exclamation marks!!

We motorcyclists have been treated like second class citizens long enough. It’s been more than six decades since Marlon Brando, playing Johnny Strabler, leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, destroyed the fictional town of Carbonville, CA. in The Wild One. Based very loosely on a beer-bust-gone-bad in Hollister, the film sparked the myth of motorcyclists as barbarian horde that rides like a dark shadow over us till this day, in the form of absurd hit television series such as “Sons of Anarchy.”

To be sure, black-leather clad motorcycle gangs prowl our highways and byways, but today it’s far more likely to be a group of doctors or lawyers on that roaring squadron of Harleys than machine-gun toting Hell’s Angels.

Now, I’d like to think that someone at the National Park Service did the math and realized that charging a group of 10 motorcyclists $20 per head to enter Lassen Park is far more lucrative than charging one van filled with a dozen screaming brats $25. That sort of economic ruthlessness I can understand, if not support. The problem of course is that as soon as motorcyclists figure out they’re getting ripped off, they’ll stop going, and the deterioration of what is one of California’s best-kept secrets will hasten apace.

But I’m fairly certain economics has nothing to do with the Park Service’s proposed fee hike on motorcyclists, and everything to do with the cloud cast above all motorcyclists by the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. I’ve been touring California by motorcycle for 30 years and can recall signs warning “No Motorcyclists” at campgrounds up and down the state well into the 1990s. Everywhere we go, our undeserved reputation as barroom brawlers and wired-out meth dealers proceeds us, even after all these years.

So when my new Facebook friend Doug LaMalfa asked me “How will these fee increases impact you and your family? Please share in the comment section below,” naturally I lost it.

“You sign this, and I’ll make sure you never get a vote from a Harley-Davidson rider again,” I typed furiously, waving an imaginary angry finger in my mind. “ $20 for motorcycles, which use up less space than a van load of children, is ridiculous. This is what your austerity is bringing us, Mr. LaMalfa.”

It was only after I read the fine print that I realized LaMalfa wouldn’t be signing anything and that the Park Service’s proposed fee hike was probably a fate accompli. The link he attached was from a November Park Service bulletin announcing that public comment section was now open. Apparently, it’s still open, but I can’t help feeling it’s a done deal, and that LaMalfa’s post was simply a cynical ploy to reinforce the Republican Party ideal that anything the federal government does must suck.

It’s certainly true in this case, Mr. LaMalfa. But don’t go getting the idea that we’re really friends.

Sources

My story:
http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/beyond-driven/content?oid=992495

The Park’s Notice:

http://www.nps.gov/whis/learn/news/whiskeytown-national-recreation-area-and-lassen-volcanic-national-park-propose-fee-increases.htm

R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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30 Responses

  1. Avatar trek says:

    I’m all for freedom to ride but I would like to see the NPS use a decibel noise reader at the entrance and not allow any vehicle that’s louder than the law allows, $20.00 fee or not.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I have a friend who always brings the noise issue up. For you guys and gals out there in the “loud pipes save lives” gang, just remember to gear up and grunt your way through neighborhood traffic, keeping the revs and therefore the noise down, lest the public become even more perturbed with bikers.

  2. Avatar cheyenne says:

    This is why the states need to take over management, not ownership, of federal lands in their state. Someone sitting in Washington DC that made this decision probably never heard of Redding. Much better for Sacramento to make those decisions.
    And you think it is bad there it is worse in Wyoming. The feds take $2 billion in mineral receipts off federal lands in Wyoming and say they don’t have enough money to monitor the oil wells.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I know Cheyenne, it’s like someone in D.C. just decided, hey, let’s jack up ticket price 400 percent and see if anyone notices.

    • Steve Steve says:

      The proposed fee increases at Lassen Volcanic National Park and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area are local proposals made by the administrators of those parks. (I don’t know if the administrators had to seek permission from superiors in DC prior to publicly “outing” the proposed fee hikes, but I suspect that if required, getting permission from DC to float the increased fees was mechanical.) It’s more likely that people in the HQ offices of the two parks decided, “Hey, let’s jack up the ticket price 400% and see if anyone notices.”

      And, sure enough, someone did.

  3. Avatar Teresa Norman says:

    The “government” is far removed from the people it governs and this is just another example. I wonder, when was the last time these people loaded up a car full of family and neighbor kids for a day trip to the mountains?? They probably don’t cruise the NPS very much…they send their kids to expensive camps for the summer. They simply are not in our reality.
    It remi ds me of a meeting I attended at a local school once where 90% of the students were on govt. assistance. The new superintendant arrived to speak with us wearing Gucci shoes with a matching bag. To this day she probably doesn’t understand why she was poorly recidved. They just don’t live in our world!!!

  4. Steve Steve says:

    I suspect that the $20 fee is not intended to gouge motorcycle riders, but to dissuade riders of hogs from using the portion of Highway 89 that bisects Lassen Volcanic NP as part of a loop route. Most local Harley Davidsons routinely exceed 100 dB, well over the legal limit. (That’s both my professional observation, and according to Monty Hight, a motorcycle rider who addressed the issue in his “Cop Talk” column a few years back.) If you’re within a quarter mile of Highway 89 in the park, you’re not exactly in the wilderness, but the roar of a pack of Harley riders opening up their throttles is not what most people have in mind when they visit a national park, even at a congested picnic area.

    If the fee keeps 3/4 of Harley riders out of LVNP, the shift from $5/bike to $20/bike is a fiscal push — and I doubt that most other LVNP users would count that 3/4 decline in Harley noise as a deterioration of the park.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      There’s no question Steve that a $5 ticket for a one week pass makes Lassen an awesome daily commute option for the sportbike rider driving from, say, Shingletown to Chico. I’m not sure a Harley could make it fast enough. And again, the loud pipes save lives crowd need to gear up and slow down when the public is around.

      • Steve Steve says:

        Man, that would be an awesome commute on a sportbike.

        The problem with the “loud-pipes-save-lives” argument is that we’ve all experienced (many times) HD riders twisting their throttles for the obvious sheer joy of creating noise and vibration. And if you’re in a car in the same vicinity with a formerly sleeping baby, saving lives is the very opposite of what comes to mind.

  5. Avatar cheyenne says:

    I camped for several years in Lassen, mostly in Manzanita but used the others occasionally. I never was bothered by motorcycle noise or truck noise. The noise that bothered me was from inconsiderent RV owners who would run their generators in the evening making it impossible to hear the night sounds from the forest, which is why we go camping. Despite a 10PM curfew on generator use, the campground host had to occasionally tell campers to turn off their generators.

    • Steve Steve says:

      That’s why I avoid camping in campgrounds with RVs, or at least the portion of the campground where the RV pads are located.

      I gotta say, you haven’t experienced inconsiderate neighbors in a campground until you’ve camped on a Saturday night next to a drunken gang of Forest Service tree-planting contractors who don’t have to work on Sunday. At about 3:17 am, as you enjoy the greatly amplified voice of Ozzy Osbourne, you start to forget the teachings of your forefathers. (It’s my understand that tree-planting crews are not allowed to camp anywhere near developed campgrounds in FS Region 5.)

  6. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Thank goodness someone is paying attention. When my internet service cost jumped 40%, I called to straighten out this illogical jump in price for a service that hadn’t gotten faster or more efficient. Sigh. I switched to a different service provider.
    This land is your land, this land is my land……unless you ain’t got the do re mi!

    • Avatar EasternCounty says:

      How nice for you that you had a choice. In Eastern County, Frontier is the monopoly. The only other choice is satellite: DISH, DirecTV, or Hughes., none of which is at all reliable. Consumers Union is making a huge push against Comcast merging with another provider because together they could gouge customers. I and my fellow InterMountain dwellers would jump at the chance to have a choice other than Frontier even if it were more expensive.

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        We want high-speed internet, damn it!

      • Steve Steve says:

        I moved my office from Palo Cedro to Redding because Frontier.

        If you opt for satellite, my understanding is that your need for download speed is greatly mitigated (relative to Frontier DSL), but you’re still at the mercy of Frontier’s DSL for uploading. And if you happen to be relatively distant from Frontier’s local hub (as I was in PC), your DSL capacity is reduced as a function of distance (or more specifically, the number of other lines between you and the hub). It sucks out loud.

        • Avatar EasternCounty says:

          Many people out here opt for g-mail or Yahoo for their e-mail, but they’re still at the mercy of Frontier as their carrier. For nearly two years, my neighbors were able to have DSL because they lived on the corner of our road and the main road where the Frontier cable was laid. We were only about 600 yards away from that intersection, but since the hub was at the other end of our road, two miles away, we were stuck with dial-up. A friend who owns the AT&T phone store in Burney but lives way out in the boonies doesn’t even attempt to access the Internet at home because it takes forever to connect — if at all. Frontier “service” is such a joke.

      • Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

        We were so happy when DSL service came to Shasta. The crazy thing is that it works well with old phone lines. Nothing magic.

  7. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Cable internet and TV, whats that? I live in Wyoming. I get Dish from Denver with one plus, no Fox News.

  8. Avatar cheyenne says:

    RV, your article on Benno is still generating comments. You do write interesting articles. Keep up the good work.

  9. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Mea Culpa…..I misdirected the thread for your excellent article. I find myself frequently doing battle against illogical decisions and unfair business practices. I have won several battles, but I got the feeling that corporations and agencies assumed that no one will read a bill or examine and compare fees over time. I love to read what you write.

  10. Avatar cheyenne says:

    In the Feds don’t have a clue department.
    Five years ago Wyoming passed a law that fracking companies had to reveal the chemicals used in fracking. After five years of legal challenges the courts sided with Wyoming last year that the companies had to reveal those chemicals. Then this year the Feds announce their new enviromental law, fracking companies must reveal the chemicals used in fracking. Does DC even pay attention to what is going on in the states? Now more legal battles will start over the feds ruling and postponing what Wyoming had already won. This is why Wyoming, now joined by North Dakota, are suing the feds over duplicate rules. And last year California passed their own fracking rules.
    What are the feds thinking? Or do they think?

    • Steve Steve says:

      Often, the motivation for the Feds to pass regulations is to even the playing field where state regulations range from stringent to nonexistent. Texas and North Dakota — the two largest oil producers in the US — have no fracking chemical disclosure laws. The new federal rule applies only to drilling on federal lands. Wyoming’s politicians and drillers are crying foul and threatening to sue because the federal rule duplicates a state regulation. However, Interior has already said that in states with disclosure regs that exceed the federal rule, Interior will likely defer to the states. (Don’t squeal until you get hurt.)

      It’s also the case that states often pass laws that duplicate or contradict existing federal laws. California passed air and water quality regulations that duplicate, but are more stringent than, federal standards. Colorado passed a law legalizing recreational marijuana, which remains illegal at the federal level.

      • Avatar cheyenne says:

        It took five years of court battles for Wyoming to force the oil companies to disclose chemicals. Now that the feds have voiced their ruling the oil companies will challenge the disclosure rule in court and delay Wyoming in implementing their own ruling. As we have some 100 oil companies pursuing fracking permits just in Laramie County, where I live, it does affect me.
        Were they fracking in Shasta County you might feel different about the ruling.

        • Steve Steve says:

          The court challenges to the federal rule may take time to resolve — there is an arguable legal point that EPA (not Interior) should be doing the regulating of fracking. The weaksauce argument that the feds have no business regulating fracking on federal lands is laughable.

          Meanwhile, the federal rule does absolutely nothing to stop Wyoming from enforcing its own rule. If you go on FracFocus.org, where Wyoming posts its fracking chemical disclosures, you’ll see that Wyoming continues to enforce its rule. I can’t find any source — credible or crackpot — that says this is going to change as a result of the lawsuits addressing the federal rule.

          • Avatar cheyenne says:

            Instead of prowling the internet maybe you should attend some of the community meetings that the Wyoming Gas and Oil commitee hold. We who attend are concerned about keeping Laramie County in the top five of clean air counties in the nation, American Lung Association. Four fracking wells just east of Cheyenne are still flaring gas and we want that flaring to be captured.
            Right now Laramie County is holding meetings for community input on the aquifer depletion in the county and what to do about it, fracking is one of the concerns. So far the main culprit for tainted water is the old missle sites, we want to keep it that way.
            California has shown the way for other states on water. We do not want to get into the severe position on water as California is and that is why there is a lot of talk about fracking and water use. Wyoming is also pursuing a ten year plan to build ten dams on smaller rivers to capture the snow melt which is melting, according to latest estimates, sixteen days earlier.
            And amid all this we have to deal with the smog from the Denver area encroaching on us, though I have to admit the Denver smog is not as bad as the smog you have to deal with floating up from the Bay Area.
            And an article in the WTE addressed what RV was talking about in this article. The NPS at its headquarters instigated the rate increases at the parks. They left it up to the local parks to determine the amount after input from locals. From RV’s description it doesn’t sound like Lassen took any input. By contrast the WTE said none of the Wyoming parks were affected.
            And that is the news from Laramie County from someone who lives here, not 1500 miles away.

          • Steve Steve says:

            Cheyenne — I’m not prowling the internet. I’m an environmental scientist, and it’s my job to stay current with environmental regulations. I have projects across the western US, including Wyoming. Wyoming’s regulations are not affected by the BLM rule.

            I was born in Greeley and grew up in western Colorado (Routt County) near the Wyoming border. My uncles and cousins — the ones who didn’t manage to make a go in ranching — were oil roughnecks and coal diggers in the region. I’m not as ignorant of these issues in the Rocky Mountains as you might imagine.

            As for your notion that Lassen Volcanic NP didn’t solicit public comments on the proposed fee increase, that’s simply wrong.

  11. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Steve, possibly you could tell me what enviromental project’s you are working on in Wyoming. As I and others are concerned about Wyoming’s enviroment it could be helpful to have input from an enviromental scientist when we go to the information meetings put on by the Wyoming Gas and Oil board. There are also meetings going on about the aquifers here in Laramie County and any information from the scientific community would be helpful.

    • Steve Steve says:

      Cheyenne — All of our contracts have confidentiality clauses. All I can tell you is that we’re working for a federal agency in Wyoming (also Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Nevada), and it’s not BLM. The work is related to forest and rangeland health.

      As for helping you out, I would hesitate to get involved in a process that seems, from your comments, to be highly politicized. The coins of the realm in my line of work are objective analysis (regarding the science we do) and regulatory compliance (not avoidance). What I read in your comments is that you want to protect Wyoming’s natural resources, including groundwater, but you resent federal intrusion. But federal regulations are more effective protectors of the environment than state regulations, almost across the board. That’s because, absent federally mandated level playing fields for environmental regulations, the various states tend to engage in a “race to the bottom” owing to competitive pressures.

      If you really want to protect groundwater in Laramie County, your group needs to embrace the Clean Water Act, academic groundwater hydrologists, and EPA as your allies. The WGOCC is going to protect energy business interests first.

  12. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Steve, water is a highly politicizied issue here as Nebraska, Wyoming, and Kansas have been suing each other for years over water rights. Colorado has jumped in and out of the mix as they want to build the Million pipeline to take water from the Green River Basin in Wyoming to the frontrange, that effort has been blocked so far as fisherman, water users and ranchers have protested. Colorado says they need this extra water for the cities while some of those cities are selling their city water to frackers. I would think you would know all this if you are working on projects for an unknown federal agency in this parts.
    And, yes, we mistrust the federal government. We have to balance jobs and enviroment unlike the feds who just say no and let people lose their jobs without any consideration for the economic damage their policies cause.
    I will end this debate now before anews tells us too.

  13. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    I have to remember to come back to these stories and look at the comments. So far, it’s been pretty good for my self esteem!