Thursday, October 11, 2007

#42. Go to a concert.

I know I've been quite remiss in writing lately and that is clearly a shame. I know that my throngs of loyal fans are just hanging on by a thread waiting for the next installment of how it is in my life. HAHAHAHA.......And now we return you to the real world.

On September 29, 2007, I completed #42 on my list. Go to a concert.

As a real belated birthday treat, I enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Hollyhock Inn with Troy, his sister Tricia, her husband Dennis and Troy's parents. We dined on some of the finest fried chicken that Indianapolis has to offer. It's served family style, so there was definitely no need to go away from the table hungry! When we could stuff ourselves no more, we relaxed outside in the perfect fall weather while we waited for our ability to walk to return. Ha ha ha

The point of our evening out was to enjoy the musical stylings of "Toxic Audio" ( They are musical group who's entire act consists only of their voices. There are no instruments or tracks that accompany them. From my meager description, it sounds like they would be just a simple a capella group, but they are MUCH more than that. They have a way of mixing their voices so that you feel like you are on a beach with the sounds of the surf, gulls calling and children playing all around you. Or they might create a bustling city street complete with honking horns and construction jackhammers. But they don't simply do sound effects. They somehow meld singing, chanting and other vocal sound effects into the music that we all know. They sang everything from the Beatles to Evanescence. It was amazing!

Dennis had heard the group on the radio about a year and ago and taken Tricia to a surprise concert. They enjoyed it so much that when the group was coming back through, Dennis and Tricia decided to share it with the rest of us. It was even better that it was my birthday gift. I'm very glad that they introduced the group to me and I'll definitely check them out the next time they are in town!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Old cars and fast bikes

Fast Bikes
I'm so sorry about my delay in blogging. This whole life thing is much more time consuming than one can imagine! (Of course, perhaps I'm the only one who reads this blog. If that's the case, I'm actually talking to myself. That's probably not a good sign, right? At the very least, I hope I won't answer.)

I've come today to share the latest saga in my motorcycle and 101 list journeys. Troy and I recently returned from quite an adventure over the Labor Day holiday weekend! My advice for those of you truly thinking of reading this whole post: grab a cup of coffee, a nice little snack and get comfy! It was quite a BUSY weekend!

We started our adventure on Thursday, August 30th with the usual rousing early (5 AM) trip to the gym. I was certain that with such an early start, we would be on the road before most of the other weekend traffic, but we seem to run on an alternate schedule when we're on vacation. Originally when I had told my dad that we planned on being on the road by 8 or 9 AM, I had actually thought we would be loooong gone by then. HA! Perhaps it was the trip to Au Bon Pain after our workout that slowed us down. After all, you HAVE to set the right tone for vacation and breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!

At any rate, by nearly 11 AM, we were on the road headed west for St. Louis, MO with a few diversions planned along the way. Our first stop was Terre Haute, IN and the Terre Haute brewery to cross it off of our list of Abate motorcycle stops in Indiana. With that brief detour finished, we were pressing hard to make it to the Moonshine Store in Martinsville, IL. It is a little hole in the wall that is the destination for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of motorcycles in April every year. They come from as far as Canada to enjoy the famous Moonburgers flipped by Helen Tuttle. She and her husband Roy Lee bought the little run down store in 1982 and Helen has been flipping burgers ever since. On an average day, she will make about 140 burgers. The record is 712 a few years ago when all those motorcycles showed up. She flips all those burgers herself, but only until 12:30 and we were hoping to make it in time. After out late departure and detour through Terre Haute, we pulled in at about 12:15. Just in nick of time!

As we were seated on the old church pews around the middle of the store, enjoying our burgers, Helen cleaned up and we were happy to have a chance to chat with her and the other "regulars" sitting near us about the area and what their lives are like. I asked if I could take her picture and told her about the blog of our adventures. As we lapped up the last bits of our lunch, she showered us with swag emblazed with the Moonshine address information and told us to tell all our friends about their little neck of the woods. Well, Helen, we certainly will! We certainly will!

After a lovely lunch, we set out for St. Louis on the way to the Iron Butt Rally. We usually try to ride about 100+ miles before we stop for gas and a drink of water, but about 30 miles down the road, my body was more interested in digestion than paying attention to the road and I started to get a bit sleepy. So, I decided to pull over at a gas station for a bit of water and some gum. Gum is my secret weapon against drowsiness while riding my motorcycle. The act of chewing somehow keeps me awake. Amazing!

As we pulled into the the gas station, we saw another motorcyclist. Lo and behold, it was Ardys Kellerman! For those of you who may not remember, she is the 75 year old woman who rode over 100,000 miles in 2006. As we enjoyed a little bit to drink, we chatted with her. She was on her way from Rhode Island to St. Louis for the end of the Iron Butt Rally as well. I hope I'm as spry when I am 75!

After we left Ardys and put on another 100 miles or so, we stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel east of East St. Louis. We were trying to avoid the rush hour traffic, which we assumed would be especially bad on the cusp of a holiday weekend. So, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner, hopped back on the bikes and proceeded to start out of the parking lot. But as we did this, I noticed that something on my bike felt different. For those of you not acquainted with the Yamaha V-Star 650, it isn't really known for it's smooth ride, to say the least. However, at this point I noticed an EXTRA bit of vibration in my feet as we came to a stop. We pulled over into another parking lot so that I could assess the situation, but since I'm not a motorcycle mechanic and I couldn't really explain what I was talking about to Troy, we decided to proceed with the last 40 miles of our journey. Apparently my bike had other ideas!

Four miles down the road, on the interstate, going about 80 MPH with a semi right behind me, my bike stopped! Luckily I had pulled the clutch in and moved into the right hand lane! I pulled over to the shoulder of the road and got it stopped. Troy had been leading and when the bike died, I tried to honk the horn, but under those conditions, I don't think it made a sound. Even if it did, those weany little horns are impossible to hear on the interstate. So, with Troy long gone, my bike at a complete stop on the shoulder of the road and semis whizzing by me at 70+ MPH, I had a decision to make. What do I do now? I was certain that I didn't want to stay there. I didn't feel it was very safe, so I decided to see if the bike would start again. When it did, I decided to, once again, continue. This time I chose to go MUCH slower. With Troy long gone, I didn't have to worry about keeping up with him, so I took my time. I kept it around 65, but the bike started to sound and feel awful. It was getting quite warm on my leg and the noisest that were eminating from the chassis were bordering on alarming. My goal at this point was to just find a safe place to pull off. The problem with that plan was that I had just entered what seemed to be a spaghetti bowl of interstates. Every exit seemed to only be for a different highway and I decided that staying on 55/70 until my next official turn off would be the wisest move. At least I wouldn't have a broken bike AND be lost.

As I merged from 55/70 onto 64/40, which was supposed to take me to my destination, the bike again stopped. This time, however, I was only going about 55, but there was no place to pull over and there were semis all around. In a moment of desperation, I decided I had to try to start it while I was still moving, so I pulled in the clutch, shifted down to first gear and just kept hitting the start button until the motor again revved. With the clutch still pulled in, I then shifted back up to fourth so that my engine speed would match my road speed. Unfortunately, restarting it had apparently angered the motorcycle gods and the bike started to make such awful metal-grinding, ear-splitting sounds that I was certain it was going to explode while I sit astride it!

With my attention back on the road, I noticed that the highway had now become an elevated interstate and was merging down to one lane because of construction. At that point, I knew I HAD to get out of a situation that was obviously going very quickly from bad to worse. That's when I spotted the sign for Busch Stadium, where the Saint Louis Cardinals play. I thought, SOMEONE has to know where I am if I say I'm near the stadium! I made my way slowly, carefully and LOUDLY down the off ramp, found an empty parking lot within eye shot of the stadium and came to a very welcome stop.

At this point, I think dating someone who is such a stickler for details and good in a crisis came in VERY hand. I've never been so level-headed in a stressful situation as I was that night. With my bike in a safe location and cell phone within easy reach, my first four phone calls were to: 1) Troy's cell phone to tell him what had happened, where I was and what my plan was. 2) Troy's sister, Tricia, to get the number for Troy's other sister, Kendra. 3) Troy's sister Kendra. She and her family used to live in St. Louis so I wanted to find out from them if I was in an okay neighborhood or if I had reason to be scared for my safety. Finally, 4) AAA motorclub. Troy and I pay $140 a year for AAA coverage that includes towing the bikes, so I expect excellent service for that amount of money. Unfortunately, that wasn't exactly the case this time. First, the customer service rep that I spoke with explained that even though I get 4 tows per year, we only get one per incident. So, once they towed it to the hotel where we were going to be staying and where there would be TONS of other motorcyclists, they would not tow it anywhere else unless I paid for the service. Whatever! Second, I explained that I was on a motorcycle and that I was alone and it was getting dark. She assured me that I was at the top of the priority list and that they would be there within 45 minutes. Because of this, when Troy called, I told him not to come back to meet me because by the time he got there, I could be gone. Ha! I called them at 8:00 PM and they finally arrived JUST as my cell phone was going dead at 10:30ish. There is a BIG difference between 45 minutes and 2 1/2 hours.

When I finally arrived at the hotel at 11 PM, I was simply exhausted. I was also wound up because the impending dilemna that was my bike. Since we were at the hotel to see the participants return at the end of the Iron Butt Rally (an 11-day, 11,000 mile motorcycle race), I scoured the hotel lobbies asking if anyone knew of a good motorcycle mechanic there at the hotel. We were directed to Mr. Paul Glaves. Many of you may remember that Troy and I attented his tech session on motorcycle mechanics at the BMW MOA rally this year and last. Unfortunately, he wasn't actually staying at the hotel. I was told that he would be arriving around 3:00 AM. So, I went to bed and set my alarm for 2:30. I got up and nabbed him nearly the second he arrived. He very graciously agreed to listen to my bike and recommended a good motorcycle shop just two miles from the rally hotel. After thanking him profusely, I went back to bed until a more reasonable hour.

The next morning after breakfast and a call to the mechanic explaining the situation, Troy and I limped the bike over to the shop and waited while they checked out the mess that was my poor baby. Since we had a few hours to wait (they first had to wait for it to cool and then they had to take it apart to inspect it), Troy and I lazed around the showroom looking at bikes and talking. Part of our inspection of the wares for sale revealed a few used bikes. Two of them that sparked our interest were a Honda ST that Troy thought looked great and a Yamaha V-Star 1100 that looked QUITE similar to mine.

Since we had time to kill, we asked if we could take them out for a test-ride. They copied our driver's licenses, handed us the keys and away we went. I chose not to follow Mr. Speed demon because I didn't want to wreck a bike that wasn't mine. Instead, I chose a little side road for my test ride. The 1100 was like night and day to my 650. The dual front disc brakes made it stop on a dime. Also, where my 650 feels like you're riding down the road on a jackhammer, the 1100 was smooth as glass. As I brought it back to the shop, I thought it had been great fun, but I had no intention of buying a new bike...........

That was until they basically told me that my old bike was dead. Although I had put nearly 20,000 miles on it in about 2 1/2 years and been to the same dealership for service over a half a dozen times, no one mentioned to me that the 650 wasn't really made for long distance riding. Apparently, it's made to go around 55 MPH most of the time. The stress of riding at 70 MPH for hours on end had caused the engine to force most of its oil out of every possible nook and cranny. Despite my making sure that the regular service intervals were done and routinely checking the oil level in the sight glass, the engine had basically seized up from lack of oil. Being told this news was like being told a relative had a mortal illness. I was crushed.

I asked what could be done and what it would cost. When they told me how much it would be and that it would take a week minimum to rebuild the engine, I decided being stranded 250 miles from home with a bike that wasn't serving me well was not a good position to be in. Luckily, over the past few years, I've been setting money aside in a special savings account every time I filled up the tank of either my car or motorcycle. I was doing it so that I could buy a new car, but who needs a car in Indiana, right? Life without a motorcycle, on the other hand seemed a grim proposition to me. So, after a bit of haggling, I told them to keep my 650 and that I would take the 1100 off of their hands! We arranged for them to switch the saddle bags, windshield and tachometer and, within a few hours, Troy and I were riding back to the hotel - him with his reliable BMW F650 GS and me with my shiny new Yamaha V-Star 1100 Silverado.

We headed back to the hotel where our real reason for being in St. Louis was - the end of the 2007 Iron Butt Rally. It is an 11 day, 11,000 mile journey for some serious long distance riders. This year's 96 competitors had had to proved their long distance meddle in order to be allowed to compete in this event, but even that prior experience couldn't really prepare them for this year's IBR. This year's event started and finished in St. Louis, MO. At the start of the event, participants were given a list of bonus point destination that spanned 35-pages. Each participant is also provided with a small towel with their entry number, a polaroid camera and LOTS of film. They then have about 8 hours to get some sleep and plan a route that they think will net them the most points over the next 4 days. They set out at 10:00 AM on Monday, August 20th, 2007 and over those next four days many attempted to ride to Canada and back, some to Key West and back and LOTS of places in between in order to rack up lots of points. (If you want to see a list of the bonus point destinations, click the IBR link to the right.) They then had to return to the hotel in St. Louis by 7:00 PM Friday, August 24. For every minute after 7:00 PM that they were late, they were docked 50 points. For those who arrived after 9:00 PM, the race was over and they received a DNF (Did Not Finish). Those who successfully made it in were then able to get a little bit of rest, make any minor repairs and simply breathe for a moment until 4:00 AM on Saturday, August 25. That is when the NEXT list of bonus destinations were handed out. More planning and they set out again. This time the west coast and Alaska was the destination for most. Finally, all the riders were again to return to St. Louis by 7:00 AM on Friday morning. Those arriving after 9:00 AM again received a DNF. Most of the competitors made it back some time in the middle of the night.

These competitors had ridden a LOT of miles in just a little under two weeks and their bikes showed it! I have never seen so much mud, dead bugs, grease and road mung. This is NOT a crowd that is worried about their bikes staying clean! One rider had ridden so many miles that his tire was dangerously close to wearing through. Let's hope he got that fixed before heading back to wherever home is.

By the time we arrived after purchasing a new bike late on Friday afternoon, the competitors were in, the scores had been tabulated and everyone was waiting for the winners to be announced with baited breath. Those winners are announced at the Finishers Banquet, which is also held at the hotel. While we were not competitors, there were some banquet tickets available to non-competitors, so we splurged and join the crowd as we tried to live vicariously through them.

While we were standing in the buffet line, we were affored the very great opportunity to get to talk to a few of the competitors. One gentleman in particular asked if we were in line and when we said yes, he joined the line behind us. We asked if he had competed and he said yes. When we asked how his ride was and how he thought he had done, he explained that he had a pretty good ride and felt he had done fairly well, but he was beating himself up because he had just "left 6000 points in the middle of the road." We asked what he meant by that because we knew that they had to keep track of lots of little pieces of paper like gas receipts, gift shop receipts from certain locations, polaroid pictures of the destinations, etc. We wondered if maybe something had fallen out of his bag. He explained that while he was finishing up at one destination in Chicago, he was anxious to get out of town and if he had just gone across the street and taken another picture of a different destination, he would have gotten an additional 6000 points. He hadn't realized the mistake until he was a few hundred miles away. We empathized with him and told him we hoped that didn't hurt his standings in the competition. To our surprise, when Mike Kneebone asked the top 10 finishers to join him at the front of the room in no particular order, our new friend, whose name was Marty, was one of those top 10. As the competitors were counted down from 10 , Marty continued to stand there waiting for his name to be called. Finally, as 10 dwindled down to just two and the 2nd place finisher was called, Troy and I looked at each other when we realized we had been talking to the WINNER of the 2007 Iron Butt Rally! Marty, despite having just left 6000 points in the middle of the road, still ended up the victor by over 11,000 points!

The next day, with the 2007 IBR behind us and visions of perhaps competing in the 2009 or 2011 event, Troy and I set out for our next destination: Fort Wayne, IN. At a distance of about 400, I thought it seemed like a great way to break the new bike in. The day and the ride couldn't have been nicer! The sky were sunny and bright, the temps were pure perfection and the new bike was like riding on glass! It was so great to be able to twist the throttle and feel like I was going to start to fly at any moment! Even getting a late start and taking our time getting there, we made it to Fort Wayne in what seemed like no time at all.

Old Cars

The reason for our trip to Fort Wayne was two-fold. 1) It was Labor Day weekend and that's when the Annual Auburn Cord Deusenberg Festival is held and 2) it was my birthday during the upcoming week and I was looking forward to spending time with my family and a cake from my mom.

Well, mom definitely didn't disappoint in the cake department! She made me two round cakes, actually. One was a chocolate cake and one was yellow cake (Troy likes yellow cake and mom aims to please!) and both had PINK icing! Yeah, pink! Mom had put little items all around it that represented parts of my life. There was, of course, a red motorcycle, a computer, a house which was meant to represent IUPUI (I recently started taking a class there), a few kitties and a rocking chair with yarn on it to represent my crafty crocheting hobby. It was very cute and quite yummy! Too bad I couldn't take the rest of it on my motorcycle when the weekend was over!

On Sunday, we all got up and prepared for a day of oohing and ahhing at old cars. My dad is a huge fan of old cars and I would love to some day buy him one. In the meantime (while I'm saving up my pennies), a trip to the museum will have to do.

When we arrived, we received an extra special treat. In the parking lot of the ACD Museum, there was probably 20 - 30 old Auburns, Cords and Deusenbergs that people had either driven or, more likely, trailered to Auburn for the weekend. It was so great to get to see those cars up close and personal. They are such behemoths! They are all made of real metal, of course, instead of plastics like most of today's automobiles. These are definitely cars where the details mattered! The spare tires were full sized and mounted to the exterior of the car. I'm sure that kind of easy access was very important when the roads of the days were exactly as well made as they are today. The hood ornaments were quite elaborate and even the headlights were HUGE!

Most of the cars that were in the parking lot were most likely lovingly restored by their owners and the attention to detail was just amazing. On some of them, the leather straps, which attached the side view mirrors to the spare tires looked to be original to the cars.

These are cars that, during the day when a Ford Model T could be purchased for $400, would cost a minimum of $1500 and the average annual salary in America was around $800. This was not an Any Man's car!

During our tour of the museum, we knew that some acquaintances of Troy's family had donated a car to the museum back in the 80s and we were constantly on the look out for the automobile. We were quite surprised when we realized that an entire display had been devoted to it and the story of its restoration! It was great to see how the car had looked when the museum had received it. It was in quite a state. It had been in a family barn when it was hit by a tornado and part of the barn fell on it. It eventually took the museum and its volunteer restorers (whose average age is somewhere in their 70s) over 5 years to bring it back to its original beauty. In my opinion, it was well worth the time and effort. Looking at the old photos, it was hard to believe that the gleaming automobile in front of us was the same one that had been in such a ramshackle state when it was originally put on display.

After touring the museum for several hours, we grabbed a bite to each for lunch and then caught the air conditioned bus that took us on a tour of historic Auburn. The tour guides shared with us memorabilia including old auto sales brochures like one might get when looking at purchasing a new car today and magazine advertisements touting all of the amenities that the new Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs had to offer. They also drove us around the City of Auburn showing off the houses of the company's founders, Executives and even some of the staff accountants and other middle management types. Although Auburn is really quite small, without the ACD company, Auburn may not have been the center of commerce that is was at one time.

By Sunday afternoon, we had seen more cars and learned more about the history of those fine automobiles. It was definitely time to get something to eat. Since it was going to be my birthday, Matt and Tammy decided to join the rest of us for a little birthday dinner. When we had left Auburn, we stopped by the building site for Matt's new house. It should be quite a nice home when it's done and that means he can share in the tradition of the moving Christmas celebration this year!

Over dinner, we caught up on stories of his house, job, and other events of each of our lives. At times, I wish that we all didn't live so far apart. It makes me sad that we only get a chance to visit for a few hours every few months.

It was a jam-packed holiday weekend and I really enjoyed myself. I hope that is true for Troy, my family and all of the Iron Butt Competitors as well.

* This last picture was put in here just because Mom doesn't like to get her picture taken and wouldn't look at the camera. Hey, I've gotta use what I've got, right? Maybe next time she will look at the camera, huh? Please?

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's my blog and I make the rules, right?

So, I think that I've decided I've finished another item on my List. It's #81: Commute to work by bicycle, foot or bus for one month. While I've not really kept official track, I think I've more than fulfilled this obligation.

Since Bike To Work day back in May, I have only had to pay for parking for my car twice, I think and I've only parked my motorcycle at a meter and paid probably 3 times. Other than that, I have either ridden my bicycle from Troy's house (a commute of about 1 1/2 miles) or he has driven me to work (about once per week). So, since this is my list and I get to say when an item gets to be crossed off, I am officially crossing this one off!

As an aside, the savings I've experienced since I've starting riding the bicycle have been really great! I've saved probably close to $200 this summer in parking fees! Woohoo!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Goodbye, my friend

It is with a very heavy heart that I type this today. Alas, my very good friend and companion, Sisko, has gone away. Although he wasn't really my dog, but Troy's instead, his passing will weigh on my spirit for a very long time. Over the past 3 1/2 years, I have come to love him as my own.

His excited greeting at the window before I even entered the door was always a delightful way to to be welcomed. His tail would wag and he would often bark a reprimand that it had taken me too long.

Although his vocabulary of understanding was small: outside, walk, ball, tug, farm, ride in the car, Heather, Troy; he always responded with genuine enthusiasm.

Early mornings with him were the best for me. When Troy and I would return from the gym, I would snuggle into Troy's bed to catch a few more zzzs while he was getting ready for work. Sisko would always hop on the bed, wait for me to lay down and then he would find the most comfortable spot for the two of us to snuggle together. His fuzzy muzzle would search for my hand and bump me to make sure I knew he was ready for some good pets. I'm not sure which of us looked forward to our little ritual more.

His sweet disposition made all who encountered him instantly fall in love with him. Who could resist those big brown eyes, that fuzzy face, the way he would lean in and lift his paw so that you could properly pet his belly? I know I couldn't.

While there may be other dogs, they will be hard-pressed to live up to the gold standard that is the Sisko-puppalupagus, Senor fuzzy britches, Mr. Stinky-pants.

I love you, and I will miss you, my friend. May we meet again some day.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Glockenspiel Madness!

Up, up and away!

Troy with a little bounce in his step!

100 workouts complete!!!!

Well, so far it hasn't been easy and sometimes it hasn't been fun, but I have successfully completed 100 of my 500 workouts! Because I love stats and numbers so much: A recap of my time spent sweating:

Modes of exercise:

Treadmill (Walking or running) 41 Times
Outside (Walking or running) 13 Times
Elliptical machine 16 Times
Stationary Bike 13 Times
Aerobic Step Class 16 Times
Taebo Workout tape 1 Time

Number of minutes spent working out: 3,708
Amount of real time spent working out: 61 Hours, 48 Minutes

Total # of calories burned: 38,336
Total # of pounds I should have lost: 10.95
Total # of pounds I've actually lost: I'm not actually sure, but I'm pretty sure it's NOT 11 pounds! (I'll find out for sure today at the nutritionist)

What 38,336 calories would get you:
Nearly 64 pieces of chocolate cake
31.5 8 oz bags of potato chips
348 cups of Kelloggs Red Berries cereal (a favorie of mine!)
1,420 cups of cherry tomatoes

That's a LOT of tomatoes!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Harry Potter Insanity

Ok, so I know I'm a little late to consider this really news, but I had to share this experience anyway!

On Friday, July 20th, Troy and I joined a few hundred other crazy people for the release of the last book in the Harry Potter series. I've actually only read the first 2 1/2 books or so, but who knows when this kind of hooplah surrounding a book will happen again, so we decided to brave the downtown city streets of Indianapolis to see the show. The fans of Mr. Potter did NOT disappoint!

There were the young and old, men and women, the geeky and the slightly less geeky. I was really amazed to see how many parents had their very little kids out in all of the mayhem. (The book wasn't actually released until 12:01 AM on Saturday, July 21.)

Our timing was impeccable. We arrived just as the 10 second countdown to 12:01 AM started. We stood just inside the door and could feel the excitement build as the impending moment approached!

When the cheering had ceased, we noticed another countdown of sorts. Apparently those who had preordered the book or arrived MUCH earlier in the evening were given colored wristbands which denoted their order in line. Throughout the evening, a clerk would announce the next color of wristband to be checked out. In addition, within each color, it was broken down even further according to names of characters from the Harry Potter series. It was really quite a good way of organizing the massive crowd. Because Troy and I were Johnny-come-latelies, we knew we would be the last to be queued, so we decided to find a better place to wait and the balcony overlooking the crowd seemed a great place to relax and people-watch.

About 30 minutes into the wait (which ended up being about 2 hours long in total), we witnessed a very interesting transaction. We had just been commenting on a man who was probably in his mid-thirties who seemed quite out of place. He was wearing shorts, a tank top, flip-flops and more bling than I think I even own. He was accompanied by two 20-something barbie dolls who were apparently not please with their lot in life. They were wearing the dreaded purple wristbands, which meant they would be helped last, only shortly before those of us without any wristbands at all! OH MY! Well, obviously this could not be tolerated! There was a couple standing near him who had a blue wristband and they were just getting ready to call blue. The bling-man's solution? Whip out a $100 bill from his wad of money and offer it to the unsuspecting young couple. Well, they did what I would have done. They grabbed that $100 from the silly man with the big wallet and tiny..... and ran.

Of course, a couple of minutes later, apparently the girl said to her boyfriend something about not wanting to wait so long, so he had the clerk break the $100 bill and then he proceeded to pay someone else $20 for their pink wrist band, which was one step closer to checking out.

Ah, the insanity that is Harry Potter and the capitalist system!

Friday, July 27, 2007

And the winner is...........(The 2007 BMW MOA Rally)

Since not all of my readers are huge motorcycling enthusiasts like Troy and I are, I thought perhaps for this entry I would try a different approach to reporting our (mis)adventures. So, in the spirit of Late Night With David Letterman:

The Top 10 Things That Made the 2007 BMW MOA Rally So Great!

10. Getting there (and home) is half the fun!

As opposed to last year when Troy and I raced our little motors out on the way to Vermont, this year we opted for a more leisurely route to West Bend, WI (a mere 350 miles from Indianapolis). As I'm not a huge fan of driving through Chicago with the relative safety of a car surrounding me, I certainly was in no mood to tackle the Chi-town crazies with little more than a helmet and twitchy throttle hand on my side, so we opted to head west smack dab into the middle of Illinois.

Our first stop was actually at the Williamsport Falls in Williamsport, IN. It is purported to be the highest free falling waterfall in Indiana. Let's just say with a mild drought in our fine state, that was a BIT of an overstatement! We think maybe it should be downgraded to Indiana's highest free falling drip.

After a mere 240 miles under our belts, we stopped for the night at a lovely little KOA in Utica, IL. Troy and I are huge fans of the camping Kabins (yes, they really do spell them with a "K"). They have always been clean and cozy and we don't have to set up a tent for one night which is a HUGE plus when one would rather be riding.

The campground was packed as it was the weekend after Independence Day, but we managed to take a quick dip in the pool between the splashing kids and other campers. Rather than get all geared up and again and get on the bikes to head into town, we opted to eat in and Troy fixed us a freeze-dried camp meal. While they aren't exactly fine cuisine, they are great in a pinch.

The next day was another liesurely ride. Troy marveled at all of the space-age windmills along Highway 39 headed north through the middle of Illinois. (It can be a bit windy there, you know.) The end of the day found us in Fond Du Lac, WI at another KOA. (Did I mention we're big fans?)

This one far exceeded our expectations. Since it was a Sunday afternoon and we had gotten in fairly early, we basically had the run of the place. We enjoyed another dip in the pool and even bought provisions for a small campfire and smores from the camp store. But, by far, the highlight of the Fond Du Lac KOA is the gigantic air pillow! If you have never seen one, I suggest you plan a trip to Wisconsin immediately! It's like a HUGE trampoline on crack!!!! After only a few minutes of jumping on it, we were both exhausted and our legs felt like jelly. For more on this adventure, check out the videos we shot. HILARIOUS!

After speaking to a retired couple who spends part of their time in Wisconsin and part in Arizona, they informed us that the KOA owners were huge animal lovers and practically had a zoo in their backyard. When we heard about the llamas and miniature donkeys, we just had to check it out! They were right. A mere football field from our Kabin, we found a large fenced off area where there were quite a few llamas. While we were excited to see them, I don't think the feeling was mutual. They were quite snooty (if animals can be snooty) and turned around and walked away when we approached. How rude! The goats and miniature donkey weren'y exactly friendly either, but at least they didn't turn their backs on us.

We ended our evening by enjoying a lovely dinner at a local supper club just down the road from the KOA campground. It was my first experience at a supper club, which are apparently quite popular in Wisconsin. The food was delicious and definitely reasonably priced, the waitress was quite agreeable when we asked her to take our photograph and the ambiance was perfect for relaxing on a Sunday evening after a lovely ride. We even had some food leftover that we were able to have before setting out for West Bend on Monday morning. As Troy would say, it was quite companionable. :-)

9. Camping for 6 nights for $30.

I am all about a bargain and this year's rally entrance fee of $30 included being able to camp on the rally grounds from Monday through Saturday evening in addition to access to vendors, entry into door prize drawings and some superb entertainment. While some people chose to stay in hotels in town, we opted for our tent next to the barn where the chair people were staying. I'm sure to the amateurs out there, that doesn't sound so great, but in the BMW hierarchy, we had some posh digs!!! Private Mens and Womens restrooms with a shower in each was mere steps away. Showers are VERY crucial to me when I am tent camping otherwise I just feel dirty all the time, so having them so close was HUGE!

Before the rally, I had been reading some of the posts on the rally forum and discovered that the rally site was a relatively new county fairground and lacked ANY mature trees. This is generally not a good thing when one is tent camping in July. Shade is a must-have! Our solution was a Kelty car tarp. It is actually supposed to attach to a car for when you are car camping, but Troy did a great job of adapting it to our tent. While it kept the sun off of us most of the time, it didn't weather the 20 MPH wind gusts quite so well. We ended up putting it up and taking it down several times over the course of the rally. Oh, well.

8. Volunteering to sew on patches in the Sewing Booth.

In order to be allowed to get into the rally site early and, thus, save our choice camping spot, we agreed ahead of time to volunteer for set-up. In addition, Troy and I each chose another area to volunteer at that interested us. For him, it was the vintage bike display. He ended up spending hours talking to the resident vintage bike restoration guy and had a blast soaking in all of his knowledge.

When I was looking at the volunteering options that were open, I chose the sewing booth. Not to be sexist, but when only 18% of the attendees are women and the guys are motorcyclists, one can almost guarantee that the sewing booth is going to be short-staffed! Since my mom encouraged me to start maching sewing when I was 16, I thought it might be good to put those skills to use. It was surprisingly fun! The machines we used were really strong and had no problem attaching this years HUGE patch to everything from leather vests to denim jackets.
The other women I worked with sewed circles around me, but I really had a good time. I will definitely have to do this again next year in Gillette, WY.

7. Getting to take a test ride on one of the BMW R 1200 RT bikes that Troy is so fond of.
Every year at the BMW MOA rally, there are a fleet of BMW motorcycles available for demo rides. Before this year, we have never tried them out, but this year Troy was chopping at the bit. Since getting an opportunity to take a test ride about a year ago in Fort Wayne, he has simply fallen in love with the R 1200 RT and wanted me to experience it as well. However, the problem with BMW motorcycles is that they are built for someone Troy's height (close to 6 feet) and I'm barely making it over 5 feet at this point. I know there are other women out there who are short who ride bigger bikes, but I'm quite fond of being able to touch the ground when I come to a stop. Call me crazy!

The solution was that Troy would drive and I would ride on the back. Now that sounds simple enough, I'm sure, but I'm used to having my own handle bars to hold onto and being in control of the bike. It definitely makes me step out of my comfort zone to tell myself to simply relax and do whatever he does. If I don't I know that, as a passenger, I can drop us in an instant. Definitely not something I want to do...especially when it's not my bike we're riding!

So, Troy got up and was in line to sign up for demo rides at 5 AM. He was 3rd in line and by the time I strolled in at after 6 AM, the line was nearing 100 people deep! Once the sign-up opened a little while later, we filled out the appropriate paperwork and waited until our scheduled ride time, several hours later.

It wasn't a very long ride and that area of Wisconsin isn't very twisty, but that was fine with me! I spent much of the ride hanging on to Troy's jacket with white knuckles (there was no backrest to lean on) and had my eyes closed. We had a great time riding two up, but I missed having the comfort of handle bars at my ready grasp.

6. Attending Seminars packed with loads of great information.
I've never been to a rally for another organization, but I have been to three BMW MOA rallies and they are always have seminars packed with great information for nearly every rider who shows up.
They have everything from managing pain caused by long-distance riding to some basic and not-so-basic motorcycle tech session. This year was especially great because they had loads of information on using GPS systems and how to make your motorcycle photography better! There are even seminars on how to pack for a long-distance ride and things to be aware of when riding by yourself. For instance, always carry your cell phone on your person rather than in a tank bag or saddle bag so that in the case of an accident you can get to it to call for help. Some seminars are old-standbys from previous years, but every year I pick up something new even in those. In most cases they are presented by volunteers, but the information is always top-notch and audience participation is always encouraged.
This year the seminar schedule included quite a few sessions aimed specifically at women who ride, but the coordinators for next year said to expect even more! Yeah!
5. Meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.
Since Troy started riding his F650 GS and we started attending the BMW MOA rallies, we have met a lot of really great people all over the country. Going back to the rallies gives us a chance to catch up with some of them. In particular, Troy enjoys spending time with some of the members of the Chain Gang, which is an online community of other F650 riders. They are always a great source of information about the bikes and just life in general. Their fearless leader, Steve Johnson, is quite a character. He seriously has the ugliest bike ever and I think he's proud of that because he rides it ALL the time. It has been to Mexico countless times.

Another member of the Chain Gang that we have gotten to know goes by the screen name of Matttys. Last year, after he graduated from college, he took a month to travel the nation on his bike and spent one evening getting to know Troy and me on his way from Ohio to parts west. This year his girlfriend, Jennifer, rode with him to the rally in Wisconsin. Although we didn't get to talk to them as much as we might have liked, it was great to catch up.

Getting to the rally early also gave us the opportunity to talk with those who were camping near us. Two of the men, Paul from Canada and Carl from New Jersey could be quite the conversationalists and it was great to see how lone travelers who were gregarious just jumped right into the fray. We exchanged contact information with a mutual promise that if we were in the neighborhood, we would look the other up, so hopefully at some point we will get to catch up with him again.

4. Having Ardys Kellerman tell me she was jealous of me.

My indoctrination into getting to know the women of the BMW MOA started two years ago in Lima, OH with a seminar entitled "Women Who Ride". Then it continued again last year in Vermont with a seminar called "So, You think you want to ride?" Both of them were filled with beautful, competent, very skilled women who ride motorcycles from coast to coast and beyond. Some of them had only been riding a few years, but many were quite well known among other BMW riders for having ridden hundreds of thousands of miles all by themselves. It was like coming home. They were quickly becoming my heros and role models. They walked around in motorcycle pants and boots, wearing no makeup and having the time of the lives.
Among these great women who ride long distances is Ardys Kellerman. In 2006, she was the BMW MOA high mileage winner. She rode over 83,000 miles in 6 months! That is quite an astounding feat! Even more amazing is that she is 75 years old! She started riding when she was in her early 30s too, so hopefully I have a long riding career ahead of me as well!
While I can't tell you WHY she told me she was jealous of me until a little further down, I must say that even being in the presence of such motorcycle greatness left me speechless for quite a while.
3. Sitting and chatting with Mrs. Voni Glaves.
I'll admit it. I'm in love. Her name is Voni Glaves. I have woman love. .....But I must explain. She's this amazing motorcycle woman who has ridden over 800,000 miles! That is a LONG way! Before she and her husband retired, she was a teacher and she would go riding over the summer months. (I knew I should have listened to my mother and become a teacher!)
Last year at the Vermont rally, Troy and I attended her seminar on "Very Basic Tech". She was hilarious. She isn't an expert motorcycle mechanic (although she's married to one), but she takes these solo journeys across the country armed with just a little bit of knowledge, some tools that she can easily hand to someone who will know what to do with them and an adventurous spirit. I got the opportunity to talk with her one on one last year for a little bit and it was simply a pleasure. This year, when I was seated at the "Women of the Iron Butt" seminar, there was an empty seat next to me and she asked if she could sit there. Once again "The Woman in Red" didn't disappoint. She is practically a legend at the BMW MOA rallies and yet she's humble and quite personable.
She's known as the "Woman in Red" because she always wears red, has a bike and I even heard her husband Paul tell a story that they were trying out a new tent at the rally because she had seen it and wanted it because it was red!
2. Finding (and buying) the best pink motorcycle jacket ever!
The rally had loads of vendors hocking their goods in every nook and cranny of the fair grounds, so it's no wonder that we didn't get around to seeing the last of them until Saturday (the last day of the rally).
At our last vendor stop, I spied this gorgeous pink motorcycle jacket. Now let me preface this, for those of you who don't know. I LOVE pink. My goal is to follow in the footsteps of the great Voni Glaves and be known as the Woman in Pink! Unfortunately, they don't make a lot of motorcycle gear in pink. If you like black, they've got you covered, but not so much in pink. Also, most motorcycle apparel makers believe all women are either short or fat. You are not allowed to be both. Consequently, most of the clothes are made to fit a barbie doll or an Amazon woman. I am neither.
Fortunately for me, First Gear makes motorcycle clothing for REAL women. Unfortunately, I already had a perfectly wonderful First Gear jacket that has been serving me well for several years and I didn't really need a new one - even if it was PINK! So, I simply stood in the tent, staring at myself in the beautiful pink jacket that fit me like a glove, practically salivating. I was debating with myself whether to spend the $120 (on sale from $150) when Troy came to my rescue. He could see that I desperately wanted the jacket, so he very generously offered to buy part of it for me for my birthday. SOLD!
Now when I ride down the road, I love the double takes I get from other passing bikers. It's not often one sees a pink motorcycle jacket and I'm having a LOT of fun showing it off!
And the number one thing that made the 2007 BMW MOA Rally so great.............
1. Winning one of the grand prizes given out at the closing ceremonies!
Every year, as part of the entry and registration fee for the rally, all of the paying registrants are entered into several drawings that are for items ranging from T-shirts and baseball caps to the big ticket grand prizes that the BMO MOA and its sponors give out. This year, the grand prizes were valued at a total of over $51,000 and included 3 BMW motorcycles, trips to Montana, Spain and Mexico, a complete camping set-up for two and even more.

For many of these items, you must be present at the closing ceremonies to win. Since there were just over 7,800 people at this year's rally, one's odds of winning any of the handful of grand prizes were slim, but since we weren't leaving for home until the next day, Troy and I decided to walk the short distance to the closing ceremonies site.
We didn't attend last year's ceremony in Burlington, Vermont because we wanted to get an early start back to Indiana, but the festivities two years ago in Lima, Ohio were quite exciting! Another member of the Indy BMW Club won one of the BMW motorcycles that they gave away!

This year we took our seats next to some other Chain Gang members and settled in. When they got to the grand prize portion of the evening, all ears were perked up as the winning began. Several times the name of a person was called that wasn't present and those in attendance would demand another name be drawn. The crowd was very hungry!

When the package of motorcycle apparel provided by Rev-It Sports came up, I remember thinking, "Socks? That's funny." It was just a part of the package which also contained a new motorcycle jacket, pants, boots, gloves, 2 pair of socks (one for summer and one for winter), and an entire wardrobe of thermal underwear. The entire package was valued at over $1500.

Unfortunately for him, the owner of the first name drawn hadn't chosen to stick around for the closing ceremonies. So, as they drew the second name, the announcers decided to get cute and said, "Well, this person is from Indianapolis, Indiana." Troy and I looked at each other like, "Well, there can't be THAT many people here from Indianapolis." Then as they said my name, it was like it was in slow motion. I jumped up and ran towards the podium to claim my prize as Troy laid back on the grass and screamed like a little girl. It was very exciting!

When I claimed my prize, I found out that they actually gave me all of the stuff right then and there. This caused a few problems since 1) my bike was already loaded to maximum capacity since we had been on the road for a week and 2) the gear was in a men's size XL. I am not an XL man. LOL Luckily for me, they were the only vendor still there on Sunday morning, so I returned it all to them and they are currently in the process of sending my the same stuff in some women's sizes.

A woman can never have a big enough wardrobe, right?


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