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?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Troy (and America)!

On July 5, 2007, Troy turned 42. (He looks pretty good for being an old man, huh?) Since we both had July 4th off as a holiday from work and we needed to deliver Sisko (the Wonder Hound) to the farm for safe-keeping while we were going to be away on our next motorcycle adventure, we decided to make a day of it. We packed all of us in the car in the morning and headed to southern Indiana.

We enjoyed having some lunch with Troy's family (his mom, dad, sister Tricia and brother-in-law Dennis). His mom is a great cook and always seems to have an amazing meal just at the ready. I guess years of practice making meals for hard-working farm hands can give a woman a leg up in that department!

Troy opened his cards from his family and was quite blessed by their generosity. The card from his sister and brother-in-law caused quite a stir as Troy punched out the eyes and mouth in order to make himself look like the monkey on the front. Quite a sight, I assure you!

Later in the afternoon, we headed back to Indianapolis. Troy has some GREAT real estate in the downtown area which affords a wonderfully unobstructed view of the fireworks display that the city sets up. As the evening moved into darkness and the traffic picked up, we gracefully gathered our camp chairs and easily strode about 100 feet to a bridge near his house. From there, the view of the downtown skyline and the canal below can be quite breathtaking at times. This evening was no exception. There was a bit of a mild cloud cover and the temperature was near perfect. (I brought along a little blanket though, since I tend to get a little chilly.) People started to gather around us and as the fireworks started, we could just hear the faint strains of a radio playing music set to the colorful explosions.

It was a lovely evening and hopefully a great way to celebrate one's birthday eve. He often considers selling his house in this prime location of downtown Indianapolis. I keep hoping he'll come to his senses and realize what a blessing it really is. All the greatest things that the city has to offer are within walking distance!

Family fun and frivolity

At the beginning of July, Troy and I were able to attend a bit of a family reunion for the members of his mom's side of the family. Troy's aunt, Judy, and her husband own a bit of property in southern Indiana and have made it quite the place to visit. Judy has three daughters and a small army of grandchildren who are spread half-way across the country. A few years ago Dan and Judy decided to build a house which would allow them all to come home to visit at the same time.

It was a grand plan and the execution was flawless (thanks to Dan's meticulousness!). The house itself is quite large and the entire upper level is set up as one (VERY LARGE) bedroom where I think there are least 3 queen beds. However, it's so large that they look tiny in the space. The beds, combined with loads of sleeping bags are the sleeping quarters for all of the adults and children when they come to visit. It's a GREAT layout!

Outdoors, there is also plenty of room to spread out. They have an area set up with lines of picnic tables for dining al fresco, teeter-totters and swings for the kids, two horseshoe pits and a cozy little outhouse complete with two toilet spaces (with toilet seats!). I'm not sure why two people would ever go in at the same time to relieve themselves, but I'm not one to rock the boat on these issues. ;-) There is even a little stream that runs through the area and a brand new bridge over it installed by Dan in the last year or so. It's all very homey.

At the family reunion, all of these spaces were filled to the brim with people. The smaller kids enjoyed the teeter-totter or searched for creepy crawly things in the moist ground near the water. The older kids enjoyed a game of basketball or horseshoes. Most of the adults brought their own lawn chairs and gathered in a big circle to discuss the events of their lives. The soccer games and school projects, job promotions and plans for the future were all brought out and chewed on for a while.

This conversational appetizer was just the beginning as Dan was busy standing over the line of grills preparing the hamburgers and hot dogs. Three entire picnic tables were also filled with hoards of other goodies from pasta salads and potato chips to the prized dessert, a microwave cake! (Thanks to a Pampered Chef pan, you, too, can enjoy a microwave cake! YUM!!!)

While I'm not actually a member of the family, it was so nice to be invited. (Troy's invitation said, "Bring Heather along!") It was also quite touching to feel so included. Troy's aunt Judy even made a special effort to tell me how much they enjoyed me being around. Well, the feeling is definitely mutual. As the number of members of my family continue to dwindle and we spend less and less time gathering together to enjoy one another, I hope that Troy and his family realize how fortunate they are. May we all be so blessed.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Life on the road

We are currently in West Bend, WI at the BMW MOA rally and having a great time. We left on Saturday, July 7th and took two days to mosy our way around Chicago and up through the middle of Illinois. From the reports other people made about the traffic and road construction in the Chicago area, it seems like we made the right choice to avoid it completely.

We've enjoyed some time on the road, some lovely weather and getting to know new friends and reconnect with some past rally friends.

Today is the last day of the rally and we are making sure to take full advantage of it. We've shopped the vendors, eaten ears of corn and scoops of custard to our hearts' content and filled our brains with TONS of new information in the seminars. Right now I am sitting in the communications hub of the rally where they have charging stations for our cell phones and a bank of laptop computers for us to get reconnected with the outside world.

Tomorrow morning, Troy and I will head back to good ol' Indiana and head back to work on Sunday. When we come to these things, it only reinforces how we really need to find some way to figure out how to get other people to pay us to ride. If anyone out there has any ideas, we are more than open to suggestions!

In the meantime, I'm taking lots of pictures and gathering a plethora of great stories with which to amuse you all upon our returns.

Until then, I bid you a fond farewell and look forward to seeing you all soon.

Take care!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

# 64 - Complete a knitting project that I can wear

I finished my second real knitting project. I decided to make a shawl for the knitting project that I can wear. I really like the way it turned out and it wasn't really that hard. I think I did a pretty good job! My favorite part is the fringe! It is sooo fun. It will be great to be able to have it this fall when the temperatures start to drop.

Date Night # 5 - Movies in the Park at City Market

So, after a bit of an hiatus due to weather and our first motorcycle vacation of the summer, there had been nothing to report on Date Nights. But on Friday, June 29, Troy and I saw "Waking Ned Devine" on the patio at the City Market.

During the summer, the city of Indianapolis shows movies for free in various parks all over the city. The events are great for families and people on a budget. The movies are free and there is PLENTY of space for little ones to run around and enjoy themselves.

For our little outting, we packed a picnic of cheese, crackers, meats, a bottle of one of our favorite wines and a couple of chocolate chip cookies for dessert. YUM. We also made sure that we brought a blanket and our camp chairs. We like to do these things right, you know! No picnic would be complete without them.

Usually, we would have simply packed our stuff in a couple of backpacks and walked to the park, but it was a bit overcast and there was a slight chance of rain, so we decided to wimp it out and took my car, but we had VERY good parking kharma and found a spot practically right IN the park! Yeah!

The movie was delightfully strange and Scottish. For the first few minutes I struggled to understand their accents, but, as is usually the case with subtitles, I relaxed into the movie after a few minutes.
It was a lovely evening out in the city and I got to cross off an item on my list too! "See an outdoor production of something." Yeah!


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