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?

1 comment:

Casey Criswell said...

heather, that is a lovely pink jacket, but I think Troy needs a matching one to ride with you!

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