(Welcome to the 37th Annual BMW MOA Rally!)
I left for Knoxville, TN on Wednesday morning and arrived before dark at my friend's house where I spent the night with her and her husband, cousin and granddaughter. For ten years I've been promising to visit. Well, I did it and my friends laid out a welcome mat I will never forget.
(These bikes were calling my name!)
Early Thursday morning I headed out to the Appalachian Fairground in Johnson City, TN for the 37th annual BMW International Rally. The ride along I-81 is far more scenic than many interstates I've traveled and the beautiful landscape and long sweeping curves on the road kept me entertained. At every gas stop beyond Indianapolis, I spotted one or more Beemers. We didn't speak but shared a dip of the head in recognition of our mission. The rally call had been sounded and heard around the globe and the pilgrimage to Johnson City was on. When I'd see two or more Beemers motoring down interstate I'd feel my heart swell with pride. It felt great to belong to a group that seems to take wearing head to toe gear seriously. The riders looked sharp, focused and determined. I like my people.
(This Frenchman loved his K-bike. He got a ticket in Johnson City. He said the officer
was nice and gave him a "break" on the ticket)
(Tents and shelters of all kinds provided respite for weary bikers)
The rally was spectacular, filled with people passionate about bikes and riding. You could see it in their faces, in the gear they wore and in the ongoing wipe downs of their bikes. I didn't see all the people I needed to see, people I had truly wanted to connect with. But all those I did see, I enjoyed spending time with. I had one ongoing issue that nagged me throughout the rally but I'll write about that later. It was almost enough to make the rally really annoying but I went there mentally prepared to ignore the annoying... Still, it is worth exploring in the next blog. Overall, I had a grand time with friends and appreciated my alone times in the evening. Unlike the majority of folks, I did not camp. After a long ride, I need a bed, a hot shower, and quiet.
(A constant parade of bikes made for interesting bike and people watching)
The rally ended on Saturday evening. Sunday morning, I visited dear friends in Durham, NC. Getting there from Johnson City required travel on some very twisty roads through mountains that dipped, tipped, banked and switched back. In several places roade changes snatched my breath away. I kept within five or six miles above the speed limit, which one car and several motorcycles behind me clearly didn't appreciate. When they all zipped past me I loudly called them "speed demons" inside my new Scorpion helmet I bought at the rally. After that, there was never a two or four wheel vehicle behind me and I could, in peace, allow state highway 321 to swiftly move me into highway 421 with its dips and twists. Without shoulders to pull off the road to catch my breath I could only focus on good riding skills. Even when I think back on it now, I wonder how I managed it all as some of those tight descending curves made my brain vibrate! As I sailed by, I recall only the blurring of trees and rocks as I seemed to float up and down and around bends in the road. I reached Durham in four hours and spend far too little time with friends who don't live in the mountains but still lack level ground. Before leaving, I dropped my bike and again appreciate the pricey frame sliders I have to protect that beautiful blue frame. I have more to say about the rally but it must wait for the next blog.
I've had a challenging day and looking at the photos from the rally rekindled good memories of a few days ago. Until I can steal away some real writing time, I am sharing these photos in hopes that you'll get a feel for the bikes, the event, the weather and the folks who ventured there. One of the highlights for me was learning at the closing ceremony that the oldest BMW rider to Johnson City won not only that age category but also won for the oldest combined age category. He was 92 years old and his wife-passenger, who came along in a sidecar, was 87. Pretty impressive.
Enjoy some photos.
(If you didn't want to walk the vast fair grounds, you could hop a ride on one
of the many omnipresent truck driven carts)
(This little doohickey allows the motorcyclist to see what is behind him.
Power it on and the camera shows you "live" what's behind you)
(Etched on this plate is a USA map with gems adhered to the states that the rider
(young man on the left) has visited. Very cool!)
(The guys above (I hope they don't mind me using the photo) really made me feel welcomed.
I first met the one on the left and right at the BMW Rally in West Bend, WI)
(I'd like a bike with a side car. In it, I'd ride with a highly trained German Sheperd dog).
Looking forward to Redmond, Oregon, site of the 38th BMW Rally in 2010.