Very Boring Rally II, August 2008
August 20: At the Gateway Riders meeting Al asked the most
important question: "Are we going to go?" The weather forecast wasn't looking
good and we had considered other options. But Fielding and I agreed-yes, we
were going, and sticking to most of the original plan even though the weather
forecast called for 70% chance of rain. The only change to the plan was to take
the interstate through Illinois
instead of back roads through Missouri,
Iowa and Wisconsin.
Chris Kerckhoff was also going but he was trailering his bike and he would not
be riding with us. We were excited to go to Duluth,
Minnesota for the Very Boring Rally II,
which was a celebration of Aerostich's 25th anniversary.
August 22: Friday morning dawned foggy and misty. Clouds
hung very low and the air was heavy with humidity, making the 60-something
degree temperature seem warm. Even so, the forecast was for only 20% rain so we
left without rain gear on. We looked forward to some possible sun later in the
August 23: The 64-page "Very Boring Guidebook" contained a
detailed rally schedule, maps and info about the VBR village, bios of the 13
guest speakers, vendor shopping info, bios of the 5 entertainers (comedy and
music), info about the Cirkut group photo, an awards and prize list, info about
the 2008 North American Trials Championship being held concurrently at Spirit
Mountain, detailed info about 5 self-guided riding tours, info and directions
to 17 area attractions, a list of area lodging and restaurants, a history of
Aero Design & Mfg. Co., Inc., a list of current Aerostich associates and a
list of product introduction dates.
Half the vendor area, of course, was filled with
Aerostich products. In the other half were RiderWearHouse catalog vendors:
Garmin (Fielding and Al talk with the Garmin rep, left), ROK Straps, Manic Salamander, Scottoiler, Mix-It and Wolfman luggage.
The guest speakers who were authors had sales tables in the vendor area.
Aerostich's main building and showroom in downtown Duluth was open, too, but mostly for tours, as most of the
associates were helping with the rally and not at the store selling and
Entertainers included Duluth-native comedian Maria Bramford,
classical folk guitarist and vocalist Brian Dack, Nordic folk band "Nordic
Angst," retro rockers "The Conquerors" and country rocker Junior Brown.
The 4 of us drove to the rally grounds in
Chris's car. We checked out the vendors, the radar on a flat screen monitor and
the snack shop. Al noticed that the coffee maker in the snack shop was similar
to the one that the Gateway Riders just purchased for use at the Falling Leaf
Rally, so he checked out the wiring (right). Al is in charge of getting the wiring
supplies to install our coffee maker in Potosi.
Other nice touches were a lady who played violin
surrounded by motorcycles in the parking lot, free wifi on the grounds, live
weather radar on a large flat screen monitor in the chalet, recycling for
aluminum and plastic, campfires and s'mores, a diesel motorcycle, a couple of
Can Am Spiders, food and drink in the chalet, and some of the usual suspects
that one runs into at BMW rallies. Of the 1500 or so attendees, BMW was the
predominant brand even though this was an all-brand rally.
We went to Steven Thompson's seminar at 9 a.m. The rally booklet says this, in part, about his
seminar: "His latest book, Bodies in
Motion, recently published by Aero Design, covers the psychobiological
connections between motorcycle and rider from a complex mix of cultural
elements as he explores what evolutionary science, psychology, and engineering
research can tell us about why we ride." It was an interesting seminar and the
simplified bottom line is that we ride because of evolutionary heredity. Our
ancestors the monkeys swung in trees-motion-and we "remember" that and crave
it. Or some of us do anyway. Of course it's more complicated than that, and
Fielding bought the book to find out the real skinny. He says he will share
when he's done. After reading the book each evening Fielding said that 1) Andy
Goldfine, who wrote the book's 17 page foreword, is very verbose, and 2) He's
not saying that the reading is dry, but this is the kind of book he may have to
underline. There are 150 pages of technical charts and graphs in the appendix.
(It's now October and I have read the book. It is far from dry and I enjoyed it
Rounds 4-6 of the North American Trials
Championships were held at Spirit Mountain during the rally dates. VBR rally goers enjoyed
watching the observed trials and the trials riders enjoyed having more
spectators than usual. Circuits were laid out all over Spirit Mountain and maps to them were available. Each rider rode each
circuit 3 times so there was plenty of opportunity to see them ride. The 90 or
so riders fit into categories: Pro, Expert, Junior, Women, and Sportsman age
categories. Within each circuit there were different routes for Pros and
Experts versus the other categories. The Pro and Expert routes were more
difficult. The riders rode Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to
I spent the next 6 hours perched on rocks,
ledges and hillsides with camera in hand watching and photographing the trials
riders on several circuits. Their skill and courage were way beyond what I
could ever muster. Watching was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. The
circuits required that they ride up and down sheer rock faces and rock
crevices, jump from object to object, jump over large rocks, turn their bikes
around without touching the ground, make sharp turns at speed off rock faces,
and display judgment, grace and balance all the while. Well, most of the time. This is Pro rider Pat Smage, left.
As the day went on the circuits got dustier and the knobby
motorcycle tires carried some of the dirt and grass up the rocks, making them
harder to get up without slipping. Spectators stood very close to the action
and in a couple of instances, they had to move out of the way in a hurry when a
rider slid and came their way. On a circuit below the chalet a rider lost control
coming down a rock face. He flew through the air before hitting the ground and
spectators ran like crazy. The rider lay in the dust motionless for about 5 or
10 seconds, then got up groggy, started his bike and rode off.
At 4 p.m.
the crowd began to assemble for Doug Grosjean's picture of rally attendees. He used
an antique 1914 Cirkut camera that uses 4 feet of film to take such a picture.
Although the crowd of about a thousand was in a giddy mood, we were cautioned
to be serious and remain still when the camera panned past us. The film is very
expensive and is rationed to photographers, so this was a one shot deal. There
was no doing it over if someone screwed it up. I hadn't intended to take part
in the photograph but at the last minute I tore myself away from the trials competition
and went to the back of the chalet where most everyone else was already posed
in an area bounded by yellow rope on the ground. I sat down in the front. The
cell phone in my pocket rang during the dry-run practice pan of the camera. It
was Al. The guys had returned and wanted to know where I was. Shortly I saw
them in the second floor window of the chalet, watching as the actual picture
The guys wanted to go back to the motel and freshen up
before dinner, which was provided in our rally fee. They would come back to the
rally grounds in Chris's car. Al offered to take me back on his bike but I
declined only because I didn't want to ride without ATGATT (All The Gear All
The Time). Minnesota is not a
helmet state and I could legally have gotten away with it if I desired.
Dinner was huge. We had a choice of pulled pork
sandwich, roasted chicken or a 1/3 rack of ribs. Accompaniments were baked
beans, slaw, cornbread, roasted corn on the cob and a watermelon slice. I chose
the ribs even though it was going to be messy. The corn was delicious. The husk
is pulled back and the ears are soaked in sugar water overnight to plump up the
kernels, then the husk is put back and the ears are roasted over coals. Before serving,
the husk is pulled back again and the ear is dipped in a bucket of melted
butter. There wasn't anywhere to sit outside so we took our plates inside and
ate at a table on the chalet's second floor.
Back outside after dinner the temperature was chilly. All of
us had our jackets on. We sat on the hillside in the damp, cool grass, which
was a little too damp and cool. Chris offered 2 blankets from his car and that
was much better. One of them was a Harley blanket, which Al and I sat on.
Fielding and Chris sat on a fleece blanket just in front of us.
August 24: After breakfast at the motel we were on the road
by 8:30 a.m. It was a clear, chilly
morning and I began the ride wearing my insulated liner. A bank sign in Superior
said it was 56 degrees. I was comfortable enough; fortunately it was going to
get warmer and not colder.
We were almost out of the town of Nelson when we passed a place called The Nelson Creamery.
The parking lot and front of the building were loaded with motorcyclists and
others. I thought, "Creamery. Hmm. Ice cream!" I hit the brakes and turned into
the parking lot. Once parked, Fielding said, "I knew you were going to do
that." There is no mystery left in me anymore.
Three cruiser motorcyclists rode into the lot.
The first two were dressed immaculately in black leather and rode immaculate
black bikes. The gas tanks were painted with yellow and orange flames and so
were the riders' helmets. The gas tanks and helmets matched perfectly. They
were followed by a rider on an immaculate Harley Dark Rod, which Al called a
"Black Rod." Fielding and I knew it wasn't Black Rod but we couldn't think of
the correct name, either.
The Nelson Creamery was a large white stone building with a
brick patio in the rear. Iron patio furniture, brick, and red Impatiens in full
bloom gave the patio a homey, comfortable look and feel. Inside, we found that
ice cream was just one of the items sold. If you wanted cheese and/or wine,
this would be the place to go. Al and I got in line for ice cream and decided
on a scoop of maple nut, which was only a dollar for a scoop. Fielding decided
to pass on this one. We ate the cones on the patio and took some pictures of
each other. Fielding and I took off our cool weather clothes there, too.
The town of Alma,
population 940, was right on the river, just like Grafton,
Illinois. The buildings were spread out
along the river road because the bluffs are immediately behind the town. This
was another of those river road towns that lured travelers with shops and
restaurants. There were a lot of motorcyclists there, too. A couple of power
plants (Dairyland Power Cooperative) were just south of Alma,
and a lock and dam (one of 3 that we saw) was a bit farther down the road.
August 25: Al and Fielding were packed before I was and had
carried their gear to the parking lot. Rather than take the time to make two
trips, I put on my jacket and helmet and gathered up the 2 sidecase liners, my
tank bag and my gloves and headed for the parking lot from the third floor. As
I waddled toward the bikes weighed down with all my stuff, Al said jokingly,
knowing that I had it all with me, "Do you need some help carrying your stuff
It didn't take long to get to Anamosa,
Iowa; it was about 9:30 a.m. when we arrived. The guys had said they'd be
interested in stopping at the National
We spent about an hour and a half looking at the bikes-currently 220 of them-and
memorabilia, and they enjoyed it immensely. I've been to the museum maybe a
half dozen times and every time I go there displays have been moved around.
There's a lot to look at so rearranging displays has helped me to see just
about everything. I've spent some time exploring Anamosa, too. I even bought a
large antique glass oil lamp there for hubby Bill for Christmas last year; the
clerk bubble wrapped the two pieces for me. Fortunately, my expanded tank bag
swallowed it nicely because there wasn't room for it anywhere else. I was on my
way home from the Red Rock Rendezvous rally in Utah
and otherwise packed to the gills.
Corn stalks used as a street planting across the
side street from the museum bore yellow roses and sunflowers. I did a
double-take and felt the flowers to see if they were real. Well, of course they
weren't real but they sure did look it. A man on a ladder trimming trees at
that corner was all smiles and said, "Who would be silly enough to do something
like that?" A clerk from a nearby shop answered the question. The man on the
ladder was Anamosa's former police chief and he had put the flowers on the
corn. We left Anamosa at 10:45 a.m.
The 25 miles of I-380 between Cedar
Rapids and Iowa City
was something to just get through. The speed limit was 70 mph and that combined
with the wind coming from the left front made for a "bumpy" ride. Traffic was
heavy and many of the vehicles were trucks, which kept the air stirred up. I
looked forward to getting south of Iowa City
onto Hwy. 218 where I hoped there wouldn't be as much traffic.
Georgia Mountain Rally, May 2008
Maybe it was the better weather, but this year's Georgia
Mountain Rally ride and experience seemed to be the best of the three the club
has done so far. There is a reason the rally acronym (GMR) stands for Georgia
Mountain Regatta to some. Oh yes, it rained-it always rains-but the forecast
was wrong and we got only sprinkles on Saturday afternoon, and they really
didn't interfere with anyone's planned activities.
We had a group of seven for the ride down: Jeff and Mary
Ackerman, Bill Graham, Jay Green, Gene Kautz, Al Schroer and me. Kim Ireland
and Don Moschenross rode down on their own schedules.
As in past years, we left St. Louis on Thursday after breakfast together at the Fairview Heights, Illinois Bob Evans restaurant. Gene arrived at 7 a.m.
and wondered why the rest of us weren't there. Because the meeting time was 8 a.m.,
that's why! But no matter, because two bolts broke on his windscreen and he set
off in search of a hardware store to buy bolts.
As has become custom, we rode the interstate to
the KOA in Manchester, Tennessee, about 50 miles south of Nashville. The wind was ferocious, first from the side as we
rode west-east, and then from the front as we rode south. Passing large trucks
was "fun." Because of the wind, we rode slowly-an indicated 70 mph-and that
seemed to spare us some grief at the hands of the wind.
The Manchester KOA owners are becoming familiar
with our arrival and we don't even stop to check in first; we go straight to
the parking area by the 2-room cabins before checking in. On our walk to the
O'Charley's restaurant a half mile back at the highway intersection, we spied
what we thought was a single Luna moth clutching a stem of grass by the road.
Bill grabbed it by the wings only to discover that it was actually two Luna
moths. He gasped in horror and released the moths but it was too late. His
interruption will most likely cause a small decrease in the number of Luna
moths this season.
Back at the KOA, after consuming massive
quantities of margaritas, beer and expensive wine (oh, and food, too) at
O'Charley's, Gene produced a small battery operated radio with stereo speakers
attached to each side. Bill said, "Gene, you have the darnedest collection of
crap I've ever seen!" It played local music, talk and static for a while until Gene
told us he could hook it up to the Sirius radio on his bike and we could hear
the weather report. By setting the radio to 88.1, it wirelessly picked up
Sirius radio from Gene's bike. The fast-moving low pressure area and cold front
in the west wouldn't catch us until Saturday in Hiawassee, Georgia. Our two day ride to Hiawassee was near perfect
weather-wise, except for Thursday's wind.
On Thursday night there were eleven Mennonites
in the cabin that I shared with Bill and Gene. They came out of the back room a
couple at a time and I wondered who they were; they certainly weren't Bill or
Gene. This was a dream, of course.
On Friday Jeff led the group through twisties on
secondary roads. Oddly, we mostly frequented the same places as previous years,
right down to the same rest stops and gas-ups, and the same restaurant for
lunch. Friday turned into a warm day and we removed insulated clothing in the
afternoon. The Tennessee woods were awash with the green of spring, dotted
here and there with white or pink dogwoods in full bloom.
On Saturday morning Jeff, Bill and Jay rode from
the rally grounds to the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North
Carolina. Dale Walksler, the former Harley-Davidson dealer in Mount Vernon, Illinois, sold his dealership and moved his museum to Maggie Valley several years ago. Now he's on the verge of selling
some of his collection, relocating some, and moving the rest to Arizona, so this was the last opportunity to visit during the
Georgia Mountain Rally.
Kim chose to ride to Helen, Georgia later in the morning and Don stayed in camp, hanging
around with Doc Lily (from Missouri) and generally raising havoc. Mary went on the poker
Al, Gene and I chose to stay on the rally
grounds Saturday, too. Sprinkles began falling mid-morning and there was plenty
to do. At 9
a.m. three emergency personnel gave a seminar about
first response and what to do at an accident scene.
At 10 a.m.
Hawk Hagebak, a Georgia police officer and author, gave a seminar called "A
Funny View of Murphy's Laws, State Laws, the Lawless, the Law Man." During the
question and answer period after the seminar, all questions were about speeding
and getting stopped by a law officer, and none were about travel in the local
area, which is what Hawk's books are about. When asked about radar detectors
and the possibility of getting a warning and not a ticket, Hawk said in those
cases he points to the radar detector and says, "The warning is attached to
your dash." If someone is speeding and has a radar detector, he always gives a
ticket, or as he said, "Press hard, there are six copies."
At 11 a.m.
Walt Sweatt gave a Vintage Racing seminar. He had his race bike there, which
was highly modified and bore no resemblance to any existing off-the-rack
vintage BMW motorcycle. He talked about racing in general, modifications to his
bike, crashes, etc.
A local BBQ restaurant provided lunch at a booth
in vendor row. They had made too much meat the day before and sold the leftover
in sandwiches, with slaw and chips, for half price at $3.75. It was a pretty
good deal and that's what Gene, Al and I had as Walt finished up his seminar.
Gene was sure that it was going to hail badly
Saturday afternoon, so at breakfast he said he would ride to town and buy a
tarp to cover his bike. It finally began raining moderately after lunch so on
his way from the Pavilion to his bike to ride into town, Gene passed the Bike
Show shelter and had a brilliant idea. He entered his bike in the Miscellaneous
category and his bike spent the rest of the rally sitting under the corrugated
metal roof of the shelter. Of course it never did hail, but it did rain and the
dew was very heavy on Saturday night. His bike stayed dry as a bone while
everyone else's was soaked.
The seminars were over and so was lunch. What to do now? Ice
cream! While Gene fielded questions about his bike in the Bike Show, Al and I
wandered over to the camp store for ice cream and then decided to do laundry,
just as we did last year. If this is going to be a habit at the GMR, I'm going
to have to pack lighter. I took home clothes that I never had out of my saddle
bags. Don and Doc Lily and another guy that I didn't know were razzing each
other and generally having a great time on the laundry room porch so we grabbed
chairs and sat down, eventually using Al's Harley-Davidson ride map and my
Tennessee map to plot a route for the two-day ride home. Kim wandered over
while the laundry was drying and approved our proposed route home; he was going
to join us.
The dinner line was long. This year in addition to steaks,
one could have veggie burger or chicken. All was cooked to order-you grill your
own steaks at the GMR. The rest of the dinner was inside the Pavilion and there
was a long line there, too, while steaks cooled in the cool air. Some of us
took dinner back to camp to eat and some stayed in the Pavilion where the
tables had been covered with white (paper) tablecloths.
The awards program was long enough to be boring,
especially while giving away unclaimed door prizes. I thought about leaving but
I'm glad I stuck around. Nine Gateway Riders in attendance almost got us the
Largest Club award but we were beat out by the Airheads. Had the Georgia club given separate awards for virtual verses local
clubs, we would have won; there is no way to outnumber a club that has hundreds
of members all over the world. Mary won Long Distance Female Sidecar and Gene
won the bike show's People's Choice award for his Yamaha FJR. Not related to
the closing ceremony, during the rally many of our group won a variety of door
prizes, from books to Run-n-Lights.
Back in camp as the sun went down the air cooled quickly and
we put on more clothes. Wine, cheese and crackers provided by Mary, Jeff and
their friend John made the rounds. The heavy dew was already falling and we
could feel the dampness on our chairs and clothes, and see it on the tents.
Stars filled the sky with the promise of a rain-free Sunday morning departure.
While our trip down was near-perfect weather-wise, the two
day ride home was perfect. Kim, Gene, Al and I rode together. Bill and Jay
booked it back in one day because they needed to be home on Sunday. Jeff and
Mary rode to Atlanta with friend
John for a visit.
The four of us two-day trippers, plus Mary, Jeff and John,
stopped at the Hiawassee Shoney's for breakfast Sunday morning. It's located on
a hill above the southern end of Chatuge
Lake and the view was wonderful in
the morning sunlight it was a definite photo op.
We finally got out of town around 9:30 a.m.
local time. It was good that we two-day people would be gaining an hour later
on. Our route took us back to Ducktown and north on Highway 68. From there, in
general, we rode north on Highway 68 and angled northwest through Tennessee north of Nashville to eventually cross the Ohio River at
Shawneetown, Illinois. In Illinois we cut the corner north to I-57 at Benton, Illinois and took interstates to St. Louis.
In Tellico Plains we stopped for gas and marveled at the
Ricky Racers who populate the area and talked to a fellow Beemer rider on an
R90S sidecar rig. Tellico Plains is at the west end of the Cherohala Skyway,
which we had decided we didn't have time to ride. We needed to get over 300
miles under our wheels before days end. Highway 68 is a beautiful little road running
north through Tennessee. From its
southern end to Tellico Plains it winds through a valley in woods and past
farmland; north of Tellico Plains it straightens and opens up, allowing for
Just east of Spring City we crossed the Watts Bar Dam, which backs up the Tennessee River to form Watts Bar Lake. The dam's construction began in 1939 and was completed
in 1942; it stands 112 feet high and spans 2,960 feet across the Tennessee River. The Watts Bar nuclear power plant, which produces enough electricity
to power 650,000 homes a day, stood just downstream from the dam. Its two stacks
shone white in the sun and a plume of white smoke rose high into the air above
them, forming the only "cloud" in the sky. From there to Crossville we rode on
the "Watts Bar
In Crossville, Tennessee we picked up Highway 70, which ran west. We were
routed away from the center of Crossville, missing a good ma and pa place for
lunch, no doubt. When it became obvious we were leaving Crossville we backtracked
to China One, which sharp-eyed Al had seen as we whizzed by. China One was the
after-church place to be in Crossville. The buffet, which was $7.95, contained
not only Chinese food, but also Mexican food, and little American-style food,
and even sushi and coconut cream pie.
With full bellies-and an intention to stop at the next Dairy
Queen-we headed west. In about 40 miles we crossed over the Center Hill Lake
and Dam, which backs up the Caney Fork River, before reaching Smithville where
we continued north on Highway 56, crossing Center Hill Lake again.
We found the Dairy Queen in Gainsboro. While consuming our
goodies, Al suggested a shortcut out of Gainsboro that would take us on Highway
135, a gray road on the map, up to Highway 52. Al was leading at that point, so
a short distance out of Gainsboro he turned left, following Highway 56/135
instead of the planned route on Highway 53. This was Jennings
Creek Road and it followed-of course-Jennings
Creek northwest for most of its length. Oh my, what a road it was. It's now on
my list of all-time favorites. Not only was the scenery gorgeous-the creek, the
forested hills-but it was one fast sweeper after another for 15 miles through
the valley. We stopped when we came to the point where Highway 135 split to go
north and decided to continue on 56. We liked it that much. Highway 56 took us
west to Highway 80, which we took north to Highway 52 at Red Boiling Springs.
This shortcut wasn't a shortcut, but it sure was fun.
Highway 52 shot straight west for 50 miles until
it ended west of Portland. At a gas stop in Portland we had a serious discussion about where to stay for
the night and how to get there. We had seen very few-none, really-motels for
quite a few miles. Clarksville, Tennessee lay along I-24 not far to the west. From Orlinda we
took Highway 49 straight to the interstate, where we knew there would be
someplace to stay. Highway 49 wound through farmland for the most part. The
time was nearing 6
p.m. and the sun wouldn't set for another couple of
hours but the landscape had begun to take on the richness of color that a
setting sun gives it.
We stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in Clarksville,
Tennessee. As Kim checked in, Al was quick
to find the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies in the breakfast area. After
getting settled and showered and planning on dinner at Don Pancho Mexican
restaurant, we learned from the motel clerk that the restaurant was three miles
west on the secondary road, and other than that, the choices were Waffle House
or McDonald's if we wanted to walk. Of course we didn't believe her so we set
out on foot past McDonald's and across a grassy field, straining our eyes to
read what we hoped were restaurant signs across the highway. Finally we
resigned ourselves to gearing up and saddling up again to ride to Don Pancho
but not before I asked the clerk if we could borrow her car to drive there. She
only looked at me and smiled. She already knew we were nuts-we'd been there
long enough to establish that already.
The restaurant was family run and we were
entertained by Mexican dancing. The dancers dressed in costume. From my chair I
could see into the kitchen where the young Mexican men, who were the waiters
and cooks, frolicked, sliding across the floor and slapping each other with
towels. There seemed to be a lot of food debris on the floor, too. Al told me
not to look. A sign on the door indicated that Don Pancho was the "best" for
six years running. We pondered "best of what?" but we liked the food and
decided that we made a good decision even if we couldn't have margaritas
because we were on bikes, and even if our waiter either didn't understand
English well or he didn't listen Al got a different dinner than he ordered and
Kim's chimichanga was chicken and not beef. The air was pretty nippy on the
ride back to the motel after 9 p.m. and
we thought it might be a cold start in the morning.
We agreed to meet in the motel's breakfast room at 7:30 a.m. At 5:20
a.m. I heard Gene talking motorcycles with someone outside the
window where the bikes were parked. I went back to sleep.
The Holiday Inn Express served waffles, omelets,
bacon, cereal and milk, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, toast and bagels, donuts,
yogurt, fresh fruit, juices and coffee. We were on the road at 7:30, which I
think is a new record earliness for me. The sun had warmed the air and I left
my electrics packed away.
We rode 8 miles north on I-24 to catch Highway
79 back to Highway 41 on our planned route. The air was cool and the early
morning sun reflected off the haze. We passed into Kentucky at the point where 79 and 41 met. We took the bypass
around Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It seemed like a long ride around Hopkinsville, and at 10 miles and 6 traffic lights (one which
didn't recognize motorcycles), I guess it was.
we rode 80 miles of Highway 109 to the Ohio River. It
was a great road, although I thought it was a little narrow, had lots of
driveways and the woods were very close to the road. Near Dawson Springs we
rode through deep woods in Pennyrile Forest
State Resort Park.
Farther on, the town of Sturgis
advertised to the motorcycle crowd but in general the town looked pretty down
in the tooth.
It was still early in the day-around 10:30-when we crossed the Ohio River
and entered Shawneetown, Illinois.
We had been looking for somewhere to have a snack or early lunch, so I stopped
when I spied Rambling Rudy's BBQ. The place was empty when we entered but by
the time we left, most of Shawneetown was dining there. Rambling Rudy's served
more than BBQ and the pies were not homemade. I think that was our first
question: "Are the pies homemade?" Back in 1932, Rudy was a hobo who hopped the
trains; the tracks lay across the highway from the restaurant. He wanted
somewhere to eat, so he opened Rambling Rudy's. There's a picture of him
hanging on the wall.
As we ate we watched the coal trucks go one way full and the
other way empty. They were like ants following a known route to food and back
to the nest. Gene suggested we take Highway 34 northwest to Benton,
Illinois on I-57. That was a good
suggestion because the coal trucks went another way.
The rest of the trip was a fast one on the interstate. Gene,
Al and I stopped at Dairy Queen in Okawville, Illinois
but Kim went on. He had a date with Belinda for ice cream and horse back
For more pictures, please look here.
Gypsy Ride/Red Rock Rendezvous rally/Lincoln Trail/National Motorcycle Museum
I'd wanted to go to the Red Rock Rendezvous rally in Panguitch, Utah ever since I heard about it but work always got in the way. Now that I am retired, the opportunity presented itself. While I was at it I also threw in the Colorado club's Gypsy Ride, a trip across Iowa on the Lincoln Trail and a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. The trip became a 12 day, 4000 mile solo trip. There are more photos on my Smugmug site.
Monday, June 11-St. Louis to Russell, KS 570 miles
Tuesday, June 12-Russell, KS to Denver 412 miles
Wednesday, June 13-Denver
to Montrose, CO 400 miles
Jeff had prepared a very nice, detailed packet of maps and written
directions for each rider, and he gave a pre-ride talk about passing (do it in
the other lane, please) and the route. That was about it for organization. Karen
(from Wisconsin) asked
about a good restaurant in Montrose, which was our destination for the night, and
Jeff said, "This ain't Edelweiss." In other words, everyone is on his/her own. Beyond
the maps and meeting at the TNT restaurant for breakfast at the start, there
was no social organization, no main motel in Montrose and no further meeting places, so those who were traveling alone stayed that way. But it is called the Gypsy
Ride and that implies a rag-tag bunch wandering to Utah.
The ride began through the Red Rock area; the large red
rocks looked like an interesting place to explore sometime. We then took a
scenic loop that climbed steeply via numerous 10 to 15 mph hairpin turns above
Golden, Colorado. I hate hairpin
turns and I didn't have much time to look at the view. No one stopped at the
top. My reserved pace separated four of us from the riders ahead and I found
I-70 by the seat of my pants. Karen later told me that she was glad I rode
at such a reserved pace because she did not feel intimidated or rushed to ride faster.
Hwy. 24 was scenic, wooded, and curvy. The new
bridge, built in 2004, over the Eagle River was quite impressive with its high arched spans-painted
DOT green-below the road surface.
Leadville (right) is a town I'd like to spend some time exploring.
If nothing else-and there are interesting shops there-the old-style architecture
of Leadville's buildings is worth inspecting, especially on a sunny morning
such as this one was, but I didn't have time to linger.
Back on the Gypsy Ride's prescribed route, I rode west on
Hwy. 82 toward Aspen. Snow-covered
mountains were all around and the twisty road took me into the heart of them,
to Independence Pass (left)
at 12,095 feet. It was cold, barren and snow covered at the pass. Valentino's
thermometer registered 30. A golden lab sat comfortably in the driver's seat of
a van from Connecticut, which was
parked nearby. It was a laid back dog and it didn't bark as I got near to take
its photo. When its owners returned from the overlook I said, "Your dog took a
little drive while you were gone."
Parts of the road on the decent were very narrow and only one
and a half car widths wide because the road was carved out of the rock. Signs
before the pass warned vehicles longer than 35 feet to turn around. This mountainous
part of Hwy. 82 was scenic and pleasant but the going was very slow because of
the twists in the road.
Hwy. 133 (left) from Carbondale
to Somerset is now on my short list
of favorite roads. It was 76 miles of sweepers, mountain views, mountain
passes, roadside rivers, aspens, meadows and wildflowers.
Hwy. 92 out of Hotchkiss was a fast road for
about 30 miles until it reached the Black Canyon of the Gunnison area. It then became quite twisty. Looking at it on
the map distinctly shows that. On one of the 30 mph curves with a guard rail
separating me from nothing on the right, and a cliff face on the left, I scared
up a little deer that had been grazing in the narrow strip of grass between the
road and the cliff. I missed hitting another deer by about 5 feet.
While I was stopped at a pullout taking pictures, six of the
Gypsy Riders flew past, honking hello as they passed. Two of them were John and
Scott from Michigan but I didn't
recognize the others. I wondered how I had passed them; I figured they would be
smoking cigars by the pool in Montrose by then.
As I pulled under the portico of Montrose's Americas Best
Value Inn, the proprietor was washing the already spotless lobby windows. A
sign on the lobby door said, "Please wipe your feet." These seemed like very
good indications that the room was likely to be clean, and it was. This was a
pleasant motel with aspen trees in the parking lot, Internet access and $1 off
a dessert at the adjacent Red Barn restaurant, not to mention the cheapest
rooms in Montrose (from what I could tell on the Internet). And the shower head
was one of those dinner plate size "rain shower" things, which I really liked.
Thursday, June 14-Montrose, CO
to Hanksville, UT ~ 400 miles
The road climbed again to Molas
Pass at 10,019 feet. I stopped at
an overlook at the summit (left). Six other motorcyclists were there and as they left,
17 others rumbled in. That was a big group! As the first 6 left, two could not
exit the parking lot with the others because a semi was coming. The semi driver
tried to be nice and braked sharply to give the riders time to exit the lot with
their buddies. Apparently he didn't look behind because another 18-wheeler had
to jockey around to avoid rear-ending him. There was a car in the mix, too. This
action got the attention of everyone at the overlook.
Hwy. 95 is a Scenic Byway (as was most every road I'd been
on since yesterday!). The terrain along it (left) is rocky, both buff and red
sandstone, forming little canyons and buttes. Vegetation is scrub pine and low desert
plants. Beginning just south of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area the rocks
become more pronounced: higher, redder, more sculpted. The road is cut through
some of the rock and passes through the recreation area at Cataract
Canyon, cut by the Colorado
River. Lake Powell
is not far downstream.
As the time of day reached mid-afternoon, the temperature
soared. I could feel heat like a blast furnace. By the time I crossed the Colorado
River and arrived at the Hite Overlook (right) on the north side of the
river, I was fading. I needed to finish my water and have some snack crackers.
I also wanted to cool Valentino's engine a little. I could feel the engine heat
on my legs. Unfortunately the overlook is bathed in sun. There's no
Hanksville was 26 miles away. As I rode, I worried about a number
of things. One, my tires. When I left St. Louis
I put 42 pounds of air in the rear and 40 pounds in the front. Now I was at
over 6000 feet and air expands at higher elevations. The air in the tires was
just like the pressurized air in my waterbottle that wooshed out when I opened it.
And the air temperature was hot, which expands air molecules. Did I now have
way too much air pressure in the tires? Two, if there wasn't
a motel in Hanksville or if all the motels there were full, I'd have to go on
to Torrey, 45 miles more. What if that motel was full? I had lost interest in
camping as the temperature rose.
By 9 p.m. the
temperature had cooled a bit and the sun was setting, showing pink and orange
wisps in the sky. Many of the motel patrons were outside enjoying the evening,
sitting in the chairs provided in front of each room. The motel sign said "No
Vacancy." There were 6 motorcycles in the lot including mine.
Friday, June 15-Hanksville
to Panguitch 200 miles
Hwy. 24 wound through red rock outcrops and interesting rock
formations. The Fremont River
alongside the road provided water for tamarisk trees and other vegetation (left),
making a striking contrast to the red sandstone. The highway passed through
Capitol Reef, which was especially pretty. I stopped at the visitor center for a
stamp in my National Parks Passport book. Knats found me as soon as I stopped
and one flew up my nose, drowning a flapping death in snot and tickling a lot. This
was before the dry desert air turned my snot into little rocks.
Within a few miles Hwy. 12 began a climb into mountains toward
a pass in the Dixie National
Forest. Hillsides were covered with stands of ponderosa
pine and aspens, and some roadside banks were splashed with purple delphiniums.
Sweeping turns led into cool mountain air. I stopped for photos at a scenic
pullout near the summit (right). John and Scott rode by, going east. John recognized me
and slowed so suddenly to enter the other end of pullout that Scott almost hit
him. They had made it to Panguitch last night and were now heading back to
Montrose to stay with John's relatives. They stayed in a motel and didn't even
go to the rally site; they decided to ride and not rally. They found the Gypsy
Ride's prescribed route through northern Arizona
very boring and wished they'd gone north with me. Ha! Well, a trip back to
Blanding to get gas wouldn't have been boring, eh? Thinking momentarily that
I'd gone the same way they did, Scott asked, "How did you like riding through
From the summit the road swooped down out of the mountains
toward Escalante, which is back in the desert-and heat-again. I climbed and
dropped through expanses of flat, mounded, buff-colored sandstone swirled with
color and ridges like you see in Zion
National Park. The rocks looked
like frozen dunes, which is what they are. The road climbed in switchbacks
through this rock to a scenic overlook (left). I had passed the cruiser riders not
long before, so I hopped off the bike and rushed to take photos before they
caught up. Way below, I could the see the road loop in switchbacks through the
rock, and the cruiser riders on it.
Hwy. 12 passed through Bryce
Canyon National Park.
I didn't go into the park because I plan to do that tomorrow. I stopped at a
pullout and did a short hike to Mossy Creek (left), where there were some hoodoos with
a stream at the base.
Farther on, closer to Panguitch, I stopped at the Red
Canyon visitor center in Red
Canyon/Dixie National Forest. Red Canyon
is so named because the rocks and soil are red; it is a nice contrast with the
deep green pines in the area. After looking around in the visitor center and
picking up some brochures I walked part of the Pink
and Hoodoo Trail. The trail climbed quickly and soon Valentino looked small in
the parking lot (right). I did this in the heat of the afternoon while wearing riding
gear so my hike was slow, followed by more time in the air conditioned visitor
center to cool off before riding on. As I backed the bike up a chipmunk watched
from behind the parking block and ran into the parking spot as soon as I was
out of it, sniffing and looking for any snack crumbs I might have left.
The rally site was at the fairgrounds on the
north end of town. Some call this a strip mall rally because the grassy camping
area is a strip about 4 tents wide that runs the length of a gravel fairgrounds
parking lot. More grassy area was to the north. Most of the shady sites were
taken. The Beehive Beemers, who put on this rally, are not based in Panguitch.
They are based out of Salt
Lake City (I
After registering I found Doc Lily from Missouri
and put my tent near his in a spot that would not be shaded until around 3 in
the afternoon. Because it was so hot I briefly considered getting a room at the
Horizon Motel, which was adjacent to the fairgrounds but I decided that I was
not going to carry camping gear halfway across the country and not use it.
Back at the rally grounds I found more people had arrived
and more tents were set up in my area. Most were from California.
It seemed odd to meet people from California
because we don't see them at rallies in the Midwest. "Them?"
Like they are aliens or something
During the evening I met up with Paul and Voni Glaves, Karen
and Ben Sparks, Doug Crow, Mark Austin, Doug from Minnesota,
and a nice couple from New Mexico.
I was meeting some new people and seeing some I already knew. The photo to the left shows Ben using a tripod stool for something other than it's intended for. And no, it was not comfortable, he says.
Saturday, June 16-day
trip to Bryce Canyon ~ 75 miles
I pulled into the Sunrise Point parking lot and
easily found a level parking spot. I sat on the curb to change clothes. I wore
nylon shorts under my riding pants, and brought my tennies in the side bag. As
I walked toward Sunrise Point I quickly realized that I had forgotten
my ball cap and sunscreen. It was so hot in the sun that I walked the rim to
Sunset Point going from shade tree to shade tree, and there wasn't a whole of
that. Bryce Canyon is over 7000 feet in elevation, so the air
temperature was a pleasant 80-ish.
It's a half mile from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point and
during my walk I noticed the usual thing, which is very few visitors to Bryce
speak English. I heard Asian, European and Scandinavian languages. I visited
the Country Store for refreshment and souvenirs, which included chocolate milk.
I drank the milk while sitting on the porch where there was a breeze. I was hot
and sweaty and the Country Store was not air conditioned. A chipmunk scurried
on the floor from table to table looking for dropped goodies. Several people on
the porch were connected to the Internet. The park's lodge is also at this
location and I bet the entire area is Wi-Fi enabled.
As I changed back into my riding clothes Paul and Voni rode
by looking for a parking spot. They didn't stay long. They had gone to Rainbow
Point first, stopping at all the pullouts as they rode back. I rode the 17
miles to Rainbow Point (right) last because I knew parking at Sunrise Point would be a
problem later in the day. Rainbow Point was very pretty, as was my earlier walk
along the rim. The entire canyon of hoodoos can be seen from Rainbow Point. I
was there at the time of day when the light makes the hoodoos look translucent.
The awards ceremony followed dinner at 8 p.m. We didn't even have to move from our dinner chairs.
Very few rider awards were given. The ceremony was mostly giving away door
prizes, which was 3 or 4 jackets, some pants, service certificates at the local
dealer in Salt Lake City, and some
small stuff. Voni won a 12K service certificate and auctioned it (left) for almost
$400, the money going to the rally's local charity. A Beehive Beemer emcee with
a dry sense of humor kept the horribly long ceremony entertaining.
Sunday, June 17 -
Panguitch to Dillon
I-70 between Salina
and Green River is designated a scenic highway. I
stopped at three scenic overlooks and all were worth the stop. Signs at the
first two indicated "No Soliciting or Vending Allowed," but vendors were set up
around the sign (left) selling jewelry and small pottery, which looked very much like
trinkets from China.
The wares were not authentic Indian, nor were all of the vendors. Nevertheless, female
tourists were buying the stuff.
Monday, June 18 -
Dillon to Lexington, NE
Tuesday, June 19-Lexington, NE
to Anamosa, IA 530 miles
The western portion of the Lincoln
Highway (Hwy. 30) in Iowa
wasn't what I was expecting. In fact, overall throughout Iowa,
it wasn't what I was expecting. The road surface from Missouri
Valley to Cedar
Rapids was, for the most part, old surface: uneven
pavement, cracks, washboard, tar snakes and potholes. It was a good test of how
well I'd strapped on my gear. Industry along the highway created an olfactory
"feast:" escaping ammonia took my breath away, ethanol from an ethanol pant, a
really funky smell emanating from the Tyson chicken factory and various farm
chemicals. Hwy. 30 is a truck route, too, and there were many of them, belching
diesel smell and going slower than the 55 mph speed limit. Air blasts from the
trucks stirred up dust from the gravel and dirt shoulder, and they sent billows
of dust into the air on the many gravel roads and in construction zones, so the
air was hazy with dust. I was expecting the bucolic, rolling, green Iowa
countryside with quaint farmhouses and barns sprouting from cornfields and
green as far as you could see. While some of the scenery was like that, most of
it was in the central and eastern part of the state. I was also expecting more
"hoopla" about the Lincoln Highway.
While some businesses called themselves the "Lincoln
Highway this-or-that," most towns didn't guide
visitors to the original route of the highway.
Hwy. 30 has bypassed many of the small towns that were
originally on the Lincoln Highway.
A little more research would have helped my sightseeing. As it was, I detoured
off Hwy. 30 now and then to ride through the business district of a few of the
towns that were bypassed. It was a treasure hunt seeking out the red, white and
blue Lincoln Highway signs
and the red, white and blue bands painted around telephone poles.
In mid-afternoon a sign on Hwy. 30 indicated a
Dairy Queen in the town of Jefferson, south of the highway, so a trip into town was a
no-brainer. In the DQ parking lot, I took my time taking off my rain gear,
refolding my map and taking a photo of the bike in front of the very old and
almost falling down Jefferson Chicken Coop building (right). An eventual glance toward
the DQ revealed an older couple sitting inside by the front windows. Both were
staring intently at me, the man doing an almost 180 with his head. Inside, I
got my treat and ate it. Back outside, I took my time again, putting in my
earplugs, checking my gear, etc. As I backed out to leave, I noticed the old
couple still in the same pose, staring at me.
I drove into town to find the business district.
I found the first Lincoln
sign I'd seen since an old faded one very near the western edge of the state. I
circled the busy and vibrant town square and left by the same route I'd taken
in. As I passed the DQ, the same old couple was still sitting there, staring at
me as I drove by. I had to laugh. I like DQ and I hope I'll not be reduced to
sitting in one and staring at people when I get old.
On the way out of town I stopped to photograph a bright pink
charcoal grill that looked just like a pig-a smiling one at that. So,
interesting things and finds happened in Jefferson, and
the ride was looking up. I pressed on, optimistic.
A few miles down the road I left Hwy. 30 again to ride
through Ogden and hopefully take the actual Lincoln Highway from there into
Boone, about 10 miles east. In Ogden
I found more Lincoln Highway
signs and I followed E41 into Boone. E41 is a lovely little road through rural Iowa
and it is the original Lincoln Highway.
Except for an old, faded billboard as I entered Boone, there was no indication
that I was on the actual Lincoln Highway as I rode through the middle of town
to Hwy. 17 out the east end, which I took back to Hwy. 30.
Then I came to Tama. Just tooling on through, I saw a sign
that said "Lincoln Highway Point of Interest." A quick brake and turn took me
into a little roadside park. It was the site of the bridge guardrails that
spell out "Lincoln Highway"
in big concrete letters. The bridge had recently been refurbished by a town
fundraising project. A large brick monument with plaque told about the Lincoln
Highway and the bridge. A nearby pole held a Lincoln
Highway sign and was painted with the red, white
and blue bands.
Wednesday, June 20-Hanging
I ventured into Wild Thyme and Tea Room. It was definitely a
girly place and I enjoyed it. It was one of those places that sell fragrances,
soaps, new old jewelry, florals, frilly things, signs, sculptures, minerals,
etc., and plays Celtic music from a CD player. A shelf in the back room held a sign that said, "Shoplifting plays hell with your karma." The tea room (left) was decorated near
the window as a frilly sunroom with white wicker, butterfly pillows and white
hutch laden with things for sale. The floor was wood but painted to simulate a
rock paved patio, with moss painted between some of the stones. The interior of
the tea room was more Victorian with white tablecloths, deep red wall paint and
print wallpaper, crystal chandeliers, dark wood hutches and carpeting. A small
low table held pink and purple little girl things and a sign inviting parents
to hold a princess party in the tea room.
There's a Wal-Mart Super Store up the road from the motel.
Interestingly, and I don't know if he'd be honored or not, the road to Wal-Mart
is named Grant Wood Drive.
Grant Wood painted American Gothic, and he's from Anamosa. Buried there, too.
There's a shop downtown that sells all sorts of Grant Wood paraphernalia.
The new stuff includes a board track racing
display (left) showing Indian, Harley and Flying Merkel board trackers. There was also
a lineup of Ducati racers, including a 2000 MH9, and '82 900 MHR, a '77 900 SS,
a '79 900 SS, a '74 750 SS, a '64 250 GP Diana and a '59 175cc. The Antique
Motorcycle Club of America sponsored a Harley workshop display, which contained
a 1917 Harley, a period-dressed mannequin and various tools and lathes in a
wood "building." I also noticed a 1930 Velocette racer kit and a '56 Parilla GS
that I don't think were there last time I visited.
now a "movie room" that houses bikes that were used in movies-including Steve
McQueen's bike (right)-plus movie posters, photos and motorcycle-related memorbilia. A
flat screen TV plays motorcycle movies in that room. The Hall of Fame plaques
used to be in what is now the movie room. Those have been moved to a larger
room that also contains a conference table and a little collection of Cushmans.
A flat screen TV in another part of the museum plays motorcycle drag race
documentaries and below the screen are several dragsters. A corner now holds a
display of Von Dutch art, including a refrigerator door and the translucent
winged eye that used to sit on his desk.
Speaking of "art,"
there are three bikes-a Moto Guzzi, a Hercules and a Benelli-that are, gee, I
don't know how to describe them. When I first saw them all I could think was,
"Well, pimp my bike!" The Hercules has a Wankel engine.
Two motorcycles are so valuable that they are kept in glass
cases. One is a 1908 Harley single with the lower cylinder fins removed to
accommodate a magneto (which Harley didn't go ahead with at the time). It's the
only known bike to have this cylinder configuration. The other rare bike is a
1912 Henderson that is the only
known 4 cylinder completely original bike, right down to the almost 100 year
Regarding BMWs, there used to be only one BMW in the mix and
that was Cliff Boswell's 1973 R75/5. Mr. Boswell was a tourist and moto
journalist and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. Now there are three
more BMWs (left): a 1939 R12, a model-unidentified 1934 BMW, and a 1939 R12 military
BMW with leather bags and military issue extras. These three BMWs are fully
Thursday, June 21-Round
trip Anamosa to Iowa
City 110 miles
Friday, June 22-Anamosa
to St. Louis
This was a great trip and a great way to celebrate my first summer of retirement. It won't be the last such trip!
Georgia Mountain Rally, 2007 (posted 6/6/2007)
Rain was falling now and then as I made the final
preparations to load the bike and head for the meeting place. By the time I
left the house the rain had stopped and only light sprinkles fell on the way.
We were certainly going to get wet but no one backed out of the trip that
morning, not even Al Schroer, who is relatively new to the rally and camping
scene. There were seven of us and the mood was jovial as we ate breakfast at
the Fairview Heights,
Illinios Bob Evans. The brave souls were: Larry Floyd, Jeff Ackerman, Al
Schroer, Smitty, Jim Shaw, Bill Graham and me, of course.
Like last year, we took two days to get to Hiawassee. Thursday
we rode the slab to Manchester, Tennessee,
which is south of Nashville.
Moderate rain fell for less than half of the 390 miles (estimated from my
house) and we arrived dry at the Manchester KOA. This was a much better
situation than I had hoped for. We bunked in a couple of 2-room Kamping Kabins.
After we got settled, a noisy thunderstorm poured rain as we sat dry under the gazebo in front of the cabins.
The other interesting thing at the Huddle House was the
change I received after I paid my bill. My bill was $7.05 and I gave the
waitress $6.05 by mistake. She gave me 95 cents in change!
We arrived at the rally site around 4:30 p.m. local time and
set up camp before registering. We did that to secure the area where we camped
last year, except this year we shifted a bit because an odoriferous
port-a-potty was nearby. The smell remained medicinally sweet for the duration
of the rally but I found the wafting odor unpleasant compared to the natural
odor of the north Georgia
Later in the evening Lyle Grimes wandered over
and sat for a while. Lyle is pictured to the right, along with Al Schroer (photo by Kim Ireland). His new F800ST was nearby and he invited us to go over and
turn on the key to watch the impressive light display on the dash. Some of us
did so. The flashing oil light kept perfect time with the band, which had begun
playing. Later, Lyle stopped making such invitations because he feared his
battery would be dead when he wanted to ride.
Gateway member Kim Ireland arrived at the rally
grounds on Thursday evening and was camped not too far away on the other side
of the camp store. He and his chair joined our little circle of camp chairs. He
had passed by the Manchester KOA at 2:30 p.m. on
Thursday and decided to continue on to the rally, despite a previous invitation
to bunk with us in Manchester.
All afternoon and evening the clouds hung low over the
mountains. It almost seemed that we could reach up and touch the clouds. Bald
highest mountain, which is usually visible to the west of the campground, would
not be visible the entire rally.
Friday night's sleep time was interrupted by
loud thunder and torrential downpours. It's a good feeling to know your tent does
not leak and I fell asleep during the second or third wave of storms. I'd put
my tent on a slight slope above the lowest part of the field but the end of it
was near the low point. In the morning I found that I occupied swamp-side
After Saturday morning pancakes and sausage in the Pavilion
to benefit the Ride for Kids, Bill, Jim and Smitty took off for Dale Walksler's
Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, about 100 miles
away. The rest of us hunkered down in the Pavilion, watching the clouds and
occasional spritzes of precipitation. We were happy to just sit and talk but
eventually Jeff and Larry got a hankerin' to go riding and around lunchtime they
decided to head south, hoping that the rain had cleared in that direction. Kim
rode into Hiawassee for lunch.
Before they went riding, Jeff, Larry, Al and I
checked out the vendors. Jeff bought a cooling vest. Al bought a Roadgear mesh
jacket. I almost bought another Conspicuity vest on sale for $25 but didn't
when I realized it had a single Velcro latch in the front instead of a
full-length zipper. That vest vendor had a German Shepard dog named Ace. Ace
liked to sleep in the vendor's sidecar, and perch his chin on the edge, looking
Al and I wussed out on Saturday. There was
plenty to do on the rally grounds. There were a couple of seminars scheduled
for the afternoon (but I didn't attend any of them), there were vendors to
visit, the bike show began at 1 p.m., we
hadn't had lunch, I had to wash out some riding shorts, and I thought about
taking a nap. Rallying sure is strenuous and demanding. Being retired, I did
not feel compelled to ride in inclement weather; I could take an extra day to
get home, as Sunday's and Monday's forecasts were looking good.
Kim had cleared his work schedule for Monday and
Al did not need to be back Sunday night, so the three of us planned a two day
trip home. After determining that a Sunday ride to Maggie Valley would be too much to allow us to get significantly
west by Sunday night, we settled on a roundabout way to the eastern end of the
Cherohala Skyway. After riding the Skyway we'd take basically the same route our
group took from Manchester on Friday but instead of getting on the interstate at
Manchester, we would continue on back roads to a campground near
Dickson, Tennessee, just southwest of Nashville. I was up for a motel or KOA Kamping Kabin but Al got
his camping groove on during the rally and was set on camping. Fine with me. Al
had new camping gear and this rally was his first camping experience in 25
years. He dug it.
The heavens opened up about 5 minutes after Jeff and Larry
left. When they returned a couple hours later I asked if they got wet.
Hahahahaha. Of course, and it poured just as they got on some tight twisties, the
wrong time for a downpour. Smitty, Bill and Jim returned much later in the day
and they were not happy campers. They were wet and it rained for their entire
ride to and from Maggie Valley.
But they enjoyed the museum; Dale started some of his museum bikes for them and
did some burnouts down the aisles. Hey, if it's your museum, you can do
whatever you want!
We wusses-Al and I-wandered over to the camp store to see
what was available for lunch. We weren't too keen on the chili dogs, Southwestern
chicken wraps, candy bars, chips and soda available for purchase in the
Pavilion. We found yogurt and orange juice but we tempered that low-fat, healthy
food with Klondike bars as an appetizer. With an extra
day planned to get home, Al wanted to wash shirts at the camp store laundry. I
had to wash riding shorts. So we did a load of laundry. Yep, we rode 585 miles
to the north Georgia
mountains to eat yogurt and do laundry. Rallying sure is strenuous and
demanding. The laundry room saw a steady stream of wet riders making use of the
dryers, including one guy that I surprised in his undies when I went in to
check on our laundry.
Probably because of the rain, there were only a half dozen
bikes in the bike show. Last year there was twice that number. Two BMWs are pictured to the left. The only non-BMW
was a shabby-looking, early 1980s Gold Wing but it won its class because it was
the only entry. The rest were BMWs, and they were very nice. I thought Larry
should have entered his custom painted RS but he was out getting it dirty at
Fortunately the rain held off during Saturday
night's steak grill. Larry and Jeff had a large late lunch on the road and they
didn't have steak, but the rest of us did. The Georgia club serves up steak (grilled by the rally goer),
potato salad, green beans, a roll and a cookie. Saturday's lunch and dinner
were made by students at a local culinary school.
At the closing ceremonies Larry won an assortment of Meguiar's
car cleaning products, which he was delighted with. Door prizes abounded; there
must have been 30 or 40 of them. I found that I already owned most of the door
prizes or else the sizes were wrong (like the size 56 riding pants!), so I put
most of my tickets in the envelope for a Kermit bag and in the envelope for a
wood turned pen or compass. I won nothing.
The rain went away beginning late afternoon on
Saturday, although the low clouds remained until well after dark. No chance of
sunburn at this rally! Later in the evening we began to see stars of the
celestial kind and astronomy expert Jeff identified planets for us. We were
lucky that we could sit in camp and socialize in the evenings, and listen to
the band-Deep Fried, which played both nights-without worrying about keeping
All of us were up and packing by 6:30
a.m. on Sunday morning, anticipating pancakes at 7 a.m. The photo at left shows Al and Jeff packing up. My tent is still up, behind Jeff (photo by Kim Ireland). Kim was well ahead of us and was already
packed; he had to wait on Al and me after the others left for St.
Louis. He was patient; thanks, Kim.
The sun was shining by the time the three of
us-Kim, Al and I-left the Bald Mountain Campground around 8:30.
The zigzag route to the Cherohala Skyway was very scenic. Vegetation was moist and
vibrant from the rain, and the sun was nice to see. After a slow start I got
into my twisties groove on the Cherohala, although even so, I am sure I slowed
Kim and Al. I was leading but neither would go ahead when invited. I blasted
right on by the parking lot at the top, which was mostly in fog anyway, and I rode the whole thing without a major stop for photos. Kim stopped to take the photo at right, however. Traffic was mostly light.
Near the bottom, before reaching Tellico Plains, we rounded
a curve to find a Ricky Racer (my term for squids) coming at me in my lane. He
was part of a group of 7 or 8 and it looked like the leader had hit his brakes
and the others were too close or not paying attention, and they had scattered.
They were spread across their lane in varying trajectories and modes of braking,
except for this one guy in my path who was heading for the guard rail to my
right. He was taking a straight route to the guard rail and I held a line
nearer the double yellow. Oddly, the adrenalin didn't come out until after we
were past each other. Kim and Al said Ricky didn't crash; he stopped at the
guard rail and he was not a danger to them.
Al's tire looked okay at a leg stretch stop in Columbia. That is, until he rolled his bike back to see the
tire's entire circumference. There they were-the cords. Kim and I took this
discovery in stride, happy that the tire didn't belong to either of us. Al was
glad that he had support, although Kim and I offered up some not-so-serious
support at times, such as we hoped the only tire he could find would be hot
pink, like the ones we saw at the MotoFest in St. Louis.
Out came the Anonymous book, the cell phone, the map, and I
went inside and borrowed the Columbia
phone book. I suggested that the first call should be to the Nashville BMW club
rep, whose info was in the Anonymous book. That was Steve Stratz, who was a
lifesaver. Sunday evening at 5 p.m.
is not a good time to try to find a tire and someone who can install it. After
nearly two hours of phone calls to dealers, people and motels, we had a plan,
thanks to Steve. We also learned from Kim that sneakers thrown over and hanging
from electric lines means that you can buy pot there, such as the Citgo station
where we were. Kim also showed us what a gay handshake is. He says anyone with
teenage children knows these things.
From Dickson to McEwen we encountered some truck traffic. At
McEwen I took Hwy. 231 north. Hwy. 231 is a gray road and it was excellent,
with a good road surface, good scenery and some twisties. In fact, most of the
roads we took were pretty good. You really can't go wrong in that part of Tennessee.
Lunch was at Fitz's Restaurant (left) in Erin, much to Kim's delight. Keeping that
Irish thing going, you know. Fitz's didn't have homemade pies, so instead of
getting dessert I suggested we make a Dairy Queen stop in the afternoon. The
suggestion was met with enthusiastic agreement. Apparently the Irish like Dairy
To see more and larger versions of the photos in this story, see my Smugmug page.
Gateway Riders New Year's Day Ride (posted 3/11/2007)
I was running late so I hadn't taken my helmet off
or my earplugs out while I filled the K75 with gas. As I finished up, a man at
the pump in front of me waved his arms in the air and I caught the word
"motorcycle." Because the temperature was in the 30s and the clouds had not yet
completely gone away, I assumed that he said something like, "You're an idiot
to ride a motorcycle in weather like this." I'm sure his comment was stated
nicer than that but in any case I smiled a smile that he couldn't see and
nodded my head yes. After all, what did he know? He was putting gas in his boxy
white van with dark blue green accents and I was on my sleek red two-wheeler.
Which one sounds more fun?
When I pulled around to the front of the gas
station's convenience store and met the other seven "idiots," I learned that we
were going to ride to Mexico. That sounded like a good idea to me because I
could not find my preferred winter gloves or the connector for my electric
jacket. The TourMaster gloves that I wore are fine, but they do not contain the
hi-tech phase change material that my Revit gloves do. One's pinkies are warmer
just knowing they are wrapped in hi-tech phase change material. I donned my
quilted Olympia liner and my Windstopper jacket over a wicking later, put on my
riding jacket and charged out the driveway. I wondered where I had put my Revit
gloves and electric connector, which are supposed to be in a chest of drawers
containing other motorcycle supplies in the basement.
I chose the K75 for this trek because it's the
warmest bike I own. It has a windscreen with the largest coverage, and it has
the famed hot engine. The wind was strong from the north and we rode generally
west, so my left foot basked in the heat of the engine and was quite toasty for
most of the ride. My right foot, however, took the brunt of the cold wind and
hurt because of it. While Christmas shopping at Bass Pro Shop I bought myself
some thick, warm socks specifically for such rides. (Off topic: You do buy lots
of stuff for yourself when you Christmas shop for others, don't you???) But I
had a three week old broken little toe on my right foot that would not be happy
stuffed into thick socks and crammed into the riding boot.
course we were not going to the real Mexico. We rode to Mexico, Missouri, 106
miles from the starting point by my odometer. By the time we departed the gas
station near 11 a.m. the sun was in a clear, cobalt sky and the temperature
hovered near 40, where it stayed for most of the outbound ride through rural
Missouri countryside. Thanks to a change in hormones I'm now a warm-natured
person and I was actually quite comfortable for about 85 of the 106 miles once
my fingertips froze and I couldn't feel them anymore.
didn't see much of Mexico, just the eastern finger of it along Hwy. 54 west of
its suburb Vandiver. We arrived in Mexico close to 1 p.m. and we had lunch on
our minds. A large billboard advertising Porky's BBQ caught ride leader Jeff
Ackerman's attention and we made a beeline for it, but alas, Porky's was closed
on New Years Day. We doubled back to the Hwy. 54 Diner, a small, unassuming
place with some cars in the parking lot. We arrived there at the stroke of 1
p.m. to find that it closed at 1 p.m. After some mild begging and a query to
the cook we were the last eight customers, along with a couple lucky enough to
be attached to the end of our line of happy-go-lucky riders as we filed in the
door. Several items and sides were sold out-no American fries and no corn!-but breakfast
could still be had and the food was plentiful, tasty and reasonably priced. It
was a good choice for our lunch stop.
group broke up after lunch. Some went straight back east and some dropped south
to I-70 for a quick trip home. With daylight in short supply this time of year,
I shot home via I-70, arriving about 45 minutes before sunset. The temperature
almost topped 50 degrees on the way home.
was a great way to start the new year!
Kansas Motorcycle Museum (posted 3/11/2007)
Last December while returning on I-70 from a
vacation in Utah, I spied a billboard for the Kansas Motorcycle Museum in
Marquette, Kansas. Hubby and I did not have time for a detour but we made time,
and a few miles later we were at the museum.
Stan Engdahl and his wife LaVona are curators.
Stan raced-mostly AMA races-from the 1940's until the 1990's and over 600 of
his trophies are on display, as well as his last race bike, a Harley dirt
tracker. The museum opened on Labor Day in 2003 and already has over 100 bike
brands on display and in storage, including BMW, BSA, Trimuph, Can Am, Bultaco,
Ducati, DKW, Ural, Yamaha, Rickman, Hodaka, CZ, Cushman, Sears and others. The
walls are full of photos, clothing and posters. I heard that Stan gives a
"killer" tour of the museum but he was away at a local fire. Stan is also the
Marquette Fire Marshall. In lieu of the personal tour, I bought the 56-minute
DVD of the museum tour given by Stan, and I also bought a tee shirt (like I
need another one of those!). The DVD is well worth its $15 price tag.
Construction has already begun on a large
expansion to the museum. Several hundred additional feet will be added to the
rear and side of the existing building, giving more room to display bikes that
are currently in storage.
The Georgia Mountain Rally, 2006 (posted 5/18/2006)
The Georgia Mountain Rally is in its 16th year so some of you may have attended the rally before. But Larry Floyd, Smitty, Bill Graham, Gene Kautz, the Ackermans and I had never been there. Because of Mary’s work commitments, the Ackermans left St. Louis six hours after the rest of us.
Because it was early in the season and Hiawassee, Georgia was about 575 miles away, we decided to give our butts a break and split the ride into two days by heading down a day early. I arranged for an overnight in a KOA 2-room cabin in Manchester, Tennessee, which is midway between Nashville and Chattanooga. We arrived there at a respectable 4 p.m. just as light sprinkles began. When I walked into the cabin I said, “Yessssss!” A double bed was in the first room and two bunk beds were in the back room. Well, obviously, because I was the only chick I should get the double bed and a room of my own, while the guys crowd into the bunk beds in the other room to fart and belch all they wanted. After dinner (during which Larry tried to order the Monday special on Thursday) we turned into party animals, sitting in the copula outside the cabin repeatedly asking each other, “Is it nine o’clock yet?” Nine was our designated go-to-bed time and we had to force ourselves to stay awake until then otherwise we’d wake up too early the next morning.
Friday dawned cloudy and sprinkles fell as we packed the bikes. Hiawassee was about 175 miles away. Gene had planned a scenic, twisty route from Manchester to Hiawassee but the rain forced a different route: the interstate. We didn’t want to do twisties in the rain, especially with Smitty on the Smittymobile pulling a trailer. The forecast was not good in the direction of Gene’s route but it wasn’t too bad to the south, which was the direction the interstate took us. At right is the Nick-a-Jack rest area in Tennessee; that's the Nick-a-Jack Reservoir in the background. To get to Hiawassee we had to leave the interstate shortly after passing through Chattanooga so we did get in some decent riding nearer our destination.
Once near Hiawassee, little searching and some advice from a local resident was necessary to find the rally grounds, Bald Mountain Park. The rain had abated until a couple miles from the rally site, and then it dumped on us. We registered, got our rally packets and set off in search of a spot to set up the Gateway Compound. Oddly, the five of us ran into the Ackermans at registration; they had just arrived, so they made good time. They rode until after dark the night before while we were waiting for 9 p.m. We camped near a large pine tree and close enough to the stage to hear the band while sitting in camp.
Saturday was a glorious, sunny day with mild temperatures. The campground was decimated because so many people left it to ride. We went our separate ways. Mary did the poker run. I attempted to ride the Cherohala Skyway. The others took a longer ride encompassing Deal’s Gap and the Cherohala Skyway.
I rode up twisty State Route 68 to Tellico Plains, to the western end of the Cherohala Skyway. Four Beemer riders and a few Ricky Racers passed me. On the Skyway, a mile from Tellico Plains, a police car blocked the road and a policeman directed traffic onto a side road. I learned from other riders at a Shell gas station that a house was being moved and it would take 8 hours. But all was not lost. A county road would take me to the Cherohala 15 miles up the road. In the Shell station I asked the young clerk if the county road was paved. She’d apparently been asked about an alternate route too many times already and wearily replied, “Pretty much.” Now, what does that mean???? So I asked her that. She said, “Yes, it’s paved but it’s a bad road. Be careful.” How bad could it be?
The road was a lane and a half wide and its surface deteriorated as I rode up it. In a couple miles I passed a motorcycle accident and the rider was already strapped to a backboard, his companions sadly standing by. Eleven miles of very twisty road later I came to a Y in the road and both choices were gravel. Hmmm. I stopped to ponder the situation. Shortly, the four Beemer riders who’d passed me on Hwy. 68 pulled up behind me. We looked at each other, shrugging shoulders. A pickup truck driver coming the other way told us which road to take and also that it was 5 miles of gravel to the Cherohala. The Beemer riders went on and I bailed even though they offered their company. On my return down the county road many cars, trucks and Ricky Racers were lined up slowly heading for the surprise gravel; I was glad I was not among them. That road was not a viable detour for all the traffic that travels the Cherohala.
Back in Tellico Plains I stopped for lunch at Burger King and to decide on a different route back to the rally grounds. Police cars and rescue vehicles screamed south on Hwy. 68 and I learned that it was another motorcycle accident. I didn’t care to see a second motorcycle accident in an hour so I vowed not to go back via Hwy. 68. Three scooter riders (brand new, gleaming Suzuki Bergman 650 and a couple of Hondas) stopped for lunch and told me of a great route via Hwy. 315. A couple on a Harley also stopped at the Burger King. The man asked how to get to Deal’s Gap and produced a map of the United States for me to show him. During the discussion the woman was staring hard at my tankbag and finally said about the tankbag, “That’s a good idea….” The photo at left is back on Hwy. 64 not too far from Hiawassee, and not too far from the site of the 1996 Olympic white water events.
I’d wanted to return to the rally grounds by 2 p.m. to see the Motorcycle Show (vintage display) and to take a shower, but I didn’t make it until 4 p.m. I was just in time to cast my votes for bikes in the show. Not all the dozen or so bikes were “correct” but they were good eye candy anyway. One of the non-BMWs was a Penton Mudlark trials bike, which I later found out is rare and valuable.
Saturday dinner at the Georgia Mountain Rally is 10-11 ounce steaks and the grill master is always good because the grill master is you. Gene had split from the other guys and had returned, so he, Mary and I wandered up to the Pavilion, got our steaks and slapped them on the grill, which was about 30 feet long. Rally goers crowded around cooking their steaks. Potato salad (the Georgia club made 300 pounds of the stuff and ran out!), green beans, rolls and cookies went with the steak. Just as we returned to camp with our vittles, the guys returned and chided us for not waiting but we didn’t know when they were coming back.
I learned from them that a house was indeed being moved down the Cherohala Skyway—it was a log cabin and it had been accidentally dumped onto a bridge. Oops. I thought my day had been ruined but it could have been worse. I could have been that truck driver! They rode the same narrow county road that I did but didn’t encounter gravel. I bet I should have made a turn onto another county road but I wasn’t told that at the Shell station. Oh well, I had an adventure and I met some nice people.
Talk of torrential rains on Sunday dampened the mood Saturday night. Sunday’s weather was a frequent topic of conversation. The sound of rain on my tent in the early morning was soothing and I fell back to sleep. Larry and Bill were up at 0 dark 30 and had their tents down before I exited my tent. I’d organized my gear the night before and I was not far behind them. The time was 6:15 a.m. and it was still dark. We were packed and ready to go before pancakes were served at 7 a.m., but we waited. It would take longer if we stopped for breakfast on the road. Rob Nye, Rally Chair for the ‘MOA rally in Vermont, called me to his table and gave me some genuine Vermont maple syrup from a little jug.
The dreaded torrential rain was falling as we rode out of the rally grounds. The Ackermans went to Atlanta with a friend and did not return with us. A missed turn resulted in a creative route at first but we got back on track and the rain stopped for a bit. Later, Larry took a wrong turn near Cleveland, Tennessee and we became separated—Larry and Bill together and Smitty, Gene and I together. Gene wanted to get home quickly and blasted ahead once we reached the interstate. Gene’s average speed was “slightly” higher than ours and he arrived home two and a half hours before we did! Smitty and I continued together, wondering if we’d link up again with Larry and Bill. In about a hundred miles I saw Bill’s auxiliary “moon” lights come up behind us. Yea! We were a group again.
Although we rode through a few rain showers, the weather gradually improved as we rode north and the sky was mostly clear by the time we entered Illinois. Doing the return trip in one day was hard on us old farts so early in the season and our stops became more frequent the more miles we rode. Bill’s butt was good for about 100 miles. Larry’s back bothered him. My neck was tightening. Smitty was zombie-like, and the Smittymobile was gobbling gas at the rate of 25 mpg in the wind. Most of us had leaky pants crotches and could not take our over pants off in public.
We decided that the Georgia Mountain Rally is a must-do rally and we’ll be back; attendance was about 750. The area is beautiful and full of good riding roads, the rally’s food is good (chili on Friday night, pancakes and sausage on Saturday morning, steak on Saturday night, and pancakes again on Sunday morning), there’s a camp store to buy snacks and drinks, there are a dozen or more vendors, the Motorcycle Show was good, the band (Deep Fried) was entertaining, and there were lots of friendly people there.
More photos can be found on my SmugMug site.
Some Interesting Products at the 2006 Dealer Expo Show in Indianapolis (posted 2/24/2006)
The annual 3-day Dealernews Dealer Expo show in Indianapolis is the largest of its kind, I believe. Limited to dealers and industry, it occupies the Indianapolis Convention center and RCA Dome. The amount of products is mind-boggling. Below you’ll find a few that I found interesting.
This fall Gerbing’s is coming out with a new 4-season suit that looks pretty impressive. It’s called the Cascade Extreme Suit. Features include 330 Denier Cordura shell, lots of pockets in the jacket, full waterproofness, removable electrified liners, 100 gram Thinsulate insulation, CE approved armor, and reflective piping. The suit includes a battery harness and Dual 2 wire configuration, which allows the wearer to control the temperature of gloves and pants separately from the jacket. Jacket venting includes pit zips, chest zips and a zippered vent across the back. MSRP for the jacket is $425 and the pants $299. Both will be available later this year from your Gerbing dealer or www.gerbing.com.
If you can’t figure out good routes and rides for yourself, Mad Maps and First Gear can help. First Gear’s map is called “Selected Great Rides” and along with full product information and photos of same, it gives written directions for rides in 21 states and the Smoky Mountains. Routes in Missouri include Hwy. 19 and U.S. 160 in the Ozarks, and Hwy. 61 from St. Louis to Arkansas. This map does not carry a price on its cover so I assume it’s a giveaway at your First Gear dealer.
Mad Maps carries a number of maps but the one that caught my eye was the “Adventure America/Best Road Trips Volume 1.” It’s printed on Tyvek-like paper, which is tear proof and waterproof. The Mad Maps rep told me that it takes two days for the ink to dry on this paper, which may partly account for the $10.95 price tag. This map features nine rides scattered around the country, and each will take you a week or more to ride. At its next printing the popular “Smoky Mountains/Southern Appalachia Scenic Tours” map will be printed on the special paper, also, but currently it’s available only on regular paper for $8.95. Mad Maps can be found at www.madmaps.com.
Zox Helmets made its debut in the United States at the Dealer Expo show and I was drawn to this helmet (right), the SpectraR. Matt finishes seem to be “in” and this helmet screams “personality” in an industrial sort of way with its black matt finish and its metal grate-look vent covers. Weighing in at 3.85 pounds, the SpectraR is Zox’s high-end helmet and it sells for $149.95. It’s Snell and DOT approved. It has a quick release shield, a removable and washable liner, forehead and cheek vents and a rear exit vent. Zox manufactures a variety of helmets including modular/flip up. See www.zoxhelmets.com.
Polish company Deemeed makes these very cool grenade disc locks, designed by Finnish company ABLOY. You can also purchase a leather belt case for the grenade to make you look like the bad dude you really are, and maybe even startle the occasional motel clerk. I don’t have a price for this but you may think its style is priceless. Deemeed is looking for U.S. distributors, so its products are not easy to find. The nearest dealer to St. Louis is HD Wildfire in Chicago, 630-834-6571, or www.deemeed.de.
GG Quad-USA reps Kevin Smith and Ray Donaldson brought one of their vehicles to the Dealer Expo show and stopped by the BMW MOA office the following week on their way home to Texas. At right, Kevin tells us about the quad. The vehicle is manufactured by Gruter + Gut Motorradtechnik GmbH outside Lucerne, Switzerland. The GG Quad is an extension of the various motorcycles and other vehicles that GG Motorradtechnik has developed over the past 20 years. It’s street legal in Europe where there are already 150 of them on the road. This baby is powered by an R1150R engine but that’s as close to a BMW as it gets. It has 6 forward gears and a reverse. The storage side cases can be removed and I personally think the quad is much sexier without them.
Ray, Vince and I took it for a spin. That's me on it, left. The fact that it’s not street legal in the U.S. didn’t deter us from taking it on the road. Ray said when I asked if he was going to take it out of the parking lot, “Is the Pope Catholic?” The vehicle’s wide tires and wheelbase provide lots of stability and it immediately goes where you point it but you’ve got to give it constant input, especially in turns. The 1130cc engine scoots the 900 pound vehicle around quite satisfactorily. GG Quad-USA is working on getting this vehicle street legal in the U.S. When that happens, you can buy one for about $50,000. See www.gg-technik.ch/eng/frameset.html.
You know your gear is safe when you’re at a BMW rally but what about while you’re in that fast food place getting lunch on the way? PacSafe manufactures motorcycle luggage integrated with laminated, slash proof stainless steel wire mesh (called eXomesh), which can be locked closed and locked to your bike. PacSafe’s first product was a simple mesh bag that backpackers could use to secure their packs, but its product line has expanded to include motorcycle bags with integrated mesh, i.e. the mesh is between layers of fabric like Gerbing’s electrical wires are.
Two of PacSafe’s products interested me. A helmet or even small articles of clothing can be locked inside the LidSafe bag and then locked to your bike. LidSafe is waterproof and can be hung from your bike by a strap, which keeps rain out, and it folds to 3” by 6” when you aren’t using it. A new product, TailSafe (pictured here), is a soft-sided waterproof tail bag with convenient access pockets, removable padded carry strap and reflective piping. The bag measures 14”X16”X12” and is made of 900 Denier polyester. PacSafe says the TailSafe bag will attach to most bikes using tension lock mounting straps. TailSafe retails for $227 and LidSafe for $47. Visit PacSafe at www.pac-safe.com or call 800-873-9415 to buy or find a store, or buy at Rider Wearhouse, www.aerostich.com.
Hyper-Lite’s new Sport LED system, which will be available May 1, solves all your rear lighting issues with one package. You have your choice of either 16 or 32 LED lights (16 pictured here, in sequential turn signal mode), which feature flashing 5-second-then-solid or continuously flashing brake light, running lights, sequential turn signals and optional emergency flasher. The unit runs on any system from 6 to 18 volts. It’s waterproof and is visible for up to two miles at night and a couple hundred yards in full sun. See www.hyperlites.com for more information.
Have you always liked the BMW C1 concept but couldn’t have one because they are not street legal in the U.S.? Check out Diamo’s Velux. These scooters are designed by Benelli in Italy and made in China. The roof folds into the rear and the vehicle becomes a conventional scooter. How cool is that???? The 150cc 4-stroke air-cooled version has a maximum speed of 60 mph and the 250cc 4-stroke liquid-cooled version maxes out at 75 mph, and you’ll get 60-75 mpg. Both weigh 330 pounds and come with front storage and a rear trunk, radio/CD/MP3 player, 12 volt plug-in, side mirrors with turn signals and a windshield wiper. Optional features are GPS, DVD player, rearview camera and a remote alarm system. The photo shows a sidecar rig but it seems to me that the 10 hp and 17 hp respectively would be sorely taxed by a hack. MSRP for the 150cc model is $3995 and the 250cc model is $4495. See www.diamousa.com for more information and a dealer locator.
In the “I'm Too Old to Wear That Sort of Thing” category, Girlyz Clothing Co. displayed some of its dirt riding pants. It will come as no surprise to learn that this is a California company. In addition to the pink shown here, the pants also come in purple or yellow with white side stripes; red with with hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs splashed down the sides; black with leopard side stripes; full camo and more. You can also buy tops and jerseys from Girlyz, and little girls clothing. The pink pants pictured here are the new zebra style, priced at $150, and they are somewhat serious in that they are made of 500 Denier Antron with 1000 Denier in stress areas. Sizes are 0 to 20. See www.girlyz.com.
Victory Motorcycles showed this concept bike at the Indy show. It’s the Vision 800, which represents OEM research in action. It’s designed to encompass all segments of motorcycling—cruiser, sportbike, and touring. Features include a 28.5” seat height, Automatic Constant Variable Transmission (it has no foot controls or clutch), room for two full-size helmets in the “tank,” maintenance free exposed shaft final drive, a bladder fuel tank behind the front wheel and dual underseat side exit exhaust. The engine is an 800cc 4-stroke liquid-cooled parallel twin. This bike seemed to be a love-hate thing at the show. I find it quite interesting and eye-pleasing. See www.victorymotorcycles.com for more information and to take an opinion survey.
For more photos from the show, please see the gallery on my Smugmug account.
A Not so Dinky Dinks Rally (posted 8/23/2005)
The old man shuffled by and looked longingly at my R1150R, which sat in front of the Casey's store in Palmyra, IL. He asked where I was going and I told him. He approved of my route off the interstate highways, saying that you see more that way. He gazed at my bike with "that look" in his eyes and said, "I could probably still ride a motorcycle. My kids wouldn't like it, though." When he was just out of high school he bought a 1926 Harley single. "After that I bought a 1935 Indian." He continued, "That was the best bike I ever owned. It was well-balanced and could be ridden standing up on the seat. After the war I bought another Indian but it was not as good. You couldn't stand on the seat of that one." By that time I was looking at him kind of funny, contemplating the standing on the seat thing. He read my mind, smiled and said, "I was kind of crazy in those days." He watched as I put on my jacket, gloves and helmet, and he kept looking as I rode away. A little flame had begun to burn in him again. Besides the obvious, there are good reasons to take routes off the interstate highways. You see so much more and you meet people like this gentleman.
The 4-H Park contains buildings for gathering and shelters for camping, it has bleachers to sit on to eat or watch the field events, it has playground equipment to keep children (and me—I like to swing) occupied, it has nice showers, it has plenty of grass, and it’s loaded with mature burr oaks, which provide plenty of shade. Looking out from under the trees over the cornfields to the north makes it seem like you are looking into the rest of the world from a cozy spot.
I drove up a little gravel path and stopped the bike. As I looked at the small grassy field to my left, a voice came from my right, “That’s low there. Try up there.” The voice was Lee’s from Illinois. He was relaxing with his buddies John and Cooker from Illinois and Wisconsin respectively. They had knocked down some beers and were about halfway through a bottle of fine tequila, all of it iced down in John’s $800 cooler, better known as a new BMW top case. I smiled and said hi and began unloading the camping gear from my bike. I walked into the field, dropped the duffel and heard, “That’s a high spot right there where you are standing. That would be a good place for your tent.” Eventually, after I’d sweated nearly to death putting up my tent Lee hollers over to tell me that they are happy I’m almost done because they are just exhausted from watching. But these guys were lifesavers because they offered ice, water, a peach and friendship to a hot and weary traveler. I pulled up my chair and sat for a spell.
The theme of this year’s rally was the Lone Ranger. Attendees are encouraged to dress the part but that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. I saw only two people dressed in western attire. In keeping with the theme, field events awards were glass mugs shaped like a boot. Original films of The Lone Ranger were shown on Saturday night, beginning with the first episode from 1949; the film’s intro voice says “He was a FABULOUS man!” as the camera zooms in on the masked one. Those in attendance really got into it and watched into the night. Dinks members handed out bags of popcorn, which was a nice touch.
The field events included lassoing and horseshoe throwing—both from motorcycles, of course, and the now-staple blindfolded sidecar driver event. Jeff and Mary Ackerman won two glass boots because they took turns driving their sidecar rig. The Dinks included a new field event this year, and I wonder who thinks these things up. To promote club cohesiveness they said. Uh, yeah. The event was how many club members would fit inside a Hoola Hoop. Several clubs tried and got five members inside. The Mississippi Valley club stuffed in six. I looked at the six of us sitting there and said, “We can do this.” So, Jeff and Mary, George and Mae, Jay and I squeezed ourselves into the hoop. Mary was the last one into a space about the size of a small tank bag. In the photo above you can see her elbow sticking out just below my left arm. We sucked it in a little more and Mary rearranged some of her parts to the delight of the crowd. We weren’t the first to get six in, but it was said that we were certainly the most entertaining and we won a glass boot.
All totaled the Gateway Riders had 10 members on the grounds at various times. Other than the six in the Hoola Hoop, Ray Z was there for about 3 hours on Saturday morning before riding off to take care of other pressing business. Haugen and Griff arrived late Saturday afternoon. And of course the Cookie Monster is a member of Gateway and the Dinks.
Jay and I opted for a more leisurely ride back to St. Louis, so we zig-zagged from Pontiac to the northern end of Illinois Hwy. 100 just south of Peoria and followed it south along the Illinois River to Alton. On the way we stopped at the Anderson Lake, campground and boat launch, seen at left, where we found a very nice campground, an elaborate purple martin birdhouse, some bald cypress trees with knees, a boat owner who could belch really loud, and some great views of the lake and shoreline. Later in Hardin, IL we were delayed by the draw bridge, which was up to let a tug boat through. That gave us time to discuss a late lunch, which we had at a smoky restaurant with hideously slow service for a couple of so-so catfish sandwiches. Through the restaurant’s window we watched a group of helmetless cruiser riders wearing shorts and t-shirts take the parking spots on both sides of our bikes. After they dismounted their bikes they gathered around ours for a good look. Jay thought maybe they’d never seen anything like that before—dirty, buggy packed bikes with maps on the tank bags. The ride home took about 7 hours but we were not in a hurry and it was a pleasant, scenic ride through rural Illinois.
After Jay and I split in Alton to go home to our respective sides of the river, I stopped for gas and when I went inside to pay I was told that someone had already paid for my gas. Outstanding! Unfortunately one young clerk figured out that the other young clerk had incorrectly charged a car driver for my gas instead of hers, and he ran out and caught her before she left. In the meantime I was asked for the $10.55 I owed.
More photos of the Dinks Rally can be seen at www.mrob.smugmug.com, click on the Motorcycle Gallery and then on Dinks Rally 2005.
A BMW Bicycle (posted 8/16/2005)
“Looking for luxury and comfort, for commuting or riding the streets? Specialized has teamed up with BMW to create the ultimate hybrid bicycle, featuring the best in comfort and stylish looks. The Specialized BMW Feather Deluxe is light as a feather, and comfortable as a feather bed. And with the performance generated by our internal hydro-drive technology, you get the best of both worlds. The attractive bright red and yellow colours are borrowed from our favorite feathered friends. It's not a bike for the birds, but the Feather Deluxe is sure to make fast friends with everyone who sees it.”
Big sigh, no it’s not real. Unfortunately the words above were written by Verdra Ciretop and sent to www.mountainbike.com as an April Fool joke. She also sent other photos of stylized bicycles, purportedly to be in Specialized’s line in 2006 but really swiped from other sources on the Internet, such as Scott Robertson’s and Neville Page’s website. It took folks a little while to discover that some of these bikes would be a bit hard to steer because there is no connection from the handlebars to the front wheel.
The ENV (posted 8/4/2005)
Check out this nonpolluting fuel cell-powered motorcycle! You may be able to buy one in the United States in late 2006. Its name is the ENV, pronounced “envy,” which I understand because I want one. ENV is short for Emissions Neutral Vehicle. Built by London-based Intelligent Energy, the ENV has generated lots of interest since its unveiling early in 2005.
Motorcycle commuters might be interested in this bike. The bike’s stats are appealing. Cost will be $6,000 to $8,000. It has disc brakes and a belt drive. Top speed is 50 mph, which is more than enough for the average commute, and it will travel 100 miles or up to 4 hours on a tank of compressed hydrogen. A fill-up costs about $4, which is 4 cents per mile. That’s pretty good if you compare it to, say, my 4-wheeler that gets 23 mpg. Twenty-three mpg at $2.30 per gallon of gas costs a whopping 10 cents per mile. But if you compare the ENV to my K75, which will get 50 mpg on secondary roads if I drive sanely, the cost per mile is 5 cents and not much different from the ENV.
It all sounds very appealing and affordable but the technology is not quite there yet, and neither is the ease of service and refueling. Still, it’s something to think about.
For more information and photos see gizmag.
The Bixby Country Store (posted 7/5/2005)
I’d heard a number of times about the country store in Bixby, MO--how it’s a gathering place for motorcyclists, how good the food is, how friendly the owner is, how good the roads are--so I had to see what all the hubbub was about.
I’d planned to be out the door early the day before July 4th to beat the heat and maybe get there in time for breakfast. Yup, the Bixby Country Store serves breakfast, too. Of course I did not know that the store doesn’t open until 12:30 p.m. on Sundays (what the sign on the door says) but it didn’t matter because the recent heat and lack of rain required some attention be paid to my parched yard before saddling up for a ride, meaning that it was more like lunch time than breakfast time when I arrived. On any other day the store opens at 4:30 a.m. Why 4:30 a.m.? That was a question I should have asked but didn’t.
As I rounded a bend on Hwy. 47 I saw what looked like a good-size dog running with a loping gait straight at me in my lane. I hit the brakes and realized as the distance closed that it was a fawn. When it tried to make a sudden 90-degree turn to the left into the woods, its feet couldn’t find good purchase on the asphalt, nor were its young legs coordinated. For a split second it seemed that the fawn had more than four legs as they flailed everywhere.
The plan was to ride as many new-to-me roads as possible and I found a couple of good ones. Hwy. P out of Potosi is a wonderful road. It connected to Hwy. DD, pictured left, which led me to Hwy. 32 west to Bixby. One sweeper after another helped round off the tires on my R1150R. All of DD and half of P pass through Mark Twain National Forest so you see little civilization. As soon as I smelled the scent of pine I had the feeling I was riding in the mountains. A few miles east of Bixby I passed a cruiser parked off the road in the grass. No one was around and I suspected that the owner might be in the woods yielding to a call of nature.
As I pulled into the parking lot at the Bixby Country Store, pictured right, two people with riding gear were climbing out of a pickup truck. I was slow to put two and two together and wondered to myself where they were going to find a bike. They were Susan and Steve from St. Charles and that was their bike back there on Hwy. 32 with a flat tire. The time was 11:30 a.m. They moved a picnic table into the shade of the gas pump cover and we sat pondering their problem. If I’d had my Stop ‘n Go tire plugger and Air Man pump with me it would have been a no-brainer but as it was, they’d called a relative in St. Charles and resigned themselves to a 3-hour wait for help to arrive, and another 3-hour drive home.
As most of us would , Steve wanted his bike there in sight and not sitting miles away on the side of the road. He wondered if the people across the street from the store could take him to get the bike in their pickup truck, which sat in the driveway. One way to find out! Steve walked over and before long the man of the house was walking with Steve toward the truck, aluminum loading ramp under his arm. And he had tie downs, too. Soon, the bike was in Bixby, sitting in the man’s pickup truck in the shade of a large tree, waiting to be transferred to the rescue truck.
While Steve was gone Susan and I chatted until a swarm of Harleys arrived. And it was a swarm. They came from all directions around the pumps. A young cutie with blonde curls sticking out on all sides of his black head bucket flashed a big smile and said, “Nice day for a ride, huh, ladies?” Absolutely, but only one of us would be riding home. After a short conversation shouted over the din, they rode off in a wall of noise. Susan said, “Harleys are just like nats: they buzz around and annoy you and just like that, they’re gone.”
Around noon the locals began to arrive, saying that “she usually opens around noon on Sundays.” And she did. Business was brisk and no one was a stranger, including the three of us.
Inside, the store was stuffed with everything from oil to dolls. Shelving in the center of the room was packed with snack food on one side, and ceramics and electronic gadgets on the other. The deli case was lined with breads and cheeses and ice cream, and a menu listed breakfast and sandwich items. You could even get strawberry milk there. Tables and benches were in the back and an attached red caboose provided additional seating. Old tools and hornet’s nests hung from the ceiling and a model railroad track wound around in a twisty route, just like the roads in the area.
I spent a pleasant hour and a half there, chatting and having lunch, which included cherry cobbler ala mode. The time was 1 p.m. and I had a 3-hour ride ahead of me. I liked Highways DD and P so much that I took them north to Potosi and they were more fun the second time around. In Potosi I decided to take Hwy. 185 to Hightways. T and A, which took me back to Hwy. 47. In Potosi I rode past the Lion’s Club grounds, which looked very lonely and deserted without a bunch of BMW riders there. By mid-afternoon the temperature had reached the low 90s and I was happy to get home to the air conditioning.
For a few more photos see www.mrob.smugmug.com. Click on Motorcycles, then on Bixby Country Store.
Smokies and Museums (posted 6/19/2005)
If it’s May and you head south you’ll surely smell the aroma of Honeysuckle. I was in southeast Kentucky on my R1150R when I first noticed the Honeysuckle’s perfume. Late May is a great time to tour in the southeast. I’d planned a trip to Maggie Valley, NC to visit Dale Walksler’s Wheels Through Time museum. From there I traveled to Madison, GA to visit the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum and then on to Marietta, GA to view an exhibit of motorcycle art and sculpture at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art.
The route to Maggie Valley took me through Gatlinburg, TN, the Smokies and part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hwy. 66 from I-40 into Gatlinburg was lined with the flotsam of commercialism, fireworks stands, music theaters and billboards. Gatlinburg, pictured left, was not much better. I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that the early season combined with the end of a weekend would make for light traffic. Not so. After sitting in stop-and-go traffic all the way through town, I had to stop twice for directions to the Super 8 motel, which was located off the main road. If you take a motorcycle into Gatlinburg, be aware that the terrain is hilly and flat parking spots are not the norm if you stray from the main road, and parking is not allowed on the busy main road.
The town was hosting an arts and crafts fair. Regional crafters set up their booths on a closed side street where they sold a variety of pottery, jewelry, paintings, photographs, textiles and woodwork. After looking at the booths and a few shops I had dinner on the main street at a restaurant whose large front windows were open to the street. A Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cone topped off the evening.
The next morning, crossing the city limit of Gatlinburg into the Smoky Mountains was like passing from night to day. I rode immediately into a high corridor of lush, green vegetation; the eye pollution of the city was gone. I soon stopped at the visitor’s center so I could stamp my National Parks Passport, available at any National Park or National Monument. The Passport is a small book with a page for every National Park and National Monument in the country. When visiting parks and monuments the bearer stamps the appropriate page with an ink stamp bearing the name of the park or monument and the date. This is a neat way to record one’s travels to our National Parks and around the country.
A few other riders coming the other way wore rain suits and the road was damp in places that were not sheltered by overhanging trees, but no rain fell on me. Hwy. 441 runs through the middle of the Smoky Mountains, from Tennessee into North Carolina. It climbs to Newfound Gap at 5048 feet. Up there I was chilly in my mesh riding pants but the temperature quickly warmed as I lost elevation. Peaks in the park rise to over 6000 feet. The Smokies lived up to their name by being “smoky” from mist and fog. Rhododendron and azalea bushes were in bloom along the road and everything looked fresh and lush. My parents honeymooned in the Smokies and I thought of them as I rode through. I carry a photo of my mother taken there in 1944 and some say that I look very much like her in that photo.
Near Cherokee, NC I picked up the western end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and rode approximately 50 miles east to the exit for Maggie Valley. The scenery and terrain were similar to that of the Smokies and the clouds had moved away and the sun was shining. Although I wasn’t traveling over the posted 45 mph speed limit I got caught behind a few slow drivers. Some pulled over at pullouts to let me by, but most didn’t.
In the Wheels Through Time parking lot, curator Dale Walksler smiled as he raised his arms in the air, looked heavenward and said, “Is there anything better? This is why I moved to Maggie Valley.” Dale’s museum used to be housed in a small building behind his Harley dealership in Mt. Vernon, IL, not far from St. Louis, and it has been written about in countless motorcycle magazines. About 5 years ago he sold the Harley shop and moved his collection to the 38,000 square foot building he built in Maggie Valley. Dale collects American vintage motorcycles and memorabilia, and he also has some collectible cars dating from 1903. He has over 220 motorcycles, and these include veteran bikes (1903-1926), military bikes, board trackers, hillclimbers, speedway machines and some one-of-a-kind bikes. Most of the vehicles in his museum run, hence the museum nickname, “The Museum That Runs.” Dale will gladly start any vehicle in his collection.
Dale has the rare, one of a kind, 80 cubic inch Traub in his museum. It was discovered in 1967 behind a brick wall in a residence in Chicago, IL. It's maker is unknown and it appears to be handmade because none of its parts is interchangeabe with the parts of any other early bike. The bike is in good condition and will do speeds in excess of 80 mph. It has a unique 3-speed transmission with two neutrals, two ways to operate the clutch, three tool compartments, a magneto ignition, a double-acting rear brake, a front and rear stand and an elliptical front suspension.
Construction inside the building is on-going. A little over a year ago Dale moved a huge mound of dirt into the museum to showcase his hillclimbers and enduros. He has also built a vintage motorcycle shop in a back corner to display those sorts of memorabilia, and he’s built a fenced storefront, which will eventually house a limited access library. Dale is obviously a man in search of anything old and interesting, not just motorcycles and cars, especially if it might later be used in the construction of a display in his museum. Old boards, windows, metal grating, fencing and the like may lie dormant in a warehouse for 30 years, eventually finding new life in one of his museum displays.
Dale is planning a women’s exhibit to open this fall. As the number of women riders increases, he thinks that they should be supported. He says, “Treat a woman rider good and she’ll always remember you, treat her badly and she’ll never forget you.”
The next morning in Madison, GA I blazed right on past Bruce Weiner’s Microcar Museum. The new, relocated museum was off the highway a few hundred feet and hidden by trees. The only marker at the drive was a small sign stuck in the ground that said simply “Double Bubble” because the grounds are called Double Bubble Acres. In addition to microcars, Bruce Weiner also has an extensive collection of all things Double Bubble located in a small room off the main micro car display area. After college he sold bubble gum machines and confectionaries, and eventually owned the Double Bubble brand, which explains where he gets the dough for his microcar museum.
By this time the temperature had risen and I felt the heat as I dismounted in the new blacktop parking lot. I placed a side stand foot under the bike’s side stand to eliminate any possibility of it sinking in hot asphalt. A small, Isetta Velam was parked near the end of the building near a large garage door; it was there to be washed. The building is a long, one story affair with the entrance about in the middle. A playful “Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum” sign sits over the door and large, cartoon-like images of various microcars are spaced along the side of the building. One’s initial impression is that of something good to come, and I certainly was not disappointed.
Inside the door I gasped in amazement, “Wow.” In front of me was a full-size version of the Isetta Hot Wheel car; which came first—the Hot Wheel model or that one—I don’t know. Behind it was 25,000 square feet of well-lit, gleaming microcars, sat neatly in rows, roped off with plastic rope. An informational placard sat in front of each car. The walls were filled with posters, pictures and signs, and cabinets held hundreds of scale models and other memorabilia. One corner contained an impressive collection of vintage outboard motors. The “garage” on one end of the building housed dozens of microcars yet to be restored and put on the floor for display. If I had one complaint about the museum it would be that there was nothing for me to buy to commemorate my visit; I was looking forward to a t-shirt or scale model of a favorite microcar. Perhaps that’s something to come in the future. It was not that long ago that this collection was open to the public only by appointment. The new facility has regular hours.
Bruce Weiner’s cars come from all over the world. His collection is primarily of micro cars of the late 1940's to 1964 with engines of 700cc or less (many are 250cc and 50cc) and 2 doors or fewer. I especially liked his collection of pastel-colored Messerschmitts and the small BMW cars, especially the BMW 600. Pictured left is a row of BMWs, including a C-1, one of the few two-wheeled vehicles in the museum. The goal of the museum is to educate future generations about the historical importance that microcars played throughout the world in the evolution of personal transportation.
After lunch at a recommended barbeque restaurant I went west on I-20 toward Marietta, GA, just north of Atlanta. The sun shown brilliantly and the temperature had risen to an uncomfortable level; this was the only day I wished for my Olympia mesh jacket. The wind also blew ferociously from the west, making the interstate ride not-so-pleasant.
Fortunately I had a map, which made finding the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art in downtown Marietta a little easier than I expected. Wind Blown: American Motorcycle Fine Art is on exhibit there through August 14, 2005. The museum is housed in the Greek revival building that was the Marietta Post Office from 1909 to 1963 and the central library from 1963 to 1989. After a renovation, the building housed the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art. Wind Blown is a small exhibit occupying only three of the museum’s lower floor rooms. A small visitor’s shop is located in the front hall, where you can purchase t-shirts, art and sculpture related to the exhibit. Photography is permitted in the museum.
The exhibit features the bronze sculptures of Jeff Decker, paintings by David Uhl and Scott Jacobs, and the photography of Michael Lichter. The late Indian Larry’s personal bike, “Grease Monkey,” is also on display, as well as bikes by Billy Lane, Arlen Ness and Hank Young. There was very little “iron” in the form of actual motorcycles in the exhibit. Most of the art hung on the walls, and it is a very entertaining exhibit featuring talented artists. David Uhl uses rich color to paint Harleys and Harley culture. Scott Jacobs’ style is photograph-like; it’s hard to tell if you’re looking at a painting or a color photograph. I especially liked his Flying Merkel painting, pictured at right. Michael Lichter’s photographs depict riders on the road and at the Sturgis Rally. Two of Jeff Decker’s smaller pieces were displayed, both of riders in competition.
On my way north to eventually stop in Louisville, KY to visit friends and relatives, I spent the night in Berea, KY. Berea is the Folk Arts and Craft Capital of Kentucky. I visited the Kentucky Artisan Center where artisan’s crafts, music, books and specialty foods are displayed and sold. Crafts featured were hats carved of wood (they were very pricey), paintings and drawings, textiles, pottery, jewelry, paper goods, sculptures, etc. Downtown, where some of Berea’s 50 craftsmen and galleries are located, as well as many antique stores, I was just in time to close down the ones that were still open because it was near the 5 p.m. hour.
Berea College is located in Berea. Founded in 1855, it was the only integrated college in the South for nearly forty years. In the 1890s national interest grew in the culture and traditions of Appalachia by writers, academics, missionaries and teachers. They became donors to the college through the purchase of crafts made by the students in exchange for tuition. Today, Berea College provides full-tuition scholarships to all students and admits only those from low-income situations. Students, who come from more than 60 countries, are required to work in a college job in addition to carrying a full academic load.
This story was published in the May 2005 issue of the BMW Owners News.
A Decade of Motorcycling (posted 5/9/2005)
It was only a little over 10 years ago that I traded two-wheeled leg power for two-wheeled internal combustion power. It does not seem like that long. So, what has transpired during those 10 years? What have I experienced because of motorcycling that I otherwise would not have?
Art of the Motorcycle Exhibit, Memphis (posted 4/29/2005)
I was fortunate enough to be in Memphis the day after the Art of the Motorcycle opened at the Wonders Museum at the Pyramid. I could write about the nuisances of the exhibit but Curator Ed Youngblood has already done that on his Motohistory site: see “The Art of the Motorcycle Returns" (4/28/2005). Generally, the selection of 92 bikes was outstanding but a few of them stood out as I toured the museum.
My favorite was the 1950 Imme R100. Built in Immenstadt, Germany from 1948 through 1951, the Imme was designed by Norbert Riedel of Riedel Motoren. As you can see in the photo, the frame departed from the traditional diamond setup and this gave it the nickname “German Hobby Horse.” The front and rear wheels have a single-sided mounting. In post-war Germany, roads were not all that great and neither were tires and tubes, leading to many flats. Conveniently, the wheels of the Imme can be removed with 3 nuts each.
The engine was an egg-shaped, 99cc single cylinder two-stroke. It was mounted in a single steel tubular member, which acts as both the exhaust outlet and rear fork support; the “exhaust pipe” was painted the same color as the frame. Correct chain tension was ensured by the geometry of the gearbox shaft and the spindle centers. The barrel spring beneath the saddle controlled movement of the rear and central parts of the frame. This was an innovative design that generated worldwide praise but few bikes were sold, which accounts for its short, 3-year manufacture life.
The example in the Memphis exhibit is painted fire engine red but the original color is black. When Ed Youngblood questioned owner Richard Evans about the deviation in color, he was told, “Wait until you see my bike. It should have been red!” Indeed, it should have—maybe sales would have been better.
The 1901 Auto-Bi (also known as the Thomas) designed by E. R. Thomas caught my attention for a number of reasons. It has beautiful wood rims as do early bicycles. This motorcycle, made in Buffalo, New York between 1900 and 1912, is basically a bicycle with an attached motor. The motorcycle was available as a complete unit or as a kit that could be installed on the buyer’s own bicycle. The complete units also came in men’s and women’s frame styles. The Auto-Bi is considered the first all-American motorcycle because other brands used foreign-made engines. Also of note and of interest to me is the carbide lamp mounted on the stem. Back when my husband and I began collecting bicycle carbide lamps, the cost was a cheap $10 or $15. These days a good lamp will run upwards of $100. The shiny chrome lamp on the Auto-Bi is unusual.
The 1991 Cagiva Elefant 900 Dakar is the only manly off-road bike in the exhibit. This bike placed 2nd in the Paris-LeCap Rally and 1st in the Pharaons Rally in Egypt in 1991, both with American rider Danny Laporte aboard. It's a limited edition bike (only 3 were made), weighing less than 400 pounds, with a seat height of 42 inches and 12 inches of suspension travel. The bike contains lots of carbon fiber and aluminum, and the engine cases are magnesium. The dash sports a time-speed distance computer, an electronic roll chart and a GPS navigation system. There were some tight-cheeked moments as the Pyramid staff mounted this rare bike a few feet off the floor on the narrow strip of red “ribbon.”
The 1914 Cyclone board tracker caught my eye because it’s bright yellow—they all were—and because it’s a board tracker. These bikes were built in Minnesota from 1913 to 1917. For those years it was the only commercially built 996cc V-twin with an overhead cam engine. Then along came other big manufacturers of 8-valve 996cc V-twins, such as Harley Davidson, and that was the end of the Cyclone. The single speed board tracker was without suspension and drive was direct to the rear wheel. It was able to run 110 mph laps on steeply banked board tracks and could do 90 mph on dirt ovals.
In the too silly to be believed department, check out these glasses frames, right, which were sold in the Wonders Museum gift shop. They are modeled by my gift shop clerk buddy, What's His Name. You'll notice that the bridge has little handlebars, grips and brake levers, and a closer look will reveal a tiny V-twin engine. The temple pieces are covered with fake snake skin. It will not surprise you that the frames come from California. A little surprising is the $200 cost, part of which the manufacturer donates to an animal rights group. However, it seems to me that the fake snakeskin may suggest that such skin is trendy and influence someone to buy the real thing, thus negating the whole purpose of the charity-giving. But do not let this item deter you. The gift shop was loaded with lots of neat goodies to take home as a souvenir of your visit. It has a wonderful selection of books, t-shirts in many colors, motorcycling music CDs, mugs, notecards, refrigerator magnets and many other items. Be sure to check it out. And you can get a great chili dog in the nearby snack shop.
The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit will be at the Wonders Museum in Memphis through October 30, 2005.
See more photos at www.mrob.smugmug.com.
First Annual BMW Veteran Motorcycle Club Rally (posted 4/29/2005)
The BMW Veteran Motorcycle Club has nothing to do with war heroes and everything to do with old BMW bikes. The fourth weekend in April 2005 the club put on its first rally at Bench Mark Works in Sturgis, Mississippi. Craig and Elaine Vechorik were fantastic hosts, opening their home and business to approximately 100 old BMW aficionados. That’s old BMWs, not old aficionados. The registration fee was $25 with the entirety going to the purchase of food and leftover funds to the Mississippi Burn Center. No one made any money off this rally.
Bench Mark Works sits on 5 acres outside the town of Sturgis. The building, which houses everything but the shower house, was a former garment factory. Inside is Craig's shop, the parts room, mailing room, museum and parts counter, and kitchen area. A field in back of the building contains a small cemetery with graves dating to the early 1800’s, including a relative of Elaine’s. Near the cemetery is an old red oak that could be three hundred years old; its trunk diameter approximately equals the length of a GS. As I admired it, another rally-goer stopped and rhetorically asked if the tree could be 350 to 400 years old. I could see the same admiration in his eyes as was in mine.
The mostly shaded grounds were soon dotted with tents and pre-70s BMWs in all colors, not just black and Bavarian Cream; an R75/5 engine was stuffed into an R60/2 frame and painted olive green with red pinstripes and a reddish-violet R69S was also present. One gentleman brought his Ratier, a French boxer twin composed mostly of BMW parts, and a Chinese boxer twin—the Marusho—sits in Craig’s museum. Craig also has a rare R17, seen left with a newly restored R90S in Daytona orange. Craig rode the R17 into town to buy weenies for the field events.
The museum is well worth a trip to see if you are in the area. It contains all of the operable bikes that Craig and Elaine ride, plus some others, such as the Marusho, a Vincent and a Moto Guzzi. The walls are filled with memorabilia: posters, Craig’s pin/patch vest, an old tire, signs, awards and such. Most all of the outlets in the room are overflowing with wires that connect the bikes to mini Battery Tenders.
No one went hungry, as food overflowed in the garage. We were treated to southern pulled pork, pork and beans, slaw and the like. There was even a birthday cake. On Friday Craig lead a tech session of pre-70s BMW topics. When evening came, Craig rolled out his big screen TV and we watched “crash” videos from the comfort of our camp chairs in the gravel drive. Others gathered around the bonfire.
The field events consisted of Bite the Weenie, a slow race, throwing rolls of toilet paper into buckets, and a blindfold competition in which a blindfolded rider tries to get as close to a pre-positioned paper plate as possible. Never knowing how fast or how far a blindfolded rider might go, Craig was heard to say, "If I tell you to stop, you by God better stop!" The winner of the latter stopped right on top of the plate and the winner of Bite the Weenie snatched the entire hot dog from the string. He is pictured to the right... weenie out of sight. I served as pillion and toilet paper pitcher on an old airhead but only got one roll in one bucket, not enough to win the comptetion.
Unfortunately, I missed the police escorted ride to Ackerman for Saturday night dinner and the awards ceremony because I had to be back in Memphis to tour the Art of the Motorcycle at the Pyramid. However, Errol and Sean Weaver professionally filmed the entire event so I’ll get to “participate” via CD after it’s produced.
See more photos at www.mrob.smugmug.com.
The Quilts of Gee's Bend (posted 4/26/2005)
I recently had the opportunity to see an exhibition of the Quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. These approximately 600 quilts have had quite a bit of publicity associated with them since the early part of this decade, when they were purchased by William Arnett of Atlanta; the quilts are now held in his non-profit Tinwood Alliance.
About 700 people live in the community of Gee’s Bend, located on a spot of land surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River in southwestern Alabama. Four generations of Gee’s Bend women have passed down the skills and patterns for their now-famous quilts. Some have compared the patterns to works of Henri Matisse and Paul Klee.
For these women the making of quilts was a functional craft, to keep their families warm. Gee’s Bend was a poor community, composed of former slaves and their children and grandchildren. They didn’t throw anything away; they couldn’t afford to. Scraps of paper were affixed to their walls to keep out the cold winds of winter. Likewise, scraps of cloth were also used. In the quilts, the women would use used-up work clothes of denim and sackcloth, corduroy, old print dresses, sheets and handkerchiefs. One of the quilts in the Memphis exhibit was made of faded, worn denim and the former location of pants pockets was evidenced by the non-faded denim, which had been under the pocket. Holes were stitched up and pieces of the material were used in a quilt.
Some of the quilts are monochromatic beige or blue. Many are very colorful, bold and vivacious. Most are not of the symmetrical patterns that most of us associate with quilts, and this is due perhaps to the inventiveness of the quilters and to the fact that the pieces of material available would not allow it.
In 2003, the living quilters of Gee’s Bend, numbering about 50 women, formed the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective to exhibit, market and sell their quilts.
2005 Branson Blitz (posted 4/18/2005)
I was asked more than once why I didn't ride the R1150R to the Branson Blitz (an Internet BMW Riders annual event). It seems that when you own more than one bike you have to explain why you didn't bring the other one.
This year the Branson Towers had booked several yourth choirs and did not have room for us, so we used the Barrington Hotel across the street as our "rally grounds." Not much ground in Branson is level and the Barrington's parking lot was no exception. It was not a good place to check your oil!
A group decided to have Friday dinner at T-Bones, a steak house not far away and they’d arranged for a shuttle to transport anyone who was interested. A tall blonde lady who was Cher by night (her husband was Sonny) drove the shuttle and used the captive audience to tout her show and a “private bar where all the stars go.” She charged $4 one way, which encouraged five of us to walk back to the hotel after dinner, and another group piled into the back of a stranger’s pick-up truck for the trip back to the hotel. Adding $8 to the cost of dinner at T-Bones made for a pretty expensive night out.
On Saturday some went to lunch and did some sightseeing in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Others rode the great twisties of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Still others, including me, spent a lazy day at the hotel kicking tires, telling lies and eating too many Runts and chips with dip. it was a great day with a 75 degree temperature, sunny skies and light wind. We couldn't have asked for better weather for this year's Blitz.
A couple of attendees brought their new Piedmont Red R1200RTs and another brought his new silver R1200ST. Voni Glaves took the ST for a ride and thereafter lusted for one, but in red, not silver. Rob Lessen posed for photos and gave a tour of various parts of his new R1200RT. He's got the cavernous top case, which appears to be insulated for perhaps...beer or some other cold refreshment? How clever of the folks at BMW to think of us.
Deb Lower should have received the Hard Luck Award, or at least “The Bike that got the Most Attention” award. She arrived on her R1150RS and we eventually found out how many BMW riders it takes to check oil level. About a dozen over the course of two days, and we never did find out where the added oil went—certainly not to the sight glass. Her bike was tipped this way then that way, and then it was tipped forward. Someone noticed that one of her fork reflectors was loose and it took one to tighten it with three others to give advice. Deb then borrowed Helen Twowheel’s air gauge to check air pressure, which had not been checked since last October (oddly, it was okay and maybe that’s where the oil was going) and it took two to do that. And… a Good Samaritan appeared with a bucket of water and a rag and washed off many thousands of miles of bugs from the front of her bike. The next day someone else used foaming cleaner to get the bugs the other guy missed.
On Saturday night, instead of eating the seafood buffet or country buffet at Branson Towers, I had Luigi’s pizza on the balcony (the roof of the front door drive through overhang) with some rowdies who wished for water balloons to bomb unsuspecting folks below. This was fueled by Makers Mark and Drambuie, of course. Pictured here is the Branson Bunny, who was minding his own business having pizza and Fat Tire beer. Helen Twowheels yelled “Wheelie! Wheelie! Wheelie!” at two guys leaving on GSs and one of them rewarded her with a wheelie to the stop sign.
Saturday night’s awards gathering was held on the balcony. The Bunny Pin pot benefited from the auction of a Cuban cigar, a wheel balancing device and a Marsee riding jacket. Later that evening Doug Crow, winner of the cigar auction, invited everyone to have a whiff of his $80 cigar as he puffed away on it. Harv Read of Texas got the Marsee jacket for $110. Rob Lessen originally won the wheel balancing device, but had no use for it so he donated it to the Bunny Pin auction. Rob got caught up in the bidding excitement and found himself temporarily giving the highest bid for the item he just donated. Other shenanigans involving ladies wear are pictured at right.
Sunday promised to be another glorious spring day so I took the long way home, avoiding interstate highways altogether. I took Hwy. 160 east and from there I took Hwy. 181 north. Hwy. 181 is a wonderful road (pictured left), full of sweepers and great views of the Mark Twain National Forest. Nature was coming alive. Trees had a hint of green as their leaves budded. The dogwoods and redbuds provided a splash of white and red in the woods. I made up some time by taking Hwy. 63 north to Hwy. 32, which I took east all the way to Hwy. 21, which runs almost due north to St. Louis.
In the “It’s a Small World” category, as I blasted up Hwy. 21 just south of Potosi I saw a group of off-road riders gathered at a gas station. I recognized one of my fellow Gateway Riders members—a tall guy wearing an Aerostitch hi-viz suit and riding a KLR could only be Jeff. It was a serendipitous meeting of Gateway Riders, they on a scheduled off-road club ride and me on my way home from Branson. We stopped at the DQ in Potosi for a snack and conversation and rode the rest of the way to St. Louis together.
See more photos at www.mrob.smugmug.com.
Gateway Riders Progressive Dinner (posted 410/2005)
According to the Weather Service the temperature reached 84 degrees at 2:45 p.m., which was about the time we were chowing down on various chicken dishes at KJ’s. It was so warm I stopped at home on the way to the soup stop and switched to my mesh jacket. Spring flowering trees and flowers were at their peak, glowing in the sun.
Art finally got out of the house to attend the Progressive Dinner with Akiko, Leena and his mother-in-law. Anne Doyle, who was looking well after her little stroke not long ago, was at the soup stop. I counted approximately 25-30 bikes and about 30-35 in attendance throughout the day.
Nineteen month old Leena tried to take home some of Ed Fusco’s doggy excrement on her shoe but Akiko would have none of that, so Art dragged out the hose. No, really, Ed F. and Art M. served soup, cheese and crackers, not doggy excrement. The excrement was in the yard near the doggy. Speaking of stirring up excrement, one of Florissant’s finest drove slowly past the line of bikes parked on the road in front of Ed’s house, giving a scowl to the bikes and a few riders in the yard. Perhaps one of Ed’s neighbors thought us low-key Gateway Riders were really an excrement-disturbing bunch of bikers out to inflict mayhem on their neighborhood on a nice spring morning.
At Ava and Harvey’s we found poor Ava there by herself. It seems that Harvey had reserve duty and when duty calls, duty calls. Harvey did show up later in the afternoon, wearing his camo pants and Belstaff jacket, but by then we’d pretty much laid waste to the frozen yogurt, angel cake, fresh strawberries, sauces, and sherbet-filled oranges and lemons. The latter came from Trader Joes and were hollowed out orange and lemon skins filled with the appropriate flavor of sherbet. Karen Smith shows off her dessert, right.
See more photos at www.mrob.smugmug.com.
I wrote this article in May of 1997, and I was riding my K75 because it was the only bike I owned at the time.
What? Me Work?
Once again the bad weather hit on the weekend--but, of course, this was the Trail of Tears rally weekend (April 26-27) so what else would you expect it to do. It's gonna rain. But that's okay by me because I found myself, due to budgetary cuts, to be a lady of leisure after 27 years of working (yes, I'm that old). Oh yes, I plan to work again (alas, I'm not that old) but I thought it would be nice to take the summer off and goof around. Now you know what that means: goof around = motorcycle riding, among other things. I haven't quite gotten to any of those "other things" yet, but never mind that.
At Dutzow I followed Hwy. 47 north through Warrenton and up to Hawk Point. I noticed on the map that the town of Buell is only a few miles west of Hawk Point. One of these days I'm going to ride to Buell just so I can say I rode a BMW through Buell. I got gas at the Conoco station in downtown Hawk Point. "Downtown Hawk Point?", you ask. Well, that's where the 4-way stop sign is and don't look for any skyscrapers. Dressed in full leathers and with my helmet hair pulled back in a bun sort of thing, I was still addressed as "ma'am" by the guy behind the counter. He didn't call me "sir!" I highly recommend the place.