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Very Boring Rally II, August 2008
(posted 10/22/2008)

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 21: Radar showed a big glob of green over most of Illinois, in our path. One of us must be Moses in disguise because the water parted and we stayed dry. Well, until La Salle, Illinois, where we got dumped on, and again in Madison, Wisconsin while we searched for a motel. But it was nothing like we expected.  

We stopped for lunch in Bloomington, Illinois. A plethora of restaurants left me undecided and I pulled into a Popeye's Chicken, thinking it was a Wendy's. None of us wanted to eat there. I said I'd rather eat at Ruby Tuesday, at which point Al got a brain fix on that. We fired up Fielding's GPS to look for a Ruby Tuesday and it gave us restaurants 140-something miles away. Al said, "Fielding, I think we should look for something a little closer." After some button-pushing we set off through town to find a Ruby Tuesday 3.6 miles away. Fielding led because he had the GPS but near the restaurant he turned too early and realizing that, he stopped in a parking lot. I saw a Slotzky's Deli to my right and Kep's Family Restaurant to the left. In fact, we were in Kep's parking lot. Al was overruled and we ate at Kep's.  

Fielding does not eat carbohydrates and he didn't want the hash browns that came with his Mexican omelet. Instead, he got green beans, an odd combination for sure. But it gave me an idea and I asked for fresh fruit with my scrambled eggs instead of hash browns. I carried the idea through the rest of the trip and asked for cottage cheese instead of fries or hash browns at lunch.   Heavy rain began falling as we approached LaSalle, Illinois. I pulled off on an exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder for the guys to put on rain gear. I already had mine on. Putting on rain gear on the side of the road can be difficult. Fielding said, "I don't want to do this again. I'm exhausted." The rain lasted only a few miles.  

The approximately 15 mile stretch of I-39 that passes by Rockford, Illinois is under construction to add a lane along the entire length. The speed limit is 45 mph and trucks must use the left lane. The other lane is the shoulder, where we rode. It was rush hour and traffic was bumper to bumper. It was slow-going and the lanes were narrow. Exhaust fumes were asphyxiating. Fortunately, a few years ago 4 toll booths were reduced to one, which is at the north end. I paid for the three of us to speed our passage through the booth.  

At a gas station rest stop near Janesville, Wisconsin, Al was still looking for Ruby Tuesday, this time potentially for dinner. While Fielding was in the can, Al used Fielding's GPS to look for a Ruby Tuesday in Madison, Wisconsin, our stopping place for the night. The GPS searched south of our location, not north where we were going. Al decided that was because Fielding's bike was pointed south and the GPS thought that was the way the bike was headed. So Al took Fielding's bike off its center stand and began turning it around, checking the GPS as he did so. Fielding returned to find his bike in a different position. There are no Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Wisconsin.  

At a gas pump a man washing his car windshield was wearing wooden clogs. Al thought that was odd and speculated that the man wouldn't get away with that in St. Louis; it must have been a Wisconsin thing. I had to admit, if the man were viewed only from the thighs down I would have thought he was a woman. They were hairy but he had nice, shapely legs. And the clogs  

The sky was still overcast and a little drizzle had fallen when we entered the gas station lot. Both Al and Fielding took off their rain gear. Not being as optimistic, I kept mine on. Fielding said, "It's not going to rain again. I'd bet on it." Back on the highway, about 300 feet off the interstate entrance ramp, it began raining hard enough to get the road wet. I laughed in my helmet. I motioned for Fielding to come alongside and used sign language to ask if he wanted to stop to put on rain gear. He said no and I figured Al would abide by Fielding's decision. The rain was not heavy and lasted less than 5 miles.   We arrived in Madison, Wisconsin about 6 p.m., having ridden 374 miles according to Mapquest.

The sky had darkened and it looked like more rain. I made a wrong turn-well, a couple of them. I could see several motels to the left but the I-90/Hwy. 151 interchange was confusing to say the least. There weren't 2 exits, there were 3, and I took us north on Hwy. 151 when we wanted to go south. Then another wrong turn led us to the right place to get back onto Hwy. 151 going the correct direction. Two wrongs do make a right.  

Of the half dozen motels crammed together on the hill, I went to the Hampton Inn thinking that it would be the most likely to have rooms. While I was inside finding out that it didn't, rain began to fall. I had overlooked the Marriott Inn & Suites two motels down, so we went there. The Marriott was quite nice; we liked it immensely.  

The Texas Roadhouse restaurant across Hwy. 151 was a no-brainer for dinner. We walked there. Fielding decided there wasn't any point in going to the end of the service road because there wasn't a traffic light there to cross Hwy. 151, so he set out across the grass, where coincidentally there was a path. So many other motel patrons had done the same thing that there was a definite path through the grass from the service road and in the highway median. Hwy. 151 was a 6-lane divided highway but getting across it wasn't a problem with a little hustle.  

We had an estimated 20 minute wait for a table so we headed for the bar. Fielding had a beer and Al and I had margaritas. Pointing at a dinner plate size cardboard likeness of it, the bartender asked if I wanted the super-size margarita and I said no; Bill Graham wasn't there to help me drink it. It was a noisy place because it was crowded and because the walls and ceiling weren't made of sound-dampening material. Dinner was excellent. I had a 1/3 rack of ribs, salad and sweet potato with butter and brown sugar.

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 day.  

The Marriott's complimentary breakfast fits its reputation and cost: Scrambled eggs, sausage, tortillas for the eggs, waffles, pancakes, yogurt, cereal, breads and muffins, and the usual beverages. I was still full after last night's dinner so I ate only eggs and yogurt.  

Wisconsin is a pretty state, even along the interstate (I-90/94). We passed the Wisconsin Dells area, and entered the north woods. Goldenrod was in full bloom along the highway, as was Queen Anne's lace, a purple spiky thing that I couldn't identify at 70 mph, grasses, and a yellow Composite. Ferns grew in the shade of the woods, which were dense. The trees were mostly birches, oaks and pines. Elk crossing signs were prevalent. Glaciers left steep-sided hills that were covered with trees. The tops of some of the hills had eroded leaving rock hoodoos peeking out of the woods.  

At 10 a.m. I spied a Dairy Queen sign and decided to stop. Fielding removed his helmet and said, "I didn't know my kidneys were telepathic!" This DQ was attached to a gas station convenience store so Fielding was able to buy peanuts while Al and I had ice cream cones at DQ. The sun was beginning to show itself a little and Al changed to his sunglasses.  

Near Tomah, Wisconsin I-94 split from I-90 and we continued north on I-94 toward Eau Claire. We were a little less than halfway to Duluth from Madison. The riding was decent with a temperature of about 70 and the clouds were beginning to break up. My R1150R turned over 47,000 miles on the odo.  

In Eau Claire we picked up Hwy. 53 north. Hwy. 53 is interstate for the first 70 miles, and then it becomes a 4-lane divided, limited access highway for about 100 miles to Duluth. However, the speed limit remained 65 mph, so I continued to ride at an indicated 75 mph (approximately 67.5 mph actual). Because I had maps and a planned route, I was deemed the leader and I led the entire trip, to and from Duluth.  

Around 11:30 a.m. we stopped for gas in Cameron, Wisconsin. We had to ride into town a couple miles from the interstate. As he pulled away from the pump to park and go inside Fielding dropped a glove. I picked it up. This morning as we left the motel Fielding dropped his glasses case and Al stopped and picked that up. Today was the beginning of the jokes and comments about having to always pick up after Fielding.  

Yesterday and today my camera was packed in my saddlebag. As we passed signs to Haugen, Wisconsin I considered stopping to dig out the camera for a picture but I didn't. Later Al said he could tell I was thinking about it. I guess my body language spoke. The interest in Haugen, Wisconsin comes from a Gateway Rider named Bill Haugen, whom most people call simply "Haugen." The town of Haugen is located where Hwy. 53 changes from interstate to 4-lane limited access.  

At Hwy. D off Hwy. 53 I saw a sign for The Potter's Shed Gallery & Café (www.thepottersshed.com/the_potters_shed_shell_lake). The sign said you could paint your own pottery there. It was near lunch time and if I'd been alone I would have certainly gone there to have lunch and probably stay to paint some pottery. I didn't know it at the time but The Potter's Shed is actually in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, which we passed through later on our way home.  

Around 1 p.m. we were under partly cloudy skies and I thought we might make it to Duluth before the storms hit there. Duluth's forecast called for 60% chance of rain and some severe storms in the late afternoon.  

We stopped for lunch at Nick's Family Restaurant in Spooner. I went into Spooner, which was about a mile off the highway, looking for the Subway because I saw a sign on the highway. At 2600 people, Spooner was a larger town than I expected. 

I didn't find the Subway but I saw Nick's Family Restaurant soon after entering town. The waitress, who rides pillion on her husband's motorcycle, was talkative. Because she wore a button bearing a picture of her son on her shirt, Fielding asked about him. We got more information than was necessary. With a buddy he got in trouble with the law for paint balling a house and the case went to the D.A. The boy did some community service as a result. He had graduated high school and didn't know what he wanted to do with his life so he is attending a church sponsored program to learn how to proselytize (one of Fielding's big words that I am not sure the waitress knew the meaning of). Food was plentiful at Nick's. I ordered a BLT platter, substituting cottage cheese for the fries. Al had eggs Benedict, which he said tasted like it lacked a main ingredient, and Fielding had his usual salad. I had no room for the great looking pies, which fortunately I didn't see until we were leaving.  

Since leaving St. Louis we've had a stiff tailwind, and it was especially windy today. At Nick's Al draped his jacket over his bike and sat his helmet and gloves on the rear. The wind played with Al's stuff while we ate and we left the restaurant to find his jacket, helmet and gloves lying in the parking lot next to his bike. The jacket, helmet and one glove didn't get far but the other glove went for a tour of Spooner's gutters. After some searching Al finally found the glove in the gutter about 30 feet up the road.  

At this point we began seeing other riders heading to Duluth for the rally. Two of them-one on a Beemer and one on a Harley-ate at Nick's.   The northwestern part of Wisconsin is littered with small glacial lakes. There are no big cities in that part of Wisconsin, just small towns. Other than farming the main income of the area appears to come from tourists in the form of resorts, boat rentals, cabin rentals, shopping, and outdoor activities.  

About 30 miles from Duluth we passed under the cloud cover emanating from the storms approaching Duluth. I have to admit that the cloud cover didn't look as ominous once we were under it as it did on approach, and my dark sunglasses didn't help, either. I was hurrying along now, not wasting much time and keeping my speed up, sometimes to an indicated 80 mph.  

We entered the town of Superior, Wisconsin at 3 p.m. Superior is across the tip of Lake Superior from Duluth. We traveled about 10 miles on 4-lane road through Superior. Its length was lined with businesses and some residential areas, and of course marinas along the lake on the north side of the road. I spotted the Old Firehouse and Police Museum down a side street and the Fairlawn Mansion and Museum on Hwy. 53. Read about both at www.superiorpublicmuseums.org. Built in 1890, Fairlawn is a huge Victorian style building purchased by the city of Superior in 1963 for $12,500; it was slated to be torn down. That would have been a shame.  

The sky over Duluth was black and I hoped the haze was just haze and not rain. The bridge over the tip of Lake Superior was a long one and high enough to allow passage of tall vessels. Just on the Minnesota side we were like drops of water finding our way along a string of spaghetti in a colander. I didn't have time to count them but I estimate that a dozen or more elevated roads twisted and turned over and around each other before going their separate ways.  

We skedaddled quickly south on I-35 toward the Red Roof Inn at Exit 249, across the interstate from Spirit Mountain where the rally was being held. Rain began to fall just as we put side stands down in the motel parking lot. It couldn't have been timed better. We traveled 329 miles today, according to Mapquest.  

Fielding was eager to go to the rally site and check in, thinking that it would be less crowded on Friday afternoon. He wanted to walk over; it was about a half mile to the rally site from the motel. I agreed to go with him and changed to civilian clothes as quickly as possible. Fielding and I carried our rain jackets. It hadn't rained much and it didn't rain again until late evening except for one shower. We walked over the interstate via a bridge and circled past the McDonalds and the Country Inn & Suites. As soon as we crossed-on another bridge-the railroad tracks that ran behind the McDonalds and the motel we entered trees and Spirit Mountain ski area.  

By the time we got to registration we were hot and soaked with sweat. The temperature was fairly cool but the humidity was very high. Fielding had pre-registered and went to that line. Well, there wasn't a line. We were the only rally goers at the registration tent. I filled out the registration form and paid the $57 registration fee with a credit card. I received a bag containing a t-shirt, a Mr. Happy puppet, a 64-page rally booklet, a door prize ticket, two meal tickets and a small commemorative patch.  

We wandered over to the rally village, which consisted of the chalet surrounded by camping. Loud camping was behind the chalet near the entertainment stage and quiet camping was located on the gentle slopes above and to the side of the chalet. EZ-Up tents housed the bar and food, and a larger tent was nearby where rally goers could sit and enjoy conversation, food and/or drink. Food was also available in the chalet. We watched trials riders on one of the circuits at the end of the chalet. We had expensive beers at $4.00 each, explored the chalet, checked out a nicely restored Vincent H.R.D. and an old Indian that looked like it was still a rider.  

Spirit Mountain is a ski area and is located on a hill. A view off the wooded hillside was eye candy: the city of Duluth, Lake Superior, Spirit Lake and the St. Louis River. Put a few bikes in front of that backdrop and there is nothing better.  

On the walk back to the motel we explored a path that we thought might be a shortcut. We found ourselves on the unpaved Gitchee Goomee Bicycle Club path. It seemed to go the right direction so we followed it. It turned to the right, which still seemed like the right way so we kept going. It went downhill. After about a mile neither of us was sure it led the right way. We were in deep woods and couldn't see any landmarks, but could hear trials bikes off to our right. We sweated. We speculated where it might leave Spirit Mountain, if it did. We decided to turn around and go partly back to explore a narrower side trail. The side trail went straight up the tall, steep hillside via many, many steps that were formed by skinny logs at their fronts. Someone had put a lot of work and maintenance into this trail. We sweated. We breathed hard (or at least I did). The walk was beautiful and the terrain was lush and green. I didn't have my camera with me and wished that I did. The trail leveled out on the ridge. We speculated where the trial might leave Spirit Mountain, if it did. We sweated.  

Highway noise got louder, which was a good sign. After a mile or so Fielding thought a side road was just to our left so he set out through shoulder-high grasses and burrs to get to it. But it wasn't a road. It was the railroad tracks, which was good because we could follow them back. I looked up at the nearby interstate sign and read, "Exit 251B." Our motel was at Exit 249. Obviously neither of us knew squat about what direction we were going but we did find our way to something familiar.  
We began walking toward Exit 249, two miles down the railroad track. The track bed had an 8-foot gravel "road" along it. As we walked we wondered about the dark, pea sized rocks interspersed with the angular gravel and decided that it was iron ore, but we didn't know why the ore was so spherical. There was quite a lot of it all along the tracks. I picked up a few pieces for my as yet unconstructed geology room box. I also picked up a rusty railroad spike and considered keeping it for some unknown, unimagined craft project. I speculated out loud whether I really NEEDED it, decided I didn't, and quickly threw it back down. I was proud of myself. Later Fielding said he was going to say, "Go for it." It's a good thing he didn't or I might have it here in St. Louis with the rest of such useless collections. It rained for a short while but we didn't put on rain jackets because we were already wet with sweat and it didn't make any difference.  

Fielding wanted to cut cross country when he saw a wood framed building he thought might be the church compound north of McDonalds. I suggested we keep going to the overpass by the Country Inn & Suites so we could be sure of our location. The back lots of McDonalds and Country Inn & Suites were fenced with a chainlink fence and we couldn't get through. After almost falling down as we left the tracks because of the roly-poly iron ore we climbed up the steep, paved embankment under the overpass and emerged on the overpass through tall grass and weeds, and climbed over the guard rail. Our little shortcut added probably 4 miles to the actual half mile walk. I wished I had my camera with me on this excursion.  

Al and Chris had been at the rally site looking for us while we were bushwhacking. Back at the motel I ran into them in the hallway after I showered. They were hungry and I certainly was, too. The time was nearing 7 p.m. or something like that. We grabbed Fielding who was on the balcony by the pool, and we headed for the Country Kitchen restaurant next door to the motel.  

We stayed in the booth at the Country Kitchen laughing, talking and having a good time until after dark, which comes at about 8:45 p.m. I was tired.

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.  

Guest speakers included author Max Burns, author Andres Carlstein, world traveler and author Greg Frazier, Aerostich founder Andy Goldfine, author Doug Grosjean, safety instructor Pat Hahn, humorist and author Ed Hertfelder, Iron Butter Peter Hoogeveen, Bob Moffit who was on various motorcycle organization boards of directors, world traveler and author Ted Simon, former racer and author Steven Thompson, and presentations by Garmin and Gore-Tex.

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 offering advice.

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 morning was very cool and I took my rain jacket to the rally site just for warmth. I kept it on until after lunch.

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 very much.)  

Steven Thompson has participated in motorcycle racing, including the Isle of Man, most of his life and not all of it has been safe racing. He obviously craves leaning and motion, which is what caused him to research and write Bodies in Motion. These days he gets around in a 4-wheel electric cart with a basket on the front. He has braces on his legs. When he stands up or sits down he flips a switch or latch near his knees to allow them to bend or straighten. He was racing at night in the rain on the road. It was a course that he had raced many times before, but that time he took a little different line and that, combined with an oncoming car, upset his line and trajectory and sent him into some juniper trees. His pelvis was split, which sounds very painful, and the nerves to his legs were damaged, so his legs don't work anymore. Or maybe it's because of the polio he had as a child. Dunno.  

After the seminar was over the guys decided to ride the 40 mile scenic ride outlined in the rally booklet. They asked me to go but the main reason I wanted to attend this rally was to watch the observed trials. I had never seen trials riding in person. So I declined the scenic ride. The guys reluctantly left me alone to go on their ride and have a "dude" lunch while they were out. I didn't see them again until late afternoon.

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 6 p.m.

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.  

I had lunch in the snack shop around 12:30 p.m. As I stood in line at the "make your own sandwich" station, the man behind me excused himself and picked a piece of grass off my butt. I thought it was odd that he would do that in the first place (the grass wasn't hurting anything), and that he would get my attention first to tell me he was going to do it. He probably could have picked it off while I remained none the wiser.

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 was taken.

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.  

I got thirsty while they were gone and bought another of those $4.00 beers and watched more trials riding. It doesn't take much alcohol to get me buzzed and by the time the guys returned I was halfway through the beer and buzzed. Somehow I had missed seeing them return and I found them almost to the front of the dinner line, so I didn't have to wait long in line, while they did.

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.  

Waiting for the entertainment to begin, we waited through an interminably long awards ceremony for the day's trials competition. The announcer was obnoxious and loud and thought he was funny. He must have been buzzed, too. Then we waited through the rally awards, given by Andy Goldfine. Those were for such things as the oldest Aerostich suit, the dirtiest Aerostich suit, fastest in and out of an Aerostich suit, worst breakdown on the way to the rally, farthest, oldest, youngest, etc. There were 19 of them. Then there were drawings for 4 grand prizes: a near basket case MV with a box of parts and Aerostich gear. Other lesser door prizes were given but rally goers had to check numbers on a list at the stage; somehow we missed knowing we had to do that. So there was plenty of opportunity to go home with goodies.  

Fielding got cold just before the band started and he walked back to the motel. We cautioned him not to take any shortcuts. The rest of us wanted to hear the band so we stayed.  

"The Conquerors" first song was decidedly heavy metal. Chris said, "One more song like that and I'll be ready to go, too." But the next song was a nicely done retro song so we stayed. The group interspersed heavy metal with retro, but not enough to keep our tired bods interested. We left the grounds after dark. No doubt we would have had a more complete rally experience if we had camped on the grounds instead of staying in a motel, but I think we availed ourselves of most of what was offered.  

Andy Goldfine and the organizers of this rally deserve a big pat on the back. It's one of the best rallies I have been to in a long time, and it certainly wasn't boring.   In the motel parking lot we met a man and his teenage son from Fargo, North Dakota. The man was a dentist who rode an R1200RT. His son, who was 15, rode a dual sport bike with a seat so narrow I don't know how he made it to Duluth without having the bike permanently bonded between his cheeks. While Al and I talked to the man, Chris hooked up his trailer and loaded his bike.  

I plotted a route home through Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri. It would take us back on Hwy. 53 in Wisconsin to Spooner, where we would pick up Hwy. 63. We'd follow that to Hwy. 35 (The Great River Road) just south of Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Hwy. 35 would take us to Hwy. 151 just north of Dubuque, Iowa for the night tomorrow night. On Monday we will take Hwy. 151 to Cedar Rapids/Iowa City where we'll pick up Hwy. 218 south to Hwy. 61 in Missouri.  That is the route that we'd planned to take (in reverse) to Duluth until the rains came and put us on the interstate in Illinois.  

Looking at the weather forecast, it appeared that we were going to have an excellent ride home. It would be clear to partly cloudy with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s.

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 passed 2 pickup trucks with wooden dog cages in their beds. One of the trucks pulled a tent camper. The dogs could and did stick their heads out round windows just large enough for a doggie head. At a gas stop in Minong, Wisconsin a local BMW rider told us that hunters use the dogs for bear bait. They take their dogs out on Sunday mornings to chase bears. That way, when the bear hunting season begins, the dogs know what to do. I expect they lose a few dogs that way.  

Shell Lake was 5 miles south of Spooner. A woodcarving museum billed as the largest in the world is in Shell Lake, along with some artsy shops and a fairly new Americainn. And The Pottery Shed, which I mentioned earlier, is also there but I didn't see it or even know it as we passed through. Brickyard Pottery and Glassworks is off Brickyard Road about 4 or 5 miles south of Shell Lake. We agreed that Shell Lake looked like a place to spend some time exploring at a later date. It was clean, progressive and artsy.  

The scenery on Hwy. 63 was much like a 2-lane version of Hwy. 53. Farmland occasionally broke up the woods, and there were some riparian areas with water lilies, arrowheads, sedges and grasses. Towns were located every 5 or 10 miles and some were well kept and full of visitors shopping and eating. Many motorcycles filled the towns. We enjoyed the ride today. It was a good riding day with clear skies, clear air and cool temperatures. I kept my insulated jacket on most of the day and was quite comfortable.  

The city of Cumberland was preparing for the 76th Annual Rutabaga Festival and it looked like a parade was imminent. People had placed their chairs-camping, plastic, lawn, wood, adult, children's-arm rest to arm rest along 6 or 7 blocks of sidewalk on both sides of the street. Groups of chairs, which probably belonged to families or friends, were covered with blankets or had plastic tape or rope tied across them, presumably so that their chairs would not be hijacked by others. American flags lined the street. A banner over the road as we entered town said "No Parking This Block 12 to 3." Unfortunately, it was only 10:30 a.m. or I would have taken the time to watch the festivities.  

There were a couple of deer road kill along the highway and both had their heads cut off. They must have had racks. I found that a little gruesome. 

We had lunch in Ellsworth, Wisconsin at the Broadway Café, which was just on the north end of town up a little side road in an older part of town that looked like it might once have been the town's main street. But Hwy. 63 continued through town and the real main street was Hwy. 63, where there were more restaurants that may have been better, or at least newer.  

The Broadway Café looked crowded, judging by the number of cars parked in the parking spaces in front. We had to turn the corner and park in marked spaces in the center of a wider road. As soon as Al was off his bike he took his dampened microfiber cloth out of his tank bag and wiped down his bike. He did that most every time we stopped and by now the contrast between his spotless bike and mine was pretty stark. Mine was bug encrusted and dirty from rain spray. I grabbed his cloth a couple times to clean the bugs off my helmet visor, though.  

We first checked out Broz, which looked like a bar and was bar. A big sign said "Welcome Bikers" and there was a Japanese bike parked at the curb. The occupants-all employees and no customers-said they served only pizza. Of the lack of customers, one said, "It's early yet." It was noon. We didn't want pizza. Outside, we ran into an older couple who had just come out of the Broadway Café. We asked how the food was. The woman said it was too busy and they were going home to eat; they were too old to sit on a stool. The man said something totally unintelligible. We never did figure out if he had a heavy accent or a speech impediment or both.   Inside the Broadway Café we understood what the woman meant. The place was small and it was busy; the only available seats were at the counter. We sat down on the only 3 stools together. The guy at the end of the counter puffed on a cigarette, much to my chagrin, but the ventilation pulled the smoke strongly into the nearby kitchen. We ordered and one by one went to the restroom. I went last and when I came out the food had just arrived, Al said not to sit down; they had a better place. We moved to the table just vacated behind us. I ordered scrambled eggs and toast, but when I saw what Al and Fielding ordered I wished I'd gotten what either of them had. Fielding ordered an "everything" omelet that he said was excellent. Al chowed down on a mushroom Swiss burger. But my lunch cost only $3.73 including iced tea not that I was trying to save money.  

Outside by the bikes Fielding said he had been having a throttle problem. The RPMs stayed high when he attempted to shift and that was making things difficult.  

The junction with Hwy. 35, the Wisconsin Great River Road, was 10 miles south of Ellsworth. We would travel almost 200 miles on Hwy. 35, which paralleled the Mississippi River, to Prairie du Chien. There, I'd planned to cross into Iowa for the last 70 miles to Dubuque for the night. I say "planned." It didn't turn out that way, but I'm getting ahead of myself.   Hwy. 35 was a very, very scenic highway. There were many views of the river and its estuaries and bluffs, and numerous pull-offs to view the river or read historical markers. The river was on one side of the road and high, wooded bluffs were on the other. We saw hundreds of motorcycles, either on the road or stopped to eat or shop in the towns. Today was Sunday, the usual day for club rides. 

If ever there was a road for photo ops, this was it. But there were many sightseers and just plain slow drivers so when we were able to get around them, I didn't want to stop and have them pass us again. In fact, one of the slow movers was a Gold Wing rider going well under the speed limit who had a long line of traffic backed up behind him; we thought he should have been considerate and pull off to let traffic get by. The road was hilly and twisty and there weren't many opportunities for 3 motorcycles to pass. So, alas, I have no pictures of the river or the Great River Road.  

The towns of Stockholm and Pepin were happenin' places where people had come to shop and eat. Pepin, especially, was a motorcycle destination for Sunday dinner.

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.  

We gassed up in Fountain City and I put premium in Valentino. I didn't have much choice because the only options were 87 octane and 93 octane. Bees buzzed around me as I filled up and as I sat and waited for Al to use the same pump I had just used.  

There were 2 cars and 3 motorcycles (us) in a line. A car pulled out from the left right in front of the line of us, drove very slowly for about 3 blocks and turned left off the highway. There was no one in sight behind us. Why couldn't that driver have waited until we passed? Something like that had happened more than once on this trip. Rant off.  

We entered La Crosse, Wisconsin on a 4-lane divided highway. The signs indicated that we were on Hwy. 53/Hwy. 35 and suddenly signs indicated only Hwy. 53. I had already studied the map and planned what to do if there was a problem finding Hwy. 35 there, so I turned onto I-90 west instead of continuing straight into La Crosse. Hwy. 35 was the next exit. Hwy. 35 took us through La Crosse town center. Fortunately, Hwy. 35 went straight through without any turns and although there was construction and many traffic lights, it still took only about 20 minutes to get through town. It was fairly painless.  

The scenery just out the south end of La Crosse was very pretty. Blooming water lilies, arrowheads, grasses and a purple spiky bloom that I couldn't identify grew in a large marshy area between the road and the river, which was very wide at that point. The heavily wooded bluff was just to our left.  

In Stoddard, Wisconsin, south of La Crosse, I saw a bar named Thirsty Turtle. It reminded me of something Caroline told me. I was having trouble remembering Crape Myrtle and she said to remember Myrtle the Fertile Turtle.  

I stopped at a gas station in Prairie du Chien to change my map from Wisconsin to Iowa and to find out what the guys wanted to do. It was after 5 p.m. and we still had 70 miles to go to Dubuque, Iowa. We did not have motel reservations in Dubuque and I was worried that we'd have trouble finding one. I was up for staying in Prairie du Chien and I think Fielding was, too. But Al was set on going on to Dubuque, which I think had something to do with a longest-mileage day for him-something over 400 miles-but only if we went to Dubuque. So we pushed on.  

I missed the turn in Prairie du Chien that would take us into Iowa. The guys didn't see a sign, either, so it wasn't just me. Unfortunately I'd changed my map to an Iowa map and it had just the edge of Wisconsin on it, and not a detailed one. And a city map was over part of that. I knew we could get to Dubuque on the Wisconsin side so I followed Hwy. 35 signs and eventually we came to Lancaster, which was visible on my map. I breathed a little sigh of relief because we were pressed for time and didn't want to wander all over southern Wisconsin looking for the way to Dubuque. The route through farmland was a pretty one, even though it's not marked as scenic on maps. The sun was getting low and cast the start of the golden light of sunset.  

A sign said there was a Best Western in Lancaster and it was a block west of the courthouse. I thought about stopping there. I was turned around and had no idea what direction was west when we got to the town square so I kept going. But the courthouse dome was a pretty one. It was ornate and green, almost like tarnished copper but I doubt it was that.  

We arrived in Dubuque around 6:30 p.m. and crossed the river on Hwy. 151. I saw signs along Hwy. 151 that indicated most motels were out Hwy. 20 west of town. That wasn't the way we wanted to leave town tomorrow but it didn't matter because they weren't that far.  

We rode through downtown Dubuque and out 4-lane divided Hwy. 20. I had no idea which motel to choose. There were about a half dozen of them. When I saw the Fairfield by Marriott, I thought about the nice accomodation we had in Madison, so I stopped there. We rode 405 miles today, according to Mapquest.  

We hustled over to the Olive Garden for dinner. Al bought dinner for everyone, which included a margarita, a couple of beers and 3 glasses of wine. We were mellow. It was after 9 when we left.

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 down?" 

While I packed my bike the guys put in their earplugs, started their bikes and began riding circles in the parking lot. I'm sure they weren't trying to rush me, but it had that effect. Getting started took a little longer than usual because my bike didn't give me a neutral light when I turned it off yesterday evening. It does that occasionally. That meant I was in who-knows-what gear. Because I held in the clutch lever to start the bike, I forgot to engage the fuel enrichener and the engine didn't want to keep going. I couldn't get the enrichener lever, which is on the left grip behind the mirror stalk, pulled up with my right hand. Plus when I took my hand off the throttle the engine wanted to die, so I had to turn off the engine and do it, then restart, and then figure out if I was really in first gear. I still wasn't getting a neutral light. Meanwhile, Al and Fielding continued to circle and they were beginning to look at me when I finally got it all sorted out.  

It was a sunny, slightly cool morning. I left my insulated jacket packed away because it seemed that the air was going to warm rapidly, and it did. The high was supposed to be in the upper 70s. We got on the road just after 8:30.  

We rode west on Hwy. 20 to avoid going east into Dubuque during rush hour. I'd scoped out a couple county roads on the map that would take us south to Hwy. 151. One road was Y21, and it was a nice little 12-mile ride with some sweepers through farmland.

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 Motorcycle Museum. 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.  

I didn't know there was another set of bathrooms downstairs in the private part of the museum building. This morning I had two glasses of orange juice and the rest of a bottle of water and I was floating by the time we finished our tour of the museum. Fielding had gone into the bathroom before I did and when he came out he said, "That isn't going to do you any good." As I walked in, the clerk was working on the toilet and I'll spare you the gruesome details, but no, it wasn't going to do me any good. She apparently saw the panic in my eyes and directed me to the bathroom downstairs. It's a good thing, too.

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.  

We stopped for lunch shortly after noon at the Four Corners Restaurant in Ainsworth, Iowa. The restaurant is part of a BP gas station. The Gateway Riders sometimes stop there for breakfast after the Iowa Rally. Al and Fielding were ready to eat. One of them-I forgot which but it doesn't matter because they agreed with each other-said, "I know when we stop for lunch. We stop when Marilyn is darn well ready!" Remember, I've been the lead bike on the whole trip. Neither of them knew the Four Corners Restaurant was there but I did and I planned it for the lunch stop when I saw what time we left Anamosa.  

They should trust me more (said with a smile). I took us astray only once if you don't count missing the turn in Prairie du Chien. And I always found decent places to eat and stay.  

Because we were riding into the sun I could see my reflection from the shoulders up in the speedometer and tachometer glass, half of me in one and half in the other: gray jacket, bright fluorescent green stripes, white helmet with a black hole where my face is, sky in the background. It would make an interesting artsy picture but it couldn't be taken without having the camera in the picture, too, which would spoil it.  

We crossed into Missouri at 1:45 p.m. Construction to widen Missouri Hwy. 61 to 4-lanes divided is complete. One can now travel on 4-lane highway from St. Louis to beyond Dubuque, Iowa. As I rode along I mourned the old highway. There were short stretches of old pavement left intact in the new road, and I could see traces of the old road bed close to the tree line off to the right. While the northern portion of Hwy. 61 was curvy and therefore slow-going behind a slow moving vehicle, it has lost its charm and quaintness to speed and sterility.  

Because of the long and boring 4-lane ride today I was feeling groggy and punchy. I led us into a Wendy's parking lot in Palmyra, Missouri so that I could get some iced tea to hopefully perk me up. Also, Fielding planned to stop in Silex, Missouri to check on an old muscle car that is being restored for him, and there was some talk at lunch that Al and I might take Hwy. 79 south instead of Hwy. 61. We needed to decide. The stretch of Hwy. 79 between Hannibal and Louisiana is twisty and hilly. That appealed to Al because he had been feeling the need to lean the whole trip, and I thought a road requiring concentration would keep me alert.  

Fielding's high RPM problem had continued. Al took time out from cleaning his bike to look at it. I took the opportunity to grab Al's damp microfiber cloth from his hand to wipe the bugs off my visor. They looked at Fielding's bike and even smelled the exhaust. Al adjusted the throttle cable, and later found out that cured the problem.  

South of Hannibal on Hwy. 79 Al and I rode through bottomlands that had been covered with flood waters in June. There was only dirt, mud and some standing water where there are usually crops. The whole area had a decidedly fishy smell to it.  

Al rides twisties much faster than I do and I probably should have let him go ahead of me as we left Hannibal. I took the curves as fast as I dared and even scared myself a couple of times. Even so, Al was usually right there on my tail. I figured I was doing him a favor keeping him out of the weeds and trees. Later he said I didn't slow him down too much. I was right that it would keep me alert; I wasn't groggy anymore.  

I almost detoured a block toward the river to ride down the river road in Clarksville but I didn't. Clarksville was hit especially hard by the floods. Lots of sandbags and lots of volunteers kept the Mississippi out of downtown Clarksville. Toward the river I could see that it was still dirty and some lawns and fields had lost their vegetation.  

At 4:50 p.m. we were near the I-70 junction. A steady stream of cars went north. It was rush hour. Al peeled off at the I-70 junction and I went east on I-70. I took I-370 east to avoid the St. Charles area and got caught in traffic backups in Earth City. Because of the concrete the temperature felt much warmer in the city than it did out in the country. I pulled in the driveway at 5:35 p.m. having done 344 miles according to Mapquest. If you add all the Mapquest mileages, it comes to 1452 miles total for me. Al and Fielding had more miles because they rode on Saturday and I didn't.  

This was an excellent trip with great traveling companions. See pictures here .  

Earlier this summer I had the brilliant idea to record my motorcycle trips on a digital recorder and transfer it to a DVD at home. The week before this trip I bought an Olympus VN-4100PC recorder and Radio Shack's clip microphone. I used parts of my old Chatterbox communicator to hook the mic into my helmet near my mouth. The recorder rode in the map case of my tank bag where I could push the record and stop buttons easily.  

Recording didn't work out exactly as I had planned. I suppose if I were on a long trip by myself where I had long days in the saddle to get philosophic, the recording would be more interesting. As it was, I was not alone most of this trip and I was reluctant to record in front of others. I didn't take the recorder with me to the rally on Saturday so my recollections of the day had to come from memory as I rode the bike on Sunday.  

I recorded the entire 5 days without playback so I had no idea how it worked until I got home. It didn't work well. It worked well enough to write this story but these written words were not the purpose of the recorder. The wind on an R1150R comes over the oil coolers and into the rider's chest. From there it goes into the helmet. It's not that bad, but if one has a recording mic attached behind the chin bar, it records the wind and the engine noise that the wind brings with it. When I talked as we rode through towns at a slower speed, the recorder picked up my voice fine. I had a thin foam cover over the mic but that wasn't enough because the mic faced down into the wind. Part way home I positioned the mic so that it faced upward, but then it did not pick up my voice very well and the wind/engine noise was still prevalent. So back to the drawing board.

Georgia Mountain Rally, May 2008
(posted 6/13/2008)

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 run.

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 faster riding.

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 Evacuation Route."

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.

From Hopkinsville 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 riding.

For more pictures, please look here.

Gypsy Ride/Red Rock Rendezvous rally/Lincoln Trail/National Motorcycle Museum
(posted 7/19/2007)

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
After riding the slab to Kansas City, I got on Hwy. 56 west, which is the Santa Fe Trail. The plan was to get off the interstate for a bit, and also to see some of Kansas's scenic Flint Hills area. If you think Kansas is flat and unattractive, ride in the Flint Hills.  

I was moving along pretty good on Hwy. 56 and gaining on a white car. As I got closer I could see the lights on top. Because the road was straight the policeman had probably watched me close the distance, obviously going over the speed limit. Shortly after I IDed him, he signaled and turned into a dirt road and turned around. I thought, "Uh oh."  He was facing out toward the road as I went by at the legal speed limit. Shortly after that I crossed the county line. Perhaps he was a county cop and turned around because he was at the limit of his jurisdiction.  

Fortified with a chocolate dipped ice cream cone from the Council Groves Dairy Queen, I took Hwy. 177, a Scenic Byway, south to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve some 17 miles south of Council Grove. The drive was beautiful, no doubt helped by the fact that the sun showed its face for the first time all day. The Preserve's headquarters is located in an old homestead built of limestone in the 1880s. Several buildings were on the property housed the National Forest Service staff and gift shop, and the house was open for self-guided tours. The Ranger was talkative and persuaded me to view the 10 minute film, which was worthwhile. I learned that prairie grasses have roots that go into the soil 12 to 15 feet! This enables them to withstand prairie fires. I wish I had dug the camera out of my side case for photos here; it was awesomely scenic.

Once back on I-70 I headed for Russell-my stopping point for the night-as quickly as I could; it was getting late in the day. Russell was beyond the fold in my map on the tankbag and I was dismayed when a road sign indicated that it was still 64 miles distant! I had enough daylight but my knees were complaining about being bent for the past 10 hours.  

In Russell, as I walked to the Subway across the highway, there was a loud explosion in town from the northwest. I could feel it in my chest. Flocks of birds left their perches. I didn't see smoke or hear sirens. As I reached the road 3 or 4 more explosions boomed. Again, no smoke or sirens. In Subway I asked if the explosions were normal. The counter workers said, "Uh uh" with a slightly worried look. I never did find out what it was.

Tuesday, June 12-Russell, KS to Denver  412 miles
A good friend of mine in Louisville, Kentucky grew up in Stockton, Kansas, so I thought I'd pass through to check it out. Stockton is about 35 miles northwest of Russell and it did not take long to get there. The morning air was pleasant as I rode past fields of Kansas wheat blowing in the wind.  
My friend had suggested I visit her niece at the Stockton bank if I passed through during the daytime. I did and we had a nice 15 or 20 minute visit. She offered some pancake casserole from the back room but I had eaten breakfast already. After being alone for the past day-plus, it was nice to have a face-to-face conversation with someone familiar even though we'd never met.  

Solitude. That's northwest Kansas! The roads are relatively free of traffic and there is virtually nothing but farmland between towns. I rode for miles on straight roads through rolling hills of wheat and grazing cattle.  

Cody, Kansas is 60 miles due west of Stockton and I got back on I-70 there. The weather to this point was hazy sun with a pleasant temperature somewhere in the 70s but I knew from the Internet weather that there were storms in the Goodland, Kansas area and beyond.  

The western sky was black as I neared Goodland. I stopped at an exit just east of Goodland to put on my rain jacket. The wind was ferocious from the south, which made the simple task difficult. I had trouble with the rain jacket zipper and the one on my reflective vest, too, which I put on top of the rain jacket for better visibility. I didn't get off my bike-nor did I turn the engine off-which is partly why I had trouble with the zippers and it's also why I didn't realize that the jacket bottom was not pulled all the way down. My riding jacket and t-shirt were hanging out and soaked up water almost to my arm pits, but I didn't know that until I reached Denver.  

From a distance the bulk of the storm cell appeared to be north of the highway. It was and I rode through only moderate rain. However, the next storm cell a few miles later was right over the highway. Once in the grip of it, I could see maybe 30 feet ahead. It was like being in a car wash without the soap. A gust of wind blew very hard from the south making the water on the highway flow with little whitecaps to the edge of the road. Stopping was not an option; there were no exits there and even if there had been, I wouldn't have been able to see them.  

Beyond the storm cell the clouds were higher in the sky. I hoped I was out of the storms. I stopped in Limon, Colorado for gas and shortly after getting on the highway again, I saw a sign: "CO Hwy. 86. Scenic Hiway." I had been considering this route because it went straight west where I-70 curves north. My Denver motel was in the south part of town and it seemed like a southern entrance into town would be a good idea.  

I could see the sun on the ground in that direction and it looked inviting so I made a quick decision and swerved into the exit. Castle Rock, Colorado at I-25 south of Denver was 60 miles away. The road was indeed scenic: mostly treeless, a few cows, several ranches, some ups and downs and some curves. At one point the sky above me was clear, although there were billowy clouds all around.  

What concerned me after about 30 miles was the dark sky in my path. The closer I got to Castle Rock, the darker it got. By the time I rode into the rain I was in the 'burbs of Castle Rock and about 10 miles from the interstate. The sky was pretty socked in except for a little line of brightness on the horizon to the north, which I hoped was dry Denver. It rained heavily as I picked through the traffic lights and afternoon shoppers in Castle Rock.  

Although I was on dry pavement as I entered Denver, heavy rain began again about a half mile before my exit at Hwy. 285. It got heavier as I rode west on the busy commercial highway in the heart of Denver. The time was 3:15 p.m. Traffic was stop-and-go at the lights and no one seemed to be in a hurry, which was good because my vision was obstructed by the rain and I was having trouble reading road signs at the crossroads. I rode about 7 miles, looking for Wadsworth where I'd turn for the motel.  

I was a happy camper as I turned into the motel parking lot, still alive. The day started great but it became very trying and downright scary.  

Two other bikes were under the portico and their owners were checking in. John and Scott were from Michigan and they were in Denver for the Gypsy Ride, too.                                                                                                                                   

Wednesday, June 13-Denver to Montrose, CO   400 miles
The morning's temperature was in the mid-50s and the sky was partly cloudy. Radar showed storms lingering to the south and east, but they were dissipating. The Gypsy Ride wasn't going that way anyway.  

I was the second one to arrive at the TNT restaurant in Morrison, Colorado. The person already there was Mike, a Colorado club member, and he rode a silver R1150R. Cool. So I backed my bike to the curb next to his instead of parking in the lot. I barely had my helmet off when a third R1150R-also silver-arrived. That was Bob from Boston, and parked next to me. Bob, Mike and I sat near each other at breakfast and discussed tires, gas, gas mileage, etc.  

Jeff Galligan, the organizer, arrived shortly as did about 15 to 18 other folks. There was Bob from Boston, a couple from Pennsylvania riding two-up, a couple from Wisconsin on separate bikes, John and Scott from Michigan, some guy from Oklahoma, and me. That's quite a few out-of-state people. Gray Buckley, whom I know from my 'MOA days, had breakfast with the group but didn't go on the ride. When I told him I chose Hwy. 86 from Limon to Castle Rock he said, "Excellent choice!"

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.  

I could see the rest of the group about a half mile ahead on the interstate but I didn't feel like "fetching." Karen and Ben from Wisconsin had entered the interstate at an earlier point (I think) and were not following the prescribed route because Karen had a thumb pain issue. A two-up couple soon passed me because my over the speed limit pace wasn't enough over the speed limit. So, there I was alone for the day just out of the metro Denver area.  

I decided that my autonomous position was okay. I could change the route if I wished, I could stop for photos, and I could eat what and where I wanted. My first decision right off the bat was to skip Hwy. 91 to Leadville and continue another 15 or so miles on I-70 to Miniturn where I would take Hwy. 24 south to Leadville. Miniturn was a quaint little town in the valley below the interstate. I stopped there for gas and Valentino, my R1150R, got a compliment from a patron.  

Speaking of Valentino, the bike's computer adjusted very well to the high elevations and I didn't feel a difference in power output compared to Midwest elevations. I zipped uphill at an indicated 75 mph toward the Eisenhower Tunnel, easily passing cars and trucks with no drop in power. My previous trip by motorcycle to this area was on my K75, which was not as peppy at high elevations.

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.  

Just south of Leadville, one of Colorado's prairie dogs stood on its haunches on the road's center line and defiantly looked at me. Well, I guess it was a defiant look I couldn't really see its eyes or its little face clearly. It stood there as I bore down on it and didn't run away until I was just about there

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.  

What can I say about Aspen? It was crowed and trafficky. It seemed that I was not in the mountains anymore and if I hadn't been able to see them all around me I would have thought I was in any old upscale tourist town. I wasn't impressed, even if John Denver did live there.  

I'd been looking for gas and lunch, so I stopped in Carbondale. I had a $1.54 bottle of chocolate milk for lunch, and this wouldn't be the last time I did that. I also peeled off my Frogg Togg jacket because the air had warmed. Thinking that I'd be going up in elevation again, I left the liner under my jacket even though the locals were running around in shorts and t-shirts.

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.  

The Top of the Rockies Rally is held in Paonia, Colorado, which is south of Somerset. I had hoped to see the main street and the location of the rally in the city park but the highway bypassed the town and the road into town had a "road closed" sign in it. I wouldn't exactly call the location the "Top of the Rockies" because I'd been dropping in elevation and vegetation had changed to drier, scrub-like stuff characteristic of lower mountain elevations.

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.  

Of course I ate at the Red Barn. I had some of the best spaghetti and meat sauce I've ever had. I was starving; remember the chocolate milk lunch. 

Thursday, June 14-Montrose, CO to Hanksville, UT   ~ 400 miles
I had breakfast in the lobby and it was nothing to write home about: awful sugar donuts wrapped in plastic, OJ from a carton, and bananas. I ate light.  

With the liner under my riding jacket I was a little warm while I pumped gas but once on the road I was chilly in the morning air. The sun was out in all its glory.  

I rode at a good clip on Hwy. 550 south to Ouray and then the road began the climb to Red Mountain Pass at 11,018 feet. The road wound upward in sharp, steep curves and pretty soon I was high above the valley and the town of Ouray. I'd been on Hwy. 550 more than once before but I didn't remember the edge of the road dropping so abruptly into the valley below. This was not a ride for those afraid of heights. The last time I rode this highway on a motorcycle I was going north in the lane on the inside of the road next to the cliff.  

The going was slow. It seemed to take forever to get to Silverton, which is only about 20 miles from Ouray. I thought about stopping in Silverton but by the time I got there I was concerned about the time, knowing that I had a lot of miles ahead of me before getting to Panguitch.

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.

Coal Bank Pass at 10,640 was the next pass, shortly after Molas Pass. From there the road dropped quickly and fairly straight out of the high mountains, so I was able to make good time. It seemed that Valentino's computer was having a little trouble doing quick and constant adjustments on such a fast descent. I noticed a little surging at higher speeds.  

I rode past Purgatory and Hermosa and their upscale ski lodging and restaurants. The hills above the road were dotted with eloquent log homes set back in the pines and aspens. The surrounding hills were tree-covered.  

It took almost two and a half hours to ride the 106 miles from Montrose to Durango. It was 10 o'clock already and I'd made very little progress west, none actually.  

Just west of Durango on Hwy. 160 I noticed a bicyclist with a follow car. Then another, and another. The cars were decked out with decals and bike racks. After about the 6th rider and car, I looked closely at the writing on a car's roof rack. It said "Race Across America." I thought that's what it might be. From the looks of them and the large number of them, these riders were not the lead riders.

I stopped for gas in Cortez and while I was at it I had some chocolate milk, and I removed my jacket liner. The air temperature was not that high, but the sun was hot. I was putting the final touches on securing the gear on my pillion seat when I noticed John and Scott, the two Gypsy Ride riders from Michigan, pull up to one of the gas pumps. I went over and we talked about routes. They left Montrose at 7:30 a.m., as I did, but they stayed five miles south of Montrose at John's relative's house. They also took Hwy. 550 and they had breakfast in Silverton; they were probably there when I rode by. We couldn't have been too far apart during the 155 miles from Montrose to Cortez, not more than 10 or 15 minutes.  

They were riding alone today, but yesterday they rode with other Gypsy Ride participants. The Colorado club guys rode very fast and made good time, but their stops were long and that's how I got ahead of some of them yesterday. John and Scott were following the Gypsy Ride route into Arizona. I was taking a different route into Utah, up Hwy. 95 and across Hwy. 12. John said they planned to ride back to Montrose on Sunday and take that route, so they didn't want to do it today. We parted and went opposite directions at the other end of Cortez.  

Hwy. 491 north toward Monticello, Utah was straight and not terribly scenic. Seven miles of road construction going into Monticello slowed me a bit. I passed right through Monticello and took Hwy. 191 25 miles south to Blanding.  

I passed right through Blanding, too, but I shouldn't have. Just south of Blanding I turned north on Hwy. 95 toward Hanksville, Utah, 122 miles away. A few miles up the road I noticed on the map that there weren't any towns between Blanding and Hanksville. I looked at my odometer. Oops. I had over 85 miles on that tank of gas. Eighty-five and 122 equals Marilyn out of gas in the middle of nowhere! Natural Bridges National Monument was up the road a bit so I decided to go there and ask where the next gas was, and while I was there I'd get my National Parks Passport stamped.  

I realized that I was not going to make it to Panguitch today. And that was okay. Why blast through southern Utah's sights just to get to the rally? It is only Thursday; I can arrive at the rally tomorrow after a leisurely ride over scenic Hwy. 12 and maybe a stop at Capitol Reef National Park, too. I could spend the night in Hanksville or Torrey and if neither town has a motel room available, I could camp in Capitol Reef. I had lots of options.  

At Natural Bridges I learned that there was gas at Hite, on the banks of the Colorado River, 56 miles north. At that point I had 130 miles on that tank of gas and I didn't want to chance it. The gas in Hite was an unattended credit card station. What if the machine was broken or the reservoir was empty? So, I went back to Blanding for gas. It was a quick turnaround and I was soon on my way back north but the little detour was 70 miles and about an hour, which was time that I didn't have to spare. It was 2:30 p.m. after I got gas in Blanding.

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 shade anywhere.

The river was very low. Back in 1995 when I was last at this overlook, the river was high and the area below looked like a lake. Now it was a trickle by comparison, perhaps a consequence of the flow at the dam.

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.  

As I rode into Hanksville a few minutes before 5 p.m., there was a motel at the south end of town with only 3 cars in the lot. Whew. The 26-room Whispering Sands Motel ($67) was AAA approved, had Internet access (but pretty weak), offered discounts at two of the three eating establishments in town, provided a towel to clean my "chrome," and best of all, had a couple rooms left. I got room number zero, all the way at the end of a row of cabin-like rooms (photo above), which is probably why the Internet access was so weak. Valentino sat right in front of my door, ticking as he cooled off.  The air temperature was 102 degrees at 6 p.m.  

Hanksville is very quiet. It consists of 3 gas stations, 3 restaurants, 3 motels, a campground, a smattering of houses and not much else. It's also a windy, dusty place. I learned a couple weeks later that Hanksville is populated by survivalists and there's apparently lots of fire power stored there.

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
I wanted an early start to beat the heat. I dressed quickly and walked across the motel's huge gravel lot to Blondie's across the highway for breakfast. It had just opened and I was the first customer. When I was almost finished eating, Gypsy Riders Bob, Vern and his wife Darlene came in. They arrived in Hanksville at 9 p.m. and they were also at the Whispering Sands motel, but down at the other end. I stayed and we talked until they were finished.  

I packed up and left by myself. I would be spending a lot of time taking pictures and sightseeing so I was better off solo. Highways 24 and 12 pack a lot of photo ops into their miles. The temperature was pleasant but I could tell it was going to get hot later

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.  

Where the eastern end of Hwy. 12 begins at Torrey, I rode one mile into town to see how it had changed since I was there in 1995. Although the Chuckwagon Motel is still there, there are about half dozen more, so I doubt all of them would have been full had there not been a room available for me in Hanksville.

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 Mars?"  

The cruiser riders were also at the summit pullout. A group of six cruiser riders decked out in American cruiser garb had been leap-frogging me since my stop at Natural Bridges National Monument yesterday. They wore bandanas over their mouths and noses; one of them had a skull and crossbones on it. Another wore a black leather vest with "Deutchland" written across the lower back. I wondered if they were German but I never heard them speak. A light blue minivan followed them and they rode consistently 10 mph below the speed limit. Whenever I was caught behind them I had to first pass the van, then the riders. This went on for the rest of the day, and then I did not see them again.

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.  

One of the interesting parts of Hwy. 12 is the portion where it travels a narrow ridge with very little alongside the road but air. The land to the sides is rocky desert. When the road descends from the ridge it's cut into the cliff.  

I stopped for gas in Escalante and noticed that the station had a deli. That seemed like a good place for lunch but it wasn't. I had nachos and a bottle of raspberry tea. To fix the nachos, I opened the bag of chips, put them in the cardboard dish, held it under the cheese machine and pushed the button. The cheese ran off a chip onto the palm of my throttle hand. Dang, that was hot cheese! Like an idiot I stood there while the cheese burned my hand, wondering how to get it off. No napkins in sight. I licked it off and nearly burned my tongue, too.

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 Cliffs Trail 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.  

Panguitch is less than 15 miles from Red Canyon. I entered town on the southeastern end and rode slowly looking for a Laundromat because I'd need to do laundry today or tomorrow.

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 think).

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.  

Thanks to Doc Lily I found a Laundromat in the Hitchin' Post Campground, only a couple blocks up Hwy. 89 into town. Because the change machine took one of my dollars without giving change, I had the opportunity to go into the campground office. I had a long chat with the proprietor about his campground's winter hours (there are none), riding and the location of ice cream in town. Although the gas station a block away toward the fairgrounds had ice cream novelties, the campground proprietor seemed to think it would be much better to walk into town to the ice cream shop, where I could get some good ice cream. To my whining about the distance to town in the heat, he said, "Aw, nothing is that far in this town."  

Out on the street, I swiveled my head 180 degrees to survey the distance to the gas station and to downtown. I chose to walk downtown to The Real Scoop and have real Blue Bunny ice cream. To my dismay, the shop was not air conditioned. I was pretty sweaty and hot when I arrived. But the air is dry and by the time I waited for two other patrons to get their orders, I was almost dry. I ordered a vanilla malt, but the shop had only half the vanilla ice cream needed, so I chose chocolate for the rest. How can an ice cream shop run out of vanilla??? My concoction was good, however, and it really hit the spot. I ate it with a spoon as I walked back to the Laundromat.

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  

I found out I could get on the Internet in the pavilion. It took a little doing but I managed. While I was reading email the Rally Chair hollered to those in the pavilion: "Is there anyone here who did the Gypsy Ride?" I raised my had and was asked to come up. I received a certificate from Jeff Galligan of the Colorado club and a free beer ticket from the rally.

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.

The rally provided brats, chips and a cookie for dinner. When you think of brats, do you think of Utah? Me, neither. The brats were definitely not the quality of Midwest brats.  

The city of Panguitch has promised the Beehive Beemers new showers for a couple of years but it hasn't happened yet. The showers on the fairgrounds are in one large room and a schedule was set up for men vs. women. As a consequence, to make things nicer for the women, the club reserved a room at the Horizon Motel; women could get the key at the registration desk and take a shower in the room. The motel was spitting distance from the main building, and it was a short walk through the bushes around the locked gate. This worked fairly well but at times there was a line outside the room. By the last day the women were accumulating inside the room to wait. The air conditioning in the room could not keep up with constant heat and humidity from the shower, but it was cooler in the room than outside the door in the hot desert sun.  

Just before dark-which is around 9:30 this time of year in Utah-when I returned to my tent, I found eight men sitting in camp chairs in a circle around the end of my tent. It seemed like some ancient cult séance or something but it was really because that was the only room for chairs in the crowded camp area. They'd already had considerable beer and the conversation that ensued was pretty funny. Some life stories were told, and some jokes about snoring. A couple of them helped me put the rain fly on my tent and that was a comedy of errors. The buckles seemed to confuse them. I noticed the next morning that the fly was not on straight but it didn't matter; it wasn't going to rain. With forecast lows in the 40s I put it on to keep heat in.  

The large main building, which served as registration, vendors, meals and the closing ceremony, had 8 electrical sockets on each supporting pole and there were 6 or 8 of those. Throughout the rally I saw cameras, cell phones and iPods plugged in to charge, and various folks plugged in computers for whatever reason. I plugged in there to write this journal. 

Saturday, June 16-day trip to Bryce Canyon   ~ 75 miles
It was cool during the night and the temperature was excellent for snuggling into a down bag. Someone said the temperature got to 48 degrees.  

Voni and I walked to the main building for breakfast, provided by the Lion's Club for $5.00. Wow, what a breakfast it was: pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and OJ. I was happy to see the OJ because OJ is to me is what coffee is to others. The food was excellent and a good start to the day.  

The air was still fairly cool around 8:30 but the sun was hot. I prepared for a ride to Bryce and left the rally grounds around 9:30. The ride was pleasantly cool without the liner in my jacket.  

Entry into Bryce for cars is now $25 per car; it's $12 for motorcycles, bicyclists and walk-ins.

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.  

On my way out of the park I stopped at the visitor center for a stamp in my National Parks Passport book. The parking lot was completely full and there were cars and RVs waiting for someone to leave. I pulled into a crosshatched walkway and left enough room for people to get by. On the sidewalk in front of the visitor center Rangers had set up telescopes pointed at the sun and were showing visitors the sun flares. I thought this was very cool. I had never seen solar flares in the flesh like that. This alone was worth the visit today.  

I returned to the rally grounds around 2 p.m., having spent about three hours at Bryce. The group near my tent was sitting and talking like they were when I left. I stayed and talked a little. As I danced around trying to remove my sweaty riding pants one of them said, "Why don't you sit down and let me pull your pants off?" I declined. Another of the men said, "Aw, you burst his bubble. At his age he doesn't get to ask that question very often."  

Panguitch's firefighters provided the night's dinner of buried roasted beef. Earlier in the day they'd buried several hunks of beef in a fire pit and covered it to roast. Dinner was served at 7 p.m. Lettuce salad, fried potatoes, rolls and peach cobbler accompanied the beef and all was included in our rally fee. This was quite a spread and it was good.

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.  

I went to bed at 10:15 p.m. after socializing in the Glaves/Sparks/Crow camp. The guys from California at my camp were already in their tents and snoring. Some of them had broken camp earlier in the day and moved to a motel to get an earlier start in the morning. They talked of severe heat crossing the desert near Las Vegas.                                                                                                                                 

Sunday, June 17 - Panguitch to Dillon
The sound of camp being broken by others woke me before it was light. I got up when the sun hit the tent. Donuts and coffee were served in the fairgrounds building.  

It took me about an hour to pack up. It's kind of nice to travel alone because you don't feel rushed to get packed or leave a break stop, etc. After hugs and goodbyes with Karen, Voni and Doug I left the fairgrounds just before 9 a.m.     

Not more than a quarter mile from the fairgrounds, a lady in a van was in my lane, passing another vehicle. I took to the wide, paved shoulder to avoid her and so did the car behind me. As she passed me in my lane (while I was on the shoulder) she seemed not to notice that she was running people off the road.

The sun was hot so I didn't wear my jacket liner. As soon as I got the bike up to speed I realized the folly of that. The temperature was below 60. I traveled north on Hwy. 89 toward I-70. I thought I'd stop in Circleville 25 miles north to put the liner in and I'd tough it out until then. The air had warmed when I arrived in Circleville and I didn't stop.

Hwy. 89 nearer to Panguitch is pretty uneventful in the scenery department. But north of Marysville the road winds through a canyon as it follows the Sevier River. In contrast to what I had been seeing since Panguitch, lush, green vegetation (most Tamarisk) grew along the river. It was still early enough for the sun to cast deep shadows in the canyon.  

I headed east on I-70 with a ferocious tailwind behind me. I like the quietness of a tailwind. The highway was bordered with dry mesas and scrubby vegetation. Now and then the sandstone was red instead of buff.  

Because I had only a donut this morning I stopped for breakfast at McDonalds in Richfield, which is 65 miles from Panguitch. There was a pretty greenish blue R100R all by itself in the parking lot, loaded for traveling, so I parked next to it. Its owners were from California and had been at the Red Rock Rendezvous. They were heading for Colorado Springs for the night, and then on to Oklahoma where the wife would fly home and the husband would continue touring, eventually ending up in West Bend, Wisconsin for the 'MOA rally.  

I stopped just a few miles down the highway for gas in Salina. There are no services for 100 miles between Salina and Green River where the highway traverses Fish Lake National Forest and Castle Valley, and the San Rafael Reef area. The road climbed into Fish Lake National Forest to a summit of 7023 feet and the air cooled. It was very pleasant. But as the road descended out of the forest and into the more barren and rocky land of Castle Valley, it was like riding into a blast furnace. Valentino's thermometer went to 100 degrees and stayed there for the next 150 miles until I reached the western foothills of the Rockies at Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

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.  

I stopped for gas at Thompson Falls, just east of Hwy. 191, which leads to Moab, Arches and Canyonlands. (Off the subject, since I mentioned Moab... I heard a man at the rally pronounce it "Moo-ab.") I had 138 miles on the odometer and the bike took only 2.49 gallons. Back on the road, I calculated the mpg in my head. I had nothing else to do as I rode along except observe how little snow was on the LaSal Mountains. Valentino was getting almost 48 mpg with that tailwind. That's a full 5 mpg better than usual.  

At 1:30 p.m. I stopped in Fruita, Colorado for lunch at a Subway. I was barely off the bike when a lady from the car next to me was standing by the bike offering me a Windex Wipe to clean bugs off my windscreen. I accepted the wipe but used it to clean bugs off my visor. It worked very well and I thought I'd have to get some of those. Inside the combo gas station convenience store/Subway the line was long and I was hot. Instead of a sandwich I bought chocolate milk. I drank the milk, drank some water, filled the waterbottle again, hit the bathroom and hit the road.  

After slogging another 60 or so miles in the heat I stopped again at a combo gas station convenience store/Wendy's to rest my hurting right knee and get something to eat. As I pulled into the parking spot I noticed that the car next to me was the same one from the Fruita stop. The man turned to me from the driver's seat and said with a smile, "Are you following us?" He asked where I was headed and when I told him I was from St. Louis he said they were from the Chicago area.  

For about 75 miles from Grand Junction to Dotsero just east of Glenwood Springs, the highway parallels the Colorado River. This is a very scenic stretch of I-70 and it's one I enjoy because of the river and the fact that the road transitions from lower, drier terrain to the western foothills of the Rockies. The river ran very full and there were several groups of rafters on the river near Glenwood Springs.  

East bound lanes of I-70 in Glenwood Springs were closed for 8 miles for resurfacing (that's what it looked like, although I saw no one working on it). Traffic was bumper-to-bumper two-way in the west bound lanes, just like it used to be in the old days through the canyon before the double-decker highway was built. An 18-wheeler about 20 vehicles ahead of me took the 40 mph construction speed limit to heart and bested it by 10 mph, doing only 30.  

The air cooled drastically as I climbed to Vail Pass at 10,608 feet. It felt good after the day's heat. After the pass I-70 dropped into Miniturn, where I'd taken Hwy. 24 south to Leadville at the beginning of this trip.  

The Dillon Super 8 didn't have any first floor rooms facing the parking lot so I could see the bike out my window, but "We do have some rooms on the second floor." Uh, sure, and you even have some on the third floor, too. My room was as far away from the entrance door as one could get, so my 3 trips up with gear made me winded in Dillon's 9100-foot air.  

After showering I set out in search of a grocery to have yogurt with the orange I got from the motel lobby; I had not eaten very healthy today. Across the street in a strip mall, I shaded my eyes from the sun to see what was there and spied the Dairy Queen logo. So I threw healthy out the window and had a DQ Waffle Crisp Blizzard, and later the orange. After consuming the Blizzard sitting on a bench in front of the DQ while I talked to Bill on the phone, I walked as briskly as I could a quarter mile up the hill to see what stores were up there. I found a grocery and bought a couple peaches and bananas for tomorrow. Grocery stores in the Midwest have impatiens or marigolds and crabapple trees or the like in their landscaping. In Dillon, the store had aspen trees and some beautiful columbines that were in full bloom. I especially liked the lavender and cream one. The blooms were a full two inches across and the plants were as a large as shrubs.                                                                        

Monday, June 18 - Dillon to Lexington, NE   335 miles
I'd planned to sleep in and visit shops in Georgetown, which was about 25 miles east and over the pass through the Eisenhower Tunnel. In the room, I sliced a peach from last night's grocery purchase on my Super 8 cereal while I read email. Suddenly I realized that it was 8:30 and I'd better get a move on.  

I was packed, dressed and loading the bike by 9 a.m. A man on a Harley dresser had parked in the other half of my parking spot. He was also loading his bike and we exchanged pleasantries and itineraries. He was headed west, ultimately to Mexico with his buddy, who I think owned the white dresser with trailer parked a few spaces away. Including my bike, there were 6 motorcycles in the parking lot.  

As I left the parking lot via the steep 6-foot hill to the road, I put on the brakes a little too hard when I saw a car coming from the right. In this situation I do not like BMW's assisted braking system; it is too effective. My front wheel was still turned a little to the right from making the turn from the parking lot and I dumped Valentino right there on the little hill. If the bike hadn't been loaded I might have saved it, but all I could do was say "Nooooooooooooooo!" as the bike continued slowly over while I strained to keep it up. A bike on its side is a terrible and sad looking thing, especially when it's yours.  

It was on the hill and there was no way I was going to pick it up by myself. I looked for my buddy on the Harley but he was not outside. I picked up the broken turn signal lens from the hill and walked the length of the motel to the lobby and asked the 4 guys standing there for help. Two of them came with me and there was already another guy by the bike when we got there. The 3 of them picked up the bike and rolled it back up the hill into the parking lot. One of the men stayed with me and advised me to get my wits about me before going anywhere: check the bike, duct tape the turn signal back together, compose myself. I scuffed the engine guard, the right side saddlebag, the end of the brake lever, the back of the mirror and the windscreen. That's a lot scuffing for laying it down "gently." Fortunately the only thing broken was the right side front turn signal.  

Poor bike. It was filthy dirty and literally covered with smooshed bugs; it had been frozen on mountain passes and boiled in desert heat. And now I dropped it.  

By now it was nearing 10 o'clock and I was still in Dillon. Once on the road it didn't take long-like a hundred feet to the interstate ramp-for me to decide to just get gas in Georgetown and continue through Denver on I-70 and I-76 toward I-80 in Nebraska. I was not in the mood to shop and I'd soon be shopping for a new turn signal.  

The route through Denver was painless and soon I was out of the city and in the flatlands heading northeast. The mountains disappeared in my rearview mirrors and cattle pasture surrounded me. White evening primrose bloomed along the roadside, as did thistle, a yellow daisy and some errant sorghum, and of course grass. Cows huddled together in large groups on the gentle hillsides.   Shortly after stopping for gas on I-76 a deer ran across the highway at full tilt about 500 feet ahead of me. Another time I was going about 80 to 85 mph indicated and a Jeep went by me pretty quickly. I thought, "Wow, he's moving along pretty good." I'd no sooner thought that when a Sheriff's car went past me moving along pretty good, too, and nailed the speeder. Yeah, that's exciting stuff about as exciting as it got on the road the whole day, to be honest.  

I had a late lunch in Ogallala, Nebraska. In the restaurant parking lot while I cleaned my visor, a ladybug was busy feasting on the bug remains on my windscreen.  

The rest of the afternoon was just a run east on the interstate. Nebraska is a pretty state and this is the first time I've gone the length of it via motorcycle. The weather today was excellent: sunny and cool. The temperature didn't get out of the 70s.                                                                                                          

Tuesday, June 19-Lexington, NE to Anamosa, IA   530 miles
There was a bank of flat clouds to the north but the sun was shining in Lexington. By the time I left town at 8 a.m. the clouds covered the sky. They were not threatening so I did not put on rain gear, but I kept it handy.  

Approaching York, Nebraska, which was about 120 miles into the day, the road was wet from light showers and I could see some shower activity around. I stopped in York for gas and to put on rain gear. I figured if I was prepared the rain would go away and I was correct. I never got wet, although the sky was cloudy for most of the day.  

BMW Motorcycles of Omaha was easy to find. I'd Mapquested it last night, and it is visible from I-80 in the southwest part of town. The dealership is small and shares a building with another business. Nevertheless, it had all the new bikes and a good selection of clothing. I'd planned on spending up to an hour there but with a quiet salesman and no one else to talk to, I looked everything over and left, spending only about 20 minutes on the whole venture.

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 Highway 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.  

In many places Hwy. 30 was a 4-lane highway with a speed limit of 65 mph. This was especially true near large cities like Ames and Marshalltown where an interstate ran north-south. The route between Ames and Marshalltown was especially boring.

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.  

I arrived in Anamosa around 7 p.m. I pondered the fact that just yesterday I was in Dillon, Colorado. Many years ago United Airlines had an advertising slogan that stated, "Tomorrow you can be anywhere." How true.                                                                                                                                                    

Wednesday, June 20-Hanging around Anamosa   
Because downtown Anamosa was only 1.3 miles from the motel, I walked rather than taking the bike. It was a nice morning and it stayed fairly cool until midday. Before going to the National Motorcycle Museum I walked both sides of Main Street, serenaded by music played from speakers on the light poles.

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.  

I hadn't been to the National Motorcycle Museum in quite some time and I'd heard that John had some new things. John Parham is Chairman of J&P Cycles, which sells Harley parts and bling. J&P Cycles is located outside of town on Hwy. 151; the museum is in downtown Anamosa.

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.

There is 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 old tires.

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 restored.                                                                                                                                                                       

Thursday, June 21-Round trip Anamosa to Iowa City   110 miles
I left early for Iowa City for the bike's 36,000 mile service at Gina's BMW. Very dark, ominous clouds hung to the north. Last night's TV weather indicated a stationary front there. Leaving early I would arrive at Gina's before it opened at 9 a.m. but rain was coming and I wanted to get south before it did.

Hwy. 151 travels southwest for about 15 miles before turning due south to Iowa City. To my right (north) I could see torrents of rain and a couple lightning bolts. I got a few light sprinkles as I rode through Cedar Rapids. At Gina's the storm had moved south behind me and I could see more torrents of rain to the north, and Corralville, 6 miles north, had a severe thunderstorm warning. My timing was perfect.  

Although I'd visited Gina's before, I had not had service performed there. I was pleased with the friendliness of the staff. Everyone spoke to me and conveyed happiness that I was there. I was called by name and told that my business was appreciated. I met the mechanic who would work on my bike and he asked if there were any issues or complaints I wanted to tell him about. I was shown the coffee, tea and water and told to make myself at home. Without a dealer in St. Louis it was nice to be able to study the new models; Gina's had more than one of each. I looked at bikes, kicked tires with staff and other customers and read a magazine while I had a cup of iced mint tea.

Watching the storm, a customer was reminded of a quote, which he attributed to Keith Dempster. When asked what he does when it rains and he's on his bike, Keith said, "I do a magic act-I turn into a motel."  

As the morning wore on the sky cleared and the sun appeared. About 11 a.m. I saw the mechanic leave the lot to test ride my bike. I was very surprised the service was done so quickly. The mechanic said the service does not take long on a naked bike without body panels to remove, and I did not have the annual service performed, which saved time. The valves were adjusted, and the plugs, air cleaner and alternator fan belt were replaced. The engine oil and filter were okay, as I'd just changed both before the trip and they had only 3500 miles on them.  

I hadn't planned on being done so quickly so I wasn't loaded and checked out of the motel. No matter. I was tired and used the time to rest and catch up on journal writing. I had lunch at the Hardee's near the motel. The workers at Hardee's came to my table 3 times to ask if I needed anything, did I want my drink refilled, and to take my garbage and throw it away for me. I almost felt I needed to leave a tip.  

I went 20 miles to Cascade for dinner at Grandma's Kitchen, where Beth and I stopped for lunch on the way home from the Hiawatha Rally a couple weeks ago. That was an excellent lunch, which was actually the tail end of the Sunday breakfast buffet. I wasn't observant enough then to notice that the restaurant was only open for breakfast and lunch, and not dinner, so I went back to Monticello and ate a hot beef sandwich at Darrell's Restaurant, followed by an ice cream cone across the street.  

Rain moved in later in the evening near dark. The forecast was for rain all night and into tomorrow.                                                                         

Friday, June 22-Anamosa to St. Louis    310 miles
It was raining pretty good. Radar.indicated the rain cell was moving east and the rain would stop around 9 a.m. However, radar showed some heavy stuff in my path just north of the Missouri-Iowa border. I hoped it would be gone by the time I got there.  

The roads were drying a little as I loaded the bike. Soon I was riding on dry roads and near Cedar Rapids-only 25 miles from Anamosa-the sun was trying to come out. By the time I got to Iowa City, the sun was out, although there were still considerable clouds in the sky. From what I could see in the distance, I was not going to get wet.  

I stopped for gas and a rest in Mt. Pleasant and stumbled upon a new HyVee gas station and convenience store in front of the HyVee grocery store. The place had a very nice women's bathroom with framed pictures on the wall and a poster of a huge ice cream cone with words scrawled across it saying that cones were soon coming to the store. You could buy fresh fruit there and all sorts of other food, too. I bought chocolate milk and sat on the bench out front to drink it. The temperature was warming considerably.  

Just across the Missouri border I noticed a new Flying J on Hwy. 61. In addition, the final portion of two-lane Hwy. 61 will be four-lane next summer. The entire final section is under construction and some portions already are done, just needing striping and grading. By next summer it will be possible to drive/ride to Anamosa from St. Louis entirely on four-lane highway.

This was a great trip and a great way to celebrate my first summer of retirement. It won't be the last such trip!

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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. 

At dinnertime, Bill and Smitty took Smitty's trike to the O'Charleys restaurant, which was a quarter mile or so up the road at the interstate exit. The rest of us walked and by the time we arrived Bill had a large margarita with bright green salt on the glass's edge firmly in place in front of him. Because I like margaritas it didn't take him long to convince me that I needed one, too. My tolerance for alcohol is pretty low and this was a strong one, so by the time I'd sipped about an inch from the huge orb I was aware that I would not be able to finish it if I wanted to walk out of the restaurant on my own two feet. Slightly buzzed, I grabbed Bill's empty glass and said, "Watch this. I'm going to pour from one round glass into another!" Bill was actually waiting for me to get to this point because he knew he would not have to buy another margarita and he wanted one. As I tipped my glass, drops of bright green melted salt splatted on the table along with a little of the good stuff. Because I poured a little too slowly to accomplish the task neatly, Al, who has served many margaritas on his veranda and is an expert, coached, "Faster, faster!" And that, my friends, is how you get two margaritas for the price of one. 

The weather looked good the next morning so we opted for a twistier route to Hiawassee than the interstate would provide. At breakfast at the new Manchester Huddle House, Jim and Jeff settled on two similar routes for the day. Two interesting things happened at the Huddle House. One, a guy who had been in a Suburban at the KOA the night before-looking for a place for a "tour bus"-sat down at the counter. As we paid our bills a conversation ensued and he said he was the drummer for Rascal Flatts. Others were impressed but having never heard of Rascal Flatts I was unimpressed. Besides, something didn't compute. Rascal Flatts is apparently very popular (ummm... yeah, the group won the ACM Vocal Group of the Year on May 15) and I assume the band members are rolling in money. Why would the drummer be wearing holey jeans, a t-shirt and a UK (University of Kentucky) ball cap? Why would Rascal Flatts stay at a KOA (and I never saw a tour bus or anyone else except the woman in the man's Suburban)? Why would the drummer for Rascal Flatts be eating at a Huddle House without the rest of the Rascals? I've searched Google's Images and the drummer pictured there is not the guy we saw. I think maybe he said "driver" and not "drummer."

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!  

The route we chose for the day was an excellent one. After a little bit of flat 4-lane, it took us down the escarpment through twisties in the woods, across the "flats" through farmland, up another escarpment on twisties in the woods, down again and up again. Some of the curves were 15 mph ones for real. Nearer our destination we took Tennessee Hwy. 315, which is a pretty little road I took last year, to Hwy. 64, which parallels the Hiawassee River and passes the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition.  

We ate lunch at a family restaurant in Ducktown, Tennessee. We were ready for a stop. Knees were getting stiff and butts sore, so much so that most of us stood until the food arrived. The waitress put us in a back room where we dined alone with plenty of room to stack riding gear. The coconut pie was to die for. Bill had decadent looking berry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream; berry juice ran down the cup the cobbler had been baked in.

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 mountains.

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 Mountain, Georgia's 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 property.

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 very adorable.

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 the time.

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 dry.

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.  

We stopped for gas and a snack in Tellico Plains, where we removed liners, too, because the temperature was rising. I have a tire fettish. I am always looking at tires-on my bikes and on my car. I glanced at Kim's and Al's. Al's rear tire was bald in the center and the rubber was scuffed like he'd been on the track. The tread and wear bars were long gone. This gave Al something to worry about for the rest of the day, but we did a lot of twisties, which kept him off the center of his tire.  

After a late lunch in Pikeville we continued west on the same route we'd taken east to Hiawassee a couple days before. We'd been following this route since Tellico Plains. It looked quite different going the other way, so it was not terribly repetitive. Once past Manchester, we were in virgin territory. From Manchester we rode through Tullahoma, Shelbyville, Lewisburg, and Columbia. West of Lewisburg we rode past a number of very well-to-do horse farms. Al observed that these farms were quite a contrast to the poor homesteads we'd seen in rural Tennessee: "The haves and the have nots."

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.  

But I digress. Back to Al's problem. After contacting several of his buddies who might have a tire or know where to find one, yadda, yadda, Steve suggested that we ride 25 miles north to Franklin and get rooms for the night. Cold Springs Honda in Franklin is open on Mondays and would most likely have a rear tire to fit an R1200RT (Kim and I hoped only a pink one). I suggested that we get moving toward Franklin because twilight was approaching and we were going to take back roads instead of the interstate. I led, watching the map and signs. Al followed me, watching scenery. Kim followed Al, watching his rear tire.  

It was dark and approaching 8 p.m. when we arrived at a motel at the I-65 interchange in Franklin. After asking, we moved a bench and cigarette receptacle that were next to the door and placed the three bikes in that spot instead. Steve arrived shortly on his well-used and dirty F650GS Dakar, to meet us and check on us, but he was unable have dinner with us. We had to bag dinner with alcohol at O'Charleys two miles away because Franklin doesn't have cab service after 8 p.m. and no one wanted to walk there but me... something about having to cross the interstate bridge. Instead we had dinner at the Cracker Barrel next door. At dinner I posed the question to a slightly stressed out Al who was badly in need of wine, "Let's say the Honda dealer has a tire to fit your bike but only in bright green or hot pink. Which would you choose?"  

The Honda dealer opened at 9 a.m. on Monday and we got there about 9:10 a.m. The service manager indeed had a tire-most sport bikes use the same size-and got Al's bike in right away. The only problems were 1) the Honda dealer didn't have an adapter to balance the BMW wheel with a large hole in the hub, and 2) the tire wasn't pink. Al had a Michelin Pilot Road installed while Kim and I checked out Hondas and Yamahas. We were on our way by 10:30 with an adjusted route that would keep us off the interstate a bit longer and still take us through the Land Between the Lakes as planned before the tire debacle. Once at the northern end of the Land Between the Lakes at I-24, we'd see what time it was and decide whether to slab it back or wind our way over to Hwy. 3 in Illinois and take it north. We could also work our way to I-55 in Missouri and slab it back.  

The gents at Cold Spring Honda gave us good directions to get out of Franklin via Hwy. 96 without going though town again. Franklin is a fairly large burg. We stayed on Hwy. 96 just south of metro Nashville until we arrived in Dickson, very near where we would have camped without the tire problem. Being so close to Nashville, I thought we'd run into traffic and lights but the route was rural, woodsy and a little twisty, and traffic was light. At a gas stop at the I-40 interchange Al said his unbalanced wheel was feeling just fine. The Honda tech said that Michelin tires are well-balanced from the factory.

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 Queen.  

The southern end of the Land Between the Lakes is not marked very well and I almost missed the turn off Hwy. 79 west of Dover. The first part of the LBL was interesting and scenic but after about 25 miles of the same scenery it began to get a little boring. I like nature as well as the next person, maybe even more, but 50 miles of a steady diet of grass and trees that doesn't change much is flat boring after a while. I could see Kim back there bringing up the rear; he had his feet propped on his highway pegs and his body laid back on the big duffle that carried his camping gear. He looked like he was napping. I was getting drowsy. Kim said that Al looked like a bear when he stood on his pegs to stretch, so he got the nickname of Standing Bear.  

We gassed up at I-24 and decided we'd better slab it home from there; it was around 3:30 p.m. and we'd already gained the hour into Central Time. As the guys eyed ice cream in the freezer I reminded them of the Dairy Queen stop, even if it was at the next exit, which it was because Al asked the gas station clerk. Instead of stopping at the next exit, though, we waited a couple hours and stopped at a DQ in Marion, Illinois. By then it was 5 p.m. We agreed that it was a refreshing stop, and for me anyway, it was a dinner stop. A Blizzard has been a meal for me more than once. The next stop was for gas in Carlyle, Illinois on I-64. We said our goodbyes, as this was going to be the last stop before home.  

It was great traveling with Kim and Al and I am glad that we decided to take two days to get home. The weather was perfect for riding-sunny with temperatures in the upper 70s and light winds. It was great riding with the other folks, too, on the way to the rally. We've got a good group of rally goers in the club.  

It was almost dark as I pulled into the driveway, another good trip in the history books.

To see more and larger versions of the photos in this story, see my Smugmug page.

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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.

Of 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.

We 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.

The 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.

This was a great way to start the new year!

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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.

By slab Marquette is approximately 440 miles from St. Louis, which is not too far for a weekend jaunt. See the museum's site for info, and my Smugmug site at for a few more photos.

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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.

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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.

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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.

I was on my way to the Dinky Dozen's Hard to be Humble Rally in Pontiac, IL.  There have been rumors that the Dinks may stop having this 25-year-old rally.  That would be a shame because the Dinks really know how to throw a party and the site is fabulous.

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.

George and Mae have attended all 25 of the Dinks’ rallies.  Let’s hope there is a 26th Hard to be Humble Rally for them to attend.  And the rest of us, too.

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.

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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.

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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.

Other advantages, of course, are the non-polluting aspects of the bike.  The fuel cell, called the Core, which contains a proton exchange membrane, converts the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen to electricity.  The electricity is routed to batteries and an electric motor.  The only thing expelled from this bike is heat and water, and the only sound you’ll hear is the cooling fan (hey, just like my K75!).  In addition, the Core can be removed from the bike for other uses around the home, and this is a feature the other fuel cell bikes in developement from Honda, Aprilia and Vectrix don't have.

Okay, okay, there might be some downsides to this.  The fuel cell produces only a kilowatt of energy, but by pairing the electric motor with a bank of batteries, the ENV is able to produce 6 kilowatts of energy for acceleration.  Still, you’re not going to beat that Hayabusa off the line when the light turns green but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you aren’t polluting.

Another downside is the lack of available hydrogen to refuel the Core.  You can purchase canisters of hydrogen from suppliers but you can’t get it at your local gas station.  Intelligent Energy might have a solution if you want to throw more money at it.  The company is developing reformers that will extract hydrogen from biodiesel fuels and ethanol obtained from animal fats and plant sources, both of which are renewable and abundant.  The company says the units would sell for around $1500 and you’d be able to fill your bike’s tank for about 25 cents.

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.

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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.

I’ll definitely do this ride again.  Susan said about the Bixby Country Store, “It’s cute but I wouldn’t make it a destination.”  I’m not so sure.  It has a certain appeal and the roads can’t be beat, and that’s good enough for me.

For a few more photos see www.mrob.smugmug.com.  Click on Motorcycles, then on Bixby Country Store.

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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.

 On Hwy. 19 just outside Maggie Valley I glanced up at a motel on the hill above the road and saw about 25 cruiser riders sitting on their bikes in the motel’s very level-challenged parking lot.  I suspected that they were afraid to get off their bikes for fear that the bikes would topple over.

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.”

After lunch at Mama Guava’s in Maggie Valley I headed south to Madison, GA.  The day was still somewhat young and the weather was good, so I decided to accept Dale’s suggestion and ride Hwy. 215 south off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  An advantage of that route was that I’d get to ride more of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Hwy. 215 did not depart from the BRP for another 50 miles east.

I knew that Deal’s Gap was not far from that location and I do not have any desire to ride that kind of twisty road (318 curves in 11 miles)—yeah, I know, that’s heresy—but Hwy. 215 was not much different.  It was chock full of 20 mph curves as it wound for 20 miles through woods and up and down the hills of northern North Carolina.  In a way it was quite fun and I am glad that I took that route, but I did scare myself on one of the curves.  I entered a tight curve too fast and realized it only after it was too late to make a speed correction.  Wide-eyed, I repeated to myself in double-time, “Lean it, lean it, lean it, lean it…” until I exited the curve unscathed.  

As expected, I didn’t make fast progress on that road, or on Hwy. 64, which I took west back to Hwy. 441 south into Georgia.  Hwy. 441 was a fast road with a speed limit of 55 mph or 65 mph, depending on where you are along its length.  In Baldwin, GA I pulled into a McDonalds for some refreshment.  I met a local gentleman who rode an RTP.  He regarded me and my Beemer as a lost, thirsty human would regard an oasis in the desert.  Apparently he was the only Beemer rider in the area.    He looked at my bike in detail and asked many questions about aftermarket parts and add-on doo-dads. 

The afternoon’s ride was very pleasant with comfortable temperatures and light winds.  Although I passed through an occasional town, most of the scenery was woods and farms.

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.

For more photos, please see my Smugmug site and click on "Smokies and Museums" in the Motorcycles gallery.

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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?

Extra Flab: I’ve got 25 pounds of unwanted body mass.  I eat and I gave up the leg power that uses calories.  What more is there to say?  On the bright side, it helps settle the bike’s suspension and gives me better traction in the wet.

The Power of the Machines: They do wear their own perfume… the smell of oil, gas and tires mixed up in the garage is a perfume that appeals to a select few.  You know that feeling when you are eyeballing a bike that isn’t yours but you know in your heart and wallet that it will be soon?  It’s the perfume that gets you.  Little oily and gassy pheromones waft into your nostrils and get you where you live.  We name the bikes and make them our friends.  I named my K75 Fliegenderziegelstein and my R1150R Valentino.  Fliegenderziegelstein means “flying brick” in German, and I think it’s a fine name despite the fact that a friend said it illustrates just how ugly the German language is.  Valentino—a red bike—came home with me a couple days before Valentine’s Day.  I get a great deal of pleasure just seeing my bikes each time I enter the garage and I always greet them.  The machines and memories go together.

A Job in the Industry: In the early spring of 1997 I was lucky enough to be laid off from a job I was growing weary of, and have the opportunity to spend the summer riding and pretending that I was retired.  It was a relaxing, laid back summer that found me getting out of bed in the morning when I was good and ready to, visiting relatives in Virginia, museum-hopping in Maine, and eating real, juicy, freshly cooked hamburgers on toasted buns for lunch in my kitchen.  Without the encouragement of my bike, I might have looked for a job right away as my husband encouraged me to do.  And when I finally decided I’d better go back to work, a friend dragged me to the BMW MOA office and here I am, “doing” motorcycles for a living.

Friends and Strangers: I was impressed with the friendliness of the Gateway Riders when I attended my first meeting; I knew I was beginning a journey with a unique family.  I’ve known the kindness of friends and clubmates who looked out for me when I was taken ill at a rally, and friends and strangers who assisted me when I hit the deer, and the kindness of a stranger who helped me pick up my bike when I dropped it in traffic one Easter Sunday morning.  I still remember the smiling, exuberant rider at a gas station in South Dakota who had been a rider for 60 years.  He assured me that I would be able to accomplish the same feat, and he would not believe that in 60 years I’d be 112 years of age, and probably not riding much.  I’ve acquired new friends and riding buddies, and I’ve met some characters and crackpots, but all of them have something in common—a connection that those outside the sport just don’t “get.”

Experiences with Nature: While waiting out a lightning storm I talked to ducks as they lusted for the banana that was mine.  “Get away from me and go find your own banana!” I said.  They quacked me up!  In Montana I looked a cow straight in the eye, up close and personal, as I rode through a herd being moooooved on the road from one pasture to another.  A large Indiana turkey launched itself off a nearby bluff and glided along with me for a few feet.  I’ve unwittingly carried large spiders on my bike.  I’ve been nearly blown off the road by the wind.  I’ve ridden through canopies of autumn leaves that were bright and glowing as stained glass in the sun.  I’ve frozen my butt off in Bryce Canyon.  I’ve ridden into the sunrise with a thunderstorm that blackened the sky chasing me from behind.  I’ve seen intricate, swirled designs drawn by the wind in golden wheat fields that stretched to the horizon.  I’ve ridden through hail that turned the ground white and I’ve seen triple rainbows.  I’ve ridden straight into the side of a deer.  If you ride a motorcycle it’s hard to not notice nature, even if it’s just the bugs on your windscreen or the rain running down your neck.  

Expenditure of Dollars: One of these days, when I’m old and poor, I’ll look back on this motorcycle thing and wish I’d invested all the money I spent on it.  Motorcycling has changed the direction and amount of my spending.  You know what I mean.  You walk into your local BMW motorcycle shop and the parts guy sticks a new model glove in your face and says, “These are really comfortable.  Try ‘em on.”  It’s the kiss of death.  You get one glove on, your mouth drops open, your eyes widen, and you hear the “ka-ching!” of the cash register in your mind.  It’s only later that you find out the coveted gloves are $150, but it’s too late.  Now extend that scenario to include the multiplicity of all things motorcycle.

Travel: My bikes have taken me from my home in St. Louis on routes that radiate like spokes in a wheel: to Canada and to Texas, and to Washington State and to New York State, and all the angles in between.  I’ve ridden through rural America on small, lonely roads to smell the roses and lunch at local cafes.  I’ve felt the mist at Niagara Falls, breathed the thin air in Glacier, felt the hot sun in Utah, tasted raspberry pie atop Mt. Lemmon, smelled the rain marching across the Plains and sat in a C1 in Munich.  I’ve meandered on little roads and burned up the interstate highways.  It’s almost trite in motorcycle circles to say that it’s the ride and not the destination, but sometimes it’s both.

Solitude: Back in 1998 the K75’s odometer turned over 25,000 miles in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming.  Nothing in my view at that moment was man-made except my bike and the road.  I honked the horn in celebration of some firsts: my first 25,000 miles on a motorcycle and my first bike’s first 25,000 miles.  No one was there but me to hear the celebration.  That was okay and entirely appropriate; a big smile spread across my face and I hugged Fliegenderziegelstein’s tank with my knees.

 A Sense of Mortality: During these years I’ve had the opportunity to consider my own mortality, my journey through this part of eternity.  I saw it in the face of the deer I hit at high speed, and in my own face from the inside looking out.  I saw it in the faces of my parents at the moment they realized that their time on this earth was finished.  I saw it in the copious amount of blood running down the driver’s door of a white, wrecked automobile somewhere on Montana’s I-90.  I saw it in the early, sudden deaths of Don Douglass, Nancy Sulfstede, and Rob Lentini of the BMW MOA.  The reality is that we’d better enjoy our motorcycles and each other while we’re here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

In 2005, the Quilts of Gee’s Bend will travel overseas to be exhibited in Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, photography was not allowed at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.  For images of some of the quilts, please see the Tinwood Alliance website.  Also, a slide show of the Summer 2003 exhibit at the Modern Primitive Gallery in Atlanta is available on its site.

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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.

 This event, the weather and the wonderful roads were great ways to welcome the new riding season.

See more photos at www.mrob.smugmug.com.

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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.

Pam and Milo (with Chef Chuck’s help) outdid themselves with the “Donut” stop.  Yeah, we got donuts—and they were homemade, too—but Milo had fired up his manly grill and placed Chuck there to cook breakfast to order.  The special of the morning was breakfast burritos but any combination of eggs, sausage and bacon was also doable.  Milo and Pam busied themselves cutting out donuts from dough and dropping them into a hot vat of grease.  Donuts were plain, sugared or cinnamon.  A bowl of melted chocolate sat on the table for dipping donut holes.

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.

Once we got it straight that Ken and Lorna Humbertson didn’t really live in the middle of Kansas, we all found their neighborhood clubhouse without any problems.  At this stop—the salad stop—I made it clear that I hadn’t brought the map to KJ’s and I was pretty fuzzy on the location of her house for the main course.  As we prepared to leave and I sat there with Fliegenderzeigelstein’s (my K75) engine running, I noticed that 4 others were doing the same thing, and they were looking expectantly at me.  Perhaps I can provide leadership as the president, but not leadership to KJ’s!  I left the parking lot with 4 others in tow and I thought that was pretty funny.  I didn’t get lost but Gene and Barb did.

KJ had prepared a variety of chicken dishes: chicken, chicken and rice and chicken tetrazzini.  She also had some killer succotash.  Gene and Barb met lots of KJ’s neighbors while they were looking for the house, but none of them knew KJ.  A nice breeze blew through KJ’s shaded yard as the temperature hit the day’s high of 84.

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.

 If you missed this one, you missed a good one.  The weather was perfect, the food was great, and the company was awesome.

See more photos at www.mrob.smugmug.com.

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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.

So what if it rained on Sunday? Monday brought a high-pressure dome and sunshine. When I left home the sun hadn't quite burned off the morning fog. The sky was a mix of billowing, gray moisture rising high into the blue sky. Fog rising from the surface of freshly plowed farmland along Creve Coeur Mill Rd. looked like something from Yellowstone National Park.

As I rode west over the Hwy. 40 bridge in Chesterfield the rising fog was so dense that I wondered if those were really rain clouds masquerading as fog. The weatherman has been wrong, you know! Because my permanent riding accessories usually consist of a map, my Anonymous book, and two quarters--no rain gear--I briefly considered a shorter, closer-to-home ride, but I cast fate to the wind and continued on.

The last time I was on Hwy. 94 was sometime last year. In the meantime the highway department straightened out a curve a bit west of Hwy. D. Hmmm. Thank you.... I think.  Just this spring did I finally "get it" and figure out how to ride curves faster than 40 mph.  Not at warp 10, just faster than 40. Maybe that's why there weren't any cars lined up behind me today. In fact, nothing seemed to be going my way for the 20 miles to Dutzow except for a mule-drawn covered wagon. Fortunately I encountered it on the long, flat stretch of road that parallels the Katy Trail and I was gone before the Indians attacked.

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.

At that 4-way stop in Hawk Point Hwy. 47 makes a 90 degree turn to the east and continues straight for 10 miles or so through more farmland to Troy. By this time the fog was long gone and it was a beautiful, sunny day albeit a little chilly with the side wind. I chugged through the stoplights in Troy and shot out the other side of town toward Cuivre River State Park.

Art has been eyeing Cuivre River State Park as a possible quick-camp destination and suggested a couple months ago that I might stop there sometime and check out the campground. Good idea. Unfortunately I was starving and I'm too cheap to stop and eat. So Art will have to wait. He won't be surprised.

Our tax dollars are being put to use in the replacement of two bridges on Hwy. 47 between Troy and Hwy. 79. Dump trucks and earthmovers had coated the road with the red dirt of the area. On closer inspection I decided the red dirt beneath my wheels didn't match my bike's mystic red very well, and although the construction didn't hamper my progress, it did offend my sense of esthetics.

Hwy. 47 dead-ends at Hwy. 79, which I took south to I-70. I could have exited at Salt Creek Rd. and taken Hwys. C and B across St. Charles County but I had heard portions were underwater and, anyway, I wanted to check out the new Hwy. 370 bypass. Hwy. 370 is not heavily traveled. It is squeaky clean, brand new, fast concrete. The elevated highway cuts a path across dead-flat, deserted flood plain and farmland. It gave a very solitary feel compared to the mayhem that exists on I-70 through St. Peters and St. Charles only a couple miles away. After 6 or 7 miles I exited at the Earth City Expressway. At the south end of the Expressway I'm used to seeing the Riverport Amphitheater entrance but the Harrah's Casino entrance caught me by surprise even though I knew it was there. Sheesh, how do they build this stuff so fast? I didn't give it too much thought, though.  A late lunch at home was close at hand, within earshot of Riverport.

From my house--or Creve Coeur County Park--this ride is 130 miles in length and is a nice mix of curves and straight highway without too much superslab. It passes through forest and farmland. Points of interest on, or not too far off the route include Creve Coeur County Park, the Schnuck's restaurant where the club meets, the BMW MOA office, the Daniel Boone home and gravesite, the town of Augusta, the Warrenton Outlet Center, Cuivre River State Park, and Main Street in St. Charles. Oh yeah... and the casinos. There are lots of gas and eat places (if you aren't too cheap to stop).

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