Friday, July 18, 2008

Rally Day 1 - BMW MOA Rally, Gillette WY

This day didn't turn out the way I thought it was better!

My original plan was to ride over to the rally and spend the day visiting the vendors, eating, sitting with friends. So I packed sandals and shorts on the bike and, at 9:15 AM, was headed toward I-90 to ride 2 exits down to the Cam-Plex Center where the rally is. But it was so gorgeous - blue skies, cool temps - that I rode right on past the exit and headed towards Devils Tower.

Lots of BMW's on the road headed the same direction I was. There are plenty of great riding opportunities in this direction: Devils Tower, The Badlands, Needles Highway, Mt. Rushmore, just to name a few of many. I exited the interstate 25 miles later at Moorcroft and took US 14 north. The road was smooth and wide, and a few miles later it started ascending into the Black Hills with plenty of high speed sweepers to accomplish that elevation change.

As I neared the next turn-off, I caught a glimpse of the top of Devils Tower, peeking over some hills to the northwest. Just a few miles later, on WY-24, the road was flanked by two wide pull-outs with a spectacular view of the tower. I made a note to stop here on the way back to Gillette and continued to the park entrance. The terrain was beautiful riding through the park to the visitor center. The road wound through woods and open fields as it made its way up to the visitor center. An open field along the south side of the road was home to prairie dogs and they could be seen sitting on top of their burrows watching the tourists.

Up at the top of the road, the parking lot was filled with BMW's. I slipped in to a slot between two other bikes and went to the visitor center to get my passport stamped.

The center is housed in an old log cabin, built in the very early 1900's. It, in itself, was an attraction worth examining more closely. I got a great photo of my bike with the tower immediately behind it, before getting back on and riding back out of the park. I savored the scenery, spotting a deer in the woods just off the park road. Just at the entrance to the park there is a KOA Kampground and I pulled in to the entrance to get photos for the AMA tour.

Back onto WY-24 I joined the parade of BMW's heading back toward Gillette. I saw many BMW's headed the other direction as I worked my way back to I-90 and the rally.

At the rally, I changed into shorts and sandals, checked in at the First Aid center, and then went off in search of vendors. I wanted to meet Mario Winkelman of LDComfort riding shorts. He's on the MTF forum, but I've never met him in person. Then I went to the Bill Mayer saddle booth outside and met Rocky in person. He has done two saddles for my R1150R in the last 3 years. Now I wanted to get my name on the production list for my new R1200R, which should be built and shipped in the next month or so. Rocky was offering a discount for those who order there at the rally, and also is putting rally goers at the top of the production schedule.

I ran into Mike at the registration area and we went off in search of food. Klaus and Diane joined us as we waited in line. But Mike decided to head over to the hotel and get checked in so the three of us sat in the shade, visited, ate, and then walked over to their camp site to visit until my shift in the First Aid Center.

A great group of people have been working First Aid, and today my co-volunteer was a fireman from Colorado. We had visitors drop in all afternoon: Fletcher Clark from MTF, who'd just finished his shift volunteering in registration; Glenn from the Detroit BMW club, who I met in Houghton at the BMW RA rally; Mike came by for a short while.

In late afternoon, the winds picked up considerably, and the sky turned red from the dust being kicked up. Weather radar showed a strong band of thunderstorms headed toward Gillette, so the rally goers thought we were all in for another wild night like last night. A strong storm blew through last night, much to the discomfort and dismay of the many campers at the rally site.

Stories of tents and motorcycles blowing over abounded. The dirt roads that crossed through the camping areas turned to muddy soup, and there were many episodes of big, expensive bikes going down in the slop. Klaus brought his KLR and his GS to the rally, and has been scooting around the rally grounds on the KLR. An extremely accomplished off-road rider himself, he even got bogged down in the mud on a bike that is normally more than capable of handling rough off-roads. But fortunately the storm skirted to the north and the winds died off just at sunset. So the campers are safe tonight.

My shift over at 8:00, I headed toward the entertainment tent and Beer Hall. There I ran into a group of guys we'd met at Burlington VT rally two years ago, and I called Mike and Klaus to determine their location. The band - Riders of the Purple Sage - were playing, but I didn't think they sounded very good. We all visited for a while but by 9:45 PM I was more than ready to get into my riding gear and head to the hotel.

Tomorrow: Some morning workshops, 12-4 shift in First Aid, closing ceremonies at 6:00 PM.

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