Saturday, July 18, 2009

Let's Rally!!

The BMW MOA rally is in Johnson City, TN this year, set on the Appalachian Fair Grounds west of the city, off of I-26. I arrived on the fair grounds Tuesday morning to meet up with Volunteer Committee Chair Don Norwood. We met up on the fair grounds, where I parked my bike and joined him in the golf cart - our chariot for the next several days - to get the "lay of the land" of the fairgrounds and to get me oriented. Then it was off to the Sit 'n Bull restaurant at the bottom of the hill to grab lunch, before getting to the real work of setting up the sign-up area at the school.

The appearance of the fairgrounds would gradually change over the next two days as the vendors continued to arrive and get set up in the outdoor vendor area and as more volunteers start to arrive and get their campsites set up.

Wednesday morning and the elementary school parking lot was already full at 7:45 AM. Registration would not open until noon or 1;00 PM for the volunteers, but there were already many folks milling about or helping to get the registration area set up.

When the flood gates opened, we were overwhelmed! By the end of that first day everyone was exhausted, and we realized that we needed to radically overhaul our set-up to ease the congestion and improve the traffic flow.

In the midst of this, Barbara and husband Ron went back to their motorhome and made sandwiches for those of us who couldn't get away for lunch. We were barely able to take a bite or two of our sandwiches, we were so busy! At the end of the day, I was more than ready to just return to my hotel, grab a light take-out dinner at the Atlanta Bread Co. next door, and just crash.

Determined to beat the crowd on wet and rainy Thursday morning, I got on the road toward the rally grounds early - 7:00 AM - but yet again this day the parking lot at the school was packed with motorcycles and the line had already formed and was out the door and down into the parking lot. I rode past the school and continued onto the grounds, parking in the same spot I'd used the last two days. However, the congestion in that area, created by the outdoor vendor and demo bike area, meant I had to rethink my parking after this day. I walked down to our group's little RV compound to take off my riding gear and Melissa and I then walked back to the school to get to work.

It was non-stop but not as hectic as Wednesday. We rearranged the area, which helped, and we had volunteers to help us and to give us a chance to take lunch breaks. Melissa and I walked back up to the rally and had a nice relaxed sit-down lunch, and to visit some of the vendors for a little bit before returning to the school to finish out the day.

LOTS of really great vendors!! Many of my favorite on-line stores were there in person:,, Bob's BMW, and many others! Every conceivable gadget, accessory, clothing, gear could be purchased at the rally. It would take tremendous will-power - plus the constant self-reminder - that I had no excess room on my bike to carry any purchases home, UPS be damned!

A walk around the rally site to choose our lunch spot uncovered many, many choices! This is the best rally year ever for food selection and variety, and the prices were unbelievably reasonable. Thai food, healthy sandwiches, German food, fresh produce, homemade pumpkin, banana and spice breads, ribs, fish, chicken, salads...Wow! Add to this the fact that there were a couple of very good small-town homecooking type restaurants within a short walking distance, and the appeal of this location for the rally became obvious.

Still, even though we had a good lunch, Melissa and I worked a 10 hour day!

On Friday morning it was again raining and the temperatures were a bit cooler as I headed out of the hotel toward the rally grounds at 7:30 AM. Today I decided not to park on the rally grounds. The congestion created by the foot traffic, motorcycles, golf carts, people-mover shuttles, and passenger cars and trucks was making it very difficult to get onto or off the rally grounds, even early morning or late afternoon. I had scouted the situation at the parking lot behind the school and decided that it might be a perfect spot, just an easy short walk up the hill to the pedestrian gate (which was very near to where I'd been parking the previous days).

Friday wasn't so hectic. We had moved Volunteer Central up onto the rally grounds at the group's RV compound which overlooked the GPS motocross track. It was more relaxed, and we had access to food, beverage, and chairs which made it more comfortable for us. Because of this more-relaxed setting and because we were on the grounds, now, it made it much easier to communicate with the other committee chairs and we got to know some of them better, as well. We also got to know many rally attendees, as well, as they walked past our location throughout the next two days. It was fun!

Don and I took the cart up into the tent camping area at one point and got some great views down over the rally grounds. Up on the very top of the hill I happened upon the Missouri group of guys that I met for the first time at the VT rally and have seen several times since at other BMW rallies.

On Friday and Saturday the MOA brought roving musicians in...some were pretty good. One young boy was playing a fiddle with extraordinary skill and was accompanied by a banjo and a guitar. He had a high soprano voice and was singing Appalachian folk songs beautifully!

Ice cream sundaes for $1.00! I was unable to resist...twice!!

On Friday afternoon, the entertainment committee chair found us and asked for help urgently to get the hospitality tent set up for the band. Don and I jumped in the cart and started recruiting on the fly! We stopped random people and managed to get two men, and then met up with a young teenager who was walking up the hill. He jumped at the chance to help! On the way down to the stage area he and I hung on the back of the cart and I asked him if he did Camp Gears. He thought he wasn't old enough and really wanted to attend, so I planted the seed so that next year, if his family attends the MOA in Redmond OR, he will hopefully get to attend.
Saturday, the last day of the rally, and we pretty much dropped the volunteer recruiting down a few notches, filling only key positions and urgent positions as they were brought to our attention by committee chairs. This freed us up to do more shopping and visiting.

The rally wind-down could be seen and felt. Some camp sites were being packed up and some rally goers were starting to leave. Our committee closed down at noon time so that we could conduct the drawings for the volunteer door prizes and could have a restful lunch and kick back in the shade for a few hours.

All too soon, we were heading toward the closing ceremonies arena and saying goodbye to this year's rally.

Tomorrow: leaving Johnson City and heading to Asheville NC for lunch with MTF members and then picking up some national park stamps on the way home to Texas.

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