Sunday, July 22, 2012

The BMW Invasion - BMW MOA Rally

They're everywhere!!

Every time I attend a BMW rally, I think of an unverified story I once read about the Wizard of Oz and the "extra's" cast for the Munchkins.  The rumor is that when they were all assembled in Hollywood to start filming, back in the 1930's, most had never seen another person like themselves, never mind seeing so many others like themselves.  And, according to that rumor, things apparently got wildly out of hand in the evenings.   Not that BMW riders get wildly out of hand, but to see so many BMW's assembled in one place is unique in a Harley and Harley-wanna-be world where like-styled riders move in packs and clog the streets of Sturgis, Wier's Beach, and Daytona with annual regularity.

I got into Sedalia around 11:30 AM and quickly checked into the motel, changed into shorts and running shoes, and headed on foot to the rally grounds and the registration tent, stopping along the way at McDonald's for lunch. 

Once at the registration tent, I immediately ran into several people I know from our local BMW club and from the LD riding community.  I sat and chatted with Jim Green and a couple of other riders with him from Houston, and then sat with Ardys Kellerman for a while, enjoying her company and the pleasant shady breeze that blew through the large registration tent.  I was glad for the respite after walking the 2+ miles in 100-degree sunshine to get there from the motel. 

But I knew that I needed to take my leave from the pleasant company and environment to work my way over to First Aid to check in and get my name on the volunteer schedule and then over to where Security was set up to check on their schedule as well.  On my way across the rally grounds, I passed the BMW Motorrad demo van, where they were getting the demo bikes unloaded and set up for the next three days' demo rides.

BMW Motorrad demo truck with bikes lined up beyond.

Tom already had my name in a 2-man Security cart patrol slot for Thursday morning and I added my name to another slot on Saturday afternoon.  I'd need to return to First Aid first thing Thursday morning to sign up for that committee.  Pat didn't have the schedule out yet when I stopped by earlier. 

Nothing was open yet, so there was nothing else to do but head back on foot to the motel.   My route to the motel took me past a small farmer's market set up in a large parking lot, so I bought a bag of beautiful, juicy peaches.  Then I passed a Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers restaurant.  Hmm...Tempting!  It was a very hot walk to get here!  Decision made!  I ordered a turtle sundae and sat in the air-conditioned comfort to enjoy the treat! 

By the time I got back to the motel, the parking lot had filled up somewhat with other BMW's.
Parking lot at the motel

Dinner at the Applebee's next door and I was ready to quit for the day.


Ugh!  I slept poorly!  Sleeping on the motel's flat, hard pillows made for a miserable night.  I knew the breakfast selection at this cheesy motel would be even worse.  This was, afterall, a Super-8 cast-off property.  How low can you go??

I made up my mind, after scouting the rally grounds the previous day, that I would just go ahead and walk to the rally each day.  It was only 2 miles each way.  I knew I'd not have opportunity to get runs in while here, so walking to and from the rally would be a reasonable substitution.  This morning it was nicely cool with gentle, brief rain showers, which made the walk to the rally very pleasant.

My Security shift started at 9 AM on Thursday, so I had time to grab breakfast at McDonald's on the way to the rally and to poke around the grounds a bit before going on duty.  Seeing the rally grounds from a golf cart was a huge advantage over trying to get around to see it all on foot.  My cart partner and I rode all through the RV and camping sections, rode over to the GS Giant course area, through the sheep pens, where the "special needs," i.e. electrical outlet, campers were set up, and back and forth through the vendor area and out to gate 12. 

We made multiple runs through the grounds, picking up and delivering people, transmitting messages via the handheld radios, all while keeping our eyes out for the wristbands on the folks, for campers set up in off-limits areas, and just generally watching for safety hazards and any problems on the first morning of the rally.  I had a fun and entertaining cart-mate and the shift went quickly. 

A friend from the St. Louis area and his brother were coming to the rally just for the day, so once they got there we connected by cell phone and met up after my shift.  We ate lunch together at one of the very reasonable on-site restaurants - a BBQ place - and then browsed the vendors together for the rest of the afternoon.  They had a 3 hour drive back to St. Louis, so too soon we were saying goodbye, but not before they gave me a ride back to the motel in their truck. 

I knew that if I wanted to get a good night's sleep, I would need to do something about the pillow situation.  There was a large Walmart across the street from the motel, so I walked over there to buy a pillow and to pick up some bananas and Gatorade for the room.  While I was shopping, my cellphone rang and coincidentally it was Steve, my motel roommate, calling from the same store, asking if I wanted him to pick up something for me.  We connected at the store, chatted a bit, and then headed back to the motel, me on foot, him on his motorcycle.

I took Steve back to Freddy's for dinner, since it was close and different.  Then it was time for me to see if the new pillow would make a difference in getting a good night's sleep.


Up again early and I'm pleased to report that the new pillow definitely did the trick!  We walked to McDonald's again for breakfast where I ran into Fletcher and Don, both friends from the MTF.  We got to talking and they told me they were heading west in a truck to check out some stealth bombers that are apparently stationed at the Air Force base nearby.  Well, that sounded interesting to me!  So off we went, heading west on US 50 about 20 miles.  A friend I'd met at the BMW rally in Johnson City - Melissa, or Mel - is in training for a half ironman and was riding her bicycle to meet us at the base.  The timing was perfect, as we all arrived at the exact same time.  Fletcher went into the visitor center, but came back out with bad news.  Contrary to what he'd been told earlier, there were no civilian tours, no permission to get on base to look at them.  So we piled back into the truck, Melissa mounted her bicycle, and we all headed back to the rally grounds. 

My shift with First Aid started at 1:00 PM, so the three of us went to a different restaurant on-site and had giant hamburgers for lunch, and then we all went our separate ways, me to the First Aid station.

Our intrepid First Aid crew

I always enjoy working for Pat and Hank in First Aid.  Previous years we've had some busy moments.  This year my shift was quiet.  There were four of us on the shift, and two headed out in one of the carts, and two of us turned the other cart around so that it faced out, and then sat in front of the First Aid station and watched the rally go by as we listened on the handheld radio for calls.  Things were pretty quiet.  When the guys returned after two hours, it was then our turn to rove and look for folks who may need help, may appear to be overcome by the heat, or who looked like they could use a ride to their destination. 

As soon as my shift was over, I strapped on my backpack and walked back to the motel.  Tonight's supper was at a place recommended by Don that morning, called Brick Front Grill.  So Steve and walked over there, not knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a middle-eastern menu, with gyros and kabobs, so I had lamb kabob with rice, naan, and hummus. It was good, and I finished it with some kind of little pastry that looked and tasted like brownie but had an exotic name.


My roommate Steve decided to head for home today so I had the day - and the room - to myself.  But  despite Steve's conscientious efforts to sneak out of the room as quietly as possible at 5:00 AM, we both overlooked the fact that his CPAP machine was plugged into the only convenient outlet, which happened to be located behind the head of my bed's mattress.  Unplugging it stealthily was impossible.  He had to rouse me in order to slide the bed back to get to the outlet.  I did manage to dose off again for another hour, so no harm done. 

I made my usual morning stop at McDonald's on my way to the rally grounds, and headed directly for the RV area to meet up with Don and Fletcher, Mel and Al.  It took a cellphone call as I stood amid the maze of RV's in order to find them, only to realize I was standing right next to their RV.  We sat and chatted and John B. from the MTF arrived, along with Ray W.  So we sat in the a/c and chatted and sipped our coffee, then I stepped next door to say good morning to Mel and Al before we all headed over to the vendors to do some serious shopping. 

Ray was in line to get Ohlin shocks installed, and another MTF member, Bo G. was in line for new tires.  Since John B. and Ray W. had just arrived to the rally this morning, they wanted to shop the vendors and I gladly joined them. John had a particular list of vendors he wanted to be sure to visit, ones that specialize in accessories for the GS model. 

Here's a fully-farkled GS Adventure in the Touratech booth:

Every possible farkle from Touratech has been
installed on this GS Adventure!

We all went over to the BBQ place for lunch, and then I had another shift with Security coming up at 3 PM, so after a bit more vendor shopping and promises to meet up again for the closing ceremonies at 6 PM, we split up. 

My Security cart-mate and I roved the grounds, our only brief excitement being the message that an ambulance was arriving at gate 6a and so we sat on that main road waiting for it and then directing it to the appropriate building where they were needed.  At 5 PM Tom called us back in to headquarters.  He relieved my cart-mate of duty, but kept me on to help shuttle the arriving police officers to their stations at the gates and to do security detail at the vendor buildings.  This would relieve the volunteers from their duties so that they could attend the closing ceremony.   I drove up to gate 6a to await the arrival and then drove one of the officers across the rally grounds to gate 12 to start his shift.

Now relieved of duty myself, a quick call to Ray W. connected me with the group and we sat together through the blessedly efficient and short closing ceremony.  I had a wad of doorprize tickets in my pocket, tickets from my friends who had left the rally early.  Unfortunately for all of us, none of us were winners.

Giant frosted cookie

A rally attendee enjoying a piece
of that giant cookie
This year celebrated the 40th anniversary of the MOA and they had giant cookies set out, along with bottled water, throughout the arena where the closing ceremony was held.  Many of them went untouched so folks were bringing them over to the beer tent and one of them landed in front of me and John B., who had walked over to the beer tent with me after the closing ceremonies were over.  He and I sat there enjoying a beer and the great retro music show put on by Shaboom!  They sang a beautiful a capella harmonized version of the National Anthem at the closing ceremony and now were putting on a great show on stage next to the beer tent. 

View of the band Shaboom! from the beer tent

As the sun got low in the sky, I said goodbye to John and headed toward the gate to go back to the motel.  As I walked along, I heard a familiar voice and then saw a familiar figure.  It was one of the group of attendees that I see every year at the rally.  They are from Louisville and southern Indiana and we always try to meet up each year.  I ran into two of them earlier in the week at the motel, but this was my first opportunity to catch up with the rest of them.  They called me over, clearly excited, and I learned that one of them, Kent, had won the motorcycle tour to Croatia!!  He was so excited he was speechless.  The rest of the group were more than making up for this speechlessness by babbling and hooting and hollering like crazy!!  It's a fabulous doorprize and one that I would definitely have loved to win for myself.  I was so happy for Kent!  This good news came soon after I learned that another friend, one from the MTF, had won one of the Superstakes bikes!  Just awesome!  I don't think I can ever remember a time when someone I knew had won a major prize at one of the MOA rallies.

My walk back to the motel was very pleasant.  The sun had gotten very low, a nice breeze had picked up, and the air felt cooler.  Now it was my turn to get my things packed and staged for tomorrow's early departure. 

I had a nice dinner at Applebee's and then headed to my room for the night.

Tomorrow:  Taking two days to get home

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