Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ride to the BMW MOA Rally in Johnson City, TN

My friend and riding buddy, Sandra, and I embarked on our third annual trek to the BMW MOA Rally. This year the rally was in Johnson City, TN. Here is a travel journal of our trip.

July 13, 2009
402 miles in IL, IN, KY
I left my place in Chicago at 10:00 AM and headed over to Sandra’s to put air in my tires and to pick her up. We left there around 10:45. Took the Skyway to 65 South in Indiana, then off to Kokomo, IN to have lunch with Tom Lowdermilk, the host of Side Stand Up. Tom treated us to pork tenderloin sandwiches and cheese burgers at the local pub. (Thanks, Tom!). Here is a picture of Tom and me after the feast.

Tom gave us a great route towards the KY dams and around Lexington. We hit the best route (229 South) at night. It would have been so fun in the daytime. We probably started looking for camping too late and there was no where to stay on the last stretch, so we rode until midnight until we found an Econo Lodge in Georgetown, KY. For $50/night, it was actually a pretty decent room. Other than a moth in Sandra’s bed, it was clean. Finally to bed at 1:00 AM.

July 14, 2009
312 Miles in KY,VA, TN

The next morning we planned our route – mainly 460 – 11 to 66 to 25 East to 58/421 to 181 South to 23/26 to Gray, TN for the BMW MOA Rally. Great riding especially on 11 and 66 in Kentucky. We arrived at the rally around 6:30 PM, found one Chicago Region BMW MOA member, - Skip and chatted with him a while. We then found Hank and Cindy, also CR BMW members, who led us to the Chicago Region tent and camping area (shown here).
We set up camp and finished that just in time to call in to my segment on Side Stand Up. Tom and I interviewed Sandra on her experiences with track days. I think she inspired a few listeners to try it! We finished that up just in time to join Hand and Cindy for dinner at Alta Cucina in Johnson City, TN. Great meal! Fresh food. Highly recommend it. When we got back it was late and to bed by midnight.

139 Miles in TN and VA

Got up at 6:30 AM to shower and eat. With a little caffeine I made it over to help Bob Henig and his crew set up the vendor booth for Bob's BMW. Sandra offered to help me get the VaVaVroom – wear set up and that made it go a lot faster. Bob was nice enough to bring in lunch. I think the VaVaVroom display looked pretty damn good. Check out a picture here.

After we finished there, we stopped at a gas station and saw Vince Winkel, the editor of BMW Owners News. Here is a silly picture of Vince and me.

We then took of on a short ride. Little did we know how much fun we would have. From Gray we took 23/26 NW to 81 North to Route 19 to 80 East through Hayter’s Gap (pronounced Highters). It was beautiful with lush green trees and fields, winding roads and then it got real interesting. Amazing switchbacks and sharp curves. It was so intense, I loved it. It was like a mini Tail of the Dragon. We barely saw any cars and no other motorcycles. We stopped at the Hayter’s Gap library to the washroom. Karen Poston, the librarian (and a talented musician and singer, was super nice (picture here). She asked us to sign the guest book, gave us a bookmark and recommended a restaurant for dinner. We found her restaurant – Harvest Table in Meadowsview, owned by Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp, who has written many books on good eating. The food is all organic and really it was an amazing meal. Sandra and I shared the Black Bean and 3 cheese Quesadilla and Shrimp Sausage Jambalaya – yum. Attached to the restaurant is the Meadowview Farmer’s Guild – a quaint general store with locally made candies, honey, scarves, quilted bags and more. Really a great place.
It began to sprinkle as we were leaving so we got moving and jumped on 81 to 23/26 back to Gray. The ride wasn’t bad at all. We were happy to share our route with our friends at the camping area. Many new people arrived and it is becoming quite the gathering. See here how it looked with all of the tents. And this is before it got crowded!

July 16, 2009
2 miles in TN

Ah, the joys of camping. Difficult to fall asleep last night, even with earplugs and Tylenol PM. When it started raining though I found it easier – drowning out the people talking (or maybe the raining drove them inside) and someone snoring nearby. Up at 6:00 AM to shower and get ready for a busy day. Long lines by 7:00 for the men’s showers – ha but not for the women – for once we don’t have to wait.
Working at Bob’s BMW was fun this morning and we sold a lot. I gave a seminar on Women’s Motorcycle Apparel at 1:00 PM, similar to the one I gave last year. The room was full and we had great participation. You can find an article with the content of the presentation here.

On the way out of the seminar, I ran into Paul Loconti – who I met last year at our hotel in Gillette. See the Gillette, Wyoming blog for more about Paul. I visited my friends at LD Comfort in the afternoon and then went to say hi to Nate Kern, my motorcycle racer friend, at the BMW demo booth. Here is a picture of Nate introducing the new S1000RR.

Sandra and I were invited to the BMW On Magazine contributors dinner. Good food, nice people. They gave us a case of beer as a parting gift so we took it over to the CR- BMW MOA tent for the climb. After a short stay in the beer tent, we called it a night. It’s been hot – hearing it will cool off tomorrow.

July 17, 2009
0 miles in TN
Cold shower at 7:30 AM – but at least I didn’t have to wait in line. Coffee and donuts in the CR BMW tent and then off to a busy morning at Bob’s BMW booth. I was excited to find the Belice BMW riding jacket and pants significantly reduced at Blue Moon Cycle’s booth. $350 for both - what a deal! I will have to get the jacket altered but it still worth it. I'm sure I saved at least 40%. Sandra, Jonny and I tried to see Nate Kern’s presentation on his successful racing career, but there was standing room only by the time we got there. No room except for in the hallways. I went back to Bob’s booth and it was still busy. (Yay!)
Afterwards, I found Nate Kern and took him, Tallie Shelton (Director of Sales for the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau) and Jim Doyle (Nate's pit manager) to the CR BMW BBQ. Many of the club members have heard about Nate so it was nice to introduce him. On the way to get funnelcake. I received a call from Dee Jones. another friend we met last year at Gillette. He had decided to come to the rally. It was really great catching up with him and hearing his crazy stories. Then Jim Doyle came along again and then Nate and Tallie in a side car. The rest of the night was spent in the CR BMW tent talking about riding and ghost stories! Jonny's story was the best.

July 18, 2009
80 miles in TN, NC
“Slept in” until 7:00 AM. Cold shower and breakfast. Worked at Bob’s BMW booth for an hour. Then I ducked out to take a short ride with a group from CR BMW. From Gray, TN, we rode 25 East to 107 South at the TN/NC border 109 turns into 395. The group continued on 226 North I turned back right before that to get back to work Bob’s booth. After shutting down the booth, we went over to see the presentation of the awards and raffle prizes – great prizes by the way! Bob bought The Bob’s – BMW Road Crew dinner (Thanks, Bob!) and we relaxed outside Fred’s airstream trailers. The picture here is the entire crew - Henry, Fred, Mike, Denise, Sam and Bob. When they headed back to their hotel, Sandra and I made our way back to the tents. What a nice surprise to see a great fireworks show. It lasted a long time. Then with our new friend, Scott from Neenah, WI, we made our last trek to the beer tent. Not much sleep again – getting to bed at midnight plan to get up at 6:00 AM to pack up and leave.

July 19, 2009
339 Miles in TN, KY, IN

Up at 6:00 Am but slow going – wet tents and disorganization delayed departure. Here is a picture of the Chicago gang (plus Scott from Wisconsin). With the help of Dan Trampel; Jonny, Sandra and I decided on a route – which was 23 North through Kingsport, TN. I was leading and missed a turn. Luckily, I figured it out, in time and we didn’t have to back track too much. With the help of Jonny’s GPS, we found the road we were looking for – Rte 15 through Kentucky. It was a nice pretty route. Jonny needed to get home tonight, so he left us to take Rte 75 from 64 W North while Sandra and I proceeded along 64 West – stopped at a rest area and saw fellow club member, Sue Daniels, and met some other BMW riders. We checked our directions and found a quick way to 421 North. This was the best road fo the day. Beautiful farmland, sweeping curves.
A nice woman at a gas station in New Castle, KY, gave us directions to get around the 421 detour and get to our final destination for the evening Madison, IN. A cute resort town on the Ohio River. Lots of B&B’s and Antique shops. Too tired to camp. We found a Comfort Inn and ordered Domino’s pizza! Hot showers!

July 20, 209
381 Miles in IN, IL

Wonderful to sleep in a bed! And an actual 8 hours too. Up at 6:30 AM, packing and complimentary breakfast at the Comfort Inn. On the road around 8:45. How did that take us so long? Well I guess we spent some time planning our route. Which was 56 West to Salem, 135 North to Morgantown. Once again many thanks to Dan Trampel for the suggested toute. 135 was a great road – who knew Indiana has such great roads? Lot of curvy roads, through open fields and wooded areas. The ride was really amazing for all but one part, I think I ran over a turtle and hit a bird. I saw the turtle and either I got target fixation (or turtle fixation) or he jumped out in front of me, I think we all know what happened. Sandra says she saw a bird hit my bike but I didn’t see it and I couldn’t find a splat. Well hopefully they are both ok. I felt SUPER bad (and not like the movie). Maybe I just scared the turtle and nicked him a bit. Moving on to better thoughts. Food. We had lunched at Kathy’s CafĂ© in Morgantown. Great fresh food. The hot ham and cheese sandwich had ham shaved from the bone, fresh backed chewy pie and coffee is only a dime if you buy food. Our waitress was a delight.

From there we took 252 West to 44 West briefly to 39 North through Clayton and Danville, IN. 236 West through Roachdale 231 North, 234 West. More great roads. Lots of cornfields, open fields in little valleys, more curvy roads, and wooded areas. After we rode through Georgetown and Cayaga, IN we're not 100% sure which roads we took to get over to Rte. 49 in Illinois. We thought we could figure out how to ride by some state parks on county roads (that weren’t marked on the map). Well we did with the help from a nice man from Illiana Seed. We did find a couple gravel roads down the way but over all it was nice to fly along the country roads. We picked up 39 North somewhere west of Catlin and flew by the cornfields and farmhouses until we reached Kankakee. Stopping for gas and McDonald's for dinner. Sandra walked into the men’s room and couldn’t figure out why there urinals in there. She walked out and checked the door, looked up to see the manager watching her come out. No – she didn’t get kicked out. He laughed and said he was watching to make no one else went in. After our healthy dinner of cheeseburgers and fries we took 57 North to 94 East to the city. Home by 8:00 PM.

Really a great trip, amazing riding, got to know some club members better, connected with old friends, good for business. And confirmed that those who wander are not always lost (but sometimes they are).