With winds blowing at 50 mph, I resigned myself to simply keep my tent from blowing away rather than trying to keep it upright! Only several hours before, Jeff and I had rolled through the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolis to the State Fair Grounds where the 2014 National BMW Rally was held. It was hot and sunny when we pulled in, but “The Weather Channel” radar on my iPhone showed the leading edge of a cold front a few hours away; I chose to ignore it. We set up our tents and I began exploring the rally grounds to be sure I knew where the beer hall was located, among other important initial tasks.
The theme for this year’s rally was “Rollin’ by the River”. Previous themes were “Howling at the Moon” and “Bigfoot and Blue Skies”, just to give you a sense of the creativity of the organizers. The rally themes may paint the event as frivolous to the uninformed, and motorcycle rallies do have a bit of a reputation, not all good. But BMW rallies are a bit different from the average. Of course, there is the beer tent and this year some great live bands including Crankshaft and the Geargrinders and The Mustang Sally Band, but this rally is not too rowdy given that the average age of participants is around 55 and we are all “ladies and gentlemen”.
Some items on the daily Activity/Event schedule provide a sense of what goes on: Participate in Morning Yoga Asana; Rider Perception Workshop; The Art of Mountain Riding; What’s New with Helmet Safety; Get Out of Your Head: Mental Skills; Techniques for High Speed Cornering; A Trip for Two: How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy; Women Who Ride; Pick up Your Own Bike; Basic Motorcycle Maintenance; Alaska and Beyond; Seasoned Rider Workshop; Join the 5K Run—this is a sampling of the events, demonstrations and seminars held during this three-day event—hardly a wet T-shirt genre.
Much fun is had simply walking the grounds admiring and critiquing the artistic and mechanical creativity applied to these moto machines. Although there are thousands of BMW motorcycles at the rally, no two are exactly alike. That can be attributed to the individuality of the motorcycle owner, but also to the availability of a bazillion items of hardware that can bolted, strapped, welded, glued or otherwise attached to one’s bike. And it is all peddled by hundreds of venders eager to take your money for all these “necessary” accessories.
Remember the leading edge of that cold front I told you about? I returned from my first walk around just in time to catch Jeff’s tent as it tumbled across the sidewalk toward the street. Just as I finished staking his tent to the ground, the wind yanked my tent stakes out of the ground collapsing my tent. Being a long-time Scoutmaster tent blow-down is a bit humbling and I am glad it never happened in the presence of my Scouts. As it turned out, it was only strong winds without rain. Repositioning our tents and thoroughly staking them down prevented them from blowing down the following night when an equal wind was accompanied by rain.
After a fun filled three days attending workshops, hanging out, lusting after other people’s bikes, and spending an amount of money on “accessories” for my motorcycle that I would rather not disclose, I bade farewell to Jeff who also left the rally early to visit relatives in Chicago.
My early departure caught me up with son John and grandson James at the home of John’s good buddy Matt Meyer and his family. John and James flew into Minneapolis that morning and rented a truck at the airport. Matt was kind enough to let me park Boxxer in his garage for the next week while my boys and I headed to Canada—so many fish to catch and so little time!