” Remember, keep your head up, your eyes forward and don’t worry about the orange cones; your bike will follow your eyes. These motorcycles were made to drop, so don’t hold back. If you drop it, step and roll off so you don’t end up under the bike.” That was advice from Michael, one of the instructors from BMW’s Rider Academy.

BMW Riding Academy instructors demonstrating the technique for negotiating a rut.

I was feeling sure of myself as I entered the orange cones for the “slow, tight turns” course. My standing posture was good, I had two fingers on the clutch and two on the brake lever and feathered the throttle and clutch with finesse. Eyes forward, around the first cone I went, then the second, then I looked down at the third and FLOP, down went my 550-pound motorcycle. I rolled free of it on the soft turf, picked myself up, picked up my bike, and continued with the exercise. I am invariably humbled when I get a bit cocky. That is a good thing; it keeps me focused and out of bigger troubles.

Some of my buddies at the BMW National Rally near Nashville TN. Gary, Keith, Jim, Don, and Richard.

My Gray Grizzly buddies and I attended the National BMW Motorcycle Rally near Nashville TN on our first leg toward Alaska. The BMW Rider Academy offered half-day courses for both off-road and street riding; we signed up for both. Experienced motorcyclists recommend participating in a formal riding course once a year to sharpen skills, and they usually practice what they preach. It was fun, I learned a lot, and it humbled me.

It was a record number! 6,018 people attended the BMW National Rally in Lebanon, TN. About two-thirds of the rally attendees ride to the rally so that suggests 4,000 motorcycles, probably more BMW motorcycles in one spot than anywhere in the world.  Why do all these folks come from across North America to this rally?

Rally attendees like to camp—just one small section of several thousand tents.
Over 100 vendors selling anything you could possibly attach to a motorcycle.
BMW Performance Center off-road riding demonstration.
Getting ready for a kiss while on one wheel.
Paul Thorn, Elizabeth Cook, and the Mingo Fishtrap band were favorite entertainers.

There is a beer tent, of course, and nightly entertainment by talented musicians, but most come to learn about new motorcycling adventures and to become better and safer riders. A sampling of over 100 different seminars and presentations included: Motorcycle Maintenance for Beginners: Noise Reduction Hearing Protection; The Tour de France by Motorcycle; Riding in Peru—Machu Picchu Express; Tips for Rider Visibility; Riding the World; Basic GPS; Riding Canada’s Far North; Tips for Purchasing a Used Bike; Women Who Ride; and Alaska and Beyond. “What is beyond Alaska? I wondered. It was a good presentation, but the guy never got to the “beyond.” I suppose Alaska will be far enough.

We bid our friends goodbye and rode west and north for the Canadian border. Anxious to get into Canada, we averaged 500 miles per day for the first three days while camping in interesting places. We located our passports and readied for an early morning cross into Canada.

A three-day ride from the BMW rally site to the Canadian border at Portal, ND.

For other motorcycling travel stories go HERE.