(Originally published in BMW Owners News Magazine – November 2015)
Well, it’s that time of year again…the leaves are falling, footballs are flying, the temperatures are getting brisk and it’s almost time to put our two-wheeled steeds in the stable for the winter. It’s a bit sad knowing that riding season is coming to an impasse, but for those who spend the winter like me, it’s also a time of reflection and a time to scheme and dream about the adventures to come.
While reminiscing during the past few weeks about some of my favorite two-wheeled journeys, I’ve noticed that three subjects keep coming to the surface: the roads which take us on high adventures as well as some of the unique things that happen while cruising down them; the rallies…oh, the rallies; and the rainbows, along with the sunsets, flora and fauna that continually fill my soul with warm fuzzys as I’m cruising along. Just as the foundation of a basic skills-oriented education program has its “Rs,” I’ve discovered that I, too, have my three “Rs” which serve as the foundation of my life on two wheels.
I have to say that this year’s motorcycle travels were absolutely epic for me. I’ve never before gone the distances I ended up riding and have never been on so many awesome stretches of road than I did this year. As a fairly new motorcyclist, I was very fortunate to ride the “Moonshiner 28,” the “Tail of the Dragon,” the “Burr Trail,” “Beartooth Highway,” and the “Million Dollar Highway,” all in four months time. When I think through each one of those legendary roads, I remember how deeply terrified I was at the “start line” of every one of them, but how I finished them all with new-found courage and progressive determination to continue my quest of living a life free of the chains of fear. It’s funny looking back and remembering how I was completely petrified prior to riding the “Dragon,” but after conquering the Million Dollar Highway during a wicked storm two months later, that ol’ Dragon’s tail looks pretty tucked to me.
This year, I’ve traveled down smooth straight roads, windy gravel roads, severely steep switchback roads with no guardrails, rough mountain roads with hair-pin turns, bumper-to-bumper city roads and everything in between. I’ve dodged autos, pedestrians, bicyclists, tire gators, potholes, tumbleweeds, and a bizarre littering of countless hula skirts on the road (no joke)…but sadly wasn’t able to dodge the squirrel with the giant nut in his mouth who ran straight under my rear tire in West Virginia”. Rest in peace, dear Rocky.
I managed to log well over 12,000 miles of riding and have probably passed at least that many fellow motorcyclists on the road. On that note, I must say that I am highly intrigued by the variances of “greetings” sent out from fellow riders in passing. I’ve witnessed the casual nod, the serious two fingers pointing towards the ground, the “V” sign up (or peace sign), the casual wave, the “speak to the hand” sign, the pointed index finger sternly directed down towards the road, the complete ignore, the pillion popping out to wave while the driver sticks to the business of watching the road, the infamous “bird” (he probably was just having a really bad day), and I’ve even seen one biker point straight up to the sky. It’s very curious to me how one chooses their particular “sign” or greeting for the road. Me? I’m all about the “peace” sign, unless it’s a fellow BMW motorcyclist passing…then I wave like we’ve been friends for years. So when you see the big yellow suit waving like a crazy person at you, it’s probably me.
Admittedly, the BMW rallies are one of my favorite parts of the journeys. In fact, every long-distance ride I’ve taken this year has had a rally as part of the itinerary. I was recently asked what it was about the rally dynamic that is so intriguing. Great question. For me, it’s the reunion of friends, first and foremost. Over the past nine years, first as pillion and now riding my own motorcycle, I’ve had the pleasure of making so many friends at the rallies I’ve attended. Our common ground is BMW motorcycles, but it always stretches way beyond that. I see it as good people coming together to share our common passion while respecting and celebrating each others’ individuality. Call me “Pollyanna,” but that’s where my perception leads me. I’ve never met a stranger at a rally thus far.
It’s also been such a blessing to build close relationships with a core group of some really wonderful people, who also happen to have a history with BMW motorcycles. We gather together and spend our time catching up on each other’s news, exploring rally grounds and surrounding areas, and laughing…laughing a whole lot as we celebrate life together. A few years ago, we decided to give our small group a name and have since become an official BMW MOA chartered club. You may have noticed the “BMW Half-Moose Whiskapalians” during closing ceremonies with colorful matching t-shirts, silly mustaches, and bellowing out our special “half-moose” call. It’s camaraderie at its finest, but really it’s a family. And I see that kind of fellowship taking place with so many others at every rally I’ve been to. The highly social nature of the rallies is the number one attribute, in my humble opinion.
I also enjoy every rally venue I’ve attended and the distinct “flavor” of each, usually apparent in the daily entertainment and food and beverage offerings. One of my favorite rallies, in that respect, was the live “Glockenspiel” and the roving German Polka bands that entertained us several times a day at the 2007 BMW MOA International Rally in West Bend, Wisconsin. Let’s be honest, the beer gardens and music each evening at most rallies are usually a whole lot of fun. And the large vendor selections, especially at the International BMW MOA rallies each year, are awesome. For the Fashionista, it’s nice to have riding gear vendors available and in person so I can try on items and know for sure if something will fit properly before making a purchase. It’s also a plus to have access to tire services and motorcycle parts while on rally grounds…they’ve come in handy for us many times over the years.
My least favorite thing about the rallies – the 5:00 am tent city chatty chucklers. I’ve come to accept that I’m just not a morning person, and it takes a minimum of two cups of coffee before I can speak in complete sentences. But our fellow campers who burst out of their tents at ungodly hours of the morning, ready to excitedly and LOUDLY recite their dissertations of the previous day’s ride, must understand that it’s just not cool. And I don’t stand alone in saying that whatever it is you are blurting out at the butt-crack of dawn is really not interesting or funny that time of the day. Maybe hold that thought and raucous laughter for a lovely breakfast conversation after 7:00 am. A polite request…if you must interrupt the Fashionista’s beauty sleep, please leave a cup of coffee with honey and milk at my tent door.
The third “R” in my foundation of riding a motorcycle is the one that brings me the most peace – the scenery…the rainbows and sunsets, the flowers and butterflies, the mountains and cornfields. While finishing my IBA BunBurner 1500 this past July, the song playing as I glided into the finish line was Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful.” Wow. To me, the words described the essence of what I had just experienced…”O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!” The moment was euphoric.
I know I share the sentiment with so many fellow motorcyclists in saying that riding is a wonderful form of mental therapy. And for me, that therapy comes from combining the riding with the amazing scenery that surrounds me and whisks by my helmet, mile after mile after mile. It puts a smile on my face and an indescribable peace in my heart. During stops, I often find myself snapping pictures of brilliant flowers and gorgeous panoramic landscapes. I’m drawn to the beauty of nature, and experiencing it from the seat of a motorcycle is simply heavenly.
Although it’s so difficult to choose my favorite scenery from this riding season’s bevy of photos, my top few are: the sunny, brilliant blue sky day at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming; the breathtaking, vivid sunset in Salida, Colorado; the vast wild sunflower fields in New Mexico just before I almost ran out of gas; and the Finger Lakes region of New York where the vineyards roll over the hills as far as you can see. But there is one single vision of scenery that stands above all the rest. Riding towards home one particular day, I was struggling more than ever, physically and emotionally. The exhaustion of riding five days in a row was catching up, and I was also dealing with a storm of negativity coming at me from a supposed close friend. I felt beaten down and drained, sad and almost defeated. Light rains had come and gone a few times while riding the final stretch that day, almost like the sky was trying to gently wash my troubles away. And then it happened. The sun came out and cut a hole through the dark sky, and as I drew my weary eyes toward the light, I saw the most brilliant, defined rainbow I’ve ever seen. It stood directly in my path, and I spent the next few minutes traveling right into the glorious prism of colors. An instant peace of mind flooded my soul, and I suddenly felt strong again. That perfect rainbow gave me back my ride that day.
As the days get shorter, the temperatures dip, and the excitement of this past season’s two-wheeled adventures wane, I will focus on my fundamental three “Rs.” You can best believe I will spend the winter months scheming, dreaming and planning next year’s long-distance motorcycling itinerary full of more adventurous roads, exciting rallies with good friends and soul-inspiring scenery. For me, the “Rs” have it! 💋