VERMONT ISN'T FLAT: The 2006 BMWMOA International Rally in
Essex Junction, Vermont
This was a good trip, but also the oddest trip we've had since our
riding group began going to the international rallies in 2001. For
some reason few of our travel plans worked out, and the group
became physically separated. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The BMW Motorcycle Owners Association announced that the
annual international rally would be held July 20-23rd in Essex
Junction, Vermont. We Mississippians began planning the
northeastern assault in early April, with a barbeque and a planning
session at Doug [King of the GPS] Meloche's home. As a result of
discussions there, Doug produced an interesting route on state
highways and a detailed list of places to see enroute, heavy on civil
war battlefields. He sent us each a copy complete with the URLs of
every monument, park, or memorial we'd visit so we could ride the
route vicariously in the months ahead. We were primed! Doug was
also our point man to coordinate volunteer work at the rally. The
BMW Riders of Mississippi were scheduled to work a shift in the
beer tent on Friday, 21 July from noon to 6 PM. It's a small thing,
but our contribution to making the rally run.
Riders for this adventure are all Saddle Tramps, and all but Dave
Kohlman are members of the BMW Riders of Mississippi:
Duane Carpenter Postal electrician living in Gautier and riding a
2002 R1150RT. Bezirk Mitfahrer. Saddle Tramp: Longrider.
Dave Kohlman Retiring Army electronics specialist. Lives in
Anapolis, MD and rides a 2002 Kawasaki Ninja 600. Saddle Tramp:
David Coles Retired USAF, retired postal gentleman rancher.
Riding a 2004 R1150RT. Saddle Tramp: Pappy.
Will David Your narrator - Retired Air Force, now an academic living
in Ocean Springs. Riding Starship, a 1999 K1200LT. Bezirk
Mitfahrer. Saddle Tramp: Troubadour.
Ian Fergusson Operations Officer for National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration at Stennis Space Center. Riding a 2001
R1150RT. Bezirk Mitfahrer. Saddle Tramp: [unnamed].
Jim Finney Civil Servant with the Navy in Pascagoula, who lives in
Ocean Springs. He's on a 2000 K1200LT, towing a Scooter
Schooner pop-up camper trailer. Saddle Tramp: McGuyver.
Marlyn Finney Fourth grade teacher in Ocean Springs. Her first long
trip and first rally, riding pillion with Jim. Saddle Tramp: And Wife.
Martin Lewis Rubber recycler and commercial real estate guru from
Vicksburg riding a 2003 R1150LT.Bezirk Mitfahrer. Saddle Tramp:
Tom Lindsley Telephone guy with Lucent Industries, living in
Diamondhead. Riding a K1200RS. Saddle Tramp: Go Go Gadget
Doug Meloche A retired Marine from Gulfport who works with the US
Dept of Agriculture, riding a 2004 BMW R1150RT towing a color-
matched Uni-Go one wheel trailer. Bezirk Mitfahrer. Saddle Tramp:
In the beginning:
DAY ONE, Saturday, July 15th.
We launched in two groups. Martin, David, and Ian were to meet
somewhere around Jackson MS and travel together to meet the
others at Chris' Hot Dogs in Montgomery for lunch. The first bobble
came when Ian had to stay behind for some emergency, so he said
he'd catch us on the road. After all, he had the route and schedule.
The second group left from Ocean Springs. This included Duane,
David, Will, Jim, Marlyn, Tom & Doug. The southern group rode
interstate 10 to Mobile, then turned northward on I-65 to
Montgomery. The northern group was to take I-20 to Meridian, then
US80 to Montgomery. After lunching in Montgomery, we'd all head
east through Atlanta to Jimmy Carter's birthplace in Plains, Georgia,
where we'd spend the first night. Didn't happen. When they got to
Meridian, David & Martin didn't want to take the 2-lane US80 across
to Montgomery. Instead, they planned to continue on I-20 and go to
Barber's Motosport Museum near Birmingham. We could continue
north on I-65 and meet them in Birmingham. Good bye Jimmy
Carter! Now we're all headed north instead of east. So the southern
seven rode to Montgomery and had lunch at Chris' Hot Dogs on
Madison Ave, just down from the capitol building. Afterwards, we
rode past the first White House of the Confederacy, then over to a
cemetery where we visited Hank Williams' grave. I took them by
Robert E. Lee High school to show them the statue. Instead of the
general facing straight out from the building, he was turned to the
right. Y'see, ALL statues of Robert E. Lee face the north. Marse
Robert is keeping an eye on them yankees... Afterwards we headed
north on I-65 to Birmingham. It was about 95 degrees, but we were
washed by three rain storms that provided welcomed cooling. Once,
when I led us off to a fuel stop, we lost Duane, who motored on by.
He stopped at the next interchange. It was a good thing we all were
off the road because a furious lightning storm erupted that lasted
about 20 minutes. Refueled and under bright skies again, we
continued north. Meanwhile, David & Martin stopped for lunch at
Martin's first Hooters diner then wandered the Barber museum and
drooled over all the magnificent machines. The group came together
again in Birmingham AL at the intersection of I-20 and I-59. We took
I-59 northeast, aiming for Chattanooga, TN. Along the way we were
drenched by three more rainstorms, but it was so hot that we were
completely dry by the time the next one hit! We cut through the
northwest corner of Georgia, then caught I-75 and ended our riding
day at the Douglas Inn in Cleveland, Tennessee. Our first day
consisted of 10 ½ hours travel time and covered 480 miles.
DAY TWO, Sunday, July 16th. Cleveland, TN to Christianburg, VA.
Up and out, we rode east on TN 68 to Telico Plains, Tennessee
then continued on TN 165 until it became NC 143 the start of the
Cherohala Skyway. What a fun, scenic and delightfully twisty road.
Then we stopped at a stop sign and my K12 was smoking. A quick
roadside check showed that the oil had been overfilled. David
surmised that oil pressure from the overfilling had led to a blown
valve cover gasket. It was still overfull, so I'll check it occasionally
and add oil as needed before it gets taken back to Hebert Cycles in
Baton Rouge. I am very upset because I just spent over $2,400 on a
full maintenance service, head gasket replacement, and crown gear
replacement at Hebert Cycles in preparation for this journey and
now I have a left leg soaked in oil.
The Skyway ended at Robbinsville, TN, where we turned northwest
on the fabled US129. What a delightful motorcycle road! We rode
twisties with Santeetlah Lake to our left, then came to the
intersection of TN28 and US129 - The Tail of the Dragon. We ran
the 318 curves in 11 miles from south to north, happily grinding
away large areas on my floorboards and Jim's center stand. Marlyn
swore that she kept her eyes open all the way through Deal's Gap!
Nobody heard her scream. I noticed that my feet were getting hot as
we screamed through the twisties and figured that I was feeling heat
from the floorboards scraping on the asphalt. It wasn't until we
stopped that I noticed significant portions of the outside edges of my
shoe soles had been ground away. Seems I sit with toes pointed
outward... Stopping at the gift shop in the center of the run we saw
the infamous Tree of Shame with the shattered motorcycle parts
nailed to it and met Rick Pepin. Rick makes his living riding a trick
Gold Wing on the dragon which is crammed with video gear. For a
mere $60 he will follow you through the gap and record your ride.
Afraid he can't keep up? Those online should look up the "Yellow
Wolf and Fuse ride the Dragon" video. Rick, atop his screaming
yellow Wing IS Yellow Wolf. His riding skills on that section of
highway are legendary.
Continuing northward, we turned northeast onto the Foothills
Parkway. Now that was a nice ride! Less frantic than the Dragon,
but filled with delightful views and clean fast sweepers. We cut East
on US321 and stopped at the Carriage House restaurant in
Townsend, TN for a nice lunch. On the way out I picked up a
business card and saw that they listed themselves as "Townsend's
Oldest Continually Operated Restaurant Nestled on the Peaceful
Side of the Smokies" "Peaceful side?", I asked. "Wait until you see
Pigeon Hole." the sweet little old lady replied. Then it was due east
on TN73, the Little River Road (another delight) that took us to
Gattlinburg. The traffic in Gattlinburg was horrid. Oppressive heat,
snail's pace, and the pedestrians swarmed like ants in a disturbed
mound. We headed south into the Smokey Mountain National Park,
following the Little Pigeon River on US441. Traffic was so
congested that we pulled off before getting to Newfoundland gap
and turned back north. Back through Gattlinburg! If Gattlinburg was
traffic purgatory, Pigeon Forge was traffic Hell. Creeping traffic with
spontaneous lane changers. Apparently, our motorcycles were
invisible, as we skimmed from one close call to another. We
struggled north on US441 until we hit I-40/81. One brief stop and we
were up and running again. Until we lost Duane ... then lost
David ... It seems the two had liberally dosed themselves with
"waterproof" suntan lotion to avoid burns. Unfortunately, in the
sweltering heat, the lotion began to pool up and run into their eyes.
Duane was blinded first, and quickly pulled over with his last bit of
eyesight. David suffered the same fate. Happily both were able to
use the water they carried to soak handkerchiefs and clean their
faces. Vision returned within 10 minutes. We were all extremely
grateful for that!
Interstate speeds provided winds to combat the oppressive heat, so
we stayed running until almost dusk. The group finally went to
ground at a Super 8 Motel in Christianburg, VA.
DAY THREE, Monday, July 17th. Christianburg, VA to
With the group together we discussed our revised travel plans. Jim
"Santa" Claus [beer tent organizer] told Doug that our group would
be allowed on the grounds on Wednesday the 19th - a day early - to
set up camp, since we were volunteers. We decided that the chance
to select a campsite and pass through registration ahead of the
hordes was too good an opportunity to miss, so we'd plan a fast run
with fewer stops to shave a day off the schedule. Of course, the
schedule was in shambles anyhow. We'd skipped not only the
Jimmy Carter national historic site in Plains, GA, but also Stone
Mountain GA, and the Chickamauga battlefield. But, by bypassing
Georgia we'd gained a full day, as we were scheduled for Deals Gap
and its environs for today, and that was far behind us.
So we were up and running at road speed (80-85) on I-81
Northeast. We dropped into a pattern of riding hard for an hour and
a half, then stopping for fluids. That way everyone stayed hydrated
and fresh. It also allowed regular access to My stash of 650mg
Tylenol arthritis tablets. My, how we have changed ... We pulled into
Gettysburg on their hottest day on record. It was an even 100
degrees without any breeze to speak of. Everyone enjoyed
wandering the battlefield museum and we happily shelled out $4
apiece for the 3PM Electric Map Presentation. This was interesting,
if pretty low-tech. We sat in an (AIR CONDITIONED) auditorium
with tiers of stadium seats surrounding a topographical model of the
area about the size of half a basketball court. As a recorded voice
told the story of the battle, bulbs on the terrain lit to show troop
positions. Pretty interesting! I had wondered before why there was
so much combat to control Little Round Top when Big Round Top
offered higher elevation for artillery. The answer - because the
southern troops had cleared all the trees from Little Round Top,
giving a line of sight for artillery firing.
After the presentation we wandered back out to the bikes where we
met a fellow who claimed to be a local Gold Wing rider who pointed
out great roads to ride. The general consensus was that it was
simply too hot to idle around the battlefield park, so we'd get rolling
and check out the local offerings. We ran southeast down 316 to 16
at Waynesboro, caught 116 northeast at Emmitsburg, 140 SE to 140
at Westminster, 30 north at Registertown, then 94 NW back up to
I-81. We rode I-81 to Palmyra and stopped for a cooling break. We
all generally concluded that the Wingman had no idea what
constituted a good road. That route had been punctuated by slow
speed limits through hamlets, limited views and moderately heavy
traffic. Here is where the second split came. Will, Jim, Marlyn,
David, & Duane wanted to see the chocolate factory at Hershey, PA,
so they spun off five miles southwest down US422. Doug, Tom, &
Martin went north, caught US443 north to Tremont, PA and took
lodging in a Roach Motel there. Doug called it Abu Garib, West!
Meanwhile in chocolate-land, the five adventurers wandered amidst
piles of delicious brown offerings and took a Disney-esque ride
through the factory, seeing how chocolate is made. The came to
light in a very clean Day's Inn in Lebanon, PA, complete with hot tub
and laundry facilities.
DAY FOUR, Tuesday, July 18th. Lebanon/Tremont, PA to
The group reassembled in Pottsville, PA at the intersection of
US209 and PA61. Thank goodness for cel-phones. How did we
ever travel before them? We took 209 northeast through some nice
countryside. We passed through the town of Jim Thorpe, named for
the legendary athlete who won every event in the 1912 Stockholm
Olympics but the javelin throw. Curiously, Jim Thorpe is buried here,
but according to the town's website, there is no record that he ever
visited the area while alive. When he died poor in 1953 his widow
searched for a place that would put up the money to build him a
memorial. Oklahoma didn't want to put up any money to honor their
native son. The towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk
combined, renamed themselves after the athlete, and built a
memorial to him. "The Greatest Athlete Who Ever Lived", and he
was buried there. Unfortunately, the renamed Mauch Chunk never
regained it's title as the Wealthiest Town in America that it had held
in 1800 due to railroad crossings and coal production, and it remains
now the sleepy little town of Jim Thorpe - with a grave and a
When we stopped for lunch at Carmela's restaurant in Montgomery,
NY we got a phone call from Ian. Nobody had his cel phone number
so we were waiting for him to call us. He was at Gettysburg - on
schedule - and wondered where we were. Oops! We explained the
schedule and routing shift and he said he'd catch up to us at the
rally site. I promised to put helium balloons up over our campsite so
Ian could find us.
Anyhow, we passed by the turnoff to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's
home and continued on US 209 all the way to Kingston, where we
got onto US 9 to Albany. In Albany we visited the Orange County
Choppers storefront. It wasn't their televised workshop where
viewers watch Paul Senior, Pauley and Mikey scream at each other
as they build custom choppers. This was a storefront displaying
choppers and selling T-shirts and model replicas of their bikes. Not
our kind of motorcycle, but if viewed as art they have a unique place
in the motorcycling world. I was astounded to find some of the bikes
there. I had watched these bikes being built, then presented to
individuals or organizations. But here they sat: The Livestrong
chopper, made for Lance Armstrong; the POW/MIA chopper, which
had been presented to that organization; the Army Apache chopper;
the NASA Shuttle chopper; the USAF chopper, The Black Widow
chopper and many more. Did the recipients not want them? Did the
recipients offer them to a charity auction and OCC bought them
back? I don't know how they got there, but I know where they are.
Funny, when we pulled the Beemers up out front of the OCC
windows an employee rushed out to shoo us off to other parking.
Everyone but me moved their bikes to the other side of the lot. My
co-riders are such honest and law-abiding folks. So I took many
photos of my K12 in front of the OCC store. Shamed the choppers
with a real road machine.
At Albany, we took US20 to Pittsfield, then got onto US7 north to
Bennington, VT. We'd really get to know US7. It's a delightful riding
road, with good scenery, fast areas, scenic areas, and light to
moderate traffic. A motorcyclist's dream. In Bennington we first
stopped at the Best Western New Englander motel. They didn't have
enough rooms for us all, and what they had was mostly smoking
rooms. I went down the street and found the Knotty Pine Motel, a
Mom & Pop place with conventional rooms and an old house broken
into two "family apartments". By the time I phoned back, Doug, Tom,
and Martin had already booked rooms, but Duane & David, Jim &
Marlyn came up the street. Not bad. Lodging for five with a
kitchenette and dining area for only $100 for the night!
Unfortunately, the "family" shared a single bathroom... We had a
great Mexican dinner at the Rattlesnake Café then settled in for a
DAY FIVE, Wednesday, July 19th. Bennington, VT to The Rally at
Up and out in the morning we hopped back on the delightful US7
and headed north, stopping for breakfast at the South Side Café in
Arlington. The waitress got a blank look when I said, "You ain't got
grits, do ya?" She had no idea what a grit was. We were truly in a
foreign land. After a breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes, we were
up and running on 7 again. I can't say enough good about this road.
We took 7 to Rutland and then turned east toward Woodstock (Not
the site of the concert, which was in Bethel, NY, but the town name
jogged happy memories). We turned on 100 to Pittsfield then 125
through Middlebury and back to US7. North of Middlebury stand the
famous Green Mountains (remember Ethan Allen?) Which are a
motorcyclist's delight. Many challenging curves with elevation
changes thrown in. We made many descents at idle in 3rd gear and
were still moving at a goodly clip through the corners! The theme for
the rally is correct - Vermont Isn't Flat! Old faithful Highway 7 took us
directly into Essex Junction and we found the rally site without
difficulty. Even after our delightful morning ride, we were too early
for the gates to open for workers, so we wandered over to a KFC
across the street and had a leisurely lunch.
Carol Coles wanted to come, but wasn't up to a long motorcycle
ride or sleeping on the ground, so she flew up. David went to meet
her at the airport where they rented a car and went to a local condo.
Killing time we rode to the local Wal-Mart where I bought a
cannister of helium and a packet of balloons to fly over our camp. At
2PM the rally gates opened and we quickly passed through
registration and went out campsite hunting. Happily, we met up with
Mike Pulvermacher at registration. He'd ridden over 2,500 miles
from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to meet and camp with us. What a
guy! Most of the shade was taken, so Marine Doug selected a gently
sloping area for us. It had ample slope for rain runoff yet not so
much as to make sleeping uncomfortable. Doug brought a central
pavilion which we set up around. The rain flies were linked to
provide shade and weather protection. We looked like a Bedouin
village. Then I realized that I'd cleverly left the plugs for my air
mattress at home, so it was off to Wal-mart again. They didn't sell
plugs so I got another mattress and all was well. Jim, Marlyn & I
headed to the local Laundromat to wash clothes. Stripping as much
as possible Jim & Will sat barefoot in shorts until Marlyn went next
door to a dollar store and got them some shirts to cover their mighty
thews. Yeah, thews...
The evening cooled down nicely with a light breeze and the Great
Circle of Wisdom formed in Vermont: Doug, Duane, Jim, Marlyn,
Martin, Mike, Will, & Tom. Since Marlyn was such a trooper on the
trek up - and rode the Dragon with open eyes and no screams - we
decided to induct her into the Saddle Tramps. Naming her wasn't
easy. She rejected Den Mother, but seemed to accept And Wife as
in "McMillan and Wife" but in their case, it's McGuyver And Wife!
Cold beer and warm conversation followed by good sleeping
weather. Life is good.
DAY SIX, Thursday, July 20th. Essex Junction: At The Rally
The camp came alive around 8AM with Jim firing up the coffee pot.
My rear tire served for the trip north but didn't have enough tread to
make it home, and Mike was in the same shape. Everyone decided
to take a ride to see the local BMW shop - Frank's BMW. Much to
our pleasure, we found the Metzler trailer and service lifts in Frank's
parking lot. Much to our dismay they weren't working, but allowing
Frank's mechanics to perform all tire changes at $55 each in the air
conditioned shop. They were running a "special" on Metzlers where
if you buy a rear tire, the front is free. Of course after buying the rear
for $195 and paying an additional $110 for mounting the tires that
comes to $342.55. I asked the price of just one rear tire. Duh - the
front was free, so the rear would be $287.55 mounted & balanced. A
far cry from the $115 for the rear tire I put on in March, but it's a long
walk home... Mike tried to get a Metzler for his Honda ST1300, but
they didn't want to deal with him and gave directions to the Honda
While waiting for the tires to be changed, we walked across the
street to the Powell's Place restaurant. It's totally run by a little old
lady named Pearl Farley and could only seat us and two other folks.
It was a hoot! She took our orders, did all the cooking and cleared
the tables. The walls were covered with cute signs and pithy
sayings. One favorite was a pistol on a plaque by the front door with
a sign saying "I don't call 911"!
Back at the rally Mike, Will, Jim & Marlyn wandered the air
conditioned vendor area. Will and Marlyn both bought boots then the
quartet ate some of the best sausage dogs from a vendor ever
tasted. We went to the Country store to pick up our pin & patch and
to drop off our tickets for prizes. Had to laugh! The pin says that the
rally was being held in Burilngton VT. They not only got the town
name wrong, they misspelled it! Collector's item!!! Duane, Tom,
Doug, & Martin went for a curvy ride, and returned with giant grins
and tales of empty and clean twisty mountain roads.
Later that evening when everyone had returned to camp, we all
rode to Williston, VT and dined at the Ponderosa Steakhouse. The
steaks were poor to mediocre, but we had a cute and funny waitress
and the company was delightful. We wandered back to the campsite
and convened the Great Circle of Wisdom. Ian is still among the lost.
DAY SEVEN, Friday, July 21st. Essex Junction: At The Rally
There was a pedestrian gate not far from us and the VFW beside it
was serving a pancake breakfast. Sounded like a good way to start
the day to us, so off we trundled. It was not a good decision. They
were unprepared for the volume of customers and were
simultaneously running out of everything and trying to serve limp
bacon swimming in grease. They didn't have grits, either. At least
we got a lot of coffee to drink to fire up our engines.
I followed Mike over to the Honda shop to drop off his ST1300 for a
new tire. They won't have it ready until 3pm on Saturday. We rode
back two-up on my bike. Looked like two bears on a tricycle at the
circus ... Back in camp, Jim helped me install a new Hyperlight
module on my K12. Mine had stopped flashing and the Hyperlight
folks had graciously sent me a free replacement. Unfortunately, this
one was wired a bit differently from the original. We made it through
a lot of interesting wiring combinations without anything going POP,
and got it working fine.
A little before noon we all converged on the beer tent for the
BMWROM 12-4 shift. Once there, we found that the beer sales
couldn't begin until 2PM (some silly Vermont law) so we attended a
brief state-mandated orientation session to make us lawful beer
servers in Vermont. Gotta add that to the resume'! Mike became bar
back and began hauling ice for the can coolers. The rest of us
chipped in to refill the canned beer and bottled water troughs. When
the serving began, Jim was taking money, I was pulling draft beers,
Jim & Doug were serving drafts, and Tom, Duane and Martin
manned the canned drink area. We did a fine job! The Saddle
Tramps' Song was sung (sadly, solo) and there was general hooting
and grinning as we distributed inebriants. Our service was
accompanied by Commander Cody of the Lost Planet Airmen. How
can you go wrong when you're in a beer tent where the original artist
is singing such classics as Hot Rod Lincoln, Too Much Fun, and
Truck Drivin' Man? After our shift, Mike and I decided that we would
drink one of each beer sold. An honest effort was made, but we
failed. We fuzzily decided that we liked the blueberry wiesen beer
DAY EIGHT, Saturday, July 22nd. Essex Junction: At The Rally
Then came the rains.
Pulling on various pieces of rain gear, we decided that the VFW
breakfast the day before must have been an aberration. A fluke. An
accident. Surely it couldn't be that horrid two mornings in a row. It
Doug, Martin & Tom decided that there was no good reason to
hang around a rainy and dreary camp, so they suited up and headed
out to ride the mountains. Why? Why not? Mike, Will, Jim & Marlyn
headed for the vendors. The three guys each bought a packet of
four bungee buddies and the Finneys and I all bought riding shirts
from Autumn Riders with a monogrammed design of our bikes on
the breast. I figured I'd have to use a magic marker and draw in
some oil streaks to make mine authentic. We separated while I
attended a seminar on "the older rider". Afterwards, I went to the
Cyber Café to charge up my cel phone and met a man I'd
corresponded with online for years but never met in the flesh. Brian
"Data" Curry AKA "Deers Slayer" was manning the cyber café. He
was very interesting to chat with.
David showed up, having put Carol on a flight back home. He'd
had a good time with her, but missed hanging with the guys. We
immediately went into hang mode. Well, Mike and Jim did. Doug, &
Martin went for another ride, this time crossing into Canada, just to
be able to say they'd left the country.
I'm a member of the Veteran BMW Riders, and had promised to
work a term at the beer tent with them, so I was back at the beer
tent from 4-8 PM. I took a sit-down job this time and sold tickets with
a delightful woman named Bunny from the Wisconsin BMW Riders
club. Tickets cost a dollar each. A canned beer, bottled water, or a
glass of wine cost one ticket. Draft beers cost two tickets. There
were 2,000 tickets on a roll. Bunny and I finished off a half roll we'd
been left, sold a full roll ourselves and then got about halfway into a
third roll by the time our shift ended. I figure we were selling about
1,000 tickets an hour. That's a LOT of beer.
BMW had brought in a lot of people from Germany for the event.
There was one very cheerful man who kept showing up and buying
lots of tickets. Between my fractured German and his strangled
English we concluded that he had many thirsty friends and many
American dollars to get rid of. We smiled and he gave me his
business card. It was in German, of course, so I pocketed it. It
wasn't until much later that I noticed that the other side was printed
in English. It had been Georg Blumoser, BMW motorcycling's Head
of Engineering, Quality, and Service. If I'd only known. We would
have found a way to discuss why you have to remove the plastic
body work, the communications system, and then the wraparound
fuel tank to get to the little door that contains the air filter on a
After the shift in the beer tent the founder of the online Veteran
BMW Riders, Michael Johnston, called a meeting at the club's
banner. We had a meet and greet, photos with the banner, then the
first meeting of the vBMWr was done. A historical event!
After finishing with the vets I found the table our group had claimed
and Mike and I started where we'd left off the night before. We
listened to the band for a while, then I hobbled back to the tent.
David was sharing my tent, but was too lazy (okay, snockered) to
find his air mattress and blow it up. He slept at ground level as the
rains howled and the tent dripped. It was a damp and drippy night.
DAY NINE, Sunday, July 23rd. Essex Junction, VT to Pittsfield, MA
Today came the big split. David and Duane wanted to ride the Blue
Ridge Parkway home. Tom and Martin were heading out with Ian,
who'd finally surfaced. Doug, planned to ride as far as his parents
house with us, stop there for a visit and then catch up on the road.
Mike was riding with us as far as Washington DC, then heading
back towards Saskatoon from DC. Marlyn had reservations to fly
home from DC and Will & Jim were planning to head south at a
leisurely pace after seeing DC. The riding group I was with consisted
of Doug, Mike, Jim, Marlyn, and Will. I'll add in appendices of the
other groups' adventures when I get them.
It was dreary and drippy. Doug had arranged a night for us at a
condo in the Berkshire mountains which wasn't too far away, so we
were deliberately delaying in hopes that the rain would abate and we
didn't have to pack soaked tents. We wandered down to see if
anyone was still serving breakfast, but the vendors were packing out
as fast as they could move. Finally, we decided that the weather had
gotten as good as it was going to, so we loaded up and pulled out,
still hungry, at 11:30.
Back onto our favorite highway - Route 7 - southbound in the damp.
At Middlebury, the third town south, a loud clanging began from my
front wheel. Pulling over, I was astonished to find that the left front
caliper had no bolts holding it onto the front fork. The pads were still
on the brake disc, but when I braked, it would jam up into the fork,
twist and the lower edge would impact on the bolt heads of my ABS
ring. Holy Shit! If just one of those bolt heads had jammed into the
caliper the front wheel would have locked and I'd have gone flying
on an asphalt luge ride! I had no plans to test the armor in my Joe
Rocket mesh suit, even though I was wearing it over the Frogg
Toggs rain gear. We concluded that the mechanic who had removed
the caliper to mount my new tire at Frank's BMW hadn't tightened
the bolts. They then vibrated out on the road, leaving the caliper
floating free. It was just pure luck that they caliper had come loose
while putting through town instead of while braking to set up for a
curve on Hwy 7! After the hand wringing and cussing was done, I
removed one bolt from the right caliper and used it to hold the left
caliper to the fork. I vowed to not use my front brakes until I could
get another couple of bolts. We had lunch at Steve's Park Diner,
near a very nice monument honoring the local soldiers who'd fought
in blue uniforms during the War of Northern Aggression. Oddly, the
monument said Woodbury. Guess town names change.
Just on the southern outskirts of Middlebury on US7 we came
across a hardware store open on a Sunday. The Paris Farmer's
Union had some bolts with the correct thread, so with a little play
with spacers and lock washers the errant brakes were properly
connected to the forks again. The bolts and such cost only $2.65.
Bet the BMW replacements may be a bit higher. I'll see if Frank's
BMW will offer replacements. [NOTE: Frank's was very apologetic.
They sent me four replacement caliper bolts and a rally T-shirt along
with their apologies.]
Up and rolling again, the rains stopped and we had a delightful time
on our old friend US7. That road is one of the best kept secrets in
motorcycledom! In Pittsford, VT we found a true treasure: The New
England Maple Museum. This quaint place has dioramas, models,
movies, audio information points and actual maple syrup cookers, all
of which tell the history and the process of making maple syrup. I
never realized that they have to cook down 40 gallons of maple sap
to make one gallon of maple syrup. We all got treats of some sort,
but Jim bought six quarts of Vermont Maple syrup as gifts for his
family. Happily, the nice lady at the museum shipped the sweet
juices to his home. The maple candy was yummy!
Continuing south on US7 we finally came to the Fairfield Berkshires
at Bentley Brook Resort. This is a really nice condo facility at the
foot of the ski slopes of Jiminy Peak Mountain, just north of
Pittsfield, MA. Marlyn, who has never understood snow skiing, saw
the cleared ski lanes down the mountain and finally understood how
people could snow ski without whacking into trees. She'll stick to
water skis, thank you very much! The condo Doug had gotten for us
had full amenities, to include a washer & dryer! We planned to grill
steaks and was ready to send our resident expert out - butcher Mike
- when we found out that it was late and there were no groceries
open. We'd enjoyed the day so much riding the mountains, none of
us realized that it was 8PM when we got to the condo... A quick
revision of plans sent us all to the Powder Hounds restaurant less
than a mile from the condo for a pretty good meal, then back to the
condo for a dry night's sleep. I never did figure out if a Powder
Hound was a rescue dog or an avid skier who liked fresh powder.
DAY TEN, Monday, July 24th. Hancock, MA to Tom's River, NJ
We rolled out and were on the road by 8AM, enjoying the cooler
weather and nice mountain roads. Many hamlets in the Berkshires
kept velocities low, but made up for it by offering really nice scenery.
We were faced with a routing dilemma. We all wanted to avoid the
traffic snarls of New York, but we had to stay on 2-lane blacktops
mostly. For some reason, New Jersey does not allow motorcycles
on the Garden State Parkway (toll road) north of Eatontown. So we
rode in a sort of western bulge to avoid Newark and NYC traffic.
Hwy 7 took us as far as Danbury, CT, then we slid southwest on I-84
briefly to US 6. US 6 took us to NY 94 at Goshen, which looped the
way we wanted to go.
They were trying to kill us. We concluded that tunnel vision was a
requirement for a NY and NJ driver's license, because cars and
trucks tried to run both Jim/Marlyn and Doug off the road. The one
that came straight through as Doug was making a left turn on a
green arrow almost got him! We stopped for breakfast at Friendly's
restaurant. When Jim tried to get his wallet out of his new waterproof
riding pants, the pocket's zipper was jammed. Will tried to snatch it
open and succeeded in tearing the pants. Doug finally slit the
pocket liner to get the wallet out.
Some pretty good roads followed, though we made several false
starts when the GPS would send us in a direction that seemed
promising, then twisted into the heavy traffic or away from our
destination. We stopped in Stockbridge, MA for lunch. Will was
Humming the tune to Alice's Restaurant, but we couldn't find it.
Sorry Arlo Guthrie. A bit further along we found Beemerville, NJ and
stopped for the obligatory photos. Several other Beemers came by
while we were shooting photos by the fire station. Apparently it's a
local riding destination. Why not?
NY 94 became NJ 611 at Hacketstown We hit the toll road (I-95) at
Trenton that dropped us into US 9. The town of Lakewood, just north
of Tom's River, was a surprise. Every male visible from the road was
wearing a long black coat, white shirt, black pants and a flat black
hat. Long scraggly beards were the fashion. I did see a couple of
teenaged boys on a street corner minus beard or hat (rebels!) But
the biblical look was the norm. My first thought was that this was a
lost Amish community, but it couldn't have been since they were
driving cars and living in modern homes. We later learned that this is
a large and expanding Hasidic Jewish community.
The Meloche home in Tom's River was a comfortable place where
we all immediately felt at home. Big Doug and Dot welcomed us in
and shepherded us to set up our sleeping gear in the basement. We
washed up and came into the kitchen to find a wonderful spread of
cold cuts and bagels. Oh yeah! Then it was time to go to the game.
The Lakewood Blue Claws are an A level baseball farm team for
the Philadelphia Phillies. The team members are former college or
high school players trying to show their stuff to be called up to the
major league. Tonight, they met the Augusta Green Jackets, a farm
team for the San Francisco Giants. It was a magnificent small town
event. There were a plethora of uniforms in the stands - Girl Scouts,
Boy Scouts, Brownies, Campfire Girls and the like, along with
uniformed adult leaders. (Remember, this is a Monday night.) The
brown-uniformed local constable (who really looked a lot like Barney
Fife) was walking the stands and amiably chatting with people, then
standing on the dugout leading cheers. There are 15 sections,
numbered 101 to 115. Big Doug is the Usher for Section 106 on the
first base line. Has done that at every game for quite some time, and
is a fixture in the ballpark society. He knows most of the folks in his
section by name, as season tickets are pretty much the rule. I had
as much fun people-watching as watching the ball game. Sadly, the
Blue Claws did not win, but we all got souvenir T-shirts and I bought
Mike a miniature Blue Claws' bat to symbolize his first experience
with American baseball. Doug's brother Jeff, was gracious about
sharing his basement apartment with Will, Mike and Doug. Jim &
Marlyn got the real bedroom upstairs.
DAY ELEVEN, Tuesday, July 25th. Tom's River, NJ to Reston, VA
Doug was staying behind to visit with family so we got our gear
together and started packing bikes. Dot laid out a breakfast spread
that was magnificent. The most diverse bunch of bagels I'd ever
seen, and sliced pork roll - what I'd have called Canadian bacon, but
that made Mike laugh. It was 3" circles of bacon/ham pig meat fried
to perfection. Yummy! We planned to take the toll road south the
Garden State Expressway, then catch the Cape May Ferry and roll
west around Washington DC to Reston. If DC were a clock face, we
were starting at 1, catching the ferry at 3, then going around
counterclockwise to Reston at 7.
By 11:30 three machines up and running due south on the toll road;
Will leading, Jim & Marilyn with their trailer in the center and Mike
running drag. We'd all gotten coins for the toll booths. It was agreed
that we'd wait until the last one cleared the booths before going
ahead so we wouldn't separate. That worked fine. Traffic wasn't bad
on the tollway and we moved at a pretty good clip. We even
stopped for refreshments and fuel at a consumer area in the center
of the bifurcated highway. Couldn't find ice to cool Jim's drinks
there, so we hopped off for a princely quarter apiece, found ice and
got back on and running. We got to the Cape May Ferry at 1PM.
Just in time to see the ferry pull out... The next one wasn't until 2:30
so we got something to eat and wandered around the ferry terminal.
When it was time to board, they called the motorcycles first, and we
were positioned at the bow of the boat. First on and first off. One
more advantage of two wheels! None of us were seamen and all
were surprised at how much something that big could lurch and
buck on calm water. The trip took about 80 minutes afloat, and we
enjoyed nice breezes when we were outside the air conditioning.
I'd been talking with DJ Dave Coleman on the phone and he
wanted to join us for the tour of Washington DC. That was great. It
would be good to see him since we hadn't gotten together since the
MOA rally in Charleston WV in 2003. He lives near Annapolis, so
would meet us on the road.
The Cape May Ferry dropped us in Lewes, DE, so we took US
9/DE 404 west to Georgetown. 404 made a T intersection into US
50 which we took west. After some cel phone coordination, we met
up with DJ, perched atop a Ninja! He is on terminal leave from the
army, and will retire in August. He and Chen are planning on moving
back to the San Antonio area, where he'll be in the midst of another
bunch of Saddle Tramps. It was good to see him again. Up and
running west, US 50 dropped us into the dreaded Washington
Beltway, US 495. It was a pleasant surprise. The traffic moved at a
constant 65 mph and the people actually understood merging!
Where lanes came together every vehicle would let in one vehicle
and the traffic came together as seamless as a zipper. We only saw
two jackasses - young men in small sports cars - who were hopping
lanes and cutting in and out of traffic. Not bad.
While we were still on the road, Laura Finney , Jim & Marlyn's
daughter, came to the Besbris house. She'd driven down from
upstate to join the DC tour. We were running behind schedule
because of the ferry, so she arrived before us. Rebecca said that
this strange woman knocked on their door and asked "Is this where
Mister Will's daughter lives?" Com'on in, kiddo. Always room for
more strays. My daughter Barb and her significant other - Mike -
were there as well. David Besbris went out for a mass of burgers
while we settled in to their basement. Rebecca conducts home
schooling classes there, so she'd moved all the stools and tables to
one corner to give us space to spread out. A round of mattress
inflating and gear dumping ensued. After introductions all around,
we munched on the "Five Guys" burgers and got into a large game
of Texas Hold-em. Jim was the big poker winner! Sadly, we played
for funzies with chips so he didn't increase his travel stash.
DAY TWELVE, Wednesday, July 26th. Touring Washington DC
We were slow to arise and get going this morning. The DC Assault
Crew was: Jim & Marlyn, their daughter Laura, Canada Mike, DJ,
Rebecca, her daughters Mara & Daisy, and me. We had a great
breakfast and finally made it to the Metro rail station by 11AM. The
rail took us in to the Smithsonian stop in the heart of Washington.
We emerged on the Washington Mall, with the capitol to one side
and the Washington Monument to the other. This was why I'd come.
For a lifetime I'd see the monuments of my nation on television and
in movies. I'd watched action adventure heroes run around them
shooting and seen A&E presentations showing the monuments in
detail, but I'd never seen them, touched them, felt them, smelled
them, made them real to me. This was real. Hmm, someone needs
to trim the grass on MY mall and maybe drop a little grass seed in a
couple of places.
Before our Senate tour we went to the National Gallery Sculpture
Garden and decided to stop in at the restaurant there for a cooling
drink and a bite to eat. The food was good and the drink refreshing,
but the sculptures... Oh my! I like statuary. Larger than life
depictions of men women, animals and things. But this was much
more abstract. Four motorized silver cubes waving on 20' stalks. A
emaciated rabbity-looking thing atop a boulder. My favorite was a
slab of steel. Half an inch thick, about 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall,
standing on edge. The plaque said that the sculptor fashioned it in
the shape of French Kilometer markers. It's name? Stele. I sure
hope taxpayers didn't fund that!
Rebecca had set up our tour of the Senate through Sen Orrin
Hatch's office, which was a long way away, uphill in the 94 degree
heat. We made it up the hill to the Hart Senate Office Building and
the tour began promptly. Good tour. We went through tunnels from
the senate office building to the capitol, and saw many unique
things. We saw the Rotunda and the Hall of Statues. Each state
donates 2 statues to the capitol. They are all the same general
height and must be made of marble or bronze. The subject is the
state's decision. We saw Robert E. Lee as one of Virginia's
selections and Jefferson Davis as Mississippi's. There were great
paintings and frescoes on the walls and ceilings. All original art. The
artist who did the walls deliberately left areas blank for future use. It
was interesting to see a revolutionary event, then see the next
picture was of the moon landing ...
Marlyn was scheduled to fly home tomorrow morning so we gave
her the decision of what to do with the remains of the day. She led
us to the Smithsonian! We watched an IMAX 3-D movie on
undersea exploration, saw the Hope Diamond, and walked through
the hall of dinosaurs. It was impressive to stand beside actual bones
of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops. Some primal
connection with the past that models and movies never evoked.
Back to the Union Station and riding the Metro rail home, Marlyn
and Laura decided to spend the night at DJ's home so they would
be close to the airport for tomorrow morning's departure.
Everyone returned to the Besbris mansion for cleanup. Rebecca
gave me a lesson in TiVo. It is a neat thing, but I noticed that she
had a whole lot of things saved to view later. Whenever "later" is ...
We ordered some pretty good take-out pizza and ended the day on
a happy note.
DAY THIRTEEN, Thursday, July 27th. Touring Washington DC
Up and out to ride the metro. Today's crew was Jim, Canada Mike,
DJ, Rebecca, her daughters Mara & Daisy, Barb & son Vaughn, her
fellow Mike, and me. Laura was also with us, after dropping Marlyn
off at the airport way early in the morning. We were getting to be old
hands at using light commuter rail! Today we went to look at the
large monuments, and got tickets to take the Old Town Trolley tour.
It was HOT! 96 without much wind. At least the humidity was low,
but we were melting.
Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial. This, and every, monument
was heart-stoppingly impressive. There is a majesty in the
construction that doesn't lend itself to movies or photos. After the
Jefferson Memorial we visited the Lincoln Memorial, and then
walked the Vietnam Wall. A sobering experience. After a nosh from
a hot dog vendor we walked onto the island honoring the signers of
the Declaration of Independence, then saw the WWII memorial and
the Washington Monument. The WWII memorial is the newest,
having been dedicated in 2004 by President George W. Bush. They
had been concerned about its construction because they didn't want
to disturb the picturesque line of sight from the Lincoln Memorial to
the Washington Monument, so it is a group of statues, frescoes and
plaques around a large fountain which are situated in a deep
depression. Being low also insures that It doesn't interfere with the
reflection of the Washington Monument in the reflecting pool.
We got back on the trolley at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural
History, and took a windshield tour of the Capitol and White House.
We were all hot and exhausted when we got onto the Metro heading
home in the evening. Dave Coleman headed home amid hugs and
smiles. Everyone returned to the Besbris mansion for cleanup.
Laura was exhausted so she stayed at the house and listened to
Dave's band practicing while the rest of us were off to Barb and
Mike's place for a barbeque beef and chicken dinner. We met Mike's
parents and their housemate. Good food and pleasant
DAY FOURTEEN, Friday, July 28th. Reston VA to Rocky Mount,
Mike Pulvermacher was first on the road this morning. He had
stretched his travel time to the breaking point to be able to tour DC.
We'd been over maps the several times and he had planned a
mostly-interstate highway route back to Saskatoon that went under
the great lakes.
It was going to be Jim & Will for the rest of the trip home, unless
Doug could catch us on the road. We'd gotten one call from David
and knew that he and Duane were having a good ride, but didn't
know anything about Ian, Tom, or Martin. But Jim couldn't leave
without living up to his road name. Off to the hardware store with
Rebecca, then he patched a doorknob hole in the drywall, replaced
two toilet flush handles and replaced the faucet system on the
kitchen sink. That little job had more problems that it should have, so
we didn't actually get on the road until 2:30 Friday afternoon.
The complexion of the traffic changed. We planned to take a toll
road, Route 267, east toward DC, then 495 south to hook up with
I-95 south near Manassas. From there, We'd run I-95 until we got
tired. Unfortunately, we got into the midst of people fleeing DC for
the weekend, and the hordes of Washington commuters returning
home to Virginia. Two hours after we left, when we pulled in for fuel
and fluids, we were surprised to see that we'd only made 61 miles.
And that was on 4- to 8-lane controlled access highways. These
Washington folks sure get off work early...
It was a bit better when we got into the High Occupancy Vehicle
lane of I-95. There, we actually got into fifth gear for a while. We
had a nice running chat with a BMR R1150RT rider during the many
backups and dead stops. We finally called it a night at Rocky Mount,
North Carolina where we found a passable Motel 6. We found a
nearby steak joint and had hunks of grilled cow then turned the air
conditioner up to maximum and got cooling showers before bed.
DAY FIFTEEN, Saturday, July 28th. Rocky Mount, NC to Stone
Jim's rear tire was wearing low, due to the added weight of the
trailer, so we decided to set our sights on Blue Moon Cycles in
Atlanta, then go to Stone Mountain and see the laser show.
Fell into our making distance mode of running at road speed for two
hours and then stopping for fluids and exercise. I kept an eye on my
oil, but hadn't lost much below the center of the sight glass. We took
I-95 south to Florence, SC, then turned west onto I-20. We hit one
big rainstorm, but once through it the oppressive heat dried us out
quickly enough. Traffic wasn't bad, so we were able to keep a swift
pace. We had directions to the BMW shop, but by the time we'd
crossed North Carolina, South Carolina and half the width of
Georgia, they were closed before we got to Atlanta. Undaunted, we
took the 285 loop around the east side of Atlanta and caught the
Stone Mountain Parkway - US 78 east. Before we left Rocky Mount
we'd looked at the Motel 6 directory and Jim had made reservations
for us at the closest lodging to the park. THEY HAD A SWIMMING
POOL! We got our room, hauled in our gear, maxed the air
conditioner and went to the pool for a soothing dip. I swear the
water sizzled when we got in! After a swim we were up and out to
get to the Stone Mountain park before the 9PM laser show. Marlyn
had the key to the lock that allowed the trailer to be taken off Jim's
bike, so we went two-up on mine.
We should have been a half hour earlier. The patient park police
sent us and a thousand new friends to a parking area about a half
mile downhill from the amphitheater. We climbed the hill and found a
place to sit on the flagstones with a clear view of the mountain. The
laser show was frankly disappointing. I was expecting them to use
the face of the mountain to diagram civil war battles or to bring the
four horsemen carved on the mountain to life. No. They played four
country songs and projected cartoon people dancing and singing.
There were fireworks, the final song was accompanied by some
projected patriotic slides, but it was too little, too late. All flash and
bang with no substance. Just as the show was winding to a halt, the
heavy rains that we'd ridden through caught up to us. Mother nature
put on her own light show. People were scampering all over the
place as we quickly stepped back beneath an overhang and
remained dry. We knew that the heavy rains would pass, so
hunkered down for a half hour until there was only a sprinkle. We
did get a light show and something worth watching - There is no
vegetation on Stone Mountain to hold rainwater, so the rain came off
in cascades. I counted eleven 10-foot wide waterfalls cascading
down the mountain, dancing in the lightning blasts!
When the rains abated we headed back towards the motel, and
stopped at a nearby Waffle House for burgers. By now it was 11PM,
so we ate and hit the hay. A long day.
DAY SIXTEEN, Sunday, July 29th. Stone Mountain, GA to Home
Okay, so the motel seemed upscale because it had a pool, but it
was inhabited by some sleazy folks. As I was packing my gear a
hooker wandered over, struck up a conversation and offered her
services. "Uh, no thanks, ma'am." If I'd have thought fast enough I
would have paid her ten bucks to go flash Jim, who was dressing in
Since it was Sunday and we expected little traffic we went north on
the loop a bit and then took I-85 through the heart of Atlanta. Zoom
and boom and we were outta there! Just before we got to
Montgomery we caught up with our old friend the heavy rainstorm.
It cooled us but made for slower going. Cars were putting on
flashers and pulling over to the side. We kept a steady pace and an
eye out for anyone stopped in the left lane.
When we got to Montgomery we stopped at my Mom's house.
We'd left messages on her answering machine and were going to
take her to lunch. Nobody home. I'd forgotten to switch back from
Eastern time when we crossed the GA/AL border and we were at
her house at 11 AM. Mom was still in church. Hang around or head
home? We were back on I-85 in minutes, turned south onto I-65
and had Mobile in our sights. Hit I-10 west and rolled in to home at
Total mileage: 4,065.
Total Time: Sixteen days.
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