Category: <span>Rally Stories</span>

My First Rally – the 50th!

In recent research studies, LSD, more commonly known as “acid,” has been demonstrated to treat depression by removing the sense of individuality a person normally feels for a short period of time. In other words, it allows individuals to feel more connected to those around them and creates a sense of belonging within the world. Thus, interacting with like-minded individuals, in an open and safe environment, where stories can be shared, relationships can be built, and a sense of connectedness can be created is exactly what the doctor ordered.

For BMW motorcycle riders or any motorcycle rider for that matter, the BMW MOA National Rally might just be the perfect place to find this type of interaction. No matter where someone is from, their occupation or their upbringing, everyone at a motorcycle rally has at least one thing in common: motorcycles! Regardless if someone just received their license or has been riding for 70 years, they can still attend the rally and share a story or listen to others. I recently had the opportunity to attend the 50th Rally in Richmond and perhaps like taking a hit of LSD (I honestly wouldn’t know), it changed my perspective on not only rallies, but the BMW MOA itself.

To attend the rally, I flew from Vancouver to Washington, D.C., where after a horrible train/bus/Uber trip, I arrived to pick up a rented motorcycle. I had never ridden an R 1200 GS Adventure before, but since my G 650 GS Sertão has a seat height of 37 inches, I wasn’t all that concerned about the height of a R 1200 GSA. What I wasn’t prepared for was the smooth ride this bike offered. Either all the roads in the D.C. area had just been newly paved or this bike had the suspension found only in dreams! I didn’t even feel like I was on a motorcycle; this was some kind of floating car on two wheels.

Smoke from distant wildfires filled the air and created an orange haze as I tore south along I-95 on my GSA. As traffic whipped by, I noticed another R 1200 GS in the right lane. After giving each other the “nice bike” nod, he proceeded to pulled in behind me. I thought, “This will be great, a little convoy equals higher visibility, safety and a bit of fun.” However, after only a couple of minutes, I noticed I lost my newfound companion somewhere back in the smoke. That was okay, I was sure I would find more friends along my route to the 50th. And of course, I did. Carrying on down I-95 I met other riders who pulled in behind me, but like my first meeting, after a few minutes they too disappeared. I wasn’t going all that fast, and I think I am a pretty good rider. Why was everyone leaving me? Something strange was going on.

The 50th Rally featured a display showing off most of BMW's 100-year history of motorcycles.

A short while later, I arrived at the Meadow Event Park, and as I was taking off my gear another bike pulled in next to me. Danny, as I would later learn his name, was talkative and we got to chatting about all kinds of travel and motorcycles. When I told him where I was from, he suddenly put two and two together, saying, “Oh you are THAT Dustin! I have been following your trip across Canada. Your wife is AMAZING!” After asking a few more questions about our cross Canada trip, he then said, “Janel has been a real inspiration to me. I think, well, if she can do it after only having had her license for a month, then what is my excuse?!”

His comment made me smile, as this is what Janel hoped would come from that trip, inspiration for others to believe in themselves like she did.

“Is Janel here?” Danny asked. I explained that we had just returned from Europe the week before and she wasn’t able to get any more time off work. “Well, that is disappointing, I would like to meet her,” he said.

“Next year when it is on our coast, she will be there,” I told him.

After going through Rally registration, I was walking back to my bike and recognized the first rider who pulled in behind me on the interstate.

“You were going way too fast!” he exclaimed when I asked why he didn’t stay with me for the ride.

“I was only going 100,” I said, rather shocked.

“The speed limit is 70. They will impound your bike if you are going over 80!”

Ahh yes, miles vs. kilometres. In my rather dopey state of mind after having slept only a few hours the night before my ride, I had forgotten that the bike I rented in the U.S. was of course registering miles per hour. While I was flying along at what I thought was 100 kph, I was actually traveling at 100 mph. Oops.

With my new understanding of how speeds work, I slowly weaved my way to the far end of the rally near the demo rides to park my bike. Noticing most people were just leaving their helmets, boots and jackets lying across their motorcycles, I thought I would do the same. There seemed to be no concern for theft here, which was fantastic; I was liking this already. Leaving my boots and helmet on my bike seemed strange, but hey, if everyone else is doing it, why not?

Fueling the demo bikes.

Being early and on the first day, it turned out there wasn’t a line for the demo rides. I took full advantage of this to take an F 850 GS for a spin. Right away, I knew I was going to enjoy this ride. Winston, the lead host for our group, gave his spiel about what not to do and what we should try to do. Instead of making it a disciplined conversation, it was just more about how we can all have fun and work together to make it a great ride with the odd joke thrown in. Anita was my group leader, and she kept a great pace to allow us to really test the bikes out but didn’t push us so hard that people felt like they needed to keep up. When we got back, I had already made up my mind that an R 1200 was more my taste. While I enjoyed the feel of the 850, it felt like just a smaller R 1200 to me. I think if I was headed on more off-road riding, I would pick the 850 just for its maneuverability, but nothing in the GS category can beat that pillowlike feel of the 1200 on the highway.

With my ride over with, I headed down to the vendor area to see what there was to offer. Out front, I was quickly greeted by our former MOA president, Reece Mullins. Reece and I met at the MOA Fontana Getaway the year prior when Janel and I picked up her motorcycle in Alabama, and we became fast friends. After a quick chat, I left him to his last day as president; it seemed a lot of people wanted to chat him up and congratulate him on doing a great job as president.

After purchasing far more items than I needed from the vendors, I went to grab a snack and find a bench to sit back and relax in the shade for a bit. While I was enjoying my not-so-healthy cinnamon bun, a gentleman came and sat next to me. He looked at me for a moment while I stuffed my face and then exclaimed, “Your wife is Janel!”

“Umm yep,” I said, a little confused. He then went on to tell me how he had really been enjoying reading about Janel during our adventure.

“Is Janel here? I would love to meet her,” he asked. I thought Wow, Janel really is famous here; she is missing out on being a superstar.

After explaining she couldn’t make it, we chatted about our trip, and he told me how much he wished his wife would ride with him. This came up time and time again while I was at the rally. People mentioning that “There is a special place in heaven for your wife,” or “How did you ever find someone willing to do all this stuff”, and “Janel sure is adventurous.”

If I didn’t already know how lucky I was, by the end of the 50th, I was well aware.

Muriel Farrington (center) receives recognition from MOA Executive Director Ted Moyer (right).

On the last evening, I had some drink tokens and offered to buy Mark and Teresa, who were running all the seminars, a beer. They then of course bought me one instead of the other way around, which seemed to happen often over the three days of the rally. While sitting under the covered patio of the mansion listening to the bands play their hearts out, the three of us shared our stories. Mark mentioned he was told about 10 years ago that he had about six months to live. Speaking to him and Teresa, you would never have known they had had this hanging over their heads for years. They laughed about times when Mark had passed out, or things weren’t looking good, but then he always bounced back. “Like a guest you just can’t get rid of,” they laughed. They had the best attitude about everything and really were living the time they have together to its fullest.

Throughout the three days of the rally, I met so many people that it would take me the whole magazine to tell you about them, let alone all the adventures I went on. “Grief Rider” shared his story of losing his family recently with others to help them see what they have. Anita, my demo ride leader, chatted with me about demo riding around the U.S. each night outside the hotel when I returned well after dark. My Polish friend I met when I parked my bike next to her tent each day helped me talk two other riders out of riding—intoxicated—back to their hotel. At the contributors' dinner I met some amazing people who love and really care for the Owners News and how it is a magazine run by members for members. The more people I met, the more I understood why the MOA exists. We are all part of a family that not only loves motorcycles, but loves to share stories and experiences. If sharing those stories can bring us together, then who needs LSD to fight depression? I will take an MOA National Rally any day!

See you all next year in Oregon. Oh, and yes—Janel will be there, too.

You can find a bit of everything on sale in the vendor area at the Rally - be sure to leave space in your panniers or plan to ship things home.