I honestly did not know what to expect on my first site visit with 2024 MOA National Rally chair Sam Garst as my Delta Airlines flight lumbered westward, but I remained open to all the possibilities the romantic West had to offer. Of course, I’ve ventured out west from time to time as most MOA members have, attending some great recent western rallies held in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Great Falls, Montana. For our new members who may not know, the club rotates its national rally each year, basically forming three distinct rally zones: Western, Central, and Eastern. As our 50th rally was in the eastern zone in Doswell, Virginia, our 51st rally will be in the western zone, and for those who watched the announcement on the MOA Forums and Facebook page earlier this year, we all found out that the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, Oregon won the bid for the 2024 rally site.
On short final into Seattle my plane emerged from the low clouds triumphantly, kissing the runway with a jolt that made the non-aviators in the cabin area grab their arm rests. The overcast skies of Seattle came as no surprise to this Google-educated scholar, but that would not be the case for take-off three hours later on my way to Redmond. As my short connecting flight gunned the engines on climb out from Seattle, I had a rare window seat opportunity to take in the city on take-off. I was immediately impressed with the beauty of the water and the city, but as the aircraft banked right towards Redmond something caught my eye that took my breath away, Mount Rainier in all her glory and majesty. Mountains like these are not something one sees often in Alabama; I can assure you. This was my first taste of the vistas I would soon find myself falling in love with in the next few days.
The arrival at Redmond airport afforded a much smother landing. Pilots have a saying, take offs are optional, landings are mandatory, and it is the landing from which you will be judged by all fellow pilots. Anytime I’m riding commercial I always try to afford the pilot on disembarkation a salutatory wink and nod for a silky, buttery-smooth touch down. For some reason they always look at me like I’m crazy; I haven’t quite perfected the “you rocked that landing” body language yet, short of a high-five which would be totally awkward.
I collected my one bag, easily identifiable by all its BMW branding, and met Sam Garst and Bob Aldridge for our ride to the hotel, a mere two miles down the road, passing the gate of the rally site enroute. For those vendors and members who choose to fly in and hotel, the layout could not be more accommodating. The airport, along with multiple clean, new, and well-priced hotels and restaurants are all within a five-mile radius of the rally site. As we drove to the hotel, we immediately started to catch up as old friends tend to do after not seeing each other in quite some time. As we talked, I looked out the windows of the rental and immediately began the immersion experience. I was conducting a thorough reconnaissance, paying attention to every detail, taking as many mental notes as humanly possible. In doing so, my eyes kept gravitating on the beauty of the Three Sisters mountain range west of Redmond. The sun was setting, and the snowcapped peaks were shimmering copper-gold. Redmond was already growing on me, and I had only been on site for less than thirty minutes.
As they say first impressions are lasting impressions so let me take a moment to share mine, if I may be so bold. My general impression of the rally-site, and the town of Redmond was that the area was well laid out and well maintained. Everywhere we went, from the rally grounds to out and about in town was clean. I got the distinct impression that the town-folk of Redmond were proud of their town, and it showed, everywhere we went. Every restaurant we went to, the clientele was well mannered, well dressed, and happy to be there. The hotel and restaurant staff were always very polite, patient, kind, and accommodating. The cuisine was excellent everywhere we went. The local specialty seemed to be a very fresh and tasty California style Mexican fusion, which, for a Mexicano aficionado like myself, was a welcome flavor option.
The next morning, the rally committee team sat down with Courtney Braun, owner and naturalist guide at wanderlusttours.com. In our conversation with Courtney, as Bob and Sam fleshed out the details of bus and van tours from the site during the rally, I paid very close attention to what was being said and how it was being said. I quickly ascertained that Courtney was a true believer, the genuine article. Her knowledge, and more importantly, her enthusiasm of the local geography and culture was impressive. The conversation evolved from planning details to local offerings. She went into great detail about the fine whiskey distilleries in Redmond and how our tasting tours would be conducted. My Appalachian moonshiner genes started to stir a bit as Courtney described the quality of spirits produced by the local volcanic Oregon waters. Apparently, the early western settlers who migrated to Oregon found a use for not only their distilling skills, but also their mastery of the brewing arts of both beer and coffee.
Courtney’s tour company will be offering several excursions from the rally site to allow rally-goers not only an opportunity to sample the local beer and spirits, but also the beauty of the area. From lava tube explorations, to unique light-pollution free, star-gazing opportunities, this rally is the one that attendees should really seriously consider signing up for an excursion. The beauty of the local area is absolutely stunning, and Courtney and her team are uniquely qualified and positioned to bring that to the rally-goer.
North America, America, USA, American, Pacific Northwest, Central Oregon, Oregon, Bend, High Desert Night, photographerWhen not volunteering, or soaking in the soul-restoring beauty of Oregon in the Redmond/Bend area, there will be plenty of activities “on campus” for the intrepid Teutonic wanderer. Luke Larsen is the Deschutes County Fairgrounds and Expo Center’s General Manager. We met Luke early the following morning after arrival. Luke is the kind of guy you like immediately, very personable and accommodating. He made it clear, he was there for our members, and was invested in the success of our event. In short order we donned jackets, as it was cool outside, and proceeded to get the full tour of the facilities. All the grass was green, edged, and mowed with no weeds. The trees were well maintained and properly shaped. The buildings were clean, spacious, and accommodating. The entire site, when viewed from the air looks like an alien crop circle with well paved concentric circles and spokes leading to the center that will serve as rally central. Rally Central will be well apportioned with indoor and outdoor vendor space, food vendors, and an intimate up close “concert-on-the-lawn” atmosphere. The entertainment stage and beer garden in close proximity to one another, will create a space that will turn the evenings into memories that will be touted as legendary in the years to come.
This year will be our first year without our club’s beloved moto-noir columnist and author Jack Riepe, as he passed away from health complications in the fall of 2023. Many of us, myself included, were devastated with the news of the loss of Jack who gave so much of himself to the club over the decades. A dedicated and rabidly fervent K-bike rider, Jack was the founder and self-appointed Grand Poohbah of the Secret K Club Society. The MOA will be honoring Jack and his loyal fans at this year’s Redmond Rally. Be sure to plug into the rally-app and watch the website for announcements regarding tributes to Jack.
And finally, I’ll wrap up by saying, this isn’t going to be the Redmond Rally you may remember from our previous rallies in 2001 and 2010. This is our first “three-peat” rally site location and for good reason. The new additions to the facilities, and the positive growth in the downtown Redmond area made the decision to choose Redmond as our 2024 rally site an easy one. Sam and I are going to do our level best to make this western rally a unique and rewarding experience for all rally goers and club members new and old. One change from our previous rallies at this location you might want to take note of is the fact that we are holding the rally in June, not July. When members ride into the rally site the second week of June, they will encounter much cooler temps than previous rallies. In fact, it may get downright cold at night; for us southerners, that’s temperatures below fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, if you hail from above the Mason-Dixon Line, I believe those temps are referred to as, “perfect camping weather.”
When you arrive there will be copious amounts of perfectly manicured green grass to stake down your tent with a beautiful view of the Three Sisters mountain range to greet you each morning as you sip your favorite flavor of steaming hot Seattle Coffee sitting in your Kermit Chair, and in that very moment you will think, “I’m so glad I listened to Sam and Reece back in January and bought my ticket to this rally.”
Ride safe until then. Sam and I both look forward to serving you all in Redmond.