2003 BMW MOA International Rally

By Vic Paladini,

July 10 – 13, 2003

Charleston, West Virginia 

     This year’s BMW Motorcycle Owners of America (BMW MOA) International Rally was in Charleston, WV and the theme of the Rally was “Almost Heaven.” Let me say it was an interesting Rally right from the start.

     The rally was held in the Charleston Civic Center complex – right in the heart of the Capital City of West Virginia. Being in the Appalachian Mountains and very close to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, this city of 250,000 is about as picturesque as a city can be. Known as “the most northern of Southern cities and the most southern of Northern cities,” the area boasts a romantic past, many meticulously maintained historic sites and very friendly people.

     There were 7,000 riders in attendance which made for some interesting events. The Civic Center complex housed the registration, the Country Store, dozens of commercial vendors of motorcycle gear and equipment, some fantastic displays of vintage BMW’s and many seminars. Some of the seminars topics included: Let’s Talk Sidecars, Touring New Zealand, Want to Get Published?, Basic Tech,  Women Who Ride, Rider Wear in the Real World, Touring The Isle of Man, and even Not So Basic Tech.

     BMW Motarrad USA was also in attendance with their huge motorcycle demonstration fleet for those riders chomping at the bit for a ride on a new BMW. They also had a BMW Apparel truck which was loaded with all the latest BMW riding gear. 

     True to the BMW MOA International Rally environment is camping. Most long distance BMW riders are very independent people and camping contributes to their sense of independence. This rally was no exception since it had no less than three separate camping facilities: one at the University of Charleston a mile from the Civic Center, another at Magic Island, only ¼ mile from the Civic Center, and the third at a business park for those riders who wanted “to get away from it all…”  The normal collection of campground activities such as tire kicking, food eating and a place to wash and wax one’s motorcycle, was found.

     The problem with the Rally was the terrible weather. Thunderstorms, rain, high winds, rain, lightning, flooding, rain, tents being blown down, then sunshine with high humidity, did I mention rain?, was the order of the week. One storm even blew down a section of the huge beer tent, amid shouts of “Save the Kegs!” and “I’ll take a pint To Go!”, which injured three people. Thank goodness, since the rally was in the middle of Charleston there was hundreds of motel and hotel rooms available and dozens of local restaurants to accommodate the thousands of riders.

     The longest distance rider in attendance came from New Zealand while another couple rode in from Alaska. The oldest (two up) riders were a couple from Michigan. He was 86 & 4 months old and his wife was 86 & 2 months old and they love riding! Fantastic!

     Despite the weather, my brother Steve (who is also a MSF RiderCoach) and I instructed the new format of the MSF Experience Rider Course (ERC). Plus, there were another seven ERC courses offered during the week with the Saturday class being only for female riders. And that ERC even had female RiderCoaches! The Rally had a waiting list of over 100 people who wanted to take the new five-hour ERC class. Even though some classes had to be conducted in the rain, everyone had a great time. 

     The Grand Prizes this year included a beautifully restored 1973 BMW R75/5 as well as a new 2003 BMW R1150R and a “slightly used … with 60,000 miles on it”, R1150RT-P, which is a standard R1150RT motorcycle in the black & white police trim – just like the California Highway Patrol uses.

     Plan ahead! Next year’s 32nd annual BMW MOA International Rally is scheduled for July 15th to the 18th on the “Left Coast.” It’s at the fairgrounds in Spokane, Washington and it should be a great event since the Pacific Northwest has hundreds of scenic roads to ride and great weather in July. I’ll see you there…

     If you need any additional information give me a call.

     Ride Far & Safe.

     Vic Paladini, vicp57@aol.com









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