The BMW MOA National Rally in Billings Montana

July 2015 

Reports from SEAT members

Steve Cantrill

The 43rd edition of the BMWMOA International Rally was for me, one of the most pleasant. And I’ve done a few—maybe 8 or 10—from coast-to-coast. A whole lot of SEAT members made the trip and enjoyed it and that’s covered on the web site. But I have a few thoughts, especially on either side of the destination. All in all, it was one of those wonderful, long, well-deserved, mind-clearing eye-opening July motorcycle rides in the great American West.
          It wouldn’t put things in context, if I didn’t say that riding partner Dave arrived at my home over an hour earlier than expected. My phone had died and so he couldn’t tell me he was kickstand-up in Phoenix and on his way. So I was sitting around in shorts, winding up business and my bags weren’t even packed, when he was finally able to call me from the Chevron station in Payson. As you would expect—I forgot some stuff, like the passport I needed to step a foot into Canada, but of course, not the gun, which could not be taken into Canada. We put on a quick hundred miles to Holbrook and stopped for go-juice for us and the bikes, to get us across the Navajo reservation.
          With Glacier National Park added to the front of the ride, we had to sadly add a couple of days to the trip—more time to blow out the cobwebs. But first: a serious swing through Southwestern Colorado. You know, the Colorado club has an event they call the 100,000 foot ride, namely bagging enough high mountains to total at least 100,000 feet of elevation. Realistically, you can notch four passes over 10,000 feet on one short 82 mile trip from Ouray to Durango and we did. Throw in stops at Telluride, Aspen, Paonia, South Fork and Pagosa Springs, among others and I’m sure we did over 100,000 feet of elevation in the 3 days we were in Colorado—and that’s just the very start of the trip.
          A stop at the Top O’ Rockies rally wound up with at least 3 hours of hot air being exchanged. Dave and I each have an honorary degree in bullshit. Mine is a Masters. His is a PhD. The ride south on CO133, past Marble and across McClure Pass, along the West Fork of the Gunnison River towards Paonia, is always a thrill of unending, high speed sweepers, that flip back left and right more times than you can count.  I usually do it northbound, but the other way was a nice change and Dave had never been on it. “Never been there” is one of his criteria for a fun ride. And right here
I’ll just have to say there’s one way Dave stays awake and keeps up the blood pressure. Double yellow lines are strictly advisory—not cautionary, not mandatory, not prudent—just ADVISORY. You know how some of us might just do it now and then when things just get too slow? Well, any other car on the road in front of Dave, kicks in his sport mode. Double yellow lines be damned. And besides, don’t we all know that the highway engineers are overly cautious when they lay these out?
          If you don’t want to participate in that sport with Dave, you better know where your next stop is, or where you’re staying for the night and plan on meeting him there. Dave is proud of it too—says: “It’s in his DNA.” And of course, he has a rationale: “It’s not illegal if you don’t get caught”. Kind of reminds me of what friend Gary said one time, when I asked him why he didn’t slow down on the way back from the Fiesta Rally in California. My radar detector picked up the CHP pursuit car in the center median and I spotted him and backed off the pace. Gary’s response was: “If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.” For a guy like me who lived in Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania so many years, and gave up so many green stamps to the Nazi highway patrol they train there, I just naturally figure to run out of luck before Dave & Gary ever worry about it.
          The riding in Colorado was exciting, splendid, beautiful and lived up to what it always does: fantastic in every way. The rivers were running and all the lakes were full to the brim. But there were thousands of square miles of dead forest from the many years of drought and beetle kill. It was on to Wyoming and Yellowstone national Park. Dave insisted on seeing Old Faithful and rightly so if you travel all that way. We got there at the wrong time and had to wait a full cycle for that thing to perk up. If I might say so myself, we entertained some young families, a couple generations younger than ourselves, with our witty conversation. It’s always fun to see that you can make young people laugh. Us old guys mostly figure they couldn’t possibly be interested or amused in anything we had to say. But, age brings with it the seasoned experience of all the witty people and fun things you’ve been around, so maybe we did have a couple of laughs to share. We met a lot of fun people.
          I think it was a Sunday that we went through Yellowstone park and the traffic was horrendous. You either got in line and crawled the entire way—or took it as a challenge like Dave always does. If there are cars ahead of you, they are targets of opportunity and have to be passed, in a progressive, workmanlike, steady, efficient manner. ALL of them. Every single one. It doesn’t matter if there are 100, 300, 3,000 or on to infinity. And I must say that we did a yeoman’s job of it, for not being Navy guys. [Isn’t a yeoman a Navy thing?] Now—I usually don’t like to piss that many people off—but we surely did. I think the speed limit in Yellowstone maxes out at 45mph. I can’t remember. And I guess it doesn’t make a bit of difference. All I can say for sure is that we broke every law, all day, all the way—and the scenery be damned. Actually, I’m surprised Dave didn’t want to stop and gawk more often. That would give us all those cars to pass again.
          In one way, we lucked out in Yellowstone. There was a bridge replacement and to see Old Faithfull, we would have had loop around to the East entrance and then go through the center of the park and back south to see it. And then to get on our way: back north and west again. All told, it was about 47 miles further. And that doesn’t seem like much, but the traffic was like being in the Bronx on a bicycle. I’m sure Dave would have eagerly attacked another 47 miles of laggards, just for sport. As we found out at the south entrance, the bridge in question opened one day before, eliminating the detour. Since I didn’t have any prescription sedatives with me for anxiety, I was really happy the road crews had quit standing around looking in the hole and got the job done.
          We motored on to Glacier. When I asked Dave if he had ever been to Glacier, he said no and: “I’d love to go to Glacier.” It had been a few years since Dave and I went to the MOA National in Knoxville, TN, so I had forgotten how the riding style was going to be—that is—if I was going to fully participate as a riding partner and keep up. We can all make our own choices. And I had been through Glacier only once when the MOA rally was held in Missoula, MT so I had slim recollection of it. We had stayed the night in Columbia Falls, where the motel was twice as much as the night before in Rock Springs, WY. Seems it is the tourist and recreation season there in July. [Well, just imagine water skiing in your power boat in January within earshot of Canada.]
          Glacier traffic proved to be a carbon copy of Yellowstone; [remember what a carbon copy was?]. Now, in all fairness: it IS a summer tourist destination. As with Yosemite and many other national parks, Glaciera place of beauty, tranquility, splendor and in all ways, worthy of patience, solitude and a reverence for enjoying nature. At least I am thinking that a card-carrying Sierra Club member would characterize it that way. And I have always thought of a motorcycle ride as my way of enjoying nature and the great outdoors. Add an energetic, sporty pace to the whole deal and you’ve got yourself one helluva way to see the country. It’s just that Dave has a slightly different idea of “sporty pace” and BOTH of our viewpoints on this, are way different than most of the visitors to these parks. Anyway, it was thrilling and I’m not a Sierra Club member.
You know in Glacier, they have these replicas of the old, big, 1930s touring cars and they take a whole load of people for top-down excursions through the park. The cars are really cool—and really big—and there are lots of them. I did probably a 40mph pass, coming up to a curve and one came around the mountain towards me. For such a slow speed it seemed to happen too suddenly—and he didn’t flinch or move one millimeter. Somehow I found room to squeeze my 58” wheelbase Beemer back in before he made road kill out of me. These touring car drivers know the road and they drive it all day, every day. And apparently they are not going to sacrifice their 30 passengers or whatever, to make room for a motorcycle. Some things I just can’t understand.
          Road crews just finished putting a brand new, smooth layer of asphalt all the way through Glacier. They were buttoning it up at the East end, right where we got out at St. Mary’s. I bet that road hasn’t had a totally new surface for 50 years. And I’ll bet that was a shovel-ready project way back in 2008—7 years ago. That’s our tax dollars at work all right. And we learned later in Billings, that after we got through Glacier that Wednesday, a fire on the East side closed it down for quite some time. So: how about Canada? Just to stick a foot in and get a picture?
          We did that. I might point out that if you are standing 20 feet across the border in front of the sign that says: “CANADA”, you are IN Canada. So we got the pictures, [you know, me with the gun and no passport.] Dave walked over to the border station to get his passport stamped. They told him he was indeed IN Canada, so they “had to inspect his bike and to bring his friend with him”. Ha. No way. I turned around and went to the American inspection station, where I handed them my Arizona driver’s license. They did not chastise me, warn me or tell me how stupid I was or “what to do the next time.” I have not been out of the country since 9/11, I don’t think, so the world has changed and left me behind. Of course, the guard checked the computer for outstanding arrest warrants, etc. I don’t know if you know the comedian Ron White, from the Blue Collar Comedy tour, but there is a skit where he is kicked out of a NYC bar. When they search the records they find an outstanding warrant for the “Tater Tot”, as he was known as a juvenile. And apparently I have no such warrants.
           Billings and the MOA rally was the destination that night. I regret that there is one photo I did not get: a Montana highway warning sign: “WINDS POSSIBLE”. POSSIBLE!*!!@#$%*. Holy Mother of God. PROBABLE maybe, or MANDATORY or “yes by God going to happen”—anything but possible. We learned that 10 rail tanker cars blew over on a siding earlier in the month. How much wind does it take to blow over a railroad car? And the county event center, which held the closing ceremony for the rally, had the roof blown off the year before. So, the wind—which really was not a problem AT LEAST 5% of the time—did not always blow. Notch all that down for Wyoming too. One time we stopped for gas and were glad we had the filling station blocking us, or I don’t know how we would have held up the bikes to fill them with gas.
          Still, it was a great getaway, a great ride and a terrific way to get all the tension out of your head. Sunday ended the rally and we headed south for the Saguaros. I must say they love their ranches, cows and pickup trucks in Wyoming. It was great blasting along open roads, smelling the new-mown hay and watching the beautiful white-marked Magpies flitting off the shoulder of the road. We scooted back into Colorado along CO141, south from Grand Junction to Cortez to catch one last, beautiful, curvy road along the San Miguel River and over Gypsum Gap. We were making good time, so we blasted into Gallup for the night.
          And then all of a sudden, it was over. I don’t really lead a stressed-out life. I am blessed with a good gal, a good home, good friends and a nice bike. All is well with the world and inevitably it is unfolding as it should, BUT: I told myself I need to do more of these. 

Photos from Deryle and Wanda Mehrten

From Jack and Jean Scott

From To Zirbel

From Dave Danks

Bear Tooth Highway dubbed one of the best motorcycle rides in America.The sign says "summit" but the road continues to climb.It was raining,misty and the wind was blowing 35-40 mph. 41degrees.A challenge to say the least.There were times I wondered if I would make it & a 1200 GS with knobbies passed me like my wheels came off.

Elk in Yellowstone oblivious to the tourists.

AT the rally


From Marina Ackerson

Photos from Mike Shaffer

Reported by Dave Danks for Dave, Skip,Tad, Lynn & their daughter Michelle, Terrific travel companions.

July 20 - We are having a great trip. At our planned 1st stop at Jacobs lake there was too much rain to set up tents so pushed on to Kanab & got motel. Did Zion & Bryce. Camped last night. Currently at Rock Springs Wyoming. Tomorrow we will camp at Grand Tetons. Lots of mountain roads, twists & absolutely spectacular scenery. It rained on every day & was 51 degrees in mountains with rain today @ 9100 ft.


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