Chris and Pat go to the 1999 BMW National Rally

Note: this is from an e-mail message from Chris Weld to various people reporting on Chris and Pat’s trip to the 1999 BMW National Rally. Questions or comments to CWeld1119@aol.com

Hi all!

Just a single note to give you the highpoints of a very memorable and hot excursion to the East Coast and back.

We left Pacifica on the 30th of June - headed for the BMW National Rally in Rhinebeck, NY, this via Milwaukee (to see ‘church friends’), and Belvidere Illinois to see a relative. US#18 runs right into Milwaukee, a highway I was unfamiliar with so we plotted a route to pickup US #18. The highway starts just about 40 miles SE of Casper Wyoming so we rode Interstate 80 to Rawlins and then north to Casper. (We spent nights in Winnemucca, in hills east of Salt Lake City and then Casper proper.) US #18 starts at ‘Orin Junction’ (SE of Casper about 40 miles distant) and starts by sharing US #20’s path but shortly turns due north for southern South Dakota. The route traverses the southern portion of the Black Hills and generally stays parallel the southern border of SD. It was a very pretty route.

The weather was always warm and getting warmer as we moved east. By Iowa the humidity was climbing as fast as the temperatures. US#18 crosses the top of the State and we entered Wisconsin at Prarie du Chien (Mississippi crossing there). Yes, we saw more’n a couple miles of sagebrush (lots of Pronghorn Antelope), and corn. Valves were first adjusted in Platte SD where it was 98 F at 8:30PM with the humidity figure high. We got to take in the 4th of July’s fireworks in Platte (on the night of the 3rd), and again in Mason City Iowa the next night- the 4th proper. I watched the 4th’s fireworks from a position IN the motel’s swimming pool. The humidity and heat were now such that camping was out of the question. We stopped for garage sales and antique stores as we passed by – sending six boxes of ‘stuff’ home during the course of the trip total.

Our big ‘misadventure’ occurred just a mile from our first destination in Milwaukee. It was Monday, July 5th (a holiday) and I was traversing a four-lane overpass over railroad tracks on Wisconsin #100 when I looked down at my map on the gas tank pack…there was no traffic. I lookedup and WHAM! I never saw it! I hit a block of concrete conglomerate that had evidently fallen-off a truck. The impact, at 50-55 MPH, dented the front rim and ‘bulged’ the tire so it couldn’t rotate freely. When the cast rear rim hit (a Lester cast wheel), it brokeoff two sections of the rim. I had my hands ‘full’ in every sense of the word. Thank God I knew enough not to hit the brakes. We were all over two lanes of nonexistent traffic but I coasted (after a fashion mind you) to a stop, upright at the edge of the road. It was the walk-back that disclosed what I’d hit, it was color matched to the concrete surface of the overpass itself. Well, what do you do now Chris?

I was scratching both my head and my arse when a Milwaukee PD cruiser happened on me. He protected me from traffic and I rode it (after a fashion) off the overpass. He called a cab for Patricia and I unloaded the m/c. After sending Pat off to the motel where we had a reservation I set about to get our ‘show’ back on the road. Using the National BMW Owner’s ‘bible’, called the Anonymous Book, I started calling Milwaukee members…it’s now well after 6PM on Monday, a holiday. Hot’n humid it was. I couldn’t get answers and even changed bars to get a ‘cooler’ environment. The first BMWMOA member that answers the phone was a John Jonas who happened to be home alone and the owner of one very large pickup. He told me he’d be there in 30 minutes…it took less. He took me across town and discussed the options. He touted his favorite wrench, an independent cycle mechanic who had an emphasis on BMW’s - but the guy was located on a farm in Troy, a good 40 miles south. We called the place ‘Thoroughbred Cycles’ and the operator, Glen Bishop, said bring the bike-out NOW! Well, we did. Glen looked it over, pointed-out areas of issue (the shock absorbers ‘spring keepers’ were broken on each side) and then asked what my tire preferences were. Then he said, “I’ll have it ready late tomorrow afternoon”. Mr. Jonas drove me back to the motel where Pat and I reconnected and we spent the next day visiting the church friends as planned. Mr. Jonas picked me up after work at the motel and again drove me out to Troy. $764. Dollars later we were back on the road with one new tire and two ‘new-to-me’ rims. We’d lost no time on our schedule thanks to Mr. Jonas. Now ready for the road we spent the morning doing wash (we can only carry clean clothes for four days) and ‘lunching’ with our church friends in their retirement home before heading for Belvidere, IL (just below Beloit, Wisconsin). We spent a half-day visiting an Aunt and a cousin Chris hadn’t seen since ‘66 and were now headed for the Rally. We rode US #20 into Chicago and took a motel.

Hotter’n hell it was when a BMW enthusiast flagged us down. He said take the tollway to ‘this exit’ and beat the heat. We took his advice and promptly found ourselves in a really bad stop’n go traffic jam on the tollway. We were ‘cooking’ and not by forward motion either. And then Illinois had the gall to charge me 40 cents for the experience! (This was the only toll-road we road the whole trip…)

We had a wonderful ride to Rhinebeck, a small city on the Hudson River’s east side, about 30 miles up-river from Westpoint. We went through both Buffalo and Rochester e/r to hinebeck, our second exposure to New York in two years. I’d previously maintained that Tennessee was the prettiest state in the Union. I now conclude that this honor belongs to New York. The areas around Buffalo and Rochester comprise the ‘Wine Country’ and we saw some spectacular vineyards punctuated with lots of ‘Calistogas’ and ‘St. Helenas’ (California ‘wine center’ communities) throughout.

The rally was held at the Duchess County fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, it was the biggest ever in the organization’s 27 year history with 8242 attendees. Our ‘headquarters’ were across the river, in Kingston (Ulster County), at the Ramada Inn where we rendevoued with an Ohio and Minnesota rider, both cousins. We’ve been gathering together now for the past five national rallies. (It was the Minnesota rider who had one of my motorcycles [this one in fact] for the year prior to my retirement (the same one we took to Nova Scotia last year).

While at the Rally Pat and I took Amtrak in New York City (from nearby Rhinebridge) for the day. The train delivers you via a route down the Hudson so you get a good view of West Point, river traffic and the like..(about a 2-1/4 hour ride). The trip terminates at Pennsylvania Station, just a block’n a half from the Empire State Building (yes, we went). We walked, and then walked some more. We visited a couple of old churches (Trinity in lower Manhattan being one…this is an old, rich parish with ten signers of the Declaration buriedon the grounds, plus one President. The Church owns a good bit of lower Manhattan real estate…we won’t pity them (rich church mice….).

We did visit Wall Street and the NY Stock Exchange, took the Subway to Queens (in error)…missed our 5th Ave stop for Central Park - but went back. The streets were clean, so were the subways, stations and the like. Lots of shop owners cleaning the sidewalks, etc. I must say that I was impressed.

Rhinebeck has a circa WW-I aerodrome complete with vintage cars, motorcycles, hangers and the like. We missed the special air show for rally goers (we were in NY, NY) but a visit the following day was still worth the effort. These are old planes…bailing wire’n cloth. (Chris did this sans Patricia as the latter wanted to shop Rhinebeck.)
Pat and I were volunteers scheduled for a couple of hours to work the 50-50 drawing…and we ran out of tickets. The 50-50 effort (in totto) resulted in a charitable donation of over $3K to local Rhinebeck/Duchess County charities.

Next year’s Rally is slated for Midland Michigan (near Saginaw).

We left the rally and headed south, down into Pennsylvania as we wanted to visit the Crayola factory in Easton, also Hershey PA - before getting back to Gettysburg (we were there just briefly last year). The heat wave was now ‘really ON’. We got into Easton rather late in the afternoon and after eating on the town ‘square’, went across the square to the Crayola factory store (think ‘crayon’). All sorts of stuff are marketed by Crayola. When we went next door for the ‘factory tour’ we learned that the real factory is out of town and not open for tours. The ‘manufacturing operation’ available for tours was a ‘mockup,’ and they were just closing. The last tour was at 4 pm and we’d have to pay $7.50/ea. anyway. No loss!

Hershey is a nice town, with candy ‘kiss’ shaped street lights. However, there are no factory tours…but there is an amusement park, ah-la Disneyland with a $25./head entry fee. We passed.

We stopped in Mechanicsburg to see another BMW rider/crony, Dr. Walter Drescher. We change oil when we visit the good Doctor and this trip was no exception. Dr. Walt had made it to the Rally, kinda a dash-in; dash-out visit because of his work schedule. We never connected at the Rally itself.

We cleared his place for Gettysburg and set-up in the local KOA for two nights camping. We did laundry and lounged in the pool. I rented the tape recorder and guided tour of the battlefield for the next day. Two problems surfaced early, the tape recorder couldn’t be played louder’n a whisper our severe sound distortion set in; secondly it was hot’n humid. Triple digits and 92% humidity. Pat wouldn’t do more’n ‘puddle-hop’ the shops downtown leaving me to cover the battlefield alone. Very interesting…what should have been a Confederate victory wasn’t and by July 3rd the Union had and held the high-ground…and of course, Vicksburg fell on the 4th. The tide had turned…

We headed for home but in the process decided to visit a former partner (Roy Hicks) in Payette Idaho. This meant we had to work our way north as we planned to take-in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons en-route. We zigzagged across Iowa…met a nice State Trooper in the process who said something about 67 MPH on his 70 MPH road (posted at 55 MPH), was a no-no. I told him the story of ‘Little Johnny’s Fire hat’ and all was well. Pat got to revisit Walnut IA, a whole town of antique stores for half a day…she was happy!

We rode up north and into the SW corner of Minnesota where we pickedup Hwy.#212 which takes us west, right into Yellowstone via Red Lodge and Beartooth Pass at 11,000 feet elevation (above the timber line). We got into Yellowstone where we again got to see the devastation of the ‘88 fire. The Forest Service/National Parks, in their questionable wisdom, left the fire ravaged areas as they burned - which means a lot of downed - but un-harvested trees to feed the next fire. It’ll be a doozy when it comes.

Pat and I agreed that the Superintendent should be drawn’n quartered for letting the roads deteriorate so…perhaps to discourage tourism(?). They no longer allow for any overflow camping and all grounds were full in both Yellowstone, the Rockerfeller Parkway and the Grand Tetons. We wound-up coming through the Tetons in darkness and getting one of the last available motel rooms in Jackson (at San Francisco prices too!). Ouch! Well, next morning we went back-up the 42 miles of road we’d covered the night before (in darkness mind you!) so as to enjoy the views. It was worth it. We cleared the Tetons about 2:30 in the afternoon, gassed-up in Jackson and headed west (read ‘up’), over Teton Pass and into Idaho. We camped that night in Arco, the first city in the country to be powered by nuclear energy. In doing so we traversed this huge high-desert in which sits over fifty nuclear facilities. We saw numerous yet distant research facilities and lots of barbed wire’n signs…interesting.

We arrived in Payette the next afternoon. We spent several days trying to beat the heat with booze, shade and billiards. I checked the motorcycle and found that I had a couple of broken spokes in the new ‘used’ rear wheel…it had way too much run-out. I also noticed a puddle of oil on the pavement and found the source to have been hydralic fluid from one of the shocks. So, my host drove me’n the wheel into Boise and fourteen new spokes later, and a factory OEM used shock, we were turning true with respectable handling properties. (Yes, an expensive ‘used’ wheel this was becoming…).

We cleared Payette and headed up toward Pendleton, so as to visit Baker and LaGrande, before turning due west on OR# 244 for Ukiah OR and then south on Hwy. #395. This is very rugged tree’n meadow country. We held-up that night in a motel in Mt. Vernon. The next day it was go west again for Prineville (sight of a BMW Nat’l back in the 80’s), Redmond and Bend. We spent that night in an Oregon State Park just north of Klamath Lake. Oregon has the finest state parks we’ve seen in all our travels…best appointed, best value, etc.

We rode south into Klamath Falls OR and a slew of antique stores (groan!). And, after being held-up by yet another such store in Merrill (just above Tulelake - where I found three pipes), we made it back into California. We ‘moteled’ this last night ‘on the road’ in Chester (Lake Almanor), before heading for home via a friend’s place in greater Sacramento. We came into the Bay Area via the ‘River Route (Hwy. #160) and hit a really strong ‘Delta Breeze’ on the Delta Highway. For the first time in 34 days of travel it was cool (Pat says ‘cold’). We saw the fog coming over the Orinda hills and knew we were home.

It was a great trip…the speedometer needle fell-off on the last day…otherwise the 25 year-old, 750 cc motor just purred the whole way. I adjusted valves 4 times and changed oil three times. We were, however, not the long distance two-up attendees at the National…that honor went to a couple from Atascadero.

Pat and I both conclude that our most important belonging was the little Gott cooler we carried. A daily ritual was the purchase of a bag of ice. Without a constant supply of ice water we’d have never made it.

Any questions? This litany saves having to tell the same story to everyone…so please forgive.