Saturdays: 40th BMWMOA National Rally
Trip Report by Chris Weld
This trip started on a really bad note. I lost the key to my motorcycle while trucking it to our ‘mountain house’. A key can be made from the VIN number but one has to fax copy of thevehicle registration and driver’s license to the dealer – Ozzie’s BMW in Chico in the instant case. We had over ten days to get a replacement key. However the key didn’t come in after seven days. Pat’n I took the truck back to Pacifica where my ’90 R100RT was quickly prepared for the trip and ridden back up the following morning so as to receive a riding partner coming up from Riverside CA, Michael Marks. Michael arrived right on time, so were due to depart the following AM, on 7/10.
We delayed departure so as to place a last minute phone call to Ozzie’s. The keys had just arrived. Michael and I made a beeline for Ozzie’s, which is about 105 miles from the cabin. It was hotter’n hell in the valley; 100 degrees plus and we were delayed due a fatal M/C accident on Hwy# 99. We had to take time to eat. We also had a little naptime before setting forth for Fall River Mills, dinner and gas. I needed to check a route I planned touse in August for an ‘Old Station’ ride and we arrived in McCloud at late dusk and moteled-it in Yreka.
While I’d planned to camp some on this trip the late start, existence of a second rider and mostly the heat, kept me in motels the wholetrip. Harvey Brooks, my wife’scousin and good friend could take a few days and ride with us, at least to Ft.Benton MT but we were to pick him up at his beautiful home overlooking the Umqua River 12 miles east of Roseburg. We arrived but no Harvey. He soon pulled-in and we were off on the route to Crater Lake but bypassed the turn-off and stretched at Diamond Lake high in the Cascades.
Harvey rides an older Gold Wing but Michael and me, well; we didn’t hold that against him.
We spent our first night together somewhere around Payette Idaho and rode the ‘spine’ up along the Salmon River to Grangeville. Enroute we introduced Michael to old Whitebird Pass, a series of switchbacks, which’ll rival anything in the Alps. At Grangeville we took ID #13 to Kooskia, a very scenic, steep and delightful road. Here be caught US #12 for Lolo MT, a stretch of road with noservices, save a resort at the top of the pass, some 90+ miles from Kooskia andabout 30 miles from Lolo. This isa very scenic route with lots of Louis and Clark discovered and namedlandmarks.
Michael wanted to see downtown Missoula and we arrived at dusk, found a motel and planned to see the U of M’s campus the following morning. We toured a route around the campus and ran into some event with closed streets and lots of detours but soon found us out on the freeway EB so as to follow MT #200 through Lincoln,the Unibomber’s ‘home town’. We breakfasted in Lincoln before riding more EB RT #200.
It was along here that I had an ‘oh fecal matter’ moment. My generator lightcame-on, bright red. I wasn’t charging. It was hot and getting hotter and there was no convenient place to explore the problem. What was it? What should I do? Great Falls MT was the next major community. Was there a dealer in Great Falls? Could I even make it to Great Falls? I surmised that my problem was mostlikely a broken alternator belt and I was carrying a spare. RT #200 joins a freeway at Vaughn MT, just west of Great Falls. We’d need gas regardless. We gassed in Vaughn.
BMWMOA (BMW Motorcycle Owners of America), the people who sponsor the rally we were then headed for (Sedalia MO), publish yearly a bookcalled the ‘Anonymous’, a book which lists dealers by state and every BMWMOA member who wishes listing but only by city and phone number. There are no names or addresses. First, there is only one BMW dealer in Montana and he’s back in Missoula. Call a listed member and try to secure a shaded haven to explore myproblem. First guy wasn’t home, message left. Second guy was eagerto help – had a trailer and was ready to respond. At the moment I still had battery strength to run so got directions for the GPS and we were ‘off’. It wasn’t two miles from our destination that my motor quit – no electrical power. I called my ‘contact’ who said he’d have to go hook-up his trailer but he’d be with us in a half-hour. My motor ‘died’ adjacent a really nice dog park with a verylarge parking lot. I was grateful for that.
After about a half-hour a big diesel 3/4 ton Crew Cab Ford arrives pulling a trailer. My ‘savior’ introduces himself, Jim Birkhead. He hauls me about two miles to the back of a steel butler-type building and pulls open an insulated overhead door. Behind the door sits an honest 30 motorcycles, mostly BMW’s, one Yamaha and one MZ were noted. In the back, next to this really nice stacked/castor-wheeled tool chest sits not one, but two motorcycle lifts. Things were still looking ‘up’. We pulled the fairing plastic (that’s 22 screws,) belly pan, the two seats the two side panels, one fairing bracketand the gas tank – all to get at the alternator belt cover. I was relieved to find that my guess of a broken belt was spot-on. Harvey, who’s mechanically inclined, was a great help. Getting the new belt in place was quite and exercise, followed by understanding how the belt tensioner was designed and worked. Together, we got it done and a quick check showed the red light ‘out’ and the electrical system functioning as designed.
During all this our host was touting a friend’s motorcycle that was for sale and what a value it represented. After getting my machine all back together Jim wanted to take the three of us to go see this great find in a used motorcycle – all this while trying to get me to sell mine to him for a ‘song’. The 25 miles we were supposed to drivewas more realistically 50 - one way. The seller of this motorcycle is fastidious, 24K on it and it looked to have maybe 1000 miles on it. It was loaded with goodies, two sets of bags, Ohlin suspension front and back,Remus exhaust, tank bag, Givi windshield, smart charger etc. etc. I was impressed. We haggled a little on the price and I bought me a motorcycle. Pat’n I will take the truck and pick it up the end of August. The seller is a retired Montana State Trooper – we hit it off!
You need to understand how hot it is. Even in the cool of the insulated building, we were sweating. Now back to the motorcycles we set-off to find an air-conditioned motel. We found one. Ft. Benton MT was now our next destination. Harvey was to leave us after Ft. Bentonand prior to departure Michael said he wasn’t enjoying himself due theheat. He wanted to layover and recuperate that day (Sunday) and return home.
Michael made his way home to Riverside on his own. Harvey and I headed-out for Ft. Benton, about 68 miles away – this by leaving early. Ft. Benton is very important to the settlement of the whole Northwest (including Canada). Everything being shipped into western Canada and what were to become Oregon, Washington etc. came through Ft. Benton, the capital of the Territory. River boats could navigate up to Ft.Benton but were prevented further passage by the ‘great falls’. Today, the highway bypasses Ft. Bentonas it sits ‘riverside’ in the bottom of the canyon carved by the Missouri overthe millennium, if you want to see Ft. Benton, you have to intentionally go there. There are some 4 museums in Ft. Benton, many old structures and signs abound with early photos of these structures with historical text. The centerpiece is the Grand Union Hotel, opened the year after the conclusion of the Civil War. You can still eat, drink and sleep in the Grand Union. I took several pictures of Harvey in the Grand Union.
It was about 1 PM that afternoon when Harvey and I parted company. I gave him my map of MT/ID and pointed out some routes that I thought would be worth his taking. Me? I was down’n headed back to RT# 200. Somewhere along here I found myself in a long, but inactive construction zone with gravel. Then I heard a siren and my ‘ticker’ skipped a beat. There were pretty blue’n red lights inmy mirror. I pulled-over whileholding up four fingers. The Trooper was mildly ‘pissed’. Hesaid that as I passed him, he held out his arm with thumb down. I didn’t respond. He gave pursuit but I didn’t hear himtill just before he pulled abreast. He said I was doing 64 MPH in a construction zone and I told him I know I was doing 62 MPH minutes earlier. I asked permission to dismount and told him I was unarmed – that didn’t faze him; he said everyone out in this country is armed. He thought perhaps I had an ipod stuckin my ear? No! Earplugs? No! I told him the truth, I was so engrossed in watching the road surface I never sawhim, nor heard him till he was right upon me. He decided I was truthful and gave me my license back afterrunning a check. I then asked him if he knew the seller of my ‘new-to-me’ motorcycle? (I had the seller’s card.) He lit-up, couldn’t say enough good about my seller and the meticulous care he took with everything he owned.
I was now back on the road with a normal heartbeat!
I rolled into Sydney MT, located right on the ND boarder. Yes, I knew about the oilboom. Les Katz’n I encountered it two years previous when we wereforced to camp but surely things had settled down by now. WRONG! I found a motel room in a seedy-looking place, this for amere $97. Understand this was a $25. room anywhere else. I didn’t even shower here, but took pictures. The next day, as I rolled EB across ND I got an eyeful. Hillsides were covered with trailers, seedy, hastilyconstructed apartment structures and more trucks on the roadway than IS #5 herein California. The countryside wasbeing ‘raped’. I made a note to self, ‘Don’t get caught in this country on returning west.
Spent that night in MN, about 100 miles from Marv’s place and called to announce my arrival mid day next.
Arrived, did laundry, changed oil and rolled-out the nextmorning in rain gear, this is a light drizzle. We allowed two days to reach the rally site and they were a comfortable two days ride, albeit hot! IA is all soybean and corn and we stayed clear of the interstate. It was generally rolling hill countrythat flattened-out as we rolled SB. You knew you’d reached MO when the roads got rough. MO has poor roads,
I had a room reservation at the Day’s Inn in Sedalia, one made a year ago with the help of two friends of ours, friends made years ago at the West Bend WI rally, Buel Wortham of Arkansas, and Nick Shultz of Michigan, two fast friends who’ve been riding together for years. They were to have adjoining rooms to ours. We checked-in a day earlyand I headed for the indoor pool. Nick arrived later with his son and an employee; together they run a large pawnshop operation. Nick arrived the following day, traveling with one of his teaching assistants. We all dined and drank together.
We checked into the Rally on opening day and headed to the desk of the Volunteer Coordinator. An all-volunteer cadre runs these rallies and we all volunteer. Where did we want to work and where were we most needed? They needed help at the desk for door prizes that afternoon. Gee, indoors and air conditioned, an’ easy sell’. We worked 2-6 that afternoon standing next to ticket drums for the sundry drawings, being sure ticket #1 went intothe corresponding drum, #2 etc. Ticket #1 was for the grand prize, a new R1200R motorcycle.
My motorcycle started to display erratic behavior since I lost battery back in Great Falls. It would buck’n snort, then surge, and want to die for about the firsthundred yards of operation and then smooth-out. Why? Did we pinch a vent hose on reassembly when we pulled the tank off in GreatFalls? Did we disturb crud in thetank and plug the filter?
With Nick’s help we spent the better part of the morning pulling the tank off to get to the submerged fuel filter. Needless to say I had a full tank and was busy giving gas away until I ran out of recipients. Thereafter I killed a bunch’o weeds. We thought the fuel filter ‘suspect’ and were able to acquire a new one at the rally. We installed it, albeit incorrectly, as my low fuel dashlight now burns steady. I need to pull the tank again. However,between the trip meter and the gas gauge I’m not likely to run out of gas.
None of us won anything (we’re just a bunch of losers!) at the awards ceremony. Marv was relieved to find that he wasn’t the oldest rider. The ceremony was held indoors, in an air-conditioned arena. The announced the official attendanceat 53xx, and confirmed that next year we’ll all be in the State Fairgrounds in Salem OR.
We dined late that night in the Mexican restaurant attached to the motel. Everyone wanted a ‘first light’ departure in the morning. When Marv and I came out to load-up, Buell, Nick and their entouragewere already off’n gone. Marv had plotted a return to Brainerd that involved little backtracking.
I had a little wash to do, tried to take Marv and Carol out to dinner (declined) and hit the road for home early the next morning afterloading-up on water and ice for my cooler. I’d decided to return via US#2 which I picked-up in Bemidji, about 100 miles north of Brainerd. I hadn’t ridden US #2 in many years. I was going to make some time across ND and swing around Minot (State Fair there in full swing mind you). I was making good time, most of US #2 in ND is divided 4-lane roadway.
I was doing a comfortable 80 mph (70 zone) when I heard the siren. More blue lights! Nice Trooper but with a CA plate on themotor he wasn’t gonna cut me any slack, brother officer or not. Computer in his car generated my ticket, which was handed to me with a self-addressed envelope to the Pierce County Clerk. Ten over? $50. fine – check long since mailed. The traffic stop just lengthened a long day. I wanted to clear the ‘oil boom’ before I shut down. I was generally successful in this endeavor as I found a motel in Poplar, about 50 miles into Montana. That was a decent day’s ride, south of Brainerd MN to Poplar MT. (Or so my ass’ll testify!)
The following day I rode W on US #2 to just west of Havre and ducked down US #87 for Great Falls. I wanted to take Jim Birkhead and wife to late lunch/dinner. No answer. Called the retired MT Trooper to find if he was located along my direction of travel. He was not. So here I picked-up my route EB, MT #200 for Lincoln and Missoula. I wanted a dealers attention and Missoula was the closest. I rolled right up the Rockies and through Missoula, stopping for a single beer and stretch in Ovando, an historic tiny community just off Hwy #200, about three quarters of the way between Great Falls and Missoula. Ovando is worth the visit.
I went straight to Big Sky Motorcycles, the only BMW dealerin MT where BMW is a ‘sideline’ to other motor sport sales. I got there just before closing and discussed my situation with the service manager who deduced I had a failingignition coil. If I was there at 9AM the day following they’d take me in. I got directions to their recommended motel, located just a coupleblocks away and checked-in. Casino next door was recommended for dinning. A couple smokes and cocktails later I checked it out; 4 other patrons and me. Those slots must have beenreally really tight!
Next morning I arrived at the service door well beforeopening for business, stripped-off the cooler, duffel and saddlebags to maketheir job easier. While waiting another rally goer appeared – he needed tires. They opened and before signing anything, I asked if they had a coil in stock for my motor. Computer check revealed that they did not. Why wait x number of days? It’ll go 80 MPH, get the part at home!
I loaded-up and headed home running down the Bitterroot Valley (Hwy #93) over Chief Joseph Pass and into Idaho where I turned west for Stanley ID and the Sawtooth Mountains. I was in Stanley last year, having come up along the Payette River EB forStanley. This time I stayed left at Lowman and headed for Boise. Nice road, twisty but it doesn’t hold a candle compared to the route up the Payette River.
I dined in Marsing (south of Caldwell) and picked-up US 95 for Winnemucca NV. This meant somenight riding; Deer in the desert are all but non-existent though Jack Rabbits are a possibility. I saw neither and was held-up thirty minutes awaiting a pilot car somewhere between McDermitt (gas stop) and Winnemucca. Another long day’s ride, Missoula MT to Winnemucca NV.
Lots of ‘no vacancy’ signs greeted me in Winnemucca, but notat the Days Inn. I was directed to park adjacent my room (good), but amid a cluster of Harleys, this under an overhang. I can tell you they hit the road very early after about five ‘blips’ of the throttle for each. My eardrums AND the windows both rattled.
I rode home the next day (a Friday), arriving a day earlier than initially planned.