#144 BMW MOA Rally in Johnson City, TN

Fleeter Log #144
BMW MOA Rally in Johnson City, TN
2009 July 13-21

Over 90,000 miles have passed under my tires in the last four years as I've fleetered about visiting all the lower 48 states; but a rally such as this, I have never attended. At least not the typical, large kind of rally where many riders ride in from far and wide to spend a few days in the same place. This year that will change when I attend the BMW MOA International Rally. This being a BMW Rally, it will still not be the stereotypical biker rally that many people would tend to visualize. Most people start thinking Sturgis, when they hear biker rally, but a BMW Rally is much removed from Sturgis. A simple way to explain the difference would be ... where the Sturgis Rally is X rated, BMW MOA Rally gets a easy G rating.

Even though this rally will be a rally full of "family" fun, there will still be a lot of people there. Large crowds are something I typically try to avoid. But in the spirit of expanding my horizons, I will be one in a crowd of 8,976 people, according to later reports. Not my first choice (or second, or even third) of places to be, but I agreed to help out a friend that is in charge of recruiting and organizing volunteers to help make it a smooth running rally.

So I will be there, sitting at a table near the registration area, recruiting volunteers for such duties as: securing the gates, running the shuttle, working the first aid room, sewing on patches, monitoring the Cyber Cafe area, etc. And when my shifts are fulfilled, I will get to then go play on the rally grounds myself. There are many seminars being offered on a variety of topics and the vendors are expected to be varied and plentiful. I shouldn't have a problem finding something to do.

Fredericksburg, VA to Johnson City, TN to Asheville, NC, 
and back home to Fredericksburg 

Day 1 - Monday
July 13, 2009
260 miles
Fredericksburg, VA to Wytheville, VA
Early starts aren't my specialty. Today I finally pull out of town in the afternoon heading south. My first stop, to get me into fleetering mode, is for a quick photo of the Gordonsville post office just 48 miles into my trip.

One hundred miles later, I decided to try the Pink Cadillac Diner. I have passed near it many times when going south on I81. Interesting place, nice people, better than average food. I'll not hesitate to go back next time I'm in the area and hungry.

Hope I don't have Humpty Dumpty nightmares tonight...

Day 2 - Tuesday
July 14, 2009
233 miles
Wytheville, VA to Johnson City, TN

As yesterday was all about freeway and getting a few miles between me and the house, today is about the twisty roads through the mountains of Appalachia as I duck in and out of the Jefferson National Forest. Virginia's highway 16 between Marion and Tazewell is the kind of road the motorcyclists ride across many states for the chance to ride. Today, I use it to add more miles between me and Johnson City, Tennessee.

As I pass this creek, I look upstream and see something worth turning around to get a better look.

Do you see it?

Now do you see what I see?

It was obvious that I was traveling through coal country as I passed through Buchanan and Dickenson Counties of Virginia.

Coal Miners' Memorial in Clinchco, Virginia.

Rally Days
Day 3-6  Wednesday through Saturday
July 15-18, 2009
21 miles each day riding to rally and back to motel
Johnson City, TN

The next four days my only riding was back and forth between my motel room in Johnson City and the Appalachian County Fairgrounds where the rally was located. Entertainment was varied. Here a local bluegrass combo played for tips.

More on the daring side. Chris "Teach" McNeil performs a stoppie to steal a kiss from a brave admirer.
Video on YouTube of some of his antics:

Meanwhile, midway across the rally grounds, we find this nut sitting on a platform suspended over water while this little league hot-shot takes potshots, putting our nut in the water ... time and time again.

But Charles keeps a smile handy for the camera. What a sport!

For those of you that have an eye for detail, you will notice that I will start sporting a new riding bonnet. Here's the story. It was time for me to retire my colorful bonnet that has had a home on my noggin for near 90,000 miles. So I bought a Nolan modular (flip-up) helmet. This was its maiden ride, but it won't make it back home. It was stolen along with my silver mesh jacket and BMW gloves while I had a late (and long) supper at Appleby's in Johnson City. Sharon (Sojourner's MotoTales), Charles (the dunking booth nut shown above), and I were visiting over a long supper and the time stretched late into the night (or more accurately, early into the morning). 

The parking lot that was packed when we arrived hours earlier was nearly empty by the time we finally made our way out the door. It was my lapse in judgment that made me think it was okay to leave these items on the RT rather than taking them in with me or locking them to the bike. I had gotten lax from the last few days immersed in the BMW culture where 1,000s of bikes were left unattended in the blocks surrounding the Fairgrounds. No one worried about the safety of unlocked helmets, jackets, and even boots left with their bikes. My mistake was taking this trust away from the Fairgrounds and into Johnson City 10 miles away. A police report was made and I rode the three blocks back to my motel feeling naked without a helmet or jacket. 

Charles was my knight in shining armor the next morning when he procured and delivered a borrowed helmet from one of his friends at the rally campground for me to use for the 10 mile ride back to the rally site. The last day of the rally I spent extra time visiting with the helmet vendors until I made my purchase for a replacement. How lucky is that though?! That when I have something stolen, I have a whole selection of rally vendors where I can go helmet shopping. I select the newly introduced Scorpion EXO-900 modular helmet as my replacement bonnet.

Day 7 - Sunday
July 19, 2009
183 miles
Johnson City, TN to Asheville, NC to Boone, NC

Enough of the short distance riding back and forth to the rally and being surrounded by more people than what lived in the entire county of Texas (Goliad County) where I grew up! Time to get back on the road. I head to Asheville to meet a handful of friends for lunch. 

Bad news about the new Scorpion helmet:  Even though the helmet was comfortable as I walked around the vendor area, by the time I arrived in Asheville, I felt as though my head were ready to implode inside the vise bonnet on my head. I had barely gotten my kickstand deployed when I was yanking the painful devise off my head. My buddy, Rick, was quick to see I was in agony and supplied a handful of orange flavored Goody's Headache Powder. How appropriate to be introduced to this pain reliever in its home state of North Carolina. Since I had never partaken of such powder, I waited until I got inside Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria before trying the Dump & Chase method of application. Hence, with the preoccupation with an imploding head, there are no photos from lunch.

After eating, socializing, and relieving my headache, I pursued a much slower-paced afternoon along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

There's that new bonnet on my head -- the Scorpion EXO-900. To relieve the pressure, I used my thinnest headliner and shifted its position often. And I'm sure the Goody's in my system helped.

Day 8 - Monday
July 20, 2009
104 miles
Boone, NC to Hillsville, VA

A visit to the Mast General Store down on King Street is a must before leaving Boone, North Carolina. I end up spending the entire morning browsing the shops along King Street and thoroughly poking around in the Mast General Store.

Leaving Boone, I head to Meat Camp on my way to US231N.

Winding my way along NC194, an isolated water wheel gets my attention. Water was running down the sluice and giving the wheel a spin on its way down. Not sure where it was going from there.

Shortly before crossing the state line into Virginia, I find the South Fork of the New River and the local General Store.

For lunch, I decided it was sandwich time at the New River General Store.

When I rolled into Galax, Virginia, I recollected that my friend Charles (dunking booth nut), had headed to Hillsville after the rally to visit a friend. I gave him a ring while stopping for fuel in Galax. Sure enough, he was still around, matter of fact ... just 13 miles down the road at the grocery store. I headed that way. It was decided in the grocery store parking lot that I would have supper and spend the night at his friend's house. It would be a party of three!

Day 9 - Tuesday
July 21, 2009
290 miles
Hillsville, VA to Fredericksburg, VA
The next morning Charles and I get loaded up. The plan:  Each of us will take our own transportation into Floyd for breakfast at the Blue Ridge Restaurant.

Charles and Barry following the smell of bacon & eggs.

After breakfast, Charles heads back to Georgia, Barry heads off to run errands, and I head home. Shortly after leaving Floyd, I find a small gravel road going more or less my way.

Sedalia Country Store and time for a coke break.

Sometimes when I'm out riding on these back roads, especially a bit after having a coke break, I find the need for a "relief station."  Unlike when riding the freeway littered with informative exit signs describing the many varied options to weary travelers, there is not always facilities so handy to traveling passers-by of the back roads of rural America.
But sometimes when the Universe and I are properly aligned, my needs are mysteriously met. Like today. There it was, clean and stocked with toilet paper, as if I had projected the PortaPotty from a vision in my mind to this handy roadside location.
Near the small town of Norwood, I see these stairs with a very small, wooden, white cross posted at the bottom. I follow the stairway up to a small family cemetery surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Another little gem hiding on the back roads, just waiting to be discovered.

Signs of decline on the James River side of Nelson County in Virginia.

Total Trip: 1,140 miles in 9 days

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