This, the final segment of my trip, took me to the BMW National Rally in West Bend, Wisconsin, and then on home via the Lake Express ferry across Lake Michigan.
Day 42 – Thursday, July 12 – To the National Rally
I got to West Bend around 5 p.m. and checked in. Over 7,000 bikers attended the rally – the oldest rider was a man age 92, and the youngest passenger a young man age 3.
Day 43 & 44 – Friday and Saturday – BMW National Rally
Most people camp at the rally – it’s kind of a BMW thing. Harley or Goldwing riders would do it differently, I suppose. The Washington County fairgrounds provided marvelous camping space and facilities. The rally planners brought in three trucks with hot showers to accommodate attendees.
I picked a spot just behind the BMW demo truck. This section was reserved for campers with “medical needs” (need electricity to run their CPAP machines). The weather was perfect – in the upper 70’s during the day and cool in the evenings. We had a brief rain storm Saturday morning, but my tent and I came through just fine.
The rally offered around 70 seminars on every topic you could imagine. This one was for women riders, so I passed it up.
This seminar was on photography, so I hung around for a while and picked up some good tips. There were others I wanted to attend, but there just wasn’t enough time for everything.
Vintage bikes are always an important part of the rally. This 1926 BMW is being ridden by Peter Nettesheim from Huntington, NY. The first BMW motorcycle was made in 1923 after the company was prohibited from manufacturing airplanes following World War I.
One of my favorites is the vendor displays. There were nearly 100 at the rally filling two buildings and a large outdoor area. I picked up some paper funnels to use the next time I have to change oil on the road so I won’t have to scrounge for a milk jug to fabricate a funnel.
Sidecars are another interest for BMW riders. This is a brand new one designed for the K1200LT (like my bike). I could see that it has possibilities as an alternate way for Elaine to accompany me on trips, or for the grandkids to ride along.
I had a great time at the rally, learning lots of new things and meeting new people. Saturday I spent most of the day with Rodger, our son’s best friend during the time we lived in Milwaukee, and Sarah. Sarah is the daughter of Insoo Kim Berg, a very good friend who died recently. Rodger rides a K1200RS and R1200C. Sarah has a K75S and a new F650GS. Both are avid riders and it was fun hanging out with them. Unfortunately, I left the memory card from my camera in my computer that day so I don’t have any photos to include here.
Day 45 – Sunday, July 15 – Going Home
Today I rode down to the ferry terminal in Milwaukee to board the Lake Express for Muskegon, Michigan. About 100 other bikers had the same idea. We all managed to get our bikes on and strapped down for the crossing, which was smooth on this still day.
I always thought Milwaukee had a neat skyline, and I still do.
My original plan was to make it home this evening, but it didn’t turn out that way. I miscalculated the time from Muskegon home, and forgot about the time change from Milwaukee. So I found a room in Ann Arbor for the night. Before turning in I took one last peek out the window to make sure the LT was tucked in for the night.
Day 46 – Monday, July 16 – Home!
I finally made it home – around noon on Monday the 16th. Everything had gone marvelously throughout the trip, but I was happy to be home.
My GPS recorded 11,660 miles for the trip, a few more than I had expected. It didn’t seem that far, but I had traveled further than it seemed. 11,660 miles is almost halfway around the world! Paris is 3,923 miles from Cleveland, the tip of South America is 6,547, Hong Kong is 7,952, Cape Town 8,185, and Sydney is 9,539. Realizing all this makes the world feel like a much smaller place.
I was at the kitchen sink making lunch when I happened to glance out the window to see my bike headed down the driveway, and I heard a little voice in my ear saying, “can we go some more?”
I dropped by my office this afternoon and a colleague mentioned that I looked better than I had in a long time – more relaxed, she said. I’m not exactly sure what she was referring to, but here are some data – before and after mug shots.
My friend Paul, who got back from Alaska a few weeks before I did, told me about the difficulty he was having adjusting to being off the bike and getting back into the home routine. I was feeling the same, then we left Tuesday morning to spend a week with Duncan and Angus while their dad’s went on a trip, and the feeling was replaced with the pure joy of seeing these little guys so full of happiness and fun. Duncan and Angus provided a marvelous postscript to a wonderful trip.