An Harley Goes to a BMW Rally

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Samspade, Jul 15, 2021.

  1. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    How it began: “Some of us are riding to Montana for the national BMW rally in great falls. Of course, you’re welcome to come along if you want.”

    Hmmm. I’ve never been to Montana. In fact, there’s a small block of states in that area that I’ve never been to. Check with the wife. It would mean me being gone for a couple of weeks and no long bike trip for us this summer.

    “You have to go!” She seems just a little too enthusiastic about being rid of me for a while. I could almost have my feelings hurt. However, I may do a lot of stupid things, but I’m really not a stupid person (quiet in the back!). I take that hall pass and run. Only one more hurdle to clear.

    Departure is on a Sunday morning in five weeks. That weekend I’m playing golf in Alabama with my sons and son-in-law. Are they good if we play Friday and Saturday, but not Sunday? It will be Father’s Day and they want to be home with their kids. Perfect. I’m in!

    My bike is a ’20 Harley Road King I bought new last year as a birthday present to myself. It’s sitting at a little over 14,000 miles. Tires, especially the rear, are good for maybe 2-3000 more. Trip will be about 4-5,000. Take a few day rides and get it up to about 14,500. Get the 15,000-mile service done and a new set of tires. No need to worry about it on the road. By the time I leave for the golf trip the bike is packed and ready. I’ll get home from Alabama Saturday night and hit the road 6:00am Sunday morning. Easy. As we’ll say many times on this trip, timing is everything.

    It's been a stressful last couple of weeks. Getting ready for the golf trip, the bike trip, and being gone from home for two weeks and work for almost three. I need a rest from all the preparation. Hopefully day 1 will be an easy day. Yeah, right.

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    An Harley.
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  2. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 1 (6/20/2021)

    There are six of us on this trip, sort of. Three 1250 GS, one Tiger, a Gold Wing, and my Road King. One friend wanted to go to the College World Series in Omaha, so he left a couple of days early. He’ll meet us at our hotel Monday night. There’s a chance of rain Sunday morning from Chattanooga to Nashville, so two others left Saturday afternoon to get north of the rain. We’ll catch up to them Sunday morning. Irony is always along for the ride, so they got nice and wet Saturday afternoon while those of us who waited didn’t get a drop of rain Sunday morning. That leaves three of us to meet at a Waffle House outside Chattanooga early Sunday morning and jump on I-24 to Paducah, KY. No pictures from this part of the ride as; 1) the interstate is boring and we don’t want to stop and, 2) we’ve all ridden this route many times and don’t want to stop. So we don’t stop except to gas up in Nashville.

    Our route planner and Trail Boss (this is, after all, a BMW ride, so it’s Trail Boss and not Road Captain for the duration) from Chattanooga to Great Falls is in front and leads us on a good pace through Nashville and into Kentucky where we plan to meet up with our Saturday departers. We play tag at a few Kentucky exit ramps before we finally arrive at the same exit at the same time.

    Together in Paducah, we finally leave the super slab and hit the back roads. One of the dictates for our route planner was to avoid any major cities. After Nashville, we weren’t in a city of any size the rest of the way to Great Falls.

    This was our route on day 1:

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    Temps were 90+ most of the day. We tried for lunch at Lamberts in Sikeston, MO. It was a circus with a 2 hour wait (Father’s Day, remember). We finally got to our hotel in Clinton, MO at 8 central time (9 eastern). That was 14 hours in the saddle and 708 miles from my house. Time to call it a night.

    States we rode in: TN, GA, KY, IL, MO.

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    Lunch stop - An Harley with lots of BMW's and a Triumph.
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  3. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Following along. This looks like a good one.
    #3
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  4. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 2 (6/21/2021)

    Day 2 would take us from Clinton, MO to Broken Bow, NE. Our route for day 2:

    IMG_2470[1].JPG

    You’re probably thinking (I would be), why Clinton, MO? The answer is that it was on our route and wasn’t a big city, but was big enough to have a couple of hotel choices. Other than that, I’ve got nothing.

    We hit the road early. Trail Boss led us straight west into Kansas. Going west kept us south of Kansas City and Topeka.

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    Gas stop in KS

    Fun fact: I was born in Topeka, KS (I know, who cares?). Been everywhere else I lived as a kid, but never back to Kansas since I was a toddler. So this was almost a home coming for me. When we were 25 miles from Topeka I thought about breaking off and riding up there to see it. Decided it wasn’t worth it. I don’t know where we lived and my mother can’t remember the address anymore. Oh well, I guess I’ll continue through life with a hole in my history.

    Kansas surprised me. I expected flat. I suspect if we’d kept going west my vision would have been realized. But we turned north at Council Grove and beelined it for Nebraska. This part of Kansas was rolling hills. Not big hills, but hills none the less. Rolling pastures and crop fields as far as you could see all day long. I enjoyed it.

    A brief note. As I’ve pointed out, I wasn’t the Trail Boss for this ride. I’ve been the Trail Boss (or Road Captain if there aren’t any BMW’s along) many times. You don’t enjoy the scenery nearly as much because you’re always thinking about routes, watching the line of bikes behind you, and generally preoccupied with the nuts and bolts of the ride. Being a follower behind the Trail Boss lets you sit back and look around. No need to worry about that turn coming up in three miles. Trail Boss will lead you there. For traveling long distances through new or very scenic territory, my recommendation is let someone else lead the way. Thanks, Richard (Trail Boss) for allowing me to sightsee a part of the country I’d never ridden before.

    Nebraska was a surprise too. Not the billiard table flat landscape I was expecting (although flatter than KS). And the trains. Trains over a mile long. All afternoon. We paralleled tracks most of our way through Nebraska. I think the biggest town we rode through all day was 300 people. We were riding the plains, didn’t have any cocaine, no trouble ahead or behind (apologies to The Dead). By the way, the Platte River was incredibly scenic every time we crossed it.

    Broken Bow showed up late in the afternoon. Nice town. Farming town. It reminded me a lot of Sonoma, CA. We stayed on the downtown square at the Arrow Hotel. Nice, old school hotel with a great bar and restaurant. My room was a suite with a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. Impressive. Unload the bikes, get cleaned up, and meet for steaks in the bar while we watch the college world series (note that our college world series attendee was at the Arrow when we arrived). A great evening.

    Total miles for the day: 517. States ridden in: MO, KS, NE

    Downtown Broken Bow, NE
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    The Arrow Hotel
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  5. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 3 (6/22/2021)

    This is the day that the serious sightseeing begins. Our planned route for the day (we made a couple of on the fly alterations):

    Broken Bow Hwy 2 to Thedford, Hwy 83 north,to Valentine. White River, Hwy 44 west, Hwy 73 north, I-90 west, Hwy 240 to the Badlands, Hwy 44 west, I-90 to Spearfish, S.D.

    At 6am Broken Bow smelled like dog food. Guy on the street says it’s the feed lot just outside town. Turns out it’s one of the biggest in the country and the wind has shifted overnight. Oh well, we’re not staying all day. The Arrow Hotel has a hot breakfast bar that’s full of good stuff, even though I almost got a bowl of gravy thinking it was oatmeal (give me a break, it was early).

    Contrary to my usual trip preparation, I didn’t do a lot of research on the areas we’d be riding through. As in none. In my defense, I was a follower on this ride and depended on others to show me the interesting stuff. We head northwest out of town on 2 toward Thedford. A few miles out of Broken Bow I look around and it’s sand as far as you can see. We’re in the Sandhills. The what? From Wikipedia:

    The Sandhills, often written Sand Hills, is a region of mixed-grass prairie on grass-stabilized sand dunes in north-central Nebraska, covering just over one quarter of the state. The dunes were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1984.

    I’ll show my ignorance: I always thought of endless, flat cornfields when I pictured Nebraska. Maybe parts of it are like that. But the Sandhills weren’t like anything I expected to see. It reminded me of riding Highway 12 up the Outer Banks if there wasn’t any water around and the grassy dunes ran as far as you could see.

    (Warning: slight rant) At Thedford we turn straight north on 83. Soon we’re in South Dakota. Another new state for me. And we’re going through a reservation. I miss the sign as we enter, but it’s easy to tell. Rundown mobile homes with 2-3 broken down cars at each one. Once in a while you pass a block building with a “Casino” sign and peeling paint. This is the Rosebud Reservation, home of the Sicangu Sioux tribe.

    It’s not all poverty on steroids. The landscape is beautiful. And there are a few farms and ranches that seem to be doing okay. But overall, this Reservation is the second poorest in the US with 80% unemployment and the next to lowest per capita income of all Reservations (the poorest, the Pine Ridge Reservation, is just to the west). I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Cherokee, NC and it’s a resort compared to this. Not to go CSM, and I know it’s a complicated problem with no easy answers, but we as a country haven’t done well by the Native Americans. (Rant off)

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    At White River we turn west on 44. Now we’re in the serious grasslands. An hour and a half and we stop at the town(?) of Interior, SD, population 67. This is the gateway to Badlands National Park.

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    Interior, SD

    I’ll show my ignorance again. I thought the Badlands was a part of the Black Hills that was where bad guys holed up in canyons and lawmen didn’t follow. What it really is is another planet. I’ll let pictures describe it.

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    A couple of us wanted to ride to Mount Rushmore since we’d never seen it, so we took off from the Badlands Park Visitor Center and headed west on 240. The rest of the group planned to ride the 240 loop through the park and meet us later in Spearfish. It didn’t quite go as planned.

    After several miles riding through the Badlands, we Rushmore riders pull over at the Badlands Wilderness Overlook. Pictures, a drink of water, and as we’re walking back to the parking lot a group of familiar bikes pulls in beside us. They though we took the wrong turn and were on the loop. Turns out they took the wrong turn.

    (to be cont.)

    Attached Files:

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  6. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 3 (cont.)

    The rest of the group planned, after they realized their wrong turn, to head on through the park to Wall and have a (very) late lunch at Wall Drug. By this time, we’d been on the road for about 7 hours in 90+ degree heat. Traffic had picked up considerably when we got to the Badlands. All of a sudden the heat, the traffic, and hunger convinced us to pass on Mount Rushmore and go to Wall Drug. Neither of us had ever been there either, so Mount Rushmore for Wall Drug seemed like a fair trade at the time.

    How to describe Wall Drug. If you’ve ever been to Pigeon Forge, TN (the kitschiest tourist town I can think of), Wall Drug is like you took the entire town of Pigeon Forge and put it in one building. (Note: I’m not criticizing. I go to Pigeon Forge a lot.) By the time we left Wall we were all ready to get to Spearfish and relax.

    Wall Drug - Note the store takes up the entire block
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    But we still had a couple of sights to see along the way. At Wall, we jumped on I-90 west and make an 80mph dash to Sturgis. Gas and water in Sturgis, then down Alternate 14 through Deadwood, Lead, and Spearfish Canyon. I wish I had some pictures as Spearfish Canyon was incredibly scenic. But it was late, we were worn out and weren’t stopping (I need to get a camera so I can take pictures on the fly). We get to Spearfish after an 11-hour day and check in to our hotel.

    The great southern author Walker Percy wrote an essay once decrying the homogenization of cities and towns across the US. He pointed out that you could be in Boise, ID or Baton Rouge, LA and shop at the same stores and eat at the same restaurants. In his opinion the regions of the US were disappearing into a vast sameness. For the last couple of days we'd missed out on this phenomenon. The small towns we'd been riding through and staying in were unique and had character. Spearfish brought us back to mainstream America. Familiar stores, fast food joints, strip malls. We hadn't seen this level of civilization in a couple of days. But the unique character was there. All you had to do was look beyond the McDonald's and Burger King and see the landscape. The businesses may be the same old same old, but the land is special. Dinner is a chain burrito place across the street. Then back to the hotel for beers and cigars as the sun goes down and the moon rises over the mountains. A great end to a great day.

    Gas stop in Sturgis
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    Behind our hotel in Spearfish
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    Spearfish, SD
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    Moonrise in Spearfish
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    Total miles for the day: 436. States ridden in: NE, SD
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  7. rooster shooter

    rooster shooter motorcycle cowboy

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    Change the title from An Harley to A Harley. An Harley sounds weird.
    #7
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  8. swimmer

    swimmer armchair asshole

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    It supposed to sound weird.
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  9. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    It's an ADV thing...
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  10. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 4 (6/23/2021)

    Our route for day 4:
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    Spearfish Hwy 85 north, Hwy 34 west, Hwy 24 west, Devil's Tower, Hwy 14 west, I-90 west, Gillette, Hwy 14 west to Sheridan, Alt Hwy 14 to Lovell, Wy. Hwy 310 north to Laurel, Mt.

    Not a lot of commentary. I’ll let pictures describe the day.

    Into Wyoming. The word for the day is scenery. First up is Devil’s Tower.
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    We stop on the side of the road instead of going in. No time. Got to keep moving.

    A lot of wide-open roads in Wyoming.
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    We take 14 through the Bighorn National Forest. Then take 14A across the Bighorn Mountains. Scenery on steroids.
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    Into Montana on 310 and call it a day in Laurel.
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    428 spectacular miles for the day. States ridden in: SD, WY, MT.
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  11. Buck McCann

    Buck McCann Been here awhile

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    I only live 35 miles from Great Falls and was excited to go to the Rally when I found out about it a few days before it started. When I got to the gate they told me since I wasn't a member and didn't have a reservation? I wasn't allowed in. Bummer as I was excited to see all the bikes and hear some stories. I actually own a 1994 BMW K75S but had never joined BMWOA.

    So how was it?
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  12. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Coming in the next installment. I’m not a BMWMOA member either. I did have a reservation, so they let me in :clap
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  13. red bud

    red bud alky w/motorcycle problem Supporter

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    cool, thanks for taking us along

    looks like you've traded bikes
    #13
  14. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Thanks. Yeah, I got a new Road King last year. The difference from my 07 Electra Glide is probably like the difference between your Indian and the Road Glide it replaced.
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  15. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 5 (6/24/2021)

    Rally day!

    Warning – lots of words, very few pictures.

    Our route for the day:
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    Buffalo Trail Rd north , Hwy 3, Hwy 12 west, Hwy 89 north, Hwy 87 to Great Falls

    No picture stops. We wanted to get to the rally and get our camps set up. Straight north out of town. Big Sky Country earned its reputation. Notes for the day say “Riding all day on top of the world.” We rode through farm and ranch country. It never felt like we were on a hill, but it sure looked like it. Fields, pastures and grasslands stretched off in the distance till the curvature of the earth made them disappear. Strange geography for a hillbilly.

    At Lavina we turned west on 12. Mountains in the distance. By White Sulphur Springs the mountains were close. Turned north on 89 and we were in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. Now the mountains were all around us. Trail Boss has us winging it through the forest. The rally is on his mind and he has to leave early tomorrow. No stops. Just ride.

    North of the National Forest we merge onto 87 and run it straight into Great Falls. We gas up and follow Trail Boss through town.

    For the last few days we’ve been seeing a lot of BMW’s. We’re all headed the same general direction, just using different routes to get there. On a normal road trip you’ll see more Harley’s than anything. But this trip the BMW’s seem to have run them out of the territory (present case excepted). Harley people joke about finding their black Street Glide at a rally. In Great Falls it was people trying to find their red or white GS.

    The rally was at the Montana Expo Park. Through town, across the Missouri River and hang a right. The park was near the river, but not close enough to call it on the river. There was plenty of room for the rally. Not so much for camping. By the time we rolled in at about 3 (Thursday afternoon), there was almost no tent space left. We finally found some empty grass in the RV area. Sure, there was a “no camping” sign. But one of our motley crew is a lawyer and managed to talk the volunteers into letting us use the space. Bonus, we had port-a-potties close enough to find in the middle of the night (we are old after all).
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    There were a lot of people there. The number I heard was 5000. More than I think were expected.
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    One note about age. All six of us are closer to the end than the beginning. People talk about Harley losing their customers to age. After attending this rally, I can confidently state that Harley's got nothing on BMW. I’m guessing the average age of attendees had to be close to 75. Not that that’s old. But it seemed like a much older crowd than the regional BMW rallies I’ve been to. Maybe older, retired guys were the only ones with enough time to ride all the way out there?

    The rally itself had plenty to see. There was a good-sized area for vendors and several food trucks too. I will say, the BMW rally I went to a couple of years ago in Hiawassee, GA did a much better job with the food. At that rally there was a fifty-foot-long grill and free steaks for everyone to grill their own on Saturday night. Maybe they did something similar at Great Falls. I don’t know because I wasn’t there Saturday night (more on that later).

    Vendors seemed to be pretty well covered. With one glaring exception. I hadn’t brought a camp chair with me. Now, I’m an idiot, and it didn’t occur to me until we got there that I could have strapped one on to my empty luggage rack. But I didn’t. I’ve been to 3 or 4 BMW rallies, and the Kermit Chair people are always there. I figured worse case I’d pick one of those up at the rally. They were listed as a vendor. But guess who didn’t show up? I walked across the street to the Ace Hardware. Ace carries cheap collapsible chairs. Not this Ace. My choices were a full-size monstrosity complete with sun awning, or a child’s chair. I went with the child’s chair based on economics and space on the bike. Of course I looked like a circus clown on a kid's tricycle. My buddies got a good laugh. But at least I had somewhere to sit as we had our after dinner milkshakes.

    Our shortest day, mile wise. But we reached our goal. Total miles for the day: 258. Total miles from home: 2347. I thought everything from here on would be going home. As it turned out, we weren't even halfway done.
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  16. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer Supporter

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    Your getting to the really good stuff now , home will be there when you get there.
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  17. red bud

    red bud alky w/motorcycle problem Supporter

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    i'm enjoying the indian, but i sure do miss the chrome slug
    #17
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  18. txmxrider

    txmxrider Been here awhile

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    Sorry, I don't want to hijack the original post but this comment took me by surprise. I've been a BMWMOA member for 30 years and have attended several national rallies and it never occurred to me that it's not open to everyone or that they would actually turn people away. I always assumed that non-BMW owners just weren't that interested. So I poked around on the BMWMOA.org rally page FAQs and found this:

    How much does it cost to attend the Rally?
    MOA Members: $65 in advance; $85 at the gate
    Non-Members: $85 in advance; $105 at the gate <-- so far so good
    Children ages 6-15: $10 in advance; $15 at the gate
    Children ages five and under: No charge
    Saturday-only Day Passes: $35

    Do I have to be a member of the MOA to attend?
    No. The Rally is open to BMW MOA members and their guests. Rally attendance is contingent on abiding by the rules and policies of the BMW MOA, and at the discretion of the Rally Chairs. We reserve the sole right to deny admission and/or remove persons from the rally grounds based on our discretion.

    While MOA members receive a registration discount, non-members may join the MOA online or at the rally registration rate and receive the MOA member discount. A one-year membership is $49 for U.S. residents. Please see the BMW MOA website for the extensive list of MOA member benefits which easily offset the annual membership fee.

    (Note: I added the italics for emphasis)

    Maybe they're worried about hooligan Zundap riders disrupting things. I guess technically you could turn around and ask the person behind you in line if you can be their guest and if they yes then you're golden. Without venturing into a discussion about perceived BMW elitism (another post for another day) the club might ought to consider opening the door a bit. And I'll just leave it at that.

    Carry on Samspade sir. I'm looking forward to the rest of the ride report!
    #18
  19. Zencyl

    Zencyl Been here awhile Supporter

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    Enjoying the report so far, on the edge of my seat for the rest.
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  20. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

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    Day 6 (6/25/2021)

    The day the band broke up!

    No, there weren’t any hard feelings. We knew before we left Chattanooga that Trail Boss would have to leave today. 5:30am and he’s broken camp, packed his bike, and is pulling out of the park. We hated to see him leave, but that’s how group trips work. We’ll see him back in Tennessee in the near future.

    The original plan for us non-Beemer riders was to head out today and spend a couple of days around Glacier National Park. Two of the three of us have never ridden the Going to the Sun Road. The problem was that the Park Service is only allowing a fixed number of travelers onto the road on any given day. Our wives have been trying for days to get us passes. But for some reason, 30 seconds before the passes go on sale there are 100-150 available. Within 10 seconds of going on sale there are zero available. Every day. I’m confident there’s a way to beat the system, we just didn’t know how. No Glacier for us.

    As we kick around alternate sights to see, our remaining two Beemer riders decide they’re going to head to Idaho for a couple of days Sounds good to the rest of us. We do some shopping at the rally (LD hot weather gear for several of us – this stuff really works), pack our tents, and are on the road by 11.

    Our route for the day:

    I-15 through Helena to Boulder. Off the interstate at Boulder. 69 to Cardwell. 359 to Harrison. 287 to 87 to 20. 32 at Ashton, ID. 33 at Tetonia. Through Griggs to Victor, ID.

    Beautiful ride through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and along the base of the Tetons. Of course, astute map readers may wonder why not go through Yellowstone? One word - traffic. It’s afternoon and our newly appointed trail boss, who happens to own a house in Victor (hence our reason for going there) and knows these roads well, knows that afternoon traffic through the park will be slow going. We have time. Yellowstone will come later.

    By evening we’ve eaten a potluck dinner of whatever was in the pantry and are watching the sun set over the Teton River out back. For the first time on this trip we feel like we can relax and not worry about getting up in the morning and making miles.

    Roadside stop along I-15
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    Idaho
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    Sunset over the Teton River
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    Total miles for the day: 361. States ridden: MT, ID

    Attached Files:

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