GEARS Training at the Rally (May 2016)
Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted by: Sarah Hall
Last summer, my dad and I planned a motorcycle road trip beginning in Hood River, Ore., and heading to Billings, Mont., with our return taking us through Yellowstone National Park. We began our trip riding through the Gorge and into Washington state with me behind my dad on his BMW F 800 GS. That evening, we spent the night in a small motel in Milton, Ore., before heading out again before sunrise the next morning for Billings.
Throughout much of our journey we rode along streams and rivers, and eventually the terrain became more hilly, slowly transforming into mountains of jagged rocks forming one side of the road with steep drop-offs bordering the other. Riding through Idaho and through many small Montana towns, we arrived in Billings, where we were greeted by an enormous crowd of motorcyclists. Once grassy areas were colored like jelly beans with hundreds of colorful tents and motorcycles, ranging from old Harleys to the newest BMWs. After a bit of searching, we found an open spot where we set up camp.
Though my first day at the rally was supposed to be my first day at the GEARS Training, a motorcycle camp which introduces young riders to all aspects of riding, I soon found out we’d arrived a day late and weren’t able to participate in the riding portion of the training. Despite that, I heard a lot about the cool stuff my newly-made friends were doing, like getting huge air off of the jumps and the cool dirt track that was being built.
Since I wasn’t able to ride with everyone else, Voni Glaves offered to let me ride a scooter. Although I had already received some basic rider training from my dad, an instructor with Team Oregon Rider Training, I had fun practicing the drills Voni set up for me with the scooter. On one of the last days of GEARS Training, I was invited to participate in a Rider’s Safety Course. There, along with a small group of friends, I spent the day learning what to do in the event of a motorcycle crash, including how to survey a patient for injuries, remove a helmet safely and administer the basics of CPR. During our free time, my friends and I practiced our skills on a motorcycle simulator inside the exibit hall, and later we visited the GS Giants area.
We all found the GS Giants to be really awesome. The course they had built for the GS Giant competition included a barrel weave, slow hill cimb, teeter-totter, sand trap and several other obstacles. Participants in the competion were able to test their skills; some made it through effortlessly, while others struggled. One of the kids from our camp even decided to try it. But the coolest part was when the pros from the BMW Performance Center rode it and made it look so simple.
Finally, at the end of our three-day rally adventure, my dad and I packed up and set out for Yellowstone. Along the way, we passed through a cute little ski town where dozens of vintage cars lined the streets. As we entered Yellowstone, we were immediately greeted by bison. As we weaved our way back and forth up the mountain sides and gained altitude, the forests and grass became thinner and the air noticably colder. Looking down the sides of the mountains, I could see the valley at the bottom getting smaller and smaller.
When we reached 10,900 feet and the top of Beartooth Pass, I decided to explore the peak, where melting snow had formed pools of freshwater just a little below us and beautiful wildflowers grew among the rocks and grass. Further into the park, we passed Bear Mountain and Old Faithful, and before long, we were home.
I’ll always remember this ride with my dad as an amazing trip filled with new adventures and scenery, and I look forward to riding with my dad again this summer to the BMW MOA Rally in Hamburg, N.Y.
My dad says he can’t think of any better way than participating in GEARS training to get young people riding, while at the same time instilling a sense of responsibility and safety. I look forward to seeing the friends I made in Billings and another adventure.
Photos by Richard Klain.