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The Land of Oz rally

Tuesday, February 14, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Walt Eschmann (#171192)

Once upon a time, in an alternate universe, Dorothy, Lion, Tin Woodman and Scarecrow cavorted through the Land of Oz in a quest to return their lives back to normalcy. For Dorothy it was to return home to Kansas, Scarecrow seeking to find a brain, Tin Woodman searching for a heart and Cowardly Lion desperately looking to find courage. Remember the story? Well each year after a long cold winter, thousands of motorcycle riders hit the road after a couple of months of hibernation in search of experiences that will return their lives to normalcy too. So, with high expectations, I kicked off my 2015 riding season with a trip to the Land of Oz motorcycle rally sponsored by the Kansas City BMW Motorcycle club. Located for the first time in Atchison, Kansas, home of Amelia Earhart, I first learned of this rally at the Minnesota National rally last July, and as a long time fan of the wizard (I’ve actually used the yellow brick road theme as a teaching aid in graduate quality and performance excellence classes) I jumped at the chance to actually participate in a real live Oz activity to begin my bonus year eight riding season (every year of riding since retiring is considered a bonus year, eh!)

Anyway, focusing back to our alternate Oz universe, Dorothy starts her adventure out with bad weather, and Kansas did not disappoint in this universe either, with heavy rains on Friday all the way up to about the time folks started showing up after getting off work or riding in for the weekend. Nothing as catastrophic as what Dorothy experienced but definitely enough weather to get you into the moment with strong parallels to events in the story. The opening ceremony at noon on Friday was a bit delayed in Munchkinland (Warnock Lake, Kansas), but eventually the ribbon parted in the middle, officially opening the rally. Mayor Allen Reavis and several city dignitaries attended the ceremony along with Don Hamblin and several members of the KC BMW Motorcycle club.

The folks in Atchison went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome in their Land, as was evidenced by a quick look at the rally itinerary. The first item to catch my attention was the reference to a shower trolley. The camping area was bit short of shower facilities, (only 2 showers available) so the solution to the shortage was to run a trolley from the campgrounds to the local YMCA on Saturday. I must admit, while watching the shower trolley go by on the first part of the trip, there was a distinct aroma of Pepè Le Pew following the trolley, replaced by a flowerier bouquet fragrance upon the returning trip, with lots of smiling faces. An innovative solution to a basic problem…. Obviously wizard thinking!

Another attention catcher involved the activity of equipment check at the local Hardware Store. At first, I heard the rumor that the equipment check was to be performed by the local Boy Scout troop, and the possibilities of new equipment immediately crossed my mind. After all, if the Boy Scouts determined my equipment to be defective or obsolete, how could I argue with them? I was already framing my argument to my wife with….”but honey, the Boy Scouts don’t lie and “they” said that my old doohiggy or thingamajig needed to be replaced”! But alas, it was not to be, as the equipment check was similar to a coat check at a conference, where someone keeps eye on your equipment while you attend at event at the site; in this case a motorcycle show. It should be noted that the area was completely secure, so I’m not sure why an equipment/coat check process was actually needed!

Of course this is all hearsay, as I was out on my first GS rally ride since taking a beginner GS riders course a couple of weeks earlier in St. Louis. Prior to the rally, I had done my research at the web site for the event, with several reviews of a short video posted on the BMW forum from previous rides. Some made the comment that it was only mud, (did I mention the presence of rain just prior to the rally) but in fact, the ride was composed of a lot of gravel, lots of mud, and great views of the Missouri river and plenty of rolling hills. My favorite was the part of the route that followed the California wagon trail, as there were several examples of swales that developed in the land from the thousands of wagons that made their way west in the younger years of our nation. Kind of humbling to think of all the folks who passed through Atchison, leaving from St. Joe MO with hopes and dreams of a better future in a land so far away. Ride captain Eddie McLiney did a great job of leading the group through more than enough challenge, including a detour around the Yellow Brick Road into the trees and bushes.

Most of us managed to miss the turn though, and we quickly returned to the mud brick road. By-the-way, many thanks to Eddie and Lee Garrett for helping me get back up the one time that I tried to turn my 700 GS into a Fisher solemn mud ski. Apparently they don’t teach transitions from three inch mud to asphalt in a 90 degree turn in beginner GS rider school. I completely forgot that my tires were loaded up with brown muck, thereby substantially reducing my chances of staying vertical in a quick turn. Opps! And finally, no rally is complete without saying a few words about the folks you meet at the event. My favorite part of motorcycle touring is the chance to meet new friends and make new memories. For example, I met Bernie Grossman, designer of the 136 MPG diesel Suzuki/BMW/who knows what cruiser designed to run up to 60 miles per hour (although the disclaimer I heard suggested that at 60 mph, it was “really” running 60 mph), if you get the drift, but came with a upgraded alternator that provided enough output to power a heated jacket, apparently something of importance in Oz winters.

Bernie was just one of many fascinating individuals to be found at a BMW rally, with a new story or idea just waiting to be discovered at the next cluster of tents or campsite, including celebrities. Of course I seem to have a problem recognizing celebrities as evidenced a couple weeks before when I sat next to Teach McNeil around a fire pit at the Gateway BMW riders training camp in March and failed to recognize him for the first hour of conversation even though he gave me several hints after I said that he looked really familiar. So it comes as no surprise to me that I found myself talking to Elyse McKinnon (ON Magazine April 2015) at the coffee booth and failed to recognize her in the flesh. Hailing from Lawrence Kansas, it was just a hop-skip-and jump to get to Atchison after a rain-out at a previously scheduled event, so she thought she would pop in for a hello to everyone. And she brought along her S1000RR speedster for everyone to drool over. What could be better than to be surprised with getting to rub elbows with some of the best in the industry simply by showing up at a rally?

Bottom line for the Land of Oz rally: the folks of KC BMW Motorcycle club did a great job of providing an experience that was well worth the price of admission. Their dedication to planning for all contingencies to make the campers feel welcome was demonstrated over and over during the weekend during trying times such as when the coffee maker trailer shot craps early in the event. Club members like Vicky Barr (AKA The coffee Lady) never missed a beat going to Plan B in order to supply black liquid gold to us zombies emerging each morning from our tents as we assaulted the coffee trailer. And a Girl Scouts organization from the Atchison area provided a great breakfast both days for the 230 plus attending campers for a donations only fee. I don’t know how much they took in for their effort, but heard that they were very pleased with their results. That doesn’t really surprise me though, based on the generosity of BMW riders to support community organizations at other rallies.

The rally was best summed up by an anonymous statement Don Hamblin received right after the rally….” All of this reinforced my overall observation of ENTHUSIAM. The Chamber of Commerce lady had it, you all had it. There was excitement about what you had to offer. I took the town trolley tour. I’ve seen a whole lot more impressive stuff, but, the enthusiasm of the people doing the tour really caught on, and it was really fun.” Great job guys and gals!

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