The 2007 BMW MOA Rally

Text: D. Brent Miller • Photography: D. Brent Miller

Amid the farms in dairy land, nearly 8,000 motorcyclists and aficionados gathered for four days of motorcycle talk, seminars, and rides at the Washington County Fair Park in West Bend, Wisconsin.

There is a tradition at the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association International Rally. Newcomers identify themselves as such and receive a pin. Anyone wearing the pin gets a little extra attention and a hearty welcome. Naturally, they are called first timers.

Counting myself among the other greenhorns, I was on hand to staff the RoadRUNNER booth, which provided a great perspective on the rally through my many conversations with attendees, whether they were subscribers, soon-to-be subscribers, or just friendly people looking for ideas about touring destinations. Of course, no conversation at a motorcycle rally is ever complete without talking about bikes, and there was plenty of that.

Although the majority of participants come from the United States and Canada, 26 attendees hailed from Australia, Bahrain, China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom. Reinforcing the "come one, come all” atmosphere, the notion that everyone is welcome at this event, only 62 percent of the participants were MOA members – although 87 percent of the bikes were BMWs.

For an all-volunteer-run event, the rally was superbly organized and all of the workers I encountered were helpful and well-informed. And if rally-goers couldn’t gather the information they needed from the Hospitality Ambassadors at the "visitors and tourists information center,” then it wasn’t readily available. They supplied information on roads, restaurants, attractions, and mini-tours – or just about everything you might want to try out in the area.

Organized rides at the rally wandered many of the local roads; but unique to Wisconsin, and this rally, is a program called Wisconsin Rustic Roads. The program, created to boost tourism and economic development in rural Wisconsin, features back roads with scenic or historic sites. To qualify, roads cannot be state or nationally designated roads, and speed limits cannot exceed 45 mph. With proper documentation, after having ridden at least 10 of the Rustic Roads, motorcyclists can earn a RR patch; and with 25 roads under your belt, you’re eligible for a state-sponsored certificate. For more information on the program, visit www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/motorcycle/rusticroads.htm.

Perhaps the most popular feature of any BMW rally is the test-ride program. Riders may sign up to ride any one of the new offerings from BMW, including the new F 800 series bikes. [RoadRUNNER tested the new BMW F 800 S and ST motorcycles in the August 2007 issue.] Lines formed early, the riding slots filled quickly throughout the weekend rally, and riders were escorted out in small groups for a spirited outing.

The fairground was covered in a sea of tents and motorcycles early in the mornings. About half of the attendees came packed to camp and a few motor homes dotted the landscape; and of course the many vendors were kept busy serving up Wisconsin cuisine with sodas, water and beer. The evening entertainment, much of it Bavarian-themed, was plentiful and enjoyable.

As they are at most rallies, awards were handed out for longest distance traveled, oldest and youngest riders, etcetera. But, the honoree who stood out the most was the Oldest Female Rider: Ardys Kellerman, age 75, from Lexington, Texas. She rode more than 100,000 miles in 2006! That’s right, more than one hundred thousand miles on her motorcycle! I’d really like to write a profile of Ardys some day, but first I’d have to track her down!

The 2008 BMW MOA International Rally will be held July 17-20 in Gillette, Wyoming. Check out the online buzz at the BMW MOA Forum, www.bmwmoa.org/forum, and start making your plans! Hope to see you there.