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    “What Do You Do At A Rally? – A Guide For The Rally Virgin”

    by Don Hamblin, Rally Chair, “Land of Oz” Rally

    One of the most asked questions by folks who have never  been to either a local rally or one of the “Big Show” nationals is, “What do you do at a rally?”  Well, the short answer might be, “You ride all day getting there, then you stand around talking about motorcycles.”  But the real answer is a lot more complicated.

    Ride All Day Getting There

    Even if it is only a few miles up Kansas Highway 7 to our “Land of Oz” Rally, in Atchison, Kansas, you are provided with a great excuse to relax and take a ride!  Once you break away from the competing interests of home and job, there is a whole lot to see and experience on either a short 60 mile ride or a serious multi-day 1500 mile ride.  You feel your mind slipping into that ride focused “rider zone” where mind / body / motorcycle / environment become one (a much better form of relaxation than a Lazy Boy recliner and the TV remote), and those every day cares melt away.  Rain, wind, sun, and miles all become part of the environment that is much more satisfying than just about anything else.  Oh, and the stories you will be able to tell when the time is right!

    Standing Around Talking About Motorcycles

    The first thing you find when you get to the rally is usually Registration.  It does not matter what you rode, how far you have ridden, how high tech your gear is, or even how quickly you covered those miles – there will be others in line and registration volunteers standing ready to welcome you, and it will likely be a warmer welcome than you get at work each morning or even at a neighborhood BBQ!  That is because everyone there has gone through exactly what you did to get there. You are among your very own motorcycle “Band of Brothers” who really do understand you.

    After you take care of Registration you will usually have access to things like door prize tickets, meal tickets, or the schedule of events for the rally.  Door prize tickets you can drop in a bucket somewhere so that you will have something really neat to dream about winning, I doubt if I need to say much more about meal tickets, depending on the rally, you will either have an included repast, or there will be a list of local (or on site) restaurants – you will  only go hungry is you want to!

    Events at rallies are usually things that are motorcycle related, and they can be pretty specialized to anyone’s interests.  It is not unusual to find events for kids (my own kids started going to rallies while in diapers and they are still at it – rallies, not diapers), low speed tests of motorcycle skills (called “Field Events”), bike shows where you can see where the motorcycle imagination can go, local day rides (you are there already, why not see some of the local “color”), sometimes seminars or displays, and usually some professional quality entertainment.  You do not have to take part in any or all of the event, you can pick and chose whatever interests you to either watch or participate.  It is almost impossible to not be drawn into conversation with fellow rally goers with all that going on around you.

    Striking up a conversation at a rally is a whole lot easier than you might remember from 1970’s discos. Either someone comes up to you and says, “Nice bike / I had one of those once / Do you like those Pilot Roads” or you can do it.  The motorcycle rally version of small talk becomes a natural and entertaining thing to do. And who knows, you might help someone out or learn something new yourself! An even better idea is to volunteer to help out.  That gives you both an excuse and a reason to talk to folks.  Just volunteering to make coffee for a couple of hours, you will find that it is amazing the wonderful tales you will hear (or tell to) the guy with plates on his bike from the other side of the continent!  I remember someone once telling me, “No matter how good your story is there will be someone there with one even better, and his might be true!”

    Back To Ride All Day Getting There

    A big decision prior to leaving home is where you plan to stay.  While it is not unheard of to find someone sacked out on a picnic table, it normally comes down to either commuting, motel-ing, or camping.  Each work, and each have their good and bad sides.

    Commuting is the simplest.  You climb on the bike, ride to the rally, and then ride home that night to sleep in your own bed.  You will have your own shower and be able to watch “Dancing With the Stars” or whatever you usually would do at home.  Sometimes you can save a few bucks by buying a Day Pass rather than the whole weekend rally fee.  No muss, no fuss.  But you might miss out on some great entertainment or watching the stars come out over a welcoming campfire.  Oh, and you will need to not wear yourself out during the day before that ride home.

    Motel-ing comes next.  Somewhere within an hour’s ride there are usually motels and hotels.  Clean sheets, air conditioning, and somebody else has to clean up after you are all great reasons for catching that blinking vacancy sign.  You can be well rested each night, and well groomed each morning.  Not a bad way to go, if your Visa Card can handle it.

    Camping is something that is a great big part of BMW motorcycle rallies.  “Back in the day” most buyers choose BMW’s for their image of reliable travel with little need for roadside repairs and maintenance required of other marques.  Added to that came a culture of self-sufficency that a lot of people wanted.  But there was also something else: kind of like the BMW culture of all the gear all the time bonded with, “I’d sure like to finish the day with a cold adult beverage (or more).”  So rather than climbing on a tipsy motorcycle for a wrap it around a tree ride home, many brought a tent along.  Many of us used the excuse of “The cheapest thing on a BMW is the owner” (let’s see, ride a $15,000 motorcycle, wear a $400 helmet, a $1,000 riding suit, then sleep in a tent!), but what it was really all about was not wanting that feeling of togetherness to end by riding out of the campground.  Remember that campfire I talked about earlier.

    Awards and Rewards

    Most rallies have awards for those who excelled at what we do.  There can be awards for winning field events, oldest / youngest / farthest riders or bikes, winners of bike shows, and those special door prizes.  These are all great things to display on your “I Love Me” wall at home or in your garage.  There are also rewards for clearing out your mind of all those everyday “issues” that plague modern life, or for accomplishing and mastering skills that others can only dream about.  Sometimes life is its own reward.

    You Ride All Day Getting There, Then You Stand Around Talking About Motorcycles

    Yep, that is pretty much it.

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