I bought my BMW R1100S as a step up from the BMW F650GS. The bike offers much more power and smoothness for touring. The downside is that even though the bike is considered a “sport-touring” bike, it’s more “sport” than “touring”.
The BMW Finger Lakes Rally is just around the corner and this year I’ll be going 2-up with Erica riding pillion. This means packing the bike with gear for two people, three nights, and four days.
Here I have the R1100S loaded with the BMW tank bag with it’s middle extension zipped in, BMW system cases with touring lids, Corbin seat with back rest, and a U-bag thanks to my friend Norm from the BMW Dutch Country Riders.
My plan is to store gloves, DSLR, and other quick-to-reach accessories in the tank bag. Erica will have one case for her clothes, rain gear, and essentials, and I will have the other for my gear.
The U-bag will hold our tent, sleeping bags, pillows, and hopefully sleeping pads. This has not yet been tested and I think it’s going to be a tight fit with the sleeping pads but we will just have to wait and see.
My first experience with a motorcycle rally was the Finger Lakes Rally held by the Finger Lakes BMW Club. I was told that if I only attend one rally, this is the one to attend over Labor Day weekend. And it was an awesome experience.
I met up with my friend John and six of his friends at Summerdale Diner in Enola at 7am on Friday. We had breakfast and introduced ourselves. We were on our bikes shortly after 8am. Five BMWs, and one Harley. We headed up route 15 towards New York as the weekend had officially begun.
After getting off route 15 and onto the side roads towards Watkins Glen, the thrill sunk in. I’m not sure how to explain it. Here I was on my BMW R1100S with touring cases packed full, tank bag packed, tent, and sleeping bag strapped over the passenger seat and just traveling. Looking ahead at s few more BMWs packed with similar gear as we glide the back roads and lean through the turns as the sun glimpses over the ridges and hills to light our way. It’s a sight I will not forget.
As we arrived at Watkins Glen State Park shortly after noon we checked in and found a camping spot to call home for the weekend. Just $55 at registration gave me 3 nights of camping, dinner Saturday and Sunday, a rally mug, and entries for door prizes. It was quite warm so I set up my tent under some trees and found some shade under the dining tent to hang out until it cooled off a bit. The bikes continued to roll in all day and night.
Saturday morning was cold, windy, and forecast for possible showers. But I wanted to go to Monica’s Pies in Naples, NY for a blueberry pie. I had come this far, so I figured, why not? I talked a few of my friends from the BMW Dutch Country Riders into going. Everyone questioned my fondness for this pie I was craving and thought I was crazy. But I was a man on a mission. That pie would be mine.
It was just drizzling so I opened up my side cases and grabbed my rain gear. Pulled my rain gear over my riding gear and slipped the key to my cases into my pocket. This would be the cause of much frustration but more on that later. We headed off to Naples which was about an hour ride.
After arriving at Monica’s Pies I reached into my pocket to grab my key for my side cases and noticed that what I thought was a pocket, was not a pocket. It was merely a hole with access to my pants pocket. So when I placed my key into my pocket, it dropped to the bottom of my pants and fell out somewhere between Watkins Glen and Naples. And it was my only key to these cases. Regardless, I got my blueberry pie. Goal accomplished, but frustrated that I lost my key.
All day Saturday I spent asking people to try their keys in my side cases to see if they would work. No such luck. But Sunday morning I guy overheard me talking about it and offered to come over to my bike and help pull the locks out. This sounded too easy. But after about 45 minutes he had both locks pulled from the cases and I was able to open them. I offered him my blueberry pie but he refused. It was suggested that I take these locks to a guy who was selling used parts and see if he could match the locks to my ignition key. So I stroll over to George and explain my situation. Within about 15 minutes he had my locks re-keyed to match my ignition key. I asked him what I owed him and he said he didn’t sell me anything and that he just gave me some of his time. Again, he would not take anything in exchange for saving my butt. He simply said to do something nice for someone else. That seemed to be the mentality of everyone at the rally. I couldn’t ask to be amongst any better people.
Now that I had access to my side cases once again, it was time to go visit a winery. Friends recommended Bully Hill Winery in Hammondsport, NY so I found the address, put it in my GPS and hit the road.
The parking area at Bully Hill Winery with Keuka Lake in the background.
They offered wine tasting every half hour. For $2 you could sample five wines of their choice. And they made it fun! White, red, rose, dry, or sweet, it was fun. Then in their shop you could pay $1 per sample to taste any wine you wanted. I tasted a red wine and bought a bottle to bring home. Wrapping it in my rain gear and placing it in my side case.
On my way back from Hammondsport I passed this area between two lakes where boats would travel between the two. This was between Waneta Lake and Lamoka Lake. The sky was beautiful and I just had to stop and soak in the scenery for a bit.
Watkins Glen was a beautiful town and Seneca Lake as well.
Monday came and it was soon time to hit the road to head back home.
I think I found an annual vacation! The Finger Lakes BMW Rally!
Check out my BMW Finger Lakes Rally photo set on Flickr for more photos from the weekend.
I didn’t realize at the time that this was only going to be a two day trip. I woke up Sunday morning and still wasn’t sure where to go from Roanoke. Watching the Weather Channel has been a normal occurrence in the days leading up to the trip. And Sunday showed some nasty weather coming in from the west and possible snow showers at night.
After checking in to the F650.com forums and my contacts over on ADVRider.com, I had a few options. I could take the Blue Ridge Parkway south instead of I81. This would keep my speed down and be more scenic. But the weather in the mountains would certainly be worse and I would have no place to go for shelter if needed. Ike from F650.com offered me camping space at his place on the border of Georgia and Alabama. He said I could hold out there before heading to the Thumper Thaw in Robbinsville, NC. The thought of camping for 3 days just waiting for the Thumper Thaw event didn’t really appeal to me. Although the event sounds like a lot of fun.
I chose to try to head back home. Riding constantly every day, all day, and trying to meet certain destinations was just too tiring. And I wasn’t enjoying it. But I also did not want to go back north on I81. So I pull out the Rand McNally Atlas and take a look at the state of Virginia. Since the storm was coming in from the west, I thought I would try to head east, then north towards home. About 70 miles east of Roanoke is Appomattox. I’m a bit of a history buff too so I thought this sounded like a good first destination for Sunday. And route 24 leads from Roanoke to Appomattox. That sounded simple enough. Also, not much further east from Appomattox is route 15 which I know goes the entire way to Camp Hill, PA.
So I grab some breakfast at the hotel before checking out and loading up the bike. The lady at the front desk got me pointed in the right direction to hook up with route 24 out of Roanoke. It was a cold morning. I had the Gerbing heated jacket cranking and the heated grips on high. As I head east on route 24 I cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway and imagine how scenic it must be once there are more leaves on the trees. The road winds its way through rural Virginia where any gas stations seemed to be closed due to it being early on a Sunday morning. Regardless, I stop a few times just to take the wind-chill off.
The sky is dark and cloudy. The road takes a sharp right and to the left is a nice opening in the trees which offered me with this view of the Virginia country side. The mountains of Virginia are quite beautiful! But those clouds don’t look so friendly. I look down at my GPS and count down the miles to Appomattox so I can find a place to take shelter from the bitter cold and wind.
As I come into Appomattox I spot a Wendy’s. Good enough for me. I need to warm up. I head in and lay my gear down on a chair and order some food. After I finish eating I start to think of where to head next. Just about that time I look out the window and spot a Harley Davidson parked across from my BMW F650. Cool! Another rider! Up to this point I only passed three other motorcyclists on route 24 which just happened to be BMW riders as well, and they were all riding together.
I look around for someone who fit the Harley description and spot him standing in line. Once he had his food he headed over towards me where I sparked up a conversation. He seemed very knowledgeable about the area and I explain that I would be happy with getting to Frederick, Maryland if possible. And I ask him what route 15 is like this far south. He said that 15 didn’t have anything on it and probably would not be a good choice. Then my phone rings. It’s Lee from the BMW Dutch Country Riders which I belong to. The group has breakfast every Sunday and I called him before I left the hotel and left him a message. I told him where I was and he responded with a route suggestion. He said to hook up with route 29 north towards Manassas where I can pick up route 15 north and follow that the rest of the way home. I relay this info to the Harley rider and he agrees and points out that I can pick up 60 right there which will take me to 29 and on my way.
We both head out of Wendy’s together and head our separate ways. He was heading to Lynchburg and I was heading north. I plugged Manassas into the GPS and am on my way. As I was heading down route 60 my GPS points to the right onto Tye River Road. But I also see a sign for 29 that tells me to keep going straight. So I continue straight but as I glance down at the GPS I don’t see 29 anywhere on the map. I pull off the road and zoom out to get a better picture. The connection with 29 is about 8 miles down the road, but Tye River Road is a shortcut between the two roads. So I turn around and hop on Tye River Road. This was a great decision because Tye River Road wound it’s way through the forest with no driveways, no houses, just beautiful countryside. It was a spectacular ride.
Route 29 was another beautiful route. The road rolls along the countryside and around the beautiful mountains with trees budding and blooming the entire way. There was no truck traffic and speeds were a relaxing 60 miles an hour. Still no rain.
I stopped in Charlottesville, VA for fuel. As I head towards the bike after paying for my fuel I look up at the sky and it looks threatening of rain. A guy looks at me, looks up at the sky, then looks back at me and explains he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Please let that rain stay to the west!
Finally I pick up route 15 north towards home. After hours of riding with my balaclava over my head I realize that I’m not drinking much and staying hydrated. And with the Gerbing jacket cranking I’m feeling fatigued. I stop a few times to drink more but it’s just not helping much. I consume a powerbar with a mixture of Gatorade and water and push on. It’s hard to explain the feeling of fatigue on a motorcycle. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not like being in a car at all where you can just sit and be out of the elements. You’re in the wind, the heat, the cold, the rain, you’re balancing a bike, being extremely alert of everything around you, it’s strenuous.
I keep pushing on and find myself in Frederick, Maryland. Have I said I like Maryland? I know my next destination. It would be Thurmont, Maryland. I’m familiar with that area a bit and I know I’m getting close to home. This section was difficult for me. I don’t know if it was the fatigue, or the cold, or maybe I didn’t have my balaclava on very well. But my face was feeling uncomfortably cold. I would pull off the highway at almost every side road just to stop for a minute. I finally made it to Thurmont and pulled into a McDonald’s to warm up. I think to myself, is it safe to keep going? I’m almost home. But is it safe? Should I just stay here tonight? I decided to continue. I felt a bit better after leaving McDonald’s. My face wasn’t as cold so I must have had my balaclava on better.
Just past Gettysburg I see some sprinkles land on my shield. Oh boy, here comes the rain. Then a few more rain drops. By the time I reached Dillsburg I was riding in the rain. I continued the rest of the way home in the rain. Riding in the rain is a mental challenge. At first I get a feeling of fear. But when I recognize that my gear is keeping me dry I relax a bit. The thought of getting wet and the wind-chill factor in cold weather is still always present though. Those two factors are a big danger when riding.
I arrived home a little after 8PM on Sunday night. I didn’t make it to Texas. But my trip was an experience. It was an adventure. It let me see things I’ve never seen before. And I met several people along the way. It was worth it.