The Madison BMW club held its Great River Road Rally May 18th-20th in Soldiers Grove, Wi and it was a terrific event. Weather was a major concern, and for several days before I kept wondering if I was going to have to put up my tent in a thunderstorm. That's all they kept forecasting, rain, rain and more rain. Actually the way they put it was isolated thunderstorms on Friday with scattered thunderstorms on Saturday... what's the difference? As it turned out, the area got 2" of rain that morning, and then stayed dry the entire weekend! I was thrilled. My tent has a mesh top, and the rain fly doesn't go on until the tent is up, which means setting it up in the rain means a wet inside.
I took back roads from Woodstock up to the town, lots of curves, and many even without stripes. I couldn't go full steam as I was loaded down with my camping gear, but it was still fun. No cars, no cops, just twistie and hilly roads cutting through farm country.
The rally is set up in the middle of the town park with plenty of camping space, shade trees, fire pits, BBQ grills, toilets, and a few nice pavilions. There are paved roads that cut through the park which allow you to park your bike off the main street (very nice), as well as create several separate sections that allow for quiet or rowdy groups (even nicer). Apparently the park used to be the center of town, but after several floods, the town said screw this and rebuilt the down town a ways away. Rolling hills covered with trees surround the area giving it a bowl effect, which really plays its part in the morning as the fog settles in. Its actually pretty cool to see, though it is rather damp.
Friday night featured a blues band playing in the main pavilion that wasn't too bad, though personally I'm kind of sick of always hearing a blues band at a rally... there is other music out there ya know. Anyways, it was fine background music if you were hanging out around a fire in the camping area.
The next morning came without a hitch, and I was excited to go on the morning ride. About 20 or so gathered in the parking lot for some quick instructions on how the ride would proceed, and what hand signals would be used. Confident everyone was in agreement, we were off. The roads chosen were fantastic, with lots of ascending and descending curves, sweeping straights, and even a section that had a dozen or so massive whoop-de-dos. You couldn't help but laugh to yourself as you would rise and fall at about 65mph while watching a crowd in front of you do the same. It really was like being on a roller coaster.
At every stop sign the leader made sure to wait for all to catch up before darting off again. I'd say that we kept a 65-75mph speed through most of the farm roads, with some blasts up to 90mph when clear. The best thing was the method of passing, which through hand signals allowed for passing on blind curves or hill crests as the several riders in front of you were giving you the all clear. Brilliant!
We returned mid day, and after a quick lunch I headed out for my own run. I zig zagged out to the Mississippi and headed up to LaCrosse. On the way I say the coolest little building with a Coke sign on it so I had to stop for a quick photo. Once into LaCrosse I headed over the river into Minnesota and back down the river heading South. It was a nice peaceful ride that really allowed for some nice sight seeing of the river. Once into Iowa, the next bridge I came to was pretty cool. It had a steel mesh base and some very step entry and exit angels. I rather tight bridge width wise, you really felt immersed in it while riding through.
Once back into Wisconsin I hit some back roads that let me crank it up to triple digits. Flying through those valleys is such a blast! Of course all good things must come to an end, and mine did with a 1.5" nail going through my back tire. Luckily it wasn't a blow out, and I was able to get back to camp, though a little squishy. As I pulled in, several people came up to me to make sure that I new I had a flat, and to see if I needed any tools or help. Man do I love the camaraderie this brand produces! I even had one guy come up and offer me a beer to go along with my flat... "hell yeah I'll take one!"
So the rain held off, did some great riding, spent time with some outstanding and generous folks... a fantastic trip all around.