Salem, Oregon

The 41st Annual BMW MOA Rally

It felt great to wake up surrounded by new friends, but in the way of BMW riders we quickly packed up, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. Barley and I continued north along the coastline passing through towns built up, but in a funky ‘60s style that was often silly but always fun. The town of Bandon, however, was a gem that beckoned us to pull over and rest.

With HR only allowing three weeks off (no matter how much time one had on the books), there simply wasn’t enough time to explore. We must come back someday!
Delightful Bandon, Oregon
One of Oregon’s many quirky coastal bridges designed by Conde Balcom McCullough
A mountain of wood chips in Coos Bay

By noon we had reached Coos Bay, a town I remember for the largest pile of woodchips I’d seen in my entire life! So this was where all those long trainloads of pine logs ended up! An hour later we passed through Florence where the highway was flanked on both sides by dozens of franchises. We reached Lincoln City – our northernmost point of interest – by 4 p.m. The plan had been to turn around at that point and return to Florence, then head east several miles to stay with Larry, one of the adventure riders from the forum who had offered to come to our assistance when we had the blowout a few days earlier. But Barley was not himself, so I pulled over at a small park and began to examine him. The inside of his left ear was bright pink; the absence of any odor told me it was not the fungal infection that plagues long-eared breeds but some other cause. There was no sign of insect bites, no inflamed lymph nodes, no fever. As I clicked off the possibilities it looked more and more like he was having an allergic reaction to something.

What’s changed? I asked myself. And then it hit me. Back in Wyoming Barley needed a refill of kibble. Unable to find his normal brand I purchased whatever was available. That was a bad decision on my part. Find dog food, I instructed Siri, then plugged the address provided into the GPS and off we went. A couple hours later we were settled into a local hotel. Barley had been treated with Benadryl from the veterinary medications we carried, had a bowl full of high grade lamb kibble, and quickly settled down to sleep off the meds while I logged onto the Internet and let family and friends know where we were.

Susan, a total stranger who worked in Salem Tourism, was monitoring Facebook postings about the upcoming rally. She read my post about Barley’s ear and sent me a private message containing contact information for three local vets she trusted with her own dogs. Once again I was touched by the kindness of strangers…

We made it, Little Bug! (Photo by R. Giroux)

Long Distance Sidecar award winner for 2013 (Photo by R. Giroux)

We arrived at the rally Thursday at 8 a.m. One glance at Barley and it was instant Sidecar Delay Factor! It was clear that my dog had far more online friends than I did, and each wanted to say hello. Barley was at his vocal best, cheerfully greeting his admirers, instinctively avoiding people who were not fans of dogs. When we reached the front of the registration line I presented our membership cards to the volunteer behind the table. He looked at the cards, then at us, and burst into laughter. Yes, Barley is a card-carrying associate member of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America! (The online application asked for age and gender, but not species.) I got my wristband, and Barley his collar band, and off we went to find a place to pitch our tent.

We ended up in front of the Pavilion Building next to Dave and Liz, two other Vermonters. Our tent is a Nemo Losi 3P; the large size allows Barley to dream without clawing my back. It looked tiny next to our neighbors’ Redvert, however, and I had a brief moment of tent envy. It was sort of like living in a condo when your neighbor has a mansion! With the tent set up and our gear stowed inside, I dialed the number of the closest vet Susan had recommended; they had no open appointment slots. Barley was not in acute distress, however, so we would just have to knock on doors Friday morning.

And then I turned to the vendors…

Vendors from all over the continent! We don’t have this sort of selection in Vermont!
I’m drawn to sidecars for some strange reason

Back home I’m three hours away from Max BMW, the fantastic dealer I trust with all my part and service needs. It’s moderately large, but there is simply no way they can match the quantity and variety of farkles and apparel one finds at the rally. Riders from big cities are spoiled by mega-dealers, but those of us from rural parts of the country find ourselves drooling as we pass through the vendor areas!

Barley, however, was under the influence of his morning dose of Benadryl, so I limited the initial foray to the inside vendor area. In short order I found the good folks at Schuberth and asked about replacing the nearly three year old SRC that had failed back in Pennsylvania. They replaced it on the spot under warranty, no questions asked! Service like that creates lifetime customers.

Outstanding customer service keeps me coming back to Schuberth helmets

Next came Coach Stroud’s seminar on long distance riding. It was packed with great information. Barley groggily accepted greetings from people in the audience as I took notes. On the way out we ran into Larry, the Web friend from Florence who had offered help when we were in trouble, then Duncan and Mary, the couple from Hood River, and finally Eric and Amy, a couple who had sold everything and were roaming the country on their Beemer. I’ve heard the MOA Rally described as a gathering of family you’ve never met before, and for me that pretty much fits. I cherish the annual gathering of friends new and old.

Shortly after sunset Barley had had enough, and we retired to our tent. I took notes in my trip diary to the sound of an excellent band competing with trains, my dog visiting a neighbor before falling asleep at my side.

Barley woke up this poor hungover gent by sitting on his chest

Friday morning we awoke, ate breakfast, took care of business, then loaded up the sidecar and set out for the closest clinic listed by my GPS, the Orchard View Veterinary Center. It looked closed when we pulled up, however. There were no cars in the lot, no lights visible through the tinted windows. I hesitated in the parking lot, wondering if they operated on bankers’ hours…then the doors burst open and three laughing women in scrubs ran over to fuss over Barley. Many thanks to Dr Chris Liscomb and her crew for getting us in and confirming that it was, in fact, an allergic reaction and not an infection.

And of course Barley got several treats!

Oh Dad! Susan has fingernails!

Back at the rally, I checked out all the vendors had to offer. We have one tiny dealership in Vermont and the owner, a surly man, has driven me and several others away with his oft vulgar words and dour attitude. So for me, the chance to see all the vendors and their wares together in one place was a special treat! For Barley, it’s a huge socializing opportunity. He was able to meet Susan, the woman who had helped him find a vet, and tell her all about his big adventure! He provided dog fixes to riders who had left their pets at home and needed some snuggle time. He went ecstatic over butt scratches from women with long fingernails that could work their way past his undercoat and make him grunt with joyous satisfaction!

Barley soaking up affection from a young man who needed a dog fix

And then he met David Petersen of Best Rest Products. Dave was a nice man, but he had one thing going for himself that placed him, in Barley’s mind, above all other men at the rally. Dave’s display tables were covered by tablecloths that provided a neat appearance as well as covering the bulky boxes beneath. Those tablecloths were held in place by mini bar clamps. And on the end of those clamps, probably to protect people from injury should they run into them, were tennis balls.

Barley loves tennis balls!

While Dave laughed uproariously, Barley retrieved every tennis ball he could reach, essentially dismantling the display. He stood there wagging happily, holding a prized ball in his mouth with a foot of clamp sticking out to the side. Dave took pictures…and eventually even got his clamps back!

Barley stealing tennis balls

We met Duncan and Mary – our new friends from Hood River – for lunch, attended a few seminars, shared a dish of ice cream, then snuggled up inside an air conditioned building while my iPhone recharged, courtesy of an unused outlet. Mid-afternoon is a good time for a nap.

Barley is a remarkable dog, a perfect blend of joy and loyalty. I take moments now and then to tell him so, to curl up on the ground and pull him close to me, to caress his face or rub his tummy and tell him in a gentle voice how proud I am of him. He wags happily, with his entire body, and meets my gaze directly. I often see people who own dogs, but share nothing with them. While they get loyalty in return, as that is the nature of a dog, they will never experience all that the bond can be, and that impoverishes both of them. Barley is not a fashion accessory, but a cherished part of my life. He knows that, and it makes us both the richer.

Sucking up to people in the chow tent
Most of the time it works. Notice Christine’s spotless plates

“May I pet your dog?” This delivered in that high-pitched sound of delight that Barley finds irresistible in women. He play-bowed, then practically dragged me over to greet his new friend. We meet Chris and her husband, Bruce, as well as Chris’s friend, Kathy and her husband, Mike. Clearly Chris was not going to let us go with a handshake, so we retreated into the beer tent and got to know each other. While we talked, Barley practiced The Look. Chris, Bruce, Kathy and Mike all fell for it. Those big brown eyes staring so intently make food fall from plates like magic! When their food was gone he spun around and stared at a man eating a burger at the adjacent table.

The Look doesn’t work on everybody…

We said our goodbyes and moved on. I pulled out my iPhone and checked the weather. A large storm front south of us was going to reach the Great Plains about the same time we did, if I stuck to our original timeline. The storm was big enough that, if caught, we would be riding in rain from Kansas to Pennsylvania. That didn’t sound like much fun.

I made the decision to leave one day early in order to outrun the storm. We would be home before I learned that Barley and I had been awarded the Long Distance Sidecar award at the closing ceremonies.