2018: Preparing for the Des Moines Rally

The BMW MOA Rally will be in Des Moines, Iowa this year. It’s not exactly a riding mecca, but with the population of long time riders aging these rallies tend to be held in places offering plentiful hotel rooms and grounds with RV hookups. I can’t fault the organization for catering to the comfort of elderly members for whom these rallies are an important social event. Rather than feeling frustrated at the lack of twisty mountain roads in the area, I ensure my routes there and back include plenty of exciting roads. My time at rallies held in major urban centers is spent checking out the vendors, catching up with old friends, meeting new friends, improving my skills by attending seminars…and this year presenting a seminar on sidecar travel with a furry co-pilot.

As in previous winters, my route there and back has been carefully laid out. I expect this year as in years past I’ll ignore large parts of that carefully laid-out route and just wander where I please, especially since I’ll be retired by then and won’t have a Must Be Back By date hanging over my head. At least on the way home. The ride to the rally will probably follow the route as it seems advisable to arrive before the rally ends. So we’ll start with a short ride from our home in northern Vermont to spend the night with friends in the Adirondacks, a somewhat longer ride to visit more friends in Rochester, New York, then two longer days will put us in Ludington, Michigan. We’ll cross Lake Michigan on the SS Badger, arriving at Manitowoc, Wisconsin at midnight, nap till sunrise, then set out for friends in Evansville, Wisconsin where we hope to be reunited with some of Glenlivet’s littermates just a few days after their second birthday!

From the SS Badger terminal to Glenlivet’s hometown

Catching much of northeast Iowa on the way to Cedar Rapids

From Captain James T Kirk to the Amish

The following morning we take backroads to Prairie du Chien, cross the Mississippi River, then angle up to the town of Decorah, Iowa before taking a meandering course down the northeast corner of the state ending up in a hotel near Cedar Rapids. Up early the next morning to pass south of Iowa City before the commuter traffic, we stop in Riverside, Iowa to visit the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk before turning east and north through Amish country to some Amana communities, west to Montour on lightly traveled roads, then south to the town of Pella and its Dutch influence. We’ll get a hotel and wander on foot. The following morning we’ll have breakfast then head for the rally less than an hour away.

After celebrating with friends for three days we head for home with a loosely laid out route. Southeast through more Amish country and the Mark Twain Forest, crossing the Mississippi again at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, then wandering the backroads of southern Illinois and Indiana, northern Kentucky, southern Ohio into West Virginia. We’ll have a loose goal of reaching the BMW RA Rally in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania by the sixth day, but if along the way we find an awesome campsite we might just stay put for a few days and have fun. For the first time in my life I won’t have a timeline!

But which dog to take?

Does the old dog have another trip in him..?

I’m torn by this. Glenlivet is the obvious choice, but because of mechanical issues he has had only the tiniest bit of sidecar training. Will winter end in time for me to put his training into high gear? And can I condense his training while ensuring he is having fun, that his mind doesn’t come to think of the entire sidecar travel experience as something aversive? I sense that he is on the edge, that his personal identity is drifting away from the I am state and toward that true bond we need in order to become a long distance team, the We are state.

Glenlivet looking regal

Glenlivet is a delight! He is absolutely confident, intelligent, curious, obedient, athletic and playful. I sense he will become one of the great dogs in my life, and if trained with love and patience has the potential to become a legend among long distance sidecar dogs. The trust he has in me is a bit humbling.

And then there is Tulliver. Quiet, calm, loving in his own less demonstrative manner, and absolutely dependable. He has been having trouble getting in and out of the sidecar, hip dysplasia, though supplements have taken the edge off. He never demands attention, but is delighted when I turn to him. He loves being alone with me, and in our two previous trips he absolutely blossomed! The thought of turning away from that loyalty pains me. Does the old dog have one more longish trip in him? Should I take Glenlivet to Iowa, then take Tulliver on a shorter adventure, perhaps the Gathering of the Clams in Rhode Island..?

Winter ended, as did Mud Season. The sidecar came out and Glenlivet went for the first of many (short) rides to familiarize him with his mobile home. As a novice he was tethered. That turned out to be a sound decision as this athletic little guy is a jumper. Launching himself from the stationary sidecar with enough force to easily clear the rig, his flight came to an abrupt end after about nine inches. Clever dog that he is, he immediately understood that he was to stay put, but his anxiety was palpable. Not a good beginning!

First ride of 2018 started with a bit of anxiety

So we remained stationary for a while, the engine running while I gently caressed his furry head and telling him how brave he was, what wonders awaited him. He calmed down and confidence softened his expression, trust filled his eyes. We motored down the driveway; this would be a very short ride filled with reassuring looks and words.

A short orientation ride to start the year

We headed up to the Common, then back home. Praise, treats and touches were his constant companions. It was very much like a Sesame Street lesson – short and intense. We returned to the house where he received hugs and enthusiastic praise. His brothers, Tulliver and Kazoo, raced out to join in and we all played in the field. Four hours later it was time for the second ride. This one went much better!

Glenlivet getting the hang of riding with Dad


Unlike Tulliver, Gilly shows a lot of interest in the scenery

He had only one issue and that was on me. I had stopped at the Common to get a photo. Gilly was looking away from me and I wanted his face in the picture, so I called his name. He immediately pivoted and jumped, trying to reach me. We had worked so hard on recall that I couldn’t blame him. He had done exactly as he’d been trained. The mistake was mine.

Must be careful calling a dog with excellent recall


“Stick Season” ends quickly with an explosion of green leaves

Like the Late Great Barley, Glenlivet shows considerable interest in the world around him

We sit on the benches outside the general store for meet and greet sessions with our neighbors

Back home after a nearly perfect ride, Glenlivet stood tall with pride and excitement

May 21st: Second Week of Training

This morning after my chores I grabbed a helmet and called Glenlivet to me. There really was no need to call him, as he had come running as soon as I touched the helmet. In the garage he leapt over the trunk and right into the cockpit, not even waiting for me to raise the hatch. He sat there expectantly, waiting for me to attach his tether. I took this as a sign training was going well.

Very proud of this little guy!

Glenlivet on a short training ride at Craftsbury Common

July 2018: Tulliver makes a decision

Just a few days before our scheduled departure I was leaning toward taking Tulliver. He was fully trained and rock-solid reliable, whereas Glenlivet had a few rough edges. I called him my 80% Dog. But one hot and muggy morning as I raised the hatch to take the old dog for a ride he simply lay down and gave me his best “No mas!” look. Tulliver, nearly nine years old with lumps, bumps and aching joints, had announced his retirement.

Local girls come over to say hello to the handsome boy in the sidecar

While I had some reservations, Glenlivet was clearly eager to please and thus far had shown no reluctance when offered sidecar rides. He had handled mountain twisties, high speed runs on the Interstate, and six hour days. Electing to not tempt fate, I cancelled our SS Badger crossing of Lake Michigan in favor of a dry land run and picked up the intensity of his training rides.

Glenlivet sporting his new RexSpecs. His head had broadened too much to share the old pair with Tulliver


Gilly learned to hunker down at higher speeds

Ear rubs have therapeutic value


Departure Day arrives and it’s Glenlivet as co-pilot!











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