Writer's Ramblings

Left as a Man, Came Back as a Biker

Written by  May 1, 2004

Editor’s Note: The 25th Annual Land of Oz Rally sponsored by the Kansas City chapter of the BMW Motorcycle Club of America, is scheduled for June 2-4. It’s always the first weekend in June, and always at LaCygne Lake in LaCygne, Kan., which is about 50 miles south of Kansas City on U.S. 69. The following column was written last year, and is about the author’s first trip to the rally. In fact, it was his first motorcycle rally ever.)

I think I'm officially a 'biker' guy, now. It happened the last weekend of May at LaCygne Lake where more than 350 of my new 'biker' friends gathered for the 24th Annual Land of Oz Bike Rally sponsored by the local chapter of the BMW Motorcycle Club of America.

It was a couple of weeks ago when I told my wife Terri I would be attending a bike rally. She looked at me with a raised eyebrow. The 'stare' was deafening.

I'm sure it wasn't the kind of weekend she had envisioned: me going on a week long-biking adventure and her staying at home. I think she was anticipating a weekend of moving furniture and painting a bedroom.

'You're doing what?' she finally asked.

'I'm going to a motorcycle rally,' I replied and then started washing dishes.

'So you're going to leave on a Saturday morning and not come back until sometime the next day?' she asked again.

'Um, kinda. Actually I'm leaving Friday afternoon and not coming back until sometime Sunday afternoon,' I said. 'Where's the dish soap?'

Now, you have to understand that it was just a few weeks ago that we had been watching Bike Week on the Discovery Channel, and they had done an episode about the bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Thousands of people attend. There seems to be lots of drinking, lots of partying, and lots of scantily clad women - even a few women who tend to bare it all!

I could see Terri's vivid imagination working overtime. Terri is not a 'Biker Chick.' Never has been. Never will be. And, to be truthful, I don't want her riding with me. The last thing I need is a backseat driver on a motorcycle.

'How much is this going to cost?' she asked.

'Twenty-five dollars,' I said. 'And that includes dinner Friday and Saturday night, and breakfast Saturday and Sunday mornings. They also have a band each night and provide drinks.'

Her other eyebrow went up.

'Drinks as in coffee, lemonade, ice water and tea,' I said. 'Bill Brown, my motorcycle mechanic instructor at Johnson County Community College, says it's a fun rally for families.'

Friday came and I couldn't wait to get home. It would be my first overnight trip on the motorcycle. I packed a tent, folding chair, pillow, sleeping bag, tennis shoes, and a hammer into my old Army duffle bag. I put a change of clothes, a towel, wash cloth, soap, razor, and toothbrush in my leather bag.

The duffle bag went onto the back seat secured by four bungee chords. The leather bag went on top of the duffle bag and was held by two bungee chords. I climbed on, said a little prayer, and then headed out hoping for the best.

By the time I reached LaCygne, which is nearly 50 miles south on U.S. 69, it was about 5:15. It was hot, and it was humid. By the time I finished putting up the tent, I was sweating like a stuck pig, and it was time for the rally's Friday night dinner - chili.

The only similarity between Sturgis and the Land of Oz rallies is that a person can see a lot of sharp-looking motorcycles. The Oz rally is geared towards families. Youngsters of all ages were there. They were fishing, riding bicycles, swinging, swimming, and having fun cooking marshmallows.

On Saturday, I took part in a 'Poker Run.' I was given a list of directions and questions. Bikers had to find the destinations and answer the questions. The 150-mile trip went from LaCygne to Lane, to Greeley, to Ottawa, to Baldwin, to Osawatomie, and then back to LaCygne. I road with motorcycle mechanic classmate) Darren Marshall and his wife Katherine. It was a great ride, and, no, I didn't win.

They also have 'biker games,' such as seeing who can ride their bikes the slowest without crossing a line or putting their foot down while holding a crushed aluminum can in each hand.

People came from all over. The furthest rider had come from Seattle, Wash. People had also come from New Hampshire, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. One couple, he was 82 and she was 80, had come to the rally. He rode the motorcycle. She rode in the sidecar, and they had pulled a small trailer that converted into a small pop-up tent. He had rigged the side car so that it used ice in a way that made the sidecar air conditioned.

The next day after breakfast, I rode 36 miles to Ft. Scott, walked through the fort, had some ice cream, and then headed back via 7 Highway, to U.S. 169. It was another 150-mile day by the time I got home.

'Have fun?' Terri asked.

'I had a great time,' I said. 'I think I'm ready for Sturgis, now.'

She raised her eyebrow and I got 'The Stare.' I think Sturgis is going to mean more than just doing the dishes. I figure that one's going to cost me some room painting. Heck! Sturgis probably is going to mean I'll have to paint the entire house.

By Chuck Kurtz