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National BMW Motorcycle Rally

Written by  August 31, 2004

It was the evening of July 15 at the fair grounds in Spokane, Washington, and the cool of the night was a welcomed relief to that afternoon’s blazing sun and torturing heat. I was sitting in front of my tent looking across the fair grounds at the sea of other tents that had popped up under little or no shade for the National BMW Motorcycle Rally, when two motorcycles came in and parked near me.

It was three females, and even in the dark, I could tell what appeared to be a mom and her two daughters. The two younger females, one obviously in her mid teens and the other not much older, were spreading their tent next to mine.

“Need some light?” I asked, trying to be neighborly.

One of the girls smiled, and said something, but I got the feeling the jest of the remark was something like, “Get out of here you dirty old man.”

Still, simply wanting to be neighborly, I disappeared into my tent and came back with my flashlight, turned it on and held it for the girls as they tried to splice the fiberglass tent poles through their loops.

“That help?” I asked.

“Yes, that helps,” the older girl replied. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” I said.

“MOM!” the younger one yelled. “Bring your flashlight!”

“Mom” appeared with a headband flashlight, and soon, the tent was together and the three prepared to move in.

“Thanks for your help,” the mom said.

“No problem,” I replied. “If you need anything, just tap on the tent.”

At that point, I turned in. The next day was going to be busy, talking to vendors, looking at motorcycles, and doing some riding around Spokane. I was riding with Bill Brown, motorcycle mechanic instructor at Johnson County Community College, and Darren Marshall, a fellow classmate in Bill’s class, and who also works at the college. They both ride BMW’s, and let me tag along for the ride on my 1998 Honda Magna.

Mornings on this trip came early – about two hours early – since I was in the Pacific Time Zone and my body was still in the Central Time Zone. When I finally heard people beginning to stir, I stepped out of my tent.

“Mom” soon emerged from her tent.

“Morning,” I said.

“Good morning,” she replied.

“Sleep good?” I asked.

“Great,” she said.

“So which one of your daughters snore; I figure it’s not you,” I said.

“It could have been any one of us,” she said, and then laughed.

We introduced ourselves, and I told I was looking for an interesting story for Cycle Connections Online Motorycle Magazine, “And a mom and her two daughters riding to the rally would be a good story,” I said.

Come to find out, Carmine Mowbray, from Polson, Montana, had also been in the publishing business. She and her now ex-husband had recently sold some community newspapers they had owned the past several years. We talked shop for awhile, and then agreed to talk later for a Cycle Connections story.

In a crowd of nearly 5,000 people, that “later” didn’t happen until Saturday morning. I had already broke camp, and was getting ready to load up my bike when she and her daughters emerged from their tent.

“Do you still want to talk?” she asked.

“Sure. You ready?” I replied.

She had some time before she and her daughters were to meet someone to look at a motorcycle. Turns out, Carmine not only recently bought into a building on College Boulevard in Overland Park, Kansas, but the past five years also has been a motorcycle rider safety instructor in Montana.

“Growing up, I had no neighbors, just older brothers,” she said. “They were into dirt bikes and I was riding motorcycles by the time I was 11. I liked horses, too, but motorcycles were easier.”

During the chopper phenomenon of the 70’s, Carmine said it amazed her to see people take off their brakes, extend their front ends, and ride. She bought a Honda CB500 and a Yahama Max750. Then in 1992, she purchased a BMW R80RT.

“That was a complete change for me,” she said. “At that point, I knew I could go distances. I like to tour; and I enjoy meeting interesting people.”

Her first major trip was a 1,200-mile weekend trek to Eastern Montana where Carmine said, 'People say it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.” “Then I realized I could go anywhere,” she said. “My first solo trip was to Sacramento and Reno. Now I ride with my kids, not long distances, but we’ll ride somewhere on the weekend for lunch.”

Carmine has four children. A son and daughter were at home. With her on the trip was Hilary, 19, and Merilee, 14, who was a passenger on her mom’s motorcycle.

“I like the freedom of riding and not being in a car,” said Hilary, who now rides a BMW R1100RS. “And riding, you have more control. I like to ride as often as I can.”

Merilee nodded in agreement.

“It’s really an adrenalin rush,” she said.

She’ll soon be able to get her license. She said she enjoys speed and wants to get a K12RS.

For Carmine and her daughters, riding is an adventure each time they head out onto the highway.

“I like the joy of discovery,” she said. “We try to make each trip our most adventurous and memorable and fun. I like the camaraderie you get with other motorcycle riders.”

But there’s one motorcycle adventure still in her mind. “I would love to go to Argentina and the Andes,” she said. “At least to Chile. There are a lot of people doing that right now, and they’re selling trips to there in the vendor hall, so it must be pretty safe.”

And when she goes, chances are, it’s likely to be a family affair.

Story and photos by Chuck Kurtz