The BMW Northeast Florida Winter Rally
One of the highlights of my Winters in Florida is the annual BMWNEF Winter Rally. This great club is responsible for making the rally happen as well as another amazing event that happens in May of every year called Riding Into History. We will talk more on that in subsequent blogs but for now just know that it is one of the top vintage motorcycle shows in America.
The annual Winter Rally pilgrimage begins for me at home in Daytona Beach and heads North to an active military training base called Camp Blanding located just West and South of Jacksonville. This year, my KYMCO GTi300 and I were joined for the ride by my great friend Van SIngley on his Piaggio BV500. Van is an area service rep for Ducati North America and has about as much motorcycling knowledge as anyone I have ever known. The man is magic at giving accurate advise and is sought out by many riders who are struggling to diagnose issues with their modern or vintage motorcycles. Also joining me on the ride is a close personal friend, Mike Pepin, who is a long established realtor in the Daytona region and an avid motorcyclist. He chose to ride his BMW R90/6 airhead on this trip. I suppose that is a good choice considering this is in fact a BMW based rally.
The ride is just over 100 miles and the temps were on the low 40’s when we pulled out of my driveway to head North. I was immediately appreciating the warmth of my Gerbing full sleeve electric jacket liner under my Firstgear sport leather jacket. The sun was shining but the wind and cool temps were reminding us that it was Winter even in Florida.
The KYMCO GTi300 is my go to ride. It is the one bike in the garage that always brings a smile to my face. The torque and horsepower are exceptional and it never ceases to amaze me with its acceleration and fuel economy. Regardless who I am riding with or what they are riding, no one ever has to wait for the KYMCO and I. The 300cc single has never gotten less than 65 mpg and customarily averages 70 mpg per tankful. With approximately 2.5 gallons of fuel on board the range is close to 200 miles.
Upon arrival at the rally site the collection of motorcycles in the parking area was already quite impressive. The event is limited to 500 guests and they ride from all over the US to be there. Almost all the attendees arrive by motorcycle. Nearly every type of BMW from across the generations shows up along with many vintage and modern machines. Riders young and young at heart are treated to an evening meal Friday and Saturday night. This year it was hot dogs, sausage, cole slaw and baked beans on Friday night and they were delicious after being kept warm in heated beer for an hour or so. Saturday’s menu was steaks cooked to order, baked potatoes and assorted other sides. One thing all of us motorcyclist share whether we care to admit it or not is “eat to ride…ride to eat”.
Various vendors were on hand and they range from folks who have written great books about their motorcycling life to an Amsoil distributor who brought along a petro chemist to talk oils. That was a lively conversation in their session. We all know everyone has an opinion about lubricants. Seminars were held, an on base daily guided ride through the expansive grounds at Camp Blanding and vendors were everywhere.
Some of us slept in rented cabins while others slept in barracks style accommodations. The hardy folks camped by the lake where the winds were whipping out of the North and temperatures hovered around the mid to upper 20’s. BMW riders are a hardy lot.
Sunday riding home was fun with my friend Ken Lucius who is a sales professional at BMW of Jacksonville. He had ridden one of their demonstrator bikes, a new K1600 GTL. We must have looked a little like Big Foss and Little Halsey with me alongside on the KYMCO but the ride was fantastic and listening to the whine of that factory tuned rocket 1600cc power plant was nirvana. I tried not to embarrass…