Sadly, we lost a beloved member of the Wildcat family this year. On May 7th Walt Sorensen was riding his Moto Guzzi on Cty O in Pierce County when he collided with a deer. He was airlifted to North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, MN but as a result of his injuries slipped into a coma. According to his wishes, he was removed from life support and passed on May 22nd. For those of us that knew Walt, we know he was doing what he loved but it's always hard to say goodbye. As the rally approaches this year our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Elaine and the rest of Walt's family, and we want them to know their Wildcat family is here for them now and always.
(Image from rally archives.....tribute from Cam)
Elaine and a friend made the trip down to join us at the Rally Banquet Sunday evening. It was treasure to have her back together again with her motorcycle family at an event that both she and Walter loved. Elaine proudly accepted Walter's 15 Year attendance pin.
This year's T-shirt design was based on a shirt Walter helped design years ago. Both he and Elaine knew more than a little something about rally attendance that included some bumps and bruises.......
Where it all happens......Westby, Wisconsin
Mark's wonderful 305 Superhawk and CB450 getting checked over by Mike and Tom.
Saturday morning saw a small tent village at the end of the parking lot.
Friday afternoon, Brian and Tom headed back to LaCrosse for Brian's fireplace.....I went back to the convenience store for some additional wood. Thanks for the extra trip(s) guys; it was worth it.
This is not good when this happens.....Tom with his camera and/or a clipboard. Oh, it always starts innocently enough...."how was the ride, where'd you guys go, whatcha doin'..." Before you know it, someone you might know is a strong contestant for an award at Sunday's Banquet. Joe was tweaking, tools and toolboxes everywhere, on his turbo'd, gas enhanced XS650. There's no more powerful magnet for Tom and his recording equipment than open tool boxes or greasy fingers. Tom was just getting started here and the sun was barely up on Saturday morning.
As always, a great and vast variety of machinery.
Once, the primary focus of the rally, XS650's in varied forms are still a highlight.
Some equipment is newer.....
though there's lots of old as well.......
Some of us bring mascots......
Time for breakfast at the restaurant and rider's meeting in the big parking lot.
Kathy received compliments about her blue helmet....I kept thinking robin's eggs.
Three BMW's and a Pulling Tractor heading north on WI #27
This year's Slow Ride - Ride the Ridges, was to be Sunday, so that meant that Saturday's ride would be something else. As it turned out, Rick and Bob joined me on a quick GPS Route that I'd made up last week, sort of combining a few highlights from two previous Slow Rides.
This, for the most part, is our Track on Saturday.
We gave Rick a chance to get a little steep gravel in to our backroad mix.......sorry Rick.....if only this had been the end of the gravel I put you through. Even Bob gave up on one of my choices a bit later in the day.
After parking the bikes, we hiked down to the east portal of the long tunnel on the Elroy-Sparta bicycle trail. I took these two guys since they weren't along with us on last year's visit here. There weren't as many bicycles, dogs and/or people this year as last. Note the pinpoint of light in the tunnel, over 3800 feet in the distance.
Bob, ever the creative one, decided that the very best thing in the world to do was to step a bit inside and sing "Three Blind Mice". Rick and I both knew that wasn't the very best thing to do and while both Rick and I were stumbling with excuses, Bob decided that a nice Round would be even more deluxe. We had to put our feets down at that point. Bob did a great job, I contributed what I could but Rick must have been singing very quietly. Luckily Bob knew only a bit more of the 1st verse than we did. I was laughing too hard and had to stop. Somewhere deep in the distance, a young and almost perfectly on key voice started some slow, acapella scale notes......a much sweeter sound than what we'd attempted. But we did try and I give great credit to Bob....we'd never have done it without him.
By the time we hiked back to the parking lot (such as it was), there were some bicyclists gathered around the comfort station / rest stop.
When Rick and I got back to Westby (Bob headed out for another loop on his own), Mike and Colleen had covered the zillions of miles from the West Coast, having hauled the Triton back east to the rally after the Brit bike won 1st place in a bike show in Washington. More on this machine later.......
This bike wasn't even supposed to be at our rally; not that we would have excluded it in any fashion. Dave had ridden up from the Chicago area on his LT BMW. Early on Saturday's ride, he lost a front brake hose and most if not all of his front cylinder brake fluid. He limped the bike to a local bike shop (Saturday afternoon), found a very receptive, willing shop owner that once apart, had no brake lines that would fix the bike. He loaned Dave this bike, $1/day, so that Dave could not only finish up our rally, but ride home for a mandated meeting in Chicago on Tuesday morning. Dave later this week will ride back up to LaCrosse, swap bikes, pay a bill and ride his repaired BMW back to Illinois. Pretty good, huh??
Another IL bike, this one Jim's, another one of our first time rally-goers. He joined our Slow Ride group on Sunday, patiently riding sweep behind the group.
Sunday morning, Marty's Yamaha and Bill's Kawasaki both looking extremely fetching.
Silos in the foggy background, bikes at the motel ready for another day of going.
Another Rider's Meeting, looking more rain-ish but we never had more than a couple of drops all day.
Our Slow Ride - Ride the Ridges' first (and only) gas stop. 110 miles for the ride total, this 40 miles in for a gas/stretching/bathroom/coffee stopping point in Stoddard, WI. We were 7 machines, 8 participants and a really great group.
Our lunch stop, just outside of DeSoto, WI at the Great River Roadhouse establishment. We got there Just In Time; what seemed like 50 Milwaukee machines showed up as we headed for the door. The Mississippi River in the back ground.
Tucked into the river bluff.......
Our next rest stop was at a Vernon County Park, on the outskirts of tiny Esofea. At this point, Tom had left us for one of his favorite roads across the river in Iowa, so we were down one machine. This park is a favorite of mine, a place I was camping at in the early 80's. A very scenic, small river runs through the park and rushes towards the big river in this valley.
Note the Triton front and center in the photo above. Mike's Triumph-engined/Norton-framed bike ran perfectly, once again. The last time it and a group put this much distance on it, we rode through too many miles of pouring rain and deep puddles. I'm beginning to wonder if Mike's old bike is really British after all. We had 2 Triumphs on this ride, one old, one new, 2 relatively new Japanese bikes and at this point, 2 old and lovely Honda's. Mark put the '67 305 Super Hawk through its paces, Roy and Kathy gave the lovely orange CB550 lots of Wisconsin exercise. We truly had a fun mix of bikes, all seemingly content with easing through the valleys and up on the ridges.
From our stop at the park, we were only a few minutes from being back in Westby, Rally HQ. We stopped at our planned coffee and ice cream shop for something else to sit on and some desert.
Back in Westby, we split up to get cleaned up and geared up for Sunday evening's banquet.
Willy, another first-timer, had something to tell Jill and Jenny about......
These guys must have had all kinds of stories to perfect and massage.......
Banquet time at the supper club, adjacent to the motel and across the parking lot.
There were 9, if I remember correctly, new attendees and as Tom said, a record number of new people. Various 10 and 15 year pins were given out and Mike T. received a very impressive plaque for his 25 years of faithful contribution.
Time for full disclosure here....remember that rally organizer Tom was (too) busy, early Saturday morning already, gathering important data for the rally awards. I was one of those far too willing to offer information to Tom for his reconnaissance. I received two trophies, one of which I'm proud of and a return winner of.....we'll start with that one. It was the other one that I too freely blabbed about to Tom. These awards are of the Traveling variety, meaning that they go and they come, back to the rally each year for some other (poor sap) lucky person to win. This one I'm honored to display. Even when I don't win, I'm always a contender, one year having tied for the trophy. Last year I was beat out by Mark's remarkable ride on his CB125 Honda; I'll never be able to compete with that bike.....this year he brought his big 305 and 450 so I was up for consideration.
Though my other award isn't one of the worst (there are many in that category), it wasn't something I was exactly seeking out either. On Sunday's slow ride, we rounded a corner on a paved road not much wider than a lane and a half. There were 2 horses, slowly and casually walking along the edge of the pavement. I often come across "livestock in the road" on my rides, so it was nothing new to me. I was careless about slowly easing past (should have stopped and tried to herd the beasts off of the road and away from the group), normally a move that works for me when I'm out doing my solo rides. With those big, noisy, nasty other bikes behind me, the horses got a little spooked. I eased ahead and as I was getting ready to stop, get off and encourage the horses back my direction, they turned and followed for a short distance, kicking up their heels and shortly thereafter, the fence led down and away from the road.....they chose to leave the road and follow the fence line away from the group.
That would have been enough, but not long after, we came upon another farmstead, many of which are near or practically on these small roads. There was a large domestic duck in the road, another over in the nearby grass. I eased past, like I always do and have done many times, but again, those big, noisy, nasty machines behind me seemed to aggravate the duck and after an indecisive maneuver or two, it returned to its mate on the farmstead side of the road.
For these two Phenomenal Avoidances, I was awarded this prestigious award.......isn't it special?? I won't be forgetting to bring this one back next year (shall I forget, I'll be a very strong contender for the Bone Head award....a very special award to be avoided at any cost).
For the past week, we've had temps well in to the 90's. Labor Day morning started far below that and we all had our jackets on early today as everyone was getting packed up and ready to leave and say their good-byes.
Crisp and cool......
Tent village, still in place but not for much longer, A/C as good as on....
The Triton loaded, only a few more miles to go now after its epic West Coast trip. The big Road Cruiser ready to take Dave back to Chicago and then return to Wisconsin in a few days once the BMW is back on the road.
Phil's bikes, recipients of the morning dew......
The Iowa guys almost ready to head out.....
I counted about 40 of us at the Banquet, a nicely-sized group for doing what we all so enjoy. We had fun, we rode well, no one got hurt that I know of (Tom???) we might have eaten too well and we partied well together.
A more than successful #27. Thanks again to Tammy, Tom and everyone else involved.
P.S. Thanks to Barb for bringing me that wonderful, very cold, refrigerator back at the motel.