There is something special about Milestones in life; with them I am drawn to both reflecting on God’s provision in the past and planning in accordance with God’s will for the future.
My 50 years in the wind began as the college age me rode BMWs and my first BMWMOA National was back in 1982.
In 2003 God called me to take a left turn from the straight line of a church based teaching ministry to pursue motorcycle ministry. My ministry journey began on the Highways and byways as I rode across the United States on a Harley-Davidson spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Chaplaincy training and Ministerial credentials were acquired along the way. This year after riding the Harley to all 50 of the United States and all Canadian Provinces, some 250,000 miles it was time to go back to the beginning.
In the spring I got in touch with a high school buddy and connected with his BMW pals from the Cleveland, Ohio area. They had put together a western adventure ride to Utah and the 2017 BMWMOA National Rally in Salt Lake City. Their route crisscrossed mountain ranges and desert wastelands on secondary roads and trails something I had never experienced. They kindly agreed to my late enrollment so I pulled out the r1200gsa and set about to put the final touches setting it up for a long distance road trip.
On the appointed day I bungeed my camping gear aboard and headed out on an 1100 mile solo run to meet the group in Moab, Utah. Day 1 was 640 interstate miles to Albuquerque. Day 2 a shorter 450-mile highway ride to Moab. After a day or so my neck was sore having to stretch up to look over the shield. As I was figuring how to cut down the shield I found the windshield was easily adjustable. So much for knowing your equipment! The rest of the trip was most enjoyable.
I only knew 1 fella prior do the Moab meet-up and I found that the mix of people in the group of 10 exceeded any expectations and to the man these were great guys!
The day 3 ride-plan called for a dirt road ride in the Canyon Lands National park. Now I rode some dirt in High School, and have since ridden 300,000 or so miles on pavement and gravel. So I thought what the heck, I rode dirt as a kid, why not follow the group. That may not have been the best assessment of the situation. As it turned out my first experience with a dirt road in 45 years was most likely the wrong pick. The Shafer Trail was something less than a road and something more than a path. It was not the; 8’ wide road, or the cobblestone surface with sand and dirt finish, or the switchbacks with out guard rails, or the 500ft shear drops, or what felt like a 30% grade, but the combination of the above that struck a new found fear in my heart. I could not stop because of the very steep and narrow path, so forward was the only option. As the steep grade got steeper I coasted and rode my brakes that quickly heated it and began to malfunction. Oh Boy! So being a praying man, I prayed earnestly as I pumped the brakes back up to function and carefully feathered the front brake on the ride down. What seemed like an hour through the narrow switchbacks was probably half that but finally the terrain evened out and I was down the escarpment. Heart pounding I put the kickstand down and caught my breath. Thank you God!
My friend Pete came by and said “U – OK? “ I quickly sucked it up and said “sure just catching my breath“ (BTW-the whole time it was 105d in the sun and I was completely covered in full armored riding attire unfamiliar to this Harley rider but the norm for these adventure riders) Then I welcomed his comment, “Good job”.
Needless to say this was a milestone day in my life. Forever etched in my mind is the first dirt road I traveled in 45 years. The following days each held individual highlights both with “Devine Appointments” and the joys of being on the road on a motorcycle. I had numerous opportunities to pray-share & care on people along the way.
Highlights include: Day 4- Mesa Verde, I had been through the area but never made the time to stop, very cool! Day 5-We road dirt trails through the “Valley of the gods”, a valley filled with geologic monuments – Awesome! Day 6- Art and I partnered up to ride the “Hells Backbone”, an awesome 60-mile or so gravel road across the mountains. We had a blast and saw some cool sights. Day 7-Paul, Jim, Pat, Bob and I rode Zion National Park, breathtaking! Day 8 – The entire group rode the Mt. Nebo scenic loop en route to Salt Lake beautiful mountain scenery!
Noteworthy – My new friend “Bob” was awesome and fearless, He did every road and he was riding a BMW LT full bagger touring bike. Yep, a full dresser on the trails…Go Bob!
After “day 3” on Shafer Trail I was in my comfort zone of riding. As a new adventure rider every day I received pointers from my fellow group members and really appreciated that. Before asking the questions about equipment and techniques I would always state the obvious “ You know I am a Harley Guy” but………How do you… They were most gracious and were very helpful and tolerant of the “new guy”
A few of the things I discovered about these adventure riders.
- It seems, the wearing of sleeveless t-shirts and leather vests were not the uniform of choice for the adventure riders they opted for full coverage safety gear (ATG-ATT) All the gear, all the time.
- My backwards ball cap and half helmet was also an oddity. Full and modular helmets preferred
- When it rains, these folks put on rain gear?
- Bunge cords are apparently a no-no!! I was asked if my name was “ Jed Clampit” then introduced to Roc straps and proper dry gear bags.
- I filled my economy soft sided cooler with 5 lbs of ice every day and bungeed it to my tin can saddlebag, the dripping (water) all the way. Everywhere I went the BMW guys were looking for the leak on my bike J
Upon arriving in Salt Lake, I went and registered for the National Rally. I did not pre-register cause I really didn’t know I would make it that far… but once inside it was old home week. There was tons of cool BMW’s and friendly people. Loads of friendly vendors and exhibitors. Also the seminars for many aspects of the environment were quite informative. This was so worth the trip and price of admission. I found people were real nice, and a number approached me to discuss spiritual matters because my Bikers For Christ vest made my purpose and mission clear.
When it came to the vendors, Pete was my coach. We went around and put the final touches on my Adventure bike. Starting with getting the right lights (Thank you Cyclops), the correct gear bags (Thank you Wolfman), the correct straps (Thank you Roc straps).
Upon leaving the rally I headed out for an 1800-mile solo run home via Sturgis. By now I was all fixed up with the right gear purchased at the rally and experienced a real smooth ride home.
Of all the highlights, importantly I had made 10 new friends. Starting out a week earlier as “the new guy and outsider” after days together on the road I was made to feel like one of the guys. I was given a decal representing the group, and there was some discussion of what might be in store next year…. I CAN’ WAIT!
Never miss the significance and the joy of the ministry milestones in your life!
Jeff “Sidecar” Claes
To read Sidecar’s article: “From Texas to Alaska” go to: