WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.9 - that's Branson, son, Missouri
Date: Sat, 08 Apr 2000 12:25:22 -0700

    Some people are natural leaders and just collect an entourage as they go. Keith decided to go to Branson for the Internet BMW Riders gathering and couldn't get out of town without three riders following. His friend Sam from Illinois, and Carlos from North Carolina, joined the parade across the Missouri hills. I commented yep, we're BMW riders: four bikes, four different states, both coasts represented.
    Our first rest stop was at one of the four remaining original covered bridges in Missouri. In New England where I grew up, covered bridges were fairly common out in the country, and none had been preserved as historical items. (Maybe now ... not then.) This park had the requisite educational displays about local history,  millworks, and one on bridge building. Here was answered for the first time the question I often thought but never asked: why cover a bridge? Do you know? No, it is not to provide shelter for people crossing, although it may do that. No, the primary reason is not so animals unused to bridges will enter what they think is a barn, although that is mentioned as beneficial side effect. It is to extend the life of the bridge by protecting *it* from weather. When debris collects in exposed seams and wood is attacked by the elements, the average bridge lasted 10 years. Covering the bridge raised the average to 50 or more years, and relatively minor maintenance could extend that to 100 whereas by the time an open bridge needed maintenance, it was impracticable. 'Nother mystery solved.
    Keith grew up in central Missouri, so we were playing in his backyard. He managed to stretch the 200 miles to Branson into nearly 400 which if graphed would look like the flight of a humming bird. We hovered over some great little roads that even Mo-DOT might not know about. It seemed we spent more time going north and south than we did heading west, which was the supposed direction of our destination. We were so far deep in the backwoods that, as he said, "They don't get Saturday Night Live until Sunday afternoon."
    There were literally too many road changes for me to list them all. My GPS track, which can last an entire day on a normal tour, filled and wrapped about every hour. Except for one other scenic rest and several gas stops, the day was a blur of hills, valleys, forests, and fields tightly wrapped by a lace curtain of pavement. I might have liked to see some of the views ... but my attention was forced to focus on that tiny point where the road keeps disappearing into the curve ahead - and that point kept whipsawing back and forth from full left head turn to full right head turn about as fast as you just read this.

    We arrived tired, wind blown, and happy into a world that must have confused the other guests who were stepping off the shuttle bus to enter the hotel. Picture a grand foyer colonnaded entrance driveway - completely covered with two hundred or more BMWs of every imaginable (and some not!) color, style, and age. It was thicker than the sandwich packing a dealer does to get all the bikes inside at closing time. If anyone was moto-phobic, it would be a traumatic nightmare to run this gauntlet, but of course the crowd is so happy and effusive in making and renewing contacts that you would almost not associate the distinguished (read: aged :) and well to do (read: corpulent :) clientele with the pile of vehicles out front. Plus, from the non-riders point of view all those crazy people seemed to be wrapped in the same kind of protective material (goretex) so they can't get out easily and bother normal people.
    Somewhere around 300 stalwart riders have assembled here from all corners and climates. This is what Voni calls the Mid-Coast Unrally. That is a sufficiently improbable description for an excuse to meet. As she would likely say, if you need a reason then you're in the wrong place, but we're glad you came anyway.
    It is fun matching faces to names having "seen" only what your mind conjures from a written-word personality, except of course, no one looks like what you expected. Gee, you don't look anything at all like your email id!
    For such a varied group of iconoclastic individuals, you might expect strong expression of uniqueness. Not so. We are all individual elements of  a self chosen community, and it is amusing to see we have assigned ourselves to wear a uniform - something few powers on Earth could force upon us. People were lined up across the lobby to get their one-of-a-kind, never to be made again RED Branson IBMWR T-shirt. Yeah, me too. Too bad I don't wear T-shirts ...

Not that I was trying to get long distance acknowledgment or anything ... but it has taken me 4,292 miles to get here since I left home 15 days ago. And I have 4 more weeks yet on the road.

386 miles
Chaffee parts of ssrA, ssrC, MO49, MO21, MO19 ssrK,
MO106, MO17, US60, MO76, US160, US65 Branson
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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