Monday, November 21, 2011

The Last Deming Gathering

A familiar voice assails me. “They’ll let anybody in here!” Paul Glaves smiles and shakes my hand. Paul is a mechanic’s mechanic.  He writes a monthly article, “Bench Wrenching,” for the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association magazine. If a rider does a search for information on mechanical issues with a Beemer, Paul’s name shows up. He’s a feisty character, quick witted, with stories that never stop. If Paul is around, the Woman in Red is too.  Voni Glaves is the heart and soul of the BMW riding community. She has a shock of blond hair, a ready smile, and a hug for everyone. I’ve tried to introduce a dozen friends to Voni this past season, but each time they say, “Oh of course, we know each other.”

This is the last Deming Gathering. Don & Marylou Cameron started inviting loyal customers from their BMW Motorcycle shop (years) ago. The event turned into a Veterans Day Gathering for up to 150 people. November 12, 2001, one hundred and ninety souls have turned up.  Many are from the long distance riding community, Some compete in Iron Butt Rallies, some belong to the LD Group, others of us ride long distances simply because we love it, and have no identifying affiliation. We do, however, recognize something in each other.  This thing is most akin to the resonance one detects in people who meditate regularly. It is a spiritual quality that comes from long periods of focus and concentration, a quiet power developed over hundreds of thousands of miles moving across the face of Earth at relatively high speeds. This summer, Voni Glaves and Austin’s Ardys Kellerman became the first two women to pass the 1,000,000 mile mark on Beemers.

360 pounds of sirloin, 13 hours
The Camerons’ large two-story home, a few miles northwest of Deming, New Mexico, is surrounded by five acres of open ground. Don has built a garage that any avid reader of Popular Mechanics would envy. Antelope graze in a field across the way. A flat shoulder along that road is wide enough to park hundreds of motorcycles. Today, they stretch almost to the horizon. Behind the house, a large windmill fills a 1500 gallon tank with water. To one side, a solar array provides all the electricity they need. One the other side, three huge barbeque pits belch wood smoke.  They are filled with 360 pounds of sirloin. Two dozen tables set up under a sturdy awning await the feast.

Craig Littlefield, the man who handles all the invites and accounting work, greets me as I stroll onto the grounds. Deryle Mehrten recognizes the IBMWR logo on my shirt, and introduces himself. “Nice to put a face with the name,” he says. This is one of those special honors that are peculiar to the cyber age. I’ve used Deryle’s on-line articles to repair my bikes, and I’ve cited him when making mechanical points on technical user lists. We sometimes correspond via e-mail.  But, here we are in person. As we talk, we realize we’ve probably met at rallies across the southwest. This will happen over and over again as I meet men, like Steve Aiken, and women, like Cletha Walstrand who I recognize from internet user groups. I recognize other riders from this summer's rallies, like Bohdi and Cheryl Anderson, who sport the Sober Riders colors. Still others, I've know for some time. John Ryan, a record holding long distance rider, tacks up red white & blue bunting. I met John with Melissa Holbrooke Pearson at breakfast one morning near Johnsonburg Tennessee.  I had no idea who he was, nor that Melissa was writing a book about him – The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long Distance Motorcycling's Endless Road, recently released by W.W. Norton & Co.Another author, Mary Lou Dobbs offers a hug. She came into the fold a couple of years ago with her book, Repotting Yourself. Mary Lou found herself near the end of a successful corporate career, feeling as though she were root-bound, unable to grow.  Then, one day, she took a ride on a motorcycle.  She hasn’t stopped riding, and, if my observations are correct, her spirit has blossomed. 

Steve Brooks recognizes the MIA/POW patch on my riding jacket and introduces himself. Steve organizes the Tour of Honor, a season-long, self-directed ride to memorials and monuments honoring fallen soldiers and peace officers covering all 50 states. Steve introduces me to a group of Honor Riders, several of whom are from Texas. As we talk, all heads swing to a position behind me. A beautiful woman filling a powder blue sweater is saying something to us. “I was looking for a bald head.” Several of us whip off our hats. Then, I recognize Kitty Wolfe, who has recently switched to riding BMWs. We stroll over to see Kitty’s new F800 ST. Voni Glaves joins us. She notes Kity’s side stand is sinking into the shoulder, reaches into a bag on her Million Mile Red F800S, and gives Kitty a trademark red side stand puck. John Ryan marches up and asks, “What’s going on here?” What was going on was a beautiful thing that one rarely witnesses, the passing of an icon from an honored veteran to a new member of the clan.
As the sun goes down, someone pulls out a trailer and mounts it to announce the closing ceremony.Speeches are given, awards are bestowed, and everyone offers profound thanks to Don and Marylou. Soon after, a familiar exhaust note fills the night, and we are homeward bound, filled with good barbeque and memories of The Last Deming Gathering.

Voni Glaves

Beth & Mary Low Slow Race

No, really, that's how it happened!
Hillbilly Horse Shoes

1 comment:

  1. Wish I had been there more substantially than on paper. Next time! Great report. And of course, there's no one worth knowing who isn't already Voni's friend.