Back in the early 2000's, I joined an online motorcycle forum on a popular information website. I forged relationships with people from all over the United States. It was a great place to discuss all things related to bikes and riding and we became a very tight group. Several members decided to get together for a weekend group ride. To say it went well would be an understatement. Online friends put screen-names with faces and agreed to do it again.
When the second year came around, I decided it was a moral imperative, I had to go. I rode my '85 Honda Magna from Birmingham, Alabama to Maggie Valley, NC. I took mostly interstates until a fellow rider struck up a conversation with me at a gas station and asked me where I had been riding. When I told he, he scolded me and said I was missing all of the good stuff. He gave me one of the best pieces of riding advice I've ever been given: pick a direction and go. If you have a map, you can never be that lost. I ended up riding through small towns full of character and color and rode the path of the Ocoee River. I still think that ride was one of the pivotal points of my motorcycling life and really opened my eyes to everything a long distance ride should be.
That year at the rally I spent time with people who had previously just been words on a screen. We laughed and bonded and rode together on the most beautiful roads in the southeast. I roomed with a fellow rider I had never met but we got along like old friends. I left that year knowing if this event happened again, there was no way I would miss it.
The next year came and I went again...and again the year after. Over the years that followed I continued to learn and share and ride and grow closer to my once a year rally buddies. In that time, as a group we have survived the loss of the forum we all shared, some of the worst and most discouraging weather I have ever ridden in, crashes on rides, and the death of several members and friends. We continue to meet yearly.
These are people I have know now for nearly a third of my life. Though I only see them routinely once a year, I am extremely close to some of them. I have housed members who were traveling, been hosted by them on my travels, ridden their bikes when I was without, bought and been bought beers, meals, parts, tattoos, etc.
It is hard to imagine this is the 10th year. I have been every year except the first and the year I was married. This is something I look forward to throughout the year. I have shared it with riding friends who chose to attend with me and were welcomed and became part of the fold. For me, it is a history of riding firsts: first time at Wheels Through Time, riding the Dragon, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway etc. This year I hope to take a family member who has never ridden in NC. I am sure it will exceed any of his expectations as it did mine. And to anyone who has ever been at BuRP with me and will be there this year...I know you share my excitement and I will see you soon but not soon enough.