‘German invasion’ hits Heath
Scott Dyer, of Plymouth, flies the friendly skies over the Heath Fairgrounds Saturday during a "Scottish trials" competition at the 18th annual Damn Yankees Rally. Though he's a member of the BMW-enthusiast Yankee Beemers Motorcycle Club, which puts on the event, he's seen here riding a KTM.
Sam Maldou, of Pennsylvania, sends a Cabbage Patch Kid doll flying over the Heath Fairgrounds in the "Boot the Brat" competition during the 18th annual Damn Yankees Rally Saturday. The event is put on by the Yankee Beemers Motorcycle Club, a group of BMW motorcycle enthusiasts from the Northeast. Maldou rode his BMW BS Avenger 1200 all the way from his home near the Deleware border to get there.
HEATH — When the chief of police heard a group of bikers was staking out his town for their annual rally nearly 20 years ago, he did what he had to.
“Chief Lorin Gowdy was instrumental in cementing the relationship between Heath and our club,” said Doug Morrison, an original member of the Yankee Beemers Motorcycle Club. The chief even became a member of the regional BMW motorcycle club.
Club members had scouted out the area after attending a BMW Riders Association of America rally at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield. Though the Heath Fairgrounds was too small for that RAA event, the country setting was just the right size for the Yankee Beemers.
“One of our members trades at AJ Cycle in Gill, and the owner was friends with Chief Gowdy,” said Bob Blethen, club president. “The chief’s police bike was a BMW. We got in touch with him and the rest is history.”
Thursday through Sunday, the Damn Yankees Rally returned to the Heath Fairgrounds for its 18th year. About 175 riders came out, members and nonmembers alike. Most of them rode BMWs, though they weren’t turning away those on Suzukis, Triumphs, KTMs, Harley Davidsons or other makes.
“We own all kinds of bikes,” said member Bradley Barrus, of Plymouth. “But we all own BMWs, too.”
Charter member Doug Morrison, of Chester, Vt., has been with the club since it started holding events in 1985. He’s got quite the collection of cycles.
“I have about 40 bikes,” he said. “At least 20 of them are BMWs.”
He rode his BMW R80 G/S “Paris Dakar” edition to the rally. BMW sponsored racers on these bikes for the European motorcycle rally of the same name.
The Damn Yankees Rally had its own idea of a race.
During the “slow race,” riders wobbled down a straight course of orange cones, as they tried to keep their balance while going as slowly as possible without putting a foot down.
“The winner gets a new clutch,” joked one spectator.
Saturday’s festivities included a slew of field events, from the slow race, to a can-toss challenge, where passengers on the backs of bikes tried to throw empty cans into a 55-gallon drum, to the “boot the brat” contest, where bikers tried to kick a Cabbage Patch Kid doll as far as they could while driving, and a “Scottish trials” obstacle course.
Scott Dyer of Plymouth got some big air on his KTM motorcycle during the Scottish trials. A long-time member of the club, he’s a regular at the annual rally.
Though he stuck his landing well, others aren’t always so lucky.
Before Morrison had a chance to test the trials course he’d set up a couple years ago, one eager rider headed for the jump.
“He gassed it and launched into the air,” said Morrison. “When he landed, he couldn’t slow his big 1200 down, and crashed right into the porta-potty.”
The rider got his 15 minutes of shame, and the picture wound up on the cover of the club’s “Boxer Shorts” newsletter, named for the opposed-twin “boxer” style engine found in many BMW bikes.
Sam Maldou of Pennsylvania won the boot the brat contest. He rode his BMW GS Avenger 1200 from the Deleware border all the way to Heath for his first rally with the Beemers.
“I liked the name, ‘Damn Yankees,’ it sounded like a good time,” he said. Maldou said it was well worth the ride.
Cy Ubinger, of Cleveland, rode 11 hours from his Ohio home to get to the rally.
“Four years ago, I was on my way to see my mom in Maine, and I heard about the rally,” said Ubinger, who’s come ever since. “I got here and didn’t know a soul, but I’ve met a lot of great people.”
William and Laura Gordon of Greenfield came for their first Damn Yankees Rally and got in on the toss-the-can challenge, too.
“We’re planning to join the club,” said William Gordon. “We wanted to come to the rally last year, but it was pouring rain.”
Members of the Greenfield Police Department, the Gordons certainly wouldn’t be the first cops in the club.
While they’re in town, the Yankee Beemers like to give back to the community. When the Heath Union Church needed to raise money to repair its organ, the Beemers stepped up and gave what they could.
After Gowdy died in 2004, the club raised money to have a stone bench put up at the fairgrounds in his memory.