2017 Bonzai Rally

This past Memorial Weekend, Renee and I took part in the Glacial Lakes Motorcycle Club (GLMC) 2017 Bonzai Rally.  It is the first rally we have ever attended, but after completing it, we may be hooked!

What is the Bonzai Rally?  It is like a big scavenger hunt.  Each rider (or team of riders) is given a list of locations.  Each location is assigned a different point value and typically the further away they are from the starting point, the higher the point value.  At each location you must either take a picture, gather some information, or perform a task.  The real challenge is in the planning of the route. You will never go to all of the locations, so you have to plan carefully because your time is limited to 10 hours and if you’re late, you get a big fat zero.  You can also earn bonuses for completing sets of locations, so there are many choices to be made.  Planning the route is critical, but because you don’t get the list of locations until the night before, it is also limited by time, and as we found out this year, by high river conditions!

The night before the rally, we got the rally packet which included a list of the exact locations, the required item/action, and the point value of the stop.  I put the stops into my mapping program, then Renee and I planned our route.  Our initial plan was scrapped at the last minute when we found out the Cassville Ferry was not running due to the overflowing Mississippi River.  Once we got the route all planned, I loaded it into the GPS.

Here is the route that we planned to take:

2017 Bonzai Plan

All of the pins on this map represented potential stops in the rally.  It was obvious that we would not be able to get to every stop, so we had to pick and choose our spots to maximize our points.

We had some concerns, because our route was close to 300 miles, which is more than we had ever ridden in a day.  The night before the ride we met with one of the people in charge who has ridden rallies all over the country.  As novices his advice was very important to us.  He told us that in order to do well we really needed to get at least one of the bonuses, so we knew we had to make the 300 mile distance to stay competitive.

The day of the rally we went to the pre-rally meeting, then had a quick breakfast, did some last minute prep work, and it was time to hit the road.

2017 Bonzai start.jpg

Photo Credit:  Jeff Kerkow

One of the great things about this rally is that it is designed to keep you on the “abc” roads, meaning the small county roads.  You can, of course, get on highways and interstates, but the locations are designed to get you back into the beautiful Wisconsin countryside, and we saw many towns and went down many roads that we had never been on before.

Some of the new towns we visited were St. Joseph, Whitestown, Kendall, Union Center, Cazenovia, and Chaseburg.  Some other towns we had been to before but never on a motorcycle were Reedsburg, North Freedom, Richland Center, Eastman, Lynxville, La Crosse and DeSoto.

The roads we took were incredible all around.  We wrestled with the choice of taking faster, but longer roads, or shorter, twistier (slower) roads.  In the end, I think we had a good mix of both.  Being from Iowa, we really appreciate the curvy, twisting roads of Wisconsin!

Since this was our first rally, we expected it to be a learning experience and that we would make a few mistakes.  But we were hoping to avoid a REALLY BIG MISTAKE.  As luck would have it, we were almost done with our ride and I made a REALLY BIG MISTAKE.

As part of the rally, we were required to fill out a form at each stop listing our mileage, the time, and the name of the stop.  All day long, I had been snapping this form into the top sleeve of my tank bag.

When we were about 5 miles past Chaseburg, our second to last stop, heading for La Crosse, I realized that my tank bag sleeve was unsnapped and the form was gone! Without the form, we would not get any points for our entire ride.  Ok, Renee butting in here…So when I hear those fateful words come through our communication system…”the form is gone”…I felt sick!  This had been a great day, a wonderful experience, but there was no way in Hell I was heading back to that hotel and telling all those wonderful people that the newbies had screwed up that bad.  So, as I saw it, there were two choices, go back and find it (a really long shot because we had no idea where it came out and it was terribly windy out) or sneak into the hotel, grab our gear, and get out of there before anyone noticed we were missing!  And yes, I do blame Dale for this HUGE MISTAKE!  🙂 Just kidding hunny!  Ok, back to Dale’s story now…

So we turned around and rode slowly back along our route, and believe it or not, we found our form in someone’s yard along the road.  Renee picked it up and we were back in business.

Here is the actual route we ended up taking:

2017 Bonzai Track

The arrows show our general direction of travel and the circle is where we (I) made the REALLY BIG MISTAKE!!

Here were a couple of our stops:

Town of Whitestown, blink and miss it, literally.


Renee made some friends in Union Center


Worlds Largest Six-Pack



As it turns out, we did pretty well.  We took 1st place in the Novice Division and 8th place overall.
bonzai award

Photo Credit: Kory Morehead

Overall, we had a great time.  Everyone we met was super nice and very helpful.  I really enjoyed the challenge of planning and executing a good route.  The best bit of advice we received before the rally was ride smart, not fast.  A good shorter route can earn a lot more points than a long one if it’s planned out right.  We planned smart and we were actually the 2nd most efficient riders at the rally because of it.  Pretty good for a couple of novices. As a bonus we found a lot of new roads and areas we want to go back and explore further.

Although it was a different kind of riding than we are used to, we still enjoyed ourselves. We got into a good rhythm of finding our spot, taking our picture, and moving on again. The only downside was that, other than the required pictures, we didn’t get pictures of scenery or some of the other cool things we saw.  We were too focused on the job at hand I guess.  But we did make time to take this one:


Will we go back to do it again next year?  Well, as the Rally Master told us from the beginning, these rallies are like crack…very addictive.  We’ll see what next year brings!

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