Scottsdale / Montrose
July 2002


This trip started out with Sharon and I planning to fly to the 2002 Mensa Annual Gathering in Scottsdale Arizona, and then renting a Harley or BMW while there to see the sights. But a spreadsheet showed that would quickly run into more money than we wanted to spend, so that idea was vetoed. Besides, flying and renting seemed somehow improper when there's so much good scenery between here and there, scenery we'd miss in an airplane.

Next, we looked into riding a train and then renting a motorycle when we arrived in Phoenix. We'd see all the scenery, and still have a motorcycle available to us in Phoenix. But it turned out that passenger trains aren't cheap either, nor are they particularly fast, so that option appealed even less than flying.

Trailer my bike? I'd have been worried sick about a bike on a trailer coming loose, plus both our cars are a bit tired, mechanically. The bike is far newer and lower mileage than either car, so trailering the best vehicle we own seemed a bit strange.

Finally, we considered simply riding there. But we weren't sure - it's a long way from Pemberville, Ohio to Scottsdale, Arizona; just for a few days spent at a Mensa convention. And I know firsthand how hot Arizona can be in July. Who picked Arizona in July as a location for the Gathering? It could be complete Hell - especially on a fully-faired bike with engine heat blowing on the rider as the cooling fan kicks in, and the desert heat cooking us as we went...

But then the Concours Owners Group rally was planned for Montrose, Colorado; just a few days after the Mensa Annual Gathering. We realized we could ride to Scottsdale first and then pick up Montrose on the way home. That sounded feasible, only the southernmost leg would be really hot, and we'd get in plenty of riding time. The leg from Scottsdale to Montrose could be fantastic, as well as the Rockies themselves… Multi-tasking, riding there to get there but enjoying the views and the people and the company along the way as well.

The big clincher on the deal was that I used to live in Arizona in the early 1980s, at the Orme School and Ranch near Mayer. I worked as a dishwasher in the ranch kitchen full time while attending Motorcycle Mechanics Institute full time, 60 miles to the south in Phoenix. After completing my training at MMI, I lived and worked in the Tempe / Mesa area for another 3 years at Arizona Kawasaki and then Kelly's Kawasaki before moving back to my hometown of Toledo, Ohio to attend college and study mechanical design.

So I have some knowledge of, and attachment to, Arizona. I would be a good guide.

Besides that, this trip would be my first national Mensa convention, my first Concours Owners Group rally, and a chance to return to some of my roots and see how Arizona had changed since I'd left in October 1984. How could I say no? We figured with appropriate gear, it must be possible. The locals ride all summer, right?

We went shopping for appropriate gear, and came home with mesh riding gear (jackets and pants) by Joe Rocket. We bought a couple of MSR water bladders with bite valves that fit in the tank bag, so that we could stay hydrated on the fly. We also packed a pair of Cassiar electric vests and controllers in case it got cold, as well as a layer of warm clothing and warm gloves. We didn't pack warm jackets, because we figured in a pinch we could make our mesh gear windproof by wearing our raingear over it.

Additional preparations: we gave the bike a tune-up prior to the trip, and a careful inspection as well. Then we added enough extra tools to allow front or rear wheel removal, tire plugs, a miniature multi-meter, and a service manual. We also carried a list of alternate spare parts / part numbers, a Concours Owners Group directory, and a BMW MOA Anonymous book; just in case we needed a hand along the way. And last but not least, we carried contact info on some friends along the way.

A few words about Mensa - I don't consider it a big deal. But many people, both inside and outside the group, do consider it a big deal and get rather hot and bothered by the subject. So be it, we can agree to disagree. But to me, it's no different than a club for blue-eyed people: I'd keep the dues paid up as long as I enjoyed myself. And I wouldn't complain if the brown-eyes club wouldn't let me join.

Mensa is also an asset on a resume - maybe. And a liability in most social situations. Few people that are in will admit to it, and those that do admit to it seem to have a knack for coming across as arrogant - which is probably why the rest keep their mouths shut about their own involvement. I'm a bit of a fluke, and I'd probably be quiet too except that it would be hard to tell this story without admitting why we went to Scottsdale in July in the first place.

A motorcycle rally and a Mensa gathering are actually pretty similar. You have a bunch of people coming together to share some common interest. The members may share nothing else, being young and old, thick and thin, rich and poor, all colors and both genders, and everything in between. Both groups have seminars and activities and speakers pretty much non-stop all day long. Later, friends hang out and talk and eat, often late into the night. Both groups tend to like high-tech toys, and to really enjoy good food.

But here's the best analogy to explain my involvement with Mensa: I like to read. Usually, I like to read motorcycle magazines. But the problem is that sometimes I want more variety than that, so I pick up Reader's Digest or a science magazine - something that will have a wide range of subjects in it, something that will get me to think beyond just two-wheeled subjects. Maybe it's an article about history, or roller coasters, or sailing ships, or philosophy or poetry or people or music or invention or the Ice Age - just something new and different and unexpected and welcome.

A Mensa gathering tends to provide that sort of buffet for me, a buffet for the mind. Like a buffet, it won't all be good - but I have my pick of many interesting items all in one place.

So if the Concours Owners Group Rally is a three-dimensional version of a motorcycle magazine, then maybe a Mensa gathering is more like a three-dimensional version of Omni or Reader's Digest or Science and Technology.

Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio

For more informtion on Mensa, see:

For more information on the Concours Owners Group, see:

For more information on the Orme School and Ranch, see:

For more information on Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, see: