Geography, the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the Interstates have made Billings the logistics hub of the upper plains and Rockies. Being situated a days round trip from a bunch of national parks hasn’t hurt Billing’s hospitality industry, either. Thus Billings is a layover stop for truckers, trains, and tourists bound for more more important places. But Billings as a destination? Only the BMWMOA would fall for that line!
One of the things I’ve noted as a rally rat is how much the host town can to contribute to or destroy a rally. On one hand we’ve got the lovely city of Elkader, Iowa which has embraced and grown with the Guzzi Rally there. On the other hand we’ve got Daytona, which has so gouged riders that the BMW riders have left and even the Harley lemmings are starting to stay away. Billings, you’ve in no danger of ever becoming a Sturgis or even a Daytona…
Lets start with the site, which is basically the old county fairgrounds. But unlike even the most impoverished county fair in Minnesota where you could eat your lunch off the floor of the swine barns after the fair’s over and they’ve cleaned up, the fairgrounds is a dump. And just to reinforce that image, Billings built the sewer treatment plant right next to the fairgrounds. On a couple other sides of the fairgrounds they built 6 lane highways to shuffle all the traffic from the Interstate to US87, which through the wonders of poor planning doesn’t have an Interstate exit of it’s own… Perhaps the oil refinery just across from the fairgrounds was in the way?
Now granted, the taxpayers have been fleeced for some recent improvements to try to place Billings on the map, namely a medium sized arena and a couple medium sized exhibit halls that should be just fine for the state high school tournaments and winter farm shows. But the rest of the place is sorely lacking in landscaping or even grass, and the racetrack and grandstands looks darn near abandoned. The only shaded and grassy area of any size is an acre or so at the apex of those six lane highways, with a series of stop lights thrown in so we can count how many times some poor trucker will shift gears pulling away from a red light only to have the next light turn red on ’em. That and watching the steady stream of creative solutions to Montana’s 131,000 pounds on 11 axles weight limits and green light for long doubles and triples was mildly amusing for this retired trucker during the daylight hours.
That same conspiracy of stoplights provided a wondrous opportunity for Billings rednecks, teabaggers, and other fans of the “loud pipes save lives” mantra to get even with all them “un’merican” BMW riders by keeping them awake ’til well past bar closing time while they circled the fairgrounds attempting to demonstrate their bikes, pickups, and even big trucks considerable noise if not horsepower production. When you’ve got a 700 mile ride home a good night’s sleep is a good thing beforehand, and the couple thousand of us sleep deprived by Billing’s lowlife that has somehow managed to acquire a vehicle and remove it’s mufflers was not appreciated.
Now I suspect a mere text from the Billings Chamber’s tourism staffers who were much in evidence at rally HQ to the mayor would have brought some police presence to the area with a sound meter and maybe even a “vehicle noise limits enforced” sign would have solved that problem. But apparently in Billings the local rednecks who could never make it as cowboys but make noise with their pickups and Harleys instead are more important than a couple thousand motorcycle riders that created no problems while dropping a few million in the economy. So no Billings, we won’t bother you again. But I do have an award for you…
Billings… America’s biggest cow town.