Bob and Elizabeth Beach
Robert and Elizabeth Beach represent, in so many ways, the very essence of the BMW MOA. Not only because they've been around forever (I say that lovingly, as we're all getting up there). Bob's 'MOA number is "91" and being a member for 32 years is just about forever in 'MOA-time. But mostly it's because once you've met them, whether through a short introduction at a rally or the pleasure of spending time listening to their engrossing stories, you're "family." They have the rare quality of making all acquaintances feel as though they've known them since childhood, could trust them with the family skeletons or jewels, and would gladly throw down a glove in defense of their honor in a duel.
I guess that's a big part of why their motorcycle tours have been such a success (2002 begins their 31st year of touring). And why over half of all who take part in a Beach's Tour come back again. Every tour, whether your first or, as in the case of Neil Huffman his 22nd, is a family reunion. You could be the long lost cousin or the relative who knows everyone's name, but you are never alone. Sounds a lot like our 'MOA motto.
I suppose I have a personal affinity for Bob and Liz Beach because we have something in common. I'll give you a hint: you're holding it in your hands. That's right, the BMW Owners News. Of course, at the time it was just called the News, but the first issues were actually assembled on the Beachs' kitchen table. Talk about a string of success stories (grin...)!
So it was that at least once a year, at every National Rally, I would bump into the Beachs and chat as long as our respective schedules would allow. Bob and Liz had their work to do -describing their upcoming destinations or presenting one of their many donated tours to some very lucky winner and I had mine (okay, maybe the Beer Garden isn't really work, but it's time consuming)
They would inevitably ask when I was going to join them on one of their global adventures, and I would stumble around, making some excuse for the fact that dreams don't always come true. For many years, I had a pat answer, "On our 25th Anniversary." Which was very true at the time. AI and I had always planned that our children would be independent and by the big "25" we’d be free and wealthy enough to ride the Alps. As it turns out, I have heard that same anniversary goal from numerous couples over the years. It's apparently not a private dream. However, as we've now been happily married for 32 years, that excuse wasn't going to fly again when I stopped to chat at the Midland Rally.
"Bob and I are retiring soon," Liz announced. "We'll be taking our last tour next summer." I felt my heart drop. "I'll be there," I said without hesitation.
Bob and Liz in the early days
Don't get me wrong. Taking one of the Beach Motorcycle Tours is about as close to nirvana as one can get in this life. I can't say it was guilt from years of promises or a sense of responsibility to these icons of 'MOA dom that drove me to finally make the trip I had always dreamed of. I just needed a push (and then grinned for the next year knowing what was coming).
By the time the day finally arrived that we were to jet off to meet the group in Germany for the start of our Alpine Adventure Tour, I had been reminded, notified, prompted and clued in by the Beachs and their staff on everything that could possibly be concerning me. The Beach's touring system is so well planned and so efficient that no stone is unturned, no detail left hanging. I had received maps, guide books, planners and reminders for months prior to departure, including a final call just to "check" if I had any questions. I knew I was in good hands....as well as being about as excited as a person can be without exploding.
The tour was more in every way than I could possibly have expected. Two weeks, covering about 1500 miles of the most thrilling motorcycling roads, through Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Why would anyone expect anything less? With the Beach's first tour in the spring of 1972, Bob and Liz have conducted 72 tours together; Bob has taken 84 trips; and Rob (their son and the heir to the motorcycle touring business) has been on 68. With those credentials, one would have to concede they must know a lot about European touring. With that many trips under their belt, they have seen and done it all.
Their philosophy of touring is to set the structure and then let the fun begin. "There is no such thing as being lost," was the credo we laughed about every evening while telling stories of our daily adventures. An occasional wrong turn, as our tour guides would explain, is always a learning experience and sometimes the beginning of a wonderful adventure. It's true, as you are never further from your destination than could be reached easily before dinner; it was a relaxing pace. And getting lost is part of the fun. Liz explained, "If every minute of your time was planned for you, and you never varied from the route, where would the fun be in that? You'd never interact with the locals, never see how the people really live, and never have your own personal adventure."
BMW Motorcycle riders enjoying
lunch in the European Alps
So our group would take in all the advice and experience our mentors would give us over a spectacular, leisurely two hour dinner, then head off the next morning at our own schedule and according to our own list of priorities. Most of us were there to ride as many Alpine passes as possible. But it's hard to listen to Rob or Liz tell their stories of historical sites or area landmarks and not try to do it all. We visited castles, medieval abbeys, ice age glaciers, catacombs and churches of every style, size and type. All while riding the best and most interesting of roads and knowing your luggage is waiting for you at a unique hotel of local charm with all the amenities. Start with a basic plan, then stay flexible and enjoy.
In addition to taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of our hosts, they were also willing to discuss any personal requests. At one of our double night stays, a few of us asked if a stop in Venice could be arranged. Voila! The next day a van and personal guide were waiting for our group of eight for a quick day's sightseeing journey. Others chose to try hang gliding one day. And another day a walking tour of Salzburg was coordinated for a small party of our group, personally guided by a local historian.
The Beachs can make almost
anything "happen" if a
tour member requests
it. A group of us asked
if we could see Venice
and it was arranged overnight,
tour guide and all!
Venice, Italy as seen on a
Glass blower in Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Square, Venice, Italy
The choices were endless, and always exciting. But aside from the tour, I finally had time to spend with and really get to know Bob and Liz Beach...or so I thought. Actually, many others on this tour were under the same impression. The entire Beach family joined us for the final tour event, including sons Rob and Victor, his wife Audrey and son Wayne, as well as many old friends, employees, business associates, and it literally became a rolling retirement party. The Beachs have enamored more than just the 'MOA over the years.
Literally, generations of Europeans greeted us at every hotel stop, relating tales of when they first met the Beachs or how their children have grown up knowing them. Each dinner would be a complementary mix of exhilaration from the day's glorious riding and the slight melancholy that always exists when you just don't want to let go of something so good.
Bob Beach simply loves motorcycles and can't picture either working or playing, without being around his bikes. Formerly the importer for Krauser, the touring side of the business was said at the time to be more of a "hobby" that grew. And collecting and riding bikes has always been a "passion." One of his favorite acquisitions, a 1909 Yale motorcycle was featured in the very first American Motorcycling (the AMAs magazine) in 1947 when he rode it around his college campus. He is a veritable encyclopedia of motorcycles and their history. BMWs, of course, are his specialty (having personally owned about three dozen of them!).
Liz Beach, although just as passionate in her love of motorcycling, brings her own "touch of class." She could recite the history, local lore and fable of every destination. And the choices of lodging and cuisine always reflected the culture of the area, definitely her influence. She has a gift for seeing into the very heart of each society and understanding its qualities.
"There will always be a Beach on a Beach tour," Bob Beach has stated. Rob Beach has very big shoes to fill indeed. His parents have left more than a legacy of impressive tours and countless friends all over the globe. They have passed a business empire to the next generation. From the relatively humble beginnings of offering a choice of "Fall" or "Spring" tours, Beach's Motorcycle Tours currently run five departures for the two week Alpine Adventure, a three week Grand Tour of the Alps, and two popular Norwegian tours, the Viking Vector and the Trail of the Trolls. In the wintertime, the two week South Island Scamper focuses on the South Island of New Zealand. The three week Maori Meander Grand Tour covers both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. And finally, outside of the tours, they now offer independent motorcycle rentals in Italy in addition to Germany, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand.
We wish them all the best.
By Bill Edwards, Local BMW Club Newsletter
By Clement Salvadori, Rider Magazine January 2015
By Odile Heisel, Personal Blog 2015
By Brian Rathjen, Backroads Magazine
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By Peter Colwell
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By Denis Rouse, Rider Magazine
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Tour member's journal following a New Zealand Motorcycle tour
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Reporting from New Zealand
By Tom Mooney
BMW Owners News, by Don Douglass
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Traveling around New Zealand's South Island with Beach's Motorcycle Adventures
Beach's has been touring the globe since 1972, racking up many, many miles across 4 continents.
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