Autobahn has a birthday in May – 33 years old. Four of the 19 charter members are celebrating 33 years of membership also – Dennis Erickson, Margaret Galland, Paige Herrig, & Jim Pentico. That’s dedication! An article printed in the Autobahn newsletter when the club was 10 years old is reprinted below to give you a bit of Autobahn history.
(Originally printed in 1987.) Ten years ago this May a handful of BMW riding Sioux Falls people gathered together for a very informal meeting. This meeting was THE BEGINNING OF AUTOBAHN SOCIETY!!!
The story begins with Bob Galland, on a BSA, and his friend Jim Pentico, on a Honda, accompanying Jeff Ecker, a BMW rider, to the MOA National at Branson, MO., in July, 1975. The rally left a deep impression on Bob & Jim. BMWs ridden to the rally from all over the US convinced the two that if they were to get serious about bike touring they had better have a dependable bike - a BMW. (Even then Bob was having vehicle trouble on his trips.) Jim remembers that the people at the rally were so friendly . . . and honest. A very expensive camera had been left on the seat of one of the bikes. Jim felt sure that it would not be there long. To his astonishment the camera remained there, untouched, throughout the day. If this was the way people who ride BMWs acted and BMWs were so dependable then the only thing to do was to trade off the BSA and Honda for BMWs. And that is what Bob and Jim did!!
During the next two years Bob and Jim came across other area people who also rode BMWs. They discussed how much fun it would be to get a group together for weekend rides, picnics, etc. A club organizational kit was ordered from MOA, and an organizational meeting was set for April, 1977. BMW riding acquaintances from rallies and Sunday afternoon rides were notified as were all people from SD who had registered a BMW that year. (Pentico had a friend in Pierre.)
A lot was accomplished at the April meeting although only seven people attended. The group decided to go ahead with an application to be chartered by MOA.. They named themselves “BMW of South Dakota”. They discussed articles to be included in the by-laws; and they scheduled the first meeting for May, 1977.
The May meeting produced a president, Bob Galland, and a secretary-treasurer, Linda Williams, and the by-laws which had been completed by Jim Pentico. The June meeting produced a committee to design a club logo and Jim Pentico began printing “The Newsletter” about this time.
By August the club had received their MOA charter - they were #79. August had been set as the deadline for membership applications to be eligible for the club’s “original charter”. Nineteen members made this list. (Complete list included at end of story.) The August meeting brought discussion on changing the club name to something more
outstanding - something to get away from a geographic name.
The first annual Weigand Campout was held near Yankton in September. The beginning of “the country store” (to be managed by Bob Galland) was made by a motion at the meeting to purchase oil filters by the case for sale to club members.
By March, ‘78, the list of new club names had been narrowed down to Bahnstormers and Autobahn Society. The outcome of the vote we already know and then the race was on to have a logo designed and club patches made. Wednesday night dinner rides and Saturday morning breakfast rides began in April, ‘78. Autobahn Society also became associated with BMW Rider’s Association. February, ‘79, became a reality for the club patches. The MOA National at Brainard in July produced the first club banner. A very striking white banner with “Autobahn Society” encircling a large BMW logo (designed by Audry Slater) congregated the Autobahners as they arrived. The banner was retired in 1981 for a new light-weight banner displaying our club logo.
As the years passed the club grew and so did the outings. The annual campout became two with the addition of the Oakgrove Campout at Hawarden in October. The election of officers in January has become an overnight event with the addition of the awards banquet. The club took on a big challenge in 1985 when they decided to host their first Iron Butt Rally.
The memories from these events and others are filed for posterity in the club “picture book” or at the “Hall of Fame” where the “high club attendance” and “high club miles” trophies from the Hiawatha Rally and the authentic wooden shoes from a Dutch visitor are housed. The “Hall of Fame” is located in the Krien’s Construction offices. Autobahn Society has grown to approximately 100 people and covers a large area of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa as well as several other states. The members continue to fulfill the purpose of Autobahn Society as stated in the by-laws by “further developing motorcycle touring and camping as a recreational sport, social ideal and way of life superior to all others”. The club members “firmly resolve to ride as much as possible recognizing that work is the curse of the touring biker”. And as one club member has so adeptly put it, “Where else can you have this much fun for $6 a year?”