The course was on Saturday, but by the preceding Wednesday I was getting so itchy, that I got in the car. Intending to drive from my home in Long Beach Island to Annapolis by way of Bob's BMW in Maryland, and then figure out how to kill a couple of days before the course.

Bob's is always fun with a good selection for tire kicking. On these trips south I usually either pop into Bob's or Morton's. The sales guy offered to find me the bike I was looking for despite the distance from my home base.

I arrived in Greenville a day and a half later. I had originally intended to stay at the Greenville Hilton, but lax mask enforcement and some suspicious red stains on the comforter lead me to change hotels to the Marriott, which is the one BMW recommends anyway. Strict mask enforcement, a one at a time elevator policy, and an impeccably clean room. I have since deleted the Hotels Tonight app from my phone, and replaced it with Marriott Bonvoy.

The day of the course I woke up at 5:30AM having done all of the sleeping I was going to do. I got to the performance center a half hour early and did the sitting meditation that I've been doing since discovering the 10% Happier meditation app.

Walking into the center, I noticed immediately that mask adoption was pretty damn spotty, with a lot of the staff and clients going without. I checked in, but then immediately went to sit outside to wait for the class to commence. When it did I went through a minor panic sitting in a small classroom with a bunch of people I didn't know, with medical proclivities that I didn't know. However the initial classroom session went by in 20 or 30 minutes, and it was out to the bikes.

BMW asks you what you want to ride when you sign up. There were 1250GS's, an F850, a couple of the modern XRs, and my bike an F750GS. By some mix up, it ended up being the low suspension model, but at 5'8" with a short inseam I didn't mind that much.

The morning was spent doing so many low speed drills that my clutch hand started to fatigue. I dropped the bike onto its rhino guards once doing that stupid 'ride in a circle while hanging your butt off the wrong side of the bike' drill. It was actually kind of liberating to drop the bike -- these things are used for the on road and off road course. I wouldn't necessarily describe them as 'thrashed', they were the current model year and all, but they had seen some hard use.

I learned something immediately after a couple of laps on the F750. That is that everything you read on the internet is completely inadequate for capturing the reality of what it is like to ride this or that machine (aka 'bull****'). No seat height or horsepower spec is really going to tell you whether a bike is going to fit.

The afternoon, after a delicious plate of roasted veggies which the chef had prepared specially for me as a vegetarian (ritz!), was spent doing more high-speed drills. These were the drills that I really found useful, learning things like the current best practice on a bike with ABS is to just grab as much brake as you can in a panic stop. They even demonstrated this, first stopping a bike with ABS off, then on, and comparing the stopping dynamics and distances. They suggested I do a run at the emergency braking course with ABS off and lock up my rear wheel, but I chickened out. The performance center has a "challenge by choice" policy, so if you think you are about to hurt yourself, you can opt out of anything.

This is getting too long, but I'll describe the exercise that I think is the most useful: Here you do a panic braking from anywhere from 30 to 50 miles an hour, but run out of room at the end and have to release the brake and execute a swerve. Terrifying ("they are only cones, they are only cones, they are only...") but amazing.

The day concluded with an opportunity to trade bikes with classmates and also to ride some of the other models that they had standing buy. I really liked the R1250RT, which is kind of bipolar given the F750 I chose, except for the 300s, was the smallest in the range and the RT was one of the largest. Still, it was very manageable, with my only reservations being the price, and maybe the seat height. The latter only because I like to put Russell saddles on my bikes, and the added height on top of the R1250s height might not have been that manageable for me. I am a 'one foot down' kind of rider though, so I also enjoyed a low suspension 1250GS.

That's it. I got up at 5:30 this morning to finish the drive back to the island, got here, and immediately passed out.

Except for the questionable mask policy, I'd give the experience at BMW Performance Center 5 stars. It was only really that first classroom session which I felt could pretty easily have been done outside, that I thought was outside of current guidelines. Hopefully in a year or so this critique will be entirely irrelevant!

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