Tuesday, July 10, 2007

AMA IBET - Headed to the Great Northwest

Another major motorcycle trip, up to the Northwest, begins this week, and I have refined my strategy considerably. I learned a lot on my last trip, out to Asheville NC, and have had a month to do a better job of researching the possibilities. I've also acquired a GPS, which should make a major difference in my willingness to get off the highways, and venture down some much smaller roads.

Another tactic I developed prior to this trip was to utilize Streets & Trips and Google Earth to identify potential candidate locations for the photo opportunity. I learned this after wandering around the streets of Shreveport looking for a building that: a) was an official building, not a business; b) had a visible sign with city name on it; and c) had a place to park in such a way to set up the camera shot. By doing some virtual "scouting" before hand, these locations - fire stations, post offices, schools, cemeteries, parks - can then be entered into the GPS as waypoints.

This trip was going to collect nearly half of my ultimate total of AMA points. I routed myself only a little out of the way, in order to maximize the bonuses. I headed north on I-45, collecting Oklahoma, Ardmore and Wichita before stopping for the night. These were relatively easy points, Ardmore being a very small town with a Post Office a block off the main street. I collected the Wichita photo, but wasn't as happy with it as I'd have liked. that night I got onto Google Earth and found that Wichita State University would require only a little back-tracking and was reasonably accessible from the interstate.

Pleased with my decision to re-do the Wichita photo, I continued north and west, collecting a National Park Stamp at Nicodemus along the way. This was actually a relief, as it got me off of the interstate and let me ride more than half the distance to that night's stopping point on secondary roads. This was also to be my first of several "adventures" with Jill, my GPS companion.

Road construction had my route detoured onto a road that took me due west, at right angles to my northerly direction. It was a long detour, and the road got smaller and smaller, until there was only a dashed center line, and no shoulder. Jill kept recalculating, and kept telling me to "in 0.2 miles, turn right." The problem with those instructions was that each of those turns was onto a gravel road. Worse, my little motorcycle icon on the GPS display suddenly turned into a large white question mark, and Jill stopped talking to me. She also stopped showing me where we were. In fact, she had no idea where we were.

My ultimate stop for the night was Sidney, NE, which I knew would be west, but north of my location. When I got to the next detour sign, it took me north, which was fine. I could zoom out and see where my ultimate destination was by the little orange flag. So I merrily cruised along, pleased that I was getting close to the Nebraska state line, where I could stop and collect a photo and more AMA points. But this is a very small and narrow road.

I despaired when I saw the giant "Nebraska" sign looming ahead, as there was absolutely nowhere to pull over, and it was on a fairly steep incline. As I neared the sign, I had pretty much given up hope but to just stop in the middle of the road. I would not have another opportunity to get a NE state line, since my route on this trip would take me home through Colorado. But as I reached the top of the hill and just at the state line, a narrow little shoulder appeared. I pulled over, stopped the bike, arranged my little flag, then walked back down the hill to snap the photo.

Well, that Nebraska state sign was huge and to complicate that, was quite a ways off of the roadway. In order to get it all into the camera's viewfinder, I had to get pretty far back, to the point that the motorcycle was tiny and the AMA flag a mere white dot. What to do. I walked back up the hill and retrieved the flag, then pondered how to get it all in the shot. I walked back down the hill, stood there with camera in one hand, flag in the other...if only my arms were about 10 ft long! Then I could get it all in. Well, to heck with it. Daylight's burning, and I have to pee. So I did the best I could with it. Later that night in the hotel room, I thought it came out good. Sort of artistic, if I do say so myself.

Back on the bike, I continued north on this deto
ur, Jill STILL not knowing where the heck we were. Then I came to a T in the road where the detour sign said to turn east. But I needed to go west. But I also still have to pee and I can see that turning right will take me into town. I answered nature's call, and thankfully learned that just a little further on I'd be able to get onto I-80 whereas if I headed west I'd have a long ways to go to the next opportunity to catch the interstate. Since the afternoon shadows were getting kind of long, I decided to get on the interstate and boogie.

Next entry: A dip into Colorado

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