Tuesday, July 31, 2007

AMA IBET - Headed to Maine, First Two Days

A trip to Maine in late July-early August will put the finishing touches on my National Park Tour Silver and will present many opportunities to collect some major AMA IBET points. My previous trip, to the Northwest, taught me how to use my new GPS and nicely proved out my pre-scouting theory. These two tools will be severely tested in the next 10 days as I head north on Highway 59, headed for Texarkana and my first AMA photo of the trip.

I have tinkered with the route in Streets & Trips, enough so that I can pick up 18 AMA locations for a total of 48 points on this trip. Many of these will be tiny towns, just little dots on a map. Only research using the Google Earth and other internet sites could confirm that there would indeed be at least some population, a town large enough to support a post office or school, anything that would bear the name of the town. The GPS will be of enormous help, and after “flagging” the locations of these photogenic landmarks in Streets & Trips, I entered each of them into the GPS.

My plan that Sunday was to leave early afternoon, get up to Texarkana, find the city hall on the Arkansas side of the city, then get a hotel room for the night. This was my lucky day because when I took the exit that would take me into the downtown area, I immediately passed a brand new fire station on my left. I did a quick U-turn and pulled into the adjoining driveway and got my first photo of this trip. It was perfect! It said “Texarkana, Arkansas” on the building which would guarantee my 2 points for this location. If it had been Texarkana, Texas it would only be worth 1 point. I now had enough experience with the GPS to figure out how to shut Jill up and get her back on-route without insisting that I proceed to my waypoint.

The next day would be a long one. I would be covering close to 600 miles, while making several stops along the way to get AMA photos. I’d better get busy, then. Believe me, having the GPS programmed for these stops really streamlined things! My first stop of the day would be Little Rock. I’d scouted a National Cemetery on the internet, and the GPS led me right to it. It was gorgeous! I pulled in through the gates, making note of the sign on the gatepost which would be perfect for my photo, and then parked the bike. I couldn’t help but get off, remove my helmet, and pull out my camera. The cemetery was immaculately groomed, the white headstones going out as far as the eye could see under canopies of live oak trees. Shaded benches beckoned me, but I needed to press on. I pulled back out through the gate, pausing long enough to get my AMA photo.

There is a Jacksonville just outside of Little Rock, a town on the AMA tour list, but I determined that I’d wait and get it on my way to the Founders Feast in October, or get Jacksonville FL which is on my way home from Daytona in October. I pressed on to Nashville then, and headed toward Nashville Technical College. The photo opportunity was better than I’d hoped for. A suspicious campus policeman cruised by slowly, but he went on by. Probably figured I was either a proud alumna or scouting the school for future attendance. In any case, I got a good shot, rode through the campus to check it out, and then headed back toward the interstate.

Next stop would be Tennessee State University. What I thought would be the easy one proved not to be so. I had to navigate a bit of city streets to get there, and once there, spied the perfect sign, a large brick wall set in a landscaped garden with the name of the college prominently displayed. Only problem was that it sat at a busy intersection with no place to pull up and get the shot. So I continued onto the campus looking for any sign that said Tennessee State. I wandered through parking lots, past buildings, around dormitories, up and down the narrow lanes of the campus and … nothing. Nearly ready to give up and go back to that first sign and to figure out a way to photograph it, I happened to look up the hill to my left and saw it. Across the top of an archway over a curving set of stairs were the words Tennessee State University in large block letters. I turned left and headed up the hill. There was a circular driveway passing in front of this edifice and I pulled up and parked, got off the bike, and immediately realized the problem. While this was visible from the bottom of the hill, it was not visible from where I was. If I backed up enough, I could get most of it in the viewfinder, hopefully enough for the AMA folks to get the general idea that it says “Tennessee.”

From Nashville I only had a relatively short ride to Bowling Green where I planned to stop for the night. Tomorrow the “dots” get very small as I pass through OH and NY, and I meet a couple of MTF members for lunch.

Next entry: connecting those tiny dots

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