Wednesday, August 8, 2007

AMA IBET - Return from Maine, Tour is 2/3 Done!

Today I'm getting on the road toward home, my trip to Maine complete, my IBA National Park Tour Silver completed, and just a couple more AMA photo stops to make on this trip. Sunday morning I would get a nice long run in before departing Marlborough MA and heading south. I got a very late start for this reason, but made it to Harrisburg for the night. Along the way I stopped in Chicopee and Springfield for AMA points and Jill took me straight to the Chicopee District Court building with no problems. From there she was to take me to the Springfield Civic Center in downtown.

Along the way I spied a Springfield YMCA but after wandering around a bit, could not set up the photo with the bike and flag, due to one-way streets. So I continued on into the downtown area and Civic Center. There was no "Springfield" in the name on the building! Drat! I wandered around this area for quite a while, looking for a building with "Springfield" on it. No such luck. I rode past the publishing headquarters for Springfield's newspaper, The Republican, and still no luck. I was losing patience. So I settled for a "Keep Springfield Beautiful" type of sign on one of the medians.

Next morning in Harrisburg I got a good early start and was determined to make it to just north of Chattanooga by nightfall. By golly, I was going to redeem myself by getting this AMA location after failing to do so in June.

I had researched what I thought would be two good AMA photo locations in Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Choo Choo tourist attraction and the Chattanooga National Cemetery. They were within a couple of blocks of each other and were easy to get to off of the interstate. So the next morning I let Jill lead me to the first of the two locations, the cemetery. As it turned out, it was an excellent choice and the photo came out good. I went ahead and rode by the Chattanooga Choo Choo site, afterward, but did not stop, content with the results at the first location.

Back on the interstate, I headed south on I-59 to Gadsen AL where I would pick up US-278 west to cut over to I-65. Just south of Cullman off of I-65 is a town called Dodge City. On the map it looks to be barely more than a crossroads, but Google Earth says there's a school and a post office, so I'm headed there to pick up some more AMA points. Once I got to the exit, I could see that Dodge City sat just west of a major interchange with gas stations, chain restaurants, and a hotel or two. But once I got a little ways west on the secondary road the commercialism petered out and I began looking for either the school or the post office. But behind a bank I caught a glimpse of a red brick building with Dodge City Town Hall painted above the entrance. I did a U-turn through the bank parking lot and went down the little deadend side road and into the town hall parking lot. This would make a perfect AMA photo!

The next night was spent in Brookhaven MS. It would then be an easy ride west to get a photo of bike and AMA flag in Ferriday LA before continuing toward home. Only a few more attainable AMA locations remain on my list and I'll be able to pick up most of these on a trip to Metropolis in early October.

Next entry: Visiting Superman

Saturday, August 4, 2007

AMA IBET - Upstate NY to Acadia ME

After a productive day and a good rest in Ashland OH, I was ready to head east through upstate NY to continue my AMA tour quest and gather the last remaining national park stamps of the IBA National Park Tour.

My thoughts were to get a couple of national park stamps in OH - Cuyahoga and James Garfield NHS, but checking the visitor center hours at the national park website I realized to my dismay that they did not open until later that morning. I could be out of the state of OH and into NY by then, with intentions of getting well into Massachusetts by nightfall. So I packed up and headed out, with my first AMA stop 2/3 of the way across NY. Prior to departing on this trip, I set up an EZPass account through the Massachusetts Transportation Authority. I could have ordered the EZPass from any of the participating states but felt some allegiance to MA since I lived there for so many years. Having this toll pass made the trip across upstate NY, MA, through NH and up through Maine EXTREMELY painless. I had bad memories of previous trips through various toll booths in these states in less than ideal conditions - in the rain, in heavy rush hour traffic - and would not do that again.

First AMA stop would be Waterloo, NY, a tiny town about 5 or 6 miles south of I-90. I took the Dobbins Corner exit so that I could spend a little more time on the local roads before getting into Waterloo. I rode past a couple of potential photo opportunities, making note of them in case I had to double back. But soon enough I found a classic green "Village of Waterloo" sign, so stopped and got my photo with tour flag. As it turned out, the town of Seneca Falls was just a few miles further east on this same road. Seneca Falls is home to the Womens Rights National Historical Park, where I could get a national park stamp and add NY to my list of states for the IBA tour.

Jill got me back onto the road that would take me to I-90 and I pressed on, really hoping to make it to Springfield MA before dark. I was getting a little concerned about this, since I knew that the interstate between Albany and Springfield runs through a sparsely populated (and deer infested) area. One of the reasons I don't mind using the toll roads in the northeast is the food and gas plazas. They sure do make those stops easy and fast. I made a stop to fuel up and get a snack, but stupidly put my sunglasses back on out of habit. I didn't get too far down the road and realized my mistake, as it was dusk, the sun was at my back anyway, and I would unfortunately be arriving in Springfield after dark. I waited for a rest area to pull over, since I can't get them off using only one hand, losing time and daylight to do it.

As soon I exited the toll plaza, the ramp dumped me onto a local road where traffic was backed up to a stop. It was now dark, the road was a minefield of big potholes, cracks and ruts, and I was putting every bit of my concentration into keeping the bike upright on this rough road in the creeping traffic. I did finally make it to the hotel (thank you again Jill, and I mean it sincerely this time) and got checked in and crashed for the night.

My original plans were to get up the next morning, get two AMA photos in the area - Chicopee and Springfield - then head toward Maine. In the morning, however, I was too eager to get on the road to spend time fighting weekday morning traffic in the city, so got back onto I-90 and continued east. I made really good time! Next thing I knew, I was in Brunswick Maine, hoping the hotel would let me check in early...very early. My son is an officer in the Navy and as luck would have it, his Norfolk-based ship would be dropping anchor at the Rockland Lobsterfest and giving tours to the festival attendees. We had made plans to meet up and spend the day together at the festival, so as soon as I could get checked in and changed out of riding clothes and into shorts and sandals, I called my son and he and his dad, who lives in MA, came and got me at the hotel and we headed over to the LobsterFest in Rockland ME to have lobster and corn on the cob. We spent a wonderful day together.

The next day was Saturday, and my plans were to ride further north and ultimately to Acadia National Park. The national park stamp from Acadia would guarantee my earning the Iron Butt Association Silver certificate for the National Park Tour. Along the way I would collect four AMA IBET photos. So I headed north toward Bangor, with several waypoints programmed into Jill, my GPS. The first of these was Winslow ME. I was in Winslow AZ back in May and unfortunately had not received my AMA tour package in time for that trip. I say unfortunate since it meant I would not be adding Mountainair to my AMA list. But Winslow ME was a charming, tiny little town up on a hill looking down over the Kennebec River. I had decided to use the post office for my photo, so I let Jill direct me to the spot. I turned in where she told me to, but wasn't sure at first until I noticed the post office sign over the door to the little gas station/convenience store in the center of town. As best as I could tell, it was the only store in town.
I backtracked down the hill and over the river into Waterville. I had chosen the post office as my photo location in this town, as well, and Jill took me right to the spot. It was the post office, but nowhere on the building did it say Waterville. Well, heck! So I turned right to go around the block and it was then that I noticed that the word Waterville was carved into the granite wall that faced away from the post office. Too late to stop, I circled the block again and pulled up in front for the photo. I was sitting smack-dab in the middle of the intersection but traffic was light, so I didn't care. Since starting this tour, I was getting much more laizzez-faire about where I stopped.

Waterville was such a pretty little town, that I explored it a little bit before leaving. Some of the downtown streets were red-brick paved and it had that really old New England look about it. Eventually I headed out, taking a road that would get me onto I-95 for the short hop to Pittsfield, where I snagged a photo of a tiny train station. then it was on toward Bangor. I had identified an AMA photo spot in Bangor but decided to wait until after going to Acadia, so I took the bypass and headed to Hulls Cove and the entrance to Acadia National Park for my park stamp.

I had to make a difficult decision at this point, whether to take the park loop road and then stay in Bangor that night, or to forgo the park in the interest of getting down to Marlborough MA for the night. In the end, I chose to leave Acadia park loop for another time and start heading back toward Bangor. I had a hotel reservation in Bangor, so when I stopped for a late lunch in Ellsworth, I called and cancelled the room. Before heading south to Marlborough MA and my stop for the night, I made my photo stop in Bangor, getting a good shot of my bike with the flag in front of Bangor State College.

Next entry: Reprising Chattanooga

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

AMA IBET - Bound for Maine, Some Stops in Ohio

On tap for my second full day on the road will be a zoo, a distillery town, the home of the AMA, and lunch with two MTF folks. After leaving Bowling Green, My GPS will lead me to Lincoln Memorial National Historic Park in Hodgenville KY. From there I took back roads to Boston KY for my first AMA tour photo of the day. 

The center of this town consisted of a gas station/general store and a very tiny post office building tucked in behind it. I nearly missed the post office building, pulling into the gas station parking area to get my bearings. Where the heck is it? I was craning my neck to try to see around the gas station, when I saw a car come out of a little narrow drive. 

At first I thought it was a private driveway, until I noticed the street sign above it that said Post Office Road. I pulled out of the gas station and turned down this narrow one-car wide lane which wound down a hill and behind the gas station to – what else? – the post office!

I continued on the beautiful little country roads that would eventually lead me back to the interstate. I had been running more or less parallel to I-65 since getting off in Hodgenville. This road took me over what seemed like an awful lot of railroad track, all of which abruptly ended when the tracks entered a chain link fence. Looking up, I noticed the name on the top of one of the buildings: Jim Beam. Well, of course! Now I made the connection. But this was way out in the middle of nowhere! I immediately thought of distilleries, prohibition, and moonshine. Could that be how Jim Beam got its start?

The Louisville Zoo would be my next stop. Jill’s directions were flawless and I zigzagged my way into the city and pulled into the entrance to the zoo without difficulty. Photos taken, I just as easily made my way back to the interstate and pressed on to my lunch engagement with my MTF friends at a Bob Evans restaurant just east of Dayton OH. Between Louisville and Dayton, the road took me through Cincinnati and I was reminded yet again just how beautiful this city is. Access to the city from the south is quite scenic, the road dropping down quickly toward the river, with the city laid out ahead as one crosses the bridge.

Our lunch complete, we said our goodbyes and I continued on toward Cleveland, with just a couple more stops to make before calling it a day. There’s a Baltimore in Ohio, a very small town east of Columbus OH. I headed east on I-70 a short ways before getting off and dropping south on a small roller-coaster of a road that took me to Baltimore. A giant water tower with the town name painted on it loomed ahead, and was a potential photo candidate. I zigzagged through the town trying to find a place where I could park the bike and get an unobstructed view of the tower. I finally gave up and headed for my original pre-scouted destination, the library. It was the quintessential small town library and I half expected to hear songs from The Music Man start playing at any moment.

As I headed back toward the interstate, I determined that I still had enough time to make one more stop along the route toward Columbus. I noted the signs for Pickerington as I headed east on I-70, so on my way back I took the exit and headed to the AMA headquarters, which were just off the interstate. I wasn’t sure if the museum would still be open, but I took a chance anyway, because I wanted to see the buildings. I was not disappointed. The grounds were gorgeous and as I wound my way up the driveway, I thought how heavenly it would be to commute to work here every day on two wheels. To the left was a large parking lot, straight ahead was a large multiple story building, but as I approached, the sign pointed me to the right to the AMA museum. Up a short, steep hill and the drive led me into a red brick courtyard and circular drive. I immediately realized that it was closed for the day, but I parked in front of the museum anyway and took a photo, complete with rally flag.

This was a very productive and satisfying day. I only had 80 miles to my pre-determined stopping point for the night: Ashland OH. Tomorrow I should make it to Massachusetts.

Next entry: Womens Rights and Waterloo