Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting to Tulsa for IBA Meet

My alarm was set for 6:30 AM so that I could get an early start to a very busy day. I wanted to arrive in Tulsa before 5:30, when registration would close and the welcome reception would begin. So I got on the road before 8:00 AM in Paris TX and headed north to my first of many AMA Grand Tour bonus locations.

A large Campbell Soup plant in Paris, TX was my first stop of the morning. There was supposed to be a large soup can at the entrance, but as I approached the site, I slowed down to assess the worthiness of the bonus as well as the parking situation on a busy divided 4 lane road during morning rush hour. The can was a really only a 3-D bulge on the sign in front of the plant, and it wasn't even very big. I rode down to the next available cut-through to do a u-turn and rode back and stopped on the shoulder to consider it. Nah!! Not really worth fooling with, so I continued on to my turn north toward Hugo OK.

It was pleasantly cool this morning and the morning air was clean and fresh. As I rode north out of Paris I spotted a large pistol sitting upright on a grassy swath in front of a barn-like antiques store. I remembered seeing a large pistol on the Roadside America website, and reading that it used to be in the window of an antique store but was long since gone. Could this be the same one, only now in its new location? Didn't matter....I decided to do a u-turn, head back to the pistol and get a photo.

A little further up the road I spied the most perfect billboard. On the MTF forum someone posted, saying that in order to make my flower-sniffin' legitimate, I needed to stop for ice cream along the way.

I thought I would find the Olivet cemetery in Hugo to take a look at the circus performers' tombstones, but as I neared the town, I decided that, as interesting as this stop would be, I should skip this diversion and just continue on to Durant OK, where there was another AMA Grand Tour point opportunity. U.S. 69 out of Durant took me up to I-40, but not before getting off at Krebs to capture an interesting AMA Grand Tour bonus. Krebs and its neighbor town McAlester were both settled by Italian immigrants, and their culture and history lives in these two towns still today.

Being a female rider, I often have interesting encounters at gas stations. Once I got onto I-40, I stopped at my first opportunity - a Love's Truck Stop - for gas and something to eat and drink. After getting gas, I pulled into a parking spot in front of the store, stopping in front of two men who were having a coffee and taking a short break from their 18-wheeler rigs. As I rode up, and before I could dismount and get my helmet off, I noticed them talking, pointing and looking over my way. As I got off the bike they started to talk to me, but I had to get my helmet off and earplugs out before I could hear them. "What bike is that?" one of them asked. When I answered "Yamaha," he turned to the other fellow and said, "See, that's a Yamaha." So apparently there had been a debate going on about what my bike was. This has happened more than once, as the FZ is not a commonly seen bike.

Fort Smith, AR has been on my NPT route every year that I've done national park tours. It's at a convenient "crossroads" to somewhere else. As I entered the town, going over the bridge, I spotted a sign indicating that Fort Smith has a sister town in Italy. The problem was that the sign sits right at the end of the bridge, with nowhere to pull over. The park ranger thought that the visitor center in town might know if there was another sign somewhere else in town. But there wasn't, to their knowledge, so I continued on my route toward Springdale and Bentonville AR and some more AMA Grand Tour bonus points. I spent a fair amount of time wandering around Springdale trying to find a particular sign, but finally gave up, took a photo of the building with no signage, and can only hope that it will suffice for the points.

Out of Bentonville I picked up an incredibly good road, SR-12 toward OK. Not only was it a pretty road, but it had a number of 90-degree turns to keep it interesting. At this point I realized I wouldn't make it to the hotel in Tulsa in time for registration, and might even miss a good deal of the reception as well. So I relaxed the pace a little, and took a gas and snack break in Mason Valley.

The hotel for the IBA Meet in Tulsa was easy to find, and I pulled in to a parking lot filled with motorcycles of every brand and model. I unloaded my stuff, covered the bike, and headed inside. Almost immediately I ran into Richard Buber who had just come in from doing the Butt Lite V rally. I dashed up to my room, dropped my stuff on the bed, and hopped in the shower. I wanted to get back downstairs to mingle and get something to eat.

On my way up to this Tulsa event, I had plenty of highway time to consider how far I have come as a rider, and how my association with the MTF organization had helped me grow in that regard. Two and a half years ago I knew no one in this community, meeting a small number of MTF members for the first time in January 2006 to help scout an MTF rally that would be held later that Spring. Two months later, in March, I stood in the lobby at the IBA Party in Jacksonville while an MTF member who I'd met in January put names to faces of the stream of people in the lobby. So when I got back down to the lobby after getting checked in and cleaned up, I realized just how many people I have met or come to know who were in that room. And if I hadn't met them in person before, I recognized the names of people I previously knew only on the forum.

Tomorrow: meetings and mingling.

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