Sunday, April 19, 2009

Third IBA National Park Tour is Complete!


Never did I imagine, when I stamped my first National Park stamp (Wright Brothers museum, Kill Devil Hills, NC, June 2005), that this activity would shape and define my motorcycle riding experience from that point forward.


That first National Park Tour (NPT) was started when I rode to Laconia NH to see the racing and hill-climbing events in Loudon in conjunction with Laconia Motorcycle Week in NH (http://www.agmom98.com/inactivepages/laconia2005.html and http://barb-smith.fotopic.net/c593145.html). That seems so long ago: 160,000 miles ago, in fact.


While some of the first stamps fell off the back end of that very first IBA NPT, I did manage to finish it, submitting that first set of paperwork to Mike Kneebone and the IBA in August of 2006.


Then just two months later I started my second National Park Tour. I would be retiring in November 2006 and the world was going to be my oyster in 2007! So why not go for another? My ride calendar was rapidly filling up with events and rides that would take me to all four corners of the US: An all-women motorcycling get-together in Williams AZ; an MTF event in Lolo MT; a ride to Rockland ME to meet my son's ship at a lobster festival; a BMW rally in Asheville NC; several motorcycle events in FL. Plus I was signed up for an AMA Grand Tour: the "I've Been Everywhere" tour which would have me chasing after bonuses all over the country.

I submitted that IBA NPT paperwork for certification - this one a NPT Silver - in August, 2007. At that point I was confident I would never do another one. I had ridden over 40,000 miles that year, chasing after national park stamps literally all over the country and - more importantly, for the Silver certificate - in the four corner states (WA, CA, FL, ME) as I attended various rallies and MTF events that year. And quite honestly, I was a bit road-weary. It was my first year of retirement and I confess I went a little overboard on "letting loose" after being freed from the shackles of regular office hours.

I really needed to recover, mentally and financially. I had added insanely high miles to a perfectly good BMW in that second endeavor, and a year later ended up selling a 3-year old bike with 90,000 miles on her, not because she was totally used up, but because I ride alone and didn't want to chance being broken down along the side of some desolate road somewhere.

So for the next 6 months I took a hiatus, didn't even look at a brown national park sign as I traveled the country putting non-stamping miles on my bikes. I was sorely tempted a few times, though.


Then, early 2008, I decided to do the MTF-sponsored 50CC ride-in, in early March, from San Diego to Jacksonville and the IBA party. Hmmmm....there are some parks between here and there, including CA. I didn't want to pass up an opportunity - should stars and ride plans align correctly - to have a good start at another NPT Silver Certificate. So I stamped my way out to San Diego, picking up stamps in AZ and CA along the way.


I had signed up to do the Cape Fear Mini-Rally, held in Wilmington NC every April. Looking at routes to get there, I could see numerous national parks along the way. And afterward I'd be visiting my son and his family and my mom, who live in Norfolk VA and Salisbury MD, respectively. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I made the commitment to proceed with a 3rd NPT. Whether it became a Silver Certificate was as unknown as was my riding calendar for that summer, but it made no difference to me. So I routed myself past national parks in several states along the way to Wilmington, NC and another stamping adventure began.


Things were going well....stamping on the way to the 50CC, stamping on the way to Cape Fear, stamping on the way to the BMW RA rally in Hougton MI and BMW MOA rally in Gillette WY, even picking up a NM stamp in early March while in Van Horn getting ready to do a SS2000 to this year's IBA party in Jacksonville. Until I found myself 11 months later but still shy 6 states. A silver certificate would not be in the cards this time, but finishing the tour was definitely still within reach.

I had so much invested in this third NPT that I hated to let it all slide. Weather prohibited me from getting out beyond the states I'd already stamped. It was February, after all. I had a tentative route that would take me through MS, TN, KY, and MO but winter just wasn't letting go in those states. I had to wait through all of February and then all of March, waiting for a break in the weather. Now the AZ and CA stamps were going to fall off the back end since they were now more than 12 months old.

Looking ahead, I had already registered for the Cape Fear rally again in 2009 and the trip out there would allow me to pick up a couple more states - NC and WV - along the way and not lose any more states due to old dating. If I went beyond the April 16 date, I would then lose several more states and the whole endeavor would be lost. But what to do about the other needed 4 states? Watching the weather carefully, I saw a window of opportunity in late March-Early April where I could take that planned route up through MS, KY, TN, and MO and get those 4 states.

So heading east on I-10 I rode through LA (Jean Lafitte Prairie Acadian stamp), MS (Natchez MS, Natchez Trace, Brices Crossroads, Tupelo), TN (Shiloh, Fort Donelson), KY (Land Between the Lakes NRA), MO (Wilsons Creek), and AR (Buffalo River, Central High School-Little Rock) before heading home. A perfectly good weather forecast changed rapidly to severe storm alerts (tornados, hail, lightning, strong winds) as I rode through TN, but all in all it was a fruitful trip (2000 miles in 4 days and 17 stamps) and I knew I'd be able to finish this third NPT before the April 16 "witching" date. Getting WV and NC enroute to Wilmington NC finished this third NPT with no time to spare. First valid stamp: Apr 17, 2008 Last stamp: Apr 16, 2009.

Here I sit today, making my plans to attend the Moab UT get-together with other MTF friends and I see a bucket-load of national parks between here and there and within easy day-rides of our headquarters motel in Moab....this just never ends, does it?

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