Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Been a Wild Ride!

10 years and a quarter of a million miles on two wheels.

 It was August 2002 and my mid-life crisis had ratcheted up another notch.  Just seven months before, I’d run in and successfully completed my very first full marathon, all 26.2 miles’ worth.  I finished that race, proudly displayed my finisher’s medal and then asked myself, “Now what?”  There’s nothing like the anticlimax of completing something difficult, something that required months and months of hard work and sacrifice to achieve.  But there I was, deep in that anticlimax and wondering what could possibly top it for fun, excitement, and fulfillment.

I know!  I’ll learn how to ride a motorcycle!

So ten years ago, on August 15, 2002, I got into my car and drove to the north side of the city for my first day of MSF class.   I earned my motorcycle endorsement on August 18, but it took me more than a month to get up the nerve to buy a motorcycle, first a little Yamaha Virago, then a V-Star.  Easy, short day rides with a local riding club gave me some street skills and helped me to gradually overcome those first-time rider jitters.

Then, the following summer, a trip to Colorado to ride the Rockies changed everything.  Suddenly my local riding area had been expanded.  A couple of years after the Colorado trip, a 4,000 mile round trip to NH to attend the races at Loudon during Laconia Motorcycle Week demonstrated the shortcomings of my “ride,” a V-Star 1100 Silverado.  Every time I stopped for gas – and it was painfully frequent – my riding partner pulled his BMW GS Adventure off to the side to wait for me to fuel up.  He filled his own tank only every third stop.   The frustration of frequent gas stops and the desire to cover long distances efficiently meant a change was badly needed.  My very own BMW moved into the garage as soon as I got home from that trip.

This was a game-changer for me.  My riding grew dramatically once again.  I now had a mount better suited to serious travel and set out nearly immediately after acquiring that BMW to start my first IBA National Park Tour, heading to Big Bend, Ft. Davis, and Carlsbad Caverns to collect some “ink” over Labor Day weekend:  my first of many IBA NPT stamps over the next 12 months. 

But it didn’t stop there.  When I collected the last National Park stamps needed to fulfill the IBA requirements of at least 50 parks in at least 25 states for that first IBA certificate, I felt that same anticlimax I felt after completing my first full marathon.  Now what? 

Hardly had I put my first National Park Tour submission into the mail to the IBA when I started my second tour.  Thus began an addiction that resulted in completing five National Park Tours, two of which were Silver (usual NPT requirements plus at least one park in the four corner states of FL, CA, WA, and ME).  It was lots of miles and lots of travel to collect a National Park Tour certificate each year for five years.

 In March 2006, I earned my first IBA SaddleSore. Well now… that was an interesting challenge!  Not only was I hooked on collecting national park stamps, I now had another new affliction:  long distance endurance riding.  When I wasn’t collecting National Park Stamps I was now accumulating SS1000’s (seven to-date), one SS2000, two BBG’s.

 Between the IBA National Park Tours and the IBA endurance rides, not to mention the Motorcycle Tourers Forum (MTF) events which took me all over the country, I was really racking up the miles on that first BMW, the next BMW, and whatever other motorcycle happened to be sharing the garage at the time.  Twice I made it into the "High Mileage" club, a distinction earned in the BMW MOA annual mileage contest...Top 25 female riders.  One of those two years I ranked 11th!

 But now I’ve weaned myself from the drug that is “National Park Stamps.”  I’ve retired from doing National Park Tours – five is enough.  I no longer have the burning desire to stretch myself through harder endurance rides – I’ll probably stop at two BBG’s.  Fortunately, I never became addicted to doing bonus rallies.  Two Cape Fear mini-rallies were enough for me.  I earned a third-place finish on my second try and now I’m afraid that’s as good as it will ever get for me.

 So back to the running.  I started running in January 2001.   One year later I ran my first full marathon.  Then I ran another full marathon a month later.  I ran a full marathon each of the next two years.   I grew to like running at least as much as I liked motorcycling, and both of these activities came into my life at nearly the same time.    

 A few years into my running, I discovered the joy of doing what are called “destination races.”   It didn’t take long for these two interests – running and riding – to clog up my calendar and compete for my time and money. 

 And then…I discovered a new quest, a quest just as crazy, just as addictive as National Park stamp-collecting.  And a quest that has come along at just the right time.  This discovery came  soon after retiring from doing National Park Tours and, admittedly, soon after motorcycling was just beginning to lose its appeal for me. 

Here’s the quest:  Do 50 half-marathons, one in each of the 50 states. 

That’s crazy!  But oh, so cool! 

Travel?  Check.

Challenge?  Check.

Fun?  Check.

Expensive?  Check.

Can I manage to do this and still maintain the level of riding I’d maintained these last few years?  Probably not.  In fact, looking at my ride calendar I can see that, for 2012, the half-marathons are winning the competition for my time and money. 

I think I’ll see where this new addiction takes me.

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