Sunday, January 31, 2016

One Last Look At My Life as a Rider

I've decided it's time....today I will be taking down all of my IBA certificates - 15 of them - to make room for more running-related awards and medals. Passions change and life moves on.


Certificates framed and hanging in home office
Certificates framed and hanging in my home office.

As I take down all of my IBA ride certificates, remove them from their frames, and get ready to store them in a file folder, memories are flooding back to me, each ride presenting its own unique challenge. Thanks to Steve Maxwell and his idea to scan the certificates in first, and then post a bit about each one on the IBA Facebook page (excellent suggestion, Steve). I've copied those posts here into a blog entry.


Certificate #1
IBA certificate #1, my first: My very first SS1000 was a ride-in to the JAX IBA party in 2006. The only faces I recognized were those of a handful of fellow MTF members. I stood in the lobby of the hotel with fellow MTF member, the late Braz Braziel, while he identified IBA members as they walked past me, introducing me to many folks that night. It's where, tired and hungry at the end of my Saddlesore, I wandered into the hotel restaurant just as they were getting ready to close, and met Kevin Healey and his entourage. They took me under their wing and plied me with food and beer until I had to cry "Uncle." I'd been awake for 36 hours by that point. To this day, Kevin enjoys telling that story, about meeting me, the tired, "deer in the headlights" new IBA member. He remains one of my most cherished friends. 

Certificate #2
IBA certificate #2: My IBA memories include this, my second IBA certificate for doing my first of five National Park Tours in 2005-2006. To successfully complete this endurance ride, one must visit at least 50 National Parks in at least 25 states in less than 12 months. A "national park" is any federal property listed at the NPS.gov website and can include national monuments, national historic sites, national battlefields, and so forth. I'd actually started this tour the summer before doing my first SS1000. I had a brand new BMW and immediately set out on a four-day tour of western Texas to break in the new bike and collect some of my first National Park stamps. While I'd taken a couple of solo trips before - one of them to the Florida Panhandle - this W. Texas trip represented a new level of adventure for me. There's not much out there, and much of my riding was on secondary little ranch and FM roads with nothing around for miles. It was liberating!

Nearly all of this National Park Tour was worked in around other trips I already had planned...BMW national rallies, MTF events, RTEs around the country. I gained tremendous planning and routing experience by doing this first of several National Park Tours. And I learned so much! What do we think of when we hear the words National Park? Yellowstone, Yosemite... until I did this National Park Tour, I had no idea of the breadth and scope of our National Park System!

Certificate #3
IBA certificate #3: Not willing to give up on collecting National Parks after completing my first National Park Tour and second IBA certificate in 2006, I immediately started my second National Park Tour before the ink was even dry on my first NPT submission to the IBA. I was determined to make this one a National Park Tour Silver, which would follow the same rules (50 national parks in at least 25 states) but it also must include the four corner states of WA, ME, FL, and CA. 

Looking at my ride calendar for the next twelve months, I realized I was in the perfect position to complete this. An MTF event brought me to the Northwest corner of the U.S. (Lolo, MT get-together) stamping through some of the most spectacular national parks along the way. From there, a fellow rider and I rode together from Lolo to Ft. Spokane so that I could get that WA state. My son's wedding in California? Bingo! Several parks collected in that state. A stamping trip through OH, upstate NY, and on into New England brought me ultimately to Acadia National Park. And of course, the annual trek to the IBA party in JAX gets that final corner of the country. And in between those four corners? Lots of new parks and experiences, including following wagon trails and tracing George Washington Carver's life, from Missouri to Alabama to Georgia. So in August 2007, I earned my 3rd IBA certificate, my 2nd National Park Tour and 1st National Park Tour Silver. I'm so much richer for having done these IBA National Park Tours.

Certificate #4
IBA certificate #4: My fourth IBA certificate was to be a 50CC ride-in to the 2008 IBA Jax party. I rode out to San Diego, visiting some national parks along the way and then meeting up with the others for dinner. I had a tire issue along the way and had to get towed to the BMW dealer in San Diego to deal with it.I really didn't need that stress just before doing this challenging ride! I took off the next morning just a few minutes behind the others, and was doing just fine until the sun set, just as I was riding east out of El Paso. Before leaving for this trip, I'd put PIAA lights on my bike, all the better to see with. All these lights succeeded in doing was lighting up the dozens and dozens of deer along the shoulder and median of I-10. My throttle hand became paralyzed and I could barely bring myself to go faster than 45-50 mph. The pack of coyote trotting along the shoulder at one point didn't help. I made it to Ozona around midnight, mentally exhausted from the stress of all those deer. Disappointed in my first day's performance and knowing of the really bad weather that lay ahead of me, I made the "executive" decision the next morning to continue to Houston, end the on-the-clock ride there, just a few miles shy of a BB1500, and call it good. Weather was looking dangerously nasty in the FL panhandle anyway with tornado watches and strong thunderstorm warnings lighting up the doppler weather map. So my 50CC became a SS1000...my second SS1000 and fourth IBA certificate.

Certificate #5
IBA certificate #5: Undeterred by my failure to successfully complete that 50CC in 2008, I stuck with my original plans to complete a BBG (1500 miles in less than 24 hours) two weeks later. I'd already mapped out the route, planned the gas stops, and been watching the weather. I had the bike serviced and was ready to get it done. When you fall off that horse, there's only one thing to do...
This was a confirming experience for me back then. I'd gotten a new Bill Mayer saddle and a heated jacket liner in preparation for the 50CC. These served me well on that attempt and then again on the BBG. It was wet and cold for much of the day during that BBG. I remember dreading having to stop for gas and the bathroom because it would mean unplugging the liner and freezing until I could get plugged back in and back on the road. I was pleased with my planning and preparations, and it validated my ability to stick with the plan. Earning this BBG certificate, the first of two, changed my riding forever. I learned that I did indeed know how to stay in the saddle, that my marathon fitness translated well into long distance riding endurance, and that I could sustain good riding 'form' for 23 hours, living off of peanut butter sandwiches and Gatorade. I was very proud of myself when I pulled into my own garage at the end of this ride. My 5th IBA certificate and first BBG.

Certificate #6
IBA certificate #6: Once again, the IBA had ride-ins for the 2009 IBA JAX party in March. Fellow IBA member Greg Rice had something truly epic planned as his ride-in - a BBG Trifecta - and I offered to go out to Van Horn, stay for two days, and be his start/end witness for his BBG's. Then I had the bright idea to do a SS1000 to get out there. Being a part of Greg's ride was truly humbling. As I made my way west on I-10 toward my turnaround point in Deming before getting to Van Horn to await Greg, I just couldn't imagine doing what he was doing. He called me from the gas station at the end of his first of three BBG's and I stood out front of the motel to greet him. I signed the ending form for his first BBG and he signed my ending form for my SS1000. The next day I got an 8 mile run in then took a ride out to Guadalupe National Park to get the park stamp for my 3rd National Park Tour. Greg arrived at the hotel a little later, looking a little more tired, and I signed his ending witness form for his second BBG and his starting form for his last of the three BBG's. We said good night and our parting words were, "See you in JAX!" My sixth IBA certificate and 3rd SS1000.

Certificate #7
IBA certificate #7. I was in Van Horn at the motel after having served as Greg Rice's witness to his BBG Trifecta. He'd already left the hotel a couple of hours earlier. Now it was my turn to start my IBA JAX ride-in, this a SS2000. The best part of doing this SS2000? I got to sleep in my own bed at the end of that first day! I rode almost 1200 miles the first day which made the second day easy at less than 900 miles. The one thing I'd learned from riding out in west Texas on I-10 so many times is that wind can be the enemy of gas mileage. I knew I'd be cutting it close, but wanted to make it to Junction before stopping for gas. About 30 miles out, my BMW gas gauge came perilously close to empty and the mileage countdown on the digital display, showing my reserve status, began. As it got closer and closer to reading "zero" I began to calculate how far I was from the exit, and making contingency plans it case I ran out of gas. I had my running shoes on the bike. Heck, I thought, as I drew to within 5 or 6 miles of the exit. I could jog to the exit to get gas if I had to. But thankfully I didn't have to. When I filled up the gas tank, the pump read 5.3 gallons. Her published tank capacity was 5.4 gallons.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. My own bed felt wonderful, and I got up early and rode the last 871 miles to the JAX hotel. Friend Claye Curtis had done her own ride-in and we arrived at about the same time. We had a late dinner at the Steak & Shake to celebrate. I'd done it! 3,000 miles and two IBA certificates in 4 days, My first multi-day IBA certificate, a SS2000, and my 7th IBA certificate.

Certificate #8
Certificate #9
IBA certificates #8 and #9: National Park Tours, one started in April 2008 and completed in April 2009; the other started in April 2009 and completed in February 2010. National Park Tours #3 and #4 for me, both made possible by my attendance at various MTF and IBA events as well as BMW MOA and BMW RA national rallies that had me riding solo all over the country. What made these National Park Tours so special - well, they're all special - was the continued discovery of new parks I had no idea existed, and of the continued historic connections among the various parks, the threads of continuity between seemingly dissimilar parks. Yet the hand of fate and happenstance continued to touch parks and bind them together in ways I simply could not have imagined. I continued to trace wagon trails through the unthinkable wilds of central plains states. I started accumulating books from the park bookstores and read voraciously about these trails and about the pioneers who forged them and the men who protected them. I continued to be awed by my tiny footprint on this vast country.

Certificate #10
IBA certificate #10: Another SS1000, my 4th SS1000, and this time on that other bike that was sharing the garage with my BMW. My 600cc, in-line four, chain-driven sport bike...was she up to the task? The annual MTF Founder's Feast, being held in southern Indiana, seemed the perfect opportunity to test this little bike with a big heart. The weather all the way up to Indiana was perfect until the sun went down. Then it started to rain. Hard. I was on a dark, two-lane windy road in those last 50 miles of the ride, and visibility was close to zero. I was creeping along. Every time a car passed me going the other way, I was nearly blinded. I couldn't see the painted stripes on the road. My helmet face shield was fogging up so badly that I had to ride with it open. As soon as I tried to close it, it would immediately fog up. So I had to ride with the rain hitting my face like sharp needles. Good thing I had my glasses on! It was the longest, slowest 50 miles in the dark in the rain that I can remember. The lights of the lodge, nestled deep within an Indiana State Park, greeted me, as did the small group of folks who were waiting for my arrival. My little 600cc sport bike did just fine! She earned herself her first IBA SS1000 certificate and my 10th certificate and 4th SS1000.

Certificate #11
Legends Autograph sheet-served as our SS1k documentation
IBA Certificate #11: Who knew what the IBA had up their sleeves for the 2010 IBA JAX party?? I can't remember for sure, but this may have been the first year that the IBA put on themed SS1000 rides in conjunction with the JAX party. In any case, it was a big hit with me. No receipts, no logs, just show up at the required check points and it was done! This was the coolest ride I'd ever done! Our "proof" of the ride was an autograph sheet. At each designated checkpoint, a LEGEND of the LD riding community was there to greet us and autograph our sheet. We were all star-struck!
Bob Higdon, Dave McQueeney, Ardys Kellerman, Jim Owen, Shane Smith, Marty Leir, Ross and Jean Copas. Jean was so excited upon seeing me. I was the first female rider to arrive at their checkpoint, which was the last one before the finish.
I remember being passed along I-10 near Tallahassee by an older yellow BMW GS. When I rode through Marianna, that same bike passed me again as it came up the entrance ramp from what was no doubt a gas stop.
We stayed together all the way to the next checkpoint in Pensacola, where Marty Leir was waiting for us.This was the turnaround point and the yellow GS and I were still together as we left that stop and started our long ride on I-10 to the next checkpoint in Tallahassee. When we made that turnaround in Pensacola and as we rode East, we saw many other ride participants heading west. It was fun seeing them, as we all gave each other giant arm waves of acknowledgement.
As I left that last checkpoint in Tallahassee, I fell in with Steve Short and we rode pretty much together all the way to the finish at the hotel in JAX. It was so cold, even with my heated gear on, that I was shivering uncontrollably as I got off the bike to retrieve my paperwork and hand it to the IBA staff for validation. Steve and I went next door to the Steak and Shake and wrapped our freezing hands around cups of hot cocoa while we waited for our food to arrive. It was truly a memorable and "Legendary" SS1000! My 5th SS1000 and 11th IBA certificate.

Certificate #12
IBA Certificate #12: My sweet little 600cc sport bike had already successfully completed a SS1000. Can she do a Bun Burner Gold (1500 miles in less than 24 hours)? I was about to find out. It was 2010 and the IBA biannual meet in Denver was offering ride-ins for certificates. This was going to be my chance to prove that this ride can be done on a stock 600cc sport bike with no fuel cell. Her only concession to comfort was a Bill Mayer Saddle and her only concession to practicality was a set of Givi side cases and top case. My original BBG route to Denver was going to be up I-45 to I-35 to I-70. But weather forecasts were for 100+ degree temperatures in the country's heartland that week. It was actually going to be cooler weather if I stayed further south and went west on I-10 and then north on I-25 out of Las Cruces.
The bike's chain and sprockets still looked very good with 26,000 miles on them, but I thought it prudent to go ahead and change them out and put new tires on as well. I was ready. She was ready.
The ride to Las Cruces went smoothly until just over the state line in NM. Traffic was at a standstill on the interstate and I was starting to fry from the heat coming up off the tarmac and off my bike's radiator. We crept along and finally made it to an exit where we were being diverted onto a local road that ran parallel to the interstate. About 2 miles up the road, I could see the problem...a car fire. I was thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't among those cars stuck in that 2 mile stretch beyond that exit ramp. My BBG would have been over had that happened.
It was getting dark as neared Colorado. The sun setting behind the foothills along the interstate in New Mexico was stunning! The ride across Raton Pass in the dark and in the cold was nerve-wracking as the warning signs grew more ominous by the mile....watch for deer, watch for ice, watch for elk, watch for bears, watch for falling rocks.
At the final gas station, just on the other side of the interstate from the hotel, I was elated. I'd done this on my little 600cc sport bike! She performed flawlessly. The gas station was closed but the pumps were open. It was pitch black and I was totally unable to find the side stand with my toe to deploy it. I struggled with it for a few minutes, then just sat there and laughed at myself. After riding 1500 miles through the desert and through the mountains, in the heat and then in the cold, if this was the hardest thing I had to do all day, then I was in trouble. I finally snagged it with my toe, got it deployed, got my gas, and rode the short mile to the hotel. Done!! My second BBG and 12th IBA certificate. And on a 600cc sport bike!

Certificate #13
IBA certificate #13: My fifth National Park Tour and second at Silver level, started June 2010 and completed May 2011. When I completed this tour, I decided it would be my last. But I'd truly enjoyed the challenge that is the IBA National Parks Tour, and knew that I would miss doing them...researching the parks, planning the trips and the routes, working the states and the parks into my travel plans for other motorcycle-related events such as BMW rallies and MTF events. I tried not to duplicate parks that I'd obtained for my previous NPT certificates where possible, but some duplication was inevitable, and a couple of park properties became a traditional inclusion for me. This meant that over the course of doing five National Park Tours, I'd visited well over 200 different national parks. I made a point of watching the video if one was available. always visited the bookstore and always asked the volunteer, "If there was one book about this park that you would recommend, what would that be?" And I would buy that book. I took the tours if they were available, I rode the interpretive in-park roads and stopped often to read the plaques and take photos. I made a point of not doing hit-and-run stamping. Today, even though I no longer travel on two wheels, if there is a national park property within striking distance of where I am, I will make a point of visiting that park. When I look back at all of the things that I did in my life, doing these National Park Tours is among my most valued and memorable endeavors.

Certificate #14
IBA certificate #14: My most beloved SS1000 certificate. It was a sad day for those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Jack Shoalmire. He was in the process of completing a SS1000 in all fifty states - was only a few states shy of completing that goal - when he passed away unexpectedly and too soon. Some of his closest friends organized a Memorial SS1000 Day in memory of Jack. Those friends sought riders in every state - all 50 states - and succeeded in doing so. So on October 15, 2011, SS1000 rides were completed in all 50 states in Jack's memory. I carried a photo with me as I did this ride. It's one I took of him when we were down in the Big Bend valley together, attending an MTF event just months earlier, in February. Jack, we will never forget you.

Certificate #15: my last IBA ride certificate
IBA certificate #15: The ill-fated "Waffle House" SS2000. In 2012, a rider in the IBA community came up with the cool idea of a Waffle House Tour, which included doing a Waffle House IBA ride of our choosing. I decided to do a SS2000 to the IBA JAX party in March and to do it on my 600cc sport bike. The first leg was an out-and-back 1,000 miles from my home. I would sleep in my own bed, then get up early the next morning and do another 1,000 miles to JAX, picking up Waffle House photos with my Waffle House flag along the way. The route was planned and entered into my GPS, and I headed out early the next morning and got the required start receipt at a nearby Waffle House.
After about 800 miles of that first leg, my knees started to ache, being folded up in that sport bike position. I usually didn't have the problem at all, in fact I found that riding position to be more comfortable for me than any other position, but here's the problem. I had begun to really step up my running, adding more miles and doing more half marathons. And I had just run a half marathon in Little Rock, AR the weekend before. So when I got home after that first 1,000 mile leg, I had to decide if I was up for the second 1,000 mile leg on that bike. I could always change bikes, doing the second leg on my BMW. But then it wouldn't be a SS2000, but would be two separate SS1000's. I already had plenty of those hanging on my wall. So my decision was made. I would forgo doing the second leg, and just submit this on my own, not as a Waffle House ride, but as a plain and simple SS1000, my 7th SS1000 and 15th IBA certificate.
As it turned out, it was to be the last IBA ride of my riding career. I had scheduled and made plans for other subsequent IBA rides but things always seemed to get in the way and I'd have to cancel my plans. Ultimately my long distance running began to really take over my free time and spare money, so that resources originally spent on Long Distance riding were now being diverted to travel to run fun and interesting destination marathons around the country.
I have wonderful memories attached to each of these 15 IBA ride certificates and have made some really wonderful friends along the way.


Mile Eater Certificate

The other certificates are now taken down, removed from their frames and safely filed away. Thank you for following along as I reminisced about each of these certificates. The only IBA certificate that will remain on the wall: My Mile Eater Bronze certificate. Mike Kneebone included the line on the certificate: "No other rider has completed more National Park tours - Five - than Barbara Smith."
I'll always keep this one certificate hanging. It summarizes my IBA resume. I was only 3 easy SS1000 rides away from earning the Mile Eater Gold - I already had all of the extreme rides needed for that Mile Eater level and had even considered cranking out those last three SS1000's just to qualify - but in the end, decided my IBA riding career was complete as is.
It's funny how our minds can rationalize things. I reasoned that the money I'd spend doing those last three SS1000 rides, an amount equal to about $300 when gas and certificate applications are factored in, would pay for three good marathons. See? There is life after IBA rides!

2 comments:

  1. How very cool. Great idea to scan them, and by posting about them they will be in your year-end book too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great read Barb... Thanx for sharing these miles of stories with us...

    ReplyDelete