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The ABCs… October 22, 2008

Posted by dakotabiker in Introductions, Rides.
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…of touring that is. 

Those of you who ride Harleys (and who belong to the Harley Owners Group – HOG) may be familiar with the ABC’s of Touring.  It is an annual activity wherein participants “collect” destinations over the year: Towns from A to Z, Counties from A to Z, States & Provinces, Countries, Rallies, National Parks, etc…  The collection is in the form of photos of an “official” destination sign, your bike, and a current-year copy of Hog Tales Magazine (or Rider Enthusiast).  Riders collect these points and send them in for free crap (pins, patches, atlases, etc.)   In a sense it has all the appeal of collecting stuff, which you either go for or you don’t.  But in another sense it is a good framework to create some interesting rides (as if we needed extra inspiration.)  So Harley or not, it can be a great time… or an obsession.

Like any good addiction, the first few points are the easiest.  The local post office will give you three points right off the bat:  your town, your state, and your country all wrapped up in one official sign.  You head out to a few surrounding towns, cross a few county lines, maybe cross the nearest state line and you’ve got a dozen.  Then you start thinking “Hey this is pretty easy and I’m out riding anyway, why not go for the the pin at 26 points? I’m like half way there already…” 

So you pull out the old McNally-Rand (or log into Google Maps) and start searching for those missing letters… 
Riding farther and farther as you realize all the towns close to you start with letters you already have…
Incredulous that your state doesn’t have a county that begins with “J”… 
Pretty soon you’ve got the pin at 26, the patch at 36, and your almost to the cap at 46 (last year it was an atlas).  You look at your list and see you’re only missing handful of town letters and need as many county letters to complete two alphabets.  So you pull out the atlas looking for “I”, “Z”, “Q” and the ever so elusive “X”…  And you keep going.

One of only two "X" cities in the country.

One of only two "X" cities in the country.

By now you’re doing multi-state loops over the weekends; the miles-per-point ratio getting higher and higher.  You pass by 56 points, adding a collapsible Harley cooler to your pile of free crap — but the “limited edition optical glass cube featuring floating ABCs logo” along with publication of your name in Hog Tales as an ABCs addict seems within your grasp at 66 points.  So you keep going, creating a four-day weekend here and there until you hit the magical 66. 

My 66th point for 2008.

My 66th point for 2008.

Last year I had 58 points, after figuring I would go for the pin (or the patch, tops) – but the addiction was further enabled by a ride to the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota (from Maryland).  I got my pin, patch, atlas, and LED flashlight (last year’s 56 pointer), and was surprised and a little bummed that the magazine listing was for 66 points and above.  Admittedly, I certainly didn’t need the ABCs of Touring to inspire a 4,186 round trip ride to Sturgis.  (Though I do credit the ABCs for my side trip to Montana.)  The ride was great as was the rally and the people.  The ABCs are just an added bonus, a little extra push, and pretty good biker bar conversation with new friends and riding partners.

A national park point from the Sturgis trip 2007.

A national park point from 2007 - just rode though the Badlands in a lightning storm for that one.

For more information on the ABC’s of Touring you can go to the US HOG site, but if you are not a hog member, you just learned more about it here than you would there.   Or, as funny as it may seem, you can download last years British ABCs form which focuses on the same US objectives from the UK HOG site without being a member. Of course you won’t win the prizes, but that’s not really what it’s about anyway…