Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stamping My Way

Yesterday I was reading an interesting ride report posted on the New England Riders forum. Nomad Willie was telling about his visits in and around New Jersey. One place in particular was Morristown. We took the family there once and visited the place where George Washington slept. This is what first caught my attention, so I read through the ride report to see what he had to say about it. I was soon curious about something else the further I read down through the report. It appeared to me that Nomad Willie was on a quest of some sort. A mission he was determined to complete. He was talking about “stamps.” Because curious minds want to know, I posted a note for NW asking to educate me about this mysterious “stamp” collecting he was doing.

It seems there is a popular practice of visiting National Parks and getting rubber stamped. Collectors stop in at the visitor centers and ask the park ranger to “stamp” their collector book, or whatever it is they use. I was amazed at the network of people who collect National Park Stamps. You can even belong to a club, the National Park Travelers Club. The 6th Annual Passport Stampers Convention will be held August 2, 2008 at Lowell National Historical Park. Who knew?

Now, believe it or not, Andy and I visited the Lowell National Historical Park last year after the Mother’s Day Flood. We wanted to ride the entire length of the Merrimack River to Plum Island. Plum Island had recently been in the news as some recycle bins from Goffstown New Hampshire had washed up on the shore, having been carried there by the flood waters. Andy took the occasion to stop in at the old mills along the canal. During his machine shop days, the company he worked for at the time had restored an old hydro generator at the site. These turbines were what generated the electricity for all the mills along the Merrimack in Lowell, the blueprints of which had long since been lost. Visits to the site had been made to make more accurate measurements for machining the replacement parts. Andy was taking me on a guided tour to see these turbines. Both of us were surprised to see it had turned into a National Park. We roamed around for a bit, and even met a Park Ranger. We had a friendly chat, with Andy telling the Park Ranger about the new gears and his part in their construction. But I digress.

All this was interesting but I still didn’t know why Willie was chasing stamps? For the past few years the NER has had treasure hunts. To participate, you work out the riddle provided, find the landmark, ride to it, and take a photo of your bike parked near the landmark. You get points for each one, and at the end of the season, the person with the most points wins a prize, and bragging rights. Willie is a treasure hunt junkie, and this year, there is no treasure hunt planned. So to satisfy his addiction, Willie is placing himself on a National Park Stamp pursuit. The IBA (Iron Butt Association) will give you a certificate if you visit 50 parks in 25 different states within 1 year’s time. All the elements of a great treasure hunt including a prize at the end to boot if you are successful. All the elements fit right in with Nomad Willie.

I started reading through the list of National Parks and was astonished at how many I have visited in my lifetime. Many of them are recent history as well. With the trip to the West coming up in July, and a number of National Parks on our list, I began to think of the stamps as more a souvenir. I used to collect pins. With pins, however, you don’t have the date imprinted like with the stamp. The stamps look like this:

Each region of the country is color coded.
• North Atlantic Region — brown
• Mid-Atlantic Region — light blue
• National Capital Region — red
• Midwest Region — orange
• Southeast Region — purple
• Southwest Region — gray
• Western Region — green
• Rocky Mountain Region — gold
• Pacific Northwest and Alaska Region — blue

I’m thinking this is a great idea to make the vacation my own, so I put my order in for the book. At the end of the trip, I hope to have stamps from Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon and Gunnison.

Since there is also plenty of riding to do before late July, Nomad Willie may even see Jade pulling up at a ranger station closer to home.


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