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corner corner 1100 Releases, and a Plate of Markeroni

One woman, one motorcycle, and some awfully big saddlebags

by whiteraven13
February 2, 2004

This is the story of how a motorcycle trip gone wonky turned, as if by magic, into a web site — http://www.markeroni.com — about historical markers... and a quest to make around 1100 themed releases at California historical landmarks. It started with two broken gears.

Last summer, I had planned to ride my motorcycle, Arnie, solo around the southwest USA for a month. Along the way I hoped to find and log historical markers and landmarks, something that had become a hobby and an excuse to go for a ride. I started to think of it in terms of tracking elusive little critters to their lair. (I am still convinced that historical markers move around when you're not looking.)

The universe had other plans. Two days before my departure, a truly obnoxious grinding and jolting heralded a problem that would keep my entire engine on my kitchen table for most of the next four months. I had broken Arnie's first and fourth gears.

I was heartbroken. I've seldom been as disappointed by anything. I had planned so hard and trained so hard that I simply had no clue what to do with myself - other than learn a lot more about engines than I ever thought I wanted to! All that energy had to go somewhere, and after a sufficient time of recovery, my terminal optimism kicked in, said, "Okay, that's enough weeping and wailing," and suggested an idea.

"If you can't do a big long trip," it said, "what about lots of little ones?"

California has nearly 1,100 state-designated historic landmarks and historical markers. I love to leave Book-Crossing books in the wild. It suddenly occurred to me that here we had a good match. It might be fun to visit them all and do a themed release at each one.

Two things happened then. Not only was "Raven's Quest" born (I figure it will take me between two and three years to research and find them all, so it seems like a quest to me), but I also realised I needed a place to share the information and stories. I wanted to encourage others to share their own marker-hunting stories too, so I conceived the idea of Markeroni (Marker-oni — get it?). While my kitchen table was still full of the dismantled pieces of my motorcycle, I started to plan and then create my site — http://www.markeroni.com.

Meanwhile, with true BookCrossing serendipity, books seemed to just come to me, books which would be perfect for a themed release. I got out my big freezer bags and bookplates, and printed a blurb about Book Crossing and what I was doing. Then I started assembling goodie packages to leave in the wild, filling up an entire box in no time at all.

Markeroni is now pretty much complete — as much as any project of its kind can ever be complete. With new information coming out of the woodwork almost every day, it was a wonderful discovery to learn that there is a unique landmark or historical marker system — or two or three — in just about every state in the USA, province in Canada, and even the British Isles and Australia — not to mention all the county and city systems! This is truly information heaven! Wherever I turn, more data comes to light and I get to explore the past through these wonderful little snippets of history. The only dilemma is which set of landmarks to input first, and which book to pick up first?

The more I discover, the more I want to discover; the library and the book store have become my friends, and BookCrossing is itself a great source of reviews and information. All through this I have had a crazy notion that I could visit all sorts of historical markers and release books into the wild there; I'm already two trips and six markers into Raven's Quest, and I have the books set up to take on Trip Number Three. I plan to do that as soon as is humanly possible. Like next weekend, for example. Or tomorrow. Or... right now!

There are three projects at Markeroni. One is Marker Wisdom, a semi-formal attempt to photograph and catalog as many historical markers and historic landmarks as possible. Another is Journals, where members talk about their personal attempts to track down Elusive Marker Beasts. (Because my disappointment last year eventually became tempered with humour, Markeroni grew up with tongue firmly in cheek.)

Last but not least is the Markeroni Challenge, my personal favourite. Starting on the first of February, you have ten months to visit 25, 50 or 100 historical markers or landmarks, with or without a penguin (forum afficionados will remember Penguin vs Cow's election campaign, another example of BookCrossers' imagination and willingness to take an idea and run with it, often with side-splittingly funny results). This is where the site has a bit of a chance to give something back, as 10% of the entry fee, after expenses, is to be donated to historical preservation.

I, for one, will be using the Challenge as a release opportunity. I guess I am enjoying this project so much because it gives me a chance to indulge in just about all my passions: reading, writing, BookCrossing, learning about the past, motorcycling, taking pictures, map-reading, treasure hunts, using my GPS, and running around the neighbourhood with a penguin.

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