Have you ever ridden just to see a large boulder painted like a reclining, smiling pink pig? Would you jump on your bike to find a statue of Teddy Roosevelt? Is finding a decommissioned ICBM silo just 25 miles away more than enough reason to throw on the gear? If your answer is any variation of, “Well, of course!” then you probably participate in one of the many “Tag-O-Ramas” that are going on around the world.
We all played games of tag as kids, and this is nothing more than an adult adaptation of it. The premise is simple:
To start, somebody rides to something interesting—a place (former Studebaker dealer), a thing (breathtakingly ugly sculpture), a concept (sunset over a pig farm). The first “tagger” takes a photo of this place/thing/concept with his or her bike in the photo. This is the first “tag.” The tag photo is then posted to the forum.
Everyone else in on the game looks at the photo and tries to figure out what and where exactly it is. It might be clear and simple—“That’s the Sleeping Giant in the Lost Gardens of Heligan!” Or it may require hours of searching Internet maps, images, street views and obscure websites. “An AEGIS-class cruiser in the cornfields of New Jersey? Really?”
Once you are reasonably certain of the location, you get on your bike, get to the same location and get a photo of your bike with the old tag. Then post your photo before someone else posts one of their own. First one to post has now “grabbed” the tag. The new tagger repeats the process with a new tag photo, and so it goes.
Like a lot of kids’ games, there is a deeply subtle attraction. First and foremost, it’s a reason to ride. Reality has no problem providing you with yet another reason to stay home, but here is a perfectly valid reason to hop on the bike for 20 minutes in the evening, or 4 hours on the day off. “Yes, honey, I’ll clear the Lego and dog hair clog in the kids’ tub this evening. First I have to run over to that dairy and get a shot of a milking machine.” Even if you answer to no one (retired, unemployed, trustafarian), would you really think to search the Internet for cute Burma Shave-style signs advertising sheep manure, and then go ride there? I have, and it was fun. And I found a 20-foot-tall muffler man dressed as a cowboy nearby!
Even if you don’t get the tag before someone else does, you learn things about your town, your county, your state.
I had no idea that we had a Confederate troop encampment site here in Colorado, but I do now after someone tagged a faded historical sign down near Beulah. I knew there were some cool swimming-pool size radio antennas over on Table Mountain, so I tagged them. Only later did I read up on their history (cool stuff like detecting nuclear detonations in the atmosphere) and their present-day usage (you can ask but you will not be answered—very hush hush).
There can be frustrations for sure. Obscure tags can waste an inordinate amount of your time. “C’mon, there must be 50 early Coloradoans named Harold! Which one is it!?” And most cringe worthy of all is to be “sniped” or “bruced”—figure out a tag, ride over there, then check your phone to see that someone got the tag 3 minutes earlier. Argh! But remember, you just got a ride out of it, and that qualifies as a good thing in my book.
Regional games limit the riding to a defined territory. I participate in a Front Range, Colorado, game; basically eastern Colorado north and south to the borders and west to the Continental Divide. It’s a huge area and one that could take you a day to cross, so area competitions tend to pop up. There will be several tags in a row by northern denizens, until suddenly one of the massive mileage guys like riderjohn will swoop in and take the tag 300 miles south. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth will ensue until somebody does the same and drags it back north. All in good fun.
Wild card games allow for going beyond geographical boundaries. I can claim a wild card tag, maybe a giant donut sign, and then another rider 500 or 5,000 miles away can snap a local giant donut sign and claim the tag. Some games are strictly wild card, and can be played across the country and across the world.
Tag-O-Ramas are easy to find and usually require nothing to join other than to be the next successful tag grabber. Special interest chat forums are the place to look. Advrider.com has dozens of games going at any time, just find your region and get riding. Check your local ride group or preferred motorcycle chat forum. As long as there is a healthy population of riders, there is probably a tag thread. If not, start one up! All it takes is a motorcycle, a smartphone…and maybe a 20-foot tall muffler man cowboy.