I have been very fortunate the past 10-12 years to be able to ride as much as I have. And the Grand Tours give me focus on places to go that one would never plan a normal trip to.
I am now kind of retired. I sold my business 3 years ago, and now am just an hourly laborer for the same company working part time (mowing about 12 yards a day behind a walk behind mower. In the past I have only mowed in the spring...I'm going to mow all season this year, and at 69 yrs old, that may get interesting when it gets into the mid-90's!). Even when I owned the business, once we got done with crunch season in the spring, my SO could run the business while I took off riding.
It also, seems to work out that the theme of the Grand Tours fits my geographic location of Cincinnati, OH. Last weekend I did a two day ride...leaving on Sunday, and returning by dark on Monday. Heading over to Southern IL I was able to string together a loop that bagged 43 sites in about 1000 miles of riding. Today I did a 275 mile loop from HQ and got 8 sites. I still have NE OH and N Central IN to do 2 day trips and there will be another 50+ sites available.
Even in the past when I was working full time, I could take off after paying everyone on Fri AM and get back late Sun night and just about get anywhere E of the Mississ ippi River during those 3 day weekends...so the old adage location...location...location has always been in my favor.
I ride in 3 or 4 LD Endurance Events (like the Bonzai...although I do the East Coast rally of the Mason Dixon 20-20 on Memorial Day Weekend) and the ride to and from those usually gives me a chance to get some sites. In the past after the MN1000 I have stayed up in the MN-Dakotas area for a couple of days. There are a lot of "Saints" towns NW of the twin cities. This year I need to get back to CVG right away so I will have to pass on those easy pickings. My bike is just over 3 years old and has 162K miles on it. And it is very rare that I just putt down the street, if I go out to ride it is for a couple hundred miles. I try not to think of how many tires I go thru, but this year I am really trying to cut back on riding...but that is hard to do. Looking over some maps last week, I happened to look at Saskatchewan; I have never ridden in upper Saskatchewan, and would love to go to Saskatoon for that "S." In the past I would just take off and do it.
Bart or someone else should have more sites than me this year ( Hey, Bart...bagged Sinking Springs, OH today...does that bring back memories for you?)
As for the photos there are two tips that Jack or I would give you. First, most of my photos are taken from my knees...that gets the lens down so you are looking AT the object and not down on it. Second, I have a camera with a fairly long zoom lens...so for most photos I get the bike where I want it for the photo ( these water towers are a real pain ), and quite often the bike may be 30 feet from the sign. Then I walk 30 feet away from the bike, get down on a knee and zoom in tight on the bike/flag and the sign so it makes the image "flat" (the bike looks like it is right next to the sign, and the bike looks like it is close to me, when in reality the sign may be 60' from me). Footnote on my flag...the flag is about 4 flags thick right now...I just sew the new GT flag over the top of last years flag, and the bottom flag has curtain weights sewn into the bottom to help it hang straight down).Also, remember the bike does not have to be in the foreground of the photo. If it is a sign with small or faint letters, duct tape or hang your flag on the sign and then have your bike off in the background, while the hard to see sign is front and center. Make it easy for Sleddog and his team to be able to read the town name and your number this way...the bike is big enough it can be way far away and still be a good photo.
It helps that I love to ride, and am fortunate that other people do not demand my time so that I am free to ride. I will usually ride a 12-15 hour day to have maximum opportunities for baggin sites. They are enjoyable hours, too...I am riding, doing something I really like to do But what and how I do it is really not that important...just get out and ride. Even if one only gets enough sites for "finisher status," they probably rode on back roads they would never ride on and saw small towns and how others live that they never would have if they weren't doing a Grand Tour.
I like this year's format (didn't at first) of what is a good sign. The small towns I was in today, I rode pretty much all around and definitely went up and down the main E-W and N-S roads. It is sometimes depressing to see all the boarded up beautiful old buildings in many of these old, rural towns...and think back to a day when for the people in that locale, their entire universe was Main Street of their town. No big box stores, no internet, no 80 different types of each food product to fill the shelves of a super store...you knew all the local merchants and their meager selection was fine by you.