Vail Valley woman on a mission to provide motorcycles for park rangers in Nepal
Nelson Corcoran will ride to help Rally for Rangers 'save sacred spaces, one motorcycle at a time'
If you’d like to help Nelson Corcoran reach her goal or to get involved with Rally for Rangers, go to www.rallyforrangers.org or contact Corcoran directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VAIL — Nelson Corcoran loves finding
Did you know, for example, that you can ride from the Vail Valley to Flagstaff, Arizona, and back and barely touch pavement?
Corcoran’s next squiggly line is half a world away in Nepal. She’s riding in Nepal with Rally for Rangers, a nonprofit that provides off-road motorcycles for park rangers in developing nations.
But first, this.
A motorized mission
It was 2013 when former U.S. National Park Service ranger Robert “Mac” McIntosh was volunteering in Mongolia with the Mongol Ecology Center, basically teaching them how to run a national park. Americans have been running national parks for a century or two, but much of this world is new at it.
Anyway, McIntosh was at Lake Hovsgol National Park near Mongolia’s Russian border with the park’s chief ranger, Enkhtaivan. Something pretty illegal happened right in front of them and Enkhtaivan jumped on his motorcycle to intercept the perps. Enkhtaivan hit a bump and the motorcycle basically disintegrated under him.
This happened all the time to rangers all over that country, McIntosh soon learned. That meant they could not pursue poachers, miners, campers and other spoilers of the parks.
This, McIntosh decided, would never do.
McIntosh told Wesley Thornberry, co-founder of Rally for Rangers Foundation, and Ono Batkhuu, founder of
Thornberry returned to the U.S., told his story to some friends and asked, “Who’s in?” They all were, and Rally for Rangers was born.
“In many parts of the world, motorcycles are a necessary part of everyday live,” said Tom Medema with Rally for Rangers.
It’s a motorcycle movement
The next year, in 2014, 15 riders bought 15 motorcycles and rode them more than 1,000 miles across the roadless northern steppe of Mongolia. Sort of.
The bikes were fine, but one rider broke a collarbone on the first day. Two more bit it during the next two days, and the sturdy Russian military-grade support truck was quickly filling with riderless bikes.
Then came the rain, the mud and the sand. When the last mile was turned, just six of the original 15 riders were still aboard their bikes.
But all 15 bikes were delivered, and 15 Mongolian park rangers can better protect their parks and landscape.
That first one went so well that they did it again … and again.
By the end of 2018, Rally for Rangers had delivered 75 new motorcycles to nine parks in three countries — Mongolia, Argentina and Chile. Nepal is this year’s destination to help rangers protect rhino and Bengal tiger preserves. Africa is also in their future.
Barely touching asphalt
You’ll see Rally for Rangers around, especially if you frequent the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona, as Corcoran did by riding down there, barely touching asphalt.
Corcoran is about 5 feet tall, and when she’s riding her BMW 650 GS, she could barely touch the ground at all if it weren’t for what she calls her “Herman Munster boots,” with stacked soles and heels.
She came to off-road riding relatively late in life, receiving her first off-road motorcycle for her 40th birthday.
She was a mountain bike racer for long time and was afraid a motorcycle would keep her from riding her mountain bike. It does, sort of.
“I’ve never looked back. Well, sometimes I look back,” she said laughing.
She was strolling around the Overland Expo in Flagstaff when she happened on a booth for Rally for Rangers.
“What do you do?” she asked Medema.
“We give away motorcycles,” Medema said.
“Great! I’ll take two!” she replied.
They gave Corcoran the pitch about November’s Nepal ride. She was hooked as she started her 12-day ride back from Flagstaff to Vail.
“I don’t remember the trails we rode because I was thinking about that,” she said.
She applied and was supposed to hear back in October, but she was riding in Ecuador and email was spotty.
Motorcycles and money
Medema was in town for Corcoran’s fundraiser at The Bookworm in The Riverwalk at Edwards. She has a ways to go to get to the $9,800 goal. She has $2,500 so far, she said.
Of that $9,800, $4,000 or so buys a motorcycle for a developing world park ranger. The rest goes to in-country costs, mechanics and other costs. It does not cover airfare.
They haven’t decided what brand of bikes they’re buying for the Nepal rangers. They will be relatively small.
“I’ll be able to touch the ground!” Corcoran said.
They leave Nov. 2 for Nepal, for the warmish jungle part of the country where there are rhino and tiger preserves.
“Rangers from other parks saw it and said, ‘Hey we’d like new motorcycles too,’” Medema said.
They expect more of that reaction. They’ll finish their Nepal ride by rolling into the opening ceremonies of the World Ranger Congress.