Sunday, September 2, 2007

Trip Summary


4010 Miles



14 Days
39.48 Miles Per Gallon



Day 14 - Pensacola, FL to Spring, TX

545 Miles

Got up fairly early and hit the road by 7:15 a.m. Dreary day with dreary prospects. Knowing today was going to be the last day of the trip I said "to heck with it" and committed to the interstate, opting to just get it done. Frankly, without going pretty far out of my way there's not all that much on the Gulf coast which captures my interest. I didn't even stop at the casinos for some poker. Weather forecasts indicated I could expect more rain riding and the thought of going into a casino in wet riding togs just didn't appeal at all.

Speaking of weather forecasts, why are they almost always right in the negative? If they say it's going to be bad, it usually is. The other way they seem to miss as many as they make. The result is a bad day in either case. Maybe that's why we don't take them very seriously.

Pulled into Mobile with the weather starting to close in. Like I said, dreary day.

Wanted to take a picture of something so I pulled into Battleship Parkway and shot this pic of the U.S.S. Alabama.





I was fortunate there was no ground fog. It could have easily happened. Instead it was up a hundred feet or so.




A Katrina casualty? Probably from one of the hurricanes that came through a couple of years ago.








Headed below Mobile bay.













And down.

















And up.







Plugged on with slight, intermittent showers starting after Mobile and into Mississippi. No big deal...for a while. Just east of Lake Charles the slight and the intermittent went away. It became a full fledged downpour. Adding some excitement was a few lightning strikes, but, fortunately, all were at least 1/2 mile away from me. The good news here was the heavy rain cleaned the love bugs from the windshield. Yep, they were out. As you go down the road you see these small dark shapes coming toward you only to be diverted by the air stream from the windshield at the very last moment. Well...diverted most of the time. They come flying in looking like little mini-Messerschmidt Bf 109s bearing down on the tail gunner of a B-17. Every now and then, just as in the skies over Germany, one actually veers right into the target. Many German pilots actually survived such an incident. Can't say the same for the "passenger" flying with the love bug males. None survived as far as I can tell. And I'm not sorry. They're just not as tasty as some people say they are.

Motorcyclists lie. Almost all say the rain doesn't bother them, or isn't so bad. This is only true about light sprinkles on hot days. The rest of the time, even with excellent rain gear it's not what you want. It can be scary on many levels. First, the traction becomes suspect. This is not a good thing when you are only putting two wheels to the pavement. My experience is traction is about the same as a car as long as you are careful about applying power, especially on turns.

Then there's the visibility thing. I don't know how the full face shields hold up under such conditions, I wear goggles which fit over my glasses. The lens of the goggles are "shooting" yellow to provide brightness. They do that well, and it's a good thing, but they still are covered with water and visibility is always less than optimal. I am constantly looking upward so the air bouncing from the brim of the helmet "pushes" the water down the lens clearing the top sections. This works pretty well until a major downpour. Once it reaches a certain intensity you're basically looking through distorting sheets of water. As I rode through such a downpour today and started seeing all these cars pulled to the side of the road and under overpasses, I questioned if, perhaps, I should do the same thing. Nah...macho motorcyclist thing...those folks sitting in their nice, dry cars saying, "Boy, I bet that guy on the motorcycle is miserable," would then know they were right and we can't have that, can we? Motorcyclists lie.



Betsy looked more like wet puppy than a Kaw.













But at least we were in Texas.












The bad storm cells ended by the time I cleared Beaumont. From then on there were just a few sprinkles and it was over. I pulled into my driveway, once again unhappy that a trip was over.

Can't say enough about Betsy though. Yet again, she pulled through all of it with zero problems. Cranked first time, every time, and did all asked of her. Any problems I've had with this bike have been with after market things, i.e., the dealer wiring installation on my after market horns, or the slits which developed on the after market exhaust pipes this trip. But the Kawasaki stuff has worked, and worked damn well. I'm proud of Betsy.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Day 13 - Lake Helen to Pensacola

461 Miles

Got a semi-late start hanging with Ron and Donna this morning. They're always a hoot. Took SR 44 west and stopped to visit a little more with Mom before finally hitting the road about 11:30 a.m. That's lunch time at Ruleme Place and you don't stand between those old folks and their meals. Mom gets a kick out of helping the less mobile and then helping clean up the table after eating. She just wants to keep a hand in and, if she likes it and wants to do it, I'm all for it.

Pulled out of Eustis still on SR 44 west through Leesburg and on to Crystal River. Turned north there on US 19/98 branching on US 19 to I-10 at Capps. Took I-10 to Pensacola and landed here about 6:30 p.m. (after a time zone change). Landed is the operative word because I flew...through the rain showers. Had intermittent rain all day on all roads. Usually spotty and rarely heavy it was just enough to make me keep the Tour Master jacket on all day. The theory behind the jacket and the pants is that, should you go down, the first layer needs to not be skin. And with the roads wet I don't take chances. Used to riding on wet roads doesn't mean taking them for granted. The good news was the rain showers sort of kept the temperature down and, with the wind factor, kept me cool for the entire trip.

Entering Inverness on SR44 I noticed the water lily were blooming on Henderson Lake and stopped long enough to snap a few pics.




Water Lily blooming on Henderson Lake

(Click to enlarge)







Didn't once think of Cottonmouth moccasins as I walked through this cypress stand to take a couple of pictures. (Thought of them at least four times.)






Pretty place.

Day 12 - Ocala to Lake Helen

69 Miles

Stayed in Ocala on the off chance my occasionally disappearing-into-the-ether son would answer the page I sent him. He's been torqued off at me for quite awhile and, based upon multiple failures to connect, odds are he still is. I suspect in the end it'll come down to a matter of wills. And I have one.

Pulled into the metropolis of Tavares, FL to visit my sister and her husband.



Jim was kind enough to demonstrate why I own a condo.








My (twin) sister, Judy with granddaughter, Kylie. Kylie has the greatest smile, but was able to ration it whenever I tried to take a picture. She is unable to hide that Meg Ryan-downturned mouth. That's why the smile (on both) is so good, it's juxtaposed with a starting frown.

Had a nice visit with Judy and left with a book of Dorothy Parker stories (one of my favorite authors). Judy is always good for a good book. Must run in the family.

Next stop: the person responsible for all this, my Mom.

Don't let the smile fool ya. This is one of the toughest people I've ever known. When she gets riled, she can go bear hunting with a switch. (Hint: look at the sign on the door.)

Had a great visit with Mom, reminiscing of days past. Fortunately, my sister wasn't present. Whenever they start reminiscing together it usually entails a history lesson on all the dastardly deeds I've committed in my life. Hmmm, come to think of it, scientist studying memory loss in the elderly should look into the fact that together they can remember every crappy thing I've ever done, but separately, they can hide their own Easter eggs. There's some kind of cooperative brainwave thingy going on here that merits study. And it ain't good for the fat kid.

After visiting with Mom, I stopped at King's BBQ for a couple of slabs and rode over to Lake Helen to stay with my brother Ron. Everyone has their own favorite BBQ and all argue their relative merits. King's is undoubtedly the best in the country and I don't care if you want to argue Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket. It just doesn't matter. This is the best BBQ in America. Proof? Yeah, a priori, but yeah.

King's is located in the center of the Afro-American neighborhood in Eustis. I don't know when Mr. Thomas first started serving BBQ on Palmetto street, it's been there as long as I can remember. To my knowledge, there has never a racial incident there; not even during the height of racial confrontation in American in the late 1950s and 1960s. And central Florida has a terrible history of oppression and Klan activity. For some reason, though, King's was sort of an undeclared demilitarized zone. If you want ribs or chicken you drive to King's get in line and place your order. It's been that way forever.

Ron and Donna live in Lake Helen right next to Cassadaga, Fla. This proximity is appropriate where my brother is concerned. He's been something other than normal as long as I've known him. He still ain't right, though he seems to do everything that way. If you've never heard of Cassadaga, it's essentially the central point for mediums and paranormal activities in America. (See recent Rolling Stone article at http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/13990886/review/14010793/cassadaga).

In any event, my brother just ain't right (probably ain't fittin' either). But he married well. Donna is one of the neatest people I've ever encountered. She shares a lot of traits with my Aunt Francis. And that's high ground in anyone's book.

See what I mean about him? He suggested this Grant Wood take-off. Were Wood still alive he'd undoubtedly be looking at a career change.






Nephew Lee. Jury's out on just how much this guy takes after his father. Yeah, we're worried.





Ron and I went to the pickin' and grinnin' session later. The guys get together every Friday night and play and sing, and carry-on. The wives let it happen because it keeps 'em off the streets and away from hookers. (Hey, I'm just guessing here...what other reason could they possibly have?) Worked...didn't see a single one.

Finally started checking my eyelids for holes about 1:00 a.m. That's awfully late for an old guy like me. I need my beauty sleep, plus I've got to start for home tomorrow.

Ring, Ring Goes The Bell
Got a very pleasant, and needed, surprise from Ron when I got here. He replaced my lost bell (see Day 4). This is significant, because, for the bell to work its magic it must be given to you, you just can't go buy your own and put it on your bike and expect gremlin-free operation. It just doesn't work that way. Ron remembered that he had a bell that would be the perfect replacement for my loss. And he was right. Thanks, brother. Made me much more comfortable on the ride home.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 11 - Columbia, SC to Ocala, FL

423 Miles

A little loopy on the routing again this morning. Left Columbia taking I-20 S. My intention was to take US 1 S to Augusta, GA. I took it as far as Lexington but overcast skies in that direction made feel the "need for speed" ala Tom Cruise and I-20 offered that option. So, I cut over on Hwy 6 back to I-20 and sped toward Augusta outrunning the gray potential to the northwest,


If Pinehurst is golf heaven, these are the pearly gates.













The fat kid looking for Gabriel.
Searched my wallet thoroughly...I know that membership card was in there somewhere.



You can't see anything at Augusta National. The trees and undergrowth are so think surrounding the entire course you can't even get a glimpse of a fairway through them. Arnold Palmer says the drive up to the clubhouse still brings a lump into his throat. I determined it would bring a lump on my head so I didn't press it.


Augusta is a pretty town with a lot of those old southern buildings.








Churches everywhere.

In fact, on my journey through the south I note churches everywhere. I know there is a significant increase in church membership in this country and the point gets brought home on a trip such as this where one goes through towns and not around them.



Of course, cynic that I am, I can't help but note that many of these churches were here when these good people were enslaving their fellow men, and blowing others to kingdom come on the battlefields I've visited. It appears we don't seem to have made any real progress in this area. We doubtlessly have more Abner Scofields today than in Mark Twain's time.
(For those unfamiliar with Abner Scofield I'd suggest a visit to: http://www.angelfire.com/wizard2/armbuff/lettertoearth.html)

Took US25S out of Augusta, connecting to US24S in Waynesboro. Connected to US301S just north of Sylvania, GA, and stayed on it until just east of Ocala, taking SR200 west to the La Quinta at I-75.

I stopped at a TA truck stop at US301 and I-10 for a short break. While parking my bike I saw a couple ride in on a big Honda Gold Wing. They were trailing one of the largest bike trailers I've ever seen. I went in and got a drink and was sitting there and the man from the couple on the Gold Wing sat down in the booth next to me. We said hello and he asked me if the riding pants I wear were comfortable and cool. I replied in the affirmative and told him about the most "convenient" breeze one can capture if one holds his legs correctly. His wife joined us and said hello, though she looked like she could take a bike chain from a Hell's Angel.

He asked me where I was from and where was I going and, after I replied and asked him the same, he stated they were almost home (Zephyrhills, FL) after being out for 13,000 miles. I asked where they had traveled and he said Texas, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, then up to Vermont to see their children, etc. After the mention of each place the wife would insert a complaint about the heat, the boredom on the back of the bike, the long hours riding, etc., etc., etc. Boy, what a Negative Nanny. I was tempted to tell the guy about a song I've heard a few time on this trip on Sirius-Outlaw Channel: "You finally said something good when you said goodbye."
While I can empathize with her in some ways, if she doesn't like riding why not just let him go? Yeah, right, as if he's allowed to have fun while she's not there!

And some wonder why I travel alone. It's because I'm through negotiating my way through life!!

Tomorrow: A Mommy fix, some King's Barbeque, and, hopefully, some pickin' and grinnin.'

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 10 - Raleigh to Columbia, SC

379 round-about miles

Left Raleigh about 7:45 a.m. on US 1 taking the US 15/501 bypass to Pinehurst below Sanford. For the uninitiated, Pinehurst is golf heaven. The Pinehurst No. 2 course is ranked in the top ten courses in the world (that's the bloody world, folks, not the county, state, or nation...the world). It's where golfers go when they die.


Pinehurst was built in 1895 and has been in continuous operation since then. I've stayed at both the old hotel and in some of the condos. Both are very nice. The condos are more comfortable, but there's just something about staying in the old hotel. You have to dress for dinner, coat required (tie not). And there's usually a classical harpist playing next to a beautiful ice sculpture. The food is good and the company convivial. It's a special place.

Stopped by the main club to get a picture of the lawn bowlers. I pulled up by one of the valets, an older black gentleman who looked as if he'd been working there since the 1930s. Very nice man, indicated I could park right there in front of the club when I asked if I could park and take a couple of pictures.
I stepped off the bike, grabbing my camera and said, "Man, you don't see something like this everyday." And he said, "Oh yes you do, if you come here. They're out there every day."
Yep, it's all about perspective.






This solitary gentleman was practicing up for the next croquet championship.










And then there's the golf course. They have eight of them. But there's only one number two.
I believe this is the 10th hole on Pinehurst No. 2.





Took Hwy 5 out of Pinehurst rejoining US 1 at Aberdeen. Took US 1 to Rockingham picking up US 74 W there.


Snapped this pic for the NASCAR fans. The famous Rockingham speedway.










Had to divert from US 74 W just east of Marshville (Home of Randy Travis) because a wreck shutdown the entire highway. Managed to sneak around on a country road and rejoined the highway about five miles further west. Took US 74 to I-485 bending around Charlotte to I-85 W. Took Exit 92 in South Carolina, SC 11 to the Cowpens National Battlefield.

This is the site of one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War. The battle, January 17, 1781, in effect threw the British out of South Carolina and, ultimately, to defeat at Yorktown. The Americans, 970 strong, were led by Gen. Daniel Morgan, while the British were under the command of the much hated twenty-six year old Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. Morgan lay a tactical trap for Tarleton utilizing the well-known disposition of militia troops to cut and run. Tarleton bit and was soundly defeated, losing 110 dead, something over 200 wounded, and 500 taken prisoner. This from a force numbering only 1050.

American losses reported by Morgan were 12 killed, and 60 wounded. Subsequent historians have variously estimated as many as 24 may have been killed.

My connection to this particular historic field/event may be much closer than my others. According to the genealogical book, "The Geigers of South Carolina," one of the Americans killed was a John Murff. His daughter married John Randolf "Randall" Geiger, my great-great-great grandfather, making John Murff my great-great-great-great grandfather.

I do not know for sure if this is accurate. A book supposedly listing all 970 American patriots at Cowpens does not list a John Murff. Another genealogical tree on Ancester.com reports that John Murff died at Cowpens while another lists him as a revolutionary war soldier in 1781 and 1782. The latter date, of course, after the Battle of Cowpens.

Who knows? I don't. But I'll keep checking.

The day was saved for the Americans when the militia stopped their supposed retreat and turned and fired almost in unison at the attacking Scottish Highlanders. The American calvary under William Washington, then sprang "seemingly from nowhere" completing the rout of the British forces.

A monument was dedicated by the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, SC in 1856 to commemorate this famous victory.









The Monument















And Kilroy was there.










Like most, the battlefield just looks like mowed lawn today.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 9 - Raleigh, NC

~25 miles

Whenever I got the new rear tire in Asheville the mechanic pointed out that my rear brake pads were about 80% worn. They didn't have any in stock or I would have replaced them there. Decided today would be a good day for that so I found Matison Motorsports just north of Raleigh on Capital Blvd. Very nice, new facility and the service was great. They had both front and back pads in stock so I decided to change both while here. They took me in, made the change in less than an hour and I was back on the road. Thanks, guys. They didn't jump through hoops like the guys in Asheville, but, then, they didn't have to. It was a pretty routine thing, and good service. I'm beginning to be concerned. Two good motorcycle dealer reports on one trip? The earth's magnetic poles must be reversing, or something.

After the service I found a sporting goods store and bought a couple more UnderArmor jerseys for riding. I love these things. They wick sweat right off of you and feel so cool as you ride. Only way to go.

Met up with Lisa, Brian and the kids and we went "funning."




The lovely Miss Zaine





Went to Frankie's, an electronic game/pin ball/race track entertainment establishment and generated "tickets" for trade-in. Did pretty good.




The wonderfully talented Wil



The highpoint was the go-cart racing. Wil and I did good, but Brian managed to pass us twice. I think it's something in the air up here that makes NASCAR drivers. Used to be whiskey, but I don't know what it is now.

Afterward we went to Mickey D's for sandwiches and some playtime in their playroom. Then we took the girls home and the guys went fishing.



The fishin' hole: Falls Lake at sundown


We had a very enjoyable time. First time I've wet a hook in fifteen years. Don't want to brag, but I did catch the first (and biggest) fish. Wil later brought in a whale. Released both to grow some.


Brian and Wil
(Have I mentioned that, though lapping us in the go-carts, Brian failed to catch a fish? Oh well, I won't then.)




Wil and Moby Dick












The lovely mother and PTA President.








What a wonderful time!!! Family fix. It's a good thing.


Tomorrow: South.