Friday, December 28, 2012

Key West A Long Time Ago

DECEMBER 28, 2012

Well, it's a very chilly this morning here in Central Florida.  A cold front has come through and given us unseasonable temperatures for a couple of days.  Since we don't feel like braving the upper 30's to go on a "Breakfast Ride" I've decided to put up a new post.
     Due to circumstances beyond our control we haven't been able to get out on our Key West Run that I mentioned in an earlier post.  Things don't always work out the way we want, but hopefully there will always be "Next Time".  For us, our "Next Time" will most likely be a New Years Eve run to Jacksonville so we can celebrate the New Year with our old riding buddies Mel and Lou.  For now we will just make sure the Wing is ready to roll.
Since I talked about a Key West Run this month and didn't get to make it I've decided to post Chapter Three from our book Winging It, which was our first big ride and it was to Key West.  It was a few years ago, but we both decided that if we'd been able to go on the ride this year, things wouldn't be much different, most likely more and better pictures if anything.  If you've read Winging It, this will look familiar, if you haven't then this might peak your interest to find out what else is in that book.  So here it is for your reading enjoyment.
We will tell you all about the New Years Eve trip to Jacksonville, up through the Ocala National Forest on the next post.  Until then: From Us to all, hope you had a very Merry Christmas and will have Happy New Year.

It's the twenty-seventh of December, and I'd been working in our orange groves most of the day. Marguerite was putting the house back together after our big family day on Christmas. Marguerite hugged me when I came in the door. I told her I had to confess. Although I had not forgotten our twenty-third wedding anniversary, I had failed to make any plans for the evening. She gave me that smile I love and said, “That’s okay, I didn’t make any plans either.” I asked, “What would you like to do?” She thought for a moment and said, “We have a Goldwing. Key West is about 400 miles away.” I looked at her, “You want to go to the Keys on the Wing? Now?” She replied, “Why not?” I said, “Okay. Let’s do it.”
I opened the double doors to our living room and pushed the Wing outside. I looked it over quickly to make sure the helmets and other necessary items were there and headed back into the house to pack a few things. As I entered the living room, I met Marguerite. She had her Goldwing bag in hand, her jeans and boots on, and she was ready to ride. She told me to get with it because we were “burning daylight.”
 I threw some things into my Goldwing bag, left a note for Rob, checked to make sure I had money, and locked the house. We hadn’t fully equipped ourselves for long rides, but we each had a heavy jacket – old flight jackets. We didn’t have rain gear, but the weather didn’t look like it would be a problem. This time of year it’s nice. I guess that’s why all the tourists come. Temperatures were mid-seventies daytime and mid-fifties at night. We had a cover for the Wing and didn’t think we needed much else. We packed our jackets in the trunk compartment and our clothing bags went into the saddlebags. We both had on jeans, boots, long sleeve shirts, gloves, and helmets. Mounted up and headed out.

                                             Leaving for Key West, December 27, 1988

     We decided to take Highway 27 South as far as we could go, and then weave our way through the Homestead area until we could pick up Highway 1 at the top of the Keys, in Key Largo. From there it would be one hundred miles to Key West. We left the house at exactly four o’clock in the afternoon. I had no idea how far we would get today. Traffic wasn’t bad on Highway 27, a surprise because with all the tourists this time of year. The ride was great, temperature just right, and we were making good time until we got to Haines City. We found all the tourist traffic it just took a little longer than expected. Traffic came to a complete stop. We could hear truckers complaining about the situation on the CB, but never knew exactly what had caused the back up. I was getting an advanced workout in stop and start, slow-speed maneuvering, and was beginning to worry about the Wing getting hot, not to mention the wear and tear on the clutch. There was no way out of this mess, so we just gritted our teeth and hung with it. It was getting a little too warm. Marguerite and I were both working up a sweat. It took an hour to get through the traffic jam. When we finally got to the south side of Haines City, we managed to get back up to highway speed. The traffic was
starting to thin out. That was a welcome relief. The traffic was starting to thin out. That was a welcome relief. The bad news was we were rapidly losing daylight. I hadn’t given myself FAM 1 for night riding yet, and wasn’t anxious to push too far. FAM is an aviator expression used in training. The training syllabus for a pilot new to an aircraft is broken into different types of flights. FAM being Familiarization flights with the aircraft. Once the FAM stage was completed the pilot would move onto more advanced stages such as aerobatics, combat tactics, bombing, etc. Coming into Sebring, Marguerite spotted a Holiday Inn on the right-hand side of the road. We both agreed this was a good place to stop. At this point, I was getting quite fatigued and was more than ready to quit.
 I parked in front of the motel. Marguerite went inside to make the necessary arrangements. This time of year, space might be a little scarce. After about a ten minute wait, she came out waving a room key. I felt a sign of relief. We rode around the motel until we spotted our room number. The room was on the second deck, but we didn’t care. We parked the Wing and carried our stuff up to the room. I went back down to cover the Wing and bed it down for the night.
When I got back to the room, Marguerite was waiting for me with a bottle of champagne already iced down. She had hidden it away in the trunk compartment. We let it chill while we showered and changed clothes. Then we popped the cork and toasted our anniversary and our first “official” ride. The hotel had an excellent restaurant. That made dinner easy. We had a nice, big, leather booth all to ourselves - a couple more drinks, a lovely dinner, and headed back to the room. I was more fatigued than I would have guessed and feeling no pain. Getting to sleep that night was not a problem for either of us.
     We awoke around seven o’clock in the morning. We hadn’t bothered to set an alarm. I don’t think either one of us was too concerned about time. We dressed, packed, had a cup of coffee, and were ready to hit the road by eight o’clock. Neither of us was hungry. We thought we would ride until we got hungry, and then grab fuel and food at the same time. As we came into Lake Placid, we were both hungry. Marguerite spotted a “mom and pop” restaurant with a gas station next door, and declared it the perfect stop. It was a good idea, because from here on there wouldn’t be much in the way of amenities.
Highway 27 runs pretty much down the center of Florida, with plenty of towns along the way. However, once you leave Lake Placid or Clewiston, you had best not be hungry or need gas because from there to Holmstead it’s all cane fields and swamp. After breakfast, we continued south.
A few miles south of town, traffic was non- existent except for cane wagons and other farm vehicles. Hunks of sugar cane lying on the road are cause for worry. If you hit one on the wrong angle, it gave the Wing a good jerk. If you were able to hit it at a ninety-degree angle, it was much safer. We stayed south on 27 until we could get off on Highway 997, which is a straight shot to Homestead. Highway 27 turns a little east here and runs toward Hialeah and Miami. I wanted no part of getting anywhere near Miami at this point of my riding career, and certainly not between Christmas and New Years. On Highway 997, we eased into Homestead and then Florida City, picking up US 1 into Key Largo. US 1 is a two-lane road and traffic is heavy.
     We took a butt break in Key Largo, bought some gas, and a cold drink. The Florida Keys are a magical place. US 1 is marked every mile, from Key Largo to Key West. Mile marker 100 is in Key Largo; mile marker zero is in Key West. People refer to places based upon the mile marker they are near. As soon as you pass mile marker 100 heading south, it’s like entering another country, an island nation. In some places, the Keys are so narrow you can see water on both sides of the road. The scenery is interesting and beautiful, but if you’re the guy driving the bike you can only risk an occasional glance. The ride is tedious because the road is narrow. There is a lot of traffic. Most everyone is a tourist looking to have a good time, and maybe not paying as much attention as they should. The speed is slow, thirty-five to forty-five miles per hour. Anything faster would just be plain unsafe. Since it’s the holidays, and it’s also the Florida Keys, Marguerite and I both start thinking accommodations might be a BIG problem. We spot a tourist information center as we are coming into Islamorada Key, and decide to stop and inquire about a room in Key West. When we asked about a room, the travel lady almost burst out laughing. She was kind enough to check anyway, but told us there were no rooms in Key West or Marathon, or Islamorada for that matter. We were concerned but not surprised. “Are you positive?” She replied, “Yes, with one exception.” Our ears perked up. What would that be??? “There is one room at the Holiday Inn La Concha, on Duval Street in downtown Key West. It’s the bridal suite and its two hundred fifty dollars per night. At the moment, it is still available.” There was no time to quibble over money. In unison, Marguerite and I said, “We’ll take it.” The clerk said we had to be there by six o’clock or we would lose the room.
    Having settled the main problem of the trip so far, we set out for Key West. We had about four hours to finish our journey, which seemed like a lot of time. But, with the holiday traffic, anything might happen. The next big town is Marathon. Lots of marinas, fishing boat charters, and other touristy things. Leaving Marathon, you must cross Seven Mile Bridge. I’m sure in a car the view is great, but on a motorcycle Seven Mile Bridge is just a real rush. The beauty of the water on both sides of the bridge is postcard quality, and the wind seems to always be there. The fact is Seven Mile Bridge is just one hell of a long bridge. We would have loved to stop and enjoy the view, but with this traffic it was not only very dangerous but also impossible. So, we just enjoyed it while we could and kept going. Next stop was Key West. Marguerite had never been there. I had never been there by road. Up to this point, the whole trip was a new experience for both of us. I had flown into NAS (Naval Air Station) Key West many times, and had remained over night and gone into Key West proper, so I had a vague memory of the town layout.

 Coming to the end of the 7 Mile Bridge

Passing the air station brought back a lot of memories of flying in to Key West. Just a short distance from NAS, you get into Key West proper. The traffic was getting heavier by the mile. The main drag in Key West is Duval Street. We continued on US 1 until we saw Duval, and then made a right turn into the main tourist area. Duval is very narrow. Most of the houses are quite old, designed with lots of ornate wooden trim. It really does look like another country. There is traffic everywhere, and hardly any places to park.We decide to ride all the way down to the bottom of Duval, to where it ends at the water near Mallory Square. There are bars on both sides of the street, people everywhere, and drinking seems to be a very popular pastime in Key West. There is a real party atmosphere. We pass a place called Sloppy Joes, a bar that was Ernest Hemingway’s hangout when he lived here. On the opposite corner is our hotel. The hotel has its own parking lot. It looks full. We ride on down Duval. The crowd seems to get heavier. The mix of foot traffic and vehicles makes for slow and hectic going. There are lots and lots of motorcycles parked everywhere.
     This is obviously a popular destination for the biking crowd. We decide the safest play is to go back to the hotel, park the Wing, check in, and join the crowd in their seemingly favorite pastime. It looks as if no matter where we go, it will be standing room only to get a beer. I sure hope they don’t run out before we get there! Pulling into the hotel parking lot, it is obvious there aren’t any spaces. We make a couple of passes and are trying to decide what to do. We aren’t thinking like motorcycle riders; we are looking for a car space. As we are passing a security guard’s hut, he steps out and motions to us. We pull over. He tells us to park behind his little hut.
Suddenly the light comes on for both of us. We don’t need a parking place. We just need an out of the way place to park. We thank the guard, park, and unload. While we are covering the Wing, the guard comes over and tells us our bike is too pretty to be exposed to the parking lot crowd. He adds, “These people are all drunk and partying hard.” We get the impression he’s exactly correct.

The hotel is very nice, decorated to look tropical. It reminds me of a set from the old movie,
Key Largo. The lobby area and check-in desk are busy, but check-in is moving efficiently.
The clerk tells me we have the last room in the hotel. There are people standing near the desk, hoping for cancellations. A man tries to buy our room from us. Another guy and his wife offer to pay for the room if we would just share it with them. I feel sorry for them, but after a long day on the Wing – something we both are not used to – I am too tired and too stressed out to deal with any more issues today. We decline all offers and go to our room.
     The bridal suite was located on the very top floor of the hotel, beautifully decorated to give it the Key West/Island flavor. We decided we liked it, and for two hundred fifty bucks we were damn sure gonna enjoy it. We took our time with a shower and clothing change. After relaxing for a while to unwind from the ride, we decided to hit Duval Street and join the crowds. The sidewalks were full of people milling up and down. We crossed Duval and entered Sloppy Joe's, our first stop. Besides drinking, the other main pastime in Key West seemed to be bar hopping. The locals and frequent visitors called it “doing the Duval Crawl.” This consisted of going down one side of the street and coming back up the other, stopping at as many bars for a drink as you could, and still making it back to your hotel.
     Our first beer at Sloppy Joe's was difficult to get, but worth the wait. We moved away from the bar and stepped outside to look at the huge collection of motorcycles parked on the side street. Most were Harley’s. They were all pretty and came in all sizes. You could look around the bar and spot the riders. This crowd had settled in for a long stay. We were more interested in completing the Duval Crawl. After one beer, we headed down the street. It was just after sunset. A lot of people were coming back from Mallory Square, the “official sunset viewing spot.” We made a couple more stops, by-passed a few spots, and finally got to the bottom of Duval. We decided to take a right turn and follow the signs to one of the wonderful seafood restaurants right on the water. We selected “Turtle Kraals.” To say it was rustic was putting it mildly. Built right out over the water, with no windows, old wooden floors, and open beams; it was real Key West, and “rustic.”
     The restaurant was very busy, but we got a seat at one of the wooden picnic tables. That’s all they had. If there was room for two at a table you got a seat, and joined those all ready there. Beer came in almost any size container you wanted, up to bucket size. The menu was the paper place mat placed in front of you on the table, when you sat down. The food has the right smell, and everything we saw looked great. We started with a pitcher of beer and some Key West shrimp. We worked around the menu a bit. It was all delicious. After dinner, we headed back up Duval Street to complete the Crawl, but found after eating we had lost our edge for much more drinking. Besides, we had a long ride back tomorrow. So, we opted to go back and enjoy the room. On second look at the room, it was nice but not that nice. Not near nice enough for two hundred fifty dollars a night. The bed wasn’t all that comfortable, but after the day and the beer, sleep came easy for both of us.
     Once again, Marguerite and I woke up around seven o’clock in the morning. We took our time getting up and moving around. After drinking a cup of coffee, we hit the road. It was just a little before eight o’clock. We decided to stop for breakfast along the way. Traffic was much lighter this morning. We were making better time and got to Marathon fairly quickly. We continued on to Islamorada and decided to stop for breakfast at one of the many little places along the way.
     After breakfast, things were a lot slower on the road. The tourists had finally gotten out of bed and started moving. It took forever to get through Key Largo. Coming off the Keys, I missed the turn for Highway 997, to go back through Homestead and on up Highway 27. Neither of us noticed; we were just following the crowd. I knew something was wrong when I saw a road sign out of the corner of my eye that mentioned Miami, but I didn’t notice the mileage.
     The next thing I saw was the Miami skyline. The traffic was picking up in volume and speed by the second. All of a sudden, the road had gone from two lanes to four. Now I’m on an eight-lane road, surrounded by cars and trucks running at seventy plus miles per hour. I had only experienced this type of traffic in a car a couple of times and found it scary. On the Goldwing, it was just plain terrifying. I had no idea what road this was, or where it was going. I just knew we had to get the hell off as soon as I could get the Wing safely in the far right-hand lane. This was not going to be quickly accomplished. The speed kept increasing, and cars were changing lanes with reckless abandon. I am not an overly religious person, but I promised God if he would just let us live through this I would never come back to this place again. I knew we had to get off and head due west. If we could do that, eventually we would run into Highway 27.
     After twenty or thirty terrifying minutes, I see an exit for a county road that heads west. I don’t care how far west it runs. At this point, I just know it will get me off suicide alley and get me heading west. I hit full throttle, make a couple of moves, and make it to the exit lane. At the bottom of the exit is a stop light. Stopping the bike for just a few seconds was a welcome relief. Marguerite and I had both worked up a sweat. The light changed and I made my left turn, heading west.
     The road west was better than what we just left, but not by much. It was a very busy road, with traffic lights as far as the eye could see and bumper-to-bumper traffic. After about the third light, Marguerite said, “There are no signs in English.” I hadn’t noticed and asked, “What do you mean?” She replied, “There have been no signs in English since we got on this road.” I looked around and realized she was right. I also noticed every street corner seemed to have groups of young men standing around. The men all appeared to be Cuban or Hispanic. We decided this was probably not the most exclusive neighborhood in Miami. When we stopped at a light, a couple times the young men would yell things in Spanish and give us hand signals. At first I thought it was all derogatory, but when one yelled in English I realized they were admiring our Goldwing. I don’t think they saw many Wings in this neighborhood. The neighborhood slowly changed to a more suburban setting. Signs started appearing in English. After an hour and a half, we broke free of the city and into the country. Stopping and starting in all that traffic had been just plain old hot, hard work. I saw a road sign indicating it was another fifteen miles to Highway 27. We were heading directly at a setting sun, and I had no idea how this day would play out. It was twilight when we intercepted Highway 27. I made a right-hand turn and finally we were heading north on the correct highway.
     My little error coming off the top of the Keys had cost us the entire afternoon’s travel. We made no miles in the direction of home. Shortly after turning north on 27, there was a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. I started to pass it up, but hit the last entrance. We would be heading into that very sparse part of Florida again. I had no idea how far the next fuel stop would be and didn’t want to make any more goofs today. Besides, we both needed a butt break and a cold drink.
      We were losing daylight and didn’t want to waste time, but we really needed a break. By the time we gassed up and had our break, it was dark. I had never ridden in the dark. Now I had to ride up through the most remote part of our trip, just cane fields on both sides of the road, and those damn pieces of cane that had fallen off the wagons. I was hoping to get to Clewiston and find a motel for the night. In the Corps, we used to joke about night flying. “Only fools and owls fly at night. Do your feet fit a limb?” or “Night operations are characterized by darkness and periods of reduced visibility.” I was a little nervous about the whole thing. I didn’t want to worry Marguerite, but this could turn in to a real bag of crap. We had a long way to go before we reached any level of civilization, there was very little traffic, and any mechanical failure or accident would be serious. I was getting tired, but had to reach civilization for any hope of a room. I kept telling myself to just keep the scan going and stay alert. After a while, everything was okay. The air was cool. Marguerite and I were getting comfortable with the sights and sounds of night riding on the Wing. We kept hearing these little popping sounds. There were things hitting our helmets and leather jackets. I could see swarms of bugs in the headlight, and watched them bounce off the windshield. They weren’t soft and squishy. The bugs were hard. When they hit the back of my gloved hands, it hurt. The swarms would come and go.
     Eventually, Marguerite noticed the dead bugs accumulating on the seat in between us. The bugs were also piling up in between my legs. I was able to take my hand and sweep some of them away. We actually thought if things got any worse, we could just stop and use the Wing cover for shelter and spend the night on the road. When we considered how many mosquitoes would descend on us, we decided to let that idea go. I was getting so tired that I knew there was no way I could ride on to Clewiston. We had to stop at the first reasonable opportunity. The bugs finally eased up after we came to a place called South Bay. The town wasn’t much of anything, just a road junction with Highway 27, a gas station, and well off the road, a small, really junky looking motel. The parking lot was full of pickup trucks with boat trailers attached. South Bay was near Lake Okeechobee.
      Fisherman obviously weren’t too particular about where they stayed. We gassed the Wing and rode over to the motel. The neon sign was partially out. The building looked like it was made out of tar paper. But, in the office window, the sign read “VACANCY”!!! I had no expectations for this place, other than shelter for the night. I knew it would be bad when I could smell the curry before I even got off the Wing. We had to ring the night bell and arouse someone to the office. The Indian gentleman on duty came out of what must have been their living quarters and got us signed up. I actually like curry, but when he opened the door to come into the office, the curry smell was so overwhelming we almost had to walk outside to catch our breath. We were glad to get the key to the room and get the hell out of there. There were no external lights, so it took a while fumbling around in the dark, to find our room. I found a safe place to park the Wing, just outside the window of our room. A guy with a pickup and boat trailer would have a hell of a time running it over there.
     Marguerite opened the door to the room and let out a whimper. It was a dump of the first magnitude. The room was mostly red. It had a red shag carpet that must have been installed in the 60s, a red bedspread that showed some spectacular stains and a red lampshade on a hanging lamp that must have come in with the shag carpet. It was the only light, and had a very dim bulb. This may have been a blessing. If there were any bugs crawling around, it was too dark to see them. The bathroom had a flavor all its own. Most everything dripped; mold on the shower curtain was suitable for penicillin production. The towels were so thin they were almost transparent. The TV screen had more snow than Minnesota. You could make out the people but it was like watching shadows, and there were only three channels. There was no air conditioning, just screened jalousie windows.
     Marguerite gingerly pulled the bedspread back and inspected the sheets; in the dim light, they appeared clean. We looked at each other and said, “What the hell? Let’s make the best of it.” We showered and slid into bed. Marguerite and I were both tired as hell, but sleep only came in short naps. We kept waking up to check and see if the Wing was okay, and to check our surroundings. This room was providing shelter from the night, but neither of us was gonna get much rest.
     The night passed very slowly but we survived. By the time we rallied and got outside, all the fishermen were gone. I never heard them leave. It was only about seven o’clock, so they all must have left early. We were on the road within minutes, glad to be heading north. Clewiston was a welcome sight. We found a nice place for breakfast. Having cleared the worst part of the trip, we both knew from here it would be an easy ride up a four-lane highway to get home. We made one more stop for gas and a barbecue sandwich, and got back to Clermont around four o’clock in the afternoon. The house and driveway was a welcome sight. When we got off the bike, we gave each other a big hug and kiss, laughed, and said, “Boy that was fun.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

10 December 2012
Well the tree is up, the house is all ready for Santa's arrival in fifteen days and the Wing hasn't been out of the garage since we got back from our Biloxi run.  So, in this fifteen day gap before Christmas we are looking at making another short run on the Wing.  Marguerite says "Key West is always a good idea", so we are thinking Key West, maybe next week.  It will be a short run, probably only 1,000 miles total, but hey, it's the Key's in December, how bad can that be?  If we can get away, we will keep everyone "POSTED"!

Friday, November 30, 2012

29 NOVEMBER 2012

We had a gorgeous day to ride, and a gorgeous time at the Beau. 

A nice lady volunteered to take our picture last night and we think she did a good job.
However, we did have to leave today and decided to leave very early and make it a one day ride back home.  We don't normally plan on making a 542 mile ride unless we've been on the road for some time and are in pretty good riding shape, but the weather is perfect, a little cool to start but not a cloud and as we get on I-10 heading east the traffic is pretty light.  Sometimes riding into the rising sun can be problematic with the glare but it doesn't seem to bad this morning.  
     We had clear sailing until we got to the western edge of Mobile, Alabama and an accident on the Interstate caused about a 25 minute slow down and gave my left hand and the clutch a good work out stopping and starting.
 The long tunnel under Mobile Bay was pretty clear of traffic again and we were surprised it wasn't clobbered because of the accident.
After the tunnel it was smooth sailing into Florida.  We made a quick stop for fuel and breakfast in Pensacola and then put the hammer down and let the Wing do it's Thing.  It was great and some of the fall/winter colors along I-10 were very pretty.
Traffic stayed light all the way to I-75 south and as usual picked up quite a bit from Lake City all the way to Leesburg and the entrance to the turnpike.  But is was a great day on the road and we were pulling into our driveway at 5: 15 and glad to make it before it started to get dark.  It wasn't a huge ride, only 1,246 miles over six days, but it was Winging It Our Way.  Can't wait to think up something for December.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

27 NOVEMBER 2012

We are leaving the Island View Casino Resort this morning and moving down to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi.  However, it's raining at a pretty good pace as we look out the window for a weather check.  They didn't mention this on the evening weather forecast.
We decided to hang around and try our luck hoping for the rain to slack up or even quit.  About 11 AM we get lucky, with the weather only.  So we packed up and suited up for some possible damp weather for our ride down the beach.  We had wanted to go the LOOONG WAY around and maybe even stop at the Shed or McElroy's in Ocean Springs for lunch but the weather doesn't look like it will stay dry for very long, so we are going to make a run for it straight to the Beau.
We are leaving this:
Island View Casino and Resort in Gulfport, MS
For this:
The view from our room at the Beau Rivage Casino and Resort in Biloxi, MS.
The  Beau is about a ten mile run straight down the beach road from Gulfport, which is Highway 98 heading east.
It would be a lot more fun to make the day with a nice ride and then come to the Beau but it's not gonna happen today.  The rain has stopped for the moment.

The sky to the east beyond this old light house that survived Hurricane Katrina 05 looks clear but if you look behind us to the west, it's another story all together.  I told Marguerite not to look back and try to get a picture.
Checking into the Beau is always a treat and they have already decorated for Christmas.
So we will spend the rest of the day and tomorrow hoping Lady Luck is here.  The weather is a little too threatening to take a local ride.  Hope the weather clears for the ride home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

26 NOVEMBER 2012

Yesterday afternoon we checked into the Island View Casino and Resort in Gulfport, Mississippi.  Unfortunately we think that Lady Luck may have checked into the casino down the road, cause she sure wasn't with us today.  We spent the day doing our best but the casino won decisively.  I even called my buddy Hink for some advice and even that didn't work.
Tomorrow we have a short ride, only about ten miles down Highway 98 along the beautiful Gulf of Mexico to a new Casino and Resort, the beautiful Beau Rivage.  Hopefully that's where we will find Lady Luck.  The weather is gorgeous and we may have to take the long way around just to enjoy the trip.  We don't have any pictures for today because you can't take photographs in the casino.  Only the guilty would object.
For those of you that follow the Diners, Drive Ins and Dives program, there's a barbecue joint just down I-10 at exit 57, the exit for Ocean Springs.  It just might be on the menu for a drop in lunch.  We've stopped there long before the program made them famous and it was much better before they were discovered.
Until tomorrow and better luck.  We still haven't seen any evidence of damage from Hurricane Isaac.  The locals here say it was mostly wind and a little bit of water from the surge but no apparent damage.
25 NOVEMBER 2012

If you can start your day with a view like this, how bad can it be???  It was a little chilly but if we hang around for a little bit we are sure the temperature will rise rapidly.  It would be a sin to come to Panama City Beach and not take a walk on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  After a somewhat chilly walk and some coffee we say our goodbye's and ease out of town.

We had to pass by the scene of the crime and Marguerite wanted it documented on film.  To get away from the beach we take Highway 79 up to Highway 20 then turn left, (West) on 20 and proceed to Highway 81.  At 81 we turn North (right) and it's a straight shot up to I-10.  After getting on I-10 west the first sign we see is Pensacola, 99 miles.  Traffic is still light so we run up the speed and set the cruise control.  Crossing the bridge at Pensacola, we chatted about how Hurricane Katrina had wiped out this bridge but so far we've seen no evidence of damage caused by Hurricane Issac last August.
Traffice stayed light even through the tunnel at Mobile, Alabama.
Another hour and we were within sight of our destination for the next couple of days, Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi.

We'll put the Wing in the covered parking garage and see what Lady Luck has in store for us.  It was an easy 200 or so miles for the day.

Winging It To Biloxi

24 NOVEMBER 2012

We've wanted to get away for a ride in November but one thing after another has kept us off the Wing.  We've had one short ride since coming home from Southern Indiana/Culpeper, VA in October.
     It's Saturday Morning and a cold front has come through and dropped the overnight temperature into the upper 40's.  We are still digesting our Thanksgiving feast so no one around here is anxious to get up and get going.
     Marguerite finally says, "Do you want to hear my plan for the next few days?"
     This doesn't happen very often so I answered, "Of course I do."
     "I think we should take our time getting up and let the temperatures rise a few degrees.  While that's happening we could pack, then have some coffee and a light breakfast and then drag out the Wing and head for Biloxi.  We have a couple free days at the Island View and the Beau Rivage.  We had to cancel in August because of Hurricane Isaac, so let's go now.  I'd like to go the long way around and take the scenic route up Highway 98 and we can stop tonight in Panama City Beach.  That's my plan, what do you think?"
     " I think the last one packed buys the beer at Donovan's Reef tonight."
     We left at 11 AM heading up the Florida Turnpike to I-75.  Trying to leave Florida on a Holiday Weekend is not the best idea and from the traffic on the roads it was obvious that we needed to get off the major motorways and onto the country roads just to be safe.  We had to stick with the Interstate long enough to get up to Ocala, and then turn west on Highway 27. 

I-75 was bumper to bumper and it was a very loooong hour getting up to Ocala and the relative safety of Highway 27.  A short run to Williston and then it was Alternate 27 to Perry.  Great route, four lanes, not much traffic, just kick back and ride.  At Perry, it was left onto Highway 98 and due west until we got to Apalachicola, the oyster capital of Florida.  Highway 98 passes through a lot of nice Gulf Beach communities and is a great ride.

At Apalachicola we stopped for a late lunch and got a seat on the pier of this oyster bar, right on the Apalachicola, River.  We were joined for lunch by a pelican.

The run along the Gulf was devoid of traffic and had some beautiful views but we were racing the sunset.  We forgot about the days being so much shorter and don't normally like to ride at night.
We didn't make it but the sunset was worth it.
We finished the ride well after dark, not arriving in Panama City Beach and the Flamingo Motel until well after dark.  It was a long 360 mile ride but mighty pretty.  After checking in to our room we made the short walk to Donovan's Reef Lounge and Marguerite picked up the tab for some post ride adult beverages.  It was a great way to end the day.  Tomorrow it's on to Biloxi.

Monday, October 29, 2012

29 October, 2012

We've been home from our last ride to Southern Indiana and the Culpeper, Va. Air Show for a whole week now.  The mails caught up, the bills are paid, the laundry is done, and the oil on the Wing has been changed.  Marguerite says she's standing by, ready to go any time now.

     We are watching the "Frankenstorm" with great interest because we have friends all along the east coast.  Thinking good thoughts for them.
     For those of you who followed our 2,811 mile, 19 day ride we'd like to thank you for following along and hope you enjoyed the adventure with us.  We just recently decided to advertise our books in Wing World Magazine.  The first banner ad will appear 1 November and continue through December.  The ad contains our blog address, and for those folks that aren't familiar with our books I'm leaving all the current postings up for a few weeks just in case they'd like to read about our latest trip as well.  There is an archive at the bottom right of the blog.
  Below is a copy of the ad coming out in Wing World Magazine.

We have a couple rides in mind for November and December.  A ride up to Biloxi, Mississippi is always fun and it would allow us to run through the Apalachicola area in the "Big Bend" of Florida.  Apalachicola is known for their wonderful oysters and beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico.
     In December, we have a somewhat short trip planned for a Key West Run.  Key West is always a good idea and one of our favorite rides.
     We've penciled these rides in for now and won't know for a while if we can put them in "INK" but keep checking in the next couple of months.  We will change the blog the minute we are back "Winging It Our Way".


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Summary of the Ride

21 October 2012
It felt strange to wake up this morning and not put on our clothes and get on the Wing.  The ride is officially over and we had a great time.  Renewed some old friendships, enjoyed some wonderful hospitality and even with a little cold weather for riding, generally had a great time.
     We wanted to experience some of the great motorcycle rides available in Southern Indiana and hoped to catch a few of the spectacular fall colors.  I think we managed to accomplished it all and were really glad to share it with all of you that followed along.

The rides really were spectacular and if you can get there it's well worth the effort, even if it's a little on the cool side.
     Marguerite kept good notes so here is a summary of some of the numbers from this adventure we like to call "Winging It Our Way."
Total Miles on this ride, 2,811.
Total Number of Days  19.
Nights is a Motel, 5
Average Motel Cost$ 61.20, taking advantage of the motel coupon books, without the coupon books,  $105.00
Total Motel Expense, 5 nights, $349.00
Total Fuel Expense, $285.53 and average gallon of gas during trip was $3.67.
Food, including tips, $560.00
Total Trip Expense $1.194.00
Nights with family or friends 13, included being hosted for Air Show and book signing.
Average miles per day, 2811/17= 165 per day.
Longest day, October 16th, Fairfax, Va to Florence, S.C. 534 miles
Shortest day, October 14th, Culpeper, Va to Fairfax, Va, 60 miles.
Coldest Riding day, Anderson, Ind to Waynesburg, PA.  37 Degrees F= Wind Chill of approximately 23degrees F, with wind gusts of 25 to 30mph.
Average Wind Chill for 5 coldest days= 29 degrees F
Warmest day was the last leg into Clermont, 65 to 81 degrees F.
Today we did the Laundry, sorted the mail and paid the bills.  Already we look forward to our next chance to "Wing It Our Way."
We are thinking about a ride in November, and one for December.  We will let you all know, check us out once in a while and we will depend on our main man, Hink, to pass the word.
Thanks for following.
Marguerite and Bill

Homeward Bound

Saturday Morning, 20 October, 2012

The last leg of out trip is a 140 mile ride from Jacksonville to Clermont.  There are several ways to do this and over the years we've tried every way possible but have settled on the best ride as far as we are concerned.

     We can't leave until we've had one last "Special Frittata" of Andy's and as we are getting dressed and packed up we can smell breakfast.  As we suspected it has some seafood and other goodies along with eggs and cheese and I told Andy that it was of picture quality and suitable for framing.

     The weather in Jacksonville this morning is beautiful and the forecast is for "Beautiful" all the way home.  After riding in some pretty miseable temperatures the 66 degreees and climbing when we woke up is what we've been looking for all along.  It's still chilly enough for jackets but it's just right.

     ME and Andy are closely monitoring our departure and oblige by taking some photos of us before we leave.  We realized we'd gone the whole ride with very few pictures of us and the Wing.


       About a mile from there house we turn south on Florida Highway 13, cross the bridge at Junlington Creek and we are on our way.  We stay south on 13 until we can turn west and take the bridge over the St.Johns River and intercept US Highway 17 at Green Cove Springs.  We both like crossing the river on this particular bridge and Marguerite gets a great photo of our shadow as we reach the high point of the bridge.

      At 17 we turn south heading for Plataka where we will pick up Florida Highway 19 and continue south for a very nice run through the Ocala National Forest.  This is a pretty ride on good road.  For those riders having not done this that live in Florida, you should add this to your list of "Roads to Ride".

     Our Frittata didn't last all that long and we have a spot along this route that is a great stop for any meal but breakfast or lunch is very good.  It's called the Mason Jar and it's located in Donna Vista, Florida.  Don't blink going through Donna Vista or you'll will miss it, but ya can't miss the sign for the Mason Jar.

    Nothing real fancy, just good old southern cooking.  We treat ourselves to a nice lunch.
    From here we are pulling into our driveway in about one hour.  There's the inevitable unpack and storing the Wing after a ride.  It seems much easier to pack it up and leave than unpack and stow.

      At the first stop after we departed we both noted with great displeasure that I'd left behind to essential items that we always take.  The two airhawk seat cushions and the little stretch net that is really useful for holding "stuff" on top of the rear trunk bag.  As soon as we raise the garage door we both see them carefully stacked on top of the lawn mower seat.  Me, the guy who wasn't going to take his heavy jacket, the guy Marguerite finally convinced that I should, the guy who would have frozen to death if he hadn't, had unpacked the Wing at the last minute to add his jacket and forgot to put the cushions and the net back on at the last minute.  So there they sat in all there glory and there we stood with tender posteriors and side bags crammed to the breaking point because we didn't have our little net to hold down those extra's.

     Of course the ultimate "downer" at the end of the nice ride is when you open the front door and find all the mail that has been collected by friends or in our case family and placed on the dining room table. 

     Along with the mail we discovered that the garage door would go up when the button was pushed but will now for some reason not come down.  There have been a number of power outages and all the clocks need resetting.  If it weren't for needing to do laundry and pay a few bills, I think we'd both get back on the Wing and just keep going.
     Tomorrow will be the last posting for this adventure and will include a summary of the ride which should add some insight to "Winging It Our Way."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hanging Out in Jacksonville

18&19 October, 2012
Thursday and Friday


After two hard riding 400 mile days to get here we are just hanging out with Andy and ME ( Mary Ellen).  Marguerite and I are both tired and even after a good nights sleep we are still dragging butt.
Andy likes to cook so he says he fixing a surprise Frittata, one of his specialties, which will restore our energy levels.

     He has a secret receipt for homemade corned beef hash and it's delicious.  After our great breakfast ME and Marguerite depart to get ME's new eye glasses she needs after some serious eye surgery. Andy and I spend the day chasing down some details for his swimming pool business.

     We all meet back at the house just in time for the cocktail hour and since ME found some really neat Martini glasses on sale, while waiting for her new glasses, we put them to good use.  After a great attitude adjustment hour we found our way down to a local Thai restaurant for a nice dinner.  Even with the healing qualities of Andy's secret receipt hash, Marguerite and I are still tired and we opt for an early night.


     This morning we have an adgenda but it won't include any secret Frittatas, we're visiting our old riding buddies here in Jacksonville.  Mel and Lou were are riding partners for years and we have missed them badly.  Due to circumstances beyond their control and now a couple of health issues they had to halt their Goldwinging It.  We hang out with them and talk over old times and then get back the Andy and ME's for some Estate Saling out near the beach.
     We found a couple of small treasures and then head to their son Michaels new beach house.  It's only new to him, but it's great.  It's also air show weekend and the Blue Angels are going to perform and today they are practicing so we get a "TwoFer", a tour of Michael's beach house and watch the Blue Angels practice.


    As you can see there are some really beautiful things growing in Michael's yard and Marguerite just couldn't resist a couple pictures of the beautiful flowers. 
     After our beachhouse tour ME had a special place for lunch out near Mayport Naval Air Station.
The seafood couldn't get any fresher.

     We had lunch right on the the pier of the Mayport Seafood Market.  Delicious stuff.

     It was a great afternoon and now it's back to the house and Bill and Marguerite get ready to go home tomorrow.  We will leave in the moring and head back to Clermont.
     Andy's already trying to decide what type Frittata he's going to fix for our departure.  I have a feeling some type of seafood may appear in it.

     Back on the Wing tomorrow.