For the next long while I believe my brother and I are going to be thinking frozen fingertips, four layers of clothing and 44F (6C).
The second to last shuttle launch was supposed to occur during the beginning of November. You may or may not be aware that I have tried to attend a couple of these, without success. I am beginning to think that I am the jinx in the equation. Sure the riding group has tried 3 times, but one of those times they were successful!
I mention this to my brother and the plan starts hatching of him flying out and us riding down. With time constraints on all sides of the equation, and the fickleness of scheduling the launches, we determined it might be best for Brother to fly into Orlando and rent a motorbike. I would just ride down there and meet up with him.
Complications abound on the launch. It is postponed a day on Monday. Then again on Tuesday. Wednesday was looking good for it until some electrical issues cropped up. They said Thursday, but we all knew the weather would prevent that. Thursday evening has many of us glued to phones or computers, any which way you have of getting your information
My riding group garnered 6 crazy individuals that would attempt to meet up in the morning and burn up the pavement to get down there. Us northern folks would meet slightly south of Atlanta at 4 to hit the road at 4:30. Along the way we would pick up the other guys that lived south of town. Our first group was a little late getting started as the 40F (4C) temps had us all a bit sluggish, but we hit the road and collected the others that were waiting on the side of the interstate.
We take a couple short breaks or breakfast breaks. But I am the one to break the rhythm slightly. Since we were averaging 80+ mph, my bike was sucking the fuel down a little faster than anticpated. I was expecting another 100 miles out of this tank, but started to worry at the 50 mark. I took the lead and made us pull over for gas much too close to the breakfast break.
However, it did turn out for the best. It was a little after 9, and we were to discover that today's launch was again postponed a short 40 minutes prior. Thank you to trusty data connections on phones and helpful techies at home calling us on the road.
What to do, what to do.
We were a little over half way to Orlando, and the group decided it wasn't worth going there. However, Brother would be landing in Orlando in about 30 minutes! The group wasn't in a hurry to get away, so we waited around until I was able to reach Brother and see what his plans were.
He was still interested in getting together and we would just figure out where it all went. A quick call to the pet sitter confirmed that she would be available for a second night and then I would have all weekend to go where I wanted. The group and I say our good-byes and they head on one direction, while I head in another.
Brother and I keep in touch along the way and figure the good half-way point to meet would be Gainesville, Florida. He urges me to find a nice place to sit down and eat and maybe take a little nap. Of course, my logic and luck always leave me with something to desire. I rarely have any luck getting off the first off-ramp of a city, so I wait for the second. I have luck in that it drops me off closer to downtown, but run out of luck with stop-and-go traffic in both directions for as far as I can see. Heck no! I mean, I'm not even seeing any original or fun places to eat and I really don't want to subject Brother with fighting through this traffic. I beat it back onto the freeway, going north and exit the at the first ramp. I don't care. I'm tired and hungry and Wendy's is looking good enough for me. I don't think they will mind if I crash here for a little while.
The Salad and Frosty for $4.99 is a good selection! Yum. I eat, relax and pull out the maps and GPS. Brother and I really haven't a clue where to go from here. I want to be ready with a few options when he arrives. I figure I am about 45 minutes ahead of him and just kinda hunker down to rest my eyes. Of course, I pick the booth with the freezing air-conditioning vent right above it, but I am too tired to move. I pillow my jacket up in the booth and slump into it. I grasp my phone in my hand and proceed to lose consciousness. It is a very nice break for me as I have now been up 12 hours and about 350 miles in avg 45F (7C) temps. The break is nice.
Brother is a little later then he expects and I wind up holding the Wendy's fort down for about 2 1/2 hours. The employees are very nice and understanding. I told one guy cleaning tables what was up and he kindly passed the word around, so no one had any issues. The annoying part was ALL of the people! It was Friday, near school and the influx was tremendous! They would look at me and I would just blearily blink at them. Who cares! LOL
You can tell we are both just exhausted! I'm not even sure how we made a decision of where to go, but we end up pointed towards Tallahassee. I think we headed here so that I could show him around the panhandle a little. Mr. Oilburner and I used to rent houses on St. George Island and the vicinity...we really enjoy the emptiness there. It is a far away destination without hotels and large attractions for family vacations. So the people that do come here are coming for quiet and beach access without tons of people around. Just my speed. I know we can't make it to St. George tonight, so Tallahassee seemed like a great mid-point.
The temperatures are slowly creeping back down from my high of 63F (17C). It isn't supposed to be this cold in Florida and Brother doesn't have the gear for this...coming from sunny SoCal. He is bundling up in his long johns and leather jacket...but when we reach 48F he has had enough. I have a few extra pieces of cold weather gear that he needs more than I do, and I hand over some thick winter gloves and fleece lined overpants. Brother has some freakishly small hands (Hi Bro! :) ), so the gloves fit, well, like a glove. But my a$$ is a might bigger and the overpants are about 5 times too big on him. He isn't complaining though as they cut the wind and actually allowed his legs to finally be warm on this day of adventure. We only have another 45 minutes on the road anyway.
All this while, I am wondering just exactly what are we going to do when we get to Tallahassee?!? No reservations, no knowledge of the place... I call Mr. Oilburner and he promptly starts the hotel hunt from across the country. It takes him a couple hours, but I get a message with reservation information when we are about 30 minutes from the city. Gods be thanked...but it is expensive!! Turns out it is homecoming weekend for Florida State University...wasn't a hotel room to be had. Mr. Oilburner called about 5 places and just had to settle for the Hilton. hehehe (He chose the Hilton because he knew we needed the sleep and wanted us to have a good rest after the long day.) Too bad there was a huge mix up at the reservations call number that also services the Hampton next door. Turns out that even though they quoted the Hilton, they reserved the rooms at the Hampton. Thank you to John for being patient with us, canceling our reservation at the Hampton and finding us fabulous rooms at the Hilton. That bed alone was worth its price in gold!
Dinner was a blur with some liquor and salads and avocado sandwiches. Brother had the margaritas and I opted for some sophisticated wine. We quickly called Mom since she hadn't a clue any of this was going down, while Brother fell asleep across the table. We walked back to the hotel, said our goodnights and promptly hit the hay.
The bed was this wonderful memory foam / sleep number type of thing. I laid down and it just enveloped me! Too bad my arms and legs were still thrumming from the ride. So I hopped into a very hot shower, luxuriated in the Neutrogena body wash with this musky scent (can we say aromatherapy?) and then folding myself back into bed. Oh yeah, inhaled a couple advil too. :) Dead to the world and it was a wonderful thing! (Turned out this was a 510 mile day for me. My longest to date. No, an Iron Butt is not in my near future.)
We cut it close to the check out time. We both slept in a little, then ate breakfast (thanks again to John for the vouchers!) and just took our time getting the bikes packed. Which would come to bite us in the ass later. We headed west a little to cut to a quiet highway heading south into Apalachicola, Fl. It has been years since I have been on these roads. Mr. Oilburner and I talk regularly of taking a motorbike vacation down here, but the pup is preventing that. Soon. We can wait. But it is such a treat to be riding these roads!! There really isn't much to see until you near the ocean, but it is peaceful.
We stop once so I can check on Brother and if he needs warm clothes. And also to let him see the mess of my visor some bug left. I actually saw the bug at the last second and couldn't help but cross my eyes, watching as it hit. It was perfectly dead center and didn't actually interfere with my viewing area. Too funny.
What's the last thing that goes through a bug's mind
when it hits the visor?? Its butt! :)
We don't stop again until we reach the tidal marshes and I want Brother to have a look.
We also stop a few miles down the road when we finally reach the Gulf. I don't think Brother has ever seen the Gulf..
I realize that we might be a little pressed for time if we actually want to reach Ocala, Fl tonight. We haven't eaten lunch, we still have another 4+ hours riding time ahead of us and it is nearing 3 o'clock. I don't think we timed this too well. :(
I forced Brother to ride the bridge over to St. George. Then I rode along the coastal road to one end of the island. There wasn't much interest in stopping. I reached the state park to turn around and head back over to the mainland for my favorite restaurant in Apalachicola, Papa Joe's!! I also remembered to actually turn the video recorder on!! Mr. Oilburner was going to be green with envy.
We enter Apalachicola to find there is some festival going on that has the town busier then I have ever seen it! There are tons of bikes and streets blocked off for motorbike parking. Too bad we didn't have any time to stop and oogle. Brother and his Harley would have definitely fit in. Me and beemerbaby were quite in the minority. So were helmets as Florida is a no helmet law state...
We reach Papa Joe's and enjoy some fresh seafood. No worries about the oil spill here.
Brother has the oysters on the half shell with shrimp and cheese. I have the crab claws. Memories come flooding in at the first bites. It has been too long.
Pathetically we were short on time. And we didn't stop for much sightseeing or picture taking. I did get a nice video out of the day though. I hope you enjoy...
The day was lovely and the temperature did climb to a respectable 65F (18C), but the day and the distance was long. Sundown caught us still 2 hours (120 miles) from our nights stop in Ocala. As soon as the sun started sinking into the Gulf so went the temps. Our ride through the darkness hovered at 44F (6C). We were both tired and chilled when we reached the hotel. A hot shower helped me a little, but I could still feel the chill and woke about midnight shivering. I snuggled between covers and pillows and warmed up. Brother says he upped the thermostat to 75F (24C) in his room and slept in his long johns but was still cold all night. (Guess my extra blubber layers are helpful. Just think of the temperatures the whales deal with!)
We were determined to get up early and hit the road. Brother was headed towards Daytona to see the Atlantic and the Speedway (for dad). His goal was to see both coasts, and he achieved it. But he also had to hightail it back to the rental place and return the bike at high noon. I had to head home and had many miles ahead. We had miscommunicated breakfast a little and wound up spending an extra hour at the hotel with each other. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it cut into our time tables.
We rushed to load the bikes and said our hurried good-byes. I hoped it warmed up quickly for him as I was taking all of my gear with me. I knew he would be traveling through some swampy areas that might be a few degrees cooler then our current 50F (10C). He seemed confident. I let him go ahead and I finished making adjustments. I was able to gauge his whereabouts by the noise of his straightpipes. I was really happy not to have ridden to his right very often on this trip. Those pipes were LOUD!! I could tell when he finally made it to the interstate and was on his way. As he only had to make it one exit up the road I fancied I could also hear him when he headed East.
And Me? I slabbed it home. Nothing pretty about it. 400 miles of interstate. I discovered, as I had on the Savannah trip last year, that I actually ride quite fast when I am alone. Riding interstates with Mr. Oilburner and I will tell you that my comfortable speed is about 75 mph. It seems when I am alone that increases significantly. I won't tell you what those little digits were on my GPS, but I will tell you I was one of the faster things moving on that interstate. Not the fastest, though. ;) Sucked the fuel a little faster. Good for breaks sooner. I did discover just what those transport trailers that were the height of my waist were for:
Greyhounds! Poor little things. I could only imagine how cold they were with all of the vents open, at highway speeds, in 55F (13C) temps and no body fat. Yes, I was traveling about the same speeds with a puny windshield, so I understood that. But the no body fat eludes me. LOL.
I made it home in decent time completely tuckered out. I soaked in the tub to warm up, nuked a turkey pot pie for dinner and was in bed by 7:30. It was one long and cold weekend. Great to see Brother. But wish it had been warmer. :)
-Tripometer said 1254 miles
-My bike passed 30K miles and I missed it
-Proud of Brother for being such a good rider. I still can't think about rental bikes. I just envision myself dropping them. He only envisions scrapping floorboards.
-Tried to get in touch with a tag buddy in Florida, but he was out doing an Iron Man. At least the weather was good for him.
-Slabbing is hard on my tires. I could see the table topping progress the farther north I made it. I might have to think of different tires for a cross country trip.
-I haven't seen much of Florida, relatively, but it is flat with straight roads! (I think their highest elevation point is 200 ft above MSL.) I just can't imagine those being my everyday roads. Mr. Oilburner made me repeat myself when I uttered that to him. He thought the phone lines were playing tricks on him. I had to admit that I am liking the twisties and would miss them.
-Looking forward to a time when Brother can lead me around his stomping grounds.
-I will need to take a spare room key from Brother as he managed to lock himself out of both of his rooms.
-You can see a few more pictures on Flickr. But really, honestly didn't take too many, and Brother hasn't yet shared his.
I gave hard thought to taking the RT for this weekend run. That big, fixed fairing is great for deflecting wind from the rider. No wind, not as cold. Not as cold, less fatigue. Less fatigue, easier riding. I'm not against that fairing when it works in my favor, but think of the hot summertime when you aren't getting a cooling breeze behind it. The tour gearing would also have worked in my favor with steadier cruising at those higher speeds, translating to better gas mileage as well. I vacillated up to the last minute but went with my baby because we are an item. We fit. I didn't want to cut my teeth on the RT on such a long trip. In the end I am completely happy with my decision. The ride home was plagued by high winds. Sometimes rounding a gentle curve on the freeway, the forest would give way to pasture and the wind would whip across. It managed to push me across lanes a couple of times, or force higher lean angles executing turns. I wonder how I would have woman-handled the RT in those situations with all those fairings catching the wind. Someday I will try. Just didn't need to push it this time. :)