Day 8

Todays ride is still a surprise for us. Rain or no rain? When I penned those words there was no rain then at 0400 all hell broke loose. Started with lightning, then distant thunder, then rain. Eventually the winds had the rain going sideways. The hotel we stayed in according to the receptionist had rain up to the desk during the last hurricane. She said she waded out to the local Walmart to shop on her lunch hour? Stories you just don’t hear back home.

This morning the weather is all rained out. When we started the ride no rain but, a ton of wind. According to Russ the report called for 100% rain starting at 0500.

Our end route today is Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1519, on the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi, Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda discovered a lush semi-tropical bay on what is now the southern coast of Texas.

The bay, and the city that later sprung up there, took the name of the feast day celebrating the “Body of Christ.”

Today our comrade who was injured in a motorcycle accident yesterday is having his foot amputated right after hip surgery. I am told even through all of this he is in high spirits and joking.

Most vowed today they would go the speed limit, remember we are in Texas and the limit is 75 mph. That vow was broken probably the first down shift back to first gear. Our route took us coastal, then on a ferry ride. Free! Just like in Canada on our around British Columbia ride.

My usual partner was a bit shook up so I rode on without him and soon hooked up with a guy on the BMW 800. When we reached a fork I took the less windy route. Then I caught up to one of the two hooligans and throuh thick and thin stayed with them. That Africa twin is well broke in now. I started out in rain gear and got pelted in a down pour. My stupid visor on the helmet kept popping up after terrific wind gusts. Imagine 3 riders doing 85 mph at a 15 degree lean going straight. That be us. The wund qas terrible but, we endured and are much better for it.

Speedy recovery Ed. I think its his shifting foot that us coming off.

At the hotel now. A one star Indian run job with a terrific view.

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The Ride – Key West to San Diego

If you are wondering? Here is how our riding days go. Once up and dressed in appropriate riding gear for the day we place our pack or whatever we dont want to carry on our chase vehicle, a Mercedes van. Normally Russ and I head out first in search of breakfast. Rarely do we see any of the other 9 riders or the van. We have options. W can follow tge blue gps track or set our own course. The days motel is at the end of the days ride. On the ride the gps may at times show a red road option. This option is usually a dirt back road but, not always. It also loops back.

For the past two days I felt the Africa twin calling and the need for some speed. At times I place my feet up on the riding bars that i installed back home. Riding position varies. Russ and I ride tgen I pass him up and never seen him or another rider till we get to the hotel.

Today on the road ahead of us saw Jeep and passed him up. Later Curly passes Russ and I on a BMW1200. I keep up for a while but, his need for speed, my safety and my need for fuel won out. That wind blasted my helmet and windshield at times towards the last 60 miles or so. Since I have a Garmin and maps on my phone I look down and can see traffic, eta, alternate routes, etc. The only way to stay safe and informed.

We are now in Texas! Day 5. We started in Key West. Every day was different so I dont yet have a favorite day, time, ride or food eaten. Yesterday may be our best but, so can key west. The group has gone out on several occasions for dinner, key west, cedar key, dauphin island. That may be our bonding time as well as the no halls motel. The kind that have front room parking. We usually all bring out chairs and the only thing found missing is a camp fire.

When the ride started I was wearing all my riding protection. That included riding pants and an armored jacket, gloves, helmet, everything. Then Florida bit by bit wore me down. Soon the gloves came off. At times I also in the past 5 days dropped the riding pants for jeans and switched gloves for a lighter pair.

For colder weather. Yes, we have had cold weather on one day and almost a full day of heavy down pour. I have thermals tops and bottom. Russ has plug in gloves and jacket to stay warm.

Our fuel stops. When I reach 2 bars on the fuel gauge I start looking for a gas station. The bike takes between 6 and 7 dollars to fill up with premium fuel. This is high speeds at times but, mostly back country roads where the conditions and scenery plays a major role.

Today I stopped for this shot and never saw my riding buddy again.

UPDATE: We are in the southeast part of Texas for the night.

There are five cities that comprise this area. Nederland is Groves is home to nearly 17,000 pecan trees. My favorite pie, pecan gas its own festival every year, the Groves Pecan Festival. The part of Texas where the oil boom began. In 1901 a bubbling pool of mud erupted into a 100 foot geyser and so the rest is history, Texas oil industry.

It is also here where Janis Joplin belted out her first tune and then died from an over dose at the age if 27. By coincidence I found myself this morning with a tune in my head from Janis. “So come on, come, take another part of me baby, baby” or something like that kept me entertained for a short while.

To get here we crossed this huge tall bridge with views far and wide. Now I know it was Sabine Pass. In 1863, the US Navy attempted to invade confederate Texas via Sabine pass. Lt Dowling and 46 men halted the unvasuon by using six cannons to defeat the 4 invading gunboats.

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Day 5 Key West to San Diego ride

New Orleans here we come. New Orleans traces its routes from the French to the Spanish then back to the French before finally being acquired by the US as part of the Louisiana purchase for a sum total of 12 million dollars. And in case you dont think that was a great deal imagine the country without a west coast.
In the 19th century, it was the largest port in the south with most of the exports being cotton.

During the Civil war New Orleans was the first to fall.

Hurricane Katrina will forever put it on the map for the rest of the world as the time when the levee broke.

Update: First one in the group to arrive in New Orleans. Love the hotel. 5 stars now which means we will be back to 1.5 stars tomorrow.

Ate my first shrimp poboy and it was fantastic. Full of so many shrimp. Arrived just in time for the New Orleans festival.

More to follow. Going after gumbo now.v

Also visited a great WWII museum in town.

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D+4 Key West to San Diego

Spanish explorers are believed to have arrived at Mobile Bay in 1519, and the territory was visited in 1540 by the explorer Hernando de Soto. The first permanent European settlement in Alabama was founded by the French at Fort Louis de la Mobile in 1702.

Tomorrow we leave Port St Joe, Florida and 198 miles later arrive in Daphne, Alabama and Central time zone.
Historical records indicate Spanish explorers discovered the area around Daphne as early as 1557.

Researchers have excavated many valuable relics showing that the Tensaw, Alabama, Choctaw, Creeks, and Seminole Indians all lived in this area prior to 1557.

The community of Daphne dates as far back as 1763 when it was commonly known as “The Village.”

French troops and later British troops occupied the area. Other well known historical areas can be found in nearby battle grounds located at Blakeley, north of Daphne; Fort Morgan at Gulf Shores; and Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island near Mobile.

One of our group is a former A-10 military pilot and wants the group to go on a field trip to see the planes at Tyndell USAF. I don’t but, agreed to offer my support on account that he can only get six people in on his i.d.

Update: We tried but, the pass and i.d. section had different interpretations on getting in. And in the end the need for coffee and breakfast won out.  Some stayed, some road on.

I told everyone we needed fighter pilot nicknames before entering the USAF base. I chose “guapo” for myself and named a few of the guys so we now have jeeps, largo, macho, flying ed, rico, doctor …..

Looks like clear sailing from here on out. All is dry for now but, surprisingly cold! As soon as the sun heated things up, back to great weather. Lots of bugs on my front screen now.

I cheated!! After stop and traffic, 25 mph zones and road construction I gave up and found a direct road to Daphne, Alabama and our nights lodging. The 10 freeway magically appeared and so for 100 miles and nearly as fast I took it.  I just learned that th others are arriving on a $10 ferry to the Island of Dauphin.

Just finished my first southern meal.  Chicken fried steak, collared greens.

One of our group does not like his motorcycle of choice for this cross country ride. A 690 KTM. HToday he arranged for a great out the door price and now owns a brand new Honda Africa twin like what i am riding. At least five of the bikes are Africa twin, one Ducati, one Triumph, one BMW 1200 and one sporty BMW 1000 bike.  This morning was his first ride and the Africa twin and he also loves it.

The KTM in the van will likely not see the road from here on out.

Can you believe I paid a $4.00 toll to cross a bridge. And now it looks like a ferry crossing to get to our hotel.

More later.

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D day + 3 Key West to San Diego motorcycle ride

Today if I planned on heading straight home the distance is 2,371 miles. Tomorrow we ride 244 miles to a city in Florida called Port St Joe. Right now from my room vantage point I can hear thunder and see lightning. That should give you an indication of things to come.

Update: Woke up to a strong rain downpour. Headed to breakfast, then road on. Bike handled great on all but, the dirt section. Russ with knobbies signaled for us to turn around and so we foynd a new route vs todays planned route.

The only wet part on me are my dry waterproof boots. The water dripped off my frog togs waterproof clothing and onto the top and inside of my boots.

We are now in what they call the forgotten coast. If we would have a choice betwen riding here and the keys we would choose here. Great scenery, great roads, great seafood, great people so far. Flirida is a great cut your teeth driving sort of state. No bad roads.

In 1841, three-fourths of the population of this town succumbed to yellow fever that arrived on a Spanish freighter.

The few remaining residents were killed or fled after a hurricane and a tidal wave literally washed the town away in 1844.

Re-established in the 1920s, the resurrected city went industrial with the opening of the St. Joe Co.’s paper mill in 1938. Workers were well-paid and easily employed at the mill, in related forestry industries or in maritime trades. But despite comparative prosperity from union wages and job security, the consistent paper mill stench sent most packing. And so the town floundered until this modern day industey called tourism took hold.

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Cedar key, Florida history

Today after a 311 mile motorcycle ride that started in Naples, Florida we are now in our room on Cedar Key“. I love history and learning about an area is part of the reason I am on this ride. If we could eleminate the final three hours of this ride it woul’ve been perfect. Like I said earlier it was a long day.

Cedar key was established in 1860 because of the western terminus of the Florida Railroad, connecting it to Fernandina on the east coast of Florida.

Cedar Key like Key West goes way back in history. It was founded in the 1850s but its big break was in 1861, when it became the western station on the Florida Railroad, the first link across the state, originating in Fernandina on Amelia Island.

Prior to 1896 the city of Cedar Key was located on Asenta Otie Island. Asenta Otie was used by the Spanish as as a way station for treasure galleons on the way back from Mexico to Spain. Ships would pick up water and drop ballast in the harbor before circling the tip of Florida on their return trips with gold from Mexico.

Pirates used the area to raid shipping. In the late 19th century a treasure chest was recovered from the area around Fowler’s Bluff on the Suwannee. Rumor and tales relate that Baird Hardware in Gainesville, FL was started with part of this discovery.

During the Second Seminole War Cantonment Morgan, a U.S. government military hospital and internment camp for Indians, was located on Seahorse Key nearby.

From this point Indians were shipped west to reservations. How else do you think we got rid of the Indians stil living on good productive lands?

In 1851, by order of the President, Seahorse Key was reserved as a lighthouse site.

On August 1, 1854 the light was first lit to guide shipping in and out of Cedar Key.

The first census of Florida as an American Territory was taken in 1830. Among the first settlers listed was David Yulee Levy. David Levy was born in 1810 on the Virgin Island of St. Thomas (then a Danish possession).

On May 26, 1845 two months after Florida became a state, voters elected David Levy to be Florida’s first elected member of Congress.

Levy County, and its first county seat, Levyville were named for him during this same year. Also during 1845 the Florida Legislature authorized Levy to change his last name to Yulee. Two bills were introduced in the legislature to change the name of Levy County, but died on the floor of the House.

Except for a matter of timing, this county would have been named Yulee County.

David Yulee was instrumental in the building of the first railroad in Florida. His dream of a trans-Florida railroad began as early as 1835, and development began in about 1844 and was completed on March 1, 1861.

The Florida Railroad Company built a 155 mile line that ran from Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic to Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico.

During the Civil War Cedar Key was occupied by Federal forces on January 15, 1862. In March of that same year Federal forces took Fernandina. The railroad was basically closed down for the duration of the war.

Yulee was not able to reestablish his railroad following the Civil War and the line was merged and consolidated with other lines until it became part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad.

Cedar Key was one of the primary population centers during the frontier days of Florida. Produce was shipped down the Mississippi River and then carried across the Gulf of Mexico to Cedar Key. Here the produce was off loaded to boxcars and transported across the state to Fernandina Beach and then north to population centers in the Northeastern United States. This avoided the dangerous trip around the tip of Florida during hurricane season.

Cedar Key again became a shipping point for produce, cedar, and seafood. Its population grew to around 10,000 people. Faber and Eagle Pencil Companies operated factories on Asenta Otie and Way Keys.

The vast stands of cedar that covered the islands and the nearby coast supplied the companies with the raw materials needed to produce quality pencils for the world . Cedar Key became one of the major source of pencil cedar for the world at that time.

In 1880 Henry Plant organized the Plant Investment Company and purchased the Florida Transit & Peninsular Railroad, one of the railroad lines which had absorbed the Yulee’s original line. Cedar Key was a major population center at the time, had a deepwater port, and shipped oysters throughout the Southeastern United States.

Steamships plied the waters between New Orleans, Havana, and Cedar Key . The Suwannee River’s mouth was located just to the north. The river was navigable for quite a distance inland. Plant discovered that he had purchased all the rail line except the railhead at Cedar Key.

When the owners refused to sell, he abandoned his plans and instead moved his railhead to the small village of Tampa located approximately 100 miles to the south of Cedar Key.

On September 23rd, 1896 a hurricane wiped out the town of Cedar Key. All that remains on its original site on Asenta Otie Island is a graveyard.

Buildings were floated by barge across the channel separating Asentie Otie and Way Key and the town was reestablished. Sadly to say Faber and the Eagle Pencil Company moved elsewhere, leaving the forests depleted.

Though still shipping seafood over the railroad, the economy of Cedar Key declined. its population moved elsewhere and Cedar Key became a small fishing village.

And the rest as they say is all history.

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D+2 Key west to San Diego ride

We are now riding the Tamiami trail. The name means Tampa to Miami and the trail is 275 miles long. Imagine Florida 100 years ago century ago, where mosquitoes and alligators ruled. No air conditioning! A brea down on a road would do far more than ruin your day.

Not many cars around back then in the entire state or country. And the speeds. They were more like 30 mph vs today drivers groeing impatient at the posted 65 mph speed limit.

In 1928, the Tamiami Trail opened. To celebrate, backers led a motorcade from Tampa to Miami that took three days. We are far from Tampa but, in 1 day we have made it to Naples from Key West. Something like going to the moon and back for a person born before the key west and tamiami road were built.

The Tamiami road is U.S. 41, though street signs south of Sarasota still call the highway the Tamiami Trail. It’s now the second choice behind Interstate 75 and the high-speed Alligator Alley, which cuts through the Everglades parallel to the Tamiami Trail, a few miles to the north.

The road and now the animals. We left chickens and roosters as a surviving novelty in key west. And now alligators whom we have brought back from over hunted numbers are the tourist scenery attraction. What next manatees? You are correct. Something springs is on our planned route.
Enjoy your day.

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D day Key West to San Diego ride

Sunday morning eleven of us motorcycle riders start their own personal adventure with Naples, Florida on their sight. Personal because no one is guiding the when to start or required route. My friend Russ and I plan for an early morning departure to ensure we don’t get stuck on any of that key west to Miami traffic.

There are two ways to cross the bottom of the Florida peninsula — the fast four-lane Alligator Alley (I-75), or the more scenic two-lane Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41).

Both roads will take you through miles of Everglades scenery with glimpses of alligators sunning along the waterways and Everglades birds in the trees.

We are going for the Tamiami Trail as it gets you closer to the scenery, and offers several outstanding stops along the way.

Naples and the Glades motel is our overnight stop. About midday we have a planned lunch stop at Joanies Blue crab cafe.

No more chickens or roosters on the road now that we are out of key west. The new theme now is alligators. The highway 75 offers alligator alley as its road motto.

1023 hours – Arrived early at Alabama jacks after crossing the card sound bridge. Russ and I are riding somewhat together. He is back somewhere but we refueled up together at Key Largo. I told him I would meet him at my current stop – Alabama Jacks. Great conch fritters.

Arrived at Alabama’s 45 minutes before opening time. We ordered and were served Arnold Palmer drinks. Right on cue when tge kitchen opened out came the conch fritters. Obe order was plenty for two possibly three people.

Jaime’s road house cafe was our planned lunch stop. Russ ordered the cajun grilled grouper and I the gator nuggets. His looked way better than mine.

We are now checked into this 1.5 star tiny little Indian run motel. I knew he would make it up. Our hotel organizer splurged on the key west room which means he now has to make it up. Day1 lodgings a 10. Day 2 lodging a 3.5.

Smallest post office. The Inspector is in!

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Riding with the pack

During the last three weeks I’ve been surrounded by family, friends or acquaintances at all times. Miami living has kept me busy and my 86 year old mom in high spirits. Yesterday when I departed Miami and arrived solo in Key West I felt a sudden strange void even when surrounded by people. Something changed. In the words of J Buffett;
We’re all somewhere over China
Headin’ east or headin’ west
Takin’ time to live a little
Flying so far from the nest
Just to put a little distance
Between causes and effects
Like an ancient fortune teller
Knowin’ who and what comes next

Today my new group/pack arrives. What changed are the known people around you. Some people can entertain themselves easily, others just need to have the pack close at hand to do anything.

Soon we will be a dozen motorcycle riders setting off on our own adventure with the pack. Not everyone knows each other. I know three other riders from either our back country Colorado or our around British Columbia ride. In two days we form lasting relationships. In three days I’ll know everyones name based on the motorcycle they now ride.

Mile zero is nearby and mile 3,881, our final destination San Diego by way of the southern route.

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The road to Key West

Tomorrow I ride my new 2017 Honda Africa twin from Miami to Key West. I have reservations to spend the first night at the Navy lodge.

The last time I rode a motorcycle to Key West the old 7 mile bridge was still in use; I was a teenager sporting a full head of hair and Florida had a helmet law.

My 1972? Honda CB 350 was the second Honda I owned and the bike that took me across that old bridge on several occasions.

At age 15 I owned a brand new Honda CB100. The dealer would not sell me anything bigger than a 15 brake horsepower bike. Harley made a 125cc bike then and the Miami dealer refused to sell the bike to a 15 year old with cash in hand. How times have changed.

Today I ride a brand new 2017 Honda Africa Twin at 998cc’s across a new 7 mile bridge. It is so new today at 550 miles it got its first oul change.

Three teenagers riding Hondas used to ride from Miami to key west camping the first night at key largo, john pennekamp state park.

Distant memories I now recall are a) when you hold your finger inside the tent when it rains your tent will leak. B) We used to (wot) wide open throttle it across that old bridge. C) The old bridge was so low you could at times see sharks swimming from the road as you rode by. D) Our only fear was breaking down and getting attacked by clouds of mosquitoes or no seums.

Henry Flagler’s overseas railroad down the east coast of Florida opened the state to the world. His old railroad is what became the road from Miami to Key West.

His overseas railroad, the first land route ever from Miami to Key West. A devastating 1935 hurricane brought 200 mph winds and a 17-foot storm surge, washing away miles of his railroad. Last year hurricane Irma hit this place and today you could still see boarded up old mobile homes whose time has come and gone just like that old bridge.

The Seven Mile Bridge was easily converted by the state of Florida to an automotive bridge.

The new bridge opened in 1982.

What started out as several guys riding from key west to san diego by way of the southern border, has now grown to possibly twelve of us. More to follow.

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