Archive | May 2013

Great Alaska Adventure: Southernmost Point

As I planned the adventure on which I’m currently embarked, the ride was always going begin at the southernmost point in the United States and wind it’s way to the farthest north point I could go. The northernmost point that can be driven to in Alaska is Deadhorse but that would require the final 500 miles to be on gravel. For both mechanical and domestic reasons I ruled that out and Fairbanks became the northernmost point I could go.

But the southernmost point was easy. Key West, Florida. We’ve lived in Florida for 12 years but had never made it to the state’s southern extreme. So the Great Alaska Adventure seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the trip south. Today, Marilyn and I rode across the Florida Keys, which appeared to be a single small town with a 100-mile-long Main Street and a speed limit of 45 mph, until we reached the Southernmost Point. At which Point, we executed a precision U-turn worthy of advanced motorcycle skill training and headed north to Fairbanks.

Well, actually, we executed the U-turn then went to see some of the sights in Key West. My Key West “to do list” had three things (besides visiting the southernmost point.)

First, I had to see the Hemingway House, where one of my favorite American authors and a formative force in my early decision to major in English in college wrote some of his greatest works from 1931 to 1939 while living there with his second wife. Check.

Then I wanted to visit one of Hemingway’s favorite drinking haunts: Sloppy Joe’s Bar. “Papa” knocked back many a glass of rum or whiskey at the original Sloppy Joes and at the current location on Duval Street so I went there and raised my glass to honor the great man (and because I was hot and thirtsty). I also had a “Sloppy Joe” for lunch. Check.

Finally, since I was in Key West, I had to have a slice of Key Lime pie which, as legend has it, originated not just in the Keys, but specifically in Key West, and uses limes which are native to the region and quite different (e.g. they’re yellow) from green, grocery-store variety limes. Check.

Today’s ride of 280 miles round trip was threatened by rain on several occasions, but other than a few sprinkles we never went through any storms like yesterday’s deluges. And the weather during the four hours we spent in Key West was perfect. Upper 80s, maybe low 90s, a slight breeze to cool things off and billowing white clouds soaring in a Carolina (go Heels) Blue sky. Hard to find a better day to be a tourist in America’s southernmost city.

Like many first visits, this initial trip to Key West only whetted our appetites for more of what the Keys offer. We’ll come back, I think, and bring friends.

Tomorrow, the ride north continues with a brief return to Orange Park to say good bye to friends, do some final motorcycle maintenance, and pack those things we remembered we had forgotten on this first leg.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

Location:Key West, FL


Great Alaska Adventure: Wet and Wonderful

Recently my younger daughter Hilary went to Greece on vacation. She had an ear-to-ear smile for a week before she left and during the entire ten days she was there. I suspect it’s still stretching her face into an abnormally happy shape. I know how she feels.

When I got the the bikes loaded early this morning I knew this great adventure had really begun. Finally.

And MY idiot grin distorted my fuzzy face for the entire 380-mile ride from Orange Park to Homestead, even though we went in and out of rain more than a dozen times from Cocoa Beach to today’s destination south of Miami.
We were out of the rain more than we were in it, but we stayed in rain suits for about 5 of the 8 hours we were on the road. Only occasionally did the precipitation precipitate butt-cheek clenching concerns when I couldn’t see the car in front of me, but those heavy rains only lasted five minutes or so at a time. I’ve ridden in a lot worse and will no doubt ride in worse again during the next two months. Marilyn, with a death grip on her grips, soldiered on without complaint. What a trouper.

We had some equipment to dehydrate after we checked in to our hotel, as the picture of Marilyn drying the hair in her boots with the hotel’s Conair suggests. But we stayed dry for the most part in our new Harley Davidson rain suits (money well spent) and I was especially happy with my dry feet ensconced in my new AlpineStarts Gor-Tex boots.

Marilyn had to choose between slightly damp feet and awkward gaiters and opted for the former. I think tomorrow (which is predicted to be a lot like today) she may choose gaiters and dry feet.

We walked across the highway from hotel to a decent Cuban restaurant where I ate more vaca frita than I had a natural right to. But along with the fried plantains, hot, fresh bread and black beans and rice, it hit the spot. Good Cuban food in south Florida. Who’d have thought…?

Tomorrow we reach the southern most point on our journey to the Great White North. I’m looking forward to playing tourist for a few hours in what the Spanish originally called Cayo Hueso and what we now know as the home of Sloppy Joes and Papa Hemingway: Key West.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

Location:Homestead, FL

Great Alaska Adventure: Anticipation

All of us have shared a common experience. Christmas Eve as a kid. The day before “The Big Day.” We had done everything possible to make sure “The Big Day” lived up to it’s name. We behaved ourselves. We did quotidian chores with a burning passion in case a parent (or “Someone Else”) was watching because we thought a good outcome the next day demanded such youthful excellence. And Christmas Eve–the longest day of the year–all we could do was wait. And wait. And wait. We didn’t know for sure what “The Big Day” would bring but we knew it would be big. We imagined fantastic scenarios where we got everything we had been dreaming about for months. And the anticipation was palpably painful as we waited. And waited. And waited.

That, my friends, has been my day today. I’ve been waiting for the past five years. For the past month my life has been one long “to do” list that seemed to get longer the more “to do’s” I checked off. Pay all the bills. Check. Take care of mail delivery. Check. Buy cold weather gear. Check. Buy more cold weather gear. Check. Fill all prescriptions. Check. Create GPS maps. Check. Get the bikes ready. Check. Arrange for lawn service. Check. Pre-Pack. Check. Pre-pack again. Check.

Check. Check. Check.

Tomorrow is “The Big Day.” And today, after double-checking my to do list check-offs, I waited. And waited. And waited. The anticipation has had me bouncing off the walls and, probably, driving Marilyn crazy. BUT I’M EXCITED! I’M READY FOR “THE BIG DAY.”

After counting off years, then months, then weeks, then days, now I’m finally counting off hours. 11 1/2 to be exact. 690 minutes. But who’s counting.

The Big Day is almost here. I can’t wait to see what’s under the tree.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

Location:Orange Park, Florida

Welcome to the Great Alaska Adventure

If you followed my western U.S. adventure last year, welcome back. If this is your first visit to hdriderblog, thanks for coming.

Everyone who has heard me talk about motorcycle riding (and that’s about all I talk about) knows I’ve been planning this Great Alaska Adventure for more than five years. This is my long-dreamed-of retirement ride. And as the planning unfolded, the ride, in my twisted mind at least, got better and better as I plotted and re-plotted the 12,500 mile route.

Marilyn, with only three years of piloting her own bike, will keep her ’07 Deluxe pointed at my tail light and follow where my new Ultra Classic leads.

And for one month of the trip, our newly-minted high school graduate granddaughter, Hanna, will saddle up behind me on the princess seat for a butt-numbing graduation present few 18 year olds can only dream of.

The ride starts in five days when we begin our northern adventure by heading south to Key West. There we’ll execute a u-turn and set our compasses for the majestic vistas and open spaces of the spectacular 49th state.

I’ll start posting regular, daily updates on Wednesday, May 29, (the day before we leave) and leave a blog trail of textual and photographic crumbs for you to follow for the next two months. Please feel free to post comments and let me know how jealous you are. Thanks for coming along and letting me share my dream with you.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

Location:Orange Park, FL

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