I should mention right up front, we feel incredibly fortunate that while we’ve had our own rough patches, lost a loved one this week and have other family members who are battling cancer or other health issues… we remain mindful that there are 10’s of thousands here in the Southeast United States whose lives have been suddenly changed for ever, in the wakes of Hurricane Florence and now Hurricane Michael.
Therefore, while we go about our business and even take time to enjoy a little leisure time, we try to remind ourselves why we should never take good health, good fortune and life in general for granted. Life as we know it can change in an instant, and recovery can sometimes be long and difficult… even if at all.
After getting home from Venice, Florida, on Sunday night we quickly got ourselves unpacked, laundry done, and did some shopping before heading up to the South Canton Funeral Home for Debbie’s brother Kenny’s visitation from 10:00am – 9:00pm. The turn-out was very strong and Debbie was able to see a lot of distant family and friends from “up home.”
Around 2:00pm I headed home so I could take care of yard work and about a half-dozen other things, to include laundry, re-scheduling the warranty work on our Samsung refrigerator, some grocery shopping and getting the motorcycle ready for our ride down to Daytona Beach, Florida, on Wednesday or Thursday. The latter included getting our Bushnell trailer out of the storage shed and installing the hitch on the Road Glide.
Debbie didn’t make it back home until around 7:30pm after which we headed over to Chili’s for dinner at the elegant hour, as it was a bit late to start making dinner at home. While having dinner we rang my mother to check-in with her and my step-day Bill as we try to do at least one a week: a lot had happened in the previous week.
After getting home Debbie headed back out to see if she could find an outfit for her mother to wear to Kenny’s funeral on Tuesday and didn’t make it back home until nearly 11:30pm.
We left the house around 9:00am so Debbie could help her sister Andrea get her mother ready for Kenny’s funeral service in Ballground, Georgia, at 11:00am. The service ran about an hour, followed by a graveside service and the internment process. It was a tough morning for everyone and it will definitely take some time before everyone fully appreciates the loss of Kenny since it was rather sudden and unexpected.
We stopped at Applebee’s in Woodstock for a late lunch and once back at home Debbie took a much-needed nap while I got our gear out and packed for the Daytona trip as we were now considering a Wednesday departure with a stop-over in Jacksonville, Florida, vs making the entire trip on Thursday.
As I was getting our helmets out I discovered the modular / full-face helmet Debbie uses when the weather is less than ideal on our trips was in dire need of replacement. Thankfully, the only motorcycle dealer close to the house had an HJC modular / full-face helmet in stock that was the right size for Debbie, so a minor crisis was averted since there wouldn’t be any time to go “shopping” for a helmet on Wednesday and there was a risk of rain in the forecast for our ride down to Florida what would require the full-face helmet.
After Debbie woke up from her nap we firmed-up our travel plan with the aforementioned early departure on Wednesday and layover in Jacksonville. I made a room reservation at the same Ramada Inn in Jacksonville that our friends Chuck & Julie were booked at so that we’d be able to have dinner with them on Wednesday night and then ride down to Daytona together on Thursday. After that, it was time to get the bike packed and ready to roll-out of the garage on Wednesday morning.
We finished up our day with dinner at Loco Willy’s visiting with friends before getting home around 9:00pm and settling in for the night.
For the first time ever before heading off on a long drive, we both got a full night’s sleep. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t worried about getting up at 5:00am so we could be on the road by 6:00am, ahead of morning rush-hour traffic?
We had an appointment with our Morgan Stanley investment advisors at 10:00am in Atlanta and we decided to just go ahead and ride the Harley down to the meeting and then leave from there for Florida vs. returning home, etc. which would have added another 2 hours to the trip.
So, we left the house for or Morgan Stanley appointment around 9:00am but, due to an error with our GPS that I wrongly assumed was just re-routing around traffic, we were about 20 minutes late to our meeting. Despite the late start, we had a productive, hour-long discussion noting our retirement portfolio has taken a pretty good beating in just the 90-days since establishing the accounts: there was a lot to talk about as we had a lot of questions. It was around 11:45am when we were back on the bike and headed south.
Traffic was light for the entire ride, which was nice. We stopped at a Chili’s for lunch just north of Macon around 1:30pm, filled the tank and resumed our ride to Jacksonville, Florida, via the Golden Isle Parkway, i.e., the back way with just another gas stop in Waycross, Georgia. It takes about an extra hour or so vs. the interstates, but we still enjoy the lightly traveled back highways and roads for this trip vs. bombing down the interstate at 85mph.
We rolled into the Ramada Inn at Baymount around 6:30pm and at 7:15pm we met up with Chuck & Julie and rode about a 1/2 mile to dinner at a sports bar called Gators. We had a good time, but cut our after dinner socializing short when it became pretty clear a strong storm was about to come through the area as all of the satellite TV signals dropped-out. We dodged the rain getting back to the hotel portico and finished up our socializing in the hotel lobby, noting the hotel bar was “closed for repairs indefinitely.” Yeah, the hotel was pretty tired… almost distressed. Although we were admonished to “not” park our motorcycles under the portico, given the rain we subtly pushed back on that request and left them there over night.
We were up around 7:00am and enjoyed a relaxing morning, having pegged 11:00am as our targeted departure time as that would put us at Finn’s Rooftop in Flagler Beach around 12:30pm. I will say, it was nice having the short ride down to the Daytona area vs. doing the 8.5 hour / 450 mile ride in one shot with a 5:00am get-up and 6:00am departure. So, we may consider this for future trips to Daytona.
As for the ride down to Flagler, I lead us down I-95 to I-495 East, then US route 1 to the Nocatee Parkway out to A1A. We stayed on A1A all the way through St. Augustine into Flagler and it was really a great ride. We were treated to beautiful, sunny skies for most of the ride, dodging some mist from a pretty strong storm just West of St. Augustine.
We had a great couple of hours relaxing at Finn’s. Moreover, seeing all of the rain falling on radar over Jacksonville about the same time we would have been riding through the area had we left at 6:00am from home today, our decision to break up the trip was immediately appreciated. After lunch at Finn’s we headed towards our Condo in Ormond Beach, about 11 miles from Flagler.
The condo was about half way between Flagler and Daytona Beaches, but it was a really a nice facility and we had no issues getting in and getting settled. Having gated, underground parking was also a big plus.
It was around 5:15pm when we headed down to Daytona to meet our friend Misty for dinner at the Ocean Deck Restaurant and Bar, a favorite for us. After dinner wandered down Main Street to see if there were any interesting sights and sounds, but it was pretty much the usual stuff. We did see Billy Lane in his Choppers Inc. store which was interesting. We ended up returning to the Tiki Bar for a couple of hours. We got in a little dancing and kept an eye on Red Sox vs. Astro’s American League Championship. The ‘vibe’ in the Tiki bar wasn’t happening and we were becoming all to aware that several of the bars we’d patronized were likely watering-down the premium tequilas. So, rather than wasting money on watered-down drinks, we headed back to the condo to watch the end of the game.
It was a good first day for bike week. We’re now keeping our eyes on the weather for Friday as we’ll definitely need to plan our stops around the expected rain.
The day began with an ominous-looking sky along the coast that brought about an hour’s worth of rain to us between 9:00am and 10:00am. Before the rain came I walked across the street to the Publix to pick up some breakfast items for the condo, basically milk, juice and cereal as well as some soft drinks.
The rain cleared out and by 10:30am and before heading out for the day Chuck & I paid a visit to the local package store where we picked up some Coffee Flavored Patron Tequila and some chocolate milk so that Chuck could re-create a cocktail for Debbie and Julie he’d been introduced to during Bike Week in Sturgis this past August. I only had a taste of it as I’m not a big fan of coffee, but I can see why folks love this kind of stuff: it was pretty decadent.
It was around 11:00am when we headed out on the now dry roads and pointed the bikes towards Destination Daytona, the complex built around Bruce Rossmeyer’s mega-sized, Harley Davidson dealership. Since it was early on Friday and most of Daytona Beach and other areas to the South of Daytona were still getting rain, we didn’t run into much traffic and also had no problem finding parking at Houligan’s, where we’d be having lunch anyway. We stopped-in Houligan’s briefly to see if any of the barkeepers we knew were working and found Chris on hand. After a short visit with Chris we headed out and wandered around the vendor area at Destination Daytona but didn’t really have anything we needed so it was a very cursory look-see.
We spent a bit of time at the David Uhl booth chatting with Robert Cypher and looking to see if there were any other works by David that we just had to have for our modest collection. Pretty sure we still have the best of them! But, we had a nice time visiting with Robert before returning to Houligan’s for a late lunch and did a bit more visiting with Chris and Trisha, one of the other barkeepers.
The plan for dinner was to head over to Buffalo Wild Wings where another friend, Shannon, was working. We’d met Shannon several visits back at Houligan’s and sometime between last Spring and this Fall they parted ways. So, after stopping back at the condo and getting changed we headed back towards the Speedway and Buffalo Wild Wings to see Shannon. We ended up visiting with Shannon for an hour or two before calling it an early night.
In retrospect, having originally lined-up the long drive to Venice, Florida, and back for the previous week plus three days of hard cycling, then having the loss of Debbie’s brother Kenny overlapping the Venice trip with the viewing and funeral on Monday & Tuesday before meeting with our financial advisors on Wednesday morning and then riding down to Jacksonville that afternoon may have taken a bit of a toll on me with the long drives/rides and Debbie with just a lot of things weighing heavily on her mind.
So, add to that all of the sun and fun that we get into during Bike Weeks in Florida and it’s no wonder why we found ourselves running out of gas earlier than we would have liked.
Saturday’s sunrise was a lot more inviting than Fridays; it was beautiful!
Our plan for the day was to have lunch at Racing’s North Turn down in Port Orange, about a 30-minute ride from our condo and they didn’t open until 11:00am. Rather than cooling our heels until 10:30am, I suggested heading to the Beach Street Vendor area and walking around there for a while. We rolled-out around 9:45am for the 15 minute ride, mostly along the lovely homes that line Beach Street between Granada & Seabreeze bridges. There wasn’t all that much to see, but it was good to get out and walk for a good 40 minutes before saddling up and making our way to Port Orange.
Lunch was good as always and as I was looking at the menu I was reminded that all of the restaurants in Daytona pretty much serve their full menus during both the Spring and Fall bike weeks, which is great. Not so in Panama City Beach where in more recent years some of the restaurants switch over to a limited item menu, which can be really disappointing when a favorite dish disappears. Anyway, the weather couldn’t have been any more nice as we relaxed on Racing’s back deck enjoying the view of the ocean and some really delicious fish sandwiches, chowders, salads, etc.
In the background, Julie was trying to arrange a meet-up with her friend and co-worker Kim and her husband Doug. Even though Julie lives in Atlanta, Miami is her home base with American Airlines and Kim is also a flight attendant that Julie frequently makes trips with. She and Doug down in Melborne, Florida, about 100-miles / 90-minutes down the road from Daytona. Our initial meeting point was to be 1:00pm at the International Speedway vendor area.
We made our way over to the Speedway after lunch, arriving just about 1:00pm. By then, Kim & Doug were running a little behind and, since there really wasn’t much to see at the Speedway, we jumped on I95 and made the 10-minute ride north to Destination Daytona, and Houligans where we’d meet instead. We arrived and found the place packed, but after about 30 minutes a few seats began to open up, such that by the time Kim & Doug arrived we had a pretty good “beach head” at the bar.
As the afternoon wore on we make the short drive down US-1 to the Iron Horse Saloon. We spent a couple of hours there and as night fell dined on Nedderman’s Beef Steak Tips, a real treat. The crew from Nedderman’s travels down to the Iron Horse twice a year for the fall and spring bike weeks from Mishawaka, Indiana, and cooks non-stop to serve up their world-famous beef tips, red russet potatoes and mushrooms. Although, it did appear that there is a name change in work, as I saw both Nedderman’s on the big signs, but the menu’s were showing the name Craiger’s…. noting the owner’s name is Craig Nedderman. Not sure what’s up with that, but the food remains the same!
From the Iron Horse, we headed back towards the condo with an option to head to Flagler Beach for the balance of the evening, where Julie & Chuck were going to meet back up with Kim & Doug. We opted to head to the condo as I was very tired for some reason, more so than just the long week and time on the bike and in the sun would account for.
As soon as we were in the condo and reclining on the couch watching college football I was out. Some time later Chuck & Julie returned and reported that Flagler definitely has some great nightlife, i.e., a DJ at Finn’s Rooftop, live music at other bars, etc. So, our migration from Daytona Shores to Ormond Beach may be a good one, as we’re definitely finding we prefer the restaurants and bars in Ormond and Flagler.
We took our time to get ready for the ride home on Sunday vs. trying to get out at the crack of dawn as there’s no way to beat traffic on I-75 through McDonough, Georgia: it’s always backed up there for miles from 10:00am on and I swear it has something to do with the flow of traffic onto I-75 from Jonesboro Road, as that’s always where the traffic jam seems to begin/end.
Anyway, after getting dishes washed, towels collected at the washer and the bikes packed, we departed shortly after 9:00am. The plan was to take I-95 to I-10 to I-75, nothing but interstate all the way home for the shortest time-on-bike possible.
One of the unintended bonuses of staying in Ormond Beach was having the “Scenic Loop” on our ride from Ormond Beach to I-95. I’d planned on riding it at least once during our trip, but we never seemed to find the right time to incorporate it into our rides. So, it was really a special treat to spend the last few miles of riding in the Daytona area on one of the most beautiful routes.
We hit the BP gas station at the I-95 on-ramp to top off our tanks and then “hauled the mail” for the next 6 hours / 450-miles, cruising along at 80-85 mph as traffic allowed. We stopped for gas near Lake City and then a few miles down the road we stopped at a Cheddars restaurant in Valdosta, as Chili’s and Applebee’s are in short supply in south Georgia. Before heading back out we all put on an additional layer of leather as the temps had remained in the upper 60’s for the 1st part of our ride, but were beginning to settle into the mid-60’s and cold-soak was taking its toll. Debbie also switched out her 1/2 helmet for her new full-face model to help take the edge off as we were also riding into a steady headwind.
We made a final gas stop just past Unadilla, Georgia and were it not for the 30 extra minutes we spent sitting in slow-moving or dead-stopped traffic that was backed-up for 9 miles between the Tanger Outlet Mall in Locust Grove to — you guessed it — Jonesboro Road at the north end of McDonough, Georgia, we’d have been back “home” in record time as there had been no other back-ups on the trip. Well, that’s not true: traffic through downtown Atlanta was also a mess. I swear, Atlanta is the only place in the U.S. where the slowest of 8 lanes of traffic going through the downtown connectors is the Express Lane.
We split off from Chuck & Julie at the Canton Road exit off of I-75, bidding them a fond farewell after a great couple of days down in Daytona. They are truly a joy to be with and we always look forward to our time together.
We made our traditional post-motorcycle trip stop at Loco’s for dinner on the way home. Back at home, Debbie made a bee-line for the jacuzzi tub so she could try to warm her core back up, as she was truly chilled to the bone by this trip. I spent my time getting the bike and trailer unpacked, riding clothes put away and decided to leave washing the bike & trailer and removing the trailer hitch for Monday. After all, I also needed to get to work on this blog so I could get out a printed copy to my mother in Monday’s mail!