Debbie’s employer shuts down for a week in December and July for mandatory holidays as a way of managing productivity at its manufacturing plants. For just about all but one or two of those July 4th weeks since 1992 we’ve used that time-off to visit friends in Tennessee on the way to or from visiting my family in Pennsylvania. I believe the only exception may have been in 2013 when we celebrated our 20th Anniversary by using the entire week for some ‘us time’ including a four-day / three-night return trip to Key West by air.
Our first trip to Key West was the year before during April 2012 with our friends David & Deb: we quickly developed a case of Keys Disease. That first trip was something of a hybrid in that we trailered our motorcycles – our Dyna and David & Deb’s Softtail – down to Homestead, Florida where we spent a few days in between the ride down and back to Key West for a three-day visit. Needless to say, we got in our head that at some point we’d need to make the entire trip by motorcycle: that point is now a couple of weeks away.
The general plan is to ride the 450 miles from Atlanta to Orlando, Florida via I-75 (for expediency) on Saturday the 27th. We’ll spend two nights at a Hilton property in Orlando and also sit-in on a two-hour Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare sales pitch & tour. This is one of those deals where our time and attention is exchanged for our lodging in Orlando as well as a $200 credit towards another stay at a Hilton property at some point in the future: we’re thinking Gatlinburg! I was snagged back in March when I was booking a room for a cycling event in Richmond, Virginia this coming October. So, this layover may be interesting. We’re told that Hilton doesn’t use a high-pressure sales pitch, just the typical three-tier marketing presentation where the key to survival is being clear about your intentions, i.e., we’re here because we needed a place to stay in Orlando.
The next leg will be Monday on another less-than-scenic 4-hour / 260-mile ride on the Florida Turnpike to Homestead, Florida and then another 3-hours / 127-miles to Key West via the Overseas Highway all in one day. It’s a bit ambitious, but not that unprecedented given our twice-a-year 450-mile rides to Daytona & back.
However, what is a bit of a twist on this trip is the cost of using Florida’s Turnpike. Because we’re riding a motorcycle we can’t use the $5 window stick-on SunPass and must instead use the $20 SunPass transmitter I ordered last night. And, even though we’ll be on a motorcycle we’ll be paying the same toll-fee as would driving the truck, about $29 for the trip down and $15 for the trip back North to I-95. Oh well, at least with the SunPass we should be able to breeze through the gauntlet of tolls and get a little bit of a discount vs. paying cash.
Our lodging in Key West is still a bit soft at the moment. We tentatively made a reservation at the Cypress House which is about 2 blocks from Duval Street. The cost is reasonable, but the cancellation fee for any changes / delays inside of 7 days is a bit steep, i.e., the first night’s lodging. However, the real challenge that I discovered last night was “no on-property parking.” Hmmm, didn’t think about that as our last two stays had parking. There suggested alternative was to park at the city parking structure a few blocks away; yeah, not really sure I want to leave our motorcycle sitting in a public parking garage for three nights… no offense to the good people of Key West and their guests. I sent off a note to the booking agency asking if there might be any other options for parking the motorcycle and they, in turn, passed the question on to the good folks at the Cypress House. Before noon I was informed that they would be able to accommodate our motorcycle parking on the property; how cool is that! So, I think we’re all set for our stay in Key West… we just need to make it there! We’ll check the weather one last time on Sunday and if it looks 50/50 or better, then we’ll be all-in for Key West.
After our visit in Key West we’ll head back home. Of course, this too is subject to change. If we decide we want to spend more time in Key West we may just stay Thursday & Friday nights and do a 830-mile, one day epic ride home on Saturday, or spread that into a two-day trip with a stop-over in either Daytona or Orlando.
However, the current plan is to ride back across the Overseas Highway on Thursday with a stretch goal of reaching Daytona: again, perhaps a bit ambitious at 415-miles. The fall-back plan is to lay-over in Vero Beach at 300-miles. The ultimate objective is St. Augustine by Friday where we’ll spend two nights before making the final 400-mile ride home on Sunday. We may see if some friends are in town who we could visit with or we may just lay low depending on how we’re feeling with 1,300-miles under our belts and another 400 to go.
So, that’s the plan at the moment. We’ll see how it all plays out. We’ll owe my folks a weekend visit at some point during July or August and will likely use a companion pass to fly up on a Friday evening. It would be a quick trip, but if we follow-through with our plans for retirement then we should be able to spend more time visiting after Thanksgiving. I give the early retirement about a 50/50 chance at the moment.