Key West 2016 / Part 1: The Ride to Orlando

My apologies, no proofreading… I’m on holiday and enjoying myself way too much for that!

SATURDAY

Despite not getting any sleep, I don’t think I suffered because of it on our ride down to Orlando.

As planned, we were “up” around 5:30am and had the bike loaded and ready to roll out of the driveway at 6:15am.   The temps were in the low 70’s so we put on our lightly insulated nylon jacket liners, full-face helmets and gloves for the first leg down through Atlanta towards Macon, Georgia, on I75.

20160702_061106

Blue II hooked up to the “Accessory That Shall Remain Nameless” as we get ready to roll out for our 471-mile ride down to Orlando, Florida.

Mykel-NeotecIt was actually a beautiful morning for a ride and traffic was light.  My only issue on the first leg was the new Shoei Neotec helmet being a bit tight around the temples.  I quickly remembered that I’d had the same issue when I first wore the Shoei Syncrotec and then Multitec helmets.  The remedy is using a little pressure to reform the dense foam liner of the shell at those hotspots, but as you’re rolling along at 70 mph there’s not much you can do until you stop.  Hence, we stopped a little earlier than usual — about an hour and 90 miles into the ride – so that I could get the helmet off before I threw it off the moving bike!

41t4h0oXghLThe somewhat early stop actually worked out well from a timing standpoint in that we both needed to get a little food on our stomachs and the temps had come up enough for me to ditch the full-face helmet and move into my polo-style half helmet.  I also switched out the jacket for my new Columbia PFG long-sleeve sun shirt and it instantly made the next leg a lot more comfortable.  However, I decided to keep my gloves on so that (a) I could keep from getting blisters on my palms, (b) could keep the backs of my hands from getting sun, and (c) tuck the ends of the sleeves into the gloves to keep them from being blown up my forearms.  It worked really well.  I swear there’s got to be a market for a Harley-Davidson branded version of these shirts: they’re far more useful than a black T-shirt!  Yet another idea that I’ll do nothing with, right up there with my H-D branded cycling jerseys and GUUBER, a taxi-service that also picks up your motorcycle! Debbie stuck with her full-face helmet and the nylon jacket: she was enjoying the added warmth.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 2.53.16 AMAnyway, as I said, the stop and change in gear was well-timed.  We didn’t stop again until we reached Valdosta, Georgia around 10am.  From a weather standpoint, it was like someone turned on the heat and humidity as soon as we reached North Valdosta.  After topping off the gas tank we stopped at an Arby’s and had an early lunch: those loaded Italian sandwiches are hard to beat!  I stuck with my same long-sleeve sun shirt and ½ helmet whereas Debbie ditched her jacket and went with her sleeveless shirt but kept the full-face helmet on.

As we made our way into Florida the skies continued to get cloudy and there were definitely signs of recent rainfall.  I’m not exactly sure what exit it was in Gainsville, but my ‘spidy-sense’ told me it was time to get into our rain gear, lest we end up getting soaked.  In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it was the same exit I took when I went down to Homassasa buy Blue II back in November; Exit 382 / Route 121.  After topping off the gas tank, putting on our rain gear and returning to the full-face helmet for me we were back on I75 south and in no less than ½ a mile were into the rain which would stick with us for the next 100 of 116 miles into our hotel in Orlando.

Of course, when you mix the terrible, always in a hurry / tailgating Florida drivers with rain you get lots of accidents and we found ourselves stuck in stop and go traffic about six times between Ocala and the Florida Turnpike where the rain and some road work really had things messed-up.   The heaviest rain came after we transitioned onto the Florida turnpike.  I decided torick-moranis-spaceballs-6 go ahead and make a stop at the Okahumpka service plaza so that I could get Debbie out of her western boots and into proper motorcycle boots and to make yet another adjustment to my helmet as there were still a few “hot spots” near my temples.  Of course, in looking at this selfie from our service plaza visit I will say the new helmet reminds me of Rick Moranis’ character “Dark Helmet” from Spaceballs.

20160702_135016Good grief it looks massive, never mind tight-fitting around the face.  Of course, it’s a new helmet and the padding around the cheeks and face hasn’t “broken-in” yet so some of that will change over time.  By the time we’d gassed up the bike, taken a bio-break and gotten something to drink the rain had slowed to something less than the deluge that we were in as we entered the service plaza, so that was nice.  What wasn’t nice was trying to keep a safe following distance on the Turnpike and having every yahoo who was stupid enough to think they could make up travel time on a toll road by jumping into that buffer space, i.e., cutting us off.  All told, I believe an even dozen vehicles did that to us and we ended up re-passing every single one of them at the toll plaza.  No kidding, I’ve never seen tailgating and just so many high-risk for no gain driving decisions on rain-soaked roads.  Yikes.

About 16 miles out from Orlando the rain finally began to stop and the skies cleared.  Well, they sort of cleared: there were pockets of thunder showers all around us so despite getting a bit toasty in our rain gear and helmets, I decided we’d do well to just keep them on until we arrived at the hotel.  Sure enough, it started to rain again as we got within a mile of the hotel so not a bad decision.

orlando_hiltonWe opted to leave all of our luggage in the motorcycle trailer and would come back and get it later-on, after checking in and getting some lunch at the pool side bar & grill.   As we made our way into Hilton Orlando we quickly realized it was nothing like the Hilton Grand Resorts Tuscany that we stayed at last year. The Hilton Orlando is massive  whereas the Tuscany property felt much more like a private resort.  But, setting that and all of the various resort fees, parking fees and other fees that they tack on to your room cost, that allows them to advertise what look like reasonable room rates (typical these days at any vacation destination property), we were able to get a very tasty meal at the pool side bar.

20160702_170007 Of course, about the time we sat down the skies unloaded again. Sure glad we weren’t in Orlando to visit the mouse or do anything else that truly requires nice weather!  We had a good two hours of thunderstorms roll-through while we decompressed at the bar enjoying our afternoon cocktails and a Mahi-Mahi wrap.

I think it was close to 5:00pm when we left the bar and collected our luggage from the motorcycle before heading up to find our room.  Once we were in the very cold room – and it’s still cold as we’re now into the 1st hour of waiting for a building engineer to come and fix the thermostat – we both decided to take a nap.  I’d been awake for about 35 hours by that time so, coupled with the 470-mile long motorcycle ride I was actually able to take a nap. Well, the rain probably helped with that too.  At some point in my foggy nap I received a phone call from our friends Chuck & Julie who were much to our surprise about 70 miles away in the Cocoa Beach area looking for their next residence.  I don’t remember much from that call so my apologies to Chuck: I probably shouldn’t have even answered the phone!

20160702_212121It was about 8:30pm when we both woke up from the nap and headed back down to the poolside bar to get a lite meal for dinner before the kitchen closed.  We ended up splitting a chicken Caesar salad and some mango guacamole with plantain chips: yummy stuff!  We chilled at the bar for another hour or so watching Germany & Italy plan their European Championship Quarterfinal game before calling it a night and heading up to the room around 11:00pm.

It was about 11:15pm when I first called the hotel to have our thermostat fixed so that we could get the room temps at least out of the 60’s and into the 70’s.  A second call at 12:00am did little to improve upon the responsiveness as it’s now 12:21am without a peep from the hotel.  Yeah, well…  not what I expect from Hilton properties.  Guess I’ll just bundle up and see if I can get to sleep: that’ll be all it takes to get maintenance knocking on our door.

SUNDAY

Well, maintenance never did stop by so Debbie and I did our best to stay warm and cozy under the covers all night. And, by all night, I actually slept from 1:00am until about 7:00am which is really good for me. Debbie slept even a little longer than that and we didn’t really get up until closer to 9:00am.

Another call to maintenance on the room temperature / non-working heat brought a crew to our room as we were getting ready to head off in search of a mid-morning meal and we left them at the room to deal with the issues.  Although we expected to return and find the room made up with a working HVAC system we found the Engineering Team still in our room looking a bit perplexed.  They had apparently updated the entire hotel’s HVAC system and were still dealing with some teething pains which for us meant switching rooms.  While that would not necessarily be a good thing, in this case we only had to move next door and for the trouble our friends at Hilton provided us with a variety of comps for both meals and drinks to the tune of about $100.  How perfect was that, given that we’d already planned to take our lunch and dinner at The Tropic’s Poolside Bar & Grill!

20160703_110623With the room issues being addressed, we headed on down to the pool around 10:30am and had a wonderful late morning / early afternoon doing absolutely nothing!  Yup, it was truly a “down day” for us where we soaked up some sun and played in the massive pool for about 90 minutes before heading to the bar for cocktails and lunch with our new friends Richard & Jessica.

20160703_12483820160703_141058Debbie enjoyed her usual — Pina Colada’s while I stuck with hourly shots of good old 1800 silver — while also enjoying a do-over from Saturday night with the Mango Guacamole & a chicken Caesar salad as our lunch.  We spent the better part of three hours at the bar having our leisurely lunch and cocktails pretty much a repeat of what we did last year at Tuscany.  It’s not something we do all that often — sitting still and simply relaxing — which mad it all that much more special and enjoyable.

When we returned to our “new” room we were pleased to find the temperature right at 73*F, just as we’d mentioned to the Engineering Team.  We also had another coupon for 20% off dinner at the hotel’s “Spender’s Steak House”, easily worth another few $$ given the cost of food and drinks.  Sadly, we won’t get to use that one since we’ll most likely be back at the poolside bar & grill for dinner!  Sorry, sitting at the bar in blue jeans next to the pool will always beat out white table-cloth dinners for us!

The look-ahead report will have us grabbing a bite to eat early on Monday before a 7:00am departure for Key West.  It will be about a 39o-mile ride from door-to-door.  Unlike last year I think we’ll skip the stop at the No Name Bar on No Name Key: it’s a neat place but without our friends David & Deb along it’s just a place to eat that’s way-out-of-the-way.  I think we’d rather get to Key West an hour earlier to get a head start on settling-in at the Cypress House, getting Blue parked and then finding our way to Flying Monkey’s for our first frozen cocktail before enjoying the Independence Day celebrations in Key West!

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About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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