Key West 2016 / Part 3: The Ride Home

THURSDAY

poolWith our strategy for catching the UEFA German-France soccer match worked-out, there was no longer any need for us to impose an early departure upon ourselves on Thursday morning. So, we slept-in until around 8:00am and enjoyed breakfast by the pool for one last time.

I should probably share a few photos of the Cypress House’s pool, patio eating area and kitchen, just so you have a better idea what I’ve been referring to when talking about our morning breakfast.  And, if we were so inclined, they also have an afternoon “liming” out by the pool; however, as you will have discovered by now, we do our “liming” at Flying Monkey’s.  Regardless, here you go…

patio kitchen

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 9.26.36 PMWith a little food on our stomach, we packed our luggage, had Blue loaded and were ready to roll by 9:00am.  Our trip to Daytona Beach was about 416 miles with an estimated ride time of 7 hours and the weather looked clear all the way to Daytona. Temperatures in Key West were delightful when we left and Debbie and I were both sporting our black 50 SPF sun shirts.  I opted to go with my 1/2 helmet whereas Debbie would be keeping her full-face Shoei helmet on all day.

The ride out of the Keys was, for the most part, about as nice as it could have been.  We didn’t have any holiday or weekend traffic to deal with at any point and the key to a comfortable ride on the Harley is to always be moving.  So, move we did… all the way until we reached Islemorada where we suddenly found ourselves stopped at the draw bridge.  Really, the draw bridge was up to allow three sailboats to leave the inner coastal waterway and make their way out to the Atlantic.

20160707_110744We later learned the gentleman who operates the draw bridge is a friend of Cowboy, one of our local motorcycling buddies.  Anyway, we shut the bike down and “cooled out heels” for about 10 minutes waiting for the boats to pass, the bridge to be closed and then the gates to finally be raised.  This was us sitting on the bike waiting for the bridge to re-open.

20151011_235419We finally stopped for gas and lunch in Key Largo around 11:30. I thought it was an uneventful stop until our lunch stop on Friday when I discovered I’d left about $60 worth of tools and my tool roll at the gas station.

Where I made my mistake was deciding to switch into my full-face helmet in Key Largo, assuming I’d need it for the freeway speeds we’d begin to enjoy in about 30 minutes as we left Route 1 and got on the Florida Turnpike.  But, before putting on my new Shoei helmet I still needed to work on the foam lining a bit, reshaping some of the material around the ears.  And, to do that, I needed to get a blunt-ended tool out of my tool roll.  Well, I must have laid my tool roll out on the concrete end barrier next to the fuel pump and forgotten it was there.  The blunt ended tool made it back onto the bike, but that was it.   Adding insult to injury was finding I’d jumped into the full-face a bit too early and ended up switching back to my half helmet in Homestead before getting on the Turnpike.

Our next stop was at the Pompano Beach Service Plaza, primarily for taking a break from the heat as it was a very sunny, cloudless day thus far with temps in the mid-90s.  We stayed there a good 15 minutes or so, taking on fluids and just enjoying the shade of the fueling station.

buffaloFrom a timing standpoint it looked like we’d be able to stop at the Buffalo Wild Wing in West Melbourne, Florida, around 3:45pm to catch the 2nd half of the EUFA match between Germany and France and that’s exactly how it played-out.  We were about 90 miles from Daytona and in dire need of another break from the sun and heat.  It was halftime when we walked in and the score was zero-to-zero so we really hadn’t missed much and were able to see all of the 1st period highlights during halftime.  We snacked on some artichoke dip and cheese chips, hydrated a bit and enjoyed the entire second half, not getting back on the road until around 5:00pm which was quite-frankly the perfect way to spend the hottest part of the afternoon.

As we got closer to Daytona Beach we began to see rain falling in the distance and cloud cover continued to build.  We got a few sprinkles of rain on that final stretch as I watched a thunderstorm cooking to the north and west of Daytona: just 15 minutes to go… come weather, hold-out for us!!!

20160707_185828Once we arrived at the Shores Resort & Spa we got checked-in, took in minimal luggage and stashed the motorcycle in the underground parking garage for the night.  Up in our room I took this photo of the largest of the thunderstorms cooking around Daytona: yeah not all inviting. Therefore, our original plan of heading down to the Oyster Pub after getting to Daytona was set-aside as we: (a) didn’t want to temp fate with bad weather in and around Daytona; and (b) really didn’t want to get back on the bike.

20160707_191628We ended up taking dinner in the hotel’s bar and it was actually a spectacular meal and the perfect way to wind up the day. We split a Caesar salad and a pair of seared diver scallops sitting atop a purple potato & avocado hash: OMG!  The scallops and the hash were amazing!  We’ll definitely be trying that hash recipe at home!  We had a great barkeeper — Leah — and the gentleman playing blues on an acoustic guitar was excellent.  Again, just a great dining experience that we were able to enjoy without leaving the hotel.

20160707_200241After dinner we wandered out back to the pool area to enjoy the view of the ocean and a little quite time.  Well, the ocean was nice, but there was no quiet time as there were kids running around and playing in the pool making a racket the entire time. Oh well, best laid plans. But, in that same vein, I was really disappointed in the condition of our room as well as the outdoor areas, bar and furniture.  Our room looked very tired and worn-out, in need of paint, deep cleaning and maintenance / repair of aging hardware and trim.  The outdoor furniture was all showing a moldy coating that should have been removed as soon as it showed up with a little bleach wipe down.  So, what struck us as the Jewel of Daytona Shores when we first stayed there a couple of years ago during Bike Week now looks like a hotel with an absentee owner ripe for acquisition for a marked-down fixer-upper.

On the bright side, the bed felt comfortable and we were in that bed and asleep before 10:00pm… the first early night for us since July 1st.

FRIDAY

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 9.25.50 PMMy only goal for Friday’s ride home was to avoid getting caught in traffic on I75 through McDonough or Marietta, Georgia.  To do that would have meant leaving pretty darn early in the morning and, even then, it wouldn’t guarantee a stop-and-go drive through those two bottleneck cities.

I woke up and went back to sleep at 4:00am and 5:00am but from 6:00am on I was pretty much doing my best trying not to disturb Debbie who was still sound asleep. It was around 7:00am when she stirred and while she probably wanted to go back to sleep, she gave in to my suggestion that we’d do well to get on the road by 8:00am to have our best shot at missing traffic ahead of rush hour.  She was a great sport about it and we were, in fact, saddled-up on Blue and headed toward home a little before 8:00am.  We made brief pit stop about 15 minutes later in Ormond Beach, Florida, where we split a pop-tart, had some liquids and put fuel in Blue.

Per the plan I developed on Wednesday night, I took us north on I95 to I295 East past the Jacksonville Beach exits and over the Dames Point Bridge to bypass downtown Jacksonville, it’s crappy roads and traffic.

Dames-Point-Bridge-1 20160708_092034It’s become my favorite way to go to and from Daytona Beach and other points south when coupled with our use of the Golden Isle Parkway vs. I75 to I10 or I20 to I295 West.  Other than one short stretch of road where traffic slows as the left-lane ends near the merge with Route 98, it was as easy and enjoyable ride and the temptation to stay on I95 to Savannah was only tempered by how bad the drive from Savannah to Macon on I16 is.

We jumped off I95 at the Route 17 exit, about 19 miles from the beltway and took it to Kingsport where we headed west on Route 40 to Folkstown and the Gold Isle Parkway / Route 23.  While it’s more miles than taking Route 23 down into Jacksonville it eliminates about 15 stop lights and small towns with their over zealous police enforcement of always changing speed limits.  Jumping on at Folkstown means you’ve got 33 miles before the next stoplight in Waycross, Georgia, where we typically stop for lunch at Applebees.  Today would be no exception as our time-table had us arriving 5 minutes before they opened at 11:00am.

The stop in Waycross at Applebees also allowed me to walk next door to the O’Reilly Auto Parts store to get some grease for my now empty grease gun that I use to lubricate the heim joint connector… now well past-due for a lubrication. Not sure how I had a nearly empty grease cartridge in my speedy-luber but I did.  It was when I returned to the motorcycle and went to remove the old grease cartridge from the grease gun when I realized I was missing my tool roll.  It didn’t take me long to retrace my steps to the gas stop in Key Largo where I last pulled the tool roll out of the trailer.  I thought about calling the Valero station in Key Largo to see if anyone turned-in the tool roll but couldn’t find a working phone number.  Oh well, water under the bridge: time to buy a few new tools and make a new tool roll.

It was also at the Applebee stop when I started to realize our GPS was showing a return trip through Atlanta that was much longer than usual. Sure enough, I75 through McDonough and Marietta was “RED” and adding 45 minutes to the trip.

For the next 2.5 hours / 157 miles between Waycross and Macon I kept an eye on the estimated arrival time taking I75 and comparing that to an alternate route cutting across middle-Georgia from I75 to Palmetto, Georgia, and in turn, the back way to home.  That was ultimately the way we went and it was a great route. Time wise, it didn’t really get us home any sooner than if we had taken I75 and sat in traffic for 45 minutes. But, that we were able to keep on moving for the entire ride made the additional mileage and time to go through Griffin and Palmetto Georgia well worth it: it may become our default route home on future trips when traffic is a problem on I75 north (you know, like all of the time).

Our last stops for the trip came in Eastman, Georgia and then at Griffin, Georgia, where once again it was more about getting rehydrated and some time off the bike for Debbie than topping off the gas tank.

blue

20160708_174217However, I went ahead and switched into my full face helmet at Eastman with about 160 miles to go as it was just getting too hot to have an open face helmet.  It was about the same time that Debbie got rid of her SPF 50 shirt and put on a spaghetti top but, hey… at least she’d been wearing jeans all day.  Although it ‘s hard for some folks to believe, a well-ventilated full face helmet like our Shoei models provide a lot of heat relief on when riding at highway speeds for prolonged periods of time on 90°F and hotter days.  It takes careful positioning of the face shield and vents, but it really makes for a much more enjoyable and less fatiguing ride.

20160708_190038We rolled into our driveway at 5:45pm, exactly as the GPS had predicted 260 miles earlier when we were having lunch in Waycross and exploring our get-home route options.  After getting the bike unloaded and some of the major unpacking done we headed off to Loco Willy’s around 6:45pm to pick up where we left off a week earlier celebrating a Finally a Friday with our friends.  However, I will say that after a week a resort and Key West bars Loco’s didn’t seem all that sexy.  I had to overcompensate by running next door to Gabriels to get some sweet treats to go with our dinner.

Anyway, it was a great and much-needed vacation and we’d head back in a minute.  But, at the same time, it’s always good to be back at home!

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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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