Sunday, May 16, 2010

Trip Report & Lessons Learned

Once again, we are home from a week on the road - poorer according to the bank, but richer in life. And, also once again, we have proven some things we already knew about life, and learned some new ones.

As I have always done, now done jointly, we pick a destination or event within a week's ride, then look for the things along the way that we want to see and do. That's the benefit of riding there and not to the airport. What ends up happening is, we find things we weren't expecting (which is the whole idea) and savor some moments a little extra, then end up cutting out some stuff to make up the difference. We walked on the beach, but didn't spend any time laying in the sun. Didn't get the bus tour of Kennedy Space Center. We would have liked to tour a real plantation, and spend more time in Savannah - which was the original destination of the trip before we decided to add Bike Week and a shuttle launch. We always have a reason to go back.

But, we had zero bike trouble, and 3 drops of rain. That in itself pretty much guarantees a great time.

Harley makes a big deal about the emotional aspect of their product. Their marketing people paid attention in class, and they know to "sell on the benefit." Embellished, yes, but not made up; there really is a sort of bond that forms between rider and machine, and between riders, out on the road. Annie and I have been through 55,000 miles of anything and everything together, and Donna 35,000 with Lucy. About 20,000 of those miles have been racked up between us together. There are ups and downs.

This week, our girls cruised Ocean Boulevard side-by-side, idled through the oldest port cities in America (St. Augustine is supposedly the oldest,) danced in lock step through gusting winds, and roared nose-to-tail through a moonless, inky Carolina night. They finished in a sprint and never missed a beat. Hasn't always worked like this, but it's a beautiful thing when it does.

We know we are good... no, great, partners in crime together. Donna feels what I'm going to do before I do it. I know when she's not expecting something, and give her a little extra warning. We know when we can relax, when to be alert, when to take a break, and when to make miles. We get it.

Everyone has something they'd rather be doing. Some people fish, bowl, walk through the woods... some live for their kids or grandkids; all causes no more or less noble than our own. We all work 5 days a week for the other 50, because we have to. We respirate and metabolize endlessly to survive. But for us, this is the essence of actually living.

The rest of the pictures will be sorted and linked to in a day or three. Promise.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home Sweet Home (Part 2)

OK, we lied.

It's more of a harmless lie, and we honestly were kinda telling the truth when we said it. So don't hate.

We arrived in Allentown at 4 pm: 23 1/2 hours after we pulled out of Daytona Beach Harley-Davidson 1,015 miles to the south. In other words, we now both have our Iron Butt membership.

The mission prep and early phase didn't go well. We were feeling under the weather (for reasons unknown that had nothing to do with drinking, I'm ashamed to report) and Donna didn't really sleep at all the night before. Not what you want before standing in the sun for hours, and then leaving on a 1,000 mile day.

But with the late checkout, we were able to stay indoors until about an hour and a half before launch. Then, we found a nice shady spot just 2 blocks away (100 times less crowded than the park, to boot) and there was a nice breeze blowing in off the water. My escape plan worked to a T, and we sat in traffic for all of 4 minutes.

We decided to stop at Destination Daytona 60 miles up the road and get our documentation together, just in case. We did that, got back on I-95, and went as far as we could.

That wasn't as far as I thought we needed, however. I had hoped to make about 400-450 miles by around midnight or so. We packed it in as soon as we hit South Carolina, only 5 hours and 270 logged miles. We were beat.

We did set the alarm for the 5 hours break I figured we could afford, and agreed to decide what to do when it rang. We'd have 700+ miles to go, and no time to slow down. At 2:30, we were packing back up and downing a cup of coffee. By sunrise, we were in Charlotte, NC. And it was getting steadily colder, and damp. We were adding layers of clothing. I put the bottom of my rainsuit on as makeshift chaps and we ate the only meal we would get - a McBreakfast swallowed in 10 minutes.

At that speed, every 100 miles was a necessary fuel stop, and with it a reassessment. We always had kept or made up precious minutes, and always decided to continue. By noon, we were still in northern Virginia, but within range and on time. The last two stops were in PA, and by then we were heads-down determined, battling aggressively against the gusty crosswinds. We made up almost 10 minutes on each run, and coasted into Allentown at 4 pm with 25 minutes to spare.

It will take months to process the submission and get our patches and certs, but we proved Donna can do it. On Sportsters. She did it without an iPod, which I shudder at the thought of, and without a windshield, which I would never even consider. She's unbelieveable. And, she's mine!

So, we're home safe and sound. And, more importantly, home together now. Life is good.

I'll put up the usual final post with all the stuff I forgot to mention, and lessons learned. And photo albums.

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 14, 2010


Atlantis lifted off as scheduled at 2:20 pm on a beautiful Florida afternoon. We found a great spot to watch two blocks from the hotel in someone's backyard, where about 40-50 other people had gathered. In general, the folks in Titusville seem to get used to this occasional influx, and nobody gets too excited.

It was awesome.

We hi-tailed it out of there and are in Walterboro, SC for the night. We're going to try to get up early and beat feet out of here, so that's it for now. We'll update / summarize when we get home, and put up a bunch more pix. In the meantime, here are a couple photos of the 3-minute spectacle we rode 1,300 miles to see.

3... 2... 1...

We are here in Titusville a block from the water and about 8 blocks from the park from which we intend to watch the launch. The parking lot there was full last night already, and I'm not sure we wont be 1,000 people deep when we walk up there. The town is turning into a madhouse.

But we're here! And, the weather looks very good.

We got in yesterday and checked into the world's shabbiest $140 motel. The weekly rate is like $160 here, and we're certain that's where most of their tenants come from. Monthly, is more like it, until they get evicted.

We unloaded, and headed over to Kennedy Space Center. We didn't book our tickets too far in advance, and thus missed out on the bus tours, which in hindsight would have been the thing to do. Oh, well. So the afternoon was spent browsing and simulating, then we came back to find the motel filled with more people like us (and a foursome on Hondas swapping lies in the parking lot.) We got our Chinese (mandatory on each road trip) and stopped at the ABC store for two beers and two coolers. One of each remains unopened this morning.

We both feel like crap for some reason, and a day in the hot sun is going to do us no favors. They're predicting 300,000 in town for this event, and a 3-hour traffic jam to get out. The 1000-in-24 for the ride home is out, because we're not going to take a great vacation and make it end in misery. We'll still get home early Sunday afternoon with smiles on our faces instead. We did negotiate a late checkout and so will be enjoying the a/c until an hour and a half prior to launch.

The news says with the few low-lying clouds in the forecast, we're a 70% likelihood for a go at 2:19.

Go, Atlantis!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daytona Beach

As has become the routine on our trips lately, we made up some time yesterday on the interstate after lagging behind schedule. We left Savannah, stopped for a T-shirt, and boogied down I-95 to Daytona. We did get off below Jacksonville to take a ride through St. Augustine, which we're glad we did, but we didn't pay to drink from the famed Fountain of Youth. US-1 was too many traffic lights, so it was back out to the "big road."

We got to Daytona Beach to find it way, way emptier than we expected. It was a good 85-90 degrees, sunny, and the place was almost desolate. We rode up and down the strip looking for a place within walking distance of somewhere to eat and have a drink, and ended up with a great deal on a beachfront view.

We took a walk on the beach, got showered, and had a burger at the beachfront cafe next door. Then a hike up to Main Street to hang out at the Boot Hill Saloon (Better off there than across the street) and all the biker joints that line both sides. We didn't realize all the biker-specific places that operate year-round on Main St.

Anyway, we slept in a bit and then headed south for the last time. Only 5o more miles to go to Titusville and Kennedy Space Center.

Scenes from Daytona

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Southern Charm

We said goodbye to Kevin and Karen and headed for Georgia, by way of Charleston and Beaufort. Weather was kinda gray but there was little chance of rain, and we didn't get any. Route 17 was pretty light and there's not much to see but pine trees.

When we got to Charleston, we were glad that we decided to stop. We parked the bikes and took a walk around, and it was really neat. The highlight there was all the stately old homes along the water. Really cool, and too bad we only had an hour or two to spend.

Then we got to Savannah, and realized we made the right choice on where to spend more time. Wow. This is one cool place.

We came in the "back way" along the river, and found ourselves surrounded by 10,000 big trucks hauling sea containers. You should have seen them stacked up to the moon for miles.

We're in a deluxe hotel right on Bay Street in front of the City Market,
which is where we found the neatest candy store. We checked in and got showers, then found Paula Deen's restaurant, which was only 2 blocks away. We opted for the Riverwalk, instead, and had our fancy meal for the trip along the water. For the first time I can remember, I left with food on my plate. It was good, but we had torn through a couple appetizers, oysters, soup and salad, and that was all we could take. We both had pie, though :)

The one thing I will say is every city has its own character, and this one seems to have borrowed one from New Orleans. Not that you can't tell them apart, and yes there's some "low country" mixed in there, (and it doesn't smell nearly as bad!) but the menus look pretty much the same.

Which reminds me, Donna had her first praline, and her first boiled peanuts this week. I had my first raw oysters. Mmmm...

We're off to Daytona Beach next. The way this morning is going, we'll probably end up taking I-95 just to get there early enough to spend some time on the beach. We tend to make stuff up as we go along.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Off Again

We like to stay in the same place for a couple days when we go away, because it's a little less packing and a little less getting up and loading up. We spent two nights here in Georgetown, which let us enjoy a full day at Bike Week.

Which we did. We had a quiet lunch on the water in Georgetown yesterday, hit all the party spots, and got in early. Now, we're heading to breakfast in Charleston, and we'll see what time we get into Savannah tonight.

We have some cool pictures, which hopefully we'll get to upload from the camera and post tomorrow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Myrtle Beach

Here we are at Kevin and Karen's place in Georgetown, SC. We're about 20 miles from the Grand Strand, where we rode around last night checking out all the Bike Week festivities.

We cruised through NC on I-95 yesterday, and actually ended up wearing sweatshirts and our leather jackets under the bright sun. Chilly, but beautiful. After the obligatory stop at South of the Border (Pedro says, "you never sausage a place") we hit the backroads for a nice ride to Georgetown. We dropped off our bags and caught up for a while, headed up to the beach to pick up Karen from work at the Harley dealer, then took ride through town and bought our hosts dinner.

Due to strong opposition by the mayor, Myrtle Beach Bike week is effectively over in the city itself. Most of the activities took place in the neighboring towns anyway, but the crowds are down by at least 75%, and the city itself is practically devoid of bikes. We took a chance at a bogus traffic stop and ticket, and rode down the main drag, and every hotel had a vacancy sign lit. I know the mayor is happy, but I don't think he has a lot of company.

Today we're going to go hit all the biker hangouts and maybe take a walk down the boardwalk, then tomorrow it's off to the Old South: Charleston and Savannah. We have a room in Savannah, and should get a post in and add some pix then. If not, we'll either be staying another night or heading to Daytona. It will be hard saying goodbye to our hosts, though, they are two really great people and a lot of fun to ride with.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

That Was No 8 Seconds


We took off this morning trying like hell to beat our usual rainy start. After analyzing an approaching band of rain, we decided to try to run out the bottom of the green blob before it made it the rest of the way across the state. We figured if we got Baltimore, we had it made.

We didn't get out of Lehigh County without getting spit on, but it was literally a couple drops on the visor. We ran like hell and got into Delaware. Sure enough, the clouds started to get blue holes in them. And then the wind picked up.

Holy hell, the wind picked up. When we got to the Susquehanna crossing, where the river is a half-mile wide, there is a sign posted that reads "CAUTION: Bridge Subject to High Crosswinds." And, that's on a good day.

It was like riding a wild bull, but the pros only have to do that for 8 seconds. We slowed to 40 mph and I honestly thought a few of those gusts were going to blow us into the water. Donna's test for the day lasted all the way to Bryan and Lydia's house in Richmond, but the bridge was the worst of it. At least it was bright and sunny.
We got to hang out with the family and hold the 5th cutest baby ever (after our own, of course.) Jon is a cool little dude and is doing quite well. Same for Mom and Bryan. Good stuff.

We continued another 85 miles or so in the evening, with Bryan tagging along for part of the ride - we swapped and I rode his Gold Wing - until he turned back and sent us on our way. We ended up in Roanoake Rapids, NC, and are heading to Myrtle Beach in the morning.

Friday, May 7, 2010

All Systems "Go"

Time to hit the road...

We decided over the winter that this year's bike trip would be to Savannah, GA for a good taste of the Old South. From what we're told, it's a great place to visit, and it fits our 9-day window perfectly. If we could make the quick trip to Florida in there somewhere, it would complete the East Coast for both of us, and Kevin will have ridden in every state east of the Mississippi. Good enough reason for us!

From that, we went about building an itinerary. It turned out pretty cool, if we don't say so ourselves.

The first thing was, if we're going to be near the north Florida coast, why don't we see if we can time the trip to coincide with a Shuttle launch before the program comes to an end this year? The May 14 date seemed like a perfect time to avoid the oppressive heat and humidity, so we chose it and that's why you are reading this now.

It also happened to coincide with the due date of the first child of Kevin's brother and his wife in Richmond. And also with Myrtle Beach Bike Week.

Also, Kevin and Karen, who starred in our "Wandering Aimlessly" trip last year, live near MB in Georgetown, and have been after us to visit them forever. We can stay as their guest as long as we like. Bryan and Lydia's baby, Jon, was born a week ago, and everybody is settled in. I love it when a plan comes together!

We leave Saturday morning. We'll see the baby, and spend Saturday night further down the road. Two days with Kevin and Karen, followed by an afternoon in Charleston, SC and an evening in Savannah. We'll play that part as we go, and probably spend a night in Daytona Beach before arriving in Titusville (Cape Canaveral) on Thursday. The launch is scheduled for Friday. I hate getting home Sunday and rushing through the unpacking and laundry, so from there, it's an Iron Butt ride to get home on Saturday evening - 1,000 miles in 24 hours. Donna seems to endure a ritual test of some sort that crops up on every ride; this time, it will be planned, and she'll have the certification to prove it. If circumstances don't cooperate, we'll bag it and get home Sunday.

So far, it looks like we'll be leaving in the rain as has become our usual modus operandi. The forecast steadily improves all the way to launch, which as of now is 100% perfect. We may return to more rain, but that's a long way off.

We've kept up with the STS-132 mission updates, and everything looks good.

So, off we go. Wish us good luck, safety, and good weather - especially for Friday! We wish all of our friends well in our absence, and look forward to seeing you when we return.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Home Sweet Home (Part 1)

Big news...

Since getting together over the winter last year, KevAndDonna have been pretty much inseparable. We do everything together. True partners in crime, we are as good together as two people can get. We hear it all the time, and we say it all the time ourselves. As we like to say, it's pathetic.

We've been spending just about every night together anymore, curled up tightly together like the two peas in a pod that we are. As such, Kevin's apartment has thus become a large, and very expensive, storage unit / park and ride. I don't even stay there on carpool days anymore; I actually meet Judi there. On weekends when I have her, Katrina and I have been staying over as often as not. She's part of the family.

So, it was time to make the obvious move. With our schedule what it is, we had to move all the big stuff last weekend. Not like we had anything else going on, right? We got it done, though, and the place doesn't look too bad at all despite all the stuff that still needs to be unpacked and given new homes. Anyway, I have nowhere else to sleep now. It's official. My mail is being forwarded.

We know we can't live without each other. Now, we'll find out if we can live with each other. Big difference, we know. And we do already know we can get at it with the best of them, but we also know what we have here, and we're not about to let it slip through our fingers. We got this. And so it shall be... happily ever after. Partners in crime.