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Old 05-05-2004, 07:14 PM   #16
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19th February

It promises to be a beautiful day, although it starts with a high overcast. After a swift McBreakfast (‘so, let me get this right – you put the whipped butter and the syrup on the pancakes?’) Buddy & I set out along Route 10 to the Jamestown Ferry, a service provided free by the state (Buddy’s tax dollars at work ). Apparently, running the ferry is cheaper than building a bridge…



We arrive in Jamestown, part of a large National Park complex incorporating Jamestown, Williamsburg & Yorktown. I buy a National Parks Annual Pass for $50 – allowing me free access to all National Parks in the USA for the next 12 months – bargain! Unfortunately, much of the woodland, as well as many of the buildings, were badly damaged by Hurricane Isabel in September 2003. The evidence of her passing this way is everywhere.

We walk around the Jamestown settlement – these early settlers really had a hard time of it. In between disease, hunger, hostile natives and incompetence, they died in their dozens during the first few years. We get an excellent informal brief on the progress of new archaeological digs from one of the volunteer guides, all of whom are keen and very well informed.



There are, as ever, statues and memorials all over the site. This is Pocahontas, before she met Disney, apparently…



Captain John Smith, the first Governor of Virginia, takes pride of place…



We follow the Colonial Parkway towards Williamsburg & Yorktown. It’s a picturesque road with a 45mph speed limit,



which soon delivers us (via a coffee-stop at Williamsburg) to Yorktown, the scene of General Cornwallis’s defeat at the hands of the American & French forces.



Poor old Cornwallis got stuffed by his bosses. The Royal Navy, in the shape of Admiral Graves, got a bloody nose from the French and beat a retreat to New York for repairs, sealing Cornwallis’s fate. Outgunned and out numbered, with no escape route, Cornwallis surrendered, which ensured that his troops survived.

Unfortunately this meant that a full third of the entire British Forces in America were now PoWs. This didn’t end the War of Independence immediately (that happened 2 yrs later), but it did force the British to the negotiating table.



We receive a guided tour of the Yorktown Victory Centre by a Park Ranger who, whilst very well informed, delivers his information like an animatronic figure from Disneyland.



He was very entertaining, however, and, with the information in the Visitors’ Centre, I felt that the National Parks Service had done a good job. Touring Jamestown after the tour, we found an American cannonball embedded in the wall of one of the buildings…



Feeling in need of refreshment, having just lost the colonies, Buddy & I drop in to the Yorktown Pub for a swift half…



It’s approaching dusk now, so we ride back along the Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg, a reconstruction of the town, built on the same site. During the day, it is populated by volunteers in period costume who give guided tours in various buildings (although this is quite expensive). Being cheapskates, Buddy & I walk up and down the main street (Duke of Gloucester Street), visiting the Capitol Building, which sports a Union Flag…



It’s getting dark now, so we set course for home, making good progress along Route 5, through the same sweeping woodland roads we rode yesterday evening. We get back home just after 7:30, having had an excellent day out.

I make some running repairs to the waterproof seal on my left pannier using some silicone sealant (hopefully this will sort the leak out) and go inside for a beer and an excellent meal, cooked by Sue’s fair hand



I may try the Blue Ridge Parkway again tomorrow – if it’s open…

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Old 05-05-2004, 07:22 PM   #17
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20th February

Up early, as Buddy has to go to work today! Well, to a meeting anyway – no need to go crazy . I say my heartfelt thanks to Buddy & Sue for their generous hospitality and I’m packed and on the road by 0815. I decide to set course for the Outer Banks and the home of powered flight – Kittyhawk. The weather is beautiful, brilliant blue cloudless sky and already above freezing. I make my way South West, re-entering North Carolina at 1100.

I’m struck by the odd marketing strategy of some companies over here – would you honestly go in and ask for a ‘Sheetz Sandwich’?



I stop for lunch at a ‘traditional’ chrome diner. This might have been here since the fifties, but I suspect it’s a modern reproduction.



These diners sprung up all over the USA between the 30s & 50s, their design being such that, if they weren’t successful in a location, they could be uprooted and moved without too much drama. This one has a reserved seat at the counter…



The food, regrettably, is mediocre :( Ah, well…

I ride on, arriving at Kill Devil Hill at about 1400. The visitor centre here is run by the National Parks Service, so the pass I bought yesterday gets me in free ;). I wander around the museum, looking at the replica Wright Flyer and the genuine exhibits of the crude tools that Wilbur & Orville used to build the world’s first powered aircraft.



I then walk out to the world’s first runway. The first flight took place on 17th December 1903. The ‘Flyer’ flew four times that day, with the toss of a coin deciding that Orville Wright would be the first pilot. They then took it in turns to increase the distance flown from 120 feet to 852 feet by the end of the day. The large boulder in the foreground represents the take-off point and the other stones in the middle distance signifies the 4 landing points…



…less than 66 years later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.

The flight is commemorated by a huge art-deco monument on the hill overlooking the runway.



I set off South, then turn inland, through Roanoke Island and make my way West. I intend to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway at some time during Saturday – it should’ve had enough time to thaw out a bit by then . The temperature has climbed and I’m wearing my summer gloves for the first time in over a week. I ride past signs warning of bears and deer. As I cross the long, causeway-like, bridges which join the Outer Banks to the mainland, I see pelicans almost hovering in the onshore breeze.

Further inland, the ditches alongside the highway (called, ominously, Alligator Road) are flooded and there is further evidence that this entire low-lying area was hit hard by Hurricane Isabel last year too…

I pull in to a cheap motel in Edenton, and get to work on the (lengthy) business of uploading my pictures to SmugMug and writing up my journal…
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:28 PM   #18
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21st February

Woke early and, after a foul cup of motel coffee, set off by 0930. Almost immediately, I re-enter Virginia – I’m going to be covering some familiar ground today… I come across the attractively named town of Dismal Swamp. I can’t help but feel that estate agents (realtors, for the benefit of our colonial readers ) must feel they’ve really earned their pay on a day they get someone to look at a property in this town. It’s well named – the General Store is probably the liveliest spot there…



The weather is brightening but, as I approach the town of Windsor, I see that there’s a rain shower approaching. Using the principle of ‘any fool can be uncomfortable’, I decide to stop at a local diner for brunch and let the rain pass. Like all these ‘Mom & Pop’ places, the food is excellent and plentiful, the service cheerful and prices low. This is the $5 breakfast…



Try not to be put off by the appearance of the sausages… The white stuff ‘on the side’ is (or are?) grits. It’s a sort of cornmeal, well - mush – somewhere in the grey area between porridge and wallpaper paste. Opinions differ as to how it should be eaten (as they do with with porridge). Traditionalists say that you should eat it savoury, with salt to taste. The other camp says it should be eaten with maple syrup or jam stirred in. I tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it simply shouldn’t be eaten…

Whilst I’m finishing my 3rd cup of coffee, I’m joined by Mike Bodner, who has seen my bike parked outside and come in to see what this foreign interloper is doing on his turf.



It turns out that Mike is the local capo of the BMW Riders’ Association (RA). We chat for about half an hour about various subjects – he runs an RT, but hasn’t ridden it for 2 months or so. I call him a wimp He’ll be at Daytona, where we hope to meet up again. Meantime, he gives me his mobile ‘phone number and tells me to ring if I need anything whilst I’m in Virginia. Once again I’m very touched by the generosity and hospitality afforded me by everyone I meet here…

It being dry, I get back on the bike and ‘haul ass’ (I believe is the expression) over towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. I ride many of the same roads I used to get to Kittyhawk yesterday, and pass within a stone’s throw of Buddy & Sue’s house. I decide against throwing a stone, as they were very nice to me :P.
I stop at a Circuit City (a bit like PC World) and buy a new modem cable, as I’ve realised I somehow left mine in the motel at Edenton. Unable to resist any techno-crap, I also buy a flexible lamp which fits into a USB port and can be used to light the keyboard…


As I get close to the Blue Ridge, the ambient temperature drops. Just past Bedford, I stop and change from Summer gloves to Winter…

You will be familiar by now with my criteria for choosing a motel. It must be cheap, have free local calls (for internet connection) and, preferably, an in-room coffee maker, or something similar. So why, I hear you ask, would he check in to a motel with no phone, no TV, no coffee maker and pay $100 a night for the privilege?? Well here…



…is the reason. This is the view out of my bedroom window in the Peaks of Otter Lodge (plus the price included dinner & breakfast ). The lake is partially frozen – it’s not warm up here and I think the Parkway will need at least a few weeks of warm sunshine until in re-opens in full.



I dump my kit in my room and then take the bike for a ride along the 10 mile section which is open at present (down to Buchanan and back). The snag with the Parkway is that it’s a tourist road, not a highway as such. It’s therefore not ploughed or treated – they just let it freeze, close it, then open it again after the thaw. All commercial traffic goes down Interstates 81 or 64, which are kept open year round. Almost all the roads which pass across the Blue Ridge remain open, and afford great views, so, weather permitting, I’ll start exploring some of those tomorrow. In the meantime, having finished my journal entry, I’m just going to sit and enjoy the silence here for a bit…

I wandered outside, having just typed these words, and found that there was a herd of White Tailed Deer grazing not 10 metres from the back door to my room. I took a couple of pictures but, due to the lack of light, they aren’t very clear. I sat watching them for a while – and became aware that people were doing the same from nearly every room in the lodge…



I walk the 200 metres or so to the restaurant down a sparsely lit footpath. It’s fully dark now, with a fingernail of moon and about a million stars shining in the cold night sky. I almost walk into a deer as I round the final turn to the lodge and scare myself fartless – don’t think Bambi was too impressed either…

Dinner was superb. You could basically choose any main course off the, extensive, menu. On my waitress’s recommendation, I had the 16oz piece of cow. It was delicious, but - hard as I fought - the cow won – I retired just over half way through… :(

As I walked back to my room, it was considerably colder, probably below freezing already, with a brisk breeze blowing. The sky remained clear, though, so I’m cautiously optimistic about a late(ish) start tomorrow morning…
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:29 PM   #19
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22nd February

Woke to find that it's a cold overcast day with a brisk Westerly wind and that I’m 47 years old. There is a threat (according to the Weather Channel, on in the Lodge) of rain or sleet later in the morning. I decide to push South West towards Deal’s Gap. It’s 340 miles, and I don’t intend to complete the trip today. I resolve to start eating more sensibly, a resolution that lasts long enough for me to see the breakfast buffet. I suppose the diet starts tomorrow



I pack the bike and set off, along the (very cold) Blue Ridge Parkway to begin with, then via Interstate 81, towards Bristol, Tennessee, which seems like a reasonable target for the day.



I want to stop early so that I can telephone my folks at a reasonable hour. I’ve found a new ‘phone card from a firm called ‘Radiant’ which gives me 720 minutes call time to the UK for $10 – it’s cheaper than phoning long distance within the UK!:P

I81 is a two lane dual carriageway (called a Divided Highway over here). If you have to travel by this type of road, I81 is one of the nicer ones. It winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the views are quite pleasant. It’s cold though, and after an hour or so, I decide it’s time to pull off the road and find somewhere to warm up. I end up at a Petrol (Gas ) Station in the small town of Radford.
Whilst drinking my giant cup of coffee, I get talking to one of the locals, Rodney. Rod’s unemployed (job got sent to Mexico) and has a son in the army in Iraq. His son’s been there a year and he’s expecting him back in a further 8 months. We talk for a while about my trip and about where I’m going next. I go to the bog (Rest Room) and when I return, I find Rod’s paid for my coffee. I protest, but he won’t hear of it. We walk out to my bike and he asks all the usual questions. As I get ready to put my helmet on and leave, to my mild embarrassment, Rod drops his head and utters a short prayer for my safety on my continuing journey. I thank him, we shake hands and I ride off.
As I continue to ride down I81, I think about why I was embarrassed by Rod’s prayer. It was obviously something he felt was the right thing to do. I decide that, if there’s a problem here, it’s probably mine…

I get into Bristol at about 1430 and check into a Days Inn, which has a King Size bed, huge TV with HBO, Internet connection etc etc – I’m back in the USA again
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:31 PM   #20
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23rd February

Woke after a crap night’s sleep and, declining the complimentary ‘Continental Breakfast’ (a selection of dodgy looking doughnuts), I’m on the road for 1000. As I leave Bristol, I ride past the massive Bristol Raceway – an oval NASCAR circuit (think Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder) …



and join the US23 which wends its way South West towards the Smoky Mountains. It’s without doubt the most picturesque divided highway I’ve ridden yet. The road surface is excellent and the views spectacular.



The temperature today is much better – 43 deg as I left Bristol – and I’m wearing summer gloves. I soon re-enter North Carolina and see a sign saying ‘Inmates at Work’. Yep, it’s Cool Hand Luke for real, there are road-gang convicts working on the edge of the road…(excuse the picture quality, over the shoulder at 70 )



I pull into a State Welcome Station – I was told to visit these places by Buddy – they have free maps! The whole set-up is excellent, with helpful staff and all manner of free leaflets. The lady behind the desk gives me a photo-copied map of Deal’s Gap.



I meet Gunther (on the left, in the above picture), who moved from Germany to Texas 30 years ago and then, last year, moved to Tennessee. He’s feeling the cold and doesn’t envy me being on a bike today. He used to ride a BMW R60, many years ago, but decided that, as his riding style was offensive, rather than defensive, he’d better give it up . We chat for a few minutes and he examines the Adventure and makes all the right noises. As we talk, the Department of Corrections buses turn up in the car park…



I rejoin the highway and we’re going downhill. Every mile or so are some serious runaway lanes for trucks with brake failure. The speed limit (55mph) here is, the lady told me at the Welcome Centre, rigidly enforced. Having no wish to join the road gang (using my laptop here boss?), I stooge along at 55…



Soon I’m turning off into the Smoky Mountains National Park. I follow US19 into, quite literally, Indian country…



It seems that the ‘noble savage’ has little dignity left as an image :( …



I ride through some spectacular scenery, although the winter is probably not the best time to see the forests…



I push on towards Deal’s Gap. The approach road, Highway 28, is a fantastic road to ride – excellent surface and long sweeping bends through beautiful scenery. It’s so nice, I’m almost disappointed to arrive at Deal’s Gap.



I ride the ‘Dragon’s Tail’. It’s twisty – every bit as ‘technical’ as I’ve been warned. The road surface is absolutely superb and I’m following a large (is there another kind?) SUV, who’s driving quite slowly. Eventually, I reach the end (Cheoah Dam) and pull over.



I tie the camera to the left hand mirror, using cable-ties, in order to try to get some pictures on the way back. I recognise it’s impossible to describe the road here, you need to ride it, but here’s a pic to whet your appetite (taken one handed )…



I get back to the campground (closed until 1st March) and meet Mike, a Guzzi rider from Maine (he’s trailered the bike down, on his way to Daytona).



He’s about to ride the Gap and asks me lots of questions about it. At the campsite is a tree which has become a totem pole to misery – it’s strewn with parts of bikes which have met their maker on the Dragon’s Tail…



It’s getting towards dusk, so I make my way back to Bryson City and find a cheap motel for the night. Tomorrow (weather permitting) I’ll return and ride the Cherohala Skyway – another spectacular road – it’ll give me an excuse to ride 28 again… Trouble is, the forecast is for rain…:(
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:31 PM   #21
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24th February

Woke to find the rain hadn’t arrived. Instead, I was greeted by a mild, overcast day. I pack the bike and set off towards Deal’s Gap. About 10 miles down the road, it starts to spit with rain. I pull over and put the rain cover on the tank bag and swap to waterproof gloves. I notice a sign I’d missed yesterday directing me to the Cherohala Skyway via US143 and the town of Robinsville.

I turn up the road and, although its views are quite pleasant, it’s hard work. The surface is a patchwork of different finishes, with gallons of overbanding poured over the joins. This, coupled with a misty drizzle, means I have little time to look at the view.

I eventually reach the Skyway, 20-odd miles later. On a clear day in the spring, it must be spectacular – in fact it’s pretty good today. The road surface here is flawless (I’m guessing that this road and the ‘Dragons Tail’ have both been re-surfaced very recently). The viewing areas are well placed, but the weather’s murky and I can only speculate on how far you can see on a good day…



I climb steadily up the winding road and, at about 4000 feet, enter cloud. Visibility is now down to 30 metres or less, with a steady drizzle hampering my attempts to see the road through my glasses and visor. The road continues to snake upwards, until, eventually, it peaks at 5300 ft – I take a picture of the view :



I ride on, remaining in cloud, for miles – way below 4000 ft – it’s clearly worse this side of the ridge – until I come to the end of the Skyway. I decide that Deal’s Gap just isn’t going to be worth repeating in this weather and, having no set plans beyond what I’ve already done today, follow the road to see where it’ll take me…

Eventually it takes me to the Tellicafe, a small restaurant in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. I stop there for the ‘Blue Plate Special’ – soup, huge sandwich, fries, coffee – all for $6. Top tip – if the local Sheriff eats here, it’s probably reasonable food at cheap prices :P



I decide it’s time I started heading South towards Florida. My tyres are starting to get squared off, as my recent encounters with the ‘Dragon’ and the Skyway have shown me, so I decide to head down towards the good weather and see if I can find someone, in the next week or so, who’ll fit some new ones. My bike is also (already :eek: ) approaching the need for a service…

I head off, with no destination in mind, just following the front wheel roughly South East. I come across a strange sight on US52, near the unlikely sounding town of Tickanetley – I wonder if Longbridge are wondering where this one ended up…



Further on, in Chamblee (I’ve re-entered Georgia now) I pass a sign saying ‘Motorcycle Stop’ – so I do. This is the home of Buzz’s Psycle – but, unfortunately, Buzz is nowhere to be found, so I ride on…



I decide that I’ll stop somewhere just North of Atlanta tonight. Passing the various adverts that try to tempt me along the way…



…I find myself in Alpharetta. I pull into the car park of the Wellesley Inn and book an excellent single room, with high speed internet access, kitchen(including dishwasher!), breakfast etc – for $70. Bargain. I go to the petrol station next door to buy something to eat and a beer & I’m asked to provide ID!:yelrotflm
I’m extremely flattered until the chap behind the till explains that, for some reason, Alpharetta has the most stringent liquor purchasing laws in the country…

Where to tomorrow?
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:34 PM   #22
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Rainy Night (& Day) in Georgia...

25th February

Rain. Bugger. A heavy drizzle is falling so, after an excellent (& complimentary ) breakfast, I load the bike and set off, deciding to head South, in the hope of it at least getting a bit warmer… Before I leave the room, I notice a sign by the sprinkler in the ceiling – I wonder what caused them to put that up there…



I use the GPS as a compass and, by-passing Atlanta, get off the Interstate as soon as I can and start heading down some back roads. In the attractivly named town of Locust Grove, I see the owner of the local ‘mini-warehouse’ complex has used a T33 to advertise the fact.



On the way out of town, it’s clear that the aviation theme is a strong one in this line of business…



Stopped to get my bearings, I indulge in a little train-spotting .



This train is enormous – I didn’t bother counting the number of trucks it was towing, but it must’ve been over 100.



The load was nearly all containers – some stacked 2 high – this part of the world obviously doesn’t have low bridges or tunnels…

After 125 miles or so, I’m cold, tired and wet (only on the outside, though – all my waterproofs are doing fine ). As is my habit, I ignore the line of MacDonalds, Taco Bells & KFCs when I enter the town of Jackson, and instead, decide to try the Lunch Box.



As I walk in, the elderly waitress asks what I want – quite abruptly. I said I wanted lunch – she pointed at the only vacant table :

‘You can sit there – what do you want to drink?’

‘Coffee please, black’

‘We don’t have coffee, we don’t open for breakfast’ (: )

‘OK, what hot drinks do you have?’

‘Nothing’

‘Do you have soup’

’Just sold out’ (It’s two minutes past midday :eek )

‘Can I see the menu, please’

She brings me a menu and immediately asks if I know what I want to order – I haven’t opened it yet. I ask for a minute and she returns 5 seconds later. I order the special, which was neither special, nor memorable, as I cannot recall what it was, other than bland.

The whole time I was eating, 3 men at the table opposite me (dressed in the southern uniform of jeans, plaid shirt and baseball caps, to co-ordinate with the goatee and pony-tail theme their barber’s had chosen for them) stared wordlessly at me. I quickly ate my lunch, paid my bill & departed. Quite what I’d done to provoke this kind of hostility I don’t know, but Jackson, Georgia, is off my re-visit list…

I press South and, fed up with the continuous rain, find succour in the shape of the Best Western Riverside Inn at Macon, a city I know absolutely nothing about. Hot shower, king size bed, Chinese restaurant next door – what more do I need to know…;)
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:35 PM   #23
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26th February

It had rained hard all night. I came out to the bike to find that my attempts to make the left pannier waterproof had been a complete failure- there was at least half a pint of water in it. Great. I dry it out, pack the bike and set off towards Florida. It’s raining intermittently, just enough to keep the roads wet and ensure that there’s spray from the trucks. I decide to get off the Interstate and, for a moment, consider applying for a job…



…but decide against it – they’ve probably got enough dancers. I ride heading South East, on small back roads. The rain’s cleared up now, but it’s damned cold. I don’t pass any banks (they usually have big digital clocks & thermometers displayed outside), so I don’t know what the temperature is, but I’m not comfortable. I resolve once again to sort out a new heated jacket at Daytona next week. Jeff has arranged to get a partial service done on my bike next Tuesday at the BMW dealer in Daytona. The plan is to get them to do the difficult bits (fuel filter replacement, Motronic check etc) whilst Andrew, Jeff and I do the relatively easy bits (filters, oil change, valve adjustment etc) Andrew has recommended a tyre dealer in Orlando to fit the pair of tyres I’ve just ordered – so I’ll be re-visiting the scene of my ‘lane-splitting’ crime…

I stop for lunch (with some trepidation, after yesterday’s experience) at Marvel’s Family Restaurant, in the town of Broxton.



Things are quite different here. The young (and quite attractive) waitress Bonnie (is this the most common name or something??) takes my order and then asks where I’m from. I tell her, to which she replies ‘England, honey, howd yew end up heah? Yewer in the most back of beyaand hick town in the wirld!’ As I eat my excellent ‘all you can eat’ lunch of chicken, rice, black-eyed peas, turnip greens and gravy, I meet Mike and June Smith, who farm here. We have the standard conversation about what my plans are and what motorbike I’ve got. They’re good, friendly people – I tell them about my experience in Jackson the day before. They’re nonplussed by it. ‘Some towns just don’t like bikers – maybe that’s one of ‘em’ suggests June. June laughs when I tell them that I’m on my way to Bike Week at Daytona, ‘Just don’t go thinking that’s the way we all live’ – ‘No, but it’s the way we’d all like to!’ adds Mike.

Eventually it’s time to go, so I say my goodbyes and head South again. It’s not long before I’m feeling cold again, so I once again decide to make an early stop. I come into a town I vaguely recognise – it’s Waycross, I was here on the 8th February, heading North. I stop at the Pine Crest Motel again, but there’s a convention in town, and they’re fully booked. I ride up the road to the Days Inn and book in…
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:36 PM   #24
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27th February

Dry – Hurrah! Still cold though. I set off at about 0930 and make my way South towards Daytona. At Jeff’s suggestion, I stop off at Okefenokee State Park (great name, eh?:P) and have a tourist morning. Although it’s not raining, it’s a very dull day, so please accept my apologies, as the pics aren’t great…



Okefenokee (which means ‘Trembling Ground’ in Native American – a reference to the ‘islands’ of moss and peat which eventually become anchored by their roots and dry out to become land) covers half a million acres. For your $16 dollar entry fee, you get a half hour boat tour…



…guided by Rod, who’s a real character (seemed to know an awful lot about moonshine liquor ;)… The water seems jet black and is spookily calm...



A train ride, where I met Esme and Sally – Esme used to live in Norwich before emigrating in 1958 – it turns out I used to live within a quarter of a mile of her old house! We got the engine driver to take a picture, but he apparently had the DTs



And, finally, an excellent talk about the wildlife in the area from Phil.



Phil is a Seminole Indian, whose Indian name is unpronounceable, but probably means ‘Lectures With Snakes’.

As an aside, Seminole means ‘Outcast’ and, as the name suggests, the tribe comprised of outcasts from various other tribes. Apparently they were the only tribe never to submit to removal to reservations and never signed a treaty – one day the government apparently just agreed to leave them to it…

Overall the visit was excellent (with the exception of the tinny, distorted rendering of ‘Swanny River’ over the loudspeakers on the train : ) and, as has been my experience with all such parks the staff go out of their way to be helpful & informative. They also have some really good signs...



By 1300 I’m back on the road, heading South to Daytona. Far from improving, the weather seems to be getting colder. I go directly to the BMW dealer to pick up some service bits for the bike and see on the TV that people are stranded in snow in Georgia trying to get south for bike week! :eek

I arrive at Jeff & Keri’s and, once again, test their laundry facilities to the point of destruction with the biohazard which is the content of my left pannier…
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:37 PM   #25
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Daytona Bike Week

Bike Week



I’d not planned to go to Bike Week. Jeff & Keri just said it would be an experience (and it has been!) and that it would be crazy not to go, since I was in the Florida area…



500,000 visitors flock to Daytona for Bike Week, held between the last weekend in February and the first weekend in March each year.



If you are picturing hoards of bikes being ridden down highways from all over the USA, think again. It seems the most common method of travel is to load your Harley onto a trailer, then tow it down to Daytona.



The sadder cases amongst the visitors actually stop a the last Service Area on Interstate 95, unload their bikes and ride into Daytona – just so they can say they rode their bikes to bike week…



The week itself is a festival of two wheeled excess. Looking for anything? – you’ll find it here – probably chrome plated. There are a few sports bikes, and even fewer BMWs, but Harley Davidson owns Daytona for this week. Every possible model, modification, paint scheme can be seen blatting up and down the roads.

None of the pipes are street legal, but the local law enforcers are overwhelmed (although they do prosecute – mostly due to local pressure). The noise never stops, day & night, as doctors & lawyers, dressed to look like outlaws, ride their outrageously equipped Harleys up and down the strip. Some of these guys literally only ride for 2 weeks in the year – Bike Week and Biketoberfest (at the end of the season).



You can get your bike washed ;) – go and watch Coleslaw Wrestling (no, I didn’t go ;)), but mostly people just go to the bars and get pissed – then ride back to their motel, hoping not to crash.

There’s no requirement to wear a helmet in Florida, and no-one does (except me, Jeff & Keri :P) – standard riding apparel is a pair of jeans and a bandanna (during the day) – in the evening, a T shirt may be added… This year, thus far, there have been few fatal accidents, although this morning’s paper reported a V8 engined bike, whose rider fell off when the throttle stuck open, which kept going for 4 blocks, until it hit a Pepsi delivery truck, bounced off and hit 2 pedestrians, seriously injuring both…



Here are some of the bikes on display. The V8 Boss Hoss, developing 385 bhp in stock form…




…can always have Nitrous Oxide added to boost it to over 500 bhp. Clearly what this bike needs – more power.



You can buy choppers in any state of assembly, from a rolling chassis…



…to fully prepared for your trailer.




If you want, you can get one with a particular purpose in mind. This one is for slaying dragons…



…it has a sword for a gearlever…



…battleaxe forks…



…and, of course, a dragon hide seat.



You can meet all sorts of, ahem, ‘colourful’ characters…





…see some amusing licence plates…



…buy a gun…



…have your picture taken with a dog wearing leathers… :eek



…look around an understated little pick-up truck…



…see the cowgirls learning to lasso…



…get something to eat…



…tip the staff…



…and later that evening, go out and eat some more…



…followed by some dessert.



You occasionally meet some fellow GSers – on questionably coloured bikes…



…you see 3 wheelers…



…complete with Givi luggage :P



…and others, with rather too much everything…



Bikes are everywhere. All types, from Suzuki GT750 ‘kettles’…



…to rather battered Norton Commandos…



…but mostly the sea of chrome that is Harley Davidson.



Is it worth coming? Of course it is - the weather’s good, the accommodation here’s great and I’ve seen some outlandish sights and had a great time.

I’m just not sure what it has to do with motorcycling, that’s all…
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:39 PM   #26
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To those of you not familiar with Hooters, it's a 'Sports Bar', which serves mediocre food & beer, as well as having large screen TVs set up all over the place. The reason that Hooters is always busy is fairly obvious really...



All the girls dress the same (although I notice they now wear tights under their shorts - a change from 10 yrs ago, when I was last able to inspect the uniform at close hand :eyebrow).



On Friday evening, there was a meeting of Adventure Riders at the Hooters across the road from the Daytona Speedway race circuit. I was introduced to all of them but, due to an excess of alcohol later that evening, am unable to identify any of them from these photos...





Outside in the car park, there was an unusual 'Vendor Stand'...



Spookily, it seems I wasn't the first UKGSer that they'd met...




6th March

Jeff & Keri had a few of the Adventure Rider chaps around for a barbeque and a few (dozen) drinks...

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Old 05-05-2004, 07:42 PM   #27
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8th March

After saying farewell (again) to Jeff, Keri & Jacob, I’m on the road at 0830. After much thought, I’ve decided to leave my camping gear with Jeff. The exchange rate is so favourable at the moment that I’ll be staying in motels until it changes radically. Jeff will ship the gear to me as & when I need it. This allows me to travel with all my kit either in the panniers or in the tank bag system, which will make securing the bike each evening much simpler…

Last night Jeff, Keri and I went to Keri’s mum’s house in Daytona. It is the kind of place which makes me want to go out & buy a lottery ticket – I don’t think I’d ever get tired of watching this sunset…



I head out West, using the GPS to begin with, then the compass, staying off the main highways and enjoying the perfect riding weather. The humidity of Bike Week has cleared and it’s now like a warm spring day in the UK – I notice a bank’s thermometer saying it’s 71º. One of the advantages of riding on “the road less travelled” is the chance of coming across odd sights. This collection of curios and antiques (and junk, let’s face it ) is near Silver Springs…



Most of the roads are quiet, straight and hardly challenging…



…but I take solace in the fact that I’m probably much warmer than anyone riding in the UK at the moment

I continue North West and, by about 1600, decide it’s time to stop. I ride to Panacea City, thinking it will be the answer – but it’s, sadly, a crappy little town without a decent looking motel, besides which, it advertises itself with a large missile, hardly welcoming…



I ride through the splendidly named Sopchoppy – but decide not to stay when I realise I’m more than a month early for the social event of the year…



…and I end up in a Best Western on the outskirts of Panama City. I find I’ve crossed a time zone and it’s now 1530, not 1630 as I’d thought. Tomorrow I’ll head towards the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, to look at the (free ) museum there – meantime, it’s time to catch up on some Zeds after quite a long week…;)
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:43 PM   #28
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9th March

Had a very bad night’s sleep. For the last couple of weeks I’ve had some kind of chest infection & I’m waking during the night coughing my lungs up…:( Despite my natural reluctance to spend money, I have a chat with my girlfriend and she bullies me into going to see a doctor…

Set off towards Pensacola, but I find that the whole coastal ‘Parkway’ to be a succession of tourist towns full of ‘Spring Breakers’ (college kids on Spring holiday).



The speed limit varies between 35 & 45 mph, but it’s academic, as we’re lucky to hit 20. Somewhere in a traffic jam, I notice a ZZ Top fan with a sense of humour…



I stop to get some fuel – the view isn’t exactly awful – the Bank’s thermometer reads 68º F – very nice



However, despite the good weather, I still feel like crap and, unable to locate a doctor’s surgery, check into a cheap motel and get my head down.
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:44 PM   #29
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10th March

Woke feeling a little better (still being cyber-nagged to go to the quack, though). I arrive at Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum at 1000…



It’s an excellent (& free!) museum, funded entirely from voluntary donations (as well as some fairly hefty ones from Aerospace Corporations ;)). The centrepiece of the atrium display is a 4-ship of A-4 Skyhawks, painted in the colours of The Blue Angels, the USN Aerobatic Team…



The museum is crammed with exhibits. Unfortunately, the lighting is not conducive to digital photography (not to mine anyway ), so I’ve only taken a few pictures. Exhibits range from the early days of flight to FA18s & F 14s. Many of the exhibits have been left ‘partially restored’ to allow visitors to see what lurks beneath the canvas…



I joined a guided tour. This old boy, Bob, gave a fair talk around the exhibits, but, embarrassingly, couldn’t field a single question in the hour that I stayed with the group. The end of each spiel became tense, as he asked if anyone had any questions – in the end I’m pretty sure people stopped asking, to let him save face…



They have an IMAX cinema and a flight sim you can have a go in. The IMAX is spectacular - doing aerobatics with the Blue Angels produces some real stomach-lurching moments .

As I get ready to leave, I find that my mobile phone is missing :(. I do a quick search, remembering I had it (to fend off some cyber-nagging) at breakfast. I ride the 10 miles back to the motel, to find that Abbi, the girl whose misfortune it is in life to clean up after people like me, had found it and was delighted I’d come back. I give her 5 bucks (today’s exchange rate – 23p ;)) and thank her sincerely.

I’ve had enough of Spring Breakers, beaches, traffic jams etc etc. I decide to head North into Alabama. ‘What’s good to do in Alabama?’ I ask Abbi – ‘Get drunk’ she replies – completely seriously

I switch the GPS to ‘idle’ and use my new compass to find my way North. Well, actually, I just rode away from the sea…

I get to Brewton and carefully select a motel next to the railway line – a fact that doesn’t become apparent until 0200…
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Old 05-05-2004, 08:01 PM   #30
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11th March

I wake at 0600, feeling like crap – again. No cyber-nagging today (out of mobile coverage ) – but I decide I’ll find a doctor today…

A few miles up the (excellent) back roads, I come across Dozier – and it’s well named – a sleepier little town would be hard to find ;) There I find the Dozier Family Health Center.



I drop in & I’m seen very quickly by Carol Morrison, the doctor. She gives me a thorough examination, a blood pressure test, a Cortisone (sp?) injection, a prescription for anti-biotics (I have bronchitis) and a bill for $75 (current exchange rate = 23p). She also gave me some anti-allergy pills she had on trial :eek – I take one immediately, and another at 1700. They promise to be non-drowsy – I can vouch for this – I feel completely wired

I continue North towards Cheaha State Park, which Jeff recommended as having some good roads (and some HILLS! ). The roads are splendid – well surfaced, dry and twisty. It’s 70º F and the bike’s going well (or is that the drugs?) – life is good…



I overtake a truck and notice something come past me – I check my mirror in time to see the compass I bought at Daytona burst in a shower of plastic as it hits the ground at 85mph… Poo.

I stop at the next town, Union Springs, to get my prescription filled ($68 – current exchange rate = 20p). The town is a pleasant, but apparently dying, little place. Back in the 50s I bet it was like the place in Back to the Future, but now it’s deserted, with many of the shops on main street empty (listen to the lyrics to ‘My Home Town’ by Bruce Springsteen – that’s Union Springs).

However, they have an English Pointer statue in the main street (the town holds regular gun dog field trials), so they get my vote…(English Pointers in the UK are trained to keep their tails parallel with the ground when pointing, whereas in the USA, the tail is meant to be vertical. So now you know.)



As I ride on through some fantastic hilly (but poorly surfaced) back roads (through Cheaha State Park – the highest point in Alabama), I notice some smoke on the opposite hillside and stop. The woods here are dry as tinder, and small fires can soon get out of control (this is also happening in Florida as I write)…



…a little further down the road, a fire crew is packing up – I tell them about the fire and they resignedly take details & thank me, before heading off in that direction, looking very tired…

In the middle of nowhere, I happen across a cemetery. I don’t know if there used to be a community here, or whether it’s local custom to bury your loved ones in the woods, but it seemed like a peaceful place to see out eternity…



I eventually get tired (or the drugs are wearing off ) and find a Super 8 motel in Talladega, and start taking more drugs… I turn on the TV and find that they’re showing the Blues Brothers on Turner South – Cab Calloway – Minnie the Moocher – epic!

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