Monday, November 22, 2021

St. Pete (Florida) Bikefest: November 2021

 Rode over to St. Petersburg with some friends yesterday.  Not a lot of people, not too many vendors.  I’d say there were more law enforcement officers there than there were vendors.  

This was the first year of having this event at Bert’s Barracuda HD and not at the beach resort   

Looked inside OC Choppers but it was really more of a restaurant than a OCC museum. We all had burgers.

The weather was nice though it threatened to sprinkle.  The band (Phoenix) rocked.  Only 4 event t shirts for sale…only 4 total.  One rack.  None in XL.  Just weird.  

Walked across the street to Quaker Steak and Lube.  Also a good live band.  About the same number of vendors.  

I guess the best news is that there was no $10 charge to enter because that would’ve sucked.

Since there’s not a lot happening this time of year, we’re riding to all of the bike shows, big or small.  And as my buddy Joe reminded me, it’s about riding with your friends, not so much the show itself.  

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Arcadia BikeFest November 2021

If you’re in Florida, you know we have year round riding.  And this is the time of the year when the bike fests are happening: Daytona, Arcadia, Leesburg, St. Pete, etc.

So when one of the regulars in our group mentioned Arcadia—a 70-mile ride through some pretty East Tampa backcountry—we all saddled up.  

I met Patrick in Wimauma where a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts were gathering. After sharing possible routes to Arcadia, Patrick and I rode down the 301 to Bradenton and met the rest of our group—Paul, Ralph and Joe.  

We discussed the half dozen or so route options before agreeing to just play it by ear and skip any traffic.  Done.

We rode east on the 64 to the Ona cutoff, passing by Herb’s Limestone Club, a classic motorcycle hangout.  It looked a bit empty as most of us were heading to Arcadia.  

We passed quite a few bikes, either solo or in groups, on the way.  The weather was brisk when we started (low 60’s) and finally warmed up to 70. The sun was shining and it was a great ride.  

Arriving to Arcadia, we paid $5 to park right off Main Street even through parking was free almost everywhere.  We wanted the convenience of being close by and safety of having someone watch our bikes.  

There were quite a few people up and down the street but not a lot of vendors.  We grabbed beers and walked along admiring the many cool bikes.  Talking with fellow motorcycle enthusiasts is one of my favorite things at these bike fests, and that’s what I did.  

Since Arcadia is known as an antique town, we poked our heads into a few shops, too.

When we reached one end of the street, we popped into the old saloon for more beers.  It was crowded and crazy—music blaring and people laughing.  What a great time.  

We headed down the other side of the street admiring the bikes and chatting with the other riders. A couple of us picked up the obligatory bike show t-shirt but that’s really all we bought   

By the time we’d seen it all, we agreed on a Mexican place for lunch so we hopped on our bikes and headed to Blue Tequila about a mile away.  

Full of good chow, we took a different way back, heading west, then north on Verna-Bethany Road.   Patrick and I cut off on the 675/Rutland Road to Parrish and the 301 as the others took the 64 back home.

Maybe 150 miles round trip.  A fine time was had by everyone.  

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Daytona Beach BikeToberFest: Oct 14-16, 2021

Four friends and I just rode from Tampa to the Daytona BikeToberFest.  We left on a Thursday, spent the whole day on Friday doing on at Daytona HD, Main Street and the Speedway and then we rode back through Leesburg on Saturday.  It was an absolute great time and I wanted to mention a couple things I saw and did while I was there.  

This was the first time any of us had been to BikeToberFest, though we’d all been to Bike Week in the Spring, so that was our baseline for judging this event.  

We took the 75 north to Ocala, then 40 east and the 111 north to the hotel in Flagler Beach…and that turned out to be a really good route; no traffic (but a lot of bikes) and and plenty of beautiful scenery.  

We stayed on the Palm Coast just about 20 miles north of Daytona and that turned out to be just perfect.  The place was full of other motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the US, so that was cool.   

On Friday morning we left early and went down to Harley Davidson of Daytona (Bruce Rossmeyer's HD) right off the 95 and they were gearing up for a big crowd.  They had a couple stages, beer stands and all sorts of vendors. We stayed about an hour and a half then we took Highway 1 over to Daytona and parked by the Boot Hill Saloon.  The CMA guys managed that particular parking lot right off of Main Street. Only $5 and that included a blessing of our bikes!  

We probably spent 4 hours there walking up and down Main Street and going down to the pier.  We got beers at different places like Boot Hill, Froggy’s, Joe’s on the pier and a “couple other places.”  We ate lunch at the Cruisin’ Café and there was no real wait.  It was pretty good food, decent prices, OK beer selection but they didn’t have anything on draft—it was all in bottles or cans.  I think everybody bought shirts and stickers and things like that. 

We then rode over to the Speedway where there were a whole bunch of other vendors set up.  On the way there we passed the Indian dealer who was doing demo rides. When we got to the Speedway, BMW was set up and they were doing demo rides on about six or eight of their different bikes.   There weren’t a lot of people there but it was still a lot of fun. 

After about an hour we left, taking the 95 straight back up to Flagler Beach. 

We’d heard about the Ormond Scenic Loop and we wanted to try that on Saturday morning. Yes, there was some information on it but not a lot of specific information. Some sites said it was a single loop, others said it was a double loop.  I ended up just taking what I thought was the best route: Leaving the Flagler Beach area and riding south down the Dixie Highway; that’s the tree covered route that everyone talks about and it’s pretty cool.  Four deer crossed right ahead of us at the beginning of the ride.  We rode that all the way to the bridge on Granada.  We took a left and went over to the coast and took the A1A straight up to the 100, which is Flagler Beach again.  Then, instead of riding south through the state park (Tomoka?) we were looking for (I missed it), we took the John Anderson Highway south instead… and that was pretty nice with very few stop signs.  Once we reached Granada again (CR40), we went over the bridge and headed westbound toward home.  I highly recommend the Ormond Scenic Loop, and specifically the way we did it (South on the Dixie Highway, North on the A1A).  

When we got to Highway 19 we went South and made our way over to Leesburg for lunch. Some of the guys had been to the bike rally at Leesburg before and it’s pretty much a ghost town when no bikes are there. After chow, we took backroads —basically riding down to CR 39 through Plant city— on our way back.  Again, light traffic and very nice country roads. A great way to end this ride. 

The one thing I didn’t get to do was to ride on the beach.  It’s $3 for 15+ miles of hard-packed beach sand and I would’ve like to try that.  Also, we saw no Harleys or fake boobs.  None at all. 🤣

Would I do BikeToberFest again? Probably not.  It’s a nice area to ride to and around but unless you want crowds and the same old vendors, it isn’t too exciting.  However, interacting with other bikers and riding some nice beach and backroad areas is well worth a visit.  

Thursday, September 30, 2021

KLR 650 Multi-surface Ride, East Tampa, September 2021

Some of you might know that I bought an old 1998 Gen 1 Kawasaki KLR650 a few months back that hadn’t been running for about 15 or 20 years.  It was bone stock and had 36,000 miles on it. 

I’ve been doing some work on it: I had to get the carb cleaned up, I changed out the brake lines and pads, a rebuilt rear master cylinder and put on a larger front brake rotor… stuff like that. I’ll likely leave it fairly stock.  Or at least I won’t over-farkle it.  

Anyhow, I wanted to get it out and see how my tinkering efforts have been going and so I took it on a multi surface ride today.  I got onto some new pavement, some old pavement, some very bad pavement, gravel, sand, hard pack dirt, mud and some deep water crossings. It did fine on all surfaces. I have those Tusk DS ADV tires front and rear and I really like them. Sure, they dance a little bit on the pavement but they do great everywhere else.  

I went to through the small towns of Sun City Center, Wimauma, Fort Lonesome, Duette and Parish…a couple big loops really. I was just kind of testing out the different dirt roads that I could find.  

Today’s ride was only 75 miles total. My top speed was 95 per the speedometer, though it turned out to be only 91 per GPS. The bike cruised really well at about 75 MPH at 5000 RPMs and that’s where I like it.  

Anyhow, it was a very nice day to test out this bike and so far, so good.  I can see I still have to do a few things. For example, my boot wouldn’t get under the shift lever.  I’ve been riding around with flip-flops for the last couple months while I was working on it so I never had a pair of boots on; now I see that I do need to get an extended shift lever.

Now….to plan a decent overnight ride in some Florida backcountry! 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Brain Damage/Eclipse

People are funny,” said the man who sat next to me on the Southwest flight from Baltimore to Tampa this morning. 

I nodded and grunted somewhat of a response , wondering why he would sit next to me when there were plenty of other seats available. I moved closer to the window and focused on a crossword puzzle as he continued to speak...maybe to me, maybe to himself. 

“The world is going crazy. It’s already crazy! Just unbelievable.”

I subtly nodded, afraid that if I verbalized a response, he’d continue to engage me in conversation.

“It’s like that Pink Floyd song about losing your sanity.”

“Brain Damage,” I mumbled, as I turned toward him.

“And Eclipse,” he added.

“That’s right,” I said as I smiled. I might not be one for airplane chatter, but I sure like the Dark Side of the Moon album.

He continued, as I feared he would: “Hey, I’ll admit that maybe I’m the one who’s crazy. I’m the one who’s losing it. Maybe everyone else is sane.  I dunno.  I just don’t know...”

I pondered his words as we sat there in silence. The other passengers streamed by and stored their luggage as the flight attendants tried to get everyone in their seats. 

A too-big lady sat heavily in the open isle seat and struggled to buckle her seat belt. 

“I guess it’s just us,” she exclaimed as she adjusted the armrest.

“Yep. On to Tampa, huh?” And that was the end of that conversation.

My possibly insane or going insane seatmate seamlessly continued where he’d left off: “I mean, who’s to say who’s crazy and who’s normal? I feel normal. You seem normal. I don’t feel crazy. No one has told me I’m crazy. I suppose it’s all in my head.”

“What’s in your head,” I asked. 

The large lady in the isle seat looked sideways at us then opened the inflight magazine. 

The maybe crazy man just sat there thinking. After a few seconds, I determined that he no longer wanted to speak so I put my head against the bulkhead and tried to snooze.

I must’ve fallen asleep as I was nudged awake with, “Pretzels?”

My obese seatmate was holding two bags of pretzels in her big hand. 

“No, no thanks. You can have them.”

She opened and ate both bags as I groggily looked around the plane. My going-insane traveling companion was nowhere to be seen.  I thumbed through the airline magazine as I waited for the man to return. Had he changed seats or just gone to the lavatory?

After a few minutes, I turned to the big lady to my left and asked where our fellow traveler had gone.

While brushing crumbs from the front of her blouse, she responded, “Who, honey? It’s just us.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Crystal River ride: August 2021

Well, this doesn’t suck…

That was the underlying theme of the ride for the past 3 days.  And it really didn’t.  

The ride was supposed to be Tampa to Crystal River where we’d stay for two nights.   A full day would be dedicated to exploring the small coastal communities of the Nature Coast/Big Bend area of Florida: Steinhatchee, Horseshoe Beach, Suwannee and Cedar Key.  

Though the ride didn’t go exactly as planned—a bit of rain necessitated a slight detour—we all had a great time.  The bikes ran well, we all got along, we saw some spectacular scenery and met some nice folks.  We also ate well and downed a few drinks by the pool.  

The guys I rode with were PGA Paul, Paul 2, Ralph and Joe.  The first three guys ride Harley baggers; Joe and I were in our BMW R1200GS/GS Adventures, though his has a cool sidecar rig.

This group has ridden a lot of miles together, so we are pretty comfortable riding with each other and hanging out after hours. Yeah, these guys are a lot of fun.

We left Wimauma, where we met on Monday, and took a really nice route through some back roads out east to Fort Lonesome, then north on Old 39 through Plant City.  From there it was just county roads to Brooksville and then into Crystal River.  A very nice day and a perfect way to start the ride.  

The next day it looked like the weather was going to cooperate as we headed northwest toward Steinhatchee.  However, just about 20 miles into the ride— at about Otter Creek— we ran into a downpour—residual rain from Tropical Storm Fred.  We pulled over into an abandoned gas station to reassess the situation and decided to ride down to Cedar Key instead.  Most of us had been there but PGA Paul had not so it was a nice little ride.  Once there, we saw the town, had a drink and then took a different route back up to Highway 19. 

From there we decided to skip the northern towns and head over to Yankeetown, which was south, between Cedar Key and Crystal River, and that turned out to be a really good decision. We found a great restaurant right on the Withlacoochee River.  After lunch we rode down to the gulf where we watched manatees playing in the brackish water.  

From there we headed south, back to Crystal River, where we raced the Ozello Trail down to the gulf.  That was my third time on that cool little road and it’s still a lot of fun.  

With that, we headed back to our cool, Old Florida hotel.  Right on the Crystal River, the pool was actually spring-fed and had a natural bottom…along with plant life and fish.  The 72 degree water felt fantastic after riding all day.  

Instead of getting back on the bikes for dinner, we ordered pizza and Joe and PGA Paul went to get it in the sidecar.  Pizza and drinks with friends around the pool doesn’t suck at all.  

The next day we packed up and headed back toward home.  We stopped for breakfast at the Florida Cracker Kitchen in Brooksville and it was just perfect.  From there we planned to take backroads back south but Ralph got caught up in traffic and lost us around the Richloam area of Tarrytown.  We all decided to just find our own ways back from there.  

A couple hours later we all started receiving texts that we’d all made it back despite a minor snafu.  

There aren’t too many things better than spending 3 days on motorcycles with good friends.  And we’re already planning our next ride.

The ride didn’t suck at all.