Friday, March 5, 2021

Barber Motorsports Museum, March 2021: Ride Report

Alternate Ride Report title: Mild Hogs at the Museum.  

Up until last year I hadn’t even heard of the Barber.  Once I researched it, I knew I had to go.   So I bounced it off some of my riding partners and they also wanted to see it.   We agreed that the Spring would be a good time to ride up to Birmingham so the planning commenced.  

In short, we planned to ride 600 miles each way, from Tampa to Birmingham, doing 300-mile days.  We wanted routes that kept us off the highways and on smaller country roads.  

The four of us met at my place on Monday morning, ready to go.  There were two guys named Paul on Harley baggers and Joe was on a BMW R1200GS, just like mine (except that his has a very cool sidecar attached to it).  An interesting fact about the riders: We represented 4 different age group generations: 50’s to 80’s! It was a bit brisk as we rode off at 9am under blue skies.

The first leg of the ride was to just get us out of Tampa, so we hustled up the I-75 to Bushnell.  We then headed west, taking the 48 to the 44 to the 19, passing through small towns like Floral City, Inverness, Crystal River, Chiefland, Cross City, Athena and Perry before turning onto the 27 for a nice ride into Tallahassee.  

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for riding motorcycles.  Ah, but that was about to change...

The rain started less than 20 minutes after we checked into our hotel.  And it continued through the night.

The next morning, we all donned our wet weather gear and resigned ourselves to riding in the rain.  And we did.  All. Day. Long.

The rain wasn’t terribly heavy, though it was constant and soaking.  And it was cold.   It was in the low to mid-40’s for most of the day, so even my heated grips didn’t help much.  We stopped outside of Dothan, Alabama to dry out and enjoy a hot meal.  We mostly complained about the cold and the rain in between bites of our lunch.

We rolled into Leeds, Alabama—just a couple miles away from the Barber—at about 4pm.  After unpacking and putting away the bikes, we all had hot showers.  I must’ve stood in the shower for 10 minutes.  We ordered pizza and talked about the day.  While the riding wasn’t difficult, it definitely wasn’t fun.  

The good news was, the rest of the week was supposed to be spectacular, weather-wise.  Over drinks and pizza, we recounted the day’s events, laughing at our earlier frustrations. 

The Barber Museum was better than expected...and we had very high expectations.  We arrived when it opened at 10am and spent the next 6 hours viewing the incredible bikes on display.  Among the many cars were 900 motorcycles of every year and type.  

We started on the 5th floor and walked through every inch of the museum.  It was really something.  Later, each of us spoke about seeing motorcycles we’d previously owned—especially the first bikes we’d ever owned.

Because it wasn’t busy at all, we were able to spend as much time as we wanted with the motorcycles.  Though no docents were working due to COVID19, a couple of extremely helpful and knowledgeable employees went above and beyond to tell us everything we wanted to know about any motorcycle we asked about.  

We walked out at 4pm completely overwhelmed.  We’d enjoyed the museum as a group or on our own for 6 hours and we’d likely still not seen it all.  We all agreed that the Barber is an incredible place and a must-see place for motorcycle enthusiasts.  

On Thursday, the weather was beautiful so we took a detour on our way south to Tallahassee: We rode down the Talladega Scenic Byway—described as Alabama’s most scenic drive.  That pretty little road also passed through Cheaha State Park and went over Cheaha Mountain—the state’s highest point at 2,407 feet above sea level.  We eventually made our way south through Georgia and into Florida, arriving to the hotel after dark.  

Our final day, Friday, we left Tallahassee under clear skies and temperatures in the low 50’s.  As we backtracked Monday’s route, we enjoyed perfect riding conditions as it warmed up.  We encountered little traffic as we made good time heading home.  By 2pm, we’d reached Bushnell and said our goodbyes.  From there it was a quick ride down the I-75.  

To sum up the week: The riding was fantastic and the museum was world class, but what made this ride so special was the company.  Truly, my three friends were the perfect traveling companions.  

Later, one of the Paul’s sent a text asking, “Well...where to next?”

And the planning commences....