3/18/13 – It was time to pack it up, hit the road, and say goodbye to friends and to Daytona. I tell ya what; this day was truly the beginning of the journey. You see when I left Chicago I was intentionally headed to Dad’s and to see other family so I had lodging no problem. Daytona I had a bunch of friends so it was more like a vacation. But this day… this day was the first day that I truly felt the reality of riding to a destination with no plan of lodging and having to deal with the weather, regardless.
I left Daytona bound for Cocoa Beach. Oddly I did not find anything exciting that would make me stop, so I continued on a bit; headed straight into black clouds. I stopped for a $0.99 chicken sandwich and fries at Wendy’s and proceeded to check for campgrounds in the areas surrounding me – a tent site was $40-$45 – really??? I found a KOA in Clewiston for only $25 but at that point it was 150 miles away and the rain had already begun. What is with ME and RAIN?? So I powered forward and made it by 7pm. Drenched but warm, heavy rain soaked leathers, and sun nearly gone – I wasted no time in setting up my tent (still raining)… Once my gear was unloaded and bed made, I ran into town for food and beer. I ended up with boiled peanuts and beer. No big deal since I’m not sharing my tent – hehehe.
That was not the best night of sleep I have had. The rain stopped by the time I returned to my tent but the huge tree I was under continued to plop down drops all night. About 2AM I thought for sure I was going to be Part 2 of Dorothy’s story of Oz. The winds howled and whipped, shaking my little tent to and fro. Now most folks know, I am NOT a morning person, but since I wasn’t able to sleep, I got up at 6AM and loaded the bike. I headed to McDonald’s to do some work and received some updates on my laptop from Dave at Elite PC Experts.
3-19-13 After the reality ride the day before, my tiredness from lack of sleep, and general female emotions; I had to phone a friend to get my smiles started for the day. My son did not answer; so I reached out to my girl Laurie. We talked for a while and I felt a little better. At this point I was headed for Key West and to make another check on my Bike It List. And again, I was blessed. A buddy in ULRB connected me with a gentleman that retired in Key West and he had space for me. I made the 240 mile ride and checked in with Yahootie just in time to meet him and two other boys at Mangrove Momma’s at mile marker 20.
After a beer and conch fritters we headed to the house where I unloaded and took a shower. Later they took me to a local little spot hidden in a condo association and I cannot remember the name. We had a couple of cold beverages, watched the sunset, and then headed home. I had the best night of sleep I experienced in over a week.
3-20-13 I woke up refreshed and feeling great. Doc and Terry had to head back to Chicago. Yahootie stayed home and I headed downtown to experience all that Key West had to offer. My first stop was the southernmost point to take a picture of my bike. A biker must-do! My sponsor, Rider’s Claw and I put together a contest a few days prior to see who would guess the date and time I posted a picture of my bike there.
As I reached the downtown area of Key West there were bikers everywhere. At the Southern Most Point you really can’t park, so I stopped my bike a moment and was trying to take a picture of her in front of the buoy. A small group of bikers pulled up right behind me and one of them offered to take the picture. I was tickled for that. I shared my story briefly and gave them all my sticker. They said they’d chime in and pray for me, then I was off to see the rest of Key West.
I found that parking downtown in the hub was rather pricey – $10 for a bike for all day. I pulled into Hog’s Breath Saloon and parked. It’s a big biker hang-out and central enough that I could keep coming back for my beers and water that I brought. At $10 I was not about to leave anytime soon.
From the road I came in on, I was able to see the water dead ahead of me. The sun was still fairly low as it was just after 10AM. I put a beer in my Rider’s Claw coozie and headed off to take pictures (naturally). I was on a restaurant pier with dine-out seating just at the end of Mallory Square. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. There’s no questioning why folks retire here, but you better have lots of cash when you do it. I went into several of the shops and bars including the Key West Harley Davidson store. I stopped in the CVS for a water and found a cool water; yes, I’m a water fanatic… it’s electrolyte water.
I made my way back to Hog’s Breath Saloon for another one of my beers. I knew I wouldn’t be riding that bike for quite some time and I am a water drinker; so please don’t let this story make you think I was getting loaded alone. I’m extremely cautious, smart, and like to keep the paint on my bike. I sat at Hog’s Breath and ordered a splurge of a meal for me. A seafood sampler for $14.99. I deserved it and it was amazing. I truly miss great fresh seafood. Growing up in S. Carolina we fished, shrimped, crabbed, and raked for oysters all the time. In Chicago, the only way to get the very best seafood is to pay through the nose for it.
I asked the bar tender at Hog’s Breath where there was a public beach so I could get some sun. She guided me a few blocks down to what the locals call Bum Beach (yes, the reason is obvious). It was a tiny slice of beach with 2 homeless folks laying in the sun with all their worldly possessions. I walked out onto the short pier and sat for a moment with my feet dangling off the end. I was merely gathering my thoughts, enjoying the sunshine, and reflecting on making this journey mostly alone. I had not been there very long when 3 men approached where I sat. They weren’t homeless but they certainly seemed shady to me. One of them sat on the end of the pier next to me ; this little pier is no more than 4′ wide, so he was in my personal space. Then he asked for a drag of my cigarette. I gave it to him and when he tried to hand it back I just told him to keep it. He then asked me for a beer and I told him I had none left. At this point, I was getting a little uncomfortable and pissed off. There were loads of people everywhere so I didn’t think anything would happen directly, but I couldn’t take the chance of them following me. I grabbed my phone, excused myself as I stood up, and pretended to take a call. I had a fictitious conversation with a fictitious biker buddy. I was able to walk and talk and keep those creepers in my peripheral vision. In the event they could hear, began to follow, or had other buddies in the crowd I couldn’t know about, the fictitious conversation went something like this…
“Where the hell are you guys? I’ve been waiting for an hour and some weirdos are bugging me.” …… “Hell no I’m not gonna shoot them right here in Key West.” …… “Ok, great I’ll meet you there and if they follow me, I’ll let you boys handle them.” Needless to say, I never saw the creepers again. But it just goes to show that you have to watch your back.
I walked a ton of miles in all the stores, bars, and even to the west side where a local couple of bicycles guided me to a piece of beach. Now that’s more like it. It wasn’t a large section of beach and what I noticed is that most of the resorts have the beach fronts fenced off for guests only. That’s kind of stupid, but hey – I’m just a tourist.
I laid there for about 45 minutes reading my bible and catching up on my Facebook comments. Even when I’m all alone, I’m never really all alone. Thanks to social media and the wonderful people I have out there in the world, they’re always just a click away. A lot of folks have said they are living vicariously through my journey, and I’m glad to have them along for the ride.
I dusted off the sand and as I was leaving the beach my buddy Ed “Squirrel” returned my call of earlier. I had to check on my little buddy because he is having some heart issues. We talked the whole way back to my bike and I was smiling to have one of my boys on the other end of that call.
I continued the rest of my day going in and out of the bars, listening to music, talking to bikers about my journey, taking pictures with bikers, and just taking stock in the fact that I think I may have realized that no matter how much love I have to give, I am not a tie-down kind of girl. My best friend Meg, after spending a year hanging with me and my bikers, made an observation that I am “always on”. Yes, it’s true, I’m always running, making people laugh, planning and trying to help whoever I can. This day in Key West was a different kind of “on”. I chose to wander silently and I chose to talk when I felt like it. I do believe this is the icon of an Ursula kind of day.
It had been a long, hot day in Key West and I was definitely showing signs of the sun. But no matter, I had been told by many that the sunset from Mallory Square is a must. I made my way there and chatted in length with a couple standing next to me as well as a gentleman that lived locally. Mallory Square was audibly clicking… I mean really, the clicks of camera shutters nearly drowned out the people. I have been making runs to Mugz Hideout / Big Basin in Channahon, IL for years to catch the sunset there, but this what phenomenal.
Once that sun goes down the temperature really drops and with sunkissed skin I was catching a chill. I went back to my bike for a shirt and wandered around a little longer to see the nightlife version of Key West. Oh boy… the place was even busier than before and the live music reached out from every bar. There are some shady dealings in Key West as I’ve heard, so safety is crucial. I left downtown about 9:00, headed to the grocery store for my morning chocolate mild and a late night snack of chicken breast from the deli. Grand total spent in Key West; just at $40. I think that’s pretty good for a full day of sun and fun with a great seafood meal.
3-21-13 I woke up and downsized my gear (see blog post regarding this). After which Yahootie and I went for a late breakfast, hit the post office and were able to see the Budweiser Clysdales in the shopping center. As we were leaving, the Blue Angels were making practice runs overhead for an air show that weekend. I was packed and headed out at about 1PM. I was going to make my way to other connections in central Florida.
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