After leaving our retirees / extended Rider’s Claw family, we headed towards Big Tom’s in Orlando in preparation for Daytona Bike Week. Tom had a nice spot in his side yard for us to camp and the first few days before bike week started, he took us to some local biker-friendly establishments.
I also took an afternoon to visit the folks at POA (Prosthetic Orthotics Associates). These are the folks that work in conjunction with www.50legs.org; and gave me the first two prosthetics. I’ve said before, that I would certain be behind in life by a little bit if not for this fine charity and POA.
On the first Saturday of bike week, we got to be part of a few of Tom’s decades-long traditions. We took a back road vs the interstate and stopped along the way to have a smoke and sip of water. We kicked off our fun at the Cabbage Patch, meeting several of Tom’s friends. From there we went to Main Street and aside from getting a decent photo, we were rather miffed that Sportster wasn’t allowed in the many outdoor venues. Needless to say, we weren’t planning to go back to Main Street. Frankly, I’m either getting too old or too crabby for the insanity of these huge crowds. My favorite piece of bike week is doing the Loop and heading to Flagler Beach. There are a lot of beach side venues that are biker-friendly and dog-friendly. On the original B.R.O.A.D. ™ journey I fell in love with Finn’s on Flagler Beach. They have indoor dining, 1st floor outdoor and upper level where you can look out over the beach. The weekend was full of fun and meeting new people.
I had to work Monday and Tuesday so I stayed in Orlando, but Daytona Bike Week just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t make it to Illinois night on Wednesday at Smiley’s Tap. The owner is a former Illinois resident and makes up some good eats for folks on Wednesday. It was a really hot day with a lot of riding and walking. We hung out at the Broken Spoke for a while and ran into Bean’re and my friend Dave.
Thursday was heating up early in the morning and being in a black camper doesn’t help. When I’m connected to 110 power I cannot run my AC along with other amenities. By late morning I was a mess. I ended up being very sick for two days. Friday was better but I had a lot of catch up work from the days prior. By Saturday I was right again and we went back to Bike Week. At Destination Daytona we saw a boat load of neat bikes and I picked up a few small souvenirs for loved ones. This entire time and all the touring about, Little Sportster was a real champ and loved all the attention she got.
One of my favorite highlights of the week was actually the morning visits Tom would make to the camper to say hi and chat before we began our days. Add to that the dinners we cooked during the week with his brother David. Tom came to me via FB from an Illinois buddy and over the years has truly become a dear friend.
During bike week I ran into a wicked cool vendor – Startz Customs. Keith the owner customizes cargo trailers like mine; only his are done super cool and high quality. After visiting with him a few times and getting to know each other, it was decided that I would visit him and his girlfriend Mary in Largo. We were to exchange a window in my camper for some website work he needed. And so, I headed to Largo after bike week and camped at a local site for a couple of days.
While there I heard from Marilyn, a cool chick I met at my first Daytona Bike Week on the original B.R.O.A.D. ™ journey. I saw her again the following year at Quaker Steak after getting my 2nd leg. I was there to support the 50Legs vendor booth when she approached me. All that time we had been FB friends and had little chats back and forth. Marilyn is heavily involved in the motorcycle community in that area and was kind enough to bring sandwiches to my camp one day, and then later rode with me to Quaker Steak, introduced me to some cool people, and even gave me a tank top from the local Harley Davidson dealership.
In order to meet Mary – the girlfriend of Keith from Startz Customs, we three got together for dinner. I reckon I behaved just good enough and just silly enough that she liked me. We were invited to stay in her home for a while. Keith takes his Startz Custom trailer to Quaker Steak and I went to shoot a video of his trailer that I could post on my YouTube channel. My good buddy Jeff showed up and I got to shoot the breeze with some of the 50Legs representatives (although I was disappointed that Steve and Stephanie didn’t make it out). After that we packed up the camper and headed to stay with Mary and Keith.
During our visit Sportster really found a play friend with Piper and they cracked me up every day running around and in and out of the house. For St. Patrick’s Day we hit a local venue and I met many of their friends. Throughout the week and weekend, we had dinners and took a really nice motorcycle ride to Fort De Soto state park. This is a beautiful park and I highly suggest a visit. These folks were so amazingly nice to us and I have made some more great friends.
And of course, I am super thrilled about having a window in my camper now.
While staying with Mary and Keith, I had learned from one of our members of DPWN Virtual Chapter that she would be speaking at a conference in Orlando. It was 2 hours away and a gloomy rainy day, but I am so glad I went. Not only did I get to meet Liliana, but the networking with attendees proved valuable. From that conference I secured a new client – Debra Smith, doTERRA representative. We’ve been working together on website and marketing plans for her essential oils business. In addition, Liliana learned a bit more about what I do and has hired my company for some basic administrative work.
And there’s no way I could be that close to Clearwater and not see my girl Karen from Illinois. She transplanted herself some years ago and met a really cool dude – I think his name is Fred – hahaha, that’s an inside joke. His real name is Bob but when I met him on the original B.R.O.A.D. ™ journey, for some reason I kept calling him Jim. Once he friended me on FB he teased me and started calling me Wilma. It has been our own joke for over three years now. My good buddy Jeff joined us for dinner as well but unfortunately my one-legged friend Rod did not make it out that visit.
After leaving Largo we headed for the FL/GA line where we intended to meet up with my good buddy Ed that retired to Florida after leaving Illinois, my high school friends Lori and Pam along with her wife Tabitha. In addition, I learned that Grace from Illinois transplanted with Donny to Savannah just that week but in the chaos of moving, I didn’t get to visit them.
I spent several rides and days hanging out with Ed. I sat on his porch to work and then we would ride. Again, I got to meet some amazing folks and take some beautiful rides. Beth his wife was always working so finally we had to go visit her if I wanted to get that hug.
Lori I met on her lunch break in Jacksonville; it wasn’t long enough but at least I finally got to see and hug her. I wish I had met her husband, but we shall save that for another visit. Pam and her wife Tabitha came to have dinner with me at my camp. We had a nice long visit, good dinner, and lots of catching up and learning what’s happened over the years.
I have to say that the Altamaha Regional Campground was super nice and right on a lake. The bathrooms were outstanding and Ms. Donna at the camp store was a gem. The only problem I had was lack of cell or wifi reception, so I had to work from town or when I visited Ed. That of course is not the campground’s fault, but other than that, I highly recommend the location.
My very favorite ride was taken just Sportster and I after leaving Ed and Beth’s house one morning. We took Hwy. 17 from Yulee, FL to Brunswick, GA. I have for many years had a fascination with abandoned buildings and this route has many. Hwy. 17 used to be a major thoroughfare until the interstate was built; after which, many businesses failed and many homes were left vacant. I am of the thought that this is not deterioration but rather beautification. I say this because it is nature’s way to always reclaim whatever man has built and abandoned. No matter how long it takes, nature will destroy what we place on her soil and she will take back the land that is her’s. What should’ve been 1 1/2 hour ride back to camp turned into 4 hours, but it was a magnificent day for an adventure. During our abandon buildings tour we worked up an appetite and smelled BBQ from a roadside venue. In the middle of almost nowhere, we met Mr. Reed, owner of Spring Bluff Food and Package shop. Mr. Reed has been making BBQ here since 1979 and once I had the ribs, I knew exactly why he survived the downturn in the area. I highly super positively recommend his BBQ.
During my time there, Ed wanted to finally do a photoshoot with me; something we have talked about for a long time. We both had different visions of different photos and there is a story to tell here, so please bear with me.
Ed and I both agreed on capturing me in various states of existence. The vision on each photo meant something both similar and different to each of us.
For these photos Ed’s vision was a simple woman; a mother, a grandmother. I agreed with the added caveat that I had to wear the necklace my son gave me for Christmas. The necklace reads, “MOM – I love you to the moon and back.” For me the tree represents a piece of my son’s life as he has always been my little climbing monkey. On the original B.R.O.A.D. ™ journey, whenever I would find a neat tree, I would set my selfie timer, climb the tree, and send the image to my son.
For this setting, Ed’s vision was The B.R.O.A.D. ™ at home – in the camper, quite natural. For this I again agreed with the caveat that I wanted at least one without my prosthetic on. The reasons are simple. For one thing, I am not ashamed of this vessel which carries my soul. It is flawed and damaged, but it is a sign of my strength and will to never give up. For another thing, just the day before this shoot, I saw a post from a young lady on an amputee support group I belong to; in her post she said she simply cannot bring herself to be photographed since becoming an amputee. By her profile photo, I can tell you that she is a very attractive young lady. I gave her my two cents and attempted to be encouraging. After the shoot I sent her my picture and told her that it’s only a body, only a vessel to carry the soul – what’s inside is really makes us beautiful or ugly.
This set was my idea because I wanted a neat picture I could share with my Nailmaille® family. They have been so good to me all these years and I appreciate them deeply. This was just for fun and sharing.
This last photo offended a Christian friend of mine but I am honored that she cared enough about me and our friendship to address me personally. I told her a brief story as to what this gesture means to me. I will tell you all now, in a little more detail, the story behind the “No Thank You” gesture. I’ve never really given “the bird” very much even when seriously ticked at a stupid driver or whatever. But, many many years ago after getting into motorcycles, I had my first hospital visit with an injured motorcycle friend. During that visit I took his one good hand and began to pray. The whole prayer is nobody’s business, but this piece I share with you… using my free hand I gave what I call the “No Thank You” sign and we told the devil No Thank You, we shall follow God and we told the grim reaper, No Thank You we will live to fight for another good day. Many folks will say my gesture and God do not belong together, but with the free will He has given us, you are entitled to your opinion. Over the years I have prayed this very same thing with many friends, motorcyclists and non.
During my own recovery I went through some very rough depression and even contemplations of suicide. At one of my lowest points, I sat in my room at Dad’s and wanted nothing to do with the world, until a text message came from my dear dear friend Squirrel. Many of my peeps from ULRB had gotten together for a ride that day and had won an award for largest representative group. That made me proud of course, but the group photo they took brought tears to my eyes and helped me remember that no matter how damaged I am (inside or out), there are a lot of people that love me and I couldn’t give up. Not everybody has received my prayer and not everybody knows the story behind the “No Thank You” gesture, and so I thought I’d share it more broadly.
As I told my friend that was offended, I am by no means perfect. I have done things I am not proud of. I have done things I am exceptionally proud of. And when I pray to my God, I tell Him of my conflicts and inner turmoil. I tell Him that I try to be better each day but need strength. I tell Him that I am not so sure about the man-written book called the Bible which is supposedly his life story. I am honest with Him and I take hope from the faith in a higher power and I take lessons from the book written in His honor. That is the short version of my walk of faith. Perhaps I will go to Heaven, perhaps I will go to Hell, or perhaps neither one of them exists. All I can do is try my best to be a good person, a kind person, and a friend to the humans that walk the earth with me.
There’s even more to tell you but I will hold that for another post since I’ve already typed your eyes off. I wish you all Peace, Hugs, and Pipes that Rumble ™.