Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October and the Florida Keys, Part 2

Florida sunset.  It was spectacular and I took about a hundred photos.

The crew is here. Uncle Glen, Diana and me from Alaska, and Cyndi and John from Florida. Mike and Joyce came in to the airport on Saturday, Oct. 15, and then we took Mike to pick up their bike. What a kick. Boston through and through, and they are just lovely and so much fun to be around. We've got a super group and it's going to be one laugh after another.

Cheyenne and Cruiser, Cyndi's white shepherds.

We've spent a lot of time bar hopping, more in three days than I've done in probably 20 years. But each has been a great time with great visits with current, and new friends, and awesome music from my era, 50s, 60s and so on. Must be cuz there are lots of retired people here. Whatever the reason, I love it. Even got to dance a few times.

From left, me, Allen, John, Cyndi, Uncle Glen, Diana, Jimmy, Cindy, Mike and Joyce.  Terry, Cindy's husband is kneeling.  Joyce, Mike, Uncle Glen, Diana, Cyndi, John and I are heading for the Keys.

On Monday, the ride would begin. October 17. It never rains in Florida in October. Guess what. The Alaskans are here and the rain moved in.

We woke up to a light rain, and hoped it might move on. But there is a low pressure cell and it appears there may be rain for a few days. Wonderful. The up side is that the temperature would be in the high 70s / low 80s so it wouldn't be cold.

And that is what we rode in for 220 miles from North Port to the Hilton Hotel in Key Largo. On the way there were a few interesting moments. Coming up to a stop light, we had slowed when Diana and I hit our brakes. The back end of her bike, which is Cyndi's bike, slid out from under her. She straightened it up and slowly rode through the red light.

A split second later mine did the same thing. I looked ahead and saw I was on a collision course to hit Uncle Glen's bike, on which he was packing Cindi. I released the brake, looked to my left and saw no cars either there or moving into the interesection. I turned that way narrowly missing his bike, and also rolling through the intersection.

Diana and I both pulled up along the side of the street on the other side and wondered what had just happened to us. We weren't going fast, we did not hit any paint and no one else had skidded. We could only figure that we'd both hit an oil slick. Whew. A sigh of relief that we'd avoided a serious problem. We can only hope that the photo radar will not nail us and send us a ticket in the mail later, adding insult to a heartstopping moment.

We stopped about 60 or 70 miles down the road and had lunch at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries. They do burgers up right. A regular burger is a double. A small is a single patty. Yummy. The fries were homemade. What a great place to stop.

On we went, continuing in the rain. We gassed up at the Everglades Station, where a little river runs behind. Someone said there was an alligator so I went running across, stomping through a puddle. Well, guess it really didn't matter since my FXRG boots were waterproof and I had water on the inside up to my ankles. I never did put on the raingear they'd given, just my jacket and jeans. I made one concession which was to put on the helmet. We saw three alligators right there so I got a couple of photos. Love alligators.

Look at those beady little eyes.  I hope we see lots more of them.

We finally got to the hotel. It is beautiful here, but hard to really see since you are paying close attention to the road and other vehicles. Some of our idiotic drivers must have moved here. Had a red pick up trying to pass everything with oncoming traffic and pouring down rain on a two-lane road. Good thing a couple of cars moved over and let him in.

The Hilton Hotel is on the beach, which we could see from our room. We had to pay $15 per bike for parking and if you wanted Internet it was $12.95 per day. I think not. But the beds are awesome and we slept for at least 10 hours, soundly.

We woke up at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning (October 18). Uncle Glen made coffee for the Queen and Priincess. It's nice to have coffee in bed. But it's as it should be. Still raining off and on, but the weather looks like it's trying to change and get better. Hope so.

The weather did get better and we left amidst overcast and low-hanging clouds, but no rain. We stopped for lunch, and continued riding, onto the Keys, the reason for this trip. From key-to-key, over bridges, the 7-mile bridge. What a wonderful ride. It continued to be overcast, and got quite windy, but still a great ride as it was probably 80 degrees. About 15 miles out of Key West it started to sprinkle, then rain, then pound us. We hit monsoon-like conditions, ended up riding through a puddle the size of a small lake that came up to my floorboards. I put my feet up on the engine guards, hoping I wouldn't hit a pothole. The wind was hellacious, and we kept going, finally getting to the hotel. What a nice place, a Doubletree Inn. They gave us towels to wipe off with, chocolate chip cookies, and even had covered parking for the bikes.

Rain and wind from our window at the hotel tonight.

Last night the Hilton Hotel in Key Largo charged us to park, and nickel and dimed us for everything. Internet was $12.95 per day at the Hilton. No thanks. Doubletree head and shoulders above the Hilton. No more Hiltons.

Got to the rooms, ate and decided an early night was in order as we'd be doing the tourist thing tomorrow. Good night.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

October and the Florida Keys, Part 1

Uncle Glen, Diana and I all left Anchorage at about the same time, on red eyes, October 13. However, we were on different flights. They flew Delta and I flew Alaska Airlines, using a mileage ticket. Uncle Glen said that won't happen again. Those that travel together, fly together.

We arrived less than an hour apart on Thursday afternoon, and they went to get the rental car. I texted when I arrived and said I was headed to baggage. I got a text back that they were in the parking garage getting the rental, Hertz area. Second level. Got it.

After wrestling with two bags, pushing and pulling me on the escalators, I arrived at the Hertz counter but UG and Diana were nowhere in sight. What did we do before cell phones? A quick call and we soon discovered that I was somehow in the wrong place, perhaps too far at one of end the Hertz garage. As it happened, there were four different Hertz counters, each located in a different area. I was in area A, they were in B. Off I went.

As I trudged first down the escalator, across the roadway, back into the terminal and across, looking for another escalator, UG called. Where are you? I'm here, heading your way. Okay. Off I went again, down a ways in the terminal heading for those damnable escalators that were trying to kill me. UG called. Where are you? At the escalators, heading down then across to B. Again I grabbed my luggage and continued on. Again my phone rang. Where are you? I'm heading your direction; however, every time you call me, I have to stop to answer the phone because I cannot handle two pieces of luggage and talk on the phone at the same time. Oh. Diana popped on and said I'll meet you. Soon after we had a visual. Diana decided UG and I were Aretha Franklin and Betty White, both needing a Snickers bar to pull us off the edge.

Finally, into the car and on our way to a Cracker Barrell for food, and then to Cyndie's house for the first leg of the journey, to pick up bikes and so on. UG and I did the bike thing and went to WalMart to pick up water and snacks. It's amazing what you can fit into saddlebags and on the back when you aren't packing the kitchen sink with you. I also picked up a bag of emergency Snickers bars for Diana to distribute in the event of a diva sighting or a meltdown.

Dinner later with Cyndie, her John, and other friends, a beautiful sunset and all was right again in my world. A good night's sleep would also not hurt.