Saturday, May 10, 2008

Home Sweet Home

You know I'm a dreamer
But my heart's of gold
I had to run away high
So I wouldn't come home low
Just when things went right
Doesn't mean they're always wrong
Just take this song and you'll never feel
Left all alone

Take me to your heart
Feel me in your bones
Just one more night
And I'm comin' off this
Long & winding road

I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight, tonight
I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home
- Motley Crue

When my new boss asked if I could travel to St. Petersburg for a network installation project, my first reaction was “Sure! Sounds like a great bike ride”. I was to arrive in Florida on Sunday evening and be ready to work the first week of the project on Monday morning. I decided that I'd leave on Saturday and make a little detour on the way and visit my brother, mom, and friends in south Georgia and then ride the rest of the way to St. Pete on Sunday.

Saturday morning I finished packing and lashed down luggage, check to make sure I hadn’t forgot anything, rolled out of the garage, cranked the bike, closed the garage door and then realized I left directions to Sunday night's hotel on the dresser. So, back in the house to retrieve the directions. I headed over to QuickTrip to top off the fuel. (QuickTrip is a jewel of the Atlanta metro area that years ago set the standard of what a convenience store could and should be - clean, well lit, spacious, and well supplied). At 8:40am, I pulled out of QuickTrip (or as the locals call it "QT"), gassed and ready to ride. There was not a great deal of traffic so I passed easily thru downtown Atlanta and around Macon.

After a fuel stop near Unadilla and Vienna, I arrived at my brother’s house near Baconton, Georgia. Paula Deen went to school here at now defunct Baconton Elementary School where she fell in love with peanut butter balls (a recipe she features on her cooking show). I spent the day hanging out at my brothers. He recently had a pool put in. He had some friends over so I helped by cooking hamburgers for kids. My mom drove up from Pelham, so I assisted her peeling taters and tasting tater salad that she whipped up. That evening I rode over to visit mt friends Ray and Dawn. Several years ago when I met them, I was running a computer store in my hometown and was racing dirt track. Ray's son Michael started helping me with the racecar and before long he was my crew chief. Ray opened his shop to us and Michael soon was maintaining the car and his Dad's shop, and I was just dropping by for company. These days Michael is living in Mooresville, North Carolia (Race City USA) building chassis for Penske Racing.

Sunday morning I woke at 7:30am and could not get back to sleep. I had planned on dropping into the morning service at the church I used to attend in Albany but the service did not start until 10:30am. Unable to go back to sleep, I loaded up, said my farewells and started making my way across the state two lanes I knew by heart to Camilla, Moultrie, and Adel to reach I-75. A fuel stop at Adel and it was time for some interstate asphalt pounding. The running joke is Adel is so close to hell, you can see Sparks. (Sparks is 5 miles or so from Adel).


As I buzzed down I-75 south to Florida traffic was light and I drank in the surrounding country side that was buzzing by me. Near Gainesville, I realized I was low on gas. Low as in the fuel gauge said empty and the fuel light was on. How did I miss that? I noted a sign indicating a Cracker Barrel was 11 miles ahead, but about that time Rosie burped and died. I wiggled the powerless bike towards the right hand lane as we rapidly lost speed coasting. I popped the clutch a couple of times and Rosie refired and I hit the next off ramp for fuel. After getting refueld, I drove down the interstate the noted 11 miles and at noon wandered into Cracker Barrel for lunch. My timing could have been better as the local church crowd had descended and the place was packed. I found several bikes in the parking lot and managed to squeeze in a parking place. After an extended period of time, I dined on a open roast beef sandwich, a glass of traditional southern Sweet Tea and returned to the interstate. I projectile struck me in the cheek which I determined to have been a flying beatle. Unfortunately at 80mph it felt like being shot with a 22 caliber rifle. No blood, no big deal. After a few mile the stinging senstation stopped and only a little minor swelling on the cheakbone and all was well. About 30 minutes later a similar occurence took place with a strike between the top of my glasses and the visor of the half-helmet in my forehead. Funny little fatty tissue exists in the forehead, just skin over bone, so a bug hit there gets your attention. Again, no bleeding, no big deal.

I arrived in St. Petersburg, Florida at 3pm and began the process of finding my way to the hotel. After the first 5 minutes in St. Petersburg, I decided it would be best to ride with my left hand on my knee instead of the hand grip because there were so many other bikers to wave to as I rode thru town. This place was CRAWLING with bikes. Most of the other bikers were in t-shirts, shorts and no helmets. I wish them the best with all of that, I'll stick to the "all the gear, all the time" thing.


I arrived at the Bon Aire Resort Motel. The hotel sits right on the beach. It's an older motel but very clean and well maintained. The location is beautiful and accomodations are comfortable. I found Rosie a cozy parking spot in the limited parking in the inner-court parking near the pool unexposed to the busy road out front.

I unloaded, and was pleased to realize I had time to catch the last 150 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega. Aftre the conclusion of the race, I quickly changed into a pair of shorts and began walking down the beach - something I have to do whenever at the beach.



While walking down the beach, I discovered this awe inspiring resort. The Don CeSar Resort. The resort was built to resemble the Royal Hawaiian Resort at a cost of $1.2 million in 1928 by Thomas Rowe. It opened in the Great Gatsby era, a time when it ruled at the hot spot for the Tampa/St. Petersburg area with guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lou Gehrig, and Al Capone. Rowe died and his estranged wife (of 30 years) assumed ownership of the "pink lady" much to her dislike. she let it go to the dogs for three years until the U.S. Army took it over for a sum of $450,000 and made it a wartime Veteran's Administration convalescent center for injured soldiers. After the war, the VA used it for their regional offices. Finally in 1967, the VA moved out because the governments budget could not cover the cost of repairs required to operate the huge facility. The building then set abandon and left to ruin until 1973 when it was rescued, renovated, and reopened. Since 1985, the grand hotel has undergone several renovation projects to bring the old girl to the superior level of grandeur it now enjoys as a Loews Hotel. The Don CeSar is listed on the Register of Historic Places and the National Trust Historic Hotels of America.

Returning from the walk on the beach, I put on a pair of jeans, donned my leathers, fired up Rosie and headed in search of some Gulf Coast seafood. I stumbled upon
the Wharf. The hostess said the wait was 30 minutes for a table, I opted to eat at the bar. The bar proved to be a wonderful discovery. It sits on the intercostal waterway with boats tied up to the dock surrounding the bar. The windows were all opened so the patrons could enjoy the cool breeze and hear the seagulls. Service was fantastic and I soon felt like a local. They served up a pound of hot steamed shrimp seasoned to the hilt that were very tasty.

We worked most nights until 10pm and just grabbed sandwichs for dinner. But we did break away from it all on Tuesday night to try out a recommended place of dinner, the Hurricane. The view was great from the outside dining which was complete with a little surprised dropped on our table by a seagull. The food was just ok and it took forever to get our food. It appeared that we paid more for the scenery than the food. But we caught an awesome sunset before returning to work.

Wednesday afternoon the new boss called and asked if I could work the second week of the project. As the drive home was so long, they offered to buy me a plane ticket home for the weekend. I rode over to my Dad's in Lakeland late Thursday night so Rosie could sit in the safety of his garage while I was gone. I flew home Friday and back to Florida Sunday night. On the ride back from my Dad's late Sunday night around 11pm on I-275, Iam in the left lane passing two cars that are side by side in the right two lanes, just as I clear the cars and start to signal to change back into the center lane, a kid on a riceburner flies between me and the car I was passing. He was donned in shorts, awife-beater and no helmet. If I was forced to guess, by the way he dissappeared from site, he was pushing 150mph. I wish him a lot of luck with longevity with that combination. My heart rate eventually settled and I made it back to the Bon Aire without issue.

Monday we worked until 1:30am. We made it back to the room around 2am. I laid down on the bed a died. Fortunately a Starbucks was located on the way back into the office at 8am.

Tuesday we managed to get out of the office and back to the rooms around 7pm. I hit the beach for a walk and grabbed a couple pics.


Thursday we managed to get out a little after 4pm, so I managed to walk down the beach, play in the waves a bit, sit in a chair on the beach and read for a couple of hours. For my last dinner at the beach, I rode back down to the Wharf for a pound of steamed shrimp.

Friday morning I awoke at 4:30am. Why I have no idea. I had the alarm set for 5, but woke up 30 minutes early. I decided to make the most of the situation, got dressed, strapped the luggage on Rosie and made my way thru the toll plaza, across the connector bridge and towards the interstate. I reminded myself to keep an eye on the fuel better for the return trip.


I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight, tonight
I'm on my way
Just set me free
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home Sweet Home
Yeah
I'm on my way
Just set me free
Home Sweet Home
- Motley Crue

I stopped at Lake City for gas, and a serving of maple pancakes and coffee at the Cracker Barrel before returning to I-75 north. Before long I was greated by the big peach and a welcome to Georgia sign.

In all their planning and infinite wisdom, GADOT has managed to make a mark on travelers on I-75. The interstate is a collection of construction zones from the Florida-Georgia line all the way to Macon. Amazingly, this construction has been going on since 2000 and is not anywhere close to completion. Between Valdosta and Cordele came the next gas stop and the opportunity to recall rural South Georgia and state not-so-maintained roads.

Near McDonough it was a Coca-Cola and bathroom stop. Atlanta soon came into view and an opportunity to appreciate that motorcycles are allowed to use HOV lanes. The trip through downtown is a scene of familiar sites, passenger jets on their final approach to the airport, the old defunct ford factory, Turner Field (home of the Braves), and the Varsity.

I arrived home around 1:15pm. The trip odometer on Rosie shows 1335.5 miles. I look forward to catching up on my sleep.

6 comments:

Ronman said...

Great post Allen! I've run all over south Georgia. In fact I went to Albany three times one week and two the next for a year. Damn I miss that place. Been many a year since I was in St. Pete but I sure could go for some of that shrimp. Loved all the photographs too man.

Thanks

Ronman

"Joker" said...

Nice road trip! You are a lucky man to have a job where you get to do something like that. What I wouldn't give!

Almost 10 years ago, when my folks were in Ocala, my wife and I went down for a few weeks to visit. We made the run from Ocala up to Atlanta to visit some friends. Even though I was in a car, I remember how much my wife and I enjoyed the drive. As memory serves, the DOT hadn't made there mark near Valdosta yet, and the scenery was spectacular.

All of a sudden I have a strange craving for some shrimp...

Ride Safe!

A-Ron said...

Read like a great road trip.

Thanks for confirming why I always ride with a full-face helmet. :P

irondad said...

Nice job telling the story and thanks for sharing. The bittersweet part is that when the highlights are listed, there's no room for the rest. What I found most appealing was the "between the highlights" unwritten things. I thought about the times of just riding and soaking it all in. Those aren't always things we write about but can be the best part.

Lady Ridesalot said...

Great story Allen! Loved the pics. One of my favorite things about the Gulf, is the seafood. Glad to hear to you got to enjoy the local fare and soak up some good ol' Florida sunshine.

FLHX_Dave said...

That was a great journey brother. I have to get out on on a long one here soon. I'm longing for a ride of solitude. Think I am going to go see my Dad. That should be good for 1800 miles of road. Thanks for the inspiration. Nice picts and thanks for sharing.