Tuesday, June 23, 2009

AK '09 - Day 3

I awoke before the alarm set for 7am. Since I  was expecting a long ride back to the main land, I got up and started packing the bike. As I was carrying the last of my things out the alarm went off. So I finished packing and rode up to the lobby to eat breakfast. It was definitely an improvement over yesterday's breakfast. I had instant oatmeal, toast and cranberry juice. I visited briefly with an older couple and then checked out.

I rode down to the southern most point of Key West and parked my bike in front for a photo. There was a nice couple from Georgia who asked if I'd like them to take my picture. One concern solved. I had been worried I wouldn't be able to get someone to take my picture. I could tell the husband was a little envious of my trip but I left him with a little ammo. I told him my wife didn't always ride with me but she was meeting me for the last week of the trip and that I hoped she could accompany me on future trips for the entire duration. I'm sure they had an interesting conversation after I left.

Next up, I needed to get my witness start form signed so I headed over to the police department. When I pulled in it was shift change at the firehouse next door. I said good morning to a guy getting out of his truck and he said he knew why I was there and would be happy to fill out my form. He even invited me to come into the firehouse. He filled out my paperwork and gave me a patch and t-shirt from the station. I'll have to see if there's a fire station in Deadhorse. Another concern resolved, I was worried about asking a total stranger to sign my form but he was eager to help and wished me safe travels. I'm definitely going to send him a thank you letter when I fill out my paperwork for this ride.

The last and final step to kick off the trip was to get the starting gas receipt. I tried stopping by a souvenir shop before the gas station but they weren't open yet. So I called Reagan to let her know I was unsuccessful in souvenir acquisition and then proceeded up the road to the first gas station I could find. While talking on the phone I missed the question to print a receipt so I had to go in for my receipt. Once that was done I pointed the bike north on Hwy 1 and started my Ultimate Coast to Coast ride.

This time I was prepared for the slow speeds so they didn't seem so bad. Plus I followed some locals who knew when to speed up and when to slow down. The ride was really smooth up to Key Largo and I was really making good time. But I knew I had to take a detour in Key Largo because of road construction and just before the detour I realized I was going to see the first rain of the trip. So I pulled off the road and put away things like the radar detector and zipped up my jacket. I was wearing mesh pants so I just accepted the fact that my lower half would get wet and I didn't think the rain was going to be severe enough to warrant digging out the rain covers for my gloves. In hind sight that was a mistake.

When I got back on the road I ended up a few cars behind an 18 wheeler. The detour was on a 2 lane road and the rain was coming down pretty hard so there was no option of passing. Top speed of the truck was 45mph so this put a real damper on my 'making good time'. But since the rain was coming down so hard, and the road wasn't very forgiving I sort of figured the truck was helping to keep me safe. Eventually I made it to the main land and even with the circumstances I made it in 2 hours, 45 minutes. The rain kept coming down and I was regretting the choice not to get out the rain covers. But I knew my gloves would fit better once they dried out so it was a small price to pay since I hadn't really broken in the gloves before the trip.

My Zumo led me up Hwy 1 to the Florida turnpike where I got to meet various toll attendants every 10 to 15 miles. The continuous stopping and my patience for paying tolls eroded so I existed the turnpike and jumped over to I-95. The Zumo tried repeatedly to put me back on the toll road, even after I reach I-95. When I reached Ft. Peirce it realized I really was on the more optimum route and rewarded me by shaving 10 minutes off my origianl arrival time.

The planned route for the day included 620 miles so I was prepared to stop twice before exiting the road for the day. Apparently that first 120 miles on Hwy 1 really helped the mileage because I didn't start my fuel guage count down until I passed 300 miles on the trip meter and finally stopped at 353 miles after leaving Key West. I put in just a little over 8 gallons so I don't think I could have gone to 400 miles but 353 miles and 6 hours was long enough in the saddle for me anyways. It was about 2:30 when I stopped for fuel, I had left Key West just before 8.

The rain had quit several hours earlier and the temperature was rising. I only had 4 hours of riding left after my stop but the temps were up, it was going to be a long ride up I-95 to exit 87 in Georgia. There were always drivers going faster than me so it was easy to keep it at 10-over. The biggest struggle was my boots had filled up with water thanks to the rain and mesh pants and now the sun was steaming my feet inside my boots. I tried everything I could to get some air flow into the boots but since I didn't have a spare pair of boots I knew changing socks wouldn't really help. So I pressed on while counting down the miles.

Finally I reached my exit and was pleased to see a plethora of eating choices all within walking distance. The motel looked like it was going to be an adventure but once I talked to the front desk clerk I felt a little better. He gave me a non-smoking room and then suggested several close places to eat. I unpacked the bike, took a shower and headed out for dinner at the nearby steak and seafood place. I should have probably walked a few steps further to the BBQ joint but at least the beer was cold.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to ride the Dragon and Hellbender then stay in Knoxville and Thursday I'll ride into St. Louis. Both days are under 500 miles so it'll be nice to get on the back twisty roads for a change. So far I've met some nice people and had a good time. I'm definitely enjoying the trip but will be glad to see Reagan on the 17th.

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