Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bald Eagles and Key Lime Pie

Another absolutely terrific Wizard's Wild Weekend is now just a memory...but what a really great memory it is!

My trip to Florida, using up another excess week of time-share, was carefully planned to coincide with Wizard's Wild Weekend, a get-together assembled by LD rider Kevin Healey and held at Cedar Key FL the first weekend of December. This year's was the fifth annual event and we were blessed with perfect weather.

The timeshare unit at Marriott's Sabal Palms was just about the most luxurious unit I've encountered in all my years of timeshare ownership. It was equal to the unit I had at The Ridge in Sedona for opulence and luxury.

But all good things must come to an end, and on Friday I packed up the bike and departed Lake Buena Vista, aiming the bike toward Gator Joe's on Lake Weir enroute to Cedar Key. A fellow MTF member sent me a most excellent route to get me to Gator Joe's, a route which had plenty of curvy, hilly roads and not much traffic. Perfect!!

Our group pretty much took over Gator Joe's, totally overwhelming the two wait-staff and probably sending the kitchen into a tizzy, despite Kevin's having called the restaurant a few days earlier to give them a heads' up. I had a most excellent crawfish chowder with a hunk of some of the best cornbread I've ever eaten. Very soon, though, the parking lot emptied out and many bikes headed northwest toward Cedar Key and the weekend adventures.


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Compared to the luxury of the Marriott Sabal Palms, the "condo" at Cedar Cove in Cedar Key was a little run-down at the heel but clean. I got checked in, unpacked the bike, and then headed toward the dock in search of a sunset view. In a couple of hours our group would be getting together for its first meal of the weekend: Dinner at The Rusty Rim.

I met up with a small group of MTF folks and we sat and chatted for an hour or so before it was time to walk across the dock street to the restaurant. It was here that I learned that I'd been elected to break a land speed record in the 350cc class. !!! More on this in a later blog (maybe).

It was a nice-sized group taking up nearly every available table in the upstairs dining room and I had a good-sized plate of fried scallops. I also had the opportunity to tell my "mudslide" story (Mud Slide) to the group, under the category, "Incredibly stupid things we've ever done on a motorcycle."

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I love coming to Cedar Key because it offers yet another opportunity to get a long run in, along roads that are quiet and mostly free of cars. This is a rarity when I'm traveling. It really breaks up the monotony of doing those long runs on the same ol' roads back home. So Saturday morning I got 6 miles in, running along 2nd Street to G Street then north and west along some nice rolling hills formed by ancient indian shell mounds. Cedar Key State Park is along the way and, if it's open, gives me a bathroom and water break at mid-run. My original plan was to do 9 miles, but I swapped the running schedule around a bit to get those 9 miles in the day before leaving for this trip. This uncomplicated things a bit for me, not needing to wear a hydration belt or bring carb gels along.

My return run route brought me right by Annie's for breakfast, where I joined a few of the latecomers and had an English muffin and coffee. I returned to the hotel - stopping briefly at the little market to buy bananas - just in time to get cleaned up and walk over to the dock area where a few dozen of our group were staging in preparation for their lunch ride to Horseshoe Beach.


Me?? I'm opting out of this lunch ride, having eaten enough in the last 24 hours to hold me over for days. There is such a thing as TOO MUCH FOOD!! Besides, I wanted to wander over to the artist coop and spend some money. I love this little shop and always buy a few small items while there. It's become a tradition for me.



Kicked back, lazin' around town a bit, I wandered into one of the nicer little restaurants on the dock, the Pickled Pelican, thinking I'd get something light for a late lunch. Oysters! I had a half dozen raw oysters last night with my dinner and am now craving them again today. Then a slice of key lime pie for dessert.


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The riders started returning from their lunch run and I met up again with the same little group that feel I'm the ideal rider to break that landspeed record on a vintage Honda CB350. Yeah, right. As we sat outside on the dock chit-chatting, my friend Steve came towards me like he was on a mission. Actually, he walked past me, heading directly for the little bar Coconuts on the first floor of The Rusty Rim. He was headed for the outdoor deck in the back, about the best place on the dock to witness the sunset. We ordered beers and sat out there until the sun went down and I was shivering from cold.


Dinner this night is at the restaurant Seabreeze, on the other end of the dock, so I walked over there and joined a group already seated...a great group of riders and just plain great folks. And a good meal, too...butterflied shrimp and field peas.

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I wanted to get on the road fairly early Sunday morning, but when I awoke at 5:00 AM I knew just how early I would be getting on that road. Light misty rain and some foggy patches greeted me as I pulled out of the parking lot at 6:45 AM in the dark to head towards home. With such a good early start, I might as well ride straight through towards home, not stop for the night as originally planned. So at some point along the way I would need to call the hotel and cancel my reservation.

After being on the road for about an hour, I was riding up US 19 when I spotted a very large brown bird on the shoulder. As I got closer, it leaped into the air, spreading its wings and lofting up toward a tree nearby. It was then that I got a very good view of its white fan of tail and white head. An American Bald Eagle!! Very cool! And so close! Where's that camera when I need it??

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The further north I got on US 19, the colder it got. I stopped to put on my electric jacket liner as I passed through Cross City. At the junction with I-10 I got gas and, as I pulled out of the station, friend Steve rode by on his unmistakable yellow Gold Wing. I mentally wished him well on his ride up to north of Marietta GA, as he has no GPS. (I later learned that he also lost power to his Gerbing heated gear and heated grips).

Somewhere along I-10 west of Tallahassee I stopped at a rest area so that I could put the quilted liners into my riding pants. The cold was a damp chill that seemed to be permeating all of my gear and was challenging my heated jacket liner. Temps along the panhandle never got higher than 48 degrees, sometimes dropping lower as the road dipped into hollows in the terrain.

I pressed on across the panhandle and stopped in Milton for gas and to call the hotel to cancel, as I was certain at that point that I would make it all the way home - all 875 miles - in one day and sleep in my own bed that night.

In Gulfport, MS I stopped again for gas and had a quick burger for lunch. It's not warming up at all! I had hoped that as I headed west it would get warmer, but no luck. A gas stop in Rayne LA and next thing I knew, I was riding across the state line into TX. Only 100 more miles and it's just getting dark. But....bummer!! Traffic was coming to a complete halt and I was now trapped between Jersey barriers and in among a few 18-wheelers!

We crept along, stopping, going 20 feet, stopping again, all the way to just east of exit 873 in Orange. This was very ugly for me, as the darkness, the brake lights, the headlights in my rearview mirrors were all very disorienting. At one point, the 18-wheeler to my left slowed down enough to create a gap which allowed me to slip over to the left lane. Thank you!! I think he did it just for me. Once I got in front of him, he and a truck in the right lane fell back, creating a rolling roadblock of sorts, giving me some breathing room and reducing the glare of headlights in my mirrors. Again, Thank you! as I feel they were doing it to help me out. It took me 35 minutes to go 6 miles, according to the GPS.

Once we merged into one lane we came up to where they were resurfacing one of the two lanes on the overpass. That's it. All of that stop-and-go for 6 miles just to get past this little merge and bottleneck. Once past this, traffic was wide open and I could fly to my next and final gas stop in Beaumont. Whew!! On the home stretch!

Nothing is sweeter for me than to come home from Wizard's Wild Weekend every year, turn the corner on to my little cul-de-sac to see all of the houses brightly and colorfully lit up with holiday lights! It happens every year. Leave in the dark, return to festive brilliance!

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