Trip Diary Day 1 - Orlando to Ft. Myers.....
Our friends Ron and Mary flew into Orlando this morning for the first annual “Ride Around Florida” motorcycle tour. We were supposed to be joined by another couple, Glena and Dan, but Glena suffered a relapse of the “wayward kidney stone” affliction and they were unable to join us. I know they are disappointed, but there will be other rides and we certainly hope Glena gets well soon!
Cheryl and I collected Ron and Mary about 11:30 at the airport. We jumped in the car and headed for the Harley dealership. I’d dropped off my BMW earlier that morning, and Ron was renting an Electra Glide for the ride. We arrived just after noon, and proceeded to load the bikes. It’s amazing how much “stuff” you can get into and on a K1200LT. When we go camping, we manage to pack a 4-person tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 Thermorest pads, 2 fold up stools, a shade structure, cooking gear, clothes, rain gear, tools, and various electronic gadgets. Egads, but that’s a bunch of stuff! We have less on this ride, and by 12:30 we’re on the road.
The forecast for the day is ugly; a 70% chance of liquid sunshine (rain for you non-Floridians), with winds gusting to 35, and possibly even tornadoes. Just the kind of weather for a motorcycle ride….NOT! Actually, as we head west and south our of Orlando, the skies of overcast, but not too threatening…yet. We head west into Windemere, then out along Chase Road and Isleworth. Ron and I are verbally connected via the Cardo Scala Rider headsets, and we discuss perils of being Tiger Woods as we ride past his neighborhood.
Almost before we realize it, we’re turning onto Highway 27 having slipped around and out of Orlando. We make a brief stop at a 7-11 to grab a quick drink, restroom break, and make sure all is well with the bikes and riders. Our plan is to cover as much ground as we can before the really nasty weather arrives. On the road again (nice title for a song?), the GPS directs our journey along nice, quiet, traffic free two lane roads. These are the kind of roads that motorcycles were really made for. Not the” 4 lane, get the hell out of my way” interstates. It’s a nice ride, despite the ominous skies and threat of rain.
Our next stop is in Bartow, and quiet little farming/ranching town in the middle of nowhere. The clouds are lower now, and the temperature has dropped from 79 to 71. Ron, the only one who isn’t wearing raingear, decides now is the time. Good thing too, as the first drops of rain find us just a couple of miles down the road. With the raingear – well, the rain jackets anyway, as our pants are still tucked safely away on the bike, we all stay pretty dry. Such is the case until we hit the town or Arcadia.
As we are slowed in 5 mph traffic near a local High School, we can see a blackness in the distance approaching rapidly. It’s like a wall of water headed our way, and we get slammed with torrents of rain and winds that are easily 40 – 50 mph. Ron and I quickly agree that a motorcycle is probably the very worst place to be at the moment, and we scramble to find refuge. A short distance up the road, we turn left into a large shopping center, and literally ride the bikes up onto the sidewalk and under the shelter of the exterior canopy. We get quite a few looks from shoppers who are certainly wondering if we’ve really lost our way that badly in the storm. We are all pretty drenched from the waist down, but rather dry from the waist up. I pull out my trusty IPhone, and call up a radar image. We “oohh” and “aahh” at all the pretty reds, purples, yellows, and greens on the screen. If you are a fish or a boat it’s wonderful, but not very fun at all if your transportation has only a pair of wheels, and no windows!
Since we are only about 40 miles from our destination for the night, we decide to forge on once the winds let up a bit. The rain is still falling, but how wet can one get? It takes a bit of maneuvering to get the bikes off the walk, but we manage. The rain is still falling, but it’s just a steady rain now, not a “frog strangler”. As we roll along highway 31, I see red flashing light oncoming. There appears to be a wreck ahead of us, and we slow accordingly. We get to the scene of the crash almost exactly as the fire truck does, and discover a nice, new, Ford F150 pick-up truck lying on the driver side on the right side of the road. The driver appears unhurt, and is talking with another stopped motorist. The windshield is intact, and it appears it was a low-speed rollover. Thank goodness no one was hurt….other than that really nice looking truck!
The final miles of our ride into Ft. Myers are uneventful, and we stop to top up the tanks before we hit the hotel. We get lots of questions from other guests once we arrive, the most common of which is, “Did you guys get wet?” I guess standing at the front desk dripping wet from the waist down making a really big puddle just isn’t that obvious to some folks! We get checked in and thankfully there is a Cracker Barrel right next door. The hotel clerk is nice enough to allow us to park the bikes under the porte cochere, and the four of us head off to dinner….after we get changed and dried off that is.
After an excellent dinner with more food than any of us can eat we retire for a bit of rest. Day 1 is behind us. Tomorrow will be a ride across the Florida Everglades, and down the Keys to the fun city of Key West. Stay tuned. It’s not supposed to rain so perhaps we can break out the camera and add a photo or two to this adventure!