Northern Loop

day2Wednesday was a little bit cooler, but sunny, and there was no rain in the forecast. I put the liner back in my jacket, put on an extra layer under it, and switched to my leather gloves. I was on no schedule at all today, since I didn’t have to worry about picking up or returning the bike. But I did have a couple of specific destinations I wanted to see. So after once again fighting traffic out of Orlando (Florida has the longest stop lights I’ve ever seen), I headed northeast – back to the coast, and toward Daytona.

I was a couple of months early for Daytona Bike Week, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to head back to the coast, and to see a couple of sights in and around the Daytona area. My first stop was Daytona International Speedway. There’s a lot of racing history here, and not just in NASCAR. As a motorsport nut and amateur racer myself, I wanted to at least stop in and see the place.

TIMG_1149he track was impossible to miss as I rode down International Speedway Boulevard. They’re doing a great deal of construction there at the moment – Daytona Rising, they’re calling it – so it was a little tricky to find the correct entrance, but I found it and made my way to the visitor’s center – where I parked next to another Harley Street Glide. I had just missed a track tour, and the next one wasn’t going to be for well over an hour. Had I arrived a little sooner I would’ve taken it, but since I’ve been to (and driven) a few race tracks in my life, a track is already a familiar place to me, so I settled for checking out the visitor’s center and gift shop. I ended up buying myself a new hat.

From there, it was only a few minutes up the road to Holly Hill and the offices of Grassroots Motorsports and Classic Motorsports. I’ve been a GRM subscriber for years (like I said, I’m a motorsport nut). Ten years ago, in fact, some friends and I entered GRM’s $2004 Challenge to buy, build, and race a car for less than $2004. There’s a picture of me driving that Saturn SL2 in the autocross in the August 2004 issue.

IMG_1154The first thing I noticed when I walked into the lobby was their Factory Five 818 project car, with the hood removed and a battery charger hooked up. On the other side was a beautiful classic two-door Mercedes. (I don’t know the classics well enough to remember the exact year or model.) Gary introduced himself to me, showed me around a little bit, and of course we car geeked some. He apologized for not having more project cars in the lobby. I wasn’t worried about it. On a tip and a well drawn map from Gary, I took a short detour to have lunch at Teri’s Place, a small mom and pop restaurant – the kind I like. It was very affordable and the food was yummy.

Then it was time to ride. I rode back the way I came, picked up A1A again, and headed north. The GPS told me I had a good 50 mile ride straight up the coast to St. Augustine ahead of me, so that’s exactly what I did. There was less development along here, with quite a bit of beach and ocean visible from the road, and many places to pull off and park. I stopped a couple of times to check out the scenery, and to run the camera for a little while as I rode up the coast. It wasn’t an exciting ride, being a 50 mile straight line, but it was enjoyable, and once again the Harley was a good tool for this job. I caught up to a couple of other Harleys at one point and rode with them for a while until realizing I needed gas. I lost them when I pulled off to refuel.

IMG_1159Once at St. Augustine Beach, I plotted a non-highway, non-toll road route back to Orlando on the GPS. (There are a lot of toll roads in Florida.) It figured one out that would get me there around 4:00. I didn’t mind taking a longer way, so I arbitrarily threw in the small town of Satsuma as a waypoint that would take me by St. Johns River and Crescent Lake. The trip back to the hotel seemed long, and mental fatigue set in about an hour outside of Orlando. I suppose that’s what I get for not riding for a few months, then riding over 500 miles in two days. I was feeling it mostly in the brain, though, and not in the body. The Street Glide was perfectly comfortable.

I hit Orlando rush hour traffic, and fought my way back to the hotel. Actually, I fought my way to a strip mall shortly before the hotel. When I found myself stuck there, I spotted a pull-through from the mall parking lot into the gas station next to the hotel. I had to return the bike with a full tank of gas anyway, so I took care of that, and then found yet another pull-through right into the Red Roof parking lot. I parked and unloaded the bike, then called it a day for riding. I had dinner at the Ale House again – a chicken parmesan that I should’ve gotten one of the previous nights. There was so much food that I could’ve eaten half of it, put the other half in the refrigerator in my room, and heated it up for dinner the next night. But it was no big deal – I was hungry, and ate nearly all of it.

Back in the room, I allowed myself some time to relax, then packed as much as I could for the trip home. I’m not a morning person, so I got everything prepared the night before that I was able to, while I still had brainpower. I also test fit my suitcase on the back of the Harley to make sure it would fit, and to figure out how to tie it down with a couple of bungee cords I brought all the way from home for that exact purpose. After working that all out, I settled in, watched some TV, then went to sleep.

IMG_1160I was up before the alarm, which gave me plenty of time to have some coffee, finish packing, and load the bike. I had to return it to EagleRider by 9:00, and managed to do so without difficulty. The temperature was in the 40s that morning, but my speed was low, and I’ve ridden in 40s many times before. It was fine. I parked the Street Glide where I’d found it, by another Harley waiting for pickup, removed all of my luggage and equipment from it, went inside, and checked in. The return process was even easier than the pickup. They informed me that I’d put 513 miles on the Street Glide over the past two days. The rental included unlimited mileage, so I took advantage of that. They found no problems with the bike, so after a little more paperwork I was good to go. I did tell them about a problem I’d run into with the sensor that detected that the bike was in 6th gear not working reliably, and that it prevented the cruise control from working as well. It wasn’t a big deal to me – though I would’ve appreciated cruise control on some of the more open, boring sections of highway, I’d never ridden a bike with cruise control before, so I didn’t really miss it.  They were rather baffled by this issue, and appreciated me telling them about it.  Then, rather than calling a cab to take me to the airport, they drove me themselves in their shuttle van.

IMG_1161It was about 9:30 when I got to the airport, and my flight didn’t leave until 12:47, but I really had nowhere else to be and nothing else to do without my own wheels. I got my boarding pass, then spotted a Krispy Kreme in one of the food court areas, and treated myself to coffee and a donut. We don’t have Krispy Kreme where I live. We did briefly, but they were unable to unseat the dominance of Dunkin Donuts in Massachusetts, so they pulled out.

After giving myself a massive sugar rush, I did a little souvenir shopping at the airport stores, then got in the security line. Orlando is a much bigger and busier airport than Providence, probably because Orlando has Disney and Providence doesn’t. But they were fairly quick and efficient and soon I was through – again, without any trouble from my previous accidental association with communist propaganda. I found the gate, which was full of people waiting for their flight to San Juan, but I found a seat and hung out for a while. By late morning I found myself some lunch, then came back to wait for my flight. It was just slightly late boarding. Unlike the flight down this one was pretty full, and a young couple was seated next to me. The flight was delayed getting out due to an air conditioner problem, then delayed again on the taxiway when it recurred. They bypassed it and finally we took off.

We flew up the coast over land, and since I was on the right side of the plane I could see everywhere I had ridden the previous day. Daytona International Speedway was clearly visible next to the airport, and then I just followed the beach all the way north until we flew out over the water. It was a bumpy flight, and by the time we landed I had a headache thanks to multiple screaming children on the plane. But we did land, my suitcase came through just fine, and my car started with no problem – a relief after starting trouble last week that a new battery seems to have solved. Traffic only slowed down a little bit through the middle of Providence, less than expected, and then it was heavy traffic but full speed all the way home.

As I type this, we’ve been hit with a surprise snowstorm. I got caught out by it on my way home today from Ana’s, where it was raining. Route 2 turned into an untreated sheet of glare ice, with many accidents. Fortunately I was not among them. Getting home was a struggle though the thick heavy snow that piled up quickly on the roads, but I managed to power through it and get home. Yet I’m still quite relaxed, sitting here at home, not having to be anywhere, and having just spent two days riding a motorcycle up the Florida coast. I’ve had far worse Januaries.

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