My Southern Loop: Inc. Natchez Trace and Key West

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Mikef5000, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. Mikef5000

    Mikef5000 Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,102
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    I've had several trips planned for some time now, one of which included heading south; down the Natchez Trace Parkway, through New Orleans, then following the coast all the way down to Key West, and back up the other side. I wasn't planning on persuing this trip for several years, but things changed, and about 3 weeks ago I ran into the opportunity do do this ride right away!

    To make things more interesting, I ended up picking up a new distance bike 1 week prior to leaving for this trip. I've been wanting a Yamaha Super Tenere since their introduction to the US market last year, but with my Ulysses, I didn't have a good excuse to get one. Uly problems just prior to a trip gave me the needed excuse, and the deal was done. I'll include some opinions formed about the bike, and some Uly comparisons here and there.

    I had exactly one week to break-in the Super Tenere and get it's first service out of the way. This was easily accomplished, and I left home Sunday morning with 850 miles already on the clock and fresh oil, filter, and final-drive oil.

    A quick 5 minute adjustment gave me a solo seat and dual luggage racks (cool feature!), and I threw on my Alaskan Leather Buttpad and a pair of Grip-Puppies I had laying around, and that about sums up the modifications for the trip.
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    An Ortlieb waterproof duffel sat across the two luggage racks and housed my tent, sleeping pad, lightweight sleeping bag, and a couple pairs of clothes. I had an older Wolfman tankbag that strapped on just fine up front, and gave me the rest of my needed storage. I had previously modified this tank bag, giving it a ram mount ball on the outside, and three power outlets on the inside. I had the GPS mounted to and powered by the tank bag, and a camera and phone charger inside. The camera was fastened to the left side on a draw-string for pictures on the fly. Two snaps and the bag slid down to the seat for gas tank filling; not the most convenient setup in the world, but not bad either. The tankbag held my rain suit, bike cover, toiletries, and snacks.

    I wore a Tiez Lombard V3 suit the whole time. A bit hot when the speed dropped below 30, but it was worth it for the ease and protection. Alpinestar Scout Waterproof boots, light weight gloves, and my trusty old Caberg Modular helmet sum up the gear department.

    Day 1 started early; about an hour and a half before sunrise. The first half of the day was all freeway anyway, so what the hell. Left Columbus at 6:15am. Saw the sun come up in Cincinatti. Kenucky... First gas stop in Louisville. Tennessee... Nashville! (Love me some country music) Hey! Just like that, before noon, but after the 400 mile mark, destination #1 is found!
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    But first... thanks to a tip from a random google search, I stopped for another gas fill and some southern BBQ!
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    The pulled pork sandwich was great. Mac-N-Cheese was not. Disappointing. I would have never picked it, I was thinking something else southern (fried okra?) but the guy actually recommended it.

    As a side note, I only buy one meal a day when I'm touring alone. I usually eat a nutrition bar for breakfast, Slim-Jims at gas stops, and buy a meal sometime between lunch and dinner time. I perfer to make that single meal count, something local is best.

    Back to the story, this was the meal for the day. Local, good, and $7! Perfect!
    Back at it!
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    Tons of history on this parkway. Cockpit view of the Old Trace:
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    Meriwether Lewis's grave site:
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    Lewis (of Lewis & Clark) died very close it this grave site. Interesting story behind his death. Officially, it was a suicide. Here's the catch... he was shot 5 (!) times. Now, I'm not too familiar with the weaponry of the time, but a quick google search revealed hand guns of the early 1800's to look something like this:
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    So he shot himself... with a gun like that... several times?!

    Yeah, sure he did.

    Moving on.....

    Alabama... Cool! Never been here before! Check state number 23 off my list

    Mississippi... state number 24!

    So, I'm not what anyone would call a 'history buff'. I can appreciate some cool old stuff. The Old Trace for example; tons of history about it. I took a few steps on the path, considered for a bit who had done that before me, and was satisfied. What that means, is the next 379 historical markers along the parkway passed right by without much more than my reading the sign, and thinking... "Huh, old mine here eh? Cool". So, without considering the historical importance of the path, your left with the road itself.
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    Beautiful right? For sure! No traffic, no cities, nothing! It's... relaxing. But can you have too much relaxing? I mean, the parkway is 444 miles... at 50 mph... through gentle curves... surrounded by woods. Here's the gist of the Parkway:

    Mile Marker 1
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    Mile Marker 100
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    Mile Marker 400
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    Get it? Don't get me wrong... I'll take this any day over traffic or interstate riding. But don't come here looking for... well... excitement. Unless history is your thing that is.

    The parkway has three free primitive campgrounds along the way for travelers such as myself. I made it south of Jackson Mississippi to the last campground. Now apparently, my definition of 'primitive camping' varies from the rest of the world.
    So I setup my little tent amidst the power generators feeding all of the tour buses parked throughout the primitive campground.

    Whatever... I rode too late.... it was after dark.... I put in a personal record 820 miles for the day.... I can sleep through this. And I could. What I couldn't sleep through was my sleeping pad (of the self-inflating variety) decided to self-deflate, and the temp dropped a good bit more than anticipated. At the first hint of daybreak I burst from my little cocoon of attempted warmth, packed up, and was on the road before 8. Camping Night 1 = fail (but free!)

    Just 50 miles of parkway left this morning. It really is beautiful, especially at 8am, when everything is still crisp and vacant.

    While the parkway itself wasn't the most exhilarating ride, I did find a few things that interested me greatly. I don't recall where exactly along the parkway these were, so I'll just throw the pictures here:

    What do we have here?
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    FIRE!
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    It was a controlled burn... but it was right up to the road! How cool is that! I'm telling everyone I rode through a forest fire!

    And then there's this:
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    Tornado damage from a hell of a storm in April 2011. A solid 5 miles or so of this! I found this before and after shot online:
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    Turns out, 1 camper was killed in this tornado, right here sleeping in a free spot on this parkway! Guy was out with his daughter when a huge tree fell on there tent. He was killed, daughter was unharmed. Sobering right? Could you imagine being that little girl? 9 years old... In a tent... middle of nowhere... during a tornado... a tree falls on your dad inches from you... now your alone... my God, I can't imagine the fear.

    Sorry, moving on...

    Louisiana! STATE NUMBER 25!!!! Hooray! How Exciting! (sorry, trying to brighten things back up)
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    New Orleans! Alright, I wanted to see N.O. Not specifically because of Katrina... or Bourbon Street... in fact, I can't tell you a specific reason. It's just a combination of that stuff. You hear about Mardi Gras. Everyone heard about Katrina. It's just a city you hear about. So I wanted to say I've been there. Here on Advrider the place has a pretty dismal reputation (generally along the lines of; don't park your bike, or all your stuff will be gone). Alright. I can appreciate that warning, so I made a little loop to ride and see what I thought was worth seeing. I did a loop around City Park... Yup, it's a park in a city. I took a less than direct route to the French Quarter, to try to see some of the actual town. I would not feel comfortable parking my bike here. I played with my GPS and got down to 13 feet below sea level! And that's mounted about 4 feet off the ground! That's pretty cool, (and also confusing why there is a city here, rather than a lake... or ocean... or bayou). I won't see anything like that again till I can make it over to Death Valley.
    Found a streetcar!
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    Got next to a streetcar!
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    Bourbon Street, dead ahead:
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    Filming a movie on Bourbon Street:
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    Alright! A couple more streets in the French Quarter, and I had enough of that. It's... I mean... It's exactly what those pictures show. I mean, I have nothing to add to that. It's a city... with tons of people on some of the streets... and scarce but often scary people on others.
    Took the free ferry across the Mississippi river on recommendation from a fellow inmate. It was a solid recommendation. Ferries are fun and different.
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    Had to pay a dollar to take the bridge back to where I needed to be, but it's alright. Tolls are something I'll become very familiar with later in the trip.
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    Hit the road east, and took the small route through the bayou, as opposed to the more northern I-10.
    A view of the interstate, from my small route:
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    Along this route was some evidence that their was significantly more built up here pre-Katrina (driveways to nothing). Just about all of the bridges along this path were taken out, and in places the road was covered by feet of sand/debris. The road is back, but the building along the route is on a much smaller scale.

    Traffic accumulated and slowed, so I turned North to I-10 for a bit. This was the plan originally to get past Mobile anyway.

    Florida! State number 26! More than half done!

    Back to the coast and off the interstate!
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    The plan... camp at a state park in Panama City Beach. Trying to beat the sunset to the campground, I passed what looked to be the most perfect small local seafood dinner spot. I decided to setup camp in the dark, and eat NOW! It was now 7:00, and I hadn't had my real meal of the day.
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    The fish was great, but the sandwich also had shrimp on it, and other... stuff... the first half, when I was about starved... was FANTASTIC! Then though... then I realized, it really wasn't good. Too many flavors going on. Bummer. Not recommended. And $15 for the meal. Bummer.

    To the Campground!!!

    To the closed gate? Wha? It's ten till 8pm, and the state park is closed? But... the campground...

    Dammit.

    Moving on, 1 other campground in this town... And it was right in the middle of....

    OMG PARTY PANAMA CITY BEACH SPRING BREAK 2012 YO!!!!
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    Dammit.

    How lame am I? If I didn't feel old before this event. Becoming sourly disappointed that I couldn't get a good night sleep in a quiet campground because of all the damn spring break party junk going on... definitely made me feel old... and tired... and lame... and old.

    Moving on. Now its dark. Not easy finding a stealth camping spot in the pitch black, but I'll just head east till I find something.

    I found an Air Force Base... which means... no stealth camping... no anything. Just pitch black roadway, with 10 foot fences on either side... for miles.

    Dammit.

    Then... Civilization! In the form of Mexico Beach (city name). And, what's this... an RV park? That'll do! Of course there's nobody around, it's now 10pm. I found a vacant spot in the overflow lot just off the main road. I through my tent up in between two buses. (not sure how the camera made it look light out, it never was while I was here).
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    I spoke with the guy in the pictured bus. Decent dude from eastern Ohio. Hit the showers, and passed out. Mind you, no grass here... just a gravel lot... and my flat sleeping pad... whatever.

    6:20am... Pitch freakin black... I'm only half asleep... like I was all night for some reason... when I hear a guy....

    Hey?
    Hello?
    Me- Yeah??? Me???
    Hey! Yeah!

    I open my flap/door....

    Hey!
    You can't camp here!
    No Tents!
    You Gotta Go!
    Me- Um. Ok, sorry. I'll leave.
    You gotta go!
    When did you get here?
    Me- about 10 last night, there was nobody around, I was going to be gone at first light.
    You shoulda asked somebody.
    No Tents.
    You Gotta go!

    I was flabbergasted. I'm still flabbergasted. Ten minutes later I was dressed, had my sleeping bag and pad rolled up, and here he comes again...

    Buddy you gotta go!
    Me- Yeah, I know, I packing up, I'll be gone in ten.

    I hit the road without even taking my morning pee.

    Dammit.

    Florida Panhandle Sunrise
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    Now, I can't decide whether it was my asleep half, or my awake half, that kept me from blowing up on the dude... but I didn't... I said sorry, and moved on. Then I spoke to myself in my helmet for the next hour about what I should have said. Eventually to find a gas station with a sign "Fresh Donuts" in the window. Perfect... kill 2 birds (food and gas) no, 3 birds (gotta pee!), no, 4 birds (brush my teeth!) in one stop.

    I felt, by being on the road at 6:45 in the morning, breakfast was a worthy 'one bought meal' for the day.
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    The doughnut was great! Fresh... soft... cheap... I couldn't believe it! I had low hopes for a gas station doughnut. This one is recommended! :lol3 Clean bathroom meant I was able to brush my teeth too!

    More or less followed the coast through the rest of the panhandle and south. Most of this route is far enough away that you can't see the ocean though. I did take the route through Tampa to hit their big bridge:
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    Huge bridges like this give me a shot of adrenaline. I love it.

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    Made it to my halfway point this (Tuesday) afternoon. I met my girlfriend and family on vacation on Sanibel Island way down by Naples. Here I would park the bike till Friday morning, and simply hang out on the beach.

    This, my loyal followers, will be my stopping point for right now. I'll be back, with more ride report, and more details about how the bike did.
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    67,157
    Thanks for the report and pics. I rode down the Natchez Trace once and didn't take a single picture... so it's nice to see some here :thumb
    #2
  3. TurkeyChicken

    TurkeyChicken Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Oddometer:
    187
    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM
    Good report so far. That's really strange about the dude kicking you out of your campsite though!
    #3
  4. Mikef5000

    Mikef5000 Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,102
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    Sorry, back at it! That first half didn't play out exactly like I wanted... Well, the first half of the ride, and the first half of the ride report. We'll see if I can't recap a bit more in this second half!

    So I made it half way. The bike is parked in front of the rented condo on Sanibel Island, southwestern Florida.

    Parked, with over 2600 miles on it! After only a week and a couple days of ownership (bought with 1 mile on it). And how's it doing? For the most part, excellent! I'm loving the 1)power, and 2)fuel range.
    The seat's not my favorite, but I've never ridden quite this much in such a short time either: roughly 1800 miles in 3 days. Still, I believe the Buell Ulysses gets the nod in 'driver seat comfort'. Now there are some known free modifications to change the angle of the seat, which I didn't apply, and also some folks claim the seat needs broken in. In any case, the seat wasn't my favorite, but it wasn't bad either. Not nearly bad enough for me to consider an aftermarket alternative.
    Another negative? Under load, there is a noticeable vibration. 'Load' is most noticeable in 5th or 6th gear; if attempting to accelerate to pass, there is a notable and odd vibration. It's smooth as glass when cruising, and not noticeable in the first few gears (when it's under load in the first few gears, you're paying more attention to the G forces being applied to you than what vibration the bike is making). To me, this is really no issue at all. As long as I'm assured that this is 'normal' and not an issue, then it doesn't bug me a bit, and other reports state the same, so no biggie!
    Final Complaint... No heated grips! On a bike this outrageously expensive (to me at least), heated grips should be a no-brainier. I firmly believe that any bike made with the potential to tour (Yamaha calls this bike an Adventure-Tourer), it should absolutely have heated grips. Buell wins here. The electronic throttle means electric cruise control would not have been difficult to incorporate either, but no biggie.

    Back to positive attributes...

    The power! I'm getting ahead of myself, but let's just say, the one advantage to having to stop at stupid toll booths, was getting to start again. I sort of made it a habit of pulling away from the booth all nice and peaceful (don't want to irritate the workers), getting about half way through first gear before pulling the clutch in, clicking it over into Sport mode, crack throttle... drop clutch... HANG ON! FIRST.... SECOND.... THIRD.sixth. That few seconds it takes to go from about 20mph to close to 80 put a grin on my face every time. Man! This is by no means a fast bike. Or, well, it's no race bike. But it's so easy to accelerate. Traction control keeps you stable, and gives you peace of mind that you can't screw it up too bad. Well, you know... no wheelies or tire spinning. There are always those million other things that could happen... you'll have that.

    The fuel range! The bike doesn't necessarily get great gas mileage, but the 6 gallon tank is something I've dreamed of. My absolute largest complaint with my Ulysses was the 4.5 gallon tank. My fuel light was on at 150 miles. For touring, that might not be much more than 2 hours, and I often wasn't near ready to stop at that point (which is why I added an auxiliary 3 gallon tank to that bike). The two bikes get nearly identical gas mileage: 50+ if I'm trying for good mileage, 45 under normal conditions, but the Yamaha has a third bigger gas tank. I loved passing the 200 mile mark without the fuel light being on. Even with the fuel light on, I found the owners manual suggestion of 1 gallon in reserve to be quite optimistic. I often ran 20-30 miles after the fuel light turned on, and it still only took 5 gallons. My best tank was in the middle of the Natchez Trace Parkway, cruising about 55 mph non-stop:
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    Notice, I'm at 80 miles on this tank, and it's still reading full.
    Same tank, now at 180 miles, and still reading half tank:
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    I figured it up after the fact and I netted 52 MPG on this tank, I could have passed the 300 mile mark before running out! Seeing as how the longest stretches I know of between gas stops are about 255 miles (Trans-Labrador Highway and the Dalton Highway), I should be good to go about anywhere!

    A little side note, the passenger seat luggage rack fits my auxiliary tank so perfect it's like it was made to go there, which makes me want to plumb it up for optional solo touring duty. It's absolutely not necessary, but it'd give me 9 gallons:eek1, I could make it to my family's place in South Carolina without a fill-up along the way. Like I said, not necessary, but it's awfully nice to simply not have to worry one bit about fuel. That was my problem with the Uly, it's not that I normally couldn't find fuel in time, it's that I was always worried about it.

    Anyway, enough about the bike talk, back to the vacation talk....

    Sanibel Island Florida.
    Did some walking on the beach.
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    Enjoyed some beach sunsets.
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    Busted out some Boogie-Board action!
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    Did some fishing from the pier.
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    And some fishing from a boat.
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    Where I caught a flounder (pictured) and a spotted sea trout. I also hooked something big, but after a minute of fighting, it snapped my line.
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    Some boat ride action shots:
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    Good times! A great little butt break, and nice to sleep inside on a couch (that was bigger than my sleeping pad). But these relaxed times had to end, and on Friday, at 6am, roughly an hour before sunrise, I awoke the beast in preparation of head deeper south.

    Rolled out and hit the freeway to get past Naples, then off to US-41 for a more scenic route through the Everglades. Decent ride, the Everglades in the morning were neat with the fog hanging around just off the ground. I saw one roadkill alligator, but none alive. The swamp boats were pretty interesting. I thought I took more pictures through here, but they seem to be MIA, I just have this one heading, yet again, into the sunrise:
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    But then, after a fillup just south of Miami, we hit the beautiful Keys!
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    Eventually hitting the end of the line:
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    I parked the bike, took off my boots and riding suit, and went for a walk in my flip-flops and gym shorts/shirt to see the place.

    Key West...

    Found this place! I enjoyed the fact that I rode through the real New Orleans, on the real Bourbon Street, to get here:
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    Then there's this place:
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    (I didn't go in, but I liked the sign)

    In the end, I walked a good 3 or 4 miles around town looking for whatever all of the hullabaloo was about, and was ready to head back to the bike (and see if any of my gear had been ganked).
    I don't know, I mean, at first I was trying really hard to like the place since everyone else seems to loves it. But after a bit, I thought, why should I try to love it? I'm here alone. I can do whatever I want. If I were with someone that enjoyed it more I'd have no problem spending more time there, but for me, alone, it's just another tourist town. Seems like a nice neighborhood, some cool little shops/restaurants, and the chickens walking around absolutely cracked me up. But alright, no need to stick around, time to head north.

    This (Friday) night I left a mystery. If Key West was amazing, I was willing to stay all afternoon, and find a place to sleep down there in the keys. Otherwise, I could get as far north as possible, in hopes of pulling another marathon day on Saturday and make it to my Family's place in South Carolina, before finishing home on Sunday.

    I turned north.

    But north was busy... slow moving traffic, in the Key West sun, on the hot asphalt...
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    (Air Temperature reading 100 degrees) A bit warm for my 1 piece riding suit.

    Made it out of the traffic and on the 'open' road. Picture stop:
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    I made it about 5 miles up the road before remembering I didn't fasten my camera back to it's leash.... Then about 1 second later, I realized I didn't put it back in it's camera case.

    AAArrrrrgggg I left it on my duffel bag.

    Luckily, I kind of tore out of the parking lot like a mad man on a new bike enjoying some off-pavement shenanigans, so I was hoping desperately I ditched in the lot rather than on the road. It's not a new camera, so I wouldn't have cried too hard if it was broken, but I wanted that memory card with all these glorious pictures!

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    It fell off as soon as I kicked it off of the center stand. See the tire tread just about touching it? That was a minivan, sitting there when I pulled back up. Lucky! It still worked flawlessly!

    Anyway, back at it! About 5pm, back close to Key Largo, I passed a sign for the "Worlds Greatest Fish Sandwich". Perfect!
    Craig's Restaurant is the place.
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    And it was, the worlds greatest fish sandwich. We have a winner. $12 for the meal I believe, whatever it was, it was worth it.

    On the way out of the restaurant lot I found this thing!
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    It was a good 3' long! Us northerners don't realize these things actually live in the wild!

    More north, back on the mainland (hey I thought there were tolls to get to Key West? Guess not!) There was an RV park on the south edge of Miami. It was only 7:00, but I that meant I could actually setup camp in the light! I made it there, and actually had to pay for a site! $35 for a tent site! Ouch! But they had a tiki bar (a HUGE tiki bar) and live entertainment. For a grass site and showers, I guess it'll do. Tons of huge campers, being pulled by mega diesel trucks, hauling Harleys. Odd. Come to think of it, I passed a sign on one of the keys that said something about a motorcycle event Saturday.
    I got all setup and showered and headed to the bar for a night cap. I told the bar tender lady to make me something fruity and islandy (I'm on vacation don't you know!). I don't know what it was, but it was pink and delicious. I had two. It was dark, and I was ready to crash... when....

    sigh....

    The DJ started setting up the sound system. Karaoke Night!!!!!!!!

    sigh....

    Well, I was tired enough to pass out at first, but after a couple hours of sleep, I found myself staring into the slightly less than dark tent ceiling (RV parks have street lights). Listening to the mostly-aweful singing, and the grand cheers and celebration occurring about 50 yards away from me.

    Now, if I didn't feel lame enough after the OMG SPRING BREAK 2012 PARTY! Now I'm trying to sleep through a bunch of old folks (RV parks don't attract many younger folk) trying to party. Weak. I was tempted to get up and join them, but at the same time, I wanted to get to my family's place in South Carolina tomorrow, and that would mean another 800 mile day. Plus my little mixed drink (whose main ingredient was ice) cost like 5 bucks each. Pf.

    Then my neighbor in his RV starts hollering about the OSU vs USC game! "Ohio State is about to beat USC!!!" "OH MAN! OVERTIME"

    Now this almost got me up, because, you know, GO BUCKEYES!

    Later I learned it was Ohio versus University of North Carolina. I'm going to hope the guy was drunk, otherwise, just completely clueless about the game he was watching.

    More sleep...

    More awake, Harleys, rumbling past my tent... I look at my phone... It's 3:30 in the morning. What... the... hell...... If there's a bike show down there on the keys, they'd be leaving now to arrive at what? 5am? I woke up to Harleys rumbling past my tent about every half an hour for the rest of the morning.

    Loud pipes save lives.:huh

    Daylight! Broke camp and hit the road by 7:30.

    Uneventful ride up the east coast of Florida via turnpikes. You know, on 1 road in Florida, you can go through several different kinds of toll boths? First it was 3 "toll by plate" boths, where there is no option to pay, either, you have their sun-pass thing, or they mail you a bill, conveniently with an administrative charge added on. I have Temporary tags. I hope I never see the stupid bills. Then 2 cash booths. Then a booth to take a ticket, and pay when you leave the turnpike. Seriously? Couldn't I have gotten the stupid ticket, like, way back at the first toll both? Whatever. Every stop on the freeway gave me an excuse to accelerate back up to 75. Weeeeeeeeeeee, shift, Weeeeeeeeeee, shift, Weeeeeeeee, Aww speed limit. I've been to Daytona Beach, and Cocoa Beach, and Savanah, and Charleston all before, so, while I felt a bit bad about passing them by, I didn't necessarily need to stop, just to say I did.

    Hit some rain in South Carolina. I saw it coming, so I was wearing my rain suit... no big deal, just a minor inconvenience. Apparently the cars had a worse time with it than I did. I don't like getting wet, but I have no problem riding in the rain. It was one of those sudden down pours that's so hard it floods the road a bit... the cars were making a wake. Anyway, they were slowing down to about 35 with their 4-way flashers on. Sheesh, pansies, I did my best to get through the traffic in a perfectly safe manner, and got back up to a comfortable 55ish so my helmet would keep clear. Easy. A couple storms like that (all brief) and I made it well before sunset! Actually in time to watch the Buckeyes play! And by play I mean win! GO BUCKEYES!

    Short ending...
    Had a great, albeit short, time with the family down there, and I headed out about noon on Sunday. (Yeah, you know you ride a lot when you say something along the lines of "Eh, it's an easy 500 mile day, I don't need to leave till about noon". I love the Carolinas! Close to the ocean, close to the mountains. I've traveled in 26 states, and South Carolina is still my number 1 favorite.
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    Not this time:
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    I rode straight up US 23. It's an easy and enjoyable ride. Interesting note, in South Carolina, gas was still $3.59 a gallon, and it was 70 and sunny. When I crossed into North Carolina (about a half an hour in) Gas jumped to $3.95, and the temp dropped to 55. Johnson City brought medium rain for a solid hour. Bummer.

    Kentucky brought more tornado damage. This time, (as opposed to on the Natchez) there was civilization. Houses were leveled. Trees were leveled. There were signs for FEMA assistance. Nasty stuff here. I've never seen destruction of property like this. I didn't get pictures, because it took me a bit to wrap my head around what I was looking at when I passed by.
    A leveled barn
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    This storm hit just 3 weeks prior. There were close to 20 deaths in Kentucky I believe.

    Even into southern Ohio, 23 stays fairly scenic
    [​IMG]

    So that's it! I made it home in just over 8 hours, which is dang good for that drive.

    I learned some. No matter how hard I try, I like mountains over coast. The main reasoning though, is that mountains are still natural. You can get away from it all in mountains. Coast... well, if it's accessible, or a road goes within sight, it just gets built up into a tourist town.

    I've hit these states, passed though some main cities of interest, enjoyed a week off work, and happily don't ever need to ride back down there again. If I had the opportunity, sure I would! I like to ride, regardless! But I don't need to.

    With others, I could've spent more time in New Orleans, or Key West, or heck, probably Nashville or Miami or one of numerous other cities along my path. But on this ride, it was about the ride. A couple years ago I did a ride around the Great Lakes, which was a bit more scenic, and therefor to my liking.

    I'm fully aware that, as a disadvantage to being lucky enough to get to ride a lot, some of the rides are going to be better than others. This one was necessary, but not my favorite.

    I'm still happy. It was a great time. Much better than sitting at work the whole time!

    The new bike worked flawlessly. The tires are still above 50%, despite having 4700 miles on them (and tons of those are hard freeway miles).

    The miles have smoothed out the suspension a bit, and the motor vibes are a bit better as well.

    Can't wait for the next trip! Out west I go!


    Stats:
    6 ride days, 8 total days
    3500 miles
    11 states (4 new)
    Natchez Trace Parkway
    Overseas Hwy
    3 camping nights
    Total sleeping costs: $35
    Total eating costs: $38

    Overall Trip Average Gas Mileage: 45.77 MPG

    Best tank: 52 MPG
    Worst tank: 41 MPG
    #4
  5. Strega

    Strega Black is a color

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2007
    Oddometer:
    514
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Nice report Mike!
    #5
  6. Gonzo_Matt

    Gonzo_Matt Random Hero

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,561
    Location:
    Sparta, Ohio
    Nice!

    We followed the mississippi river from Hanibal, MO to NOLA last spring, just after the bad storms. It was incredible in St. Louis to see the damage, looking at stuff you normally just see on TV.
    #6
  7. HPTuner

    HPTuner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Oddometer:
    347
    Location:
    Southeast Ga.
    Great report! Enjoyed riding along!
    #7
  8. sion

    sion sigh-own

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,053
    Location:
    Hocking Hills
    nice report Mike, but I could done without seeing this:

    [​IMG]

    man, I thought I was a pasty white boy :lol3
    #8
  9. MeefZah

    MeefZah Curmudgeonly Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,143
    Location:
    Eureka, Calif
    Mike, a very good trip report.

    I like your sense of humor, and your style of narration.

    Well done. :freaky
    #9
  10. Mikef5000

    Mikef5000 Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,102
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    Hey thanks! I like to write these reports in a way similar to how I'd tell the story as if sitting around a campfire or in a bar somewhere. I know the grammar is far from perfect, but what the hell, I'm outa school, so my writing is now made for entertainment purposes as opposed to... well... impressing someone (or whatever it is I was supposed to be doing in school writing perfect paper after perfect paper).:deal
    #10
  11. MeefZah

    MeefZah Curmudgeonly Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,143
    Location:
    Eureka, Calif
    Having talked to you, as I read this, I could hear the inflections in your voice and visualize your facial expressions as if you were telling the story.

    I was gonna tell you several things about your trip stand out for me, most notably your impressions of the Natchez (same as mine), NO (same as mine), and Key West (same...).

    A then-girlfriend and I rented a ST1300 the first year they came out (2003, maybe?) and rode to Key West, I was less than impressed with the destination but I did enjoy the ride from Miami to the tip.
    #11
  12. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

    Joined:
    May 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,406
    Location:
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Nice report Mike. Sounds like you are gonna love riding in the west. I hope you share a report then. That Yammie is a sweet machine. I didn't realize it got such good fuel mileage.
    #12
  13. indypup

    indypup ╭∩╮( º.º )╭∩╮

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    3,764
    Location:
    Troy, OHIO
    Nice report Mike!

    Meef, how many tickets did you get out of while riding the ST1300? ;)
    #13
  14. MeefZah

    MeefZah Curmudgeonly Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,143
    Location:
    Eureka, Calif
    None. We rode pretty fast but never encountered any enforcement.
    #14
  15. acejones

    acejones Long timer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,437
    Location:
    MS. Gulf Coast and Puerto Vallarta, MX
    There is some really fine dining in Key West. Too bad you didn't stay long enough to enjoy it. Natchez Trace and New Orleans are a colossal waste of time.
    Did you see/tour Hemingways house, Mel Fishers museum, light house, watch the sun set from the top of the La Concha, Martello tower/museum, Key West aquarium ? Ride through some of the Old Town neighborhoods ?
    What are your overall impressions of the bike now ?
    #15