CLICK HERE for this trip's route map.
Remember that family reunion I went on in Florida last year? It happened to coincide with the second day the State of Florida wised up and allowed riders to scoot along the backroads with the wind in our hair, sans helmet. To honor that auspicious occasion I trailered Ol' Huck down to take advantage of it and found myself in the middle of a local tradition called the Wakulla Waltz. This trip goes back to the Florida Panhandle and tries it again.
Wakulla County doesn't have too many bars to wet yer whistle in, but the Waltz takes in ever damned one of 'em, making a large circle route through the county. Timed to maintain a pleasant 2 beer buzz this'll take all day, but somebody's gotta show these Florida boys how to drink a beer correctly. Oh...and by the way - don't try this at home, we're all professionals at this!
Contrary to admitted detest for Interstates, I fly like the wind - likely a damned COLD wind, too - to Atlanta, GA to stop in and say hey to one of Muthuh's Bruthuh's (I got 7 of 'em ya know, and gonna see 4 on this trip). From there my plan is to slow down and do Hwy 19 down to Thomasville and 319 to Tallahassee to visit three other bruthuhs and my dad. One of the three just had surgery and we're gonna celebrate his making it through with a Waltz. (Hey, it's a new tradition, but just to my liking!)
The Waltz itself starts at the county line just south of Tallahassee and lasts all Saturday. Then Sunday morning....uhhhh, OK maybe Sunday afternoon, I head back up to Atlanta again and Interstate it home to NC. Hope ya enjoy it.
Ah hell, it happened again! Hey guys have ya ever agreed to meet with a lady, have it go down and not be able to get it up again? Well....OK WAIT, lemme start from the beginning..... Thursday morning broke unusually warm...last night's lows were about 60 or so, clear sky and little breeze. Pic #01 is me and my daughter before school. Packed up the bike with a couple strap-ons from Rev-Pack...still using that tank-bag from them for the perfect pace to hold the digital camera, maps and other crap easy to reach on the road...and hit the dreaded Interstate-85 for a teeth gritting ride down to Atlanta.
I stopped off for a fast 30 minute visit with Bruthuh John, got some good advice to bypass traffic and NOT get on Hwy 19 south of Atlanta til I get to Griffin, the city I was gonna meet up with Anita, thats her in #2, the ringleader of the Rebel Belles here in Central GA. I stayed on the Interstate to McDonough and pulled off on Hwy 155 west to Griffin. I pulled the throttle back to maybe 50mph and settled in for an enjoyable ride.
Found Millano's Italian restaurant, as agreed, at 3:30pm and pulled in ahead of Anita. Readjusted the GPS waypoints, changed maps in the window of the tank bag, set-up the MP3 player in my trunk with a new CD (10 continuous hours of MP3's on one CD!) and went inside to wait. Anita showed up 5 minutes later on her silver sporty, dressed in her tight jeans, leather jacket and pot helmet covered with attitude stickers... and had a great chicken souvlaki (at an Italian place?) while talking about the ride south of here to Tallahassee.
I had recently put their club patch into graphic form so their patchmaker could embroider their patch, and Anita presented me with a gift from all the girls - a leather H-D Belt-clip keyring. Anxious to hit the slow portion of this road trip, we head out to the parking lot to saddle up and take a little ride together on the bikes. I kick back the kickstand, get myself all adjusted waiting for Anita to finish doing the same and had the thought that I should take her picture before we pull off. So, I lay the bike over on its jiffystand...only duh... there's no jiffystand down, dipshit!
So for the second time this year Huck goes down from a standstill and I couldn't get it back up. ... Huh? wha? You thought I meant what? Sheeeesh.
So Anita pitched in, wrapped her hands around the tube and helped me get it up again. (Oh stop it)... and straddled her own bike for the ride. Twice in one year is embarrasing enough, but in front of a lady rider, too.... I'm gonna take some shit for this.
#3 is the beginnings of a nice sunset in Thomaston, GA... just south of there, I ride past a little sign that says Covered Bridge with a small arrow pointing east. I ride about a mile past it, with a growing sense of whaddafuk in my head...hey this is a fun trip... so i turn back hoping the bridge wasn't too far off the road. Within a half mile I run onto the Auchumpkee Creek Bridge, built in 1892 (for $1799) - just as I start to take picks, the clouds part and I notice this ride is gonna be during a full moon which I hadn't realized before. (#5).
I keep riding to the little town of Americus as the sun sets on my right and the moon rises on the left. Very pleasant temperatures and little in the way of bugs. I pulled in to the "8 Inn Motel" on the south side of town on Hwy 19 and find the Innkeeper to be a really nice guy - says he has only 5 guests tonight as ever since 9/11 business has sucked...joked that he could let me pull the bike into an adjacent room if I wanted cuz there was gonna be a storm tonight. I woulda, too, but the saddle bags wouldn't fit! Nice clean rooms at a really good price...
I ran into town for a bite to eat and something to flush it down with at Forsyth's Bar and Grill downtown. This place sure gets dolled up for the holidays. The picture is somewhat blurry, but this Hotel (pic#06)in the heart of downtown is typical of the downtown shopping district with their Christmas decorations. After my Reuben Sandwich and a couple Imports, I'm back at the Inn, Huck tucked under the canopy and watching the weather forecasts.
Woke up to the sound of a rainstorm outside my window. Looks like the front will pass over early this morning clearing for the rest of the weekend. Just need to hang out here, getting caught up on pics and uploads and moseying across the street to the Waffle House (gotta do WH at least once on a road trip - its a rule ya know!) until the roads clear up a bit... gonna take it slow to Tallahassee today....later.
The ride south started out really good. Belly full, tunes on the stereo, sky overcast but dry, and temps in the mid 60's...sweet riding weather. Hwy 19 south out of Americus wasn't as scenic as I had imagined. There is a fair amount of traffic on it, including trucking, but it had to have been far better than the Interstate. There is a noticeable lack of ups and downs anymore - the terrain is flat as a pancake and the roads typically straight and narrow. Rather hypnotic at times. Roadkill consists of more Armadillo than I had expected (and in this cool weather, riding by them wasn't so unpleasant either).
Pic #9 is typical of the structures I'm met with along the way. South Central Georgia must not be an overwhelmingly affluent place to live, huh? Then once in a while, ya run into one of these great-looking old homes (pic #10) mere feet from the highway. Back when they built it the road musta been a lot narrower. Some of them look abandoned, but this seemed to be the homestead for some pecan farmers. Huge stands of perfectly spaced Pecan trees, some a hundred feet or more tall, paraded by in exacting formation. At times it seemed like hours went by with nothing but Pecan plantations with the occasional Cotton fields, already picked nearly clean. Pic # 11 brings to mind the old phrase, "Draining the Swamp"... there were several scenes like this along the way. I had to turn around and go back for Pic #12... Georgia's central Gateway Distribution center I suppose.
Pic #13 shows, in a poor fashion, what some of these Pecan plantations looked like. I probably could have found several that showed a larger stand of trees, but this one was in a convenient pull-off area. By the time I got to Albany, the drizzle started. A relentless mist that never quite got my clothing wet, but soaked my glasses and windshield, and made the roads greasy as hell. I prefer a good soaking rain to wash off the road oils, but this stuff just puddled up making the center grease stripe trecherous. It kept up all the way through Thomasville, GA, where I turned southwest towards Tallahassee on Hwy 319. I remember from a trip I took 20 years ago on this road how pretty it was, but today, with the road widened to 4 lanes and the development on either side of the roads...and the rain... it wasn't nearly as nice as my mind remembered. At the Florida line, unfortunately only about 30 miles from my destination, I stopped and removed the helmet to don my leather bomber cap - still kinda chilly out ya know - for the trip into Tallahassee.
Turns out, I find out later, that just about this time, my two nieces (about 5 and 9 yrs old) are on the floor of the Florida legislature leading all those blowhards in the Pledge of Allegience. Seems my brother went to school with one of them and he extended the invite to the kids while they were up here for this mini-reunion. Well, soon after I hit the Florida state line, the development and traffic picks up in a big way. Four lanes give way to six lanes which gives way to eight lanes and the fight begins. I grew up in Florida and learned how to ride motorcycles here in the 60's so I know now is the time to switch into battle mode and watch out for the blue-hairs and kids jockeying for position on the roads. I zoomed in on the GPS, set it to take me to my brother's house, which I've never been to before, and followed it right to his front door. About 1pm, I laid the bike over on its kickstand (remembered to put it down this time) and went in to see how my brother is recovering from his surgery. (All is well, but I am not gonna write much about the family visit... the journal portion of the Tallahassee visit will be more on the Wakulla Waltz - just hang on!)
After a couple hour visit here, I went over to the 'Othuh Bruthuh' who lives in Tally to visit him, his family and another brother who was up visiting with his family. (The one with the neices at the State Capital). After the obligatory laying-on-the-floor game of Life and wrestling and tickling and throwing crap at each other - I headed out to visit the local adult drinking establishments, settling on a dive called The Pearl. And a Gem it is, too!...hehehe. Typical combination biker bar and honkey-tonk with most of the patrons already drunk and the rest well on their way. Shoot a few games of pool, down a few Buds and drive home in the thickest pea-soup fog I've ever seen.
Went out for breakfast with my Dad, compared old-age aches and pains (he has a lot more than me!) and did a few errands. They're all gonna be going to the FSU game later today, so we headed back, I got dressed for the day's Waltz and headed out on Huck to find some cigars and gas up the bike. I found some great little Arturo Fuente's that are about 3½ inches long, torpedo shaped and about a 48 ring size...these were PERFECT for bar-to-bar bike riding. They last only about as long as a two-beer stop and ya don't waste any. Picked up a dozen of them, and rode over to Hogie's house at 11pm thinking it'd just be me and him for the Wakulla Waltz. Wasn't sure exactly where he was (the GPS took me to the right street) but the group of 10 Harleys on the side of the road gave me a pretty good clue. Hogie had a bunch of his riding buds all set up for the festivities, most of 'em already had a beer in hand when I pulled up - seems these Florida boys may know a thing or two about drinking afterall!
Well, let me correct myself... was several ladies and lady riders there, too. I know I'm not gonna be able to remember all their names. After waiting for some latecomers, we all pull out and snake our way south through Tallahassee to Wakulla County (pronounced: Wah cull' ah), picking up several more along the way. By the time we got to Beep's Saloon, there was about 12 bikes and maybe 18 people filing into the dimly lit bar... I remember this one from the last Waltz, only because it was one of the early stops then, too! I buy the house the first round and the Waltz begins.
Next stop is only about a mile down the road at Ouzts Too Oyster Bar (pronounced: Oots 2) for a couple more. We try to stop for about 45 minutes to an hour just to make sure the buzz doesn't get too strong while riding. (a 2-beer buzz being optimum during the Waltz, ya know!) We're sitting outside under the trees telling lies and nasty jokes - seems these guys all been riding together for a long time and enjoy telling the new guy stories about each other.
Once Hogie finishes his beer (being the Road Captain for this ride, we all watch HIS beer level) we all fir 'em up and ride a blistering 80mph to the next stop - maybe a quarter mile down the road, a place called 98 Bottles. This bar is so tiny there is only room for about 6 people inside at a time, and it is already filled with locals... Thats OK as we all prefer to stand around outside by the bikes and smoke cigars, and giggle at the Kawasaki's going by. One of 'em actually popped his clutch right in front of us and killed it - I thought this esteemed collection of miscreants and misfits outside this bar was gonna have a baby, we were laughing so hard. Even here at 98 bottles, the group picked up another rider for the Waltz. I was growing to like this group!
Pic #19 & 20 was our next stop - oh...maybe 2 miles further down in a little fishing village called St. Mark's. Posey's Seafood Market (featuring Topless Oysters?) has a large deck out back on the river, and I can attest to their Fried Shrimp Sandwiches! Looks like everybody's kinda getting loosened up a bit - next stop was up the road about two miles at 98 Bottles.... uhhhh, didn't we already stop here, I ask? The reply came from a guy named Pothole who just shrugged and said, sure, but we gotta go by here again to get to the next stop... Made sense to me.
Pic #21, another couple miles up the road at the County Line Bar, shows the general happy attitudes of my dance partners by this time... The County Line was our longest stop - had to let the buzz get back down to 2 beers, remember (complicated by the new beers here at this place, but we're all professionals at this - don't try it at home!) We were warmly greeted by two Deputy Sheriff's outside the entrance clocking folks as they came into their county, but we were safe - when we leave here we immediately leave their county... no problems! Big Dave (Pic #23...at least I hope his name was Dave) ran the pool table ... beating all challengers. Down-side to that, of course, was he didn't get in much drinkin' time. That's Hogie in #24.
I accepted the responsibility of holding up the posts in #25, Rocky's bid to unseat Dave in #26 and me still holding up the post in #27...(I know you think maybe it was holding ME up, but you'd be wrong...) Pic#28 is Amanda - the Barmaid at the Elk's Club in town (I think they call 'em BarWenches there!, and who, by the way, damned near beat Dave in Pool, 'cept for that sinking the eight-ball thing.)
#29 is Sally and...and....damn.... one of the funnier guys there and I forget his name... on the dance floor. #30 is Motorcycle Mike, (wait, maybe HE was the funniest guy there....sheeesh - how many Buds have we had, now?) and Pam disrupting the pool game...again. (Christ, get a room!) - #30 is Amanda again, cute, ain't she? ... #31 is MC Mike and Pam in between their pool table romps...
#33 and #34 is saddling up to go to the last stop - some Mexican place back up in Tallahassee - shit by this time, I was just following the crowd. An interesting ride back into town it was, too. Suffice to say we all finished the Waltz in one piece... they all began planning their next one and I said my farewells and headed back to my brother's house in time to head back out for dinner with the rest of the family. (Where I drank lemonade, trust me!)
Gotta say to all who joined me on the Wakulla Waltz II, I really enjoyed your company - hope to make a WWIII sometime next year!
Sunday broke sunny and clear - a bit on the chilly side, but not enough for chaps. With the Waltz behind me, and goodbye's said to the brothers and Dad, I pointed north and snapped these last two pics of Hwy 319 at the State line, put the camera away, set the GPS for a full view of the State of Georgia, and settled in for the long ride back to Atlanta, where at 2:00 I took another butt break at my brothers house, and turned my sights on North Carolina. It was just a long-haul, with no pictures, turning into the driveway at 9pm...the bike STILL isn't unpacked, either! I'm getting too old for these 12 hour Interstate rides.
Till next time - Ride Free.