Heavy Sigh. I live real close to Raleigh at the center of that radar image. The "map in motion" feature they have showed a very slow moving mass right above us and a second wave just off the map coming our way. Well... some rides are just better than others - and this looked like one of the lesser rides. Now, I'm no better than anybody else just cause I don't mind riding in the rain. I do have really good rain gear, and ain't ashamed to be see in a full helmet with face shield, though, and that by itself may make the difference. Still - rain rides suck.
15 minutes later, I'm suited up, plastic bags taped at the ankles over my socks and under my tennis shoes (OK, but they're grey sneaks, not white!). Thats a sign its raining heavy - when I tape up little plastic bags over my socks. At least it wasn't too cold. With my new Uni-Go Motorcycle trailer dutifully attached to the back of Ol' Huck, I'm pullin' out of the garage and eased into traffic down I-40 and then south on I-95. You can imagine I didn't stop for pictures in the middle of this crap!
I pretty much stayed in rain until the middle of South Carolina, and then stayed on wet roads til Georgia. I wasn't really wet at all, except for the tip of my beard sticking out of my rain faceshield. One option was to stop in Savannah for the night - but I was making good time, staying ahead of the weather through Georgia, and decided to just crank it on down the Interstate, rolling into the back yard of the Fireside Bar in Ormond Beach by 7pm. Contrary to my usual mantra - this trip WAS about the destination, cause the ride blew.
Except for putting up the tent and grabbing a few beers while sitting by the firepit, tonight was a bit of a washout. Tired after an all-day 650mile Interstate ride, I checked in with Pete, the owner of the bar to find out who was coming and who wasn't, and then crashed in the tent for the night, listening to the beer bottle clunk in the garbage can outside my tent and the crackle of the bonfire 30 feet away.
I woke up to a misty, cloudy morning, one of those grey days that promise little change throughout the day. I knew the earlier part of the week was miserable with rain and storms throughout, and knew the forecast wasn't much more cheery. Still - lets make the best of it... everyday above ground is a good day, right? Fired up Ol' Huck and rode out for coffee and breakfast at the Waffle House. Really didn't seem like much of a crowd this year. Here it was the second Friday of Bike Week and even at 10am it shoulda been busier than I'm seeing here.
Pic #01 was 11am, the clearest I ever saw it in Daytona. If you don't recognize it, its from Beach Street looking southeast towards Main Street. I usually don't ride south just for the hell of it, but it was early and I hadn't seen anybody I knew yet, so I wanted to go pick up the obligatory T-shirts and pins for the kids. It was a bit chilly, too - and yeah, you know what that means... no things and bikinis walking around either. Pic #02 is BEFORE the big rain storm of the early afternoon. After that one, this lot was fully under water... bikes were still coming and going, but kickstands were being laid down in the water all day.
Pic #03 is my lonely tent behind the bar near the firepit, still smouldering from the recent storm. They have a built-up section of yard they reserve for some repeat offenders...errr... I mean repeat tenters. Usually that area is edge-to-edge with tents, but this year I understand many of the campers went home early...and wet. Pic #04 is Ol' Huck and Lil'Mut in the backyard. If you're interested in the trailer, go to www.Uni-Go.US and take a look at the little video on the main page. It is a one-wheeled trailer that is fixed to the frame-hitch, and uses a universal joint as its mechanism to track behind the bike. Here's the big advantage - there's only one tire track to worry about while dodging potholes and rocks on the road. If the bike avoids the rock, the trailer does too. And I can honestly say I never knew it was back there hauling 100 pounds of camping gear, tequilla, and dry clothes. In fact I believe it was more stable with more mass attached to the frame... truck blast seemed less severe. The only sign it was there was needing gas about 10 miles earlier than usual.
Finding that my brother and old friends from Tallahassee were not coming due to the weather, which looked even worse heading our way, I decided to take up on an offer to crash in a cabin on a friend's ranch in Ocala. Some of you may remember Julie from the tail-end of my first West Virginia Trip about a year and a half ago. She gave me a place to stay on her ranch in Virginia the last day of that trip. Well, she's living in Ocala now on a working ranch converted into a guest ranch. Julie met me in Daytona for a ride through the Ormond Loop, and down to the Thunder Press contributors party on the beach. Every year at Daytona, all writers, contributors and staff get together for a blowout. Dodging storms on the way we enjoyed a couple hours with those guys at TGI Fridays on Granada Blvd, then got soaked on the ride back to the Fireside to pick up her car for me to follow back to her ranch. OK, so we DID find a bar along the way to stop in at and wait for the worst of it to pass by. Thats the story I told my wife, and I'm stickin' to it.
Following her in her car, we got to the "Griffin Ranch" past nightfall, about 70 miles from Daytona and smack in the middle of the State. After staying up late drinking, eating mini-pizzas and getting the low-down on the ranch from Julie and the owner of the ranch, Carl Griffin, I was shown to "The Cottage" across the yard from the main house, for one of the best night's sleep I had in years.
Pic #05 & #06 show where I left the bike the night before in front of the cottage. Solid ground all through the camp made riding the bike off-pavement very easy. Pics #07, 08 & 09 are the front entrance to the ranch from Highway 316 near Fort McCoy, Florida.
Pics #10, 11 & 12 show the main house where Carl, Julie and Julie's daughter Lauren manage the ranch. The main house also holds the Dining area (Pic #13) where we spent the night before talking. I was really pleasantly surprised with the cottage comforts. Pics #14 and 15 show the interior of the Cottage. If you have a good online connection and want to see a Movie of the inside, CLICK HERE for the AVI file (requires a video player on your system, like REAL PLAYER or similar.) or CLICK HERE for the Outside video. Pic #16 is the Cottage Bathroom. If you prefer a shower, there is an outside Bath House right next door.
These four pics are simply more of the Cottage, and the views from the porch. Pic #20 also shows the Bunkhouse, with beds for 5 singles and a main sitting room.
Just out back, if you're more inclined to take a shower, they have a neat little bathhouse with two shower heads for a semi-outside rustic shower, with plenty of hot water. Pics #22 and 23 show the workshop. Hard to tell, but #23 shows a pair of in-progress leather moccasins for little Lauren. You didn't think they did any HARD work here do ya? Hell, this is a place to enjoy yourself and have fun!
There are several horses on site in the corrals surrounded by beautiful central Florida scenery. There's lots to do nearby as well, from the various state parks, Silver Springs, canooing, natural-spring scuba diving, and certainly a ton of great riding roads.
I can't say that they'd let just any of ya give lil' Lauren a ride (although I know SHE'D let ya!) but I must say staying in this place surrounded by a beautiful landscape with really nice people, made for a great alternative to the Daytona Rally scene.
So look... if you're at all like me and tire easily of the rally stuff, consider riding or trailering your rig to Ocala and stay at a pleasant ranch and go day-trip to Daytona to get your T-Shirts and Pins...maybe even grab a room in town for a night, coming back to the Griffin Ranch for your final nights and place to load your trailer for the ride home. The ranch is better suited for groups, with a couple in the Cottage, and room for more in the bunkhouse and other sleeping rooms around the ranch. They are nearly done with a large Lodge that will accommodate two couples in their own rooms, separate baths, reading room and living room. If you're interested let me know and I'll get you in touch with them. Their Website should be up and running soon, too.
All right - so anyway - that next morning, after giving rides to Lauren and Julie (sorry Carl, I don't ride guys 'bitch' on Ol' Huck) I rode back to Daytona to gather up the tent and head north to Savannah which promised to be in more pleasant weather. I rolled in to an old friends house in time for dinner and a marathon bullshit session around their dining table, including a now empty bottle of Jose Cuevo 1800 Tequilla. This is another couple I met years earlier on-line while researching a ride to Daytona in 1999. I tell ya - it is great knowing people like this around the country - more than just a place to stay, but friends on the road.
The ride home the next day was just a 6 hour haul-ass up I-95... didn't get pics of any of that unfortunately.
All in all a good trip - wet, but a great stay at friends places, which is the whole reason for my going to rally anyway. Seeing people ya haven't seen in a while. If the jopurnal that accompanies this ride seems short - it is... Everything is wet, the tent drying out hung over the bushes outside and I am greeted by over 600 emails trying to sell me ink, mortgages, or larger breasts. I think I'll pass on all three.
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