The initials abbreviate the term ‘Old Fart’ – and refer not only to the endemic gastric condition that occurs with aging; but to a mental state as well. This particular O.F. took to finally realizing a lifelong ambition to motorcycle drive by purchasing a Vespa™ scooter as a personal 70th birthday present to me. Three years later, we’ve moved up to a 750cc Honda, familiarly called ‘Rhonda’ and enjoyed her so much that the 2-week winter break seemed a fortuitous time to schlep her down south for some sunny winter riding. However, CAVEATS!!!
Dragging a bike trailer reduces gas mileage; adds to the cost of tolls; makes lane changes more difficult; requires extra precautions and roughens driving comfort. Heading south on any of the CAA recommended routes means encountering ten percent of our friends and neighbors from Ontario until we tie in with I-95 where we’re joined by our Quebecois copains (ami’s) among the Pennsylvania, NY, Virginia, Carolina and Florida-licenced vehicles. Admittedly, there are representatives of some other states as well.
West Virginia, Pennsylvania & Virginia are made up exclusively of mountains…all of which go UP- HILL no matter in which direction one heads. This usually culminates in a ten-mile Downhill terminus. Radio – right across the band is composed as follows: – low end is either religious or NPR. The former wants to redeem you *(if you make a contribution) while the latter offers classical music or intellectual conversation. It too, needs support in the ‘gelt’ category. Above 95.2, its commercial radio and the key word is commercial. These are occasionally interrupted for country music or pop hits. Hint, Bring along your CD’s; friends!
If you get into trouble (we blew a tire on our bike trailer – not covered under our CAA+ membership); the State Troopers in the Carolinas are amazing. They give the “serve” in “To serve & Protect’’ more than just sloganism. Officer David Cook of the Hardeeville detachment who helped us out with the tire-change added a new dimension to the definition of “Southern warmth & hospitality”.
Putnam County in northern Florida is a laid back rural-ish area whose entry signs read “A Biker’s Welcome community”! Not just a saying but an actual mantra. From Crescent City we were able to visit DeLand; Barberville; Palatka; San Mateo; Hastings & St. Augustine. The latter is a must-see. Park and get on the ‘RED TRAIN’ .The tour, explanations and history of Henry Flagler and his contributions are insightful. The locals said to forego Daytona unless its race or biker Week – positive advice. We met a member of the Moose Lodge who insisted we be his & his wife’s guests at a Christmas Eve party; attended an afternoon campfire get-together of the area’s Harley Davidson riders; were taken on a back-roads tour of the county and serendipitously dined with the conductor of the Deland Symphony; his wife, & daughter who is a real-life CSI!
The driving is hard; the weather can be (& usually is) dicey; and the trip is not exactly cheap. But the people are super; the riding is A-1 [especially if you avoid A-1-A] or the 65 mph speeds on 95. The mid-winter biking with bare sleeves, helmet-less and showing off the vest with its patches is…priceless.
Cross off another item from my pre-death bucket list!