Day 5
February 9th, 2008
Motel 6
Gainesville, Florida

I had the luxury of sleeping in today, because I only had 225 miles to ride.  I pulled out of bed about 8am, flipped the tv on, and washed my face.  The weather guesser said today would be perfect, but a little on the cool side.  In fact it was currently mid 40's, but warming to 70 by day's end.

The RT was loaded by 830am and I slipped out of the parking lot to work my way to I-75 North to take the next exit to SR 26, and pick up my custom route.  The sun was bright, and the sky a clean, clear blue, but a fine mist was hanging close to the ground.  This was the University of Florida exit, that I was sure was a huge, sprawling place, that I could visit by turning right, instead I went left for the open highway.
Early morning on SR 26.  A fine mist was hanging low.
On this morning I wore the leather sport gloves, sweatshirt under, and made sure all the vents were closed on the Aerostich.

SR 26 turned rural in just a few miles and the riding was good.  Not much traffic was out, and slowly but surely the warming sun was burning off the fine mist.  For the first time in a long time I had the screen up on the RT, and rode in the quiet cocoon of the BMW's great wind management system.
​slowly but surely the warming sun was burning off the fine mist"
The scenery was farmland, timber, and rolling fields populated with grazing cattle.

My last meal was lunch yesterday so I was hungry by the time I came to the old south town of Trenton.  I saw a man with a pressure washer cleaning off a driveway for some kind of business, I rode over to him.  "Where's a good place for a biscuit?"  He pointed to a small drive through place, "right over there."  I went to it but the line was too long.  I left  and went back through the small business district that didn't have much going on.  "Might be a cafe this way," but alas there wasn't.  "Ill just find a con store down the road."
​I asked this man where I could find a good biscuit.  Trenton, Florida.
In Fanning Springs, I left the quietness of 26 for U.S. 19 North, which is also stacked with U.S. 27, and U.S. 98.  Things were just beginning to come to life.  I rode through to the north side of town and found a BP con store to take my break.

Hungry, I opted for something a little more substantial then my usual fare, so I asked the lady for one of the biscuits in the window.  I bought a Mountain Dew to go with it, and found a seat in a booth by the front windows.  I read the morning news from the Blackberry while I ate.  The store was mostly quiet.  A young, pony tailed guy came in, and bought cigarettes, the only patron the time I was there.  "I bet that joker was in a few of those honky tonks I saw last night."
​The RT relaxes in the shade of Spanish Moss draped
Oak Trees near Trenton, Florida.  NOT to be confused with
Trenton, New Jersey!

I called Debbie to see where she was at.  "Where ya at baby?"  I'm on 331 somewhere around Brantley.  "Ok you're gonna beat me there by a hour, just be careful."  "I will."  I sent my son a text message, but he had already told me he wouldn't be leaving till later in the morning.  I had a good break, but it was time to get back on the road.

A few miles later I was sitting out a red light in Cross City.  The light turned green I pulled off, and felt a jolt in the handlebars, and a bump in the rear, the kind when you run over something, but this time I could feel the pressure on the tire and then the relief.  "What the hell was that? Man this ain't good."  I continued on a few more blocks, "Probably just a real sharp rock, but I better stop to check it."  I went in the driveway of a closed up flea market, set the stand, and walked to the rear of the RT.  I bent down, and there it was, plain to see-the head of a bolt buried in the Metzeller RoadTech, a practically brand new tire.  "Dayum!"

I unloaded the 1200 and put the bike up on the center stand, and took out the repair kit in the right bag.  I carry compressor, 2 plug kits (worms and plugs) and the assorted tools to get the job done.  Only never really did this before.  Saw it one time, but that's not the same.

Using the T handle tool in the kit, I got a bite on the bolt and began to pull it out.  It kept coming and coming.  "What the heck?  How long is this thing?"  Finally it came to the end, I had 5 inches worth buried in my tire, when it cleared the tire the remaining air fizzed out in a few seconds.  "well time to go to work."
​I don't know how this happens.  This bolt was buried
to the head in my tire.  You couldn't drive it in with
a hammer, but somehow I ran over it and stuck
it in my new tire.

I was working on threading the worm in the needle when a pick up pulled in.  Out climbed a man with a gray beard, talk about a God Sent, but HE is always looking out for me.  This time he sent Mac, who just happens to be a member of the BMW MOA and fellow Long Rider.  His lively hood was diesel mechanic, and he had a virtual mobile garage in his truck.  He told me this story, "my friend and I were near Atlanta and both of us had flats within a few miles of each other.  "This is my first in about 60k miles, and only my second in 250k.   "I'd say you've been lucky."  "Yeah, but ran out today."
​Chris Jones of Jones Performance Cycles, Chiefland, Florida.
He also stopped to lend a hand

He coached me through plugging the tire.  "Glue it up, stick it in, then pull it back out, make sure to leave some hanging out."  I did as instructed.  I cleaned the hole with the tool and smoothed it out, then stuck the worm in.  "There ya go."  "Is this gonna hold?  Looked too easy."  "It'll hold."  I took out my compressor and plugged it in to his truck socket, but no go.  "Well heck, I dunno what's wrong, never used the unit."  "That's what's wrong,"  Mac chimed.

Not to worry God sent ANOTHER to make sure I could get back on the road.  This time his name was Chris Jones, owner of Jones Performance Cycles in Chiefland.  He was just passing through and saw our predicament.  "Need any help?"  "Hey man, thanks for stopping.  We might, got the tire plugged, but compressor won't work."  Here let me get mine out."  "You carry one around in your truck?"  "Yeah doesn't everybody," he said laughing.

His compressor was the same, no power, but if you juked the socket it would come on.  "I'm thinking Mac's outlet is no good, here lemme put it straight on the battery."  Mac popped the hood and Chris held the connection down while I connected the valves, quickly the tire was airing up.  "If it doesn't hold I have a tire back at the shop, correct size, but its a Dunlop."  "Well if I need to I'll go that route."

We chatted about a few things while the Roadtech aired up.  Chris asked me, "How do ya like that Arai?"  "I love it, I only wear Arai's, quiet and comfortable."  "Yeah I have a Shoei, but I don't like it, too noisy on the drag bikes."  "Brother I dunno how ya find a quiet helmet at 170 mph, but I can recommend Arai."

The tire finished airing up, and I loaded the RT back up and rolled off the stand.  The plug passed the first test with flying colors.  "Take that compressor with ya, in case it goes down again."  "You're too kind, I can't do that,"  "don't worry about I only gave about 10 dollars for it, buy me lunch next time you come through this way."

I shook everyone's hand.  "Y'all are too kind, if you ever need anything up my way, you know how to find me," as I gave each one my card.  Mac said, "Ride safe."  "I will, thank you."

Please, when ever you see a Long Rider on the side of the road, check on him.  I always make a practice of doing that, and on this day it was given back to me many times over.  Mac and Chris were a real help.  The Lord is not kidding when he says you get back what you give.  There is no other way to explain how TWO, highly qualified guys, just happened to turn up in the middle of some small out of the way Panhandle town to make sure I got back on the road.  No way am I that lucky.

About 30 minutes after taking to the side, I was back on my way.  I started off cautiously, but gained confidence in just a few miles.  "This tire only has 2k on it, I'm gonna ride this plug, till  1) it fails, or 2) tire wears out."  Like Freestyle told me, "worst thing that could happen goes flat again."

Not even a flat tire could ruin such a beautiful day.  I was on a ride, seeing the land, and on my way to one of my favorite spots in the Country; The beaches of Destin, Florida to spend time with my family.  Doesn't get any better.
In Parry, U.S. 98 veered west and I followed it into the Panhandle.  The riding was kind of bland, but hey, I wasn't complaining.   I skirted around Tallahassee by using this highway.

In Newport I left 98 for SR 267, and went into the Apalachicola National Forest.  The reserve light had been on, but I kept ignoring it.  I had to pass a few cars pulling boats, and a camper or two, on my miles in the forest.
At the intersection of U.S. 219 and SR 267 I found a off brand con store and finally answered the 1200's yellow reserve light.  It had been staring at me a long time.  The 1200 took on 6 gallons.  Still over a gallon left in the tank.  "Dang this bike gets good mpg."

I turned west on SR 20.  I'm familiar with the west end of route, but never been on it east of Freeport.  A sign noted Ft. Walton was 90 miles away.  I don't much need signs anymore.  If you set up your route correctly in the Zumo 550, and study the atlas prior, you always know how far you have to go, and what lies ahead.

I passed a HD cruiser bike while crossing the Apalachicola River.  I guess that made him mad and he returned the gesture doing 90 mph.  "What's the deal with that joker?"  We both knew if I wanted I could take the HD without breaking a sweat.  I thought that would be child like so let him go.  Besides, I didn't need a ticket today, and really didn't care he was upset I came around him.  I was having my own good time here at 65 mph.

As I mentioned on day 1, this land is like home, but I've not spent much time here, so with that in mind I wanted to eat lunch in a quiet Panhandle town.  I found just the place at the crossroads of state routes 20 and 77.  It was a country type con store, that served grill orders with a few tables in the rear, a tv hung in the corner hospital style.

The store was nothing fancy, but the fried chicken and fish smelled good.  I held the door for a young lady on the way in.  She smiled at me and said, "Thank you sir."  "Anytime m'am."   Rural southerners are the most polite folks I know.

I snatched a Dr Pepper out of the cooler and walked up to the food on display.  While removing my Oakleys I told the man behind the counter.  "I'll have some of those chicken fingers and fries, and throw in a piece of cornbread."

"sure thing, where ya headed today?"

"Destin, been down to Keys and Miami though."

"nice day for a ride, but a little cool no?"  It was 65 degrees and sunny, but you have to understand how folks in Florida think.  Anytime it is not 80 degrees, they say a "little cool."

After paying for my food I took my tray to the tables in the back of the store.  Two local men, about 25 years old, in hunting camouflage, were seated at the far table eating.  They looked to me when I got close.  One of them spoke out, "hey now, how's it goin?"  "Good, y'all?"  "Not bad." 
The TV was LOUD, so I found the clicker and turned it down, the guy with a goatee thanked me.

I got out the Blackberry Pearl and read the sports.  Also picked up 2 emails from friends, and a text message from Chris he was on the way.

The chicken fingers and fries were really good and so was the cornbread.  I don't get to eat like this often, but sometimes you're just weak.  When I finished eating I called Debbie, who had just pulled into the condo office.  "I'd be there by now but I had a flat a few miles back."  "Ok now?"  "Yeah all good, be there in about a hour."  My son was in Pensacola, "we're gonna arrive at the same time."

I was on the way out when a state trooper came in, he parked his car next to the RT.  "Now'd be a good time to bolt, one less trooper out there."  I knew I didn't have far to go, and wanted to enjoy the last hour of riding
"Now'd be a good time to bolt, one less trooper out there."
It was a calming ride west to Freeport.  The land was full of farm ponds and wood frame houses sitting on cleared spots in the woods, or small hilltops.  Many of them had long dirt driveways to the front.

In Bruce, SR 81 yields drivers turning west on SR 20, no stop sign because the road merges into the west bound lane.  I was approaching the intersection when a 6 wheel delivery truck flies into the merge lane as I close in.  I slow down, "this joker doesn't see me, and he's too fast."  I come almost to stop and stay to his rear, he sees me at the last instant but is already committed to coming over, he swerves right and I ease by.  He threw his hand up in a wave and I could see him say he was sorry.  I proceeded on without further incident.  You always have to watch.

I checked to see if my right flasher had been on.  It wasn't, he just didn't see me.

At last I made it to Freeport for the last 20 miles to the condo.  I turned left on U.S. 331 at the intersection I usually turn right, for those times I'm coming in from the west.  As expected the traffic picks up significantly on 331, one of the main highways to the coast from points north.

On the north side of the bridge I took a picture of Choctawhatchee Bay.  A short ride later I went west on U.S. 98 and followed it to the condos of Majestic Sun, where I'll be parking the next 2 nights.  Before entering the campus I parked the BMW for a few pics.  I glanced up to the 11th floor to see if Debbie was out, she wasn't.  
"On the north side of the bridge I took a picture of Choctawhatchee Bay"

With my pictures safely on the memory stick, I took one last look upstairs, and not only did I see Debbie but Chris was on the scene.  It took a second for them to see me, but they did and I waved happily to them.  From there I took the RT through the gates, and went around to the parking deck, and parked the RT under covered parking after a 290 mile day.  "Farther then I thought it would be."
​The tour now over, the RT posed for this shot on the Destin

I called up to Chris to come down and give me a hand with my bags, and a few minutes later I was on the 11th floor tossing my stuff in the bedroom.  I greeted Debbie and kicked back.  I changed into civilian clothes and the 3 of us went down to the "Whale's Tale" to get close to the water and beach.  It was a nice walk and a good way to unwind.  The Gulf water was a mixture of blue green and azure, and it contrasted with the sugar white sand
​We enjoyed this view from our condo balcony.  I never tire
of it as many times as I've stayed at the Majestic Sun in 
Destin.  I've seen beaches from every coast in the country,
but the Panhandle has the most beautiful with water so 
warm you think you're in the bath tub.  Amazing.

"Y'all wanna go to Mass at 5 today or in the morning?"  Chris said, "lets go in the morning."  We hung around and nibbled on appetizers, and enjoyed the afternoon and view.

We went back up to the condo, and I sat out on the balcony and looked over pictures and notes from the tour, which was basically over.  The only thing left was a short 180 mile ride on Monday.  I did all that with a beautiful view of the beach and a nice sunset.
I sat here with my feet propped up, checking pictures and looking
over notes of the tour just completed.  It was a stunning sunset.

Debbie came out and sat next to me.  "Watcha doin?"  Nothing just looking over a few pictures and making a few notes."  "Good ride today?"  "Yeah, it was.  What's Chris doin?  "On the phone where else."  

When the sun was gone I decided to go down to the fitness center and run 4 miles on one of their state of the art treadmills.  The room is on the first floor with a glass front, so  a guy can see the beach while he runs.  It was dark so I passed the time watching the LCD high def big screen.  Nice.  Quickest 4 miles in a long time.

"So where ya wanna eat tonight?"  "I dunno, pick one," my son said.  "How about Bayou Bill's?"  "Sounds good."  My family has been coming to this area for 25 years, and Bayou Bill's is an old favorite.  I can recall taking Chris there when he was 8 years old.

It was good to be all together again.  My 28 year old son is a busy claims adjuster for Instrust Insurance in Mobile, and working his way up the ladder.  It is good he gets away from things every once in awhile.  We don't get to see him like we use to, but he tries to get back to Prattville every couple of weeks.

After cleaning up we took the elevator down into the now dark night.  With the sun gone the air was very cool so I was glad to have my sweatshirt on.  I pre packed a bag  of stuff for Debbie to bring before I left.

The drive to Bayou Bill's was taking too long.  "Hey did we pass it?" I asked Debbie and Chris.  "No I didn't see it but this is too far, we need to turn around."  We did and went back west, I slowed to where I knew it was suppose to be.  It was burned down.  "No wonder we didn't see it," Debbie said sadly.  We were quite upset such landmark was no longer.

"Look lets just drive back to Destin proper and find us a place near the Commons Area."  A few miles later we spotted Chili's so went there.  It was good.  Debbie asked over supper, "so how was Ron and Sal doin?"  "They're both good, great to see them again, it was really a fun tour."  I had grilled chicken and rice to help offset the disastrous lunch I ate.

When supper was over we went across the street to the Wal Mart Supercenter and picked up the needed supplies.  Mountain Dews, Dr Peppers, cookies and chips.  "There that should do it", Chris added.
Back at the condo I sat on the couch and watched TV, I had the huge slide door to the balcony open so I could hear the Gulf water.  It was great.  I was in high cotton for a Long Rider.

I went to bed after the news.