New Year, More Rides, Longer Rides

Trip
New Jersey to Islamorada, Florida

I’m a little behind. No, I take that back, I’m a lot behind. As one can imagine, life gets in the way sometimes and in this case, it has. My sincere apologies, to you the reader and to my craft for not paying more attention to it. Be that as it may, I present to you a blog I started in January, added to in February and now complete here in this first week of March. Slacker, no. Busy, yes.

Now that we are firmly entrenched in the new decade, life generally gets back to “normal”, whatever that is. The daily doldrums in that balance of work and play, the juggling of schedules and planning of events, taking part in events and hopefully, plopping on the sofa to be a lump for a few hours in front of the mind-numbing box. As one can expect, all the days big plans and agonies ultimately have a conclusion in front of the box and I’m okay with that.

I have always wanted to take a long trip on my Harley. I never cared where I went, I just wanted a long, multi-day, multi-hour, mega-mile trip. So, last summer when the thought entered my mind to ride from our home in New Jersey to our Timeshare in Islamorada, Florida, in the Florida Keys, I got excited about it. Of course I got excited about it the two years prior as well, but things like a broken bike and a hurricane modified those plans.

With much happy-dancing, I am pleased to announce that I finally did do that trip.

On November 1st, 2019, I departed from my home in NJ and rode my 2003 Heritage Classic, dubbed “Sugar” because she’s so sweet, all the way to the Topsider Resort in Islamorada with an overnight stay in Santee, South Carolina. My wife and I would do two rides in the Keys to a state park and for lunch. Then a week later I rode back to NJ, stopping in Jacksonville to see my step-brother and then in North Carolina where I would have dinner with a friend. Upon arriving home, I discovered that I liked the 3-days back. It added some interesting moments to the “adventure” and wasn’t so hard on these sexagenarian bones.

Once home, unpacked, settled and in my jammies on the sofa, my wife said, “So, tell me. Would you do it again?” I pursed my lips and thought for a brief millisecond.
“Yes, I would do it again. But I’d have to modify some things. The route, what I brought with me and manage my time differently.” I said.

Coke Drink
There is a lesson here about drinking a bottle of Coke when going 70 mph. It eventually gets all over your face when you pull it away from your lips. Lesson learned.

It was remarkably fun for me and the more I think back on it, I realize how amazing it was. More than that, I realize how much more I want to do it again. And I will, again in November, the same trip only this time a little different.

  • Leave earlier and avoid the rush hour traffic. Hopefully this will also get me to my hotel before the restaurant closes for dinner.
  • Bring the Camelbak. While it is good that I have the cup holder on the bike, a large water bottle like I used was a tad inconvenient since I really needed two hands to use it. The Camelbak will allow me to have up to a gallon of water available. Plus that frees up the cup holder for a bottle of Coke or Tea.
  • Alter my route. This will enable me to avoid many of the high traffic areas and damned rush hours that I encountered going south and coming back north.

Bridge-2

  • Pay better attention to the weather, primarily the temperatures. I wasn’t completely prepared for it to get colder the further south I went on the first day. Though I did put on my FirstGear Thermo-suit, I did so too late and I was pretty much a popsicle at that point.
  • Make sure all of my gear works. The right heated gloves wasn’t working properly the first day from the moment I left home. Eventually it stopped working altogether. Good thing the heated grips were working fine.
  • Have better and more GOOD road food. Beef Jerky, dried fruits and veggies. This avoids having a questionable trunk lunch at some petrol station parking lot.

IMG_1311

  • Better straps for tying down luggage. I had to stop twice on the way down to re-adjust my luggage because it shifted and came loose. Coming back north I was a little more aggressive with tying it down, but it made it a pain in the ass at the end of each day to take it all off.

Bridge

  • Get better acquainted with my GPS and Basecamp and setting up the navigation. Though I’ve been using my Garmin Zumo for 3 years now, I still can’t seem to get the navigation right. But, thanks to some help from some friends, YouTube and other sources, I have figured out the proper way to setup and employ route navigation. This was a major headache for me on this trip when the GPS continually wanted to reroute me to the route it wanted me to take vs. the way I should be going. I think I have this tackled, but we’ll find out.
  • Make hotel reservations early. Make them earlier in the year and get cheaper rates.
  • Pick out some cool stuff to see on the way. Take a couple minutes to see something interesting along the way and not just a 30-second picture snap. Take it in and enjoy.

IMG_1305

  • Spend more time on Google Maps and street view to learn the roads in unfamiliar areas. When you’re on a schedule, not knowing the roads can create a problem when you take the wrong turn or worse, miss your exit. On my return trip from the Keys, I missed an important divide in the highway and ended up on a highway I didn’t want to be on and eventually cost me a couple hours of travel time due to traffic and weather.
  • Take more and better pictures. This one I really failed on. I only took a few photos and they were “meh” at best. First things first, get a better camera and stop using the iPhone for pictures. Convenient yes, but quality suffers as a result. Sure you can have a multi-mega-super-duper-pixel camera on your smartphone, but… that’s not what its for the subject matter deserves much better.
  • Take more and better video. I was doing okay for while with this and then my primary camera, a TomTom Bandit Action Camera decided to fall apart on the trip. Literally, it fell apart and became unusable. Sadly, TomTom got out of the action camera business and parts for this are non-existent. So all I had left was my 1st Generation GoPro Hero without audio. At the moment, money is being the stumbling block to remedy this.

There are a series of other little things that I have to pay attention to and give attention to before my journeys this year, and I have a lot scheduled. I anticipate this to be a banner year for mileage for me and Sugar and I am looking forward to the new roads, new destinations and wonderful memories.

 

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