Posted June 19 2009, 1:40pm via twitter.com.
A quick note: I got lost in the country and ran out of fuel , but I am back on track now. Will explain later.
Posted June 19 2009, 12:45pm via twitter.com.
Goes for miles in all directions, stunning.
Posted June 18 2009, 1:53am via flickr.com.
Spent a lot of time on I-10 west today. Covered around 825KM. Everyone I met in east Texas said the drive from San Antonio to El Paso was going to be long and boring. It really isn't that bad, and actually rather scenic. I was expecting flat and straight roads, but there are plenty of gentle curves to the road. Driving in Florida is far worse/less interesting in comparison. I was fortunate that it was cloudy most of the day, making it a comfortable temperature on the highway. I also got the impression that Texas is a little like Quebec. I think that if they had to chose between being a Texan or an American, I think they would pick state over country. Not to say they are unpatriotic - quite the opposite, but their pride seems to be mostly directed towards a single star.
Everything is bigger in Texas, but it makes the trains look small. I whizzed by what was probably a really really long train, but set against a large landscape, where you can see the train end to end, and traveling at 80 miles one way with it going the other, makes a giant train go by in seconds.
Had some more delicious Mexican food in El Paso. With my only exposure to Spanish being limited to Canadian Taco Bells, ordering off an actual Mexican menu entirely in Spanish was an experience. Solution: I will have the special please. El Paso borders Juarez Mexico, which looks pretty rough and tumble. Drove along the border wall and it's a night and day difference between the two sides. Lots of border patrol trucks in the area and "random" inspection stations which I get waved through.
Into New Mexico and crossed another time zone. I keep wanting to get up early but the target keeps moving. Crossed the white sands missile range today. It's a test site for the military. You can't actually see white sand from the road, you need to get off the highway for that. Stop at the white sands monument park, entrance is $3. You drive out into these bleach white sand dunes that run for miles and miles with mountains off in the horizon. They must mistake it for snow out here, as everyone had toboggans. You can hike out into the dunes, but they all pretty much look the same so I didn't really see the point in going too far from the park road. There was also a warning sign saying not to touch anything metallic as it may be hazardous debris from the bordering missile range. Awesome.
Posted June 18 2009, 1:49am via BlackBerry email.
Covered a paltry 250 miles today. Woke up late in Austin. I took some time the night before to enjoy some nightlife. While a monday, Austin is a pretty busy town at night. The 6th street entertainment district has lots of live music to enjoy. The warehouse district has lots of trendy nightclubs, though some were closed on monday. All are within walking distance from nearby hotels, I was staying up near the capitol building.
Drove to San Antonio and made a stop to get new tires and an oil change. The rear was getting pretty thin and the front had started to get a bit of a wobble from a scallop it had developed. The guys at the Universal City kawasaki dealer were pretty friendly and helpful. They bumped me to the front of the service line when I told them I had driven in from Canada and was on my way across the country. Didn't have much in the way of tire selection, were pretty pricey, and even though they had my bike in the garage almost immediately, it still took them awhile to finish the job. Definitely not as cheap or speedy as Zdeno, but were real friendly and helpful. Gave me a recommendation for the best enchiladas in town, and suggested I check out the white sands desert and nearby mountains once I get past el paso.
Had the enchiladas, and they were pretty good. Then drove over to see the Alamo. Full of school tours, although it just occurred to me school may be out for summer, so it could of been church groups or however else young people organize themselves to go on tours in matching tee shirts.
I-10W kicked my butt today. By the time I was out of San Antonio it was already mid-day and the temperature was at its peak (triple digits). Speed limit is 80 miles from here to el paso, so moving a pretty good clip. After about an hour I pulled over to relax under one of the picnic rest areas on the side of the highway. I was actually kinda impressed, the shelters were solid brick in an alamo like style with non-load bearing, but real wood post and lintel beams, and a single concrete picnic table under each shelter. The graffiti was contained to the tin roof and in the form of a respectful name+date+hometown and occasionally destination. It was kinda surreal to relax in the shade on the bench looking up on all the names scribbled on the roof dating back 35 years and as recent as two days ago. Had a good rest...er siesta before moving on. Made it down the road alittle further to a motel in Sonora. Tomorrow El Paso, and more mexican food.
Posted June 16 2009, 11:22pm via BlackBerry email.
Posted June 16 2009, 1:39pm via twitter.com.
Texas is hot, still prefer the heat to our winter. Left around 10 again. The drive from baton rouge to lafayette on i-10 west is cool, you are basically over swamp the whole time. The highway is raised, and runs straight through the bayou, or least that was my impression. The drive from lafayette to the state border was hot and uneventful. Had some good suggestions for cajun food near lake charles, but I was eager to make some good mileage into the state before stopping. Also, had my fill of cajun and creole food in new orleans, I am onto texas beef now. Anyways the recommendations for future reference in lake charles area were: "Café Margaux – very pricey but phenomenal food, Cajun Kitchen – awesome and authentic local fare – cheap and the real deal, Steamboat Bill’s – great crawfish boil..." Thanks Libby.
Into texas and driving on i-10 towards houston sucks so much that the town of beumont has billboards trying to get you to stop based solely on that fact. Drove straight through houston to head north to austin. Cursed at my gps for not putting me into the divided HOV lane moving a million times faster then the rest of traffic. I think it was a HOV bypass lane through houston, as there was no way to get into it once it started. I was stuck sweating on the interstate watching buses, every motorcycle in texas, actual high occupancy vehicles, and rich jerks in nice cars to whom the rules obviously don't apply, zoom past while I was sitting with my clutch in.
Covered around 500-600 miles today I think. With the later half been relatively uninteresting. Staying in austin tonight. Saw some outdoor street performers practicing a hang-from-long-sheet-twirly-cirque-de-soliel like act, on the side of a building. Plan tomorrow is to look around austin some more then head south to san antonio.
Posted June 15 2009, 11:06pm via BlackBerry email.
Walked the city today and saw the sights. Feels weird not being on the road at all, amazing how quickly you settle into a routine. Didn't move the bike an inch, but admittedly I did go check on it twice during the day just make sure it was still where I left it :)
Had a big breakfast, you can really make quite the meal out of a continental breakfast if you eat everything on the menu. Be sure to take advantage of the often overlooked instant oatmeal, usually hiding with the coffee and tea. Walked down near the warehouse district to see the art galleries, lots of local art on display and for sale. Not to be confused with the art sold by the street vendors in the french quarter. Seems like a very trendy place to live. Lafayette square was not worth the detour on the way.
Walked along the river. I didn't intend to go across to Algiers Point, but I was ready for a break from walking. I came across the ferry at the end of canal st, so I hoped on and took a seat. Strangely, the ferry doesn't have a schedule, just shuttles back and forth all day leaving whenever it gets a full car load. If I lived here and had to take it on a regular basis it would drive me nuts. You have no idea when its going to show up. On my way back I just missed it, kinda like Polkaroo. Old Algiers probably was nicer at one point. I think it is supposed to be a historic district, was in the city guide. Don't know whether it is a post katrina thing or its just slipped, but the neighborhood seems a little rough now. Like if it wasn't a sunday morning, there were streets I wouldn't otherwise walk down. Some were bright and colourful, but other streets looked like people didn't really live there anymore. I don't think the area was actually under water, like the abandon houses with collapsed and over grown with moss roofs you still can see below the highway on the way in, just economically depressed.
After the ferry back I headed towards the french quarter. Enjoyed walking the market and the festival atmosphere. There was possibly a seafood festival going on in the market, not sure. Could just be its regular weekend thing. Either way, I stepped out of my regular non-seafood diet and had a po-boy sandwich. I don't usually eat much seafood, but the sandwich was pretty good. I had a small grilled catfish platter from another vendor too. Lots of live music and entertainment. Walked the rest of canal st, got to the above ground crypt cemeteries to late for a tour but got a good look through the gate.
Hope to cover some good mileage tomorrow, and I will probably need to start looking for new tires pretty soon.
Posted June 14 2009, 11:57pm via BlackBerry email.
Posted June 14 2009, 2:10pm via twitter.com.
Left Perry, FL around 10 this morning. Headed southwest to get to the gulf. Palms and pine trees dominate the landscape in inland north west florida. Inland is also redneck territory. Once I got to the gulf of mexico, and started to follow the shore line it became more upper class again. Large beach houses way up on stilts the whole way. I also kinda got the feeling that the area along the gulf is one polar ice cap away from joining atlantis. Highway 319(?) runs right along the gulf shore so you get really nice views and fresh air.
Lots of bikes out riding along the gulf today, mostly cruisers. Stopped for lunch at a small beach and chatted with another rider. I always get instant street cred when they see my ontario plate, and that I rode all the way down. Interestingly, the older, big bearded bikers with wind burnt faces are always the most friendly. Even more so if they ride a non-harley cruiser. Also, most riders in florida don't wear helmets, I don't get it. Why is that not a law here, its like driving a car without seat belts. Oddly, they also have lots of billboards everywhere reminding people to "buckle up, its the law", like seat belts are new or something.
Drove through panama city and whatever the big beaches are to the west of there are called. Lots of hotels and strip malls. Heading inland again before you get that far would be a good idea. I need to pay more attention to what day of the week it is, saturday in a holiday beach resort like area is too much traffic. Might be different during the week. Also passed another couple air force bases, and huge military housing neighborhoods of identical small simple homes. From what I overheard, the local stores a pretty tied to the pay cycle on the base.
Drove straight through Alabama and Mississippi. Stopped for gas once in each state. Paid at the pump. A note to I-10 riders, waving to other riders separated by a divided median and a good 8 lanes of distance is overkill. You should spend more time looking at your side of the highway. Basic rule should be if its a divided highway, no wave necessary. Unless you like billboards, or have some attachment to these states, its a pretty boring drive. Had no interaction with the people, so no comment.
Road kill has gone from deer, raccoons and squirrels, to armadillos, to alligators. Alligators leave a real mess and still have that prehistoric threatening look to them, even when dead and flattened at the side of the road. Armadillo road kill always looks slightly comical, I don't know how but they always end up on there back, with the legs up in the air, and relatively intact.
In new orleans tonight and tomorrow. Will stay two nights. Parked bike safely in a parking garage. Crossed into central time at some point along the way, not sure when. Took the extra hour to take some time and stroll up and down the craziness that is Bourbon st. Lots of bars, open partying and bridal/bachelor parties at this time of year. Probably can get pretty rowdy, from a long day on the road I was a little taken back. I was a little sore, so turned in early. In a good location to explore the city on foot tomorrow, and won't fell rushed to get out of town afterward.
Posted June 14 2009, 1:06am via BlackBerry email.
Left key west this morning around ten, once again it was a great drive out of the keys. Saw things I missed driving the other way the first time. Got on the florida turnpike at its start and stayed on it most of the day. Total tolls were about $15 but worth it to bypass most of the traffic. Only place the turnpike had traffic was the Orlando area. Was kinda of boring in terms of scenery.
Hit a thunder storm around 3, so I pulled over and took shelter under a bridge with a few other riders. A group heading to North Carolina pulled over briefly to put on rain gear and kept going. I waited it out until the rain stopped while having a snack. About 40 minutes later I put on my rain gear even though the rain had stopped in case it started up again. That was a mistake. It was complete sunny for the next 100 miles, so I was just hot and sweaty in gear that doesn't breathe. Pulled over to remove rain gear, pulled over to get gas, pulled over to get food, pulled over to go to the bathroom. Should have combined those stops into one. Back on the road, and sure enough after about 60 miles I hit another thunderstorm. This time I had already stowed my pockets contents in my bag, and had my backpack in plastic so I just kept going. I knew the weather was heading east, and I west, so it passed quickly. Still, my jeans and front were soaked to the bone. Ironically, because I was so hot from wearing the rain gear when it wasn't needed, the down pour was actually a relief. I went from too hot, to too wet, to dry again in all of about an hour.
The service stations on the turnpike have these car spray things to was your windshield with. You pull your car up next to it and the hose at the side of the lay-by comes on. I haven't been able to figure out if they were just water or water with an additive of some sort. I wanted to pull under one to cool of but wasn't sure. Aside: Kitchen chicken has good chicken sandwiches.
Got off the turn pike north of Gainesville to head west, which will be my new prevailing direction for the next week. I was hoping to make it as far as pensacola for the night, but with all the poorly planned stops for rain and such I only made it as far as a Perry. Its a small town south of Tallahasse. Passed a large prison, and jail house on the way in, reminding me how many more convicts the US has. Stopped at grocery store to get 2 bananas, 2 apples, a bottle of milk, oatmeal (motel has microwave and bar fridge in room) and 1L bottle of infused water for breakfast tomorrow. Bought a small can of Pringles for good measure just so the cashier wouldn't think I am some sort of health nut, as everyone else in the store was overweight and I already don't blend in.
All in all, I still covered just shy of a 1000 kilometers today. Tomorrow, probably New Orleans.
Posted June 13 2009, 12:58am via BlackBerry email.
Posted June 12 2009, 3:15pm via twitter.com.
Posted June 11 2009, 6:39pm via flickr.com.
Had fresh fruit on the beach in the previous photo for breakfast in key largo. Rode the short 1.5 hour drive on the over seas highway to key west. It was a nice drive with nothing but the sea and blue skies on either side and the occasional island. Checked into to a B and B in key west early, parked the bike and explored by foot the whole day. Its hot here, but if I am heading towards texas I guess I better get used to it.
Walked the main strip, Duval St. from end to end, looked in some shops, had some food, swam at the beach, swam at the pool at the B and B, had some more food, stopped at sloppy joe's, walked the neighborhood, stood at the southern most point in the US, had some key lime pie at the pie factory (still have had better), saw mile marker 0 of us1, went to bed.
That about sums it up, nice town but a little too touristy for me. Probably a lot cooler in the 30's, since all the shops are trying to be nostalgic. Now its mostly families, couples between 29-39 and retirees. If I was coming to the keys for a longer period, I would probably just go as far as marathon and make an afternoon trip out of key west.
Posted June 11 2009, 2:26pm via BlackBerry email.
Jacksonville isn't that great of a city. If you can skip it, do so. At least it was cheap. Reorganized my luggage in the morning to pack the hot weather gear towards the top, so I was a little slow getting on to the road. The drive south from jacksonville towards miami was pretty boring. It was hot and the roads were straight and flat (not fun to drive in comparison to north carolina). I stopped every 100 miles to douse my tee shirt in water to keep cool and it would be bone dry 40 minutes later. Works as a decent AC systems. Drove past giant multi-level motorcycle dealers in Daytona. Billboard said it was the largest Harley dealer, and was next to some equally large import dealers.
The turnpike is better then i-95, took it most of the way. Made the mistake of getting off it to see miami. Don't do this unless you actually plan on staying in miami. I crossed miami on i-95 in rush hour to us1 and it was excruciatingly slow. Stop and go for more then an hour in the blazing sun on a slab of concrete. Not all that fun. At least I had the skyline to look at.
Traffic completely disappeared as soon as I got on to card sound road (the alternate bridge into key largo). Coming over the bridge was great, hit the crest of the bridge an instantly felt a sense of relief. Gave a nice view of the area.
Cruised key largo front to back to see what was available and checked into the bayside inn. First tried atlantic bay resort but desk office was closed, and key largo lodge was full. The dude at the front desk of the bayside inn was really helpful and friendly and recommend some good options for dinner as well as coupons for whichever. Walked next door to a restaurant on the beach, overlooking the water facing the sunset. Fantastic view. Had some local yellowtail and key lime pie. Yellowtail was good, key lime pie was just okay, but I expected better than okay given my location...
Tomorrow I plan to take an easy cruise through the keys and stay in key west overnight.
Posted June 10 2009, 9:26pm via BlackBerry email.
Posted June 10 2009, 8:29pm via flickr.com.
Forgot to mention, the one cool thing I saw in Georgia was an air force base. I stopped to get gas and heard a giant roar over head. The gas station was right on the take off path of the base, along with probably a really terrible trailer park given the noise. "The 'noise' you here is the sound of freedom." said the sign at the base entrance. I wanted to stop and watch some fighter jets land (which were landing about every 3 minutes) but the land next to road had big no trespassing property of US government signs and the fence line was patrolled. So I figured not a got place to stop and try to take pictures of the f18 unless I wanted a visit from the MP.
Posted June 10 2009, 12:06pm via BlackBerry email.
Left Hendersonville, NC rather late, around 10 I think. Weather forecast was for scattered thunderstorms so I was thinking it would be another rainy day. I ran diagonally down to charleston south carolina hoping I could skip around the showers. It worked, managed to keep ahead of the front the whole way then scoot south before it reached the area. Now that I am at sea level its a lot hotter. In the mountains I needed the leather jacket with a sweater under it and jeans under my riding pants in the morning and evenings. Now I think I will move the sweater and leathers to the bottom of my luggage and just use the mesh gear for the foreseeable future.
Got to historic downtown Charleston around 2. The architecture there is really something else. As someone who has enjoyed the study of the classics, its was neat to see houses with classic revival influences mixed with southern style. Also a mix of well dressed locals and horribly dressed tourists. Didn't park and walk, just weaved around on my bike. Much easier, though no photos.
Drove straight through Georgia. Stopped only once for gas. Kinda of a boring state. Lots of signs advertising every conciveable dish involving peaches. Was tempted to try peach syrup, but didn't think it would make for a good afternoon snack. Feel sorry for all the road crews working in hot weather on hot ashphalt, seemed like all the roads were under construction, but didn't impact travel time as there wasn't any traffic.
Drove into florida and jumped back out to the coast. Thought I would stay on amelia island, as it looked geographically interesting on the map. Drove on 1A1 south and Amelia parkway. Turns out the island is a mega rich area, lined with golf course and gated mansions. Oh well, nice area to drive through and I even left the GPS clipped to bike instead of bringing it in with me when I went in to pay for gas. I didn't think the dude driving the Maserati or the other guy in the SLK would steal it. I am great at finding places I can't afford to stay. Just guessing but the cheapest was probably the ritz-carlton, the rest all offered private villa's on the water. Definitely no motels.
Pushed on to Jacksonville, was driving trying to find a balance of cheap enough to stay in, but nice enough that it would have clean sheets. Passed on the King Inn for 29.99 a night, with bars on all the windows in the area. Further down found the "scottish inn", for 42 a night. Seemed marginally safer, like It would actually be okay to stop and pull over. Is still plenty shady enough that I felt I had to bring the bike into the room with me though. I've been informed that it was the right call as online reviews say its a dangerous area. Sheets are clean, shower is hot, but still wouldn't recommend as cars apparently get vandalized on occasion. With the bike safely tucked in the room with me, I don't have any concerns though. Next up, The Florida Keys.
Posted June 10 2009, 12:00am via BlackBerry email.