Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More ducks

When I was a kid, I cut my teeth on duck huntin'. Sometimes I get so busy chasin' deer and partakin' in the rest of life that I forget how much I really enjoy it.

After Tater and I got into the woodies on the creek last week, I decided I needed to get a little more duckin' in my system. When we jump-shot the pond after our creek hunt, there was more than a pile of 'em on there, so I shot Tater a message to see if he wanted to set up the pond on Friday. He was game, so plans were made.

We made it to the pond with plenty of dark left to get set up. We'd been screwin' around on the pond bank for almost five minutes, when all of the sudden there was a helluva commotion along the opposite bank. We stood in awe as a gaggle of geese lifted off of the pond, some flyin' right over us. The sneaky bastards hadn't made a sound until they took off.

Once we got back to our senses, we chucked the duck blocks out into place and got ourselves situated in the weeds along the pond bank. Within minutes, we had ducks lightin' on the water, but it was still plenty dark, so we stood motionless and watched.

Fifteen minutes later, we had over 30 ducks hangin' out on the water right in front of us, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could handle the poundin' in my chest. Shootin' light had arrived, so we decided it was time to turn the shotguns loose. A few embarassin' moments later, we had three ducks down. Not our best shootin'.

A few minutes later, a handful of teal buzzed into the outer edge of the decoys. Another barrage landed us only one more duck... definitely some questionable marksmanship.

To add insult to injury, we managed to lose track of two of the three ducks we'd initially knocked down. I ain't sure whether they made it to the edge of the pond and hid in the thick shit, or managed to lift off the water while we were shootin' at the teal. Regardless, I don't like losin' birds, and that situation was rather discouragin'. We picked apart the pond edge for a half-hour, to no avail.

After the teal, the mornin' turned slow, so eventually we wound up hangin' out in front of the cover, just shootin' the breeze and enjoyin' the mornin'. Sure enough, we got caught with our pants down by a pair of mallards. I was within grabbin' distance of my shotgun, so grab it I did. The hen committed, and I dropped her in the decoys, then caught up with the drake as he passed overhead. He required a few clean-up shots, but we eventually got the job done.

That was the extent of the excitement for the day, but it had already been a helluva day. We collected our stuff and got gone.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Turkey Call Auction

I've been wantin' to post this for a while, but it kept gettin' shuffled to the back burner. I'm finally gettin' caught up...

I may have mentioned my tendency to hang out on the forums on a regular basis. I find 'em to be a great source of information for just about anythin' huntin' related, and Pennsyltucky huntin' in particular. There's also tons of stories and pictures from successful (and not so successful) hunters in our state. There's also a lot of interaction within the membership, both online and in person. Overall, it's purty tight-knit for an online community.

Rick Harro, an HPA member and one of many great turkey call makers in our state, recently found out that one of his neighbor's daughters was battlin' leukemia. With the help of the HPA community, he put together an unusual fundraiser back in September to help out; a turkey call auction.

Anyone that knows me knows I have one helluva weakness for turkey calls, so I knew that I'd be goin', come hell or high water. It'd be a good chance to help out a local family, scratch my itch for turkey calls, and it would also be a good chance to meet some of the fine folks that I converse with on the forums.

I managed to connive Spanky into drivin', and Tater met us there. Let me tell ya, Rick did an awesome job of puttin' the whole thing together. Pennsylvania is home to many of the best callmakers in the country, as evidenced by the piles of awards that come back to PA from the call making contests at the annual NWTF convention. Rick managed to get donations from a staggerin' amount of 'em. Not only that, but he got donations of artwork, knives, firearms, gift baskets, and other huntin' related accessories. To sell it off, he snagged a celebrity auctioneer from Barrett Jackson. There were piles of food and drinks that were donated by local stores to cater to the couple hundred bidders in attendance.

Many of the call makers that donated were in attendance, so I more or less wandered around in a daze for the first hour or so, just in complete awe. When I finally managed to pry my jaw off the ground and utter a few words, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy most of them were to talk to. They all had a story to tell, and most had a few jokes up their sleeves as well. Most of the call makers and bidders were excellent turkey hunters as well, and they were willin' to offer up some sage advice. I wonder how many longbeards have been collectively tug over the years by the folks that were at that auction? It has to be a staggerin' number.

The auction itself was quite a show. I love to hear a good auctioneer, and it was plain to see how that fella came to work for the likes of Barrett Jackson. He was excellent at engagin' the audience and gettin' those extra few dollars from the stubborn bidders, and was quick to crack a joke here and there.

I bid on several call and a few pieces of artwork before I finally pulled the trigger and won a fine wingbone yelper made by Tony Ezolt of Kutztown, PA. I've been admirin' his wingbones for a long time, and I was ecstatic to finally have one of my own. Now I just have to learn to run the damn thing...

I won the lower call... a fine piece of artwork, for sure.

Tater bid for and won a beautiful runnin' pot call made by Austin Botts of Jim Thorpe, PA. He had to leave early, so I picked it up at the end of the auction. Let me tell ya, after runnin' that call a few times, it made it very, very hard to relinquish it back to Tater the other mornin'. That's one good soundin' call.

Of course, Miranda and her family were the guests of honor. One of the highlights of the day was call maker Andy Snair, of Rockhill, PA, presentin' Miranda with one of his beautiful custom wingbone yelpers. It was very emotional for the family, and purty movin' for the bidders. I think I must caught a piece of dirt in my eye about that time... started waterin' up a bit.

Rick's goal for the auction was to raise $5,000. After seein' the quality of calls and the number of bidders in attendance, it was no shock to me that the auction raised more than $11,000.

I had a helluva good time, and it was a great way to burn a September afternoon.

Hat tip to Tater for most of the above pictures, since I was too busy yappin' to take many pictures of my own.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creek woodies

Last year, I got Tater to come up to the farm to hunt the creek for woodies, and we had a helluva good day. We decided we'd better try to do it again this year.

Thankfully, we were able to make it happen again on Tuesday mornin'. It wasn't quite as fast and furious as last year's hunt, but we managed to catch up to a few of 'em.

We also checked out a nearby pond before we left, and wound up with a teal to add to the mix. I screwed up and got up the pond bank before Tater, and the ducks flushed before he was in position. We shoulda had a few more, but that was my fault.

It was an awfully purty mornin' to boot, and the company was exceptional. Hopefully we can keep this at least an annual event.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 7

My final day was likely the most adventurous, although not the good kinda adventure.

After a surprisingly restful night of sleep in the back of the pickup, I was awoken by the first of the mechanics rollin' in on his bike. We exchanged pleasantries, and I filled him in on the previous evenin's activities and shot the shit for a little while. The shop manager soon arrived with the keys, so I got the bike pushed around the back as the rest of the staff arrived and got the shop opened up. I'd shot a message to the service manager the evenin' before while I was waitin' for the tow truck, so he wasn't surprised to see me when he rolled in.

After gettin' the shop opened up, they got the bike and and went right to work. We decided to scratch the first tire, so a brand new tire and tube went on. The mechanic himself took the bike around the loop to make sure the wobble was gone and to make sure everythin' else was kosher, and by 10, I had a clean bill of health. I was prepared to pay for the second tire, as the staple the caused all the trouble in the first place sure wasn't the shop's fault. However, the service manager shocked me by tellin' me that they wanted to help me out, and there would be no charge for the second tire. To say I was shocked would have been an understatement. Not too many places would take care of an out-of-towner like that. To the fine folks at Jacksonville Powersports: Thanks for puttin' up with me. To have a staff like yours that was willin' to take care of me and my bike while away from home meant alot.

As I was on a first-name basis with half the shop at this point, I went through and said my goodbyes, crossed my fingers, and once again headed for the interstate.

One of the trip highlights happened just as I got back on the interstate. As I rode along, I noticed somethin' out of the corner of my eye. I looked to my left, and there, barely 40 feet off the ground, was an eagle flyin' along right beside me. That just about beat all I've ever seen.

Another feature of Florida is that they don't skimp on their bridges. This was another gem that I crossed shortly after I saw the eagle.

State aesthetics aside, I won't lie... I was really, really damn happy to make the Georgia line. With a little over 800 miles to go and on my last day, I fell into the I-95 groove and pushed hard for home. The weather got nice again, and I was feelin' purty good about the rest of my journey.

When I got a few hours from Fayetteville North Carolina, I texted my friend James, who I was supposed to stay with the night before. My arrival in his neck of the woods worked out with his schedule, and we were able to meet up a the local Cracker Barrel for a quick dinner.

When I went to start the bike after dinner, she barely cranked over. I was just about to panic, when all of the sudden the engine took and fired to life. I wasn't sure what the issue was, but the bike was runnin', so I kept headin' North.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I started noticin' my neutral indicator light flickerin' on the dash. That purty much told me that my issue was a little bit more complicated than a deceased battery. Some sorta electrical gremlin had taken control; not a good thing with 400 more miles to go, and less than ten hours until I had to return to work.

A quick back story here... Most bikes have what's called a reserve tank. It's not really a reserve at all, but it's simply a petcock control that releases the fuel left in the lower section of the tank. For the last year or so, when my bike gets close to that level, it tends to just cut out. The aforementioned petcock is controlled by vacuum via the carburetor, and I guess the vacuum isn't quite strong enough. When it cuts out, I simply wait a minute or so, choke the bike and crank it 'till she fires back up, then find the nearest gas station. It's a hassle, but not to the extent that I've spent the money on fixin' it.

Fast forward to my current situation, and now that little tidbit was more than a hassle. With my battery bein' drained, I needed to be a little more prompt about stoppin' and toppin' off, so she didn't have her little hissy fit and leave me sit along the highway.

Well, sure enough, my dumbass pushed her just a bit too far, and there I sat with a dead bike along one of the most brutal interstates in the country, in the dark. I was less than enthused.

Once again, I called my insurance to line up a tow, but in the meantime, I started pushin'. The fuel station I had been plannin' on stoppin' at was about three miles up the road, so I figgered if the tow truck took as long as it did the night before, I'd make the station before the truck got to me.

I finally noticed that I was on a slight downhill... maybe just enough to be able to push-start it. I popped open the fuel door with the key, so I didn't have to turn the bike off at the gas station, and started rollin' her up to speed. Sure enough, I popped the clutch and she fired to life. My challenge now was to keep her runnin' the remainder of the trip home.

I made the fuel station and topped off, then called and cancelled the tow. Once again, I crossed my fingers and headed up the road.

I quickly realized that havin' the fuel door propped open, in addition to the up-draft caused by the windshield, was not a good combination. The fumes from the tank were blowin' directly in under my helmet, which made breathing a lot more interestin' than I wanted. If I turn up with cancer in a few years, now you know why.

Fumes aside, I was runnin' purty good until I hit Richmond, VA. A local tow truck pulled up beside me and started flashin' his lights. It took me a moment to realize what he was tryin' to tell me, but then I looked back and saw my taillight was out. To the gentleman from Hanover Towing that alerted me to this: If you happen to read this, thanks for lettin' me know. Not havin' a taillight on a bike, with Richmond, DC and Baltimore to get through, is damn near a death wish. It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to pull off at the next gas station, shut her down, and try to find the source of my wirin' woes.

Naturally, I wound up at the sketchiest damned gas station in Richmond, but I didn't really have a choice. I shut her down, and purty much tore her down right there. A half hour later, with no luck findin' anythin' obvious, I put her back together. I got out my flashlight, said a little prayer for some extra battery life, and duct taped the light to the tail light lens. It wasn't perfect, but it was damn sure better than nothin'.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that damn near nobody in Richmond has a set of jumper cables in their cars. Givin' up on that option, I cussed and fussed for a half-hour tryin' to push start her on the flat lot, but to no avail. I finally pushed the bike up to road to another gas station, where I finally found an awesome chick that not only had a set of cables, but knew how to use the doggone things. We got the bike runnin' in short order, and off I went again.

Despite the finest efforts of several construction zones around DC that had a surprisin' amount of traffic at a stand-still in the middle of the night, I finally pulled into the driveway around 3am. To my surprise, I had a welcomin' committee waitin' awake for me. After the long road home, it sure was nice to give that girl a kiss again. I had just enough time to take a shower and cook breakfast before I headed to work for one of the longest 12-hour shifts I'd ever worked. I was flat out whooped.

In seven days, I'd traveled 4,756 miles, covered 14 states, burned around 120 gallons of fuel and only got nabbed for one ticket. I got to have a few brief visits with friends and family along the way, and the gremlins thankfully stayed at bay until after I'd accomplished my goals. Most importantly, I'd covered the distance without meetin' an untimely demise, saw some of the greatest things our country has to offer and got lots of quality thinkin' done. It was truly an awesome experience, and nothin' can beat the memories that will last a lifetime.

For the two of you that read all my ramblin's and checked out my pictures over the last few days, I thank you for followin' along.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 6

Florida was already much more of an adventure than I'd anticipated, so I was ready to make my escape. My sixth day was set to be a leisurely trip to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to stay with some more friends from my newspaper era.

When I finally arose from my slumber, I threw in a load of laundry and took a nice, long shower... both were badly needed. When the laundry was done, I got my things together and let myself out.

By now, I had over 2,000 miles on that used tire I'd picked up in San Antonio, and from the looks of things, tryin' to get the rest of the way home on it wasn't the best of ideas. As it was just after lunchtime, and I only had around 400 miles to go that day, I decided to nip it in the bud and get another thrown on. I jumped on the internet, made a few phone calls, and found a shop just north in Jacksonville that could take care of me. I loaded the bike back up, and off I went.

I found Jacksonville Powersports with no problem, as it was right off I-295. Within 15 minutes, they had the bike on the lift, and I was walkin' out a happy customer 45 minutes later.

Then, once again, the day went to shit.

I'd no sooner got back on the interstate than I started to feel a wobble. I yanked the bike to the shoulder... sure enough, the new tire was flat. I called the shop and explained my dilemma, and before long they had a runner there to pick me up.

With the bike back on the lift back at the shop, they quickly found the problem... somewhere in the nine miles of the new tire's life, I had picked up a staple, and it had punctured just enough to shred the shit outta the tube.

The old heads of the shop got together, and decided that the tire could probably be resurrected, although there was a little bit of damage from the tube spinnin' around inside of it. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way again.

Except I wasn't. I felt one helluva rear tire wobble as I left the parkin' lot, so I turned around and went right back. By now, they were officially closed for the day, but I managed to catch the service manager and the mechanic as they were leavin'. We yanked the bike back in, but after pokin' around for a half-hour, we couldn't find anythin' that would be causin' the wobble. I decided that I could live with it to get home and that I'd take my chances, so we hemmed it up and off I went.

Well, this time I made it about eight miles, then... flat again.

I weighed my options, then finally called my insurance company's roadside assistance for a tow back to the shop. In hindsight, I shoulda just pushed the damn thing. By the time the tow truck got there almost three hours later, it had long since been dark and the skeeters were feastin' on me somethin' fierce.

After gettin' situated back at the shop, I finally came to the realization that in all the excitement, I'd never really had anything to eat or drink all day. With that thought in mind, I bit the bullet and walked up the street to a Waffle House. As hungry and thirsty as I was at that point, I'da paid a million for that junk food. It was phenomenal.

After gettin' my fill, the only thing left to do was to wait 'till mornin'. I didn't really want to draw any undue attention to myself to the local gangbangers or law enforcement, so I set up shop in the bed of the parts truck out front, where I couldn't be seen. With a saddlebag for a pillow, I commenced to gettin' a surprisingly good night's sleep after a purty much worthless day.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Homebrewed broadhead target review

Takin' break from chroniclin' my motorcycle odyssey for a day...

A few weeks back, I set about whippin' up a cheap broadhead target whilst gettin' ready for the bow season.

Well, I commenced to sendin' some arrows through it the next day, and somethin' bad happened.

On my ninth shot that day, I heard a weird noise upon releasin' the arrow, and felt a slap at my wrist. Sure 'nuff, I'd gone and blown the bow up.

Granted, I've got nobody to blame but myself. It'd been at least nine years since I'd had a new string put on the ol' gal (the powers that be recommend a new one every two to three years). I've sent thousands of arrows a'wingin' in that time, so that ol' string didn't owe me a thing. I just got lucky and didn't get hurt when it decided to go.

But, back to the target...

I managed to get nine shots on target before the bow blew. The first three arrows almost knocked the target backwards, so I took the target back into the shop and added a few small 2x4 lengths to the back of the frame to help brace it against the ground. After that, it worked flawlessly.

At eight inches thick, it had no problem stoppin' my arrows from punchin' through.

The only special treatment it's gettin' is that I'm takin' the practice heads off the arrows before yankin' the arrows back out. This not only makes it easier to remove, but it'll help the insulation panels to last a little bit longer. Also, to help distribute to wear a little more evenly, I'll shoot at the small dots in the corners at closer distances, rather than the large center dot. That helps keep me from bangin' up arrows as well.

The only downside is that the insulation leaves a bit of a film on the arrows after a few shots. I know a lot of the 3D target shooters use a special (expensive) arrow lubricant on their arrows to avoid this. Since I'm cheap, and I already have the practice heads screwed off, I find it just as easy to use the blunt edge to scrape the junk off.

I picked the bow up from the shop after my trip, and have since thrown close to 150 arrows through that target with no problem. Based on the current wear rate, I imagine that I'll have to replace a couple of the center panels every 300 shots or so.

Overall, for around $10 and the time to build it, plus a few bucks and a half-hour to replace a few panels here or there, I got a solid, portable broadhead target. Not too shabby at all.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 5

The fifth day was set to be a long but adventurous day. I would be headin' from St. Pete to South Florida, then ridin' through the Everglades en route to the Keys, then back to St. Augustine Beach in the northern part of the state to stay with another cousin and his wife.

After three quick hours of sleep, I slammed a cup of coffee, got my things together, said my goodbyes and headed out. First thing's first though, I was about due for an oil change. I yanked it into the nearest Hellmart, got the items needed, and changed the oil right there in the parkin' lot.

That done, I jumped on I-75 and headed south.

The weather had made a full U-turn from the night before, and it was about a purty a mornin' as I could ask for. There were palm trees and gulf water as far as I could see as I crossed the lower Tampa Bay... definitely a right purty place.

I saw three bald eagles on the trip, and all were in Florida. I didn't get any pictures, but as I don't get to see but a few of 'em a year, I tend to remember the sightin's well. The first one I saw just north of Naples, which made a bright and beautiful mornin' even better.

I jumped off I-75 onto U.S. 41 at Naples, and headed off into the Everglades. I saw my second eagle floatin' above me somewhere in there, but I was disappointed that I didn't see any panthers or gators. The Glades themselves are very vast and beautiful... another place I wish I could have taken more time to explore.

As I rode along, I saw some rain developin' up ahead. It didn't look to be anythin' more than a few drops, so I donned the helmet and left the raingear in the bag. Questionable decision... twenty minutes later, there wasn't a dry thread to be found. However, it was in the 90's, and it was a warm, tropical rain, so I damn near enjoyed it. I rode back into the sunlight, and was dry again within a few hours. All things considered, it was the only solid rain I ran into the entire trip, so I can't bitch too loud about that.

On the other side of the Everglades, I saw signs for Key West, so I followed 'em. They took me to Homestead, which is more or less the last outpost before you head out to the islands. By this point, it was early afternoon and I knew I wasn't gonna get to cousin Nate's house anytime soon. I thought briefly about scrappin' the islands and just headin' north, but I'd come that far so I decided to push on. I topped off the tank and was on my way.

I prolly shoulda done a little more research. When I was thinkin' about ridin' out to Key West, I was envisionin' a few small islands and a lotta bridges. Boy, was I wrong. It's 127 miles from the mainland to Key West, and most of it is island with 35-45mph speed limits. Couple that with construction zones and cops everywhere, and it was very slow goin'. In other words, it was damn near seven hours straight of continuously monitorin' my speed so I didn't get pulled over again... very stressful on the brain. While I'll treasure the memories of doin' it, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to do it ever again.

All that said, it was hellaciously purty out there. I've never been to the tropics before, so to finally see the turquoise water in person was neat. In hindsight, I shoulda stopped for a few minutes and dipped my feet in for a little bit, but at the time I was too overwhelmed with how late I was runnin' and tryin' not to get yanked for speedin' again. The bridges I encountered were fun to run, and it gave me warm and fuzzies to stare out over all that purty water.

It took a little doin' to find it, but I finally got to the Southernmost Point of the U.S., and spend a few minutes there takin' pictures. Not too many folks get to do that on a bike, so I was rather pleased to have made it.

Once again, I got to take in another gorgeous sunset as I headed back across the Seven Mile Bridge.

I got back to the mainland well after dark and stayed north on U.S. 1, and that's when my penchant for avoidin' toll roads when possible bit me in the ass. Let's just say that downtown Miami is purty much batshit crazy, even at 9:30 on a Tuesday night. After narrowly avoidin' an untimely demise several times, I finally was able to jump onto I-95 where I had some room to breath again.

By then, I had exhausted my supply of road snacks, and I was startin' to drag ass. I knew I was in for a long slog up to Nate's place, so out came the headphones blarin' Pantera and gum to keep me awake. Even still, I had to stop several times in addition to my fuel stops to clear the cobwebs.

I finally rolled in to Nate's around 3:30am. As Nate is a former Texan, I was again greeted with a handshake and a cold beer. The late hour be damned, I thoroughly enjoyed that beer, and another, as we caught up for an hour or so. He finally decided to head back to bed for an hour before he had to leave for work. By then, his wife was already up and gettin' ready for work, and I passed out on the floor while waitin' for her to get outta the shower. Bein' on the floor didn't matter... I was wasted tired and still slept like a baby. It was a fittin' end to a fustercluck of a day.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 4

The fourth day was when things finally started to get a little rough.

It all started by fightin' the alarm for an extra half-hour. While I certainly needed the rest, I had over 1,000 miles to ride to St. Petersburg, Florida that day. Seems like anytime I start the day off late, the rest of the day follows suit (Spoiler alert: it did).

To add insult to injury, my cousin's apartment complex is gated. Well, shore 'nuff, my little KLR wasn't enough to trip the sensor that opens the gate. My cousin said to call and wake him if that happened so he could trigger it, but damned if my phone calls woke him. So, there went another twenty minutes until another tenant mercifully decided they had to leave, and I was able to follow them out.

It seemed like things were gonna smooth out for the day. I settled onto the I-10 beat, gettin' comfortable since I knew I'd be on that road most of the day. Then, Louisiana happened.

Just outside of Lake Charles, the speed drops from 70 to 60. I was in heavy rush-hour traffic, so I failed to notice this. The nice state policeman hidin' under the overpass did take notice, however. Another twenty minutes down the drain.

I got back on the road, and things seemed to be smoothin' out again. For the record, I-10 through Louisiana is more or less just one big damn bridge. It was somethin' different, so I enjoyed it. I can see how someone would get real sick of it if they had to drive it every day though.

Then, just west of New Orleans, I passed a fellow rider sittin' along the shoulder on one of the aforementioned bridges. I've had my share of breakdowns, so I'm not apt to go rollin' past without at least checkin' in. I whipped it over to the shoulder and kicked back to him.

Turns out my new friend Malcolm was havin' issues keepin' his Jixxer runnin', which he was purty certain was some sorta faulty electrickery. Well, we played around with it for almost an hour and I couldn't find squat. I'd just about given up hope when I noticed two sets of wires runnin' tight in along the engine. Someone had just twisted 'em together instead of a proper splice, so they were brushin' against the metal and shortin' everythin' out. I yanked out my wirin' kit, and with a some patience and some real splices we had that 750 runnin' like a song. I threw my toolkit back together, and with a handshake and a hug, we were in the wind once again. I followed him to his exit to make sure he didn't have any further problems, and then I jumped back on I-10 and was eastbound again.

I'm thankful that I was able to help the lad out, but damned if it didn't back me up another hour and half.

As I approached my next gas stop, I passed a tourist trap country store that looked invitin'. I fueled up, then backtracked a few miles. It was a neat little junk store with a cafe attached, so since it was past lunchtime, I decided some authentic Cajun fare was in order. At the recommendation of the waitress, I wound up with a delicious po' boy and some seafood gumbo. I also stocked up on some pralines for my lady on the way out the door. It took yet another half-hour, but it was definitely worth the time.

From there, the day just got long.

First, I forgot about that pesky time change. Check off another hour I didn't anticipate.

On the plus side, as I got outta Louisiana, the dreary weather I'd been in all day finally cleared up... for a little while.

I made it through Mississippi and Alabama without incident, but the skies started to darken as I hit the Florida line. I stopped at the visitor's center just inside the state line to grab some fresh, free orange juice and to use the bathroom. The Blue Angels jet on display was a neat addition to the center.

For the next few hours, Momma Nature was purty much bipolar. Beautiful one second, dark and spittin' rain the next. Thankfully, I was in the clear as the sun went down, and was treated to another jaw-droppin' sunset.

Although it was nice behind me, I was ridin' into some heavy cloud cover as the sun disappeared. I felt it was in my best interest to stop and throw on the rain gear. Besides, it was gettin' hard to see outta my face shield for all the doggone bugs.

I slogged through the rest of the evenin' like I was runnin' through quicksand. I finally made it to my aunt's place in St. Pete around 1:30am, a solid four-plus hours behind schedule. My aunt stayed up just for her bear hug, and of course, we had to sit around and chew the fat for another hour. With another long day ahead of me, I finally showered and laid down for a quick rest around 3am.