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.

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