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Wi-Fi, Bike Week For Cheap … The Art Of Public Sleeping

March 14th, 2016 · Tags:Airports · Cities · Hotels

 

Miami

It was the first road trip.

It was the first real road trip, because an occasional backroads excursion to Muleshoe or to Lubbock where just not life changing.

As farmers, of modest means at that, we just didn’t take vacations.  Then my dad shocked everyone and announced we were headed to Florida for Spring Break in the Chevy, with my mom and sister in the back seat and me — a young teenager in the co-pilot position, navigating from an atlas and getting “Smokey” reports on a CB radio.  (Old school …)

I barely remember Walt Disney World.  My sister and I were at that age when things back home were more interesting … or maybe we were in the “cool years” — too old to go crazy for the amusement park … but young enough to be there with our parents.

Among the more vivid memories are the hotels and motels swimming pools along the way. Each night after 10-12 hours of “breaker breaker” on the radio and turnpikes and orange groves and swamps and bridges, we would take a dip … no matter the water temperature.  As farm kids in the Panhandle of Texas, I often say we were “swimming-pool deprived.”  On the road to Florida, we hit the water every night, swimming into the lights embedded in the concrete walls of the pool … yes, kind of like bugs to a light, for a lack of a better metaphor.

But the big hit … the most clear memory for me was the beach.  We did a brief stop along the shore in Galveston and it was pretty impressive at the time … until we hit Daytona Beach.  Florida with its emerald, clear water — water the color of a mood ring set on “chilled out” mode was the backdrop for my wildest dreams coming to fruition.  I so fancied myself a beach dude at heart … and all the key elements were at play.  People were floating frisbees everywhere.  Skateboards. “Good-time” vans. Bicycles.  Food carts.  Trick kites.  … And very developed-looking girls of my age group, looking way too old for me, strolling the beach in schools of six to eight abreast. (Pun intended.)

I have not thought of this mythical land of bikinis and sunburns for years, until The Dirty Gig flew me out to Miami for a disaster recovery job at a college in Dade County.  A few days into the project  — having learned I would have weekends off — I hopped back on a plane for Texas and snatched up my Triumph Thunderbird.  I am always restless for a ride when assigned to a project away from home, and it just so happened that Bike Week at Daytona was just around the corner.  I had to scratch that itch.   (Most rate Bike Week up there with Sturgis … some prefer it.)

“I can do this,” I said, trying to convince myself.

The PingWi-Fi budget was tight, since this little trip home was funded by my pocket.  So .. I went total econo.  I flight-shopped online for the cheapest way to fly home Friday night, knowing I would hop on the motorcycle for the ride to Florida the next morning.   Well … I missed out on the good flights.  I booked a cheap flight from Miami to Atlanta, where I would make a connection to Dallas.  The trouble was … there was an eight-hour layover in the ATL, and the flight to DFW was early the next morning.  Remember I was trying to go for cheap. This little trip home would mean a new first for the blog — sleeping in one of the world’s busiest airports.

Most of my friends have heard me make fun of people in the coffee shop or wherever who have mastered the “fine art of public sleeping.”  Now I am among that flock … I digress …

Pretty sure I tossed and turned on the floor, for a couple of hours, sweeping or “swiffering” the nasty carpet with my hair … using my hoodie for a pathetic little pillow …  hiding my eyes from the sinister lights by cowering under a waiting-area chair.  My compliments to the airport designer who positioned a revolving door nearby, which announced the importance of caution while entering the doorway … all night … to an empty airport … every 20 seconds.  Somehow I got three or four hours of sleep.  Popped up. Grabbed a pastry and a bottle of water from a vending machine (ha … five minutes before the stupid coffee shop finally opened its doors) … gargled some toothpaste from the travel sample size tube in my pocket (that somehow survived me kneading the tooth paste inside the tube with my thigh all night.

The three-ish-hour flight to Dallas allowed me to sleep a little more.

Yes … this was a crazy plan.  But I told myself, “It’s an adventure.  This is why I do the blog, for adventures.”  Ha … it reminded me of the early days on a tight budget for Sundance Film Festival when I stayed one of the nights in a Salt Lake City brothel … no wait, make that hostel (I always get those two words mixed up) … which is another long story.  I digress.

 

Final Credits: Sundance Curtain Falls on PingWi-Fi

We landed in Dallas early Saturday morning. Rushed home.  Showered. Packed the bike.  Went and got the old changed, and headed East on I-20.  Ten or 11 hours later, I made my first night destination, a Holiday Inn Express ini Pensacola, Fla., with excellent Wi-Fi, by the way.  (For those of you following along on Facebook … that was the night on the bike that I was in leathers, several layers of shirts, waterproof gloves, thermal underwear and still froze off my arse as the temperature and/or windchill factor hit the low 40s … IN FLORIDA!  Glad I packed … clothes … not referring to the pistol (I am hush-hush about that) … although, yes, Florida does reciprocate with Texas and its concealed weapon types.

I also informed Facebook followers (during the ride) that I took the longest, hottest, most fantastic shower of my life that night.  Up the next morning (Sunday) and was on the 1690 c.c.s of power (ha … the Triumph) by 8 a.m. … It was much warmer from that point on … so the ride became perfect.  I made great time on the interstates both days (I-20 and I-10 for the most part), despite every lunatic on four wheels trying unsuccessfully to cut me off, run over me, or whatever games they were playing.   From DFW to Shreveport to Gulfport to Pensacola was largely nondescript landscapes … or even more dismal, a night ride.  Oh … I must mention that my trusty iPhone I use for GPS and music went dead about four hours earlier than expected.  So … when I hit a stretch of smaller road from Jackson, Miss., to Mobile, Ala., in the dark, my navigating was touch and go a time or two, especially when I pulled off for gas in Hattiesburg, Miss.  When I was fueling The Bird, another motorcycle pulled up — a local guy on a sports bike … fairly young.  Not too prideful to confirm I had the right backroad in mind, in order to rejoin the small highway (49) … the nicest thing happened.  This young dude with a “devil’s haircut” and a long, long goatee offered to just lead me back to the highway.  It seems he was headed that way to a party at a friend’s house.  (“Oh great,” I thought along the way, as the backroad got more and more remote, “Their going to kill me and dismantled my bike and sell it for parts on the black market … and probably make lampshades from my skin.”  But … “It’s an adventure,” I also told myself, again.  Everything turned out great.  The other biker led me a few miles, we rejoined the main highway where he waved goodbye, and off I went into the cold, dark night.

So any who … the next day I hit Lake City Florida, and the Eastern trek took a decidedly southern turn on I-75, which goes down the middle of the peninsula to Tampa. I followed it for a while, then decided to cut over to I-95 — the coastal freeway.  I turned off at Ocala, Fla., headed for Daytona Beach (although Bike Week was still a week away).  Good decision.  The ride from Ocala to Dayton was like a twisting ride through a nature reserve … oh the #F&F (flora/fauna). So many unknown plants and smells … “Was that a most-fragrant hit of wild eucalyptus?” … I digress.

Oh .. but get this.  I pulled over for an hour in Ocala.  The next day, my childhood friend’s wife informed me on Facebook that they too were in Florida … for whatever reason, in Ocala, at the same time.  (Later she told me we were also in Miami simultaneously.)  Oh how I wish I had just run into them on the street.  My old friends “Kev” and Connie from Indiana were in Ocala via Indiana for some reason.  Oh how I love a coincidence (now to be known on this blog as the “Ocala Coincidence” … a nice poetic ring, don’t you think?). You may recall we two teenage best friends reunited in NYC a couple of years back at a nice restaurant in NYC’s East Village … another long story.

 

Concept Bike

Concept Bike

So, one week early, The T-Bird and I tried out Daytona Beach.  There were bikes everywhere, but not the madness of a bike festival, not yet.  I fell in love with the place again.  It’s not an ultra-exclusive, swank resort community by any stretch, but there are lots of new and nice hotels going in.  It’s just such a beach town … and happens to have a cool, long drag through the town, perfect for an afternoon ride.  But, there were hours to ride before I slept.  I took a look at the marshland from a bridge or two south of Daytona, near the coastline … then turned back to Interstate 95 and hauled arse the rest of the way to Miami, completing the second of two consecutive 10-11-hour days of riding.  Loved it.  Only one problem … that crazy iPhone GPS went dead again, just as I hit Miami … you know the point when I needed it most.  It took me about an hour to find my hotel, without a map, a GPS … or an English-speaking good direction giver.  I was so tired.

But … up at 5 a.m. … and off to work I went … “an adventure.”  Five days later, I was headed back up the peninsula to Daytona again … for the full-blown Bike Week.

… to be continued.

Know what I sayin?