Florida Fires Are Not On My Route

It has been a long time since I visited Disney World and it was sort of a shock. Crowd control planners there surely must what they’re doing but the strangest things I saw today as I toured Epcot and The Animal Kingdom were the hordes of pushcars (see photo). Disney rents these double strollers by the hundreds and hundreds and parents jam children (some way past stroller-age) into them, along with their fanny packs, purses, backpacks, and anything else they can’t be troubled with carrying. Combine these with privately-owned strollers and wheelchairs and those motorized 3-wheel scooters (“The Rascal”) used by the elderly (both private and Disney rentals) and the general mass of pedestrians and you get a sidewalk jam worthy of a Saigon street market. And I was there today during what was described as a “light” day! I cannot imagine what it must be like during the height of tourist season.


It was amusing to survey the footwear that passed by whenever I took a little break on a shaded bench: gym shoes were the overwhelming favorites, then came sandals and flip flops, then the odd hiking boot or two, and finally the very small but painful-to-watch category of Totally Inappropriate Shoes, aka high heels, Oh, those poor people, what were they thinking?


I’ve also included a photo of my friend’s Disney access pass (the white card that says NOT FOR SALE). It was interesting strolling around the parks and I appreciate my friend’s generosity in getting me free access but I think my Disney World days are pretty much over.


It was great seeing my old Country Western dancing buddy, Lynda Revetta, and we had quite a time hashing over our memories from the good old days and had a great dinner with her friend Dave and her roommate Jackie.


Photo viewing tip: you can see the photo’s in a larger size if you click the little arrow beside the word  “Slideshow” and select “Full View” from the drop down menu.


Tomorrow: Riding down to the southern tip of the mainland, Homestead/Florida City. The brush fires blocking some highways in Florida are not on my route,


But They Have A Low Teeth-To-Tattoo Ratio

The Florida sun is hot, no doubt about it, and on a motorcycle you can get a full dose. Yesterday, I left Atlanta behind and rode down past Macon and onto Valdosta, which is just 16 miles from the Florida border. I didn’t see much that was remarkable which explains my failure to posting comments here last night.

Wind is a major sensory input when riding a bike on long trips. As you can imagine, there is the obvious wind resistance on you and the motorcycle as you go down the highway at the speed limit, which is 70 mph. Without a windshield, the wind resistance pressing on your body would be extremely fatiguing and so the windshield is a necessity (not to mention that it protects you from debris and bug hits). As the air flows over the windshield and around your helmet it can be pretty noisy. Now consider natural wind: suppose there’s a cross wind blowing over the highway. Now you have wind from several directions beating you around and making noise. I’m not talking about enough wind to make steering a problem but enough to fatigue you. And, let’s add in the air stream around other vehicles: a tractor trailer rig is like a ship moving through the water – it has a “bow wave” of air around its front and a “wake” of turbulent air trailing after it. So being passed by a truck causes the motorcycle to pass through the bow wave, enter the “envelope” of air around the truck, and then get bounced around by the turbulent wake. The order is reversed if I pass the truck. In any case, there is a whole let of air in motion and you, the rider, are very aware of it.

To deal with the Florida sun, I’m putting on sun screen hourly and ride most of the time wearing a long-sleeved shirt (L.L. Bean hiking shirts, made of a poly blend, keep you quite cool).

I’m here in Orlando now and will be meeting up tonight with Lynda Revetta, a friend and former dance partner from my Bronco Billy’s C&W dancing days. Quick Quiz: What’s worse than finding your self at a motel filled with rowdy Hells Angels? Answer: I’m staying at a Hilton Garden Inn and have just discovered what appears to be a high population of 8-12 year olds running through the halls on my floor. Lord have mercy: I may have stumbled into some tour group or class trip??

Of Opera and Memory Lane

I buzzed down to Harley-Davidson of Clayton this morning to visit their nice dealership and was very impressed. The store was large and nice and the staff was very friendly. The trip involved going through the heart of Atlanta and, whooeee, the crazy D.C. area drivers have nothing on those around here. However, taking my chances with Atlanta’s wildest was worth the nice tee shirt I came back with.


I discovered yesterday that my hotel was right next door to a Sonic Drive In. The Sonic, which is primarily found in the South, has a particular place in my heart because I discovered them the summer I worked at an outdoor theatre in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The days could be scorching and the wide expanse of the cement stage unforgiving in reflecting heat but we managed to survive because at lunch we’d go for a “Sonic Boom”. This was a slurpee sort of drink that, if consumed too quickly, delivered the well-known cold drink headache for which it was named (see phtotos). The Sonic Boom was our salvation that summer! Here in Atlanta I managed to resist the temptation to eat every meal there and have only had one Slush (as the Boom is now called). But it was heaven and, yes… I drank it too quickly.


During this trip, I’m listening to a Book-On-Tape (on iPod actually) version of “The City Falling Angels” by John Berendt. He was the author of that great book about Savannah, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. The book I’m listening to is about the burning and rebuilding of La Fenice, the opera house in Venice, and it’s very good. I’m listening to it to get myself prepared for visiting there later this month.


You never know who you will run into at Starbucks, do you? I topped off my stop in Atlanta this evening over coffee and tea with Claudia (yes, that Claudia). We had not seen each other in about 25 years and it was great to spend some time with her. She is still a very classy lady.


Tomorrow: I ride southeast through Georgia, past Macon to Valdosta.

In The Heart of Dixie

Glorious, clear blue skies met me this morning as I pointed the Harley down I-85 out of Spartanburg and the forecast for a high of 74 was a treat after yesterday’s chilly exodus from southern Virginia. Compared to the highways around Washington, the road seemed almost deserted as I passed Greenville and other cities. I’m certainly no fan of the rain grooves that South Carolina cuts into so many miles of its interstate (not just bridges); even when the road is dry the tread in a motorcycle tire “hunts” back and forth across the grooves making the ride bumpy. When it rains, ironically, these grooves, which are designed to improve traction, make things much more dangerous for motorcycles.


Rain was the farthest thing from my mind today, though. I snapped a picture of the sky over the Georgia Welcome Center (see photos) to show you just how cloudless and blue it was. My ride today was relatively short and before long I was in Norcross, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta.


The UVA theatre reunion continues: after unloading at my hotel and freshening up, I called my college classmate and former lighting buddy David O. Traylor and we met for dinner. David is a free-lance TV and video lighting director in Atlanta and you may have seen some of his work. He’s been behind the camera for six years on the Food Network’s “Good Eats” show with chef Alton Brown and has even been in front of the camera a few dozen times in small roles.


We spent a lot of time reliving the glories of our college days and the days when we worked together at Sundance Lighting in L.A. (with lots of “rose-colored hindsight”). David is a good guy and it has been 16 years since we last met, so it was great to see him.


I just love the names of some of these Southern towns: I passed “Fair Play” today and David lives near “Between”. 


Tomorrow: more of the mysteries of Atlanta.

A Beautiful Start

Bright sunshine is a good omen when starting a motorcycle trip and Saturday’s cool but sunny weather was greatly appreciated. I left town and soon found myself heading south on I-81 along the western edge of the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. At 70 mph the motorcycle engine was a soft purr, almost undetectable above the wind noise. Traffic was light and all was well with the world.


First stop: Harrisonburg, Virginia and James Madison University, where I dropped in on former college classmate and now costume designer and director extraordinaire, Pam Scheulke Johnson. Pam started teaching costume design at JMU 30 years ago and is now a tenured Full Professor. We had lunch and I confirmed that her beauty, charm, sharp wit and smart outlook on life is still in full flower. She sends her regards to all the UVA drama alums who may read this.


After lunch is it was back on the Harley for a two hour ride down to Shawsville, just south of Roanoke-Salem, and the lovely hilltop home of Bob and Debbie Ashcraft (see photos). Bob and I went to high school together and were the inseparable terrors of the lighting crew there and have remained good friends ever since (even if he did graduate from UVA nemesis VPI). Bob is a computer wrangler for Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield (check your wallet – you, like me, may be an Anthem health care customer, in which case Bob thanks you for his salary). We had a nice dinner with Bob’s sister Martha and her husband Thom and spent the rest of the evening discussing just what’s gone wrong with the world today. Conclusion: all these young folks and their technologies! Translation: proto-geezers like us are having a hard time keeping up… For example:


Cell phone salesman: Is there some feature you especially want on your new cell phone?

Thom: Yes, but I don’t see it listed here.

Salesman: I’m sure we have it, what is it?

Thom: A dial.


After a good night’s sleep I bid Bob and Debbie many thanks for their gracious and generous hospitality and said goodbye and was on the road again. Unfortunately, yesterday’s nice weather wasn’t repeated – it was overcast and in the 55-60 degree range all day. A bit chilly at 70 mph but at least it was dry. I took I-81 to I-77 and headed over the mountains through “Fancy Gap” into North Carolina. The descent down the mountain offered a terrific view that would have been really spectacular in full sun. On I went to Charlotte where I hung a right and headed south on I-85 and crossed into South Carolina and I’m posting this tonight from Spartanburg, SC.  


About “The Wave”: when motorcyclists pass on the road, generally they will exchange waves. Yes, there are some holdouts who won’t wave if you’re not on their preferred bike brand or whatever, but generally they are far and few between. Of course, when one gets to a bike rally of some kind then the wave is not done because all you’d be doing is waving. But it’s nice to get an acknowledgement from the other side of the highway from a kindred spirit.



The Calm Before The Storm

There has always been something in the rhythm of the road that calls to me. I found out recently that several of my ancestors crossed the Old West in Conestoga wagons so perhaps it’s genetic. If you like the road, there is nothing quite like a long distance motorcycle ride to remind you that you’re alive. So tomorrow I’ll depart on a 3000+ mile trip that will take me to Key West, Florida and back over 18 days. This will be a trip of discovery and remembrance, as I visit some old friends and some new places. In my riding career I’ve made four round trips from the East Coast to L.A. and dozens of other long rides to places in between but none recently, so this will be interesting.

The Harley is ready to go and the bags are packed (but let me tell you that after you toss in a pair of size 13 shoes, there isn’t a lot of space left in a saddle bag). The weather is cooperating nicely if a little cool and I’m mentally ready. I’ll be posting comments and photos here as the journey unfolds, the unexpected is expected, and I hope you’ll come along vicariously.