Florida – Deliberation, beers & BBQ, more deliberation, more beers & BBQ, and finally taking The Plunge…
A Fully Loaded Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Well, here she is – my brand new 2012 Triumph Tiger 800 XC. I originally fancied the BMW F800 GS, but then decided to ignore reliability, worldwide dealer support and proven track record in favour of ‘keeping British’ – a choice I hope I will not regret! Besides, she looks much sexier (or is that me, ha ha). My plan (or no plan) of flying to the US, buying the bike and hitting the road within days proved to be very optimistic, particularly when all US Triumph dealers had sold out of the new 2012 model.
That left not much else to do but drink beer and eat BBQ in Fort Lauderdale where my good friend Mateo lived (we had completed our PADI Scuba Instructor Courses together there back in 2006). Just when I was thinking of becoming a professional beach bum, I found the last known 2012 Tiger 800 XC in America in a Honda dealership up in Jacksonville, 5 hrs north, and immediately hired a car to go buy it! Thanks, by the way, to Jeremy and all at Honda of Jacksonville, who helped get the old girl ready.
First Campsite – Periwinkle Park, Sanibel Island, W Florida
Once I had bought my bike and spent far too long trying to work out what I needed to bring with me (will the kitchen sink fit?), I thought I’d better get my skates on and go somewhere at least, as over 3 weeks had already passed. So, off to the West Florida coast it was, and a place called Sanibel Island that was supposed to be nice. And it was! However, I still had FAR too much stuff, particularly when a good friend visited and hopped on the back for a few days. This was, in fact, part of the very reason I had opted for a larger bike of 800cc instead of my original preference for a smaller, lighter 650 such as a KLR – so I could entertain the occasional pillion. So, I decided to be ruthless and remove many ‘nice-to-have’ items, keeping only the bare essentials I thought I would need (much easier said than done!).
A 40 Candle Fire Hazard
Periwinkle Park on Sanibal Island is a nice little campsite, and could be called quiet if not for an on-site avery of beautiful tropical birds. I spent half the time trying to widen the vocabulary of the African Grey Parrots, although I’m not sure any qualified Avian Language Teacher would have approved of my choice of words. The campsite is just 10 minutes walk from the (shell collectors paradise) beach, and over half the island is covered by protected wildlife refuges.
It brought a tear to my eye to say goodbye to my 30’s and ‘celebrate’ my 40th birthday on the Island, particularly when the sight of 40 candles temporarily blinded me. However, it was a nice touch by my thoughtful (if not empathetic) aide. I wonder how old I’ll be when this little journey of mine concludes?…
A big lump to pick up on your own; so don’t drop it!
14 Nov 12
When someone buys a motorbike there is always one question that keeps floating around their head: when am I going to drop it? That question was answered for me last night when I pulled over to check the map (because I still hadn’t bought a GPS mount). I pulled off the I95 heading North from Jacksonville into Georgia, and in a hurry I pulled over into a lay-by with an uneven surface on the edge of a ditch. As soon as I pulled up on the edge of the ditch and put the side stand down I knew I was making a mistake, but for some reason (male stubbiness) I carried on saying to myself “it’ll be OK” (good job there wasn’t a woman there to witness my stubborn stupidity).
With the ditch to my right, the minute the side stand went down I knew it was too high and the centre of gravity would topple the bike over, and sure enough, it was. Any (and probably every) biker out there knows that horrible feeling as the centre of gravity tips past the point of no return and your pride and joy starts to fall away from you…. The next split second then assumed slow motion as I sat helplessly while my machine fell into the ditch. On the way down I thought about each and every item of damage that would occur at least 10 times each. As it turned out, she fell rather gently onto her right pannier and engine guard, with no damage (well, except for my pride of course). The biggest lesson one can learn from this is that it’s bloomin’ heavy to pick up again! This alone convinced me not to do it again, pretending I had a choice in the matter.
Anyway, like most accidents or bad things that happen, something good can materialise, and this something was in the form of 87 year old Carlos who was a Road King rider from Puerto Rico. On this cold, dark night, Carlos pulled over his car (and his family) and helped me pick that great hulk of a British Bike up, which was great because it meant I didn’t have to take all the luggage off to do it myself. At 87 yrs old, he certainly was an inspiration, and insisted on remaining there until he saw me drive off safely. Thanks Carlos!
Pleased to have escaped any major embarrassment & bike damage, I suddenly realized I still hadn’t looked at the map, and so I pulled over again a couple of miles down the road; this time on a flat, hard layby. Over the next 10 minutes, as I inspected the bike for damage again, and found out I was nowhere near where I should be, 2 more friendly Americans pulled up next to me to find out if I needed any help (or if I was about to rob their house). And this is how a minor disaster restored my faith in human kind. For a while anyway.
From Sep to Nov I cruised around East & West Florida thoroughly enjoying the beautiful beaches, sunsets & great food (with the odd drink), and could have easily spent more time, but I was anxious that time was passing quickly and I felt I needed to start the trek across to California before I retired and stayed there forever…
Siesta Beach, Sarasota – the best beach in the US! Beautiful sand, crystal clear water, great weather and margaritas!
Life is good when you have nothing to do but sup oysters & beer at sunset (well, good company helps as well)
Sunset cycle along the banks of Crescent Laka, Bunnell
Sunset Canoe – Crescent Lake, Bunnell
I might be imagining things, but I’m sure this healthy Floridian lifestyle is making me look younger by the day… And after discarding some useless items such as food & water I managed to make room for the beer
Sandy Bottoms – Amelia Island
Breakfast, lunch and dinner… the Lazy Biker’s Diet
When Mr McDonald introduced free wifi across all USA branches, he made a very shrewd move to monopolise the diets of all week-willed travelers & bikers such as myself. I often think my daily (or sometimes twice daily) visits may be slightly excessive and not very good for my internals, but what the hell!
A few days after leaving Periwinkle Campsite I discovered an ant colony had made its new home under my seat, which turned out rather inconvenient for all of us. It certainly brought a literal meaning to the phrase ‘ants in your pants’, and I still occasionally find the odd one hiding in there even now. I’m sorry to say I had to violently evict them all in the end (fair warning was given but went unheeded) which likely saved my electrics from a fate worse than death.