Saturday, Apriil 24th - Departure day for the "SoCar ain't SoFar" tour. We had 14 folks heading out from Pinellas County, going to Douglas, Ga. That's 268 miles of back roads (other than the Veterans). The weather was cooperating - overcast and warm. We started north on the Vet's, then cut over to US-41 just below Massacre Town. Breakfast was at the Leprechaun (AKA the Shamrock Inn) in Floral City. After we crowded out the locals, we headed north through Inverness and every podunk town along 41 until we stopped in Archer for our first comfort stop. Lake City was a gas stop, but we waited until Jasper for lunch. We found the H&F Restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch every day. Typical southern comfort food, including greens, fried chicken, corn bread, mac and cheese, etc. I think H&F were the two little old ladies behind the counter - both well past retirement age. After chow, we had another 72 miles to go before we reached Douglas. We saw lots of dead critters, yard sales, police, crops and livestock during the day, but NO RAIN! The weather channel was wrong. Once we crashed at the Hampton, we selected the Flying Cowboy for dinner (we were advised to skip the Habachi Buffet right in front of the motel). We were seated almost immediately, which was amazing for a steak house on a Saturday night, and had a waitress who had to be lying about being a grandmother. The entertainment during dinner was a young lady walking the parking lot in 5" heels and a tight tube top. Steve was certain she was working. After another road meal, it was back to the Hampton for socializing in the lobby area. It didn't take long for all of us to decide it was time to head for the rooms. Tomorrow is a bad weather day, so we'll be making the travel plans after we see what really happens over night. P.S., I talked to William and Lisa - they made it to eastern Tennessee without getting too wet. We meet them tomorrow in Augusta.
Sunday, April 25th - Headed to Augusta, GA where we will meet up with William and Lisa. The forecast includes rain, lots of rain. Well, the forcast was kinda accurate. It was raining at 8:00, and at 9:00, and at 10:00, even though the radar said it was clearing. The lightning stopped, so we headed out around 10:30, with rain gear on. Amazingly, there were no back seat riders when we left Douglas. Bea and Judy hopped into the Rav4, and Cathy joined Bonnie in the back of the Buick. Since it was clear up north and clearing out where we were, leaving seemed like the right choice. Shortly after I saw (and announced) some blue sky off to the right, the skies opened up. Not just rain, but some hail, too. We rode out of the weather in time to get lunch in Swainsboro at the Chinese Buffet. Some rain gear came off, some stayed on, and Cathy abandoned the Buick crew. Just 25 miles from our destination, a comfort stop and warm temps lured Judy out of the Rav4. After avoiding two idiots at intersections, we managed to find the Hilton, where William and Lisa's bike was prominently parked out front as we pulled in. They reported no real rain on there way here from Kentucky, despite the dire forecasts on Friday. It's 5:00 and the lobby bar opens - gotta go!!! OK, i'm back. Much has happened in the interim. The bartender, Holly, is new on teh job, doesn't know how to mix anything with a name that isn't the ingredients. She can handle gin and tonic, rum and coke, etc., but don't ask for a Rob Roy or Mojito. Turns out she is also the waitress for dinner and the room service runner. Needless to say, dinner service was a tad slow. OK, a lot slow. But to her defense, she just delivered the food, she didn't cook it. Back up... Sharon actually delivered most of the food, as she did the menus, coffee, water, refills, etc. Holly had a good attitude, but she was definitely overwhelmed by 18 guests all at once.
Monday, April 26th - Augusta to Travelers Rest, SC., stopping at the SC Botanical Gardens. We had some really good roads today, plus overcast, so riding was really good. I tired of switching from 45 to 55 to 45 to 55 to 45, so I finally decided we'd travel at 47 except when the limit was 35. We got to Clemson University just after 11:00 - that's where the SC Botanical Gardens are - and stopped at the visitor's center for a few photos and then rode through the arboretum. We found the 1825 cabin of a 'well off' farmer and the butterfly garden. Too cold and too early in the year for flowers, so no butterflies. We found a Zaxby's for lunch (smallest one I ever saw), then on to Travelers Rest. The Hampton is removed from civilization, so it looks like a hike or delivery is part of the dinner plans. BTW, when the desk staff said 'no cookies', they decided they would go buy some to avoid having the placed burned down. Must have been something I said? Oh, the Pizza Inn in Travelers Rest isn't the prime dining spot. After that experience, I happened into a large group of tourists in the hotel lobby that had way too much alcohol to share. I was polite and did my part.
Tuesday, April 27th - Travelers Rest to Cheraw, SC, with stops at Cowpens and Kings Mountain. Sounds easy, right? We left the Hampton around 8:00 and headed north to the scenic SC 11. Truly a scenic highway, good for motorcycle riding (except we were riding into the sun). Just over an hour later, we were at the Cowpens Battlefield National Park with just one U-Turn. We wandered about displays and watched the movie, then took the scenic loop road to the battlefield parking lot and the Scruggs Cabin. Amazing what a 'well off' farmer lived in 100+ years ago. Phil asked what would cause the voltmeter fluctuate from 15 to 12 volts. He didn't like the answer - fried stator. Thirty more miles and we were at Kings Mountain NP, where we toured the museum and watched the movie. As we were headed for the bikes, someone announced 'RAIN'. Once again, the back seats cleared, except for Lisa and Cathy. We hit some rain on the way to Rock Hill and lunch at the White Horse. While we dined, the rain passed through, but we chased it all the way to Cheraw. We never got rained on, but we were on some very wet and puddled roads, splashed by passing semis and other large trucks. One emergency stop to jury-rig the shifter rod on William's bike with zip ties, then on to the night's lodging. When we were checking in, Phil told us that his bike was dead - the charge light was on for 10 miles or more and the battery is dead. Tomorrow willl include some dealer involvement. The Jameson Inn is a bare-bones kind of place. When a dozen unwashed bikers were partying in the parking lot, the desk clerk was able to find the key to the breakfast room. Dinner is a big TBD - lunch was late and there's little close to the hotel. After-dinner update: the same group of tourist that I found in Travelers Rest were partying in Cheraw. I again was polite and joined in, then dashed off to Wendy's for some chow. Got wet coming back to the hotel. Phil and Larry went to the local U-Haul to get a trailer... the electrical problem will be transported to Charleston where we will have time to let the experts do their magic. William's problem will be addressed in Florence after the motorsports museum in Darlington.
Wednesday, April 28th - Cheraw to Charleston, via Darlington and the motorsports museum. One bike was loaded into a U-Haul for the journey, and more passengers climbed into the cages. The weather was nice today - jackets for most. The ride to Darlington was nice, rural two-lane. We toured the museum which had some really cool vintage race cars from the times when cars bought at dealerships were stripped of their interiors, roll bars installed, and lettering pasted on the sides and hood. Nothing more, other than racing slicks was done to these 'stock cars' before they hit the track. A quick stop in Florence got the needed part for William, then back on the road. Many back roads later, with a stop for lunch in a non-chain mexican restaurant, we were finally in Charleston. Between lunch and Charleston, Steve reported electrical problems similar to Phil's, so he followed Larry and Phil to North Charleston to get it checked out by the dealer. Dinner was BBQ at Sticky Fingers, just an eight minute walk from the hotel. Another day in the books.
Thursday, April 29th - Patriots Point tour and the dinner cruise. We rode to the Patriots Point parking lot, paid the $3 fee and then discovered handicap parking is free. We toured the USS Yorktown from top to bottom, or at least some parts thereof. Lunch was had in the CPO Mess, on tin trays, just like real sailors. The view from the ship is outstanding in every direction. After lunch we toured the USS Clamagore - a WWII vintage submarine that never saw war duty. Next was the Viet Nam encampment, complete with PBR 105, a river patrol boat that saw meritorious duty, several helicopters and a jeep mixed in between the replica buildings and bunkers. A quick trip through the ship's store netted a couple hats for the tourists in our group. Next on the schedule is the dinner cruise which launches right next to the Yorktown. I'm back... Dinner was probably the best dinner cruise we've ever taken. The ride was 3 hours, first to the east past Fort Sumter, then northwest under the US 17 bridge over the Ashley River, back under the bridge, around Charleston, then north up the Cooper River - again under a US 17 bridge - with another U-Turn and back to the dock adjacent to the Yorktown. This was a three hour cruise with excellent food and service. Highly recommended if you're up this way.
Friday, April 30th - Fort Sumter tour and buggy ride around historic Charleston. We lost Dick and Judy tody - they're heading north... A schedule change put the water taxi ride across the river first, at 10:00 ayem. The taxi was an intreresting ride, but it was followed by a walk of 0.8 miles to the buggy ride barn. I think I over did it for some of the group. After a one-hour buggy ride around town, we walked to the market area and found lunch at A.W. Shucks. After some really good seafood, we raided the Harley shop a block away to purchase tee shirts and the like. This is where the group divided; some chose to wander the retail district, the rest headed for the water taxi, mostly in pedal-powered cabs. I walked. When we landed on the Mount Pleasant side, further splitting occurred - Larry and I headed for the docks to catch the boat to Fort Sumter, the rest either went to recover at the hotel, or went to the dealership to pick up repaired bikes. Steve had a reportedly bad connection at the battery, Phil had some bad connections in the charging system that were not better defined by the shop guys. He also had a tire issue, so that was replaced. We're all ready to head for Waycross in the morning. I talked to Dick while waitinjg for the fort boat - they made it to North Carolina safely. Once Larry and I returned from the fort tour, the group piled into the cages and went to RB's for dinner - another really good choice. Another seafood place, but well worth the drive to Shem's Creek. Back into the cages, back to the hotel, where we gathered once again in the lobby. The group presented WHN and me some nice gifts - not sure why, because we just went on vacation and let everyone follow! Thanks to all for the gifts and even more for joining us on the week's adventure!
Saturday, May 1st - We head south, William and Lisa head north, Larry and Carolyn stay put to meet up with their son, DIL and grandkids. Now the group is just ten and the destination is Waycross, Ga. The route to Waycross is not the obvious route - we found some really nice roads, some were even canopy roads - by travelling west just after US 17 joins I-95. Two miles of interstate, then nothing but rural, rural, rural. OK, we fount Fort Stewart, too, but were only allowed on the rural part up by the tank practice fields. After we corrected the route around the base instead of through it, we found lunch in Jessup. It's really amazing how much good stuff you can find accidentally. The target for Waycross was 3:00 and we were close, but still ahead of the dark clouds. Radar shows William and Lisa will probably get to Kentucky before the rough weather, but very possibly in some rain. Back to Waycross - the hotel is next to a strip mall, and Cedar River is one of the tennants. Four seafood joints in two days, but we are Floridians, after all! It's obvious, too, that summer happened while we were in South Carolina. It's sweatty here. Most of the protective riding gear was jettisoned by or at lunch. Tomorrow looks to be nmore of the same. P.S., William and Lisa made it to Asheville safely - about half-way home.
Sunday, May 2nd - the final leg southbound from Waycross to home.. With the two ladies in the cage taking a different route home, we are down to eight on the bikes for the final leg. The morning was really pleasant as we worked our way west and south. We were on some of the straightest roads in America, I think, all the way to Chiefland. Since we experienced four seafood restaurants in the past two days, lunch in Crystal River couldn't be at Charlie's or Crackers, so I pulled into a BBQ joint. After chow and entertainment by several small locals, we were headed south. I wonder where all that winter weather went that had most of the group in jackets just a week earlier. As we passed the Harley dealer, we noticed that there were almost a million bikes in the parking lot - must have been some big event happening. The rest of the ride was just warm, nothing interesting except for the idiot who changed lanes while I was next to his rear door. Never knew I was there. Three in the afternoon and nine days on the road with some great people is history. Time to wrap up the Arkansas plans so we can do it again! Late update - William and Lisa made it to southern Kentucky, but not to Lexington. They hit the rain that has flooded much of Tennessee and Kentucky, so they're spending the night in a state park - just like the last time mother nature got in the way after a tour.
Monday update - I loaded some pictures to the photo page. William called - they arrived home in Lexington safely. The weather after the storm was clear and cool, but one of the back roads they chose was closed close to the river because of the flooding the area experienced. WHN posted hetr pictures on Kodak Gallery - at http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/sharing/memberLandingPage.jsp?token=174309285803:2069001198