The Anatomy of a motorbike group

The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.

Mary Kay Ash

Recently a friend of mine told me they had been invited to be a “prospect” for a local motorcycle club. This was the same club another friend had left last year.

Another friend had been invited to join another motorcycle club and then had the offer withdrawn.

Some others in a third club were starting to encounter the issues that many of us had experienced in the past.

It made me think about all the clubs and associations I knew, and that big or small all of these clubs had the same anatomy – and that this could be easily classified into distinct common categories.

Now I am not talking about the back patch or “brotherhood” bike clubs which are few and far between and have a distinct vetting procedure, only allowing those in to join who meet and demonstate their criteria and have been approved by the membership as a whole. These are a distinctly different breed to what this article is about.

This article attempts to explode the structure of the club whose only membership criteria is that the applicant has the ability and desire to pay the modest annual subscription, (and possibly owns a specific brand of bike in the case of an owners group club).

As I thought about all the clubs I knew, including a club an ex had been a member of, which limited it’s membership to 20, another whose self styled moniker was “alcoholics with a biking problem”, that there was only one that I knew well enough that seemed to buck the trend – this is a Harley club but is not local – otherwise I would join it in a shot.

So I name no specific clubs or individuals and you may disagree with the article but this is my interpretation of the anatomy of a motorcycle club – which probably works for other clubs too – as it plays of the frailties of human nature rather than being biking specific.

At the very top.

The President or Director.

Usually voted in – if it isn’t the groups founder.

They will generally fall into one of the following two types:

Peter “Idi” Amin

Peter has no responsibility in his life except for the remote at home – he desires power but once he has it the club becomes his own personal fiefdom.

Normally will surround himself with sycophants and will ignore anything that he isn’t interested in. Even if a majority of the club would enjoy and contribute to an event – if he isn’t interested in it he will never support it.

Arrogant, ignorant he will take no responsibility for a clubs demise or for any loss of members due to his inept leadership. The only reason he got the job in the first place was because he had a big mouth and other idiots chose to listen to him.

Will probably have a big President badge and God forbid if he ever was to leave would have big Ex Presidents patch as well.

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Johnny Normal

Johnny is the perfect President. He/she is doing it for all the right reasons. They have no thirst for power – they probably are used to making decisions in their business lives and are the perfect leader. They want to make the club a better place and see it thrive. They are a rare breed but they do exist.

The biggest club in my region has one as does the most successful club I know – which is located in the North West – and hasn’t changed for years – mainly because if it isn’t broken you don’t need to fix it.

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OK he isn’t quite normal

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Of course this is

But any Director is dependent on a vibrant committee as the job of running a club, however small, is too big for one person.

Committee

Two types of people join committees. After all it can be a thankless task. You get no remuneration, it takes up a lot of time to do it properly and if you falter there are plenty of idiots ready to pillory you.

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The Power mad status grabbing morons

These are mini Peter “Idi” Amins. Once on the committee they think they are better than everyone else – even better than some other members of the committee. On the basis that no committee position is ever contested – because it is such a thankless task – they have not been voted in they have just volunteered.

I remember once having a conversation with an Activities Officer about an event several of us thought would be easy to organise and manage, would be well patronised and would be financially profitable – raising significant funds for charity. The response was “I haven’t got time to do that. You know I don’t get paid for this”.

My response was “YES THAT IS WHY IT IS AN HONORARY POSITION”.

As Jethro Tull sang from the appropriately titled “Thick as a brick”

“My words but a whisper, you’re deafness a shout”

The only way to deal with people like this is to stand up and volunteer and replace them, but most realise it is a thankless task and don’t, which is a shame.

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The Altruists

Ah thank God for these. They do it because they want to make their club more successful, happier, full of activities. This is no ego trip for them, it is altruism at it’s purest form.

Alas, usually, these people are new to a group and their enthusiasm can easily wane if the leadership is wrong, if the committee has some of the above types, and if the membership has vocal Parasites as described below. In such a case they end up giving up.

Frankly unless they are doing it for the wrong reasons, ANYONE who wants to be a Committee member should be encouraged to. There are plenty of irrelevant positions already in use that can be assigned, such as Safety Officer, and Historian but there are plenty more that can be created to keep everyone happy, Diversity Officer, Beverage Consultant, and Detailing Officer are three I thought of in 30 seconds.

The more doers a club has the better it will be so every person should be encouraged. All the bollocks that is often talked about such as waiting for the AGM is in fact bollocks. As I said earlier positions are never contested and the more the merrier. My instant recipe for success.

Tombola Captain and Deputy Tombola Captain – see it’s easy to find a position just difficult to fill.

Members

As far as members are concerned they fall into three broad categories.

The Invisibles

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These join a club because they think it gives them an edge. They are frankly a complete waste of time and effort. You may see them once a year at the AGM but they support and attend nothing. All the club gets out of it is a membership fee.

Back in 2004 the European Harley rally was held in St Tropez. I had been in the local HOG Chapter for a year and had been to every meeting and every event so I knew most people by sight if not to talk too. Along with a good collection of others we travelled in separate groups to the event. At the time Nige Collis was on the Committee and he organised a group photo towards the end of the rally. We all duly turned up to find a bunch of people whom I had never seen, nor had any of my co-riders. All had Chapter patches and the photos were duly taken. Then we suggested going off to the beach bar which is in the complex where the event occurs, and is actually on the sand. You get a drink, turn 180 degrees and there is the Med, St Tropez. It is a magical sight. But no – the invisibles wanted to drink in an Irish bar offsite. So off they trundled, never to be seen again. Total waste of time. If you join you should contribute – which brings me to the next type

The Parasites

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“I’ve paid my fees, now entertain me” and if you don’t or if you do something I don’t agree with I’ll bitch and complain but NEVER will I stand up and contribute.

These people are a pain in the ass and are best avoided. Any club of any size has some of these. They forget the golden rule – it may be called a club but it is really a co-operative and each member is 1/n th where n is the number of club members.

These are the takers I despise.

The Ordinary Member

Hoorah – the lifeblood. Decent people, some may not have the confidence or skillset to take on a Committee role but they are enthusiastic supporters of the group and regularly attend most if not all the club’s events, helping out if asked and in it for all the right reasons. If most fall into this category then the club has a future.

Life Members

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I get life members, even if life membership is available by purchasing a number of years annual membership in advance.

What I don’t get is why you would have a patch bigger than your number plate stitched onto your back advertising the point?

It’s not a recognition of long service, you are not the wise old sage of the club who newbies can go to to ask about remapping or exhausts – you just paid up front.

I just think it is a little absurd – I mean would you have a patch the size of Rutland on your jacket that said “42 inch LCD TV” or “Hot Tub owner” “Vindaloo Eater” . Advertise your status by all means – have pride in the club you are a member of, but surely a little patch is all that is needed – somewhere discrete. To me it just says “Knob” in big letters.

How do you determine if a club/the Director/the committee is successful?

I have given this a lot of thought and I believe I have come up with the formula that defines success.

It isn’t total numbers of members as some clubs may only have a dozen members, others may have up to 350 (local experience – some may be even bigger)

Nor is it the number of rides/events they put on or the amount of money the raise for charity or how much they grow in size year on year.

This is my definition of a successful motorcycle club.

After the annual renewal of membership you take the number of members who did not renew.

That is a finite number – eliminate those that have either died, sold their bike or moved away.

The resultant number is the total sum of people who decided that it wasn’t worth  renewing.

Remember renewal fees are usually less than a tank of petrol so pretty modest when compared to the cheapest football season ticket.

So not renewing must mean they were dissatisfied with the club for whatever reason – lack of events, internal politics, hostilities, cliques – whatever.

The bigger the number the less successful the Director has been.

Here is a real sobering fact. The local Harley Owners Group club had at it’s peak a membership of circa 350. It stayed reasonably static for several years. However every year 60 members on average did not renew and were replaced with 60 new members.

On average every 6 years the entire membership had given up on the club.

Size, new members, amount raised for Charity, rides etc would put it at no. 1 in the local area but this was a club that ultimately failed.

Today it is a very different story as new leadership and a new committee breathes new life into it.

These are my opinions, they are full of my own prejudices and cock-eyed views of the world. If you are offended by them , sorry I don’t mean to deliberately offend. I don’t hold them out to be anymore right than anyone else’s.

Next up will be the blog about “6 go mad to St Tropez (along with a dozen or so others)”.

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Lonesome Highway

Lonesome Highway

“Well its a winding highway, that never seems to end,
Well we all must travel, We’ll not pass this way again”

So for my friends who want an overview of my trip and how such a solo epic can change a person read on.

We will start of with the negatives and get them out of the way.

Worst moment or low point

To be honest the only bad point of the entire trip was the point of entry – the US Immigration & Luggage Hall.

Disorganised. Unhelpful, uncaring greeters, charmless Immigration Officers, pointless luggage queues. It was like entering a third world country and the beaming face of the Mayor of LA was just an added insult to such a miserable experience.

Nothing else came near – not even a 300 mile ride in torrential rain.

Best point or high point

To be honest I enjoyed every single moment  - it all added up to the rich tapestry of memories that now spur me on to do other things.

If I had to single out memorable moments it was probably the absolute kindness shown to me by the staff of Harley Davidson Angleton in Texas and the four guys offering to ride with me to Galveston and then buying me lunch. This is what riding a Harley is all about – going out of your way to welcome a stranger.

But my interactions with everyone were marvellous – it showed me that, certainly a guy travelling alone, provided they are prepared to put themselves out a bit can meet people, even if only in passing.

Biggest Regret

I would have loved to have taken longer but the deal kind of dictated my itinerary and I also didn’t want to miss Mardi Gras in New Orleans by just a couple of days. Ideally the journey should take at least another 7 days.

But my biggest regret was not being able to take the offer of spending a night in the desert looking at stars with the enthusiastic astronomers I met in New Mexico.  This is my overriding regret – they were great people and it would have been a fabulous experience.

Was I ever lonely?

Yes for about 30 minutes in Galveston. Even the days post riding, when I really had no purpose I found I was calm and happy with my own company. This was a surprise – I think I expected to have more pangs of loneliness.

Was I ever scared?

No – although filling up with petrol in the black area of Scott, Louisiana was interesting – but I guess I’m a big guy that maybe looks a little more intimidating than some. Great for an accountant lol!

Would I do anything different?

Yes

I’d take longer.

I’d check that my Harley Davidson tool kit was compatible with the mounting bolts on the Garmin sat nav bracket before I left – it wasn’t.

I’d almost certainly try to stay at more B&B’s (if they exist) to experience the life stories of the locals.

I’d pack less and use the self service laundry (washeteria) that many motels have.

Biggest Irritation

I have no idea why they do this and it makes no sense but they quote prices exclusive of sales tax – which varies from state to state. So you get the correct money out and then its 12 cents more or something.

Second Biggest Irritation

If you want to pay cash for gas you have to pay the cashier first, then fill your tank. So you under fill it by say asking for $15 worth or ask for $20 only get $18.45 in and have to go back in queue again to get your change. At least in this case the price does include sales tax.

My Top Tips for unescorted riding in the US

Book your rentals with Hadrian V Twin Motorcycle Tours and Rentals –  http://www.hadrianvtwin.co.uk/ – don’t waste your time trying to do it cheaper yourself.

Take the best bike insurance cover you can – just in case.

Make sure you have suitable medical insurance

If you are doing a one way rental I found ebookers.com to be the best online site to work out a return flight from a different point of entry.

Make sure you have your first nights accommodation sorted.

Booking.com is a great site to plan hotels.

Take a sat nav or hire one. Do not rely on paper maps as you will never get out of the cities.

Plan your route on a pc and copy it into your sat nav and check it before you leave.

If you need to call back to the UK to a landline or mobile use Skype. It’s 1.4p per minute via wi fi and is clear. There is free wi fi everywhere and you normally get a strong signal. Don’t bother with changing sims or using your existing phone provider unless you are a lottery winner.

Take a mini tool kit – you wont get one supplied and straps for your bags.

Take more than one US adaptor – I got mine from the Poundshop and they worked perfectly

I took some of my old t shirts and underwear and threw them away each day so my luggage got lighter – of course it didn’t as I bought stuff.

Use the roll up vacuum bags to compress clothing into much smaller bundles.

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Take a dry-bag just in case.

Take half as much clothing as you need and use a washeteria.

Remember you cannot guarantee your model of bike so make sure whatever luggage you bring can be used with a top box or luggage rack.

If you are doing this two up you will have a problem carrying all the luggage – especially a ladies shoes – but then you will already know this from a weekend away on your bike in the UK.

Using your own credit or debit card will incur huge fees – consider using a prepaid credit card you load upfront so the rate you get is fixed and there are no conversion fees. I used Caxton, which I also use in Europe. http://www.caxtonfx.com The card can be topped up if required via text message or the internet provided you set up the link in advance. And you can withdraw cash from any ATM – although in the US all ATM’s do charge a fee unless you are with that bank whatever card you have – which you won’t be.

Sunscreen – I forgot and paid the price on my nose!

If you are out in the wilds fill up every time the tank reaches half empty- despite it being a pain. I almost paid the price for assuming I had enough petrol when my rangefinder said I had 117 in the tank, which I did, but there wasn’t a garage in the next 100 miles!

Best Western give HOG members 10% discount.

And you can never ever do enough research and planning.

So how did this whole adventure change me?

I expected to be changed by it – I had things in my mind I wanted to validate.

I was in two minds about doing it at all – alone – as I worried about – well everything from loneliness to being killed by illegal Mexican immigrants sneaking over the border.

I was convinced to do it by discussing it with my pal Gordon, an ex boss who got so dispirited working where he was with all the politics and bullshit and crap that he quit and did something similar – went alone – but in his case touring India and to the foothills of the Himalayas. This was in 2012 and his words of wisdom convinced me that I may regret it if I did’t take the opportunity to do it.

Now with me leaving the same organisation 8 months later (and its incompetence and bullshit and crap) following the end of my consultancy contract I am very glad I seized the day.

What it confirmed to me – which was I must admit a bit of a surprise was how I could survive totally alone – everything and I mean everything was down to me 24/7 once I started.

I’ve always been independent but this was stepping out of the comfort zone.

And the ability to talk to complete strangers day after day in unfamiliar locations proved to be less of an issue than it might have been.

The lack of loneliness surprised me and the selfishness of doing exactly what I wanted, when I wanted appealed to me – no more waiting for the slowest or going with an unadventurous majority.

Having moved around geographically in my adult life has meant I have had to make new friends and acquaintances, and lose old ones as distance and lack of contact caused us to drift apart. It’s been an issue that I have had to overcome.

I am interested in how people operate and think and sometimes I like to validate my theories. At one stage I decided to see if I could reach the maximum number of Facebook “friends” you were allowed. It is 5,000 and it didn’t take very long to get there – probably 4,850 I didn’t know and most of those asked me to be their friend not the other way around.

I have met some great people, and some right dickheads and bastards (especially over the years in the Harley scene in North East England). In fact I would go on and say most of the  unpleasant people I have met in my life were or are involved in the Harley Davidson scene in the North East of England. But some of the nicest also are.

This dichotomy worried me and my trip helped me to clarify the approach I should take with anyone from whatever walk of life that causes me any consternation.

I met such great people, who were interesting and interested. There were no points to score, no arguments to win, just a common sense of decency and respect to every other person.

It was fantastic.

The US has a law. It is known as the Three-strikes law (based around a baseball rule) and it actually forces courts to impose harsher sentences on persons convicted of three or more serious criminal offences. Basically you get done three times they lock you up for a minimum of 25 years but probably life and you never get out. Free US society washes its hands of you, and you no longer are a threat – free society forgets about you.

So I have enacted my harsher version of this – the one strike. Piss me off, betray me, act like a total twat and I will not give you a second chance – I will completely disassociate myself with anything and everything you do – I do not need friends or acquaintances like that and you don’t deserve my time, consideration or friendship.

Why? you may ask. Why not give someone another chance?

My response is simple.

The world is so large you will only ever see a small part of it.

Life is short.

Generally people are good.

If you can travel alone and meet complete strangers and have a great time with them why oh why would you waste a second of your finite life on a total tosspot. Just move on and find the good people. It may seem cold but all you are doing is ultimately surrounding yourself with positive people – and that will make you happier.

Now you need courage to do this – especially in a work environment if you need an income to pay a mortgage.

Gordon and I both do – but for him it wasn’t so much as the grass is greener on the other side but that there isn’t any grass on this side and there may be some elsewhere and I’d rather look for it that stay here stuck in the mud with the hippos.

For me it’s a case of never playing the corporate politics game because as a consultant once the project/job is completed I never need to see these guys again and pally up to them if they do not deserve it. I move onto another contract or end up as actors say “resting”

And that is exactly where I am today -”resting”.

So that’s how it’s changed me. I have no issue or fear about doing another solo trip if I wanted to and I confirmed my theory that life isn’t worth wasting a moment of time on those that do not deserve my attention.

Future trips

In the short term it’s the 30th Anniversary HOG rally in late April in St. Tropez. Six of us  going via Amsterdam, about 12, I think, via the tunnel, joining up near Lyon and travelling together to Grenoble then through the Alps to the Med.

Then a trip with mainly strangers to Fort Augustus.

But I fancy Hammerfest and Nordkapp next – high above the Arctic Circle – my own bike this time. The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway – and 24 hour daylight. That could be spring 2014.

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If anyone needs any help though with planning a trip or just wants any advice don’t hesitate to contact me. More than happy to help.

And if you want a partner for a trip well I may just be interested!

Lonesome Highway (with apologies to Janni!)

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Watching The Wheels – St Augustine

Watching The Wheels

“People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I’m lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball?

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there’s no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind,
I tell them there’s no hurry…
I’m just sitting here doing time,
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.”

I move out of my smokey room and take a room in the centre of St Augustine, in walking distance of everything.

Zsa Zsa Gabor’s daughter was correct – this is an unspoilt fabulous place.

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I start the day climbing the 214 steps to the top of the lighthouse.

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It’s warm but not hot. Floridian kids are coming up with their parents, dressed in parkas with the hoods up complaining that it is freezing.

I want to shout – get over to the UK this is as good as a typical summers day you ungrateful little bastards. That or throw them off the top.

I do neither and look at the views and chill.

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The lighthouse has a great museum including artefacts that have been discovered in wrecks of British boats sunk offshore 200+ years ago.

There are some amazing cannon that have been restored by using electrolysis to remove the salt and rust. Outside a guide is explaining how the process works and we look at two other cannon in salt baths undergoing the lengthy 2 year process.

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From the top of the lighthouse I spotted this small pier, adjacent to the St Augustine Yacht Club, so I wander off and sit down at the end, alone, enjoying the sunshine, the view and just contemplating.

Naturally my silence is interrupted by a young couple who wander down the pier.

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They ask for a favour and a photo and I agree for a joint favour. We get talking and they say they are just away for a few days, from Orlando. I tell them what I’ve been doing and all of a sudden their attitude changes.

They introduce themselves as Corey and Lauren and almost go into the “we’re not worthy” scene from “Wayne’s World”.

This is getting to be a habit and I am getting embarrassed  about it. All I did was ride a bike.

So we chat and then they head off.

I want to ask Corey who is the noisiest in their hotel room, Lauren or Electrolux the fridge but he is a lot fitter than me.

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Wandering into the town proper I espy an Irish bar, Ann O’Malley’s, that seems lively with a spare seat at the bar. Once again free wi-fi and a friendly crowd, especially the barmaid Linda. It’s lunchtime and I am convinced to go for the special, being made in front of me. The roast horse sandwich with beefradish sauce.

Again, it’s ok but a little disappointing, but the beer is going down a treat.

The owner is from Buffalo and there is a large contingent of Buffalonians all in to watch Pittsburgh v Buffalo live on tv (Ice hockey).

I head off to the loo and when I come back it’s 90 seconds into the game and Pittsburgh are two up – not what you normally expect in ice hockey.

As the beer goes down well Buffalo get one back and then another and the pub is getting rowdy.

Conscious I have seen little of the town I leave, with Linda telling me to come back later.

It doesn’t take long to find an outside bar where two guys are singing an acoustic set of singer/songwriter tracks and it has free wi fi and very good beer. So I sit there for far too long, drinking way too much and just loving the music.

Everytime I’ve seen a live performance on the trip it has been top quality with the artists playing for tips.

It’s great to chill in the sunshine and let what little hair I have down after the epic journey behind me.

As the sun goes down and the second artist continues in the vain of the duo I head off and end up back at the Irish bar where Linda insists on introducing me to the owner – who holds me in awe again.

I am tired and sated so head off back to my hotel in the Spanish Quarter.

St. Augustine is a must visit if you find yourself within 100 miles of it on a visit to Florida.

Next day I am up early and further investigations.

I get talking to a tour guide outside the old school house. He is originally from Pensacola and has probably never been out of Florida.

After explaining again where I was from and what I had done we discussed northern Florida.

He admitted to having been round the Port St Joe area, but said that the changes in small town Florida have been dramatic over the last 30 years. I respond with – there still seems to be some community life unlike many towns in Texas that are a few years away from becoming extinct.

He enthuses about this school house and admits it was only a school for a few years but a home for most of its life.

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I ask if they have moved the original building.

He looks surprised before admitting that they have.

This is typical of the US, organising even its history into neat rows.

The oldest building in Florida is in Fort Lauderdale but was moved 20 miles from where it was constructed (to be nearer the tourist hot spots!)

He then tells me his ancestry is British and is in fact Anglo Saxon or Saxon who came over from Germany.

I don’t what to get into an argument or debate but this is clearly total bollocks.

They have not yet digitised the census from the year 550 so how he has been able to trace his lineage all that way back is remarkable ;-)

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This is Flagler College, which you can tour – I didn’t – but the American’s seem to regard this as a remarkable place. Sorry but to me this has all the appearance of a West Yorkshire mill.

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Later in the day I end up at the same outdoor bar where a guy is again playing great music. Later he is replaced by Smoky Joe, who is as good and is playing for tips – and as he says “I will play for tips or you can tip me to stop”

He has a great repertoire and is asking for suggestions. Most he dismisses as he says he prefers to play songs by dead artists.

Anyhow I suggest Gordon Lightfoot, who isn’t dead. He likes the suggestion and then asks where I’m from.

In a loud voice he then makes sure everyone hears “We really kicked your ass”

I shout in an even louder voice “Give us back our tea”

Laughter all round and he cracks on with “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”  - as inappropriate as you can get. If you do not know the song – well it isn’t about love or lost love but about a ship sinking in Lake Superior in November and drowning all 22 of the crew.

They don’t write them like that anymore!

Great delivery. I think of shouting out for Dan Fogelberg who is dead but he finishes soon after and I decide I should eat rather than drink and move on elsewhere,

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I eat in a new colonial style restaurant, outside, in view of this orange tree.

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I recommend this place whole heartedly – the main street is pedestrian only – it’s old or old style and compact. There are lots of bars, cafes, restaurants and lots to see including a fort which for some reason I fail to photograph.

A grand place to wile away the remaining days before heading to the airport via Daytona HD.

On the way back I take photos from the car as I travel along at 60mph plus, a la the Mr Bean film except I’m driving.

Just then the sheriff appears!

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He looks disapprovingly but I guess I haven’t broken any laws as it is perfectly legal in Florida to text whilst driving!

Orlando Airport pre security.

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Orlando airport at rush hour has many people, myself included, wandering round looking at the floor and skirting.

We are all looking for power points to charge up our “essential” electronic gadgets. There may be free wi fi throughout the airport but all the plug points are hidden. I later spot two fourpoint charging points – each point being used by a girl and her pink phone/mp3 player.

Later I find a dual point which I share with a guy from LA and we chat until going our separate ways.

At Atlanta they have it sorted – plenty of charging points and it is later so I can get a little juice in my battery before Amsterdam where I will be stuffed as I have no continental charger with me. Free wi fi again.

KLM on the way back – nowhere near as good as Air France – the plane is smaller, the room available less, the in flight screens nowhere near as good – but a significantly shorter flight.

At Schipol they really do have it sorted. Free wi fi and masses of charging points, even at each gate. Workbenches and bar stools – they have embraced the need for people to charge/work and all at zero cost.

The flight to Newcastle is just a short hop now and above the clouds the view is remarkable. What appears as an arctic landscape as far as the eye can see, with dips and hills is in fact clouds above County Durham.

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Brian Hanrahan during the Falklands War made what has become a famous quote “I counted them all out and I counted them all back.”

Unexpectedly, my good pal Chris, who waved me off with palm trees was there to greet me as I arrived bleary eyed back in the UK. He counted me out and counted me back and it was an unexpected and great surprise and I appreciate yours and Kim’s support before and during the trip.

Oh and immigration and baggage collection was a breeze.

I get a text, my cab has arrived and I’m off.

Next – a review of what was good/bad, high points, low points, tips, and how did it change me – and the next long distance roadtrip.

Thanks for every comment on here, by email, text, on facebook. It has been a blast.

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We weren’t born to follow

We weren’t born to follow

“We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe

Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
And that your saints and sinners bleed
We weren’t born to follow
You gotta stand up for what you believe”

Today I wake up and look out at the Atlantic.

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Later today I swap the bike for a 2 door Jap car to spend a little time unwinding after the epic.

Fact is I would rather be biking but the great deal I got via Hadrian Tours through Eagle Rider meant today was the drop dead date for delivering the bike so it can be prepared for future rental to those attending Daytona Bike Week in March.

Had the opportunity arisen for me to have left earlier I could have taken longer but maybe next time :-)

I pack the bag for the last time and head off towards Main Street, Daytona – the equivalent of Newcastle’s Westgate Hill, and then onto Daytona HD, which I was sure was the biggest in the world.

The previous night I was given a map by the hotel which indicated key places to eat etc and the delineation between Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach – there is no physical change like for example there is at Tynemouth, where at least a cove of rocks separates beaches.

Here I am told that north of McDonalds is Ormond Beach and south Daytona Beach. Not much of a landmark really!

The thing about the scale on this tourist map of local restaurants, shops and hotels is not to any scale it is more a physical reference of how the places appear in order. What appears to be two blocks away – maybe 1/2 mile is in fact 5 miles.

Main Street is empty but in a few weeks there will be tens of thousands of Harley owners milling about.

Daytona HD is tiny – there are 4 bikes in the parking lot. Turns out this isn’t the main store – this is what they call the museum store – basically a clothing outlet. The Daytona store isn’t in Daytona at all but 15 miles north – where I’ve come from and further.

I head off through the stop start of the stop lights and arrive at what is clearly the biggest store in the world. There are dozens of bikes here and the place is rammed full of bikes and gear. I am able to get the missing parts for my mate Al and drink a coffee ($2) in the store’s restaurant.

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The store and the shopping complex that attaches to it is clearly a tourist attraction – in the  reception there is a staffed tourist office. I peruse the leaflets until the staff member who is clearly Zsa Zsa Gabor’s younger but still old, daughter decides to talk to me. She becomes the second person to recommend a visit to St. Augustine’s.

The store will require a second visit but now it’s the 70 mile ride down to Orlando on the freeway and the handover of the bike.

Traffic builds up steadily as I guess Orlando is a hub for visitors to Florida – the traffic gets so bad that it becomes stationery across all lanes of the freeway.

I’m not sure if filtering is legal but hey I like doing it so off  I go. Now I think it may be as virtually none of the vehicles give me any space and these are all big vehicles.

The traffic starts moving intermittently and I’m, sweeping from lane to lane to speed my way through the blockage – now I know this is legal.

As I expected there was no obvious reason – just the sheer volume of traffic.

Eagle Rider in LA is in an industrial estate, in Orlando its on a parade of shops, not sure what it was next to but probably a ladies hairdressers and a Greggs.

It’s busy with people hiring trikes etc and the guy can’t find my paperwork. I shout across “I didn’t hire it from here.”

“Where then?”

“Los Angeles”

“Jeez ok “

He checks it out – seems to be having trouble seeing if there are any marks on the bodywork – due to the fact the bike is filthy. I tell him it has run like a dream but badly needs a service and the down shifting is clunkier than normal.

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He gets me a wrench so I can remove my sat nav mounting kit

In the office the lady advises I have 424 excess miles. I say I know I calculated for it – plus I don’t see how you could do it in the allowed mileage.

Start Los Angeles

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Finish Orlando

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She says in 19 years only two people, riding together have ever have done it.

I state they must have done freeways all the way – how boring.

She agrees, we chat some more and is in awe of me doing it solo. As I pay the excess she hands me the receipt and says “There you go dude”

Ha Ha  I was “the man” at Eagle Rider in LA but now I have ascended to dudedom!

She asks if I need a lift anywhere and then I get a lift from the guy who checked my bike, the 6 or 7 miles to the car rental offices.

You really cannot complain about the level of service.

On the way he tells me they truck 300 bikes in for Daytona Bike Week so mine is one less that has had to be trucked.

A true biker he has a number of very old Harleys but his main one has over half a million miles on the clock!

I had also arranged my car hire in advance through Nige Collis at Hadrian Tours, but at the  rental office they have a problem – they do not have the 2 door Jap compact car but will upgrade me for free.

I end up with a brand new (156 miles on the clock) 2 door convertible!

I strike lucky again or maybe it’s just excellent service from Hadrian Tours.

So first thing, before checking anything else out is how to get the hood down.

Electric it takes up virtually all of the boot (trunk) of the Chrysler 200.

This is a 4 person car but there is absolutely no way the boot can handle more than one persons luggage.

I switch on the 3.6 litre automatic and it is silent. I mean I have to rev it to see if it is running and then it is so quiet, only the tachometer confirming I can drive off.

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The car rides brilliantly and it is so good to still feel the weather on my face as I drive with one hand, my Florida CD on, at 70mph back up to Daytona.

Once the road gets a little quieter I slam my foot to the floor and the car takes off and I’m up to 100 with very little road noise or wind noise.

I slow down the last thing I need is a ticket at the death of the trip.

Past Daytona I cut off and follow the coast which isn’t developed and head to St Augustine.

It’s a holiday weekend and every room in town appears to be taken so I have to take the only room I can find which unfortunately is a smokers room, which stinks of smoke.

I walk up the road to a local restaurant and have a meal and a drink but I feel reflective – the ride is over and I am a changed person.

Before an average meal I walk out onto St Augustine beach..

All is well with my world.

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Mister blue

Mister blue

“Mister blue, you did it right
But soon comes mister night 
creepin’ over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind I’ll remember you this
I’ll remember you this way”

At last Florida lives up to its nickname as “the sunshine state”. After what seemed like an eternity of grey or rainy or chilly weather is replaced by glorious sunshine and a blue cloudless sky.

The hotel/motel is one of the best that I’ve stayed in – it appears to be miles from anywhere and is very well specified and designed. The rooms all look into a central courtyard with a gazebo and fountains and this makes it very quiet. Wi fi was excellent, the TV huge, the beds huge as ever and a decent breakfast. Even the fridge was quiet but once again I slept badly.

It is a Best Western and when I checked in I was asked if I was a member of HOG – so I got 10% discount – result!

Now many of you may think and some even complain that their partners are noisy sleepers but believe me I have slept with fridges that are even noisier (not that I have slept with any of your partners!)

In fact when it comes to sleeping with fridges I am a bit of a tart sleeping with a different one every night. In fact I have also had a threesome with a washing machine and quite often my disturbed sleep and moaning of the fridges has all been illuminated by the blue or red light of a voyeuristic microwave.

Most fridges are bitches lulling you into a false sense of peaceful dreamlike silence before moaning into life, complaining that the room is too hot so kickstarting the freezing element. Twenty minutes later they are chilled and go silent again only to repeat the process every hour.

I’m done with them I’m either sleeping alone or with women from now on.

Today’s plan is to try to stop in the forests that lie to the east of Ocala but research has revealed plenty of RV and campsites but no hotel accomodation.

I put the Florida CD on and deliberately choose Mr. Blue Sky on repeat – 4 times before moving onto other tracks.

North Florida is really quite a beautiful place. After yesterdays roads along the Gulf todays go through wooded areas, the sun breaking through the trees.

It certainly is an area that tends to get forgotten by the Brits who fly into Orlando for Disney and Epcot or Miami and the beaches, or down to the Keys (which are beautiful) or the Everglades (ditto).

But north is less well developed and has more of a unique feel, unlike the repetitive similarity of any reasonable sized town throughout all of the US which all look identical. Bill Bryson is very critical of this type of atypical town. A photograph of a main thoroughfare – they don’t have High Streets – would be almost impossible to separate from many hundreds of others.

As you leave the panhandle into mainstream Florida you start to encounter towns with the very typical single storey motels where you park up next to your wooden room with kleenex and spit walls.

Almost all of them are closed, derelict or for sale. This is another aspect of American life that is disappearing very rapidly.

Then a few hundred yards on you find the reason why.

A brand new purpose built Holiday Inn Express with its flat screen TV’s in room wi fi, brick walls, decent plumbing and complimentary breakfast, all for a bit more cash but not excessive – especially if there are more than one of you travelling.

Also I wonder if the new generation of 18 wheeler trucks have so much cab space that cross country drivers now sleep in these rather than cheap motels.

Probably.

A friend of mine road Route 66 some years ago and took hundreds of photos of abandoned art deco diners and motels. If I had had more time I could also have produced a book of dying America – from the crumbling communities of West Texas to these sad reminders of a romantic past of itinerant travellers and dangerous liasons.

I am sad to leave the sweeping views of the Gulf coast but I know that there is a possibility that I may if I am unsuccessful in finding somewhere in the forests east of Ocala reach the Atlantic and complete the solo crossing of the US.

I like Northern Florida, maybe because after a week I have bright warming sunshine but also because it has been overlooked for southern Florida with its gated communities, huge condominium developments obscuring the views of the Ocean for the masses.

If I ever come back to Florida again I will head north from Orlando.

A few more churches now – across the US I have been surprised by the lack of churches – I expected to find many more. Even in Texas and the Deep South, the so called bible belt, it was not obvious – here it become a little more in your face.

I get the impression that if you can afford to build one, you can set up a branch even if it is the only branch of your very own church.

The posters also start to appear. Young big blue eyed babies with some sort of statement which is basically anti abortion.

Then another which stated

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Clearly you can get christian zealots as well as islamic ones.

Forget how Dave Allen used to end his shows ” May your God go with you” here they will have a go even if you are a practising Christian but prefer to believe sabbath is on a Sunday.

Scary stuff.

Ocala looks ok but I’m heading out into the Ocala National Forest with its bear signs.

But if some of you want to know what it looks like after riding 3,000 miles from Los Angeles – here it is – the Ocala National Forest

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I stop for lunch at Kick Back, a one of restaurant that is described as an island in the forest.

The waitress alas confirms there are no motels/hotels in the forest – just lots of camping and RV areas.

I decide to ride on and see where I end up but now resign myself in reaching Daytona today.

Outside of Daytona with Florida building up significantly I stop at a McDonalds to use their free wi fi and booking.com to book a hotel with an ocean view. Tonight the first stage of the trip reaches its culmination.

It really is great that here in the US you can get free wi-fi in so many places – in some areas you also get free wi-fi within the town eg parts of the French Quarter in New Orleans has open free wi-fi although in this case the range was limited. Almost all of the hotels/motels I used had it available in the rooms. Only the really expensive places seemed to want to charge to allow you to use the service.

I ride over the intercoastal waterway that separates Florida and the sliver of land that holds Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach and there it is – the Atlantic Ocean.

I flip the cd to play “Mr Blue Sky” and “I’m still standing” as a tear comes to my eye.

Coast to coast solo. I did it.

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Carefree Highway

Carefree Highway

“Carefree highway, let me slip away on you
Carefree highway, you seen better days
The mornin’ after blues from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away
Slip away on you”

Again decisions to be made – stay on Pensacola Beach and dry out or move onto the north Florida/Gulf Coast which looks like it is unspoilt and less populated.

After the deserts of East California, Arizona and New Mexico and the open plains of Texas, together with the wild open space in the Bayou I have come to like less – not dislike – just like less the built up areas. Although I saw very little of it El Paso was a shock to the senses after a long day in the desert.

So Pensacola Beach with all its luxury hotels and tourist attractions doesn’t appeal to me today, plus the weather is clouding over and is distinctly chilly after a bright start at breakfast time.

I decide therefore to put some more miles behind me and hopefully get a dry, less windy day – as it now seems an age since I had a fun day as compared to a challenging day in the saddle.

Like a lot of the Florida coastline on the Atlantic, Pensacola also has this isthmus, a long island like structure that is completely separate from the mainland and is only traversable by a few roads. Pensacola also has a thinner outer island – this is the one I am staying on.

My route takes me along the island passed the road bridge that takes most of the traffic off and into the wildlife refuge.

The sky is grey now and so chilly I have to stop and zip the jacket up. Wimp!

Clearly this is not normal as even the bus shelters have grass roofs.

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The sand here is amazing. It is silver sand, any gardener will know what I am describing. Almost bleached white, under the grey sky and viewed through tinted goggles it looks like the sand dunes and the beaches are covered in snow.

The sand is so fine, the wind has blown some up onto the roads. Here you literally go off the road onto the sand – unlike Biloxi there is no kerb to stop you.

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Now I think silver sand has a marbles like consistency and is probably a nightmare to ride on – so I take extra care to avoid any that has crept onto my side of the road.

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The roads are deserted though even after only a few miles from the luxury resort hotels.

dscf4846-resized-1024It is a shame when I get to the end of the island after another dozen miles and have to take a bridge back to the mainland and along the enormous zoned off area that is Elgin Air Force Base at Fort Walton.

Now you may think – great he is riding passed an air force base big deal.

But I was riding passed it for a long time.

Heathrow Airport is the largest commercial airport in the UK and has an area of 4.7 square miles.

Is everything bigger in the US? Well this is just an air force base but it covers 724 square miles!!!! SEVEN HUNDRED & TWENTY FOUR SQUARE MILES!!

The road bisects part of it with serious looking fencing securing the area.

At one of the many intersections leading into the base I get caught at the lights as one after another four F-somethings take to the air in quick succession.

There is a maxim in motorcycling that “loud pipes save lives” but these guys have no chance of sneaking up stealthily on an opponent. Living here must be hell when these guys are doing manoeuvres the aircraft are so loud.

I lose my final hour here as immediately after the base the time zone switches to Eastern time.

The road bears south to Panama City but the road skirts the coast and hits you as with all built up areas with stop light after stop light slowing down the speed.

Panama City is a classic big hotel resort so I pass through and skirt Tyndall Air Force base, a mere aerodrome of only 14 square miles but almost 4 times bigger than Heathrow.

Then it’s exquisite riding as the road hugs the Gulf Coast and a change comes over Florida. Here there is very little development and what building you do see is short – the planners have either prevented or the developers just haven’t got here yet, so the buildings are generally two storey.

It may be a grey chilly day but the riding is fabulous as the views across the Gulf and the inlets the road follows offer spectacular views and the roads themselves are quiet and often traffic free.

When the road moves inland to avoid a cove then you find yourself riding in woodland.

Port St Joe, and on to Apalachicola where I decide to stop for the night because of its location and wacky name.

The town is small and interesting but I am early and the only hotel at the end of town looks ok but I espy a modern and huge bridge – the John Gorrie Memorial Bridge which takes you across to Eastpoint – and I decide to put a few more miles behind me.

I’m cold but not cold enough to want to stop riding this fantastic road.

I decide to stop at Carrabelle and switch on the sat nav to find some accomodation.

I am really out in the country and what accommodation that is coming up is either RV or camping. There is a clear passion for motor homes and camping in the US and surprisingly there are lots of facilities for people driving in their homes to hook up their satellite dishes and live on a glorified caravan site but little to cater for those who would prefer to stay somewhere where they can go to the loo and flush the results away rather than take it all back home.

So I continue riding as the light now starts to fade with no hotel/motel accomodation appearing.

The road cuts through the Apalachicola National Forest. Beautiful and quiet and extremely attractive.

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Finally with the sun low in the sky, behind the clouds! and now feeling distinctly cold, a Best Western appears on the sat nav 10 miles ahead at Wakulla.

So Wakulla it is then – at least I get to stay in a wacky named place.

I check in and hit the bath to warm up.

The receptionist suggests two places for dinner – the hotel itself stands alone in the middle of nowhere.

She suggests either a really grotty looking shack a few miles back that serves good food or a slightly better looking shack, called Hamaknockers – which I had seen on the ride in.

I say thanks and suggest that as I’m in the bath now might be a good time to get back to reception.

I ditch the helmet and shades and gloves and ride the 3 miles or so back to Hamaknockers.

It’s a place that is obviously popular with the locals and has a huge beer selection which it clearly is quite proud of – but on the bike limits me to just one – but appears to serve just meat -vast quantites of it.

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The waitress has a very odd accent and for some reason doesn’t approve of my choice so confirming I have never eaten here before suggests the Hamaknocker Combo.

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Like an idiot I agree and get a plateful of things that were once alive but are now no longer with us served with a sweet bread roll.

They specialise in pulled pork which is like Chinese shredded Peking duck except that it’s pork and American.

It is not revolting but certainly not fantastic although the locals seem to be hooked on meat.

I risk one more beer to remove the taste and leave.

Maybe I should have tried the more dodgy looking shack or got the receptionist to feed me shrimp whilst washing my back.

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The wind cries Mary

The wind cries Mary

“Will the wind ever remember 
The names it has blown in the past 
And with his crutch, it’s old age, and it’s wisdom 
It whispers no, this will be the last 
And the wind cries Mary”

Today I leave New Orleans with a vague idea of going to Pensacola, Florida which means leaving Lousiana, going through Mississippi and Alabama.

My route involves some backtracking heading west out of New Orleans – the way I came in before heading due north over Lake Pontchartain.

I had wanted to ride across this causeway as it is so long.

At the other end is Mandeville which meant nothing to me until my pal Nige, told me to breakfast at Louis and the Redhead Lady which serve the best breakfasts in all christendom. It’s 36 miles from my hotel so seemed a good first stopping place.

The Lake comes up on you all of a sudden.

Then you are on a two lane causeway with a gap to a two lane causeway going the other way.

It’s grey, and windy – the wind hits the bike and pushes it across the lane.

Traffic is light but I stick in the right lane (the slow lane) but near the line with the left lane.

To the left all you see is water.

To the right all you see is water.

In front all you see is water.

This is like a road going straight out to sea.

In fact the causeway is 24 miles long – longer than from Dover to France. This is like riding across the English Channel.

At the 3 1/2 mile mark there is a sign saying crossover ahead. I guess if there is an incident they can send the traffic back by using a crossover.

As I approach it I see a police car and a big – huge – digital sign.

It reads “No motorcycles”

I try to work out why motorcycles aren’t allowed to use the crossover. I slow down and go past and then it hits me – it’s not the crossover its the entire causeway – I guess due to the winds.

The wind is strong but nothing I cannot handle.

The police car comes out and follows me then over his loudspeaker system tells me I cannot cross and I have to turn back at the next crossover (or forever become a diplomatic incident).

I am told to follow him and he goes off like a bat out of hell – so I follow – who cares about the vicious crosswinds.

Eight miles out to the left is only water.

To the right is only water.

Ahead is only water and a rising part of the causeway – I guess this is where the big vessels sail under and where the issue with the winds are.

In my rear view the skyscrapers are tiny dots.

I slow down- irritated, frustrated – my route in tatters and no chance for the best breakfast around.

Now I have to rejoin the other causeway in the fast lane.

I wait and wait then open the throttle and I’m gone.

The bike is still very responsive even if it badly needs a service.

I now need to find a place for breakfast and a quiet place to work out a new route east.

Across the causeway I spot a traditional diner on the opposite side of the road – in fact it is on a service road – so you find it by using your sense of direction through an industrial estate.

It looks like rain.

I enter – this is clearly a place for local people. I take a booth.

The waitress is harassed, pretty but her face has too many worry frowns – her name is Debbie.

She has massive…….feet. Like an Emperor penguins feet. It doesn’t look right.

She apologises for keeping me waiting but hey I#m tapping away on the Garmin trying to work out how to get across the lake and assuming the interstate will also have restrictions.

I find a crossing to the south west which appears shorter and I decide that is my new route that will eventually link up with my preplanned route.

Unfortunately it means riding back the entire way I have come, almost to the hotel and then due east. It will add 50 miles to the journey and knock me back in time.

As I eventually get out of New Orleans onto the quieter roads it’s more of the same, stilted houses, bayous, lots of bridges over inlets. The rain starts. I carry on.

It rains some more.

I am fed up – not depressed but it’s grey, cold and wet and waterproofs aren’t going to make any difference now.

Don’t get me wrong – I am still loving every single mile but this is miserable riding.

I get to Waveland. I am wet through – my gonads are now marinating in both Lousiana and Mississippi water. I go into Mc Donalds to get a coffee – recheck my route – book some accommodation and put my waterproofs on – a bit late I know.

Now I need to share this with you – it’s not pleasant.

The current vogue for gents toilets appears to be a urinal and a single cubicle – but the cubicle is huge – I guess wheelchair friendly. But you do not have to be a basketball player to look over the very modest door. More of a doorlet!

So I go into the cubicle for a pee and to put the waterproofs on.

And there it is.

I am immediately reminded of a Ben Elton sketch about the very subject.

The last inbred has not flushed the toilet and its there – a single an abnormally sized turd.

Even typing this is reminding me of this monster. Bigger than King Kongs longest finger.

Back to the story.

I have been changed by the trip insofar what is sensible mileage. I work out that Pensacola is 160 or so miles. It is lunchtime. The sat nav says 4 hours. I know I need petrol and it is pissing down – so I add an hour. 5pm is ok.

5pm 160 miles in the pouring rain – I must be mad but my mindset is that mileage I am almost there.

I book a room in the Holiday Inn on Pensacola Beach – it’s a done deal – now all I have to do is get there.

I walk out of Mc D , it is now pouring heavier.

I go across another one of these interminable bridges and hit the Gulf coast.

Now if I jumped my bike about 3 inches onto the sidewalk and another 3 inches the other side I would be on the beach,

And this continues for over 20 miles into Biloxi.

On a sunny day this has to be one of those roads everyone should bike. Spectacular.

Today grey,wet and everything is down to imagination.

I do not see a single soul on these pristine white sandy beaches.

On the left are luxury properties. At Biloxi I go past the Hard Rock with a four storey guitar outside.

Lovely.

I am wet and all I’m focussing on is getting to Pensacola. It has not stopped raining. At every bridge at the highest point all I see in front is grey.

At Gautier I stop for petrol.

The Sheriff is filling up and buying a bag of popcorn that could feed a small Vietcong village for a month.

The ladies behind the counter exude sympathy – You are on a bike.

I know.

But I am English and we may have lost our Empire but we take no fecking prisoners.

I go to the restroom and I am cold, fed up.

I then do something I know the moment I do it is trouble.

They have a turbo hot air blower.

So I put my gloves on them.

Now a wise old biker once told me a wise thing.

Whenever you take your gloves off make sure you do not leave the linings behind – because if you do you will never get them back in.

The first glove appears to be drying out.

I put the second on.

The lining blows inside out.

I now have what appears to be two siamese gloves.

A leather one pointing east and a lining pointing west.

I am wet and cold.

The ladies are mopping the floor of the garage shop.

I apologise and say that’s me that’s wet the floor.

They are trying to get me weather forecasts for the next few hours.

I am trying to put the glove back together.

I put my hand in . If I have a club foot hand it works.

I am standing dripping forlornly fiddling with one glove.

I decide to do it finger by finger.

Thumb little finger ok but the other three end up in two.

The ladies are watching.

I start again.

Wet gloves wet lining.

Then I decide to use a coffee stirrer.

Coffee stirrers are individually wrapped. I am losing time but one works well sorting out the thumb.

A second and the little finger is done.

Three more and I am struggling.

I think the ladies are thinking of calling for the sheriff.

I now have five wooden sticks being manipulated to get five linings into five fingers.

It has got to be half an hour but I manage it.

So back on the road.

Now the estimate to get there is gone 6.

Back on the road it is still raining.

I leave Mississippi.

My entire lifetime experience of the State is rain.

Alabama is much the same except it eases off near Mobile (pronounce mob-eel).

Two dominant skyscrapers give Mobile an interesting look. Both are like the Chrysler building in New York but see though.

Another bridge and a slow ride into Pensacola.

My phone battery is 2% and the sat nav is saying I am staying in central Pensacola but I know I am on an isthmus off the main town.

I spot a McDonalds so stop to use their free wi fi and coffee up again.

I cant find the hotel. Booking.com does not have a zip code.

The sat nav suggests there is a Holiday Inn close by.

It is pitch black.

The manager tells me where to go and that there is a $1 toll to use the bridge to get onto the island (isthmus).

I find the hotel it doesnt look like the highly rated one I have booked

It isn’t they have no record of my booking.

They ring the sister hotel where I do have a booking and I head off there.

The receptionist looks aghast as swamp monster walks in- but is lovely and insists I park in the no park area in front of the doors. The bike looks filthy. There is chrome somewhere under the dirt.

I have ridden 300 miles of which more than 250 were in hard rain.

There are no pictures today.

This has been the most physically challenging day of riding so far.

The hotel restaurant has a food challenge with a 16 oz burger, with chilli and everything under the son.

The lettuce defeats me.

Man 0 Food 1

Tomorrow is the last time zone and Florida is supposed to be the sunshine state.

In reflection there are a number of lies that everyone encounters in life.

There is no tooth fairy,Santa Claus and one other.

There is no such thing as waterproofs.

Just accept you will get wet and live with it.

And for bikers one other.

There is nothing as useless on a bike in torrential rain than a 12 inch windshield.

Without a wiper it is just a bit of plastic that you cannot see through so have to sit bolt upright to look over.

If you insist on riding with a windshield in my opinion you may as well get two more wheels and drive a car.

A biker takes all the crap in the face and if you need a windshield then you aren’t a biker you are a person who occasionally rides two wheeled transport.

In the morning I walk out of the hotel and find this – so it was worth the effort of riding in unremitting rain for over 8 hours, even if my boots are still wet – although my gloves are still wearable!

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