Spring Break '08 - The Florida Tour

It had been a long winter and everyone was itching for a ride. Our son Bryan and his girl friend Jordan had their spring break during the first weeks of March so Julie and I made plans to take our vacation time then too so that we could all do something together. It had been a while since Julie and Bryan had seen my dad down in Florida so it was decided, a road trip to Florida!

We left on a Saturday afternoon as soon as I got home from work. This put us leaving mid afternoon but that was cool, we knew we wouldn't make it far but at least we'd be on the road.

Kershaw, South Carolina at dusk.

A mural on a building in downtown Kershaw.
We rode down I 85 to Kannapolis, North Carolina where we got on US 601. From there we would stay on 601 all the way to Orangeburg, South Carolina where we would pick up US 301 and stay on it all the way to Florida.
Around dusk we stopped in a little town in South Carolina called Kershaw so that we could stretch our legs and let Julie do her thing and find us a hotel for the night. Being the world traveler she is we assigned her that duty for the whole trip.
While she was doing her thing, Bryan got his camera out and took the two photos posted above. Julie was successful and secured us a room just down the road in Camden, South Carolina for the night.
Once there we checked in and went across the street to a nice local resteraunt for supper, then turned in for the night.
Going out to load the bikes the next morning we were greeted with this;

Obviously it was still cold in the Carolinas! We moved the bikes over to the sunny side of the building and let the sun melt the ice and dry them off some. After breakfast we used towels from the hotel to sry them off completely, then loaded them up with the bags and headed off for our first full day on the road.
Destination; Florida!
Oddly enough, one of the highlights of the trip was the Georgia Welcome Center on US 301 just south of the South Carolina line. Even though it was closed we stopped and took a long break, looking around and taking lots of pictures.

Bryan, Jordan, Julie & Bruce. Playing with the tri-pod and camera timer.

Bryan hunting for things to take pictures of.

Oh look, he found Jordan.

"Are you taking my picture?"

"Oh no, not again..."

Who's momma talking to?

"OK, I'll let you take just one more."

When we finally left the Welcome Center we stayed on US 301 and went into Statesboro and stopped for fuel and lunch. Once we left there we basically only stopped when we needed fuel all the way down into Florida.
Julie found us a hotel right on A1A at Fernandina Beach, Florida and we made it there before dark. That night we had seafood for supper and then took a long stroll on the beach in the moon light capping off a wonderful day.
We got up early (*cough cough*) and left Fernandina Beach heading down A1A. It was a beautiful Florida day and we were all excited about what the day had in store for us.

The parking lot at the hotel in Fernandina Beach, Florida.
We didn't go far before we had to board a ferry in order to cross the St. Johns River. After a couple of ferry boat rides on the North Carolina Outer Banks Julie and I were expecting a lengthy cruise. Imagine our surprise when we found out that we were literally just crossing the river, about a 10 minute ride!

We barely had time to get out of our helmets, get out our cameras, then put them up and on again before the ride was over!
Riding further south we came to St. Augustine and came upon this fort used first by the Spanish and later by colonials in the Revolutionary War.

Bryan & Jordan strike a pose.

Display showing the different cannons used in the fort over the years.

Bruce, Jordan & Bryan acting like tourists.

After leaving St. Augustine we continued on down A1A towards Daytona Beach. Although we didn't plan it this way, it was the first Monday of Daytona Bike Week. None of us had ever been, and even though we don't normally go in for bike rallies and such things we were all looking forward to riding through Daytona and seeing what it was all about.
I wish I could say it was a pleasant experience...
The traffic started about 30 miles north of Daytona and got worse the closer we got to Daytona. From that point until we finally got off A1A at New Smyrna Beach I don't think we ever got out of 2nd gear. It was mile after drudging mile of stop and go, wall to wall traffic.
Daytona itself was a nightmare. I don't remember ever seeing so many bikes in one place before. I also don't ever remember seeing so many jack asses, or motorcycle trailers (can you say 'trailer queens'?) in one place either. We had wanted to stop someplace and get a couple of t-shirts, but ended up going to the south side of Daytona before we could even change lanes to get over and stop! Even with our signals on no one would let us over and more than a few 'bikers' flipped us off when they got beside us in the lane we were trying to get to!
At one point near the middle of town we had two guys on customs come out of a side street past a traffic cop and cut us off at the light! One came so close to me that we almost hit. Then these two lunatics stopped less than 20 yards ahead at the next traffic light in the turn lane heading to the beach. Once stopped they turned around and laughed looking in our direction.
We did manage to get stopped and went in to three different shops looking for a shirt or two. Everything we found was either decidedly Harley-ish, vulgar and rude or all of the above. We left empty handed, and glad to be heading out of town in one piece.
Never again.
It took over four and a half hours to go the 40 or so miles we were in that freak show. What that effectively did was use up the time we had figured we'd have to go all the way down A1A to the Vero Beach area. Instead we were forced to get out on I 95 and haul tail down to SR 70 so that we could make it into Clewiston that night.
It's my own fault, I should have known better. Next time I will know to avoid it like the plague.

As we were headed south on I 95 a storm blew up, threatening to rain on us, but thankfully it never did. Bryan took the photos above while we were stopped for fuel somewhere along the way on I 95.
We headed east on SR 70 towards Okeechobee after getting off I 95. It was getting late in the day and we still had a ways to go. The problem was that the low beam side of the headlight bulb had burned out the day before. We had stopped north of Daytona and bought a bulb, but hadn't taken the time to replace it. Being this close to 'home' I knew there was no way we'd be in Clewiston before dark.

We picked up SR 78 in Okeechobee and headed towards Moore Haven and US 27, it still wasn't dark but it wasn't far off either. I had been using my high beam light all day, as I normally do, but now it was beginning to bother the on coming traffic. Both of the accessory lights on the light bar were still operational, so we could be seen and had some light, just not much when we met on-coming traffic.

By the time we reached US 27 it was definitely dark-thirty though and we would be getting on a major 4 lane highway with a good deal of traffic. Merging onto the highway south bound I got on the radio and told Bryan that once we cleared Moore Haven it would be 12 miles of open road before we got to the outskirts of Clewiston. Once out of town I wanted him to tuck up in behind me and to my left so that I could use his lights as much as possible. He understood and did as I asked.

The road to Clewiston is basically straight having only one turn at the intersection of SR 60 & US 27, so it wouldn't be that hard to maintain our positions and it turned out to be a piece of cake. It was also cool as heck to ride up close and in formation with my son for that many miles on end. He and I have ridden in very close proximity on the dirt bikes, showing each other a fender in turns and bumping elbows on rough straights, but this was another first for us.

I'm proud to say my boy is a rider and handled it like a pro.

We checked into the motel, and like the back-asswards dummies we sometimes are, changed the headlight bulb. Then got some supper and settled in for the night.

Dad's house in Clewiston, where I grew up.

The canal in front of his house.

Another view of the canal and the palms lining it.

My Dad.

His wife Eleanor.

Dad had been in the hospital with Pneumonia prior to our arrival and was released the day after we got there. He was still weak from it, but in good spirits and looked great!

Sassy the wiener dog.

Sassy loves Bryan. Sassy loves everybody!

Miranda, dad and Eleanore's granddaughter and Julie play stick ball in the back yard.

Bryan, Jordan and Miranda on the front porch.
Miranda and Bryan playing.
We rode over to Lake Harbor and stopped at the "John Stretch Park". The park has a ball field, play ground area, picnic tables, a pavilion, an historic pump display as well as access to Lake Okeechobee.

Julie on the slide. Weeeeeee!!!!

Jordan's turn!

Bryan, as usual, does it his way...

...and gets a face full of sand in the process.


The pho-tog at work.

Jordan walking down the dike.

Bryan and Jordan by the rim canal on Lake Okeechobee.
For well over 20 years my father was the General Manager and head engineer for several of the local drainage districts. It was a rewarding job for him and provided me with an interesting childhood at times.
While most people took shelter from the tropical storms and hurricanes that are so predominate to Florida, we were out working. Making sure pumps were operating, storm gates were in position and that local towns and sugar cane fields didn't flood.
The photos below are of an engine and section of pump tube that was in a pumping station in one of dad's drainage districts until a few years ago. I have actually started and ran that very engine and pump on many, many occasions and helped put crank and rod bearings in it one time too.
It was the last of a dying breed of engines used in some of the older stations. Originally installed in the 20's they were all eventually replaced with Caterpillar industrial engines.

Me telling the kids about having to drag a piece of truck tire out of that pump when it became lodged in the impeller assembly. "It was about this long and..."

These are huge engines that due to the long stroke of the crank would only reach a maximum of 350 RPM's. You could almost count each stroke while it was running and the older pump operators could tell when they lost oil pressure just by the sound of the exhaust note.

This picture gives you an idea to the enormous size of the engine.


We visited dad for a couple of days and then it was back on the road again. Places to go, things to see, miles to cover...