May 25, 2002
Tampa to Hammond
Tonya and I have done several multi-state road trips together by car, covering literally 1,000 miles in a day. We have developed a few habits that make cross country trips work. One of the tricks of the trade is "wake up on the road, don't go to sleep there." What that means is getting on the road at a ridiculously early hour, driving sometimes 12 -16 hours straight, and crashing out at your destination sometime in the evening. If you leave by 4 AM, you can cover a lot of miles before 7 or 8 PM - just about the time you are done-for, the day's trip is over.
As with the last year's bike trip, Tonya and I left the house around 4AM. We prepared the night before by packing our bikes completely, laying out all of our clothes, gear, etc. All we would have to do would be wake up, put our clothes on, and go. Here is a picture of Tonya, at 4:00 am as we are about to pull off and start our trip. You will notice, much to everyone's amazement, that we STILL aren't wearing enough gear to keep off the cold. Standing still, all of our gear is HOT, but move about 1/8 mile, and suddenly your muscles are cramping from the cold. One would think we would have learned this by LAST year's trip - but alas, we did not. About 10 1/2 minutes later, we stopped, put on our raingear (which makes a great windbreaker) and were marginally warm enough to make the rest of the trip.
The fun thing about early morning road trips has to be early morning gas stops. Tonya's bike is good for about 100 miles per tank of gas - so that translates into "gas early, gas often" - which also applies after a big bean burrito. Here is (I think) our first gas stop - notice the shiny raingear . . We weren't warm, but we weren't uncomfortable either. People are a a little surprised to see motorcyclists riding at 5 in the morning, so we got the usual chats "cool weather we're having . . " that sort of thing.
The sun came up around noon . . well, not really, it just felt like we had been riding 8 hours before sunrise. Around 7 am we were pretty cold and needed a bit of a reset, so we stopped in "Old Town" Florida. "Old Town" is a little resort style town with signs for river trips, etc. Here is a shot of Tonya warming up with a cup of coffee. This gave us a chance to look at a map and figure out how close to Tallahassee we were. The people in Old Town were friendly enough - and not much interesting happened there.
I decided with the sun up it was ok to remove the raingear. The raingear is nice, but it is really rubbery and sticks to the skin in uncomfortable ways. With the sun up I figured it would be alright to ditch the gear and just ride in my jacket. Tonya took this shot - so I don't really remember it. When I saw it I thought "god, if only I were this cool and not the big goofball that I am."
The ride from Old Town to Tallahassee was pretty non-descript. We did stop in "Lamont" Florida for gasoline, which was only amusing because by the looks of things they were still shooting the TV Show "Sanford and Son" there. Sing it with me "Hwah, whah whah whah . . . whah, whah wah." I half expected to see "Grady" working at the register.
From Lamont to I-10 is about a 5 minute jog. Once we were on I-10 things were intense. The Saturday morning traffic was mild (which is the way I had hoped it would be) but it was moving at about 80mph most of the way. Tonya and I averaged 10mph over the speed limit so we stayed just a little ahead of most traffic. We did have to pull over once because her luggage had slid over to the right to the point that it was almost falling off. That scared me just a little - traffic was moving pretty briskly and we were on the side of the road. I had just seen an episode of "Cops" where this policeman was creamed standing on the side of the road by a passing car. We moved quickly.
Somewhere we stopped for gas and some quick mid-morning snacks - not really a lunch so to speak as it consisted of beef jerky, nuts and a diet coke. The bench you see in front of the bikes is actually dirtier than the parking lot. Here is my love, Tonya, looking surprisingly sexy considering this was 7 or 8 hours into a 13 hour ride.
At that same gas station, Tonya yanked the camera out of my hand and snapped this shot. I didn't realize it, but we were parked directly in the handicapped zone. I didn't really care either, I mean what are the odds, right . . . ? About 10 minutes later this guy limps by dragging one of his legs behind him and giving me a dirty glare for parking in his spot. Suddenly I am all red in the face. Ah, the joys of being completely clueless and inconsiderate.
A little further down the road - I think in Pensacola, we decided to actually stop and eat. Pensacola is a long, long haul from Tampa - and once you have made it there you are about 3/4 the way to Hammond. The remaining time, however, would prove to be further than we were hoping for.
Tonya had this habit of when we stopped to arch her back way out and pull her hair back into a ponytail. I am sure it felt good, but she sure did attract some attention.
Distracting truckers and causing mayhem is just Tonya's style - but it sure is tiring. Here she is Advil in hand trying to catch a couple of zeds before hitting the highway again.
We took this opportunity to cancel our backup hotel reservation - it was Hammond or Bust from here on!
At this point we were two tanks of gas from Hammond Louisiana, but we didn't know it. In our minds we were one tank, tops. We were wrong.
Mobile Alabama may be the most boring, inbred, ignorant place on earth. Conversely, it could be an urbanized, interesting area with personality and charm. Frankly, all I know about it is that it has a bridge and a tunnel nearly back to back and it was fun going over the bay, and then I think we went under it. I have driven through Mobile something like 4 times now - and I have never so much as slowed down to 60 to look at the place. Oh well.
After Mobile we stopped in Biloxi Mississippi to gas up. There was one of those famous Harley Davidson rallies about 2 blocks from the gas station and we saw probably 20 different people going back and forth from the shop - rip roaring from 0 to 60 and back to 0 - since they kind of ran out of oomph WAY before hitting double digits. As always, I was impressed with both bikes and riders that had not left their area code as they machoed their way up and down the boulevard. Apparently, being a badass and actually RIDING your bike are mutually exclusive. I swear, if one thing keeps me from giving Harley Davidson a serious look it has got to be the owners. Never before have so many felt so superior about so very little . . . but I digress.
At the gas station in Biloxi we were approached by two nice, though incoherent, men. The conversation went something like this:
"no sir, we are heading to Hammond today. Say, how far do you think we are from the I-10 / 1-12 split?"
"tellyouwhat,hadmeabikewhenIwasyoung - whoooeeethatshorewasfun, themtherebikes runn'nup'ndownthestreet, theyshiyneyan'fasst-tellyousumpn"
"Yes sir, they are very nice - do you know about how far it is to I-12 from here?"
"awI-12ahdunno,fi,mebbe,tenmiles-most. Zattaboutright?" "Yup" (his friend chimed in)
"well, thanks so much, y'all have a nice day now - take care"
Come to find out, in addition to speaking a foreign language (because that was NOT English) the gentleman at the gas station had discovered a MUCH, much faster way of reaching the 1-10 and I-12 split than conventional physics would allow. I think he may have developed a form of transportation that will revolutionize travel. I know this, because the way we went (straight down the highway in a damn near straight line) it was almost an HOUR away. Worse still from the split it was almost another HOUR to Hammond. Why, oh why do I ask locals? You would think I would learn . . . stay tuned for next year, when I tell you again how I took a local for the gospel and ended up an hour or two off schedule. It wouldn't have been so bad really, but we were both expecting it to be more like 15 minutes - we had already done something close to 12 hours and our anticipation for arrival was really high. I actually thought "I am not going the wrong way am I? That man seemed so sure that it was five minutes, and based on our conversation I have such confidence in him . . . oh, wait a minute . . "
We arrived in Hammond something like 13 hours from when we left Tampa. When we were on the bikes we were exhausted and almost felt a little delusional. It was weird though - when we got off the bikes we were so happy to be at our stopping point we got a second wind. Here is a picture of us checking into the hotel - the clerk couldn't believe we rode 13 hours in one day.
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