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Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 4, 2015

Wow, more than 6 months have slipped by since Southern Comfort was last updated, and that's a me, anyway.....that life is short, and if you're not very careful, it gets away from you before you know it. Seems like the pages on the calendar in my shop just keep flipping over and over.

I actually had to stop and think back about where I've been, and of course, what I've been doing for 6 or 7 months, and damn, I'm sorry to say, "Not much!", or that's the way it seemed before I started writing this. (Turns out I was wrong!) See, my retirement was cut short after a dose of financial reality set it, reminding me to NOT buy things like expensive new motorcycles or Harley trucks when my monthly income was poised to take a precipitous dive.

And I was also reminded that I'd long since lost all my retirement accounts to lawyers, exes, and Anheuser Busch. You just can't live the life I've lived, and end up with any damn money! No regrets, mind ya, but taking all that into consideration, my sorry (but happy and still grinning) ass had to go back to work for a little while! And working takes away the travel time, bringing me back to the subject at hand: What have I been doing?

Cross country rides not being an option, I've been exploring the local areas, learning more about my adopted home state, Florida. Turns out, there's more to this state than Daytona! I've ridden to places like Cedar Key, Tarpon Springs, Leesburg (the Bikefest), and most recently I was introduced to a new place just north of here called Fernandina Beach.

Cedar Key, Florida

Near Tarpon Springs, FL. Gulf of Mexico

Near Tarpon Springs

Rained in...It happens. I did learn that if I get hungry enough, I'll ride in it. I did.

A day away from my bike. On my boat, Dixie Belle, at Ponce Inlet, FL

In the middle of my sabbatical from this blog, Daytona Bike Week 2015 happened. Attending this event requires almost zero effort on my part since I literally wake up in the middle of it every day. Heck, Willie's Tropical Tattoo is practically in my back yard! But I was careful to tell everyone that "I rode mine!", which sometimes wasn't quite true either. I actually WALKED to Willie's to catch the chopper show and festivities on Thursday, LOL. Bike Week turned into a damn good time, made even better by visits from my daughter, Marianne, and also friends Sol, Amanda, Don, and Sue. And right after that, Linda and Charlie passed through. It's always good to be with close friends and family.

Marianne and Amanda, Main Street, Bike Week 2015

Sol and I...Bike Week 2015 at the Cabbage Patch

Sue and Don, working on bikes in my back yard. Bike Week 2015

Iron Horse, Ormond Beach, Bike Week 2015

Linda and Charlie, Cody's in Ocala, March 2015

Hey, that's right...Just before Bike Week, my son Kenny and wife Debbie visited, and before that Chris was here, and before that, Fred and Debbie! Damn, it hasn't been so boring after all! I reckon it just seems that way since I haven't took off on a long, long ride lately. Again, no whining and certainly no regrets. I still wake up with a smile every day, and lately even a bigger smile due to that little hottie that gave me the Fernandina Beach tour. BTW, she has a name....Brenda!

Me and my son, Kenny. St Augustine, February 2015

Kenny and Debbie, St Augustine, February 2015

Fred (where's Debby? Sorry, Hon...) and Cowboy, January 2015

The Big Dog....the 2013 Harley Limited...continues to run like a dream. No issues at all since the failed voltage regulator on the way back from Sturgis. I just replaced the tires I put on before riding up there, so the mileage I got was damn good on those Dunlops, at least in my opinion. I got about 10,000 miles out of them, which was my second set since the bike was new.

I did a lot of research on tire replacement before springing for the new set of tires. I considered the Michelin Commander IIs, Metzler 888s, and Dunlop American Elites, all in the same relative price range....maybe a little more than the stock D407/408s....but then I thought back on my experience with the stock Dunlops. I rode that bike...hard....through the Black Hills, rain or shine, and spent three miserable days riding back home in pouring rain. Those tires never once slid, hydroplaned, or went flat. So what the hell was I shopping around for? I got another set of 'em, and wow, are they nice. My new-bike ride is restored, and I can now lay it back down in corners (reading this, Brenda? :-) ) without feeling and hearing the worn cupped edges whirring away.

And so on..... I reckon that's about it. The last 6 or 7 months hasn't been so boring after all, has it?

Cheers, all, and Happy 4th of July.

PS I just noticed that Southern Comfort has now been visited 91,000 times from readers all over the world. Pretty cool, and certainly unexpected. To be sure, most of the visits are related to the posts about work I did on the Joker bike, but the trailer, bike lift, and trip posts are also popular.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Southern Comfort Updated. Finally.

I'm finally getting off my lazy ass and updating this blog which has been sadly neglected. To be sure, I haven't been up and down the highway to various biker events, nor have I been working on any bikes, but that's no excuse. There's been a ton of stuff going on, and I need to keep the Southern Comfort ball rolling.

Or retire it, which was a thought, but for now, we'll put some more gas in it and go!

Backing up a couple months, I did make it to Sturgis, and what a great ride it was. I wandered somewhat aimlessly for a few days, slowly making my way northwest, riding west out of Nashville, and then north through central Missouri. I referred to the HOG trip planning guide, and followed a few of those yellow-highlighted routes in the book, which were pleasant distractions from the boredom of a straight-to-Sturgis ride. I eventually got into the southwestern tip of South Dakota, staying there for a couple days until my accommodations in downtown Sturgis were ready.

Sturgis was great, of course, and I hit all my favorite spots, plus those I missed the first time in 2012. A special treat in Sturgis was seeing long-time friends Linda and Charlie, Don and Sue, Dan and Gina, and Virginie. I don't see my close friends much since moving to Florida, so reuniting with friends was the best part of my trip!

Once again, I was amazed at the riding experiences while there. From the time I hit the "Welcome to Sturgis" sign until the time I left, I rode over 1,000 miles, loving every darned mile as I twisted here and there through the Black Hills, and beyond into Wyoming.

I won't bore y'all with the endless pix of the rides, babes, and bikes, but suffice it to say that eyestrain was a factor, and not to be taken lightly! Here's just a few of the hundreds of photos I took:

The ride home was something of a struggle. Rain started almost as soon as I finished the first 100 miles, and it really didn't let up for the next 3 days, all the fucking way back to Florida. And if that wasn't bad enough, electrical gremlins plagued the Harley Ultra Limited starting about the same time the rain did. My voltage gauge moved up and down like a fucking tach, and the various idiot lights were going on and off like a slot machine in Vegas. By the end of Day 2, I had gotten to Paducah, KY, and I began worrying if the bike would make it home. Or me either, for that matter.

I'll toss in a plug for that new FroggToggs rain gear I bought, including the boot covers. I didn't get wet except my face and anyplace I'd left the jacket unsnapped. That rain gear is damn good stuff, and worth every penny.

Day 3 started uneventfully, but soon the rain and electrical problems started again, and I rode all the way home.......846 miles.....for fear the bike wouldn't start if I shut it off. I gassed up with the bike running, and ate meals in 7-11 parking lots so I didn't have to shut it off. I'd rolled out at about 8 that morning, getting into Ormond Beach about 1AM the next morning. That was one very long day on the bike, in the rain, and fighting the bike problems.

The last 100 miles or so, I took a "short cut" across one of the darkest, straightest, loneliest roads Florida has to offer, Rt 100, but it shaved off a few miles. That said, next time, if under similar circumstances (God forbid), I'll damn sure stick with the Interstate through Jacksonville. If I'd broken down, which was entirely possible, I'd have been out of luck.

Yes, I could have stopped and had the bike fixed, but wanted to get it worked on here in case the repairs would take a long time. As it turns out, the voltage regulator had OD'd, and Rossmeyer HD in Ormond Beach had it fixed in just a few hours.

Back home, life has taken on a new routine. Gone are the days of endless work inside the house, and with boredom setting in and finances getting low, I took on a part-time job at Home Depot. It's been pretty cool, so far, doing something totally new, and it sure has kept the cash flow from getting much worse. With luck, it'll actually reverse, and maybe I can actually save a few bucks!

So next on the agenda for me is getting the outside of the house painted, and then maybe some work done in the back yard. Just getting ready for guests who just might be visiting from up north over the upcoming cold winter months. Also trying to figure out how to fit in a trip north, but that's going to have to wait until it's warmer up there. Until then, I think any Southern Comfort updates will come from right here in sunny, Ormond Beach, Florida!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Southern Comfort - Reset

Carrabelle Beach, Florida

The pictures above say it all. That ill-fated trip to Texas got aborted when I ran into a storm so damn big, it was on national news for days. It's the first time I've ever been actually afraid while riding, and that fear showed up when I blown off a bridge, right into the bay, near Panama City Beach, Florida. I said a prayer to get off that bridge, and my prayer was answered. Not long after, I gave up that ride, stopping for the night. After reviewing the weather forecast and the road closings ahead the next day, I called off the trip and rode back to Ormond Beach. So much for that ride.

And not long after getting back home and dried out, I finally gave in to an urge to have a boat. I live near the water, with year-round boating weather, so it sorta made sense. Or so I told myself, LOL. This decision was no small thing, because it meant I had to give up one of my bikes to do the deal. Just days before, I told someone I'd never get rid of the Softail Custom, but the boat owner wanted that bike...I wanted the boat....and we cut a deal. And I'd still have a Harley!

So the boat has consumed a lot of my time between that stormy ride and right now. It's been fun, and I've become a damn boat mechanic, but the times out on the water.....even into the Atlantic Ocean....have made it worth it. More on the Dixie Belle later on.

But that stuff ain't really what this post is all about. I'm just checking in to say that I'm giving up on updating Southern Comfort on the past couple month's events, and instead I'm starting over....resetting.....from right about now. 

That means SC restarts right before I ride out of Ormond Beach headed for Sturgis, South Dakota, for the 2014 Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. I'm out of here in about a week, headed roughly northwest through Atlanta, Nashville, Missouri, along the Iowa-Nebraska border, and then I turn west to Sturgis. Route home TBD, but it might run east through Minnesota, or south through Texas. Not sure, and I'll check weather reports the day I leave, and make my mind up then. 

I'm really looking forward to the rally, but even more, I'm looking forward to seeing Linda, Charlie, Don, Sue, Dan, Gina, and Virginie. Will be damn good to be around some old friends again. I miss seeing the crew since I've moved to Florida earlier this year.

I'm traveling alone, at least going up, to minimize the debates on when/where to stop and which route to take. With no traveling partner, I need to have my scoot squared away, so I've got new tires on it, and had it checked over end-to-end by the dealer. It looks ready for the ride. Heck, it's still under warranty!

So stay tuned to Southern Comfort if you want, and I'll try to do a better job of updating this blog during the ride, hopefully with something besides pictures of storm clouds.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Let The Riding Season Begin! Texas, Coming Up!

I probably should have renamed this blog, Home Makeover, given the amount of time and focus the remodeling of my Florida house required. I don't think I've ever undertaken anything like it before, and certainly not intentionally. That said, I couldn't possibly be happier with the outcome, and I now wake up in a home of my own design in the place I always wanted to live. What's not to like, right? So now it's time to think about riding again. The work on the outside of the house can wait for Fall/Winter when Florida temperatures drop just a little.

There were two choices for a ride, actually, and a decision was required. I could putt up to Maggie Valley, NC, to meet Linda, Charlie, Sol, & friends for Thunder in the Smokies, or I could ride west to Texas to see Gypsy Father Time, Brad, Laura, Nathan, Rhonda, Mark, Colton, etc..... 

Yes, I could also have tried to do both, but making both stops put me on the road a lot longer than I wanted, at least for this ride. I'm saving the year's long-haul run (and my ass!) for later in the Summer when I ride to Sturgis, SD, again, this time from Florida. Decisions aren't always easy, mind ya. My friends are like my family, but many of us will be at Sturgis together, so I decided on Texas.

In either direction, weather is a factor. As I'm writing this, I'm hearing tornado reports from Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the week's forecast isn't the greatest due to a prediction of more rain and storms. The best route, then, seems to be way south, so I'll hug the Gulf most of the way while the nasty weather blows eastward, hopefully north of my path. I should have a reasonable chance of making it without getting soaked constantly, or without being whisked away in a tornado to Oz. Worst case is that I hole up in a little motel or parking garage until the crap blows over.

The route on the map is just a rough plan. I want to get back to the idea of NOT knowing what's around the next corner, or what's going on in the towns I stop in. I like trips where everything is a surprise, including the towns, restaurants, weather, and yep, the route itself. 

I plan to pick up a riding buddy in Fort Worth, and then head south to Austin to hook up with friends. On the way back, I'll spend a little extra time in Fort Worth to see family and pay my respects to departed family Mom and Aunt Annie for sure.....before heading back toward Florida.

I'm going to ride the 2013 Harley Limited for the trip. The '08 Softail is good for road trips, to be sure, but I'm sorta getting used to having a windshield and not struggling with storage room, not to mention having a softer ride. Having a passenger along for part of the trip made the decision a no-brainer, especially for storage requirements! I can run for days on end with just one change of clothes, but I can't expect a girlie to do that!

My Limited is now a year and a half old, and it just turned 10,000 miles. I'm dropping it off for service tomorrow morning before I pull out. No sense getting on the road and having something go wrong, or at least not the sort of thing that can be detected during a major service check-up. I'll also get a second opinion on leaving the original tires on. They look great to me, but I want to make sure I'm not overlooking the obvious.

And so on. I'm taking my time, and I'll stop when something looks interesting or the road is wearing me out. I'll shoot for 500 miles a day, but less is OK too. It ain't a race, and for the very first time in my life, there's no job to get back to and no hard dates on the calendar to drive the schedule. I'll get back when I get back. I can't wait to get on the road!

Updates when I can....

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Retirement, Redux

The Ormond Beach House, As I First Saw It. Yikes!

As mentioned in the last post, retirement kicked in for me, quite unplanned, on February 1, 2014. That's not to say that work stopped for me on that day, though. Far from it, actually. I had been down to Florida earlier in January to get the contractors started on some of the work, and when I arrived in Ormond Beach in early February with the first load of stuff, things kicked into high gear.

Of course, with all the work going on, there was no place to put anything, much less get a bedroom set up, so the early weeks were spent sleeping on a mattress on the floor, literally surrounded by boxes, to save from yet another hotel bill. Each morning, I got started early, pulling whatever strings needed to be pulled to keep the work going, plus do whatever I needed to do. I wanted to get the place livable by Bike Week in early March, and have 99.9% of the work done by mid-March when company was coming in from Texas.

This was no small feat given the fact that the entire interior of the house needed remodeling, including an entirely new kitchen. And I had to get almost all new furniture since the DC stuff just wasn't going to fly in a Florida home near the beach.

But I've never let a little thing like an impossible timeline stop me before, and I didn't let it stop me this time despite some frustration from not getting people to work on my schedule. What's up with that, anyway!!!??? I found out that even when you're writing the check, you still ain't the boss when it comes to contractors.

Let the games begin....


In mid-February, the furniture was delivered, and thankfully the floor was done by then so everything got piled in the center of the house where I was camped out on the mattress! Tight quarters, to say the least, and my coffee pot churned away on top of a cardboard box. I had bought a TV to keep me company at night, but with no cable, all I could get was Latino and religious channels, but with the hearing aids out, even that was tolerable!

Sometime in late February, the carpet guys finally appeared with the carpet for the hall and bedrooms, and I was grateful to finally be able to set up the bedrooms and sleep in my own bed. By then, it had been a long time since I'd done that....almost a month! And unpacking some of the boxes could begin. Some of the kitchen work was done too, and I could begin to see a little light at the end of the tunnel!

On days when I wasn't working on the house, I did the necessary stuff to officially become a Florida resident, getting tags on the truck, bikes, and trailer for starters. Yay!

Late February and early March work also included two more trips back north for me, the F150, and my trailer. The second trip was to get the bikes and a truckload of stuff. The last trip was mostly the stuff out of the garage, which turned out to be quite a haul. I did the last trip up and back, including packing, in just 3 days. I had to get back in time for the beginning of Bike Week!

I managed to put an awful lot of miles on that F150 Harley truck, and I need to give it a break for a while. I once thought of counting up the number of trips back and forth I made since last October but decided I didn't want to know! Let it be known that that truck earned its keep, and it can damn sure pull a heavily loaded trailer down the interstate!

Though there were days in early March when I couldn't seem to get a damn thing accomplished, I kept pushing, and slowly I turned the last corner and down the homestretch. The appliances were put into place, I was able to do laundry, and I could finally sit in the living room and watch a little TV, no longer limited to being "saved" or watching Spanish soap operas, though I will miss those short dresses! Damn, what is it about those shows! Heck, maybe they were all about hookers...who knows.

I woke up one morning.....last Thursday, actually.....and realized that it was all done. There was the smell of fresh (and still drying) paint in the air, but no nails to hammer, and nothing to install. Granted, there were still a few unpacked boxes, but I could actually hide those in the garage which was finally emptied of construction materials. It wasn't a moment too soon. 



The house turned out far better than I expected, and I'm totally happy with it. And despite cost overruns, I've still got my nifty shed on order, due in early April. I'll have a halfway decent place for workbenches, tools and the bikes. 

Retirement might actually begin for me now, assuming retirement means I won't be working my ass off any longer unless I choose to. I'm looking forward to a little downtime to get more acquainted with the new neighborhood, and I plan to put some miles on the Harleys to do just that!