We knew it was coming. There were rumors and patents coming out of Kawasaki over the last three years. Simply amazing! Supercharged, 300 HP, a carbon fiber dream machine! By the way, those “wings” aren’t for downforce. Rather, they direct air into the cooling and intake systems. I can’t wait to demo this monster. MSRP is rumored to be around $30 grand for the track version.
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Tour of the Spectro Oil factory
Review of 2014 BMW GS Adventure
Review of 2014 Aprilia Caponord
Long term review – Held Cardona Jacket
Late May, 2009 – Lillian, Alabama
I got an early start that morning. I slept fantastically but woke up at 6:00 am and had a hankering to get moving. I wanted to visit the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola but did not want to hang around until they opened several hours later. In retrospect, I wish I had. But, these were early days in my long distance motorcycle wanderings and I was always in a hurry to get somewhere.
Gear packed, I rolled out of the KOA and rolled onto 10 East towards Tallahassee. Somewhere near the interstate I found a Waffle house, staggered inside and ordered a huge breakfast. Biscuits and gravy, hash browns, bacon and toast, and enough Iced Tea to make the 1775 British empire jealous. I needed good eating before hitting the road.
As you can see from the map below, this route was serious brain fart as the map shows a more interesting chance to ride along the coast through Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton, Panama City, Port St. Joe, etc.
Oh well, live and learn (I did). My journal on this ride is less than a paragraph. Basically it says “I rode and rode some more, and watched the Preakness race at a bar in a non descript Gainesville mall”
I rolled into Gainesville late that afternoon. It had been a completely boring ride – all slab interstate and crazed truck drivers. I checked into a La Quinta or Best Western and crashed. I know, I know, this is not the best travel writing or record keeping. Stick with me, It gets better as I got more experience.
UP NEXT – Gainesville, FL to Pompano Beach, FL and the Florida Keys!
Turns out that my favorite Bourbon (Rowan’s Creek) is made by Willett. As I’ve been trying different cigars lately, I decided to start branching out with Bourbon’s as well. Johnny Drum is pretty good stuff. Priced at $29.00 it’s an excellent value. One interesting thing is that it is exceptional on ice (assuming that’s possible).
Double Gold Medal, 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Three Stars/Recommended, F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
90.5 Rating, Jim Murray’s 2012 Whisky Bible
Please note: – These are “classic” Ride Reports. I began this blog in earnest on the second long trip around the country. Prior to that, I kept notes in my Journal and never really had the chance to post the early trips. Visit the RIDE REPORT page for the complete archive. I’m writing these 2009 stories from the pages of my travel journal and memory. Enjoy.
Late May, 2009
- Distance: 325 miles
- Approximately 5.5 hours
PHOTO: My destination for today – Lillian, Alabama.
Grand Isle, LA – With a full tank of gas, I thumbed the starter button, clicked down into first gear and headed west out of Grand Isle. The first part of this morning’s ride I was not looking forward to. Approximately 60 miles of this ride is at a maximum speed of 35 mph. Loooooooooooong and slow, brother, long and slow.
I took a right at Moran’s restaurant and rolled onto LA-1 North.
LA-1 North turns into LA-3235 and runs through the Laurier Bayou on the left side and North Lake on the right. If nothing else, it’s interesting riding and you have to your guard up as there is a ton of traffic entering and exiting the road across the entire length of the canal.
Pretty soon I crossed the Bayou Laforuche Bridge, turned off of LA 308-S and onto Highway 90-E/I-10 heading towards New Orleans.
Somehow I passed through New Orleans without stopping. Why? Well, been there and done that – several times. Want proof? Check out this vintage photo. It’s early morning in New Orleans, the day before Mardi Gras and I’m posing for an après breakfast photo. Sunburned, horribly drunk, wearing linen trousers, a polo shirt and a linen button down oxford. And, apparently, attempting a Luge run down Bourbon Street on a stolen handcart. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Reluctantly, I passed the Big Easy. Somehow. Today I wanted to hug the Gulf coast as much as possible – even if it was not the most direct route. I exited I-10 East into US-90 and slowly began making my way long along the coast. Over the bridge though St. Louis Bay, towards Gulfport, MS.
Through Gulfport and onto Biloxi. I’m running on memory here. My journal is blank on the sights. What I do remember was a big old bunch of Casino’s along Beach Blvd in Biloxi. Also, I remember seeing mostly new construction along the coast. Locals told me that Katrina did not do a huge amount of costal damage from the storm itself, the flooding and WHAT was in the water caused most of the problems.
Still on I-90, I passed through Biloxi and on towards Pascagoula. I rode over the Krebs Lake bridge and into Pascagoula.
Through Pascagoula, I picked up I-10 and turned north-east towards Mobile. Past Mobile I turned south on to I-90 and then east into 98/42 into Lillian. It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at the Lillian Alabama KOA.
The Gulf Shores / Pensacola West KOA was nothing special. In fact, it had the worst bathroom I’ve ever seen at a KOA. Apparently they were undergoing “renovations” but subsequent Google searches and reviews indicate that the “renovations” may never be completed. Also, the area where I camped was on a steep downhill road with TONS of sand. It was unnerving trying to maneuver a heavily laden motorcycle into the tiny sand covered asphalt campsite. Apparently I’m not the only person with issues as Trip Advisor rates the place at 2.5 stars.
I got the bike unloaded, setup camp, and took a shower. I walked down to the water and chatted with a few folks. It was a pleasant evening. I wish I would have been able to camp in the really great section of the park. Honestly, this was a pretty run down KOA.
A local told me about Perdido Key just down the road. “A bit snooty but some purty good seafood”. That was enough for me. I jumped back on the Futura and headed for the water.
Perdido Key ain’t pretty. Well, I guess that depends on what you call pretty. It’s mostly gigantic high rise condos, strips of black asphalt, and sand dunes. The dominating feature again are the MEGA Condo complexes. I absolutely hate these awful concrete, soul sucking, monuments to development greed. They suck!
Enough about that, the visit Perdido website has the following facts about the Key:
Perdido Key is located in the Northwest Panhandle of Florida, between Pensacola, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama.
No more than a few hundred yards wide in most places, Perdido Key beaches stretch some 16 miles, with almost 60 percent of it located in federal or state parks – making it one of the last remaining unblemished stretches of wilderness in the Florida Panhandle.
Perdido Key’s literal translation means “Lost Key,” so named by the early Spanish who discovered it in 1693. Until then, the Key was the well-kept secret of gulf coast Native Americans – Perdido Key’s first inhabitants.
Bridges link Perdido Key to the Florida mainland, as well as neighboring Alabama. Those who make the short drive across the water will agree that this “Lost” island is definitely worth discovering.
With an average temperature of 75 degrees and 343 days of sunshine, It’s not surprising the key is a long-hidden retreat that blends together both year-round outdoor activities and an authentic laid-back lifestyle uniquely its own.
I rode around for a bit and decided to settle on The Crab Trap for dinner.
With the occasional F-18 Hornet roaring overhead, I settled down at the bar and ordered dinner. There was a good crowd for middle of the week and off-season.
Dinner was excellent. The photo below contains just about everything I can think of for a perfect beachside dinner.
I spent a few minutes talking to the kitchen staff who were hanging out on a smoke break and checking out my motorcycle. They suggested I stop by a local Road House in Lillian. “Great live music, pretty women and cold beer” Sounded good to me.
A short time later I was parked at Lillian’s Cafe and enjoying a frosty cold beer listening to talented locals sing a variety of mostly Jimmy Buffett and Country songs. The Lillian Cafe is the kind of place where you share a table with strangers and sing along together. The coolest thing was singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama” in Alabama!
Lillian’s Cafe & Coffee House
33925 US Highway 98, Lillian, AL
They had a great method of decorating the bathrooms. Old adverts from Men’s magazines.
I went outside and smoked a cigar and sat on the bike under the stars. What a fantastic night. The crowd grew into the evening and finally, after watching a flip-flop, shorts and t-shirt clad idiot repeatedly drag racing an old, beat to shit, Honda Hurricane 600 up and down the street for the zillionth time I departed.
Back at the KOA I tossed back a few Tequila shots with the locals and stumbled off to bed.
The next morning I woke up early – six am or thereabouts. I felt fantastic and had the most comfortable night’s sleep of the trip – in our out of a hotel. Relaxed, and refreshed I wandered down to the water and saw this………… stunning.
It was an excellent way to start the day.
NEXT: Lillian, AL to Gainesville, FL
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Archive Report – March 12/13, 2009
A few more long distance riders trickled into the park that afternoon. The Ducati and Buell were ridden by a father an son from Michigan. The Kawasaki was ridden by a college student heading to California from the east coast. Apparently the Kawai had zero range and he had to keep a fuel can strapped to the back of the bike to get from gas station to gas station. We had a great time talking and shared a few beers late that evening.
They left the next day and after we said goodbye I really felt alone. I felt I was too long in one place and the road was calling. I was in a pretty lonely and crappy mood that evening.
To cheer myself up, rode around the fishing docks of Grand Isle just taking in the sights. Anything to pass the time and get out of my funky mood.
There are some great houses in Grand Isle. I recently learned that James Whitey Bulger was hiding out on Grand Isle.
For those of you who don’t know Whitey, he was a notorious Boston gangster who had been on the run for 16 years. Who knows? He might have been sitting at the bar with me or wandering around the local Supermarket.
Back to the Lighthouse for dinner. BLT this time.
Excellent as usual. Nothing like a BLT and a big glass of Iced Tea.
After dinner, I went over to a bar that I believe was called “Daddy’s Money”. A Google Earth search of the town now shows a bar called “Club Oasis” Despite the creepy name I went inside and ordered a beer. With only a few choices on the Isle, you take what you can find. Apparently the locals favor Golf Carts for power drinking.
I left for Arties Sports bar which was down the street. There were a few decrepit overstuffed chairs just inside the door. After several days of sitting on park benches they looked GREAT to me! I grabbed a seat and relaxed. As it was off-season, the bar was filled with typical Island folk, fishermen and oil-rig workers.
It was getting late so I paid my tab and rode back to the State Park. It was a great place to visit. If you like to fish, this is the place.
The next morning I broke camp and headed towards Alabama. FloriBama actually, the border of Florida and Alabama. I had a date with some serious seafood and fantastic scenery.
NEXT: Lillian, Alabama heading south!