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!
Boulogne-Billancourt – 6 November 2013
The new Michelin Pilot Road 4:
three different versions available from January 2014
The Michelin Pilot Road 4 for sport touring, trail and GT bikes will be available
in early 2014.
The new BMW R 1200 RT will be factory-fitted with the Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT.
Michelin has once again pushed the limits of braking. On wet surfaces, the new
tyre’s braking distance is shorter than that of its main competitors.
In 2014 Michelin will bring to market an all-new range of motorcycle tyres, available in three
versions: the Michelin Pilot Road 4, Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT and Michelin Pilot Road 4 Trail.
Intended for road use only, these tyres cover most categories of road motorcycles of more
than 600cc.They were designed to deliver maximum safety in the most common conditions
of use, especially on wet roads and in particular when braking.
Michelin will also be the tyre supplier for the new BMW R 1200 RT with the GT version of its
new tyre. The fact that BMW has selected the Pilot Road 4 for this bike – the bestselling bike
in its category – reflects the level of performance it provides.
In short, the Michelin Pilot Road 4 delivers enhanced safety in all situations and extended
tyre life. They are a tangible illustration of Michelin’s Total Performance strategy of constantly
and simultaneously improving tyre performance characteristics across the board.
With the Michelin Pilot Road 4 tyres, the aim is to enable as many motorcyclists as possible
to experience safe riding in nearly all conditions.
Michelin Pilot Road 4 Standard
120/60 ZR 17
120/70 ZR 17
150/70 ZR 17
160/60 ZR 17
180/55 ZR 17
190/50 ZR 17
190/55 ZR 17
Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT
120/70 ZR 17
120/70 ZR 18
170/60 ZR 17
180/55 ZR 17
190/50 ZR 17
190/55 ZR 17
Michelin Pilot Road 4 Trail
110/80 R 19
120/70 R 19
150/70 R 17
170/60 R 17
ARCHIVE REPORT – March 12, 2009
The thing about Grand Isle, LA, is that God wipes it off the face of the earth once in a while…..
I broke camp in the Nacogdoches, TX KOA. Rolling up the sleeping bag and stuffing it into a compression sack, deflating the air mattress, and collapsing the tent, etc. Everything for camping fits in one side bag of the Aprilia Futura. It’s a tight fit but it all goes in somehow. Also, the pannier (luggage box) is completely water tight – and I’d need that in the future.
With my bags packed and gear stowed, I punched the starter button and the Futura settled down into a familiar lumpy idle. Great weather today, maybe the best so far. Temperatures in the 80’s and blue skies. I rolled the throttle on and started running south east on US 69.
I rode past Lufkin, TX, and the Angelina National Forest. Past Longville Lake, I turned due south into US 171 headed towards Lake Charles, LA.
At Lake Charles, I hit I-10 east towards Lafayette. The bike was running strongly and eating mile after mile. My destination today was a State Park on Grand Isle, LA. Just about as far out to the water as you can go in Louisiana. Why? Well, why not. I’m traveling and it looked like a neat place to camp for a few days.
At Lafayette, I turned south east on US-90. The roads in the area were mostly low lying and almost entirely straight. Not much to look at except for fields and light industry.
I picked up Route 308 South which quickly turned into Route 3235 towards Grand Isle. Again the scenery is mostly trailer parks, fences, industry and churches. But, I was riding, and no matter what, you tend to see interesting things.
Route 3235 merges into Route 1 South. And it starts to get wet. When I say wet, I mean there is less land than water. The ride here was interesting as the scenery completely changed. The people here all appeared have business related to the water. Boatyards, seafood providers, marine salvage and welding, etc.
Also, I began to see signs of the oil industry. Route 1 takes a hard left turn where it meets 3090 and now you are mostly riding on thin strips of pavement surrounded by salt marsh and swamp all the way to Grand Isle.
There were signs of Hurricane Katrina the whole way along the ride south. Along this section of highway I saw trucks buried in the mud, debris from destroyed homes and businesses and roads that had been rebuilt. I imagine if you live down here one gets used to the idea that sooner or later the weather is going to take it’s share of your belongings – maybe your life too.
On a cheerier note. The whole way down to Grand Isle, I passed zillions of drive through Daiquiri bars. What’s this? Institutionalized drinking? I mean, it’s a great idea, but then again, a double banana daiquiri made with Everclear Grain Alcohol and you might have trouble keeping the family truckster out of roadside ditches. I imagine it get’s hot here in late summer so the locals must really enjoy these frosty treats. Or, maybe they have a New Orleans attitude about “to go cup” drinking and driving.
The sign pretty much sums up everything you need to know about Grand Isle. The part about “devastated by 1865 and 1893 hurricanes” is interesting as like most of Grand Isle – the sign is new. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina pounded the area for two days with 5 foot storm surges. The only bridge linking the Isle to the mainland was seriously damaged. Since then, Hurricane’s Rita and Gustav again pounded Grand Isle.
But at the time, I was not worried about hurricanes or storms, just getting to the State Park on Admiral Craik Drive. It was late afternoon and I was a concerned about finding provisions. The GPS was vague as to grocery stories and details about Grand Isle. After 60 miles of 35 MPH speed limits I was in no mood for an hour long ride back to civilization.
Thankfully the local Sureway Grocery store was well equipped and close to the State Park. Like most remote grocery stores Sureway had a huge variety of camping gear, silly t-shirts, boogie boards, groceries, and thankfully a large and well stocked supply of booze. I figured I’d get my camp setup and head back for supplies. I rolled into the gates Grand Isle State Park, picked up my paperwork and rode to my camping spot.
It always amazes me that parks seem to have an uncontrollable desire to provide your own mini recycling pile. Park info, tourist info, a car pass, a campsite pass, etc. It’s a campsite not a Lease agreement. Sheesh. Anyway, I finished setting up my camp in time for the Park Ranger to drive up and tell me I was in the wrong site and had to move. Thankfully, I have a freestanding tent and was able to pick it up and move to the new site.
PHOTO: Setting up at the State Park. The Gulf of Mexico is just over the dune.
My “Condo in A Box” Everything I need to sleep comfortably. Sleeping bag, tent, air mattress, pillow, towel, and flip flops. I’m writing this article in 2013 and am still using the same gear. Flawless construction and quality on every piece. A few items have been reviewed in the Gear section of this website. Eventually, I’ll get to posting each and every piece.
A photo of my campsite setup in the “correct” location. During high summer that single palm tree won’t offer much shade. A short time later the Park Ranger came by again to tell me that I was not allowed to hang a close line in the park. This time I just ignored them, said “illgetitdownwhenigetachanceandhaveanicedayjackwagon” and kept about my business. Do YOU see a problem with what’s hanging up in the photo below?
As evening rolled around, I decided to drive back into town and get some dinner. I usually just look for a place with the most cars and ignore guide books. Tonight that looked like the Lighthouse Restaurant . I looked for a paved spot to rest the bike and put down the side stand. It had been a long day in the saddle.
I went in and immediately ordered an Iced Tea and considered the menu. I decided on the home made Seafood gumbo, fritters, potato salad, tobacco, and a cold beer. It was an excellent meal.
I rode down the street to the Sureway and picked up a few things. Ice, bottled water, Diet Coke, a few snacks, and a bottle of cheap rum. Apparently they don’t sell Mt. Gay in this part of the country. They had a small humidor and I grabbed a few cigars. I tossed the ice on the passenger seat of the Futura and used a bungee cord to hold it on. The rest fit into the panniers. I was excited to sleep on the beach and spend some serious time enjoying the sun and sands of the Gulf of Mexico.
PHOTO: After dinner snacks. Rum and Tonic with fine Cigars. An excellent way to end the evening.
The next day I woke up early and rode into town for breakfast and supplies for the day. The weather was fantastic.
Seems that everyone in Grand Isle is here for one or two things. To fish or to work for the oil industry. Helicopters were constantly flying overhead heading out into the oil platforms in the gulf. Little did I know that I was camping at ground zero for the worst environmental oil disaster in US history. On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon exploded and spilled 170 million gallons of toxic crude oil in to the Gulf.
Back from breakfast, I mixed a Daiquiri, put on my flip flops and headed toward the water! Yeeeeeehaw! Headphones on, blasting Jimmy Buffett.
Beautiful weather. I wish I had a beach chair. Three days ago I had been in Missouri, two days ago, Texas, and now I’m splashing around in the Gulf of Mexico. Fantastic!
Some of these photos are a little wonky as it was seriously sunny!
Not having an umbrella, I realized I needed to get under some shade. Thankfully, there were picnic areas scattered along the beach that offered protection. I sat, unwrapped a sandwich, watched the Gulf, and consumed many boat drinks. This was living!
These were some of the most relaxing days of the entire trip. I really love Grand Isle. If I were to camp there again, I would pack an awning of some sort. There are times when you need shade and as you can see from the photo below – there was none.
This is an unusual sight for a costal campground – a lack of zillion dollar mobile homes. Until the weekend I almost had the place to myself.
Just about every other place I camped was surrounded by white haired folks, hunkered down in air conditioned mobile bunkers, watching digital satellite TV accompanied by a beeping microwave. From my experience a typical day for these folks is something like this:
- Wake up at 5:00 a.m.
- Walk small shaggy dog.
- Make significant noise next to motorcycle and small tent (me).
- Take recycling to garbage in ATV while tow vehicle warms up.
- Have conversation with other RV owners.
- Accidentally set off car alarm.
- Engage in 45 minute conversation about where to eat breakfast.
- Ask for directions.
- Complain about something.
You get the idea. Painful. Not once did one of these mega RV owners offer me a drink, dinner, a seat by the camp fire, nothing. I can’t count how many times a ragtag family with an old towed camper and a battered pickup offered me drinks, food, and “come on over and spend some time with us” offers.
PHOTO: Making progress.
PHOTO: La Casa
PHOTO: Aprilia Futura RST.
END OF PART ONE. More to come shortly from Grand Isle, LA