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Day 5
February 2nd, 2002
Orlando, Florida

Ron banged on my door and jarred me out of a deep sleep.  He scared me out of my wits, but he was only doing as instructed.  It was 11:30pm.  
I donned a sweatshirt, and long wool socks under the Roadcrafter.  Certainly over dressed for the 70 degree temps of Orlando, but I was thinking about later on.  I checked the weather one last time, and figured I would run head first into the cold front, somewhere near I-10.
I checked all my equipment and loaded up.  Making sure my cell phone was ready to go.  We said our good byes, as we mounted up in the driveway.

Ron escorted me to the Turnpike, where I would head north to I-75.  We rode across the deserted streets, arriving at the Turnpike a few miles later.  He pulled to the side and I went by, I gave him one last long goodbye wave.

I pulled into the toll booth and the attendant asked-

"where ya headin?"

"Montgomery, Alabama"

"God ride with ya"

"thanks"

The gate went up, and I started the long, dark ride back to Central Alabama.  I am back to how I started this trip.  Alone.  

The turnpike quickly removes me from the lights of the city, and I settle in at 65 mph.  It is dark, but the PIAAs do a nice job of keeping me safe as long as I don't act crazy.  I will ride as far north as I can before my butt demands a break.

Big trucks blow by me at 80+.  This ride is reminding me of my Iron Butt ride home from Kansas.  I can't stay with the trucks, as I can't see well enough, and I have less room for error then a 4 wheeler.  If a brick springs up out of the night at a cage, you need a new tire, if I hit it, I might need some new skin, or bone melding.

I recently failed the eye test at my annual fire department check up.  I need new glasses. My current prescription is 4 years old.  Now riding along in the dark, I see the folly of putting that chore off.

The night is warm and humid.  

My eyes adjust to the darkness but I still keep my speed down.  There are but a few cages on the road, and NO RVs.  Just me and the truckers.
I leave the turnpike at I-75, and turn north for home.  I take position in the slow lane, something the ST is not use to.

Riding alone in the dark, brings a quiet inner peace.  My world confined to only how far I can see by my ST's lights.  The lights from homes in the distance, call to me, "remove yourself from this midnight madness, and take shelter here."  I ignore such callings, and continue on my ride.  I like it out here.

I sing a few songs, and think back to past trips to Disney World, with my then young son.  I use to think Disney World was far away, now it is just a ride before breakfast
.
Nearing Ocala, I can see the outline of horse pastures in the darkness.

I flash my high beams to let the trucks know its ok to come back over.

My butt is getting stiff so I exit in Gainesville, for my first stop of the night.  I come down off 75 into a all night gas/mart.  I buy some chips and wash it down with Mountain Dew.  I walk around and stretch my legs.  A man in a black truck pulls in, and he exits with some bottled water.  He asks if I smell diesel fuel, and I reply. "No, I think its that guy spray painting that sign over there."  It is 2am.

With my butt rested I hit the road.  The sign says I am 50 miles from Lake City and I-10.  I begin to wonder about the cold front I am closing in on.
The first sign of it comes a few miles later.  Fog, and misting rain greet me 25 miles from I-10.  The PIAAs cut the fog nicely, but I still slow down.  The once speeding trucks are reduced to 40 mph in the soup.  The low spots are the foggiest, I keep my eyes on my mirrors, but for now there is nothing but darkness back there.

When it's not foggy, it's raining.  I don't know which is worse.  If my wife knew I was out here in this, she would kill me.  I find myself right in the middle of a cold air, warm air clash, fighting it out to see who will reign supreme on this dark night.

I reach the interchange, and negotiate the twisting, changing radius ramps, and soon find myself west bound on I-10.  Traffic is sparse.  This portion of the ride to Tallahassee will be the longest.  The sign says 90 miles, but my past experience, reminds me it will feel much longer.

The fog blanket envelopes me as I ride west. Visibility down to less the quarter of a mile.  A east bound cage with his high beams on, crawls along in the muck.  His lights reflecting off the fog, and not very effective, he needs to DIM his lights.  Not hard to spot the amateurs on a night like this.
Suddenly, the air turns cold, and I punch out of the fog into a star lit, but frosty night.  I made it.  The air is cold now, just as I knew it would be on the other side of the fog.  I get lucky and a rest area looms ahead in the darkness, I take the exit, and ride in to use the facilities, add my thinsulate vest, and switch to winter gloves.

There is a 20 degree temp differential from the west, to east side of the front.

I park the ST, and walk by the racked out motorists asleep in their cars.  Florida rest areas are secured 24 hours a day, so everyone can sleep soundly.

I see a guy in a white Camry with a pillow over his head.  Been there myself.

I continue on with new found warmth leaving the rest area.

My fuel light comes on a few miles after the stop.

The remaining 50 miles into Tallahassee are uneventful, and I enter the sleeping city around 3:30am.  I take the U.S. 27 North exit, and stop for gas at a Standard gas/mart store.  I filled up and charged it to my card, I never went in the store.

U.S. 27 is a 4 lane highway out of the city.  It will take me to Bainbridge, Georgia.  The road is dark and lonely, and I keep alert for deer.  With my H4s on bright, supplemented by my PIAAs, the deer had little chance at surprising me.  I spotted a few but none threatened me.

Havanna, Florida was closed down tight when I came through.  Not one store was open.

In Bainbridge, I pick up U.S. 84 East, and retrace the route I took a few days ago.
 
It is 5am now, and the air is cold.  Prime time for deer to be on the move.  I ride along at a paltry 50 mph, too scared to ride any faster.  My lights expose deer herd, after deer herd.  The PIAAs easily pick them up along the shoulders and tree line.  They are like cows grazing.  I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of PIAA products, they are worth every penny.  Noway I even think about undertaking a ride such as this without them.  I can't understand guys that spend hundreds of dollars on radios, foot pegs, handlebars, and ignore the single greatest safety item you can have.

In Donalsonville, I pull into a closed down BP station to add the last layer of warmth I have.  I put on another sweatshirt, and now have 2 sweatshirts and a thinsulate vest under the Roadcrafter.  I also add another layer of long wool socks.  I have emptied the arsenal, nothing else can be done if it gets any colder.

Riding alone in the dark and cold, I begin to think about my slick rear tire. I take comfort in the fact, I am not far from Dothan, and once there, I could call any number of people for help if needed.  Dothan is Prattville's sister city, I know many of the firefighters there.  My son played Jr. College ball there for 2 years, and still has a girlfriend there.  Help would not be far away if trouble developed.

The extra layers do the trick and I am warm in the 40 degree temp.  The only cold spot are my feet, despite the socks.

I cross the Chattahoochee back into Alabama, about 6am.  Once I get to Dothan it will be a easy ride home.

I arrive in the Dothan City Limits with the sky turning light. The trees and landscape emerge from the darkness.  Dothan has a circle highway around it called the Ross Clark Circle.  I smirk when I think about the confined space school I went to in Dothan.  The instructor was from southern Maryland, and kept referring to the circle as "The Beltway".

I ride north out of Dothan in the growing light.  231 is second nature to me.  I have been on it a hundred times.
Riding northwest, my mirrors flash the morning sunrise.  After a long all night ride, in fog, rain, and cold, nothing is more welcome a sight.  A new day is dawning, to close out another great tour and ride.  I am not far from home, and I wick the ST up to 75 in the  golden light of the morning sun.

















                Sunrise in Alabama, 6 miles south of Troy, U.S. 231


As is the custom, I recap the trip just completed the last 50 miles.  It was a great trip with many fine memories.  The bike everyone says is so boring has once again brought me home safe and sound without one problem.  There is not much he, and I, have not seen together.  I pat the gas tank of this fine machine as it slices me through the cool air home.



















The ST basks in the soft sunlight of a Alabama morning.
An inspiring sight, after a long, foggy, dark and cold, all 
night ride.


One hundred miles later I enter Montgomery.  I quickly dispatch the last 20 miles home and enter Prattville East at 7:45am.
I turn in my neighborhood, and then my driveway.  The garage door is open as instructed, and I maneuver the ST pass the Accord, drop the stand and dismount.

I covered 482 miles for the day, and 2,088 miles for the trip




.
Epilogue
I slept most of the morning when I got home.  I showered and dressed then rode back to Montgomery to watch both of my son's games.  Funny, even after riding 500 miles, all night, when given the choice of riding or driving, I still wanted to ride.

I spent Sunday watching the Super Bowl.

The rear 205 did not look any worse after the trip.

I washed the ST on Monday and went back to work on Tuesday.

On Thursday I took the ST to the Honda shop for his new rear tire.  A Dunlop 205. 
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