Day 2
February 6th, 2008
Motel 6
Kissimmee, Florida

I was able to sleep in on this morning because I only had short ride to Miami scheduled for the day.  
Today was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church, I'll start the day off with Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, located about 4 miles away according to the GPS.  The morning service was scheduled for 9:30am.  "I should be on the road by 11, and in Miami around 4."

With time to kill before striking out I looked over the atlas for the upcoming ride.  Not really much debate on what to do.  I was in the most boring place of the most boring state for riding.  There are no good roads going south, so I decided to just let Zumo take care of it.  

At 9:15 I fired up the RT to take me to Thacker Road, where the church is located.  Getting anywhere in Kissimmee takes patience.  The red lights and congestion quickly ate away at my 15 minute cushion to get to the church on time.  I managed to make it with about 5 minutes to spare only because I got lucky the last 2 traffic lights.

Holy Redeemer is a large parish and the place was packed.  Most of the people present were older than me, and female.  Folks with a job were at work, leaving the pews to us retirees.

When Mass was over I headed back to the motel to load up and get on the road.

After packing the bike, I left the key card by the TV for the maid, and got underway.  I was on the road just as I predicated; 10:55 am.

The GPS directed east on U.S. 192, the main drag through town.  The unit displayed my next turn in 9 miles-onto the Florida Turnpike.  It was 9 miles of one red light at a time almost the entire way.   Every corner had a traffic light, and  many stores had lights to help customers coming and going.   Escaping Kissimmee was tedious work.  "This is early February, noway do I wanna be here in June, I bet this road is a parking lot."

Finally I met the Turnpike and got on board.  I pulled the ticket, and crammed it my sleeve pocket, "I wonder how much this is gonna cost me," and motored south.

By lunch time it was already 73 degrees, under sunny, mostly clear skies.  I glanced down at the gas gauge and noted the reserve light will be coming on soon.  With nothing else to do I tabbed the Zumo for a elevation check, 74 feet.   "Why am I not surprised?  Not seen a hill since I left the Panhandle."

I left the screen low, and the cruise button on, so I could come off and on without having to push the switch over every time.  The red light on the left bar glowed to remind me it was in the on position.  When the cruise is full on the yellow word "SET" shines at me from the instrument cluster.  The RT's cruise is the finest on 2 wheels.  Dead on accurate at any speed, and elevation, if you set it at 75 it will never waiver.

The turnpike is the more expensive option to Miami, as opposed to I-95, which flows south a little closer to the coast, with a whole lot more congestion and chaos.  The turnpike has less of both.  Less trucks, less cars, less RVs and less urban sprawl.  All in all, probably worth the money for a Long Rider.

It was good to have my left turn signal back.  It died on me last fall up in New York, and I rode the RT up till now without it.  I wanted to consolidate a routine maintenance and fix in the same trip.  I thought it might have a bad switch, but the contacts just needed cleaning.  Coming back from New York without a left signal was less then fun.

But on this day, everything was working fine, and the RT ambled along the turnpike south to Miami without a whimper.  

Twenty miles after joining the turnpike a state trooper had a north bound Lexus to the side.  The posted limit was 70, and on the well patrolled interstate systems of Florida, I stayed around 78.

Riding along, the warm wind of South Florida flowed around the low screen, pushing the vents open through the Roadcrafter.  It was warm, humid air.  "Man there is no place like South Florida in February."

I stopped for gas and a sandwich at one of those turnpike service centers.  I filled the RT with 92 octane and wheeled over to the side for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  "Reckon, this'll be lunch, I'll be in Miami in couple more hours."  There were some fast food options inside, but I couldn't leave my bike.  I had too many expensive things to watch over, like a GPS, and video cam (in my bag).  In a small town in Kansas I'll take the GPS in with me, and not worry about the stuff in my bags.  Those folks are not going through your packs, but at a busy interstate rest or service area, man, anything is possible.  Be guarded.

Inside the con store I found a Mountain Dew in the cooler and while paying for it, a guy came in with towing problems.  "I'm pulling a trailer with that U Haul out front and something is not right."  He told the clerk.

"Not much I can do, I'm just the clerk."

"Well I know that, but who can I call?"

"They don't allow us to make suggestions for stuff like that, all I can do is give ya this phone book and let you pick a place out."

"But I'm from Ohio, who the hell do I know to call?"

The man had a point, but in this day and age, nobody wants to make a decision on anything.  Ask somebody a question and the first thing comes to mind, "what if it doesn't work out and he tries to sue me?"

I told the man, "look here, follow me outside I can help a little." 

"So what's wrong with your ride?"

"I dunno, but steam came from under the hood."  I could smell radiator as we approached.

His wife and young daughter were inside the cab.  I climbed up and popped the hood, then looked over the engine compartment, sure enough, some kind of boil over.  "So what's ya name?"  I asked. 


Jerry didn't seem to know much about such things, and I told him.  "Well Jerry your radiator is bone dry.  We could put more water in it, but it will surely leak out again and put you down, probably out on the turnpike somewhere.  Has to be a reason for it to do that.  I can't see U Haul not keeping the hoses and clamps in good condition, and they look ok anyway, so I'm gonna say something musta pierced the radiator."

His wife said, "Oh my is that bad?"

"yeah that's bad"

"What do you suggest?"

"look, we're in between Orlando and Miami, plenty of help not far.  Just call the 800 number for U Haul, should be on your contract, and report it, and they'll send a guy out here to tow ya to the closest shop.  I'm sure they have several under contract in the area, and they'll be right out here cause they know U Haul pays good."

"What about my trailer?  (He was pulling his SUV)

"well that could be a problem, but maybe these folks will let you drop it here, don't hold your breath on that, but it's worth a shot."  We went inside to quiz the clerk.

"look here, can he leave his trailer off to the side, while the truck is gettin worked on?"  Before he could respond, "lemme guess, you're not allowed because you can't take responsibility for it.  How dang hard could it be, to look out the window and if you see someone hooking the trailer up, to pick up the phone and call 911? 

You don't even hafta come out from your counter.  Look this is how you do it, you look that way, see something, and pick this phone up, and punch 9-1-1.  And tell the cops someone is stealing a trailer from your parking lot."
"Don't be a smart aleck, we have rules."

"But I was hoping you'd have some common sense, to go with them."

We went back outside.  "Dang Jerry just call U Haul and get em coming this way, tell them the situation, that you have a trailer, and to bring something to pull it."

"Well I could leave my wife here to watch it"

"Well you could, but if it were me, I wouldn't leave my wife and little girl alone in a turnpike rest area, especially with a idiot like that inside, he's too lazy to call 911 for anything.  Just call them and make a decision when they get here, I gotta get goin."

The whole ordeal took about 15 minutes.  I called Sal Landa before leaving and advised I was on schedule would arrive at his house around 4pm according to the Zumo, "which is always pretty close to accurate."  
Back on the road I cruised on to Miami, content I did my good deed for the day.

The Florida Turnpike to Miami is one of the most boring roads I'd ever been on.  It was a good thing I wasn't going all that far.  

Near Port St. Luce I went by a huge landfill, the rim was several hundred feet above me, and the smell was awful.  Thousands of fat, nasty seagulls swarmed all around.  

I passed a HD Road King with a pillion, he was chugging away in the wind.  Neither rider or passenger wore helmets.  I don't know how they do that, I can't even ride without ear plugs.

In many places I-95 butts against the Turnpike, I could see the traffic over there zooming along.

Near Miami the GPS directed me from the turnpike to I-95, I switched over and scrolled the route the GPS wanted me to take. "I'll be going into downtown."  I paid another 8 dollars in tolls, bringing the total up for the last 2 days to 20 dollars.  Using the turnpike often can get expensive around here.  I was at the toll booth gate when the attendant mentioned, "nice bike."  That still didn't make me feel any better at the shellacking my wallet was taking.

Traffic built up over multiple lanes, so I steered the RT to the far left.  The mirrors of the RT look good, but are pretty much useless.  You have to bend and twist to see anything.

In downtown I made my first bobble when I-95 and 395 abruptly split. The GPS lit up 395 and back to 95 too quick, and caught me out of position. The two overlap in a construction zone.  Unless you know what's coming, next to impossible to get back over in traffic if you're caught in the wrong lane.  Helpless, I had to stay on 395.  The unit recalculated to get me back on track, and pointed me off to a downtown exit.  From there I hit backstreets near the financial district and made it back to 395.  I got back on the expressway, and this time followed 95 and into the heart of downtown.

I stayed on 95 till I saw the sign, "End 95," and the road drifted down from high and turned into a surface street.  The GPS said I was only a few miles from Sal's house in Coral Gables, and I plodded my way through the busses and convertibles.  It was stop and go all the way to Toledo Street where I found Sal's house.  He was out front with his daughter cutting some wood with his table saw.

"Hey now!  Whats goin on?!"  I said taking my helmet off.

"Not much man, how ya doin?"

"Good, I see retirement is suiting you well, you're looking good."  Sal retired from the Miami Fire Department last year, after a brilliant career.  I first met him back at the 2001 Eastoc rally.  

He took me inside and showed me the accommodations.  They were really nice.  I have the kind of relationship with Sal, I can just call and say, "Look here, I'm coming that way and need a place to stay."  He knows that door swings both ways.  His wife, LuLu, came downstairs to see me, "I'm sorry if I seem anti-social but I'm working from home today."  "Don't mind me ma'm I'm just happy to be here."

We caught up on the gossip and then I unloaded the BMW and pulled in his garage.  I made my usual phone calls and caught up on my journaling.  I looked over some video and pictures.  It was then I realized I didn't take a single picture all day.  Testimony to the fact I was on the turnpike.  

The day ended at 220 miles.

Sal Landa has become very involved the last few years with another kind of riding-horses.   He now owns 5, and keeps them on a few acres down near Homestead.  He also trains and coaches other owners.  His daughter says he's a regular Horse Whisperer. 

I went back to the garage and cleaned the RT's screen and fairing.  Lots of bugs in Florida.  Then went in and took a shower.

When I finished all that I went outside with Sal, while he cooked steaks and chicken on the grill.  He also made some great potato wedges.  It was the best steak I'd had since Don Feyma's way back on the West Coast ride last summer.

After supper we went for a drive in Sal's truck.  He took me by his old office at the fire department's training school, and then a few of the marinas near city hall.  At 9pm it was still 75 degrees.  We ended the tour at the University of Miami campus in Coral Cables.

Sitting around the kitchen table back home, when Sal's daughter, Leann returned from class and made a supper plate.  "Dang baby, your daddy sure knows how to fix a good steak."  "She looked up smiling, yeah he does pretty good."  "Sal what would YOU say, if she came home with a firefighter?"  "I dunno, I'll cross that bridge when it arrives."

We made final plans for the ride tomorrow.  "I have to meet a client for training lesson at 9, after that we can take a ride into the Glades and eat lunch in Key Largo, but  after that I gotta head back."

"That sounds like a plan."  We watched a little tv then moved on to bed.  It was a great day and a lot of fun hanging out with Sal again.  I used my Blackberry to check my web site and email, then web surfed for a few minutes.  I noted the current temp in Benson, Minnesota, was 12 degrees.  I smiled at that and turned off the lights.

The riding will better tomorrow and I was looking forward to it.