Off to the Keys


Well, I am off again. I had leave that had to be used before the end of the year. Somehow I screwed up. I thought I had more time to use the time, but ended up having to take the weeks of both Christmas and New Years off. Unplanned, last minute, and bracketing two holidays, flight costs to anyplace unusual were out of this world. In some cases 3 times what they would be if I was leaving in February or even a couple of weeks later.

If I stayed home for more than two weeks watching the snow fall, I would go stir crazy. So I chose to head for the Florida Keys on the bike. December/January are not exactly the ideal months to be taking a Motorcycle vacation from New Hampshire, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I chose to take my Honda ST1300 rather than try some other form of transportation.

17DEC09 Thursday

I had planned to leave on Friday, but things changed at work so that Thursday was the best day. This was fortuitous for reasons that will become obvious shortly. I waited until I was sure the ice was off the roads, 8am. At 7am the temperature was 7 degrees F. By 8am it was down to 6′F at home. The thermometer on my bike does not read below 14′F. It was two hours before I saw this temp. It was another one and a half hours before I saw 20′F and another hour and a half before it got above freezing at all.

My bike prepped and ready to leave.

This is what the driveway looked like when I left. A real skating rink.

It was an easy sunny ride for the most part, although I did get into some minor traffic in Washington DC. I stopped in Fredricksburg, VA. . A VERY uneventful 545 mile Day. Not So the next.

18DEC09 Friday

Last night the Weather Channel was telling me that the area I was currently in was going to get 6 to 8 inches of snow. OR MORE. Fortunately it was not to happen until later the next day. If I had not left a day early, I would have been stuck, pretty much where I stayed last night. Where I was going, there was just rain. A LOT of rain. Miami was flooding. The Weather Channel was flooding. Picture a weather lady standing in front of the camera, behind her are a truck and a car trying to traverse the deep flooding. She says something to the effect of *OH MY GOD, THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO END, SEE ALL THIS FLOODING in this parking lot. OH MY GOD……….* OK, parking lots flooding all around Miami might not exactly be a disaster, but it WAS followed by some new age rock band. *So, how did YOU get your start??* *Well, we were on the weather channel see…..*

In the morning it was 21′F. The tires were cold, the road surface was cold and my brain was cold. Sometimes we do things automatically. Sometimes this is ill advised. I tend to practice quick stops, rapid swerves, U-Turns etc. I do this so often that I sometimes do these things automatically when the opportunity arrives. Leaving the parking lot, there was a speed-bump that I could either go over, or do a quick (very quick) swerve around. I chose, or rather automatically happened to do the swerve. No thinking involved here, just see and do. The tires on this bike are sporty, which tend to have little traction until warmed a bit. Did I mention it was 21′F? The road surface was probably colder than this, as the night time temps were colder. Oh, and there was a bit of gravel and stuff etc. SO, I lost traction on the front wheel, dropping the bike. These things happen pretty quick, there is no time to think, or even say *Oh, S…* but midway to the ground you know it’s happening, and you, well, just know.

The only damage to the bike was to the plastic tip-over wings, which is what they are there for, and a few minor scratches to the exhaust. The worst part was that there were about ten people in the hotel having breakfast. They all came running out. At least they were kind enough to go back inside after we got the bike up.

Pride damaged, I set off for the South.

Around Dunn SC (or was it NC?) I hit sleet as the temps dropped to just above freezing. I get off the exit to prepare my gear. Put on my rain mitts over my heated gloves. For some reason I am getting cold at odd times. Sometimes, even though the temps go up, I feel colder. I wonder why?

At the end of the exit ramp, there is a sign for the *Airborne Museum*. At the moment, it sounds wonderful. It turned out to be pretty good. And the sleet turned to hail, then back to just rain and the temps went back up a bit and I was off.

Later in the day I was freezing, I don’t know why. Finally the temps went up to a very warm 68′F but I had had enough and ended the day by 7pm. The areas I left this morning are getting hammered by snow.


I learned a new trick today. In some areas there are a lot of motel signs showing great prices. There is no way to keep track. When you get to a hotel, say *I saw a sign out there for your hotel….*. They will immediately give you the price on the sign, even if you don’t know it. Out of high season, you will also often get away with saying *Hey, I saw that the Motel 69 is only $XX, would you give me this price?* It sometimes works. I saved $20 today.

19DEC09 Saturday

Nice morning, temps all the way into the 40’s. People around here look frozen, but what can I say…..

Stopped at Cape Canaveral (aka Kennedy Space Center aka Womanizer Space Center). It has been around 20 years since I have been there. Nice improvements. Talked to a guy there that was a bit confused about how one bit of the Saturn V rocket worked. I tried to help him, but he was not doing his part. I asked him, *Weren’t you following the moon shots on TV?* He said *No, I was too young, only 8.* I told him I was 6 at the time and watched the coverage. He said he was in Media Communications. I wanted to ask him if he would like fries with that, but instead told him I was an engineer and reduced the level of my technical talk until he understood, or at least said he did.

I left the museums when they closed at 6:30, finding a hotel a little ways down the road for a great price, including breakfast.


For the last part of my ride I was pretty cold. This made no sense since it was not too cold out, although I was not wearing as much gear as usual. Checking my gear showed that the main rear jacket vent was open. The entire ride down it was open. This explains why sometimes I was freezing and other times not. Sometimes I would be in a position that the vent was wide open, and other times it was sitting such that it shutout most of the wind. Damn…

20DEC09 Sunday

Nice day, started in the 40’s but warmed up quick. The keys are being subjected to a cold wave. Just my luck, ONLY in the 60’s. Got to the hotel. This is the Key Lantern Inn. It is $55 or $65 per night, depending on which night, and every seventh night is free. For this area (Islamorada) that is seriously cheap. A nice little Mom and Pop Shop. Clean, and truly basic. No phone, no internet. There is a picnic bench to sit on.

The only problems were that it is 20 miles from my dive shop, it is right near the road, and there is no decent place to hang out during the day. I will be here for 11 or 12 days. There is also a 2 day cancellation, so if I have to bug out early, I will lose $$$. If I stay here, I will end up spending all my time at the bar. Not a good thing. So I went to various places on the way back to the dive shop. Even the little mom and pops were running well over $100 for what they had available. The Holday Inn next to where the dive boat leaves was only $99, but that is a big jump up from the Key Lantern.

The next stop was the Ramada, which is where the dive boat leaves from.

Their best price? $99 for the first night $179 after that. Bye….. *Well, how about $89 for the first night and…. No? Well, let me show you some rooms. Nice views. Did I mention that you can use our pool or the pool at the Holiday Inn next door or any of their facilities? And we give you free breakfast? And Free internet? And……etc….. No? Well, how about $79 per night?*

Ok, he sold me. I love a bad economy (not that this price is cheap, just cheap for here and now). It will save me in internet hassle, gas and breakfast almost as much as the additional cost. Or at least that is what I am telling myself. At this point, if Wade is reading he is getting a case of the vapors. At this price plus the tax, one day equals ten days full travel for him.

To tell the truth, the real reason, or at least the final straw was that I will be here for a LONG time and over Christmas if the weather holds out up north. The Ramada/Holiday Inn is better for hanging out rather than hanging out at the bar. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not.


This is a pretty good museum on Islamorada. Most of what is there is from a private collection with everything from diving bells to re-breathers. From Breath Hold Diving to Helium. There are a lot of hands on displays for the kids and a pretty good time line of underwater adventures. These are not things you are likely to see in other museums. One of the main contributors was there, to feed the fish in the small aquarium. She was full of information and talking about future exhibits. If you would like to buy an authentic brass diving helmet, they have them on sale, everything from cheap $2,500 units to $10,000 and up. I will stick to my mask.