Loop Some rides are never quite what you expect them to be, others quite a bit more. I left Jacksonville early, slightly past 5am. It was still dark out, the best time of the day to ride through the city. Crossing the St Johns River, I would have liked to have stopped on top of the Matthews bridge to take a picture. The river was flat calm, the lights from the city reflecting on the river and a large ship was silently coming up the river. But there was a bit of traffic and no real place to pull over and stop. As I rode off of the bridge one of Jax's finest pulled up next to me on and stayed with me all the way through downtown along State Street, comforting! After getting through all of the red lights downtown, none of which seem to be synchronized at that early hour, I got past I-95 and over onto Beaver St which is also rt90. I headed west on out of Jacksonville through some light fog and into the flat lands of north Florida. Rt90 runs next to Interstate 10 where all the traffic is and as such there is hardly any traffic at all on the narrow two lane road, sweet! Through the small town of Baldwin and into MacClenney, where I stopped to top off the tank and grab a cold coffee before heading north towards Georgia on rt121.
Riding due North, with the sun just beginning to come up, but still hidden by the tall pine trees lining the road and again, hardly any traffic at all, I played with the cruise control on the Royal Star.….55mph in 4th gear felt just about right, fun using the accel button to get the speed up to a steady 60....Road, straight as an arrow for as far as I could see, Straight road, no traffic at all, cruise control on and I tried taking both hands off of the handlebars. With the Bike tracking in a straight line using my legs to keep her centered on the road, I sat back and crossed my arms! What a rush! I could have had another coffee while I was sitting there. I’m loving this Bike! OK, enough fooling around, hands back where they are supposed to be, BIG smile still on my face! Before I knew it I was crossing the tracks into small town of St George. This town is so small there is only one cross road that runs next to the rail road. However, There is one thing that St George is known for; The Shack by The Track. Restaurant reviewers all give it a high rating for some of the best BBQ in the entire Southeast. It was still too early for me to find out how good it is but no worries. It’s an excuse to come by again and it will be more fun with a group than by alone. So, cruising on up the road to the small town Folkston, another 22 straight miles, I passed one car driving in the opposite direction in the whole stretch of road. With the sun coming up over the trees, it looks to be another warm day. At Folkston, almost exactly 100 miles into the ride, I stopped for breakfast a truck stop on rt23. Now it used to be Truck stops were the place to stop on the road for a decent meal, a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of apple pie. There always seem to be interesting people at a Truck stop. Folks with places to go. And the smells! You stop at a truck stop and the first thing you notice is the smell of diesel fuel and exhaust… the smells, ah! They make you feel as if you are part of the open road fraternity. I like to think it was just an off day for this place though, the food was tasteless and the coffee was weak. Weak coffee at a TRUCK STOP! A first for me. On the road one should ALWAYS be able get a good cupa’ at ANY truck stop. I topped off the tank when I reached Nhunta another 26 miles almost straight north from Folkston. Riding east on a four lane highway back towards the coast on rt82, which is the main route from Waycross to Brunswick. There sure was more traffic but nothing to get too excited about and the road was in excellent condition. A quick 30 miles brought me almost back to Interstate 95. Just before the interstate, I got on to rt17 heading back south toward Florida. The stock seat was beginning to give my rear end some trouble. It does seem better than stock seats I’ve had on other bikes. But face it, when it comes to the Long Ride the stock seat just doesn’t get the job done. I also really missed the driver backrest that I had on my last bike. Next weekend I'm pretty sure a ride to Ormond Beach will be on the books along with a new custom seat with drivers back rest. I’ve ridden this portion rt17 several times and it is always a treat. A lot of it is covered with overhanging branches dripping with Spanish Moss from large Live Oak trees and like rt90 along Interstate10, most of the traffic stays over on the interstate so it is a nice, traffic free, ride. After about 35 miles, reaching Kingsland, I stopped for a cold Starbucks and just to get off the bike for a few minutes. Nice Town Kingsland. It has just one main street which was pretty well closed down on a Sunday Morning.
Back on The bike, I rode on back across the border into Florida, over through Yulee and the coastal town of Fernandina Beach. I stopped by the ocean to check out the surf of which there was none, almost as flat as the river was at 6am. It would have been a fine day to take my kayak out onto the ocean. Riding A1A South I finally saw several other bikers out on the road. A1A has to be my favorite road in all of Florida. It runs all the way from Jacksonville to the tip of Key West, always along the Atlantic Ocean. The fact that I grew up within a stones throw of it, about 200 miles south of here, may have something to do with my fondness for the road….lots of good memories. Finally, reaching the St Johns River again, I stopped where the Mayport ferry crosses the river. Generally I have to wait quite awhile to get onto the ferry but today I caught it just as the last cars were getting on, I was the last one aboard. A guy came over during the short ride across the river and says to me "Nice Harley you have there" after riding 230 miles, I was too tired to correct him so I just nodded and said "Thanks". Getting off of the ferry it was only another 8 mile ride back to the house. I stopped by the gas station before coming home, 147 miles from Folkston on my last tank of gas...almost 40 mpg. Not bad! A little less than 250 miles for the ride.
Nice Day, Nice Ride Phil Hughes, Jacksonville, Fl. July 2010