My Journey Begins

While I had been planning for June 4th to be the day I left Sarasota on my motorcycle, Vivian, for a few weeks, my impeccable timing forced me to wait for the postal worker to bring me one last package, rain gear that would allow me to ride in inclement weather. Because I knew that I would be riding through storms that day, I took the morning to do some last minute cleaning and take some time to meditate before I set out on my journey. Once I got my package and tried it on to make sure that it fit, the last thing I did was drop off my key to the cottage at Discover Sarasota Tours before riding out of town.

Weeks before, I had a sissy bar installed on the motorcycle so that I could strap my guitar to it. Covering the entirety of my baggage with my waterproof motorcycle cover, and holding most of it down with bungee nets (arguably the most significant invention for motorcyclists in the last several years), my belongings were secure from the rain, but the bulk of all that I brought with me wrapped in all of that fabric became quite an effective sail. The day before, I had the opportunity to ride in the rain for the first time as I was caught in a storm on the way to my parents house, finding myself drenched by the time I got there.

this is not nearly as safe as you might think

My dad was thoughtful enough to put Rain-X on my helmet so that rain would bead off and help me see better. That, coupled with my new rain gear, made riding in the rain an actually enjoyable experience. Nevertheless, the way the wind caught the sail strapped to the back of my motorcycle was a bit more challenging as it pushed Vivian and I back and forth across our lane.

My first day on the road, as I traversed the back roads of Florida, I rarely got above 50 mph. I realized that this was probably a nuisance for those who wanted to speed through the rain at 70, but I had very little concern for those who rode in the automobiles and trucks behind me. With a white knuckled grip on my handlebars, I apologized to those who got stuck behind me, but did not feel inclined to risk my life at higher speeds in inclement weather just because they wanted to hurry.

I reasoned that our society needed to slow down more anyway and that too many people are in far too much of a rush. Nevertheless, every now and then, when I noticed that there was more than one car on my tail, I would pull my bike to the side of the road and let them pass. Although they could not see my face behind the helmet, I smiled and held up a peace sign to the dozen or so cars that passed by me before slowly getting back on the road.

By the end of the day, although my shirt and pants were dry, my shoes, socks, and gloves were soaked, and my cell phone battery was nearly dead, leaving me without a GPS to help me find my way to the campsite. While I had not budgeted for it (largely because I’ve never really budgeted for anything), and had planned to camp in a state park for the night, I opted for a Motel 6 in order to dry out and reconsider some packing options. I discovered that there is a very good reason that Motel 6 has the reputation that it has and hope that I never have to stay at one of them again.

I got a fairly good night’s sleep on the hard mattress, repacked the motorcycle in the morning, and headed off to find San Sebastian River State Park. Since the weather app showed that I would not have rain until about noon that day, I had plenty of time to get to the campsite, but since the filter on my Google maps app had me avoiding highways, it took me on a rather circuitous route to get there. Nevertheless, I was happy to see that my campsite included a metal structure that kept me and my belongings dry when the rain hit shortly after I arrived at camp.

I was staying at what they call the Storytelling camp at the park, complete with a fire circle with benches. Once the sun came out, I put everything that was wet on the benches to dry, and enjoyed a hike through the vast expanse of palmettos and palm trees. And since I was assured that I was the only person who had registered to stay in my location, I enjoyed some time as a naturalist and gave my clothing a break from its duty of covering me. I probably should have used some sunscreen.

Later in the day, I realized that the solar-powered charger I had bought from the flea market a few weeks prior was not as effective as I had hoped, and decided to go to the bar I saw in the town near the state park that had a sign out front reading “Bikers Welcome” to charge my phone. The road to my camp was a three mile dirt road, and I learned to get more comfortable with riding a motorcycle on such a surface when I decided to return to the bar later in the evening to participate in their weekly karaoke (my take on Knights in White Satin earned me a free beer).

When I returned to my camp in the late afternoon, I noticed that I had a visitor. I parked Vivian at the equestrian center near the other car, and as I finished the quarter mile walk to the camp, I saw a man and his older teenage son scoping things out.

“I didn’t mean to intrude on you,” the man said, “and was just calling out to see if anyone was around. We were just thinking about camping here and wanted to see if anyone was here.”

Technically, there was space for them to camp in the area, but judging by his “Black Guns Matter” t-shirt, he wasn’t really a guy I wanted to share company with. I told him there was still space available in the Pine camp up the road. He told me he had camped at a number of sites in the park, and said that I was likely to hear a lot of animals, but as long as I had a firearm, I would be okay.

I felt that he might have been fishing for information to find out if I had a gun or not, and I did my best to keep my face nonchalant, trusting that the fact that I was riding a motorcycle in the first place was enough to inform him that I could take care of myself. The two men left the camp, and fortunately, I didn’t see them again.

Initially, I had reserved the campsite for two nights, Friday and Saturday. After not making it on Friday night, when I arrived I asked if I could extend to Sunday. The cost of the campsite was only $5.33 per night per person, and I was glad to put $12 in the envelope before heading to the camp. After one night of hearing the din of I-95 in the near distance, I decided to leave on Sunday and let the extra money I put in the envelope be a contribution to the Florida State Park service.

Sunday morning, with the motorcycle cover in my saddlebag and my belongings serving less as a sail, I was thrilled to be back on the road again and making my way north.

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