Sunday, April 26, 2015

Landing Brave - March 13-14, 2015

I wake in the morning knowing this is our last day in Florida,  I will miss without question the sunshine and warm riding days we have enjoyed. I throw my leg over the saddle and follow Andy back to Kidani for one last look at the little lion cubs and to kiss their rosey cheeks farewell.  We are off by noon waving goodbye from the van window to all the "cast members" at Kidani. With bikes in tow behind us I soon shake off the blues of saying goodbye by focusing on our next stop, Charleston South Caroline.

Reaching our destination is an all day ride. With the sun already set  we decide to find Landing Brave, the next Whispering Giant on my list, before we settle in so we have a game plan in the morning. We follow the GPS diligently. It points us to the historic Charles Towne park entrance at which  we are notified that it closed at sundown. We proceed anyway. No one stops us. The trees now but black silhouettes against an even darker sky sway in the breeze. Their moss covered branches looking like the strips that slap against your vehicle in a car wash. Left right, left right, left right. My skin begins to prickle.  It's very eerie and the winding path seems endless. 

We finally emerged into a spacious parking lot, but still the GPS directs us until the van can no longer follow. With GPS in hand and set to walking mode, we follow a service road to a grassy area surrounded by a split rail fence. Our eyes adjusting to the gloom we both see the Giant simultaneously, pointing in unison. We swing our legs over the fence, and gingerly and with great stealth slip over to Landing Brave looking over our shoulders for signs of life; mostly of the badge and gun toting kind. We are in the clear. 

With our small and trusty LED flashlights we look Landing Brave up and down. We scan the perimeter in the beam of the LEDs looking for a way in for Blaze. We see a paved path at the far end. Andy suggests that maybe there is a way in along this path so we go for a look. We walk along this path for a few moments when I realize there are small signs posted in the grassy area to the left and right. I stop and point the light at one of the small signs. "African Burial Ground" it reads. I'm frozen to my spot for a moment. My skin is now so goosebumped I could sand a plank smooth. We both decide it doesn't feel right or respectful and make our way back to Landing Brave. Before I cross where I shouldn't I flash the light on another sign "Wild Animal Refuge". Now I'm really out of here.

Back over the split rail, we decide that if we get back early enough in the morning, we can park Blaze near the split rail at the end of the service road and get enough of a photo to suit the contest requirements. We call it a day and head for the motel.

In the morning we do arrive before the park officially opens. We pull up near the service road, and with daylight in our favor are able to see more clearly the landscape around us. Nothing is open yet, but we see a grounds keeper and approach him. I tell him about the contest and ask if there is a way in through the walking path. There is, but at this hour the gate is locked, and he doesn't believe we'd be permitted. I ask about the posted signs for the burial grounds. He tells us that at one point a plantation stood on this spot. Just before the old woman who owned it turned the property over to become a park, she hired some boy scouts to clean up the place. This was back in the 1960's. The boy scouts did a fantastic job, including pulling up at disposing of all the burial markers of the plantation slaves who were buried there. This hallowed ground now has unmarked graves, but is represented by the posted signage we had seen in the dark. 

With that still weighing on my mind, he then points us to the wild animal habitat area and the surrounding fence. "I don't know how" he's saying, "but one morning I came here and a 12 foot alligator had made if over the fence and was wandering around the enclosure." My eyes are saucers at the thought of me stomping around in here last night. 

After our unscheduled guided tour by the grounds keeper, we finally ask if pulling the bike up near the fence along the service road will be OK. It's OK with him, but if anyone else asks, he never talked to us. With that authority, we got Blaze off the trailer, took her photograph with Landing Brave and back on the trailer before the park  officially opened at 9:00 am.

You can just barely see the statue behind Blaze. Look just above the saddle.

Commemoration Plaque

Landing Brave

With several more Whispering Giants along our route we depart Charleston. The weather has other ideas. The sky darkenes and torrential rain begins that would follow us back to New England. There would be no more Whispering Giant visits this trip.  Snow and sleet begin pelting our windshield just as the "Bienvenue" to New Hampshire sign comes into sight. Bienvenue indeed!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Punta Gorda Florida– March 12, 2015

We head out from Hollywood early and make our way to route 27. Route 27 heads diagonally across the interior of Florida, parts of which pass through the Everglades Preserve. If I had more time, I would LOVE to visit Everglades National Park. It would also add another stamp to my National Parks Passport book. But alas, there are only so many hours in the day.

Once on 27 Andy soon reaches down and flips the petcock to reserve. I know from habit that he will ride until there are fumes in the tank. I’m sure he’s not thinking of the words “Everglades preserve” as I am, so I set the GPS to “nearby gas stations.” All are pointing behind me. At the 5 mile mark I tell him that the stations are behind. He insists there must be one ahead and we continue. I know better than to argue. It’s a fight I never win. At the 10 mile mark I mention that they are all now 10 miles behind us and nothing ahead. Again at the 15 mile mark I mention “no stations ahead.” Thankfully he turns around and we head 15 miles back to our start. We roll into the station and he fills up; 4.5 gallons, which is his tank size. Don’t ask me to explain this need to wait until fumes. I’ve never understood it.

Yet there is something to be said for heading back from whence we came. This time we are ready for a few scenic spots we slipped by the first time. Here we met a tour heading off on an Air Boat. Having only seen these on television, I found it fun to watch live. I’d tell you the name of this great bunch but I lost their business card. Great reporter I’d make right?

Route 27 also takes us past Lake Okeechobee and we pull off to check things out. This area also boasts of great bass fishing. We have trouble seeing the “lake” for the tall grass, and I incorporate a pair of binoculars I remembered to pack.  I’m anxious to move on though as I have another Whispering Giant waiting for me in Punta Gorda.

The ride along 27 is very pleasant, with little traffic and lots of bird life to see.  The area is relatively flat, so you have long distance vistas as well. We break off of 27 and head West toward Fort Meyers.  We will stop 10 miles short of North Fort Meyers in Punta Gorda. As we approach the GPS is again telling me we are close.  We play the one way street game until we spot it on the corner of a busy intersection.  Calostimucu, as this one is called is sitting in the yard of an historic home, so there is parking in the front and a sidewalk that leads in front of the Giant. We meet a retired man from New Hampshire, and he seems happy to be talking to “kinfolk”. We discuss riding up on the sidewalk, and with a flourishing wave of the hand, give us authority to do so. Not that anyone of us has authority, but I go ahead and ride up onto the sidewalk. No one pays us any mind, and a few who do, don’t say a word.

Calostimucu is the only Whispering Giant with two faces. When you stand by these sentinels you feel small and insignificant. At the same time you understand that what has happened to the Indian Nations is very big indeed.  We spend some time with the Giant to honor the people he represents then take a tour of the historic home.  This is not its original spot nor is it as old as some you find in New England, but the Victorian home has charm and it’s cool (as in temperature).

The afternoon is making its way to the supper hour, and I still have one more stop; North Fort Meyers. Here is where my former Director has moved in her retirement. While she spent her time in Detroit, and I in New Hampshire and then Massachusetts when we worked for the same company, still we developed a respect and appreciation for each other.  When we pull up to her home, it’s like seeing an old friend who shares some history with you. We enjoy an hour or so and then we must be on the road again. It will be one more night out before we return to Kidani, load the bikes on the trailer and head for South Carolina where Landing Brave waits for his photograph.

Pat and D'Arcie

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fort Lauderdale and a Whispering Giant
March 11, 2015

On Wednesday, we kiss the little Lion Cubs goodbye and head to Fort Lauderdale. We'll be gone  from Kidani Lodge two nights, but not to worry. The Cubs have a second set of Grandparents to kiss their cheeks while we are gone. We head south in search of Statue #44. I have the coordinates in the GPS and I'm excited. Not only am I officially starting the Whispering Giants Tour, but today is my birthday. Sun, sea, and the rush of the wind past my helmet is a perfect way to spend a day.

As the day wears on, the heat becomes more intense along with the traffic. This week is also Spring Break, so anytime we near a beach, the traffic comes to a crawl. I begin to drip beneath the helmet, jacket and gloves. Nearing Fort Lauderdale Beach I can see by the GPS that we were within a stone's throw. Yet, the streets are one-way, which causes us to go with the snail pace flow down one side before we can venture back up the next.

Finally after what seems an eternity, and with the seat of my pants now damp from sitting in the saddle under the blazing sun, we make the turn onto A1A. I'm sure this road has another name, but I have no idea what it is. But if you go, it's three lanes of one way traffic heading north that runs right along the beach. Everyone is in a hurry, and here I am looking for my quarry. I hold up the impatient travelers while I scan the roadsides. About 100 feet from an intersection, I spot the Giant standing sentinel in a park and looking across to the ocean. We make a left a the next turn and pull into a parking spot.

I'm in a quandary as I look at where the statue is and busy A1A; a stretch of road without breakdown lanes, So in essence no place to pull over to get a photo of this statue with my motorcycle in front. In the park on the grass are two mounted police and one cruiser. The cruiser is parked in the shade of tree right behind the statue with an officer inside. Any illegal moves I consider vanish. The mounted police move on. But Andy is not deterred and heads for the cruiser. I follow and we chat with Office Dan. After some chit chat about where we are from, and what we are trying to do, Office Dan tells us he originally hales from Vermont. (Which I think helped coming from New England and all.) He then points to a small parking lot on the other side of the park and tells me to come in through there, ride across the grassy park, pull onto the side walk, do what I need to do, and then pull right back to where we are now located on the side street. So I do!
Statue #44

Me in front of #44

With the bike and rally flag set, Andy watches the traffic while I back into the street to get the bike and statue in the frame. He hollers when I'm in danger of becoming a victim of  oncoming traffic. I take several photos and leap back to safety. From there, we pay homage to the parking meters and spend some time on the beach. Andy of course in more interested in the beauties of Spring Break. However, I have my own pleasant conversation with a very handsome young life guard. He can rescue me any day.

Off we go again, touring around Miami, and making a final stop for the night in Hollywood.  We find a great Italian restaurant. They gives us a birthday discount, and I end my day with a birthday cannoli. I sleep soundly that night after a long day of riding with dreams of more adventures to come.

My birthday cannoli

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Canaveral Groves and Cocoa Beach March 10, 2015

In a previous post I mentioned that it took us a while to get going in the morning. What took us so long to get to Daytona on Monday was our search for a self service car wash to clean the grime off the motorcycles that accumulated on the trip down from New Hampshire. Most were drive through, and that wouldn't do of course. It took a while but we finally found one. The bikes were now spic and span.

Today is Tuesday and Andy wants to take a ride to Cocoa where he and his brothers own a piece of land left to them by their aunt. No one has really seen it. A few have "been to the area" but that is not the same as "walking the property." So off we go to find 4 acres in a subdivision called Canaveral Groves. I set the GPS to the road listed on the tax bill. No number of course but we have a diagram. The property had been acquired back in the 60's and since then an expressway has been built that cuts through a corner so landmarks we believed will be easy to identify.

Canaveral Groves isn't any nearer to Disney than Daytona is, but hey, we are on motorcycles and it was 5 degrees when we left NH, so we're as happy as two peas in a pod in this fabulous weather. Eventually, we find our way and discover  (why am I surprised) the road is not paved. Andy takes me down plenty of dirt roads back home so I'm thinking I'll be OK. Oh wait, this isn't like the gravel roads back home. This stuff is like trying to ride on shifting beach sand. I'm not too happy as the dust is really kicking up and the way isn't easy going on a tour bike. Yet Andy is ever the optimist when it comes to riding back roads. He always believes things will improve so we never turn around.

The homes that we do see don't look like a neighborhood I'd want to live in. Piles or crap in the yards, no landscaping whatsoever, a few chained dogs barking and straining at the end of their chains. The way becomes more difficult, and the road dips and rises like the waves on the ocean. It becomes more damp the closer we get.

We encounter our first big puddle, which Andy rides through and I follow. "Damn" I'm thinking and also sure I'm saying into the microphone of the headset, "I just washed this bike!" I stop at the next rise, but Andy continues through the next. It's deeper, and I'm glad I didn't go. "Why are you stopping?" he asks. Duh, I like my bike clean, but I don't say that, I just watch. At the third puddle, Andy boldly presses on.  At this "puddle" he begins to vanish beneath the surface and I watch mouth agape. It plays like a slow motion film in my mind. First his feet, then his shins, then the water rises to his saddle. The bike lists to the left and my stomach does a flip flop. Andy opens the throttle wide  at this point and his rear tire finds purchase. I hear the pipes gurgling underwater! Miraculously the bike leaps forward and out he pops on the other side.

The deceiving "puddles".

I sit there for what seems an eternity, as does he. Finally I say into the mic, "and now what are you going to do?" He is covered with muck clear up his backside.  Saddle bags, fenders and tire rims all full of grime. We both dismount and do a bit of bushwhacking at the edges of this puddle and find him a way out.

Andy finds a way out.

Our day then proceeded on as if nothing has happened. We ride to the Kennedy Space Center as if we were going to take a tour, only to realize that the clean pants in his saddle bag of course are not. So we instead make our way to Cocoa Beach, where he wades into the surf and scrubs the muck of his pants. We enjoy some ice cream and hightail it back to the Kingdom where the little lion cubs are thrilled to see us.

(PS: We never did see the property. At only 3 tenths of mile away, the next puddles were more like ponds with no way around.)