About Us

Welcome to official blog of the Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club. An American Motorcycle Association Historic Club (No. 165), we are a family oriented riding and social club with a history back to 1936. Our motto is "Ride and Have Fun". Learn more about us or how to join our club.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Riding the Georgia Mountains

     We first rode up to the Georgia mountains to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I can’t recall the exact year, but it must have been around 1999 or 2000 – I’m pretty sure I had my black ’99 Road Glide back then. 
One of the rooms at Chancey Hill B&B, which was called Mountain
 Memories B&B when we first found it about a dozen years ago
   Beth says I found a bed & breakfast in Hiawassee on the Internet, a place called Mountain Memories, which turned out to be at the top of a VERY steep street not too far from Hiawassee’s main drag. The place had five guest rooms and a great view of the nearby mountains.       We planned to stay there for a couple of nights and just ride around the area during the day, checking out the local sights.
     Purely by accident, we happened to be in the area on the weekend of the local Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, which is held maybe a mile or two from the B&B. It’s at a permanent site called the GeorgiaMountain Fairgrounds, located on the shores of Lake Chatuge. We rode over for a look and really liked the festival. Instead of being out in a hot field, the festival grounds are in a heavily wooded area, which provides plenty of shade and a sense that you are walking around an old mountain village.
     I’ve always felt that most country fairs are kind of cheesy, but this one manages to be a few notches above that – there’s no carnival rides, just a little train that drags little kids through the fairgrounds. Most of the many exhibitors don’t have anything that I want, but this year I did find a cool leather cowboy hat, and a handmade leather wallet to replace the disintegrating one I’ve been carrying around for the past decade. 
View of the mountains from our room at Chancey Hill B&B
   Over the years, we’ve gone up to Hiawassee three or four times for the Fall Festival, but we hadn’t been for maybe five years, so we decided a long weekend trip was in order, and we put it on the FWCMC calendar to see if anyone would like to go along. Danny Buckley, Glo Walsh and Marie Buckley signed up right away.
     Some days before we left Pinellas County, Glo decided it might be better not to ride her Sportster such a long distance, so instead she and husband Jerry decided to drive up to Georgia in their RV. They dragged along Jerry’s dresser and got up to the mountains a day ahead of the rest of us, meeting us for lunch when we arrived at the Dillard House for lunch.
     So here is how it went: Bill, Beth, Danny and Marie left on an early Thursday morning from the club’s North departure spot at the Circle K on Tampa Road and ground out a morning’s worth of miles on I-75. We got to Lake City near the Georgia state line by around 11:30 a.m., just in time for lunch at a place called Mike’s CafĂ© and Grill, a place I had found on Yelp before we left. We never would have found Mike’s without Yelp – the place was located in a strip mall (hey, Lake City is still Florida) on a side street near the Interstate.
     After lunch, we headed east until we found Rte. 441, a mostly two-lane highway that takes you all the way to the Georgia mountains while avoiding Atlanta. We spent the rest of the day on 441 and ended up in Milledgeville for the night. Mileage for the day: About 430 miles.
Danny at Buffington's in downtown
 Milledgeville, where we had dinner
   This is where we said goodbye to Marie, who had decided before we left that she wanted to head east toward the Georgia coast and then on to Jacksonville and then Daytona to visit some friends and some H-D dealerships. We were sad to see her go because she’s such an amiable and fun traveling companion.
     So, with Marie heading east, the rest of us headed north, continuing up 441 for about a 2.5 hour leg that took us to TallulahFalls. This is a very beautiful series of waterfalls that Wikipedia describes this way:
     “Tallulah Gorge…is formed by the Tallulah River cutting through the Tallulah Dome rock formation. The gorge is approximately two miles long and features rocky cliffs up to 1,000 feet high. Through it, a series of falls known as Tallulah Falls drops a total of 490 feet in one mile. Tallulah Falls is actually composed of six separate falls… “ 
Tallulah Falls
   Danny, Beth and I paid the $5-per-vehicle parking fee and drove on to the Visitor Center before walking a hundred yards or so to the first lookout. We ended up spending about an hour there before riding on to Dillard House for lunch, about 30 minutes further up the road. 
Sorry, couldn't get all the food in the picture
      If you haven’t eaten at Dillard House, it’s an experience not to be missed. There’s always a big crowd there, but the wait for a table is very short – they’ve got plenty of seating available.

     Here is the big draw – you don’t order off a menu, you just sit down, order drinks, and the food processional starts almost immediately. Waiters and waitresses start carrying out the big platters of food that is served family-style, just like mom laying out food at Thanksgiving. Fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, country ham (hope you like salt), catfish, creamed corn, green beans with ham, two styles of potatoes, etc. etc. It just keeps coming out of the kitchen until you cry uncle.
     Everything is cooked just right and you leave with the buttons popping off your shirt. It’s truly an experience.  
The group after lunch. We got some
 poor passerby to take the photo
      Dillard House is where Jerry and Glo met us, having ridden their bike over from their campground in Hiawassee. Once we were done eating, Danny rode on to his motel in nearby Clayton while Jerry, Glo, Beth and I rode about half-hour or so to Hiawassee. Beth and I found our turn to the B&B (which is now called Chancey Hill Inn Bed & Breakfast), and we got checked in and settled for the night. After gorging on all that southern fare at the Dillard house at around 2 in the afternoon, we figured we wouldn’t need dinner, and that’s how it worked out.
     Next morning, just as we planned, the four of us met up at the local McDonald’s at around 10 a.m. for the short ride to the fairgrounds. Jerry dropped Glo off and went off for a ride while the rest of us met outside the gates.
     This was a pretty good deal cost-wise. It cost $11 per head to get in, and that INCLUDED the concerts, which on this day was going to be Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.
     Around 2005, we rode with friends up to New England and attended the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine. Ricky Skaggs was the headliner at that event, too. I knew who Ricky Skaggs was, but I can’t say I was all that familiar with him or the Bluegrass music he played – the last time I really listed to Bluegrass was when I was young and was sort of a fan of Flatt and Scruggs.
     That concert just blew us away, and we became fans on the spot of Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder. When we saw they were playing at the Georgia Mountain Festival this year, it was a major reason for us to decide to go.
Rickey Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
   We weren’t disappointed. A very good eight-piece house band came out and played about 40 minutes’ worth of country music, and then Ricky Skaggs took the stage with his six-piece band. The banjo, mandolin and guitar picking was just unbelievable, and the guy playing standup bass did a couple of solo riffs that were really spectacular. A GREAT concert.
     We all gathered that evening for a meal at Brothers in Young Harris, a place I recognized. I’ve eaten there before, just can’t remember exactly when. This was a fun, relaxing meal that made me realize how lucky I am to have such good friends.
     This was the last time we saw everyone. Danny was going to accompany Beth and me south the next day, but he called to say he had decided to get an earlier start Sunday morning and ride the 600+ miles home to Pinellas in one day. Beth and I were planning on making it a two-day trip with an overnight stop in Americus, in Georgia’s southwest corner.
      So Sunday morning we headed east, planning to go to Clayton and pick up 441 again for the ride south. But a few miles out of Hiawassee the Garmin told me to turn south onto Rte. 17, which we did. It was a great motorcycle road that took us to Helen,Ga., a German-like community that is definitely worth a look if you are ever up that way. We didn’t stop (it was WAY crowded, parking was at a real premium and we have been there before) but we enjoyed gawking as we passed through. 
   We got to Americus around 5 p.m. and settled in at the Windsor Hotel, a GREAT 100-year-old downtown hotel that was restored a few years back. We have stayed there may times and we never get tired of it.
     When we rode by the front of the building I noticed a good-looking blue dresser parked out front, and thought it looked a lot like Jim DeLeo’s bike, which has a rare color combination. By the time we checked in, I had forgotten about it.
     Next morning, however, we were eating breakfast in the Windsor’s beautiful dining room (we were the only customers) and who walks in but Jim, who was heading north for some riding in Kentucky and Tennessee. It
was great to see him and we enjoyed a little breakfast together before we went our separate ways.
     Monday was about what we expected – 350 miles down US19 and home.  The nice part of this day is that US19 up north, in southern Georgia and northern Florida, is a really nice ride with good scenery and little traffic.
     We thought about lunch in Perry, but there really isn’t much there in the way of restaurants, so we pressed on to Barbecue Bill's in Chiefland. That made for a late lunch but we like eating there and we ran into a couple of Harley guys who were heading home to Chicago after a week of riding through Florida.
So all-in-all this was a delightful five-day excursion with great friends through some very scenic country. Let’s do it again!
     Here are some additional pictures:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tale of the Cobra

     Before we got to the Tail of the Dragon last weekend, we spent some quality time on the Cherohala Skyway, which winds its way through almost 40 miles of Tennessee and North Carolina back country.
     At one point Scott led us off the road and onto a scenic overlook, where we spent a little time taking pictures. While we were there, a really beautiful silver Cobra came in and parked near us. A middle-aged couple got out.
 The woman headed for the rest room, and Scott approached the man and asked him about the car, specifically whether it was an original Cobra or a reproduction. The man said it was a built from a kit.
     “I don’t own it, but I helped build it,” the man said.  “It belongs to the lady.”
     The fellow went on to tell us that the woman’s husband had purchased the kit, but he soon was diagnosed with Lou Gehig’s Disease and had to stop the construction project before it had really begun.
     “I was a friend of his,” the man said. “When Don got sick, 40 friends got together and we all pitched in and finished the car.”
     The car was completed in 2009. The owner, Don "Vorcy" Voorhis, got a chance to drive it. He died just three months after it was completed.
      The driver said that the woman, Cheryl Voorhis, didn’t drive the car, but every once in a while she liked to take a ride in it, so he would go over and they would get the car out of the garage and take it for a spin.
     A beautiful car, and a beautiful story.
     If you would like to see a step-by-step report on the build process for this car, visit:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Riding the Dragon


     This adventure to the Tail of the Dragon got started innocently enough – Scott Tillesen happened to mention that he was going to ride by himself to Milwaukee for the 110th Harley birthday celebration, and he said he intended to ride the dragon on his way there.
     That sounded interesting to me because I had never ridden the Dragon – I’d been up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway many times, and I had ridden a bit in the Smokey Mountains, but I had never made it to the Dragon. I told Scott that if he could put up with me I might like to ride along with him as far as the Dragon, and then head back home when he continued his trip northward.
     Scott suggested that I ask other FWCMC members if they would like to come along, so I put out an e-mail inviting anyone and everyone along. That got a response from Danny Buckley and Jim Lawrence. We started making plans.
     On Saturday, Aug. 24, we headed north from Scott’s driveway.
Minor repair to Jim's bike on the way out of Florida
   Our plan was to put in a fairly long day on Saturday to get north of Atlanta, and that’s what we did – about 530 miles to an extended-stay motel, Sun Suites, in the town of Cumming, Ga. This place wasn’t exactly a disaster but my no-smoking room smelled strongly of cigarettes and Jim’s room didn’t have any pillows. It also had the world’s slowest check-in clerk – it took the better part of an hour to get all four of us checked in.
     We started off Sunday by looking around for a breakfast spot. The two places I found on Yelp were out of business. We ended up in an IHOP about 20 miles up the road.
     Our plan was to ride a couple of hours to the Dragon, spend some time doing that road, then riding on to Maggie Valley for a visit to the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum. That didn’t even come close to working out; it took longer to get to the Dragon than we thought because of the country roads and the fact that we decided to include a tour of the Cherohala Skyway, which turned the 11-mile Dragon into a 120-mile loop. We hoped we would get to Maggie Valley by mid-afternoon; instead, we rolled into town at 8 p.m., just in time to meet ol’ pal Roger Reed for dinner.
     Anyway, back to the Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon…
Scott leads the group through a turn on the Dragon
   This is a really gorgeous set of roads, and they are crowded with motorcyclists. The Cherohala is longer and has gentle, sweeping curves. Some people we met said they really prefer the Cherohala to the Dragon because it is so scenic and easier to ride. I liked ‘em both.

Da Dragon!
     If you haven’t ridden the Dragon, it should be on your bucket list. Go back to the July newsletter and read Jim DeLeo’s story about riding up in that area, and Google up some stories and pictures. The Dragon is something like 318 curves in 11 miles, which means a lot of banking, turning and countersteering. We came upon one accident (a sport bike traveling in a group of sport bikes) and one section of construction that reduced the road to a single lane, with traffic controlled by temporary traffic lights.
     Actually, the stress level on the Dragon was less intense than I expected. It’s challenging, but not so tough that any decent experienced rider shouldn’t be able to handle it. It also was shorter than I expected – it was over pretty quickly.
     Once we got done, we rode on to Maggie Valley. As it turned out, the shortest way to Maggie Valley was going to mean a return trip on the Dragon, something that none of us really wanted to do. So we took an alternate route, north and east through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. This was a very beautiful ride, but it added some time to our day.
     There was going to be no time for the museum in Maggie Valley, so we decided to put that off until the next morning. We got to Wheels Through Time at just about the 9 a.m. opening time. 

A 4-cylinder Henderson
   This visit was the highlight of the trip, at least for me. Wheels Through Time is, according to its own website, “the world's premier collection of rare American vintage motorycles,” and that may not be an overly-ambitious claim. The museum contains more than 300 of America's rarest and most historic classic motorcycles. There are more than 24 brands on display -- Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Crocker, Henderson, and many more.
     Besides road bikes, there are board track racers, hill-climbers, dirt track racers, choppers, bobbers, and one-off machines of all types.
An Indian drome racer
     Owner-founder Dale Walksler was on hand, and as we were leaving he was out in the parking lot, happily giving a sidecar ride to one of his museum visitors.
     After about an hour-and-a-half visit, we were ready to go. This was Monday morning, and we wanted to make it home by Tuesday afternoon. That meant a 350-mile ride to Americus, Ga., that afternoon, and then another 350-mile ride on Tuesday. We got to Americus by about 6 p.m., and we were on the road again the next morning by 7:30. We were back in Pinellas County by around 3 p.m. after a long day down US19.
     This was a great ride. We saw a lot and did a lot in just four days. I think maybe we’ll put this back on the schedule for next year. Anybody game?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cigar City HOG

One of the greatest things about motorcycling is getting to meet other bikers. Today, Holly and I road out to Tampa Harley-Davidson on North Dale Mabry Highway to attend the Cigar City HOG Chapter meeting as a guest of Director Mark Freeman. Since transitioning from the Fletcher's HOG chapter to an AMA club, I've been trying to reach out to other local riding clubs and chapters to forge relationships.

The tiki bar meeting location
Unlike most club meetings I've attended, Cigar City has a Saturday morning meeting with a ride afterwards. Very fitting for Florida, the meeting was held outside a Tampa Harley's huge tiki bar. Donuts and coffee were served and I got to socialize with some really great people.

One of the main reasons for my attending was to invite them to join us on our trip to Sturgis in 2014. I gave a little of the history of our club and hopefully got a few people interested in the trip.

Me and Holly enjoying the morning meeting in the shade
Director Mark Freeman (left) conducts the ride meeting
After the meeting we joined the group for a ride planned out to New Port Richey. About twenty-five of us took of on a bright and hot sunny Florida day. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem hit ride leader Mark Freeman's bike half way through the ride. His throttle decided to stop working.

While the group waited for Mark to get a tow back the dealer the heat was getting the best of us. We said goodbye to our new friends, and headed for home.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Roadrunner Magazine Touring Weekend in Maggie Valley

Contributed by FWCMC member Jim DeLeo

Jim DeLeo and Christa Neuhauser
As an avid motorcyclist one of my biggest joys is hitting the open road.  That is why my 2007 Harley Ultra Classic has logged over 67,000 miles so far and has been through over 25 states.  There is a great magazine called RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel (published by Christian and Christa Neuhauser) that is dedicated to riders like us who love to travel on two wheels and provides ride destinations, lodging and dining options along with detailed maps, GPS file downloads and awesome photography to get you thinking and planning that next trip.

For the past 8 years RoadRUNNER has been putting together a Touring Weekend to get it's readers together to do what we love most, riding great motorcycle roads.

This year's weekend was in beautiful Maggie Valley, North Carolina in the heart of the Smokey Mountains. Maggie Valley is nestled between Asheville and Cherokee and is home to the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum.  This event included two days of guided rides on some of the area's best roads including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Moonshiner 28 and the infamous Tail of the Dragon US-129 in Deals Gap.  

Deal's Gap, NC (above left) and Dragging the Dragon (right)
Friday and Saturday took us through North and South Carolina and north Georgia and would feature a lunch stop along with scenic overlooks and sights for photo ops.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday night featured a catered dinner under a big tent in Festival Park along with a vendor village selling motorcycle gear. 
Saturday nights closing also included raffles of some great gear and prizes and a recap of the previous 2 days highlights.  I met some really nice people on this trip who share our passion and I look forward to getting in the wind with my new friends again in the future.  

Lastly, our new t-shirt caught the attention of several AMA members including Dale Walksler, founder of the Wheels Through TimeMuseum and star of the new reality show "What's in the Barn" on the Velocity Channel, who were very impressed with our clubs long AMA history.  Hope to see you on a ride soon!
Dale Walksler and Jim DeLeo

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Riding California's Highway One

     Back in the 1980s, Beth and I went out to Santa Barbara, Calif. to visit my mother and her husband. We borrowed their Dodge camper van and drove it up to San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful trip, and I’ve always wanted to do it again on a motorcycle. But I just don’t ever get out that way, and riding my bike from Florida to California seems less and less appealing as I get older.
     But, this year, my uncle Bernard died. He lived in Fortuna, Calif., way up the coast in redwood country. I have a big crowd of first cousins on the West Coast, people I have only seen a few times in my life, and some of them decided to put together a memorial service so the family could celebrate Bernard’s life together. Things came together for me this time, and I was able to get away and spend a few days in California.
     “So,” I thought to myself, “why not fly to San Francisco, rent a bike, and make the final leg of the trip by motorcycle?”
   This meant a ride up Highway One, the part of the Pacific Coast Highway that starts just north of San Francisco and ends around 250 miles to the north in Fort Bragg. And just because Highway One comes to an end, that doesn’t mean the great riding and beautiful scenery comes to an end. A quick jog to the west on Rte. 20 comes out at Rte. 101, the Redwood Highway. Another 120 miles to the north gets me to Fortuna, Uncle Bernard’s hometown.
     With some helpful hints from FWCMC buddy Bob Kaufmann, I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express in South San Francisco, just north of the San Francisco airport and just a few steps from Dudley PerkinsHarley-Davidson. Once my plane landed and I got to the motel, I just walked over to Dudley Perkins and did up the paperwork for my rental Harley, which I was to pick up first thing the next day.
     Great guys at Dudley Perkins, and they made it all very easy. My HOG membership provided me a $10 per day discount on the sizeable $150 per day rental fee; they told me that as a returning customer, the next time I rent from Dudley Perkins means another $10 per day off the rental.
     Next morning, I made my way back to Dudley Perkins to pick up my 2013 Road Glide, an exact doppleganger of my own Road Glide, right down to the black paint. I did a couple of tight laps around the Dudley Perkins parking lot to demonstrate that I could ride, and then I was off toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
     The bike was familiar and comfortable, but I did quickly realize how the changes I had made to my own bike made it much more comfortable than this rental. My bike has two-inch pullback bars, which allows me to sit up straighter, and highway pegs so I can stretch out my legs. Also, Bill Billings had talked me into a different brand of transmission oil that makes shifting silky-smooth, nothing like the clunky bangs that accompanied every shift on the rent-a-bike.
     I guess sunshine is a sometimes thing in San Francisco, but on this day there was a cloudless blue sky and the clearest of clear air; I had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge as I crossed, and also a gorgeous picture of Alcatraz off to my right.
     I’ve gotten used to my Garmin on my own bike, and I asked the Dudley Perkins guys if it was possible to rent a nav from them. Nope, they said, the Garmins have to be hardwired into the bike and they can’t do that with the rental fleet. So this was an old-school ride – watch for the route signs (not an easy task as I rode through the heart of downtown San Francisco) and keep a sharp eye out for any signs that point the way west to Highway One. I was worried about where to leave Rte. 101 north of San Francisco, but it turned out to be a non-issue – as I got up past Sausalito toward Mill Valley I saw a sign to Highway One at an off-ramp and turned off the highway. I soon found myself on a very narrow and very twisty road that rose up through the steep hills of Marin County. These were some of the tightest twisties I’ve ever been on; some of them turned sharply on fairly steep upgrades that the bike couldn’t negotiate except at very low, be-ready-to-put-your-feet down speeds.
   Within 30 minutes or so the Pacific Ocean came into view. Soon I came upon a sign pointing to Muir Beach, followed by another sign that said “Muir Beach Scenic Turnout.” This was high on a bluff overlooking the ocean. If there was a beach, it would have required a hike down some steep embankments. I settled for some pictures from the top of the bluff.
   Looking behind me to the road that had brought me in from Highway One, I saw a doe and her fawn strolling across the road. After I took the obligatory Pacific Ocean pictures, I walked down to the road to see if I could spot the deer again.  Sure enough, they were munching the grass in a small open spot behind some pines. I got off a few shots, and then a few more when they ran back out to
the road and crossed it to some nearby woods. Got some nice pictures of the little one bounding across the road with his four legs tucked up under his body.
     Back on the road, I was mesmerized by the beautiful ocean scenery off to my left. There is very little in the way of settlements and population along this stretch, and there was also very little in the way of traffic. Since Highway One is the perfect motorcycle road, I expected to see lots of bikes, but there was only the occasional two-wheeler along the entire 250-mile stretch from San Francisco to Fort Bragg. At one point I saw a group of around five Harleys, and a little later, as I waited at a construction stop, a couple of people on Honda sport bikes pulled up next to me and said hello. When the flag man motioned for us to go, I waived the Honda guys past me and watched them disappear.
     I didn’t see any more deer, but I did see something more dangerous – two separate herds of cows walking up the middle of the road. They took up both lanes and didn’t seem to care about my blaring horn. I waited until they crossed and gingerly made my way between the last two stragglers.
     Rand McNally had told me that I should be able to reach my destination by four or five o’clock, and that I could make my planned lunch stop in Mendocino a little past noon.  I don’t know what Rand McNally smokes, but he wasn’t even close on the timetable – I didn’t get to Mendocino until almost 4 p.m. I had seen some very interesting little fish restaurants, several of them advertising various kinds of chowder, and that’s what I was hankering for. But by the time noon approached, there were no more little fish shacks. In fact, there was nothing but more and more breathtaking scenery. At around 2 p.m. I came upon a barbecue joint and pulled in for lunch. I love barbecue, but I can get plenty of it in Florida and I was hoping for something different, maybe even a little unique. By this time I was so hungry I didn’t really care – I had some brisket and a bowl of pretty good chili.
     A round halfway through the ride I began to notice some pain and fatigue in my left arm, a result of the almost constant up-and-down shifting and clutching I had been doing through the twisties. The next day my arm felt so dead I’m sure I couldn’t have ridden. I left the bike in the Best Western parking lot and spent the day tagging along in my brother’s rented Mazda.
     Highway One ended for me at Fort Bragg -- you can stay on Highway One and it eventually leads to Rte. 101, the road that I had been following from Dudley Perkins and all the way through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate. Instead, I chose to head east from Fort Bragg on Rte. 20, which turned out to be a very cool ride through a redwood forest.

   Rte. 20 took me to a town called Willets, and I was pretty sure Fortuna, my destination, was only a few miles up the road. I was surprised to see a road sign that informed me that Fortuna was still 120 miles to the north. This was around 5:30 p.m., and I was supposed to be at the Eel River Brew Pub at 7 p.m. for dinner with my Uncle Dek, my Aunt Lois, my brother, six of my cousins and a group of other relatives. Obviously I wasn’t going to be on time for that. I cranked it up, whizzed past a lot of nice-looking redwood trees that I would have enjoyed seeing at a more leisurely pace, and made it to dinner at 7:45. 
  The next couple of days were hectic. There was a memorial service for Uncle Bernard at the rural cemetery where my grandparents are buried; a family picnic in the redwoods at the south end of the Avenue of the Giants; and then a side trip north to Eureka to visit an old work friend from my UPI days. Dave Rosso, his wife Susan and I had some good fish and chips and chowder at a little seaside eatery, so I finally got the California seafood I was looking for.
     On Sunday it was time to head back to San Francisco to return the Road Glide. For this leg of the trip I left at 6 a.m. and just stayed on Rte. 101 (called the Redwood Highway in northern California), which turned out to be very scenic in its own right, even if it didn’t offer any seaside views. The northern leg obviously featured lots of redwoods, and then the middle part went through some of California’s wine country.     
     As I approached Marin County, the traffic started to pick up quite a lot, and the fog rolled in just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. When I got to the bridge, its top half was completely obscured by fog, and the three lanes of southbound traffic were really moving.
     Once on the bridge, the car in front of me straddled a long, cylindrical yellow traffic marker that had come loose from its upright position. I didn’t have time to avoid it, and I had no place to go anyway; I rolled on the throttle and braced myself. The front tire hit the marker, causing the front of the bike to rise and the handlebars to shake from side to side. When the tire came back down to earth, however, the bike just tracked straight ahead and the handlebar shaking abruptly stopped. It was the only scary incident of the 600-mile trip.
     Since I picked up the bike at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, I technically needed to get it back to Dudley Perkins before 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, or face another day’s rental charge. But the guys had told me they would extend a three-hour grace period, and getting there at 12:30 p.m. allowed me to avoid that extra charge. So the charge was for three days instead of four -- $450 instead of $600.
     My brother and his wife also traveled to San Francisco on Sunday, although several hours later than I did. I had enough time for a nap before we got together for dinner on Fisherman's Wharf, followed by a
tourist-style walk and then a cable car ride.
     It would have been a better trip if Beth had been along, but honestly I don’t know if parts of Highway One could have been negotiated safely with a passenger. If we ever decide to recreate this ride, I think we’ll need to get on Highway One a little further north to miss those Marin County twists and turns. Some rides you don’t need to do twice, but I would do this particular ride again in a heartbeat.
     Monday was all airplane ride. I caught the shuttle from the Holiday Inn Express at around 4:30 a.m., got through security and took off for Houston, where I had a two-hour layover, just enough time for some ho-hum airport food. Another two hours in the air and I was back in Tampa by around 7 p.m. local time.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Member Review: The Cycle Shop of Largo

A few weeks ago, I ran into Dean Rugare at Sea Dog Brewing Co's first weekly bike show. Dean and the crew from The Cycle Shop (most are former Fletcher's H-D staff) had a tent promoting the shop which opened late 2012. During our conversation, I found out that they are an authorized shop under Harley-Davidson's Extended Service Plan. After a few emails back and forth The Cycle Shop became a sponsor of FWCMC and took out a large half-page ad in our club newsletter. 
Dean Rugar at The Cycle Shop (photo by Bill Frederick)

I was due for a 10k mile service on my Road King. I also had a set of rims I wanted to use to replace the stock lace wheels and an electrical harness which required a little more splicing than I was comfortable doing myself. I thought I would give this new sponsor a try. I called and spoke with Eric Matusiak who set my appointment. Based on what I wanted done, I would drop my bike off Tuesday morning (per the sign on the door they are closed for riding on Sunday and Monday) and pick it up in the evening on Wednesday. 

The Cycle Shop advertises themselves as "Your local independent cycle shop", so I was sort of expecting some hole in the wall workshop. When I pulled up this morning at 8:30 am, I was quite impressed with their storefront. The shop is right on Belcher, easily seen from the street and there are multiple garage doors on the side to the workshop area. Dean just happened to be outside to say hello. 

Inside, the showroom was spacious, bright and well organized. In addition to the scooters for sale, there is a section of parts, clothing and helmets. The shop manager, Shane Taylor, quickly greeted me. He  got me into their computer system. He asked if I wanted synthetic oil, and I replied that I've always used Harley's SYN3. Shane told me they carry two brands of synthetic oil, Castrol and AMSOIL. Both, in his opinion are better than SYN3. At Shane's recommendation, I went ahead with the AMSOIL. My work order was printed and it already had the 10% discount The Cycle Shop offers FWCMC members. Although the entire process lasted only about ten minutes, my wife (who was with me to give me a ride home) was quick to notice a pink helmet with 70's style candy flake among the selection for sale. 
From Left: Frank Scharibone, Shane Taylor and Eric Matusiak

I felt very comfortable with my decision to give The Cycle Shop a try for my maintenance. I was blown  away when I got a call from Eric at 3:30 pm telling me that my bike was all done. Considering our area is facing heavy rains for the next few days, I was happy to be able to pick the bike up today. I got down to the shop around 5 o'clock, and before I even got to the counter Eric was already bringing my bike out. For the work I had done, I felt the price was more than reasonable. They offer flat rate tire install pricing. I got a quote from another local shop who wanted more to install the tires than my total bill came to today. 

After saying goodbye to Shane and Eric I turned up Belcher to stop at Sea Dog for Bike Night. It would also give me about 11 miles to feel out the bike after the service. The new rims were a huge improvement. I had some wheel wobble before, probably due to the wearing of the front tire. One thing I really did notice was how smooth the bike was shifting after it got warmed up. I'm going to assume this was the "thinner running AMSOIL" Shane recommended. I'm glad I took his advice and I will be back for service in the future.

The Cycle Shop is located at 13355 Belcher Road S., Largo, FL 33773. They service Harley's, Metrics, Trikes and Scooters. They can be reached at 727-286-6137 or online at thecycleshop.net. You can also connect with them on Facebook. You will get a 10% discount when you show them your Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club membership card.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Barbeque ride to St. Leo

     “So let’s go for a little barbeque,” we thought, remembering a  lunch ride with Ed Kozlowski  that went past a barbeque joint in St. Leo just a few weeks ago.
     This place is called “On Q Smokehouse Grill,” and it is in an old, 1920s building that someone at lunch said used to be a St. Leo University fraternity house. I looked it up on Yelp and found plenty of good reviews. Worth a try, and it’s only maybe 75 miles or so from our usual departure point – McDonald’s on Roosevelt in Clearwater (or is that Largo?).
     I was kind of surprised by the turnout. Our group must really like barbeque. We had around 10 bikes show up at McDonald’s, and then we picked up Jim and Peachie as we passed near their house in Trinity. A few miles up the road at the 7-11 at Rtes. 41 and 54, we picked up the Blue Crew – our new members who live up in that neck of the woods. Thanks to Jim, Joe and Catfish for coming along and for being our newest members.
     In all, 15 people on 14 bikes. A great day.
     On Q had a separate room all set up for us when we arrived. I had the ribs and collard greens, and they were excellent. Beth, who is hard to please when it comes to food and restaurants, had a salad topped with pulled pork, and she declared it to be top-notch. We had a little ticket-drawing just for fun, and Dr. Mike won a free piece of kumquat pie. Not wanting him to have to eat alone, I had a piece, too.
     Another point in On Q’s favor: they had two waitresses assigned to our party instead of just one.  The service was great.
     We’ll be doing this place again.