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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A weekend full of FWCMC

It's Monday morning, and the weekend is finally over. Maybe I can finally get a little rest.

It was a very motorcycle-intensive few days. I had been without the Harley for the better part of a week as I waited for Bill Billings to fix my transmission, so I was ready for some riding. I got more than I bargained for.

On Friday, I figured I better go pre-ride the Bok Tower route, a ride I was going to be leading on Sunday. It was a nice, solitary, 200-mile round trip through the country (except for the Tampa part), and I threw in some ribs at Kojak's on the way over just because I could. Given a choice, I would rather ride with friends; still, there is something really nice about the occasional solitary ride through the country, and I really enjoyed this one.

That little jaunt took longer than I expected, and I got back to Pinellas County just in time to head over to McDonald's and join an FWCMC group for a dinner ride along the beach that ultimately ended up at the Acropol for dinner. Thanks to Matt Knapik for putting this one together -- after spending all day by myself, it was great to meet up with some FWCMC people and do a little socializing.

Just enough time for a little sleep before Glo's breakfast ride to Skyway Jack's. This ride meant a lot to her, because it was her qualifying ride to become a FWCMC road captain. Beth Snyder oversaw the ride as Glo crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is. She did a great job and she'll be a great road captain. We now have three female road captains, including Head Road Captain Christine Reed. All three are among the best riders we have.

So what's better than riding through the cool morning April air, and then eating Eggs Benedict at Skyway Jack's? There must be something better than that, but I don't know what it might be.

Time for a short nap, then over to the Masonic Hall to get ready for something we've never attempted before -- our own club pasta dinner cooked up in the Masonic Hall kitchen by a team of our members.

This was absolutely great! Patti Chin put this together and she came prepared, right down to the little moustache-on-a-stick party favors. Kim and Scott cooked up the pasta, meatballs and sauce, while others did setup and kitchen duty. Baker extraordinaire Ed Kozlowski baked French (Italian?) bread as well as a batch of cookies, Beth did her signature Whoopie Pies and many others pitched in with desserts, salads and other cool stuff. The food was great, the fellowship was great and everyone had a wonderful time, no one more than the Mexican Train game players who I tried but failed to evict at the end of the night.

Damn, I do love this group.

Okay, enough Italian food -- just enough time to grab some sleep and run down to McDonald's to lead the ride over to Bok Tower on Sunday morning. This turned out to be a great ride, with about 10 bikes and a lot of riders who had never been to Bok Tower before. We had a nice, cool ride through the countryside and
got there just in time for a very nice lunch at the Bok Tower restaurant and then a really delightful carillon concert. The Bok Tower carillon contains 60 bronze bells that weigh between 16 pounds and 11 tons. The bells are activated by a sort of keyboard, which on this day was played by world famous Dutch Carillonneur Geert D'hollander. Lovely, almost church-like music played in a quietly beautiful garden. Heaven must be something like this.

Once home, there was just enough time for a short snooze before meeting a small group of club members for a pizza dinner.

My life is rich and full, and it ain't over yet.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Safety seminar

     After breakfast at the Masonic Hall on Saturday morning, a small group of us rode on down to Jim's H-D to take in their safety seminar.

     This session took about an hour and included short presentations by several Jim's employees -- people from Service, Parts, Motorclothes and Rider Training, and I'm probably leaving out one or two others.


   The best part -- for me, anyways -- was the first presenter, who talked about rider training. Rider training through Harley-Davidson is called Rider's Edge. and there are two curricula -- Rider's Edge New Rider Course for newbies, and the Skilled Rider Course for veteran motorcycle riders.

     We are going to be looking into offering the Skilled Rider Course for our members through Jim's, so stayed tuned for that.

     The rest of the presentations did resemble a commercial to some degree, but it was still good to hear about H-D products that can contribute to a safe riding environment -- additional lighting, for example, or motorclothes with reflective fabric. When this seminar comes up again, you may want to think about going. We'll keep you informed.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

SunPass

Living in New Jersey for many years, we thought nothing of toll roads. Heck the state is an island and every major bridge to Delaware, Pennsylvania or New York has a toll. It got to the point that my HOG Chapter required every member to have EZ-Pass (they don't use SunPass) otherwise they would be accountable to catch up with the group at the next rest stop. It wasn't really an issue as everyone had it anyway.

Here in Florida, tolls are really an every-ride occurrence. The most common would be crossing the SunShine Skyway bridge. Those cash lanes can really be bottle neck. The SunPass lanes on the other hand get to zip right through in the far left lane. It really is the quickest and safest way to ride a motorcycle through a toll plaza.

Recently, I was discussing toll payment options on group rides when crossing the Skyway bridge with
some club members. I asked, "Why doesn't everyone just get SunPass? You get a discount on the toll payment. You can just add your motorcycle license plate to your existing SunPass account. And, if you forget the SunPass on your motorcycle the toll plaza will take a picture of your license plate and just bill your account."

Example of an Image Toll photo from my motorcycle
The general response I got was that people may not want to link a credit card to the SunPass account. So I went online to see if a credit card is even need to purchase or replenish a SunPass account. The answer is No, you don't need a credit card at all.

SunPass customers now have the opportunity to replenish SunPass accounts with cash at over 4,000 retail locations throughout the state of Florida. This new convenient service let's you add money to your account when and where you want. No credit card needed.

Adding money to your account and checking your account balance is as easy. You can find cash replenishment services at many authorized merchants near you including your neighborhood grocery, convenience and check cashing stores.

For more information on opening or paying your SunPass account go to www.sunpass.com/cash. I hope this help club members not wishing to pay cash to take advantage of the money savings and safety convenience options of a SunPass account.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Member Review: AMA's Free Roadside Assistance Program

It was 9:30 am, the rain held off. I was excited to join the Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club on a ride to the Run With The Big Dogs poker run. I threw my leg over the saddle and slowly backed the bike out of the driveway. I had the smile on my face. That same smile I always get when about to ride my Harley. I turned the ignition switch, flipped on the run/stop switch and pressed the start button waiting to hear that v-twin rumble to life. Click...click...click...click...  I quickly went into denial. I just had the battery replaced five weeks ago. I attached the Battery Tender and it started flashing green. I knew that with an 80% charged battery and a bike making that noise I wasn't going anywhere.

towing vehicle
KnowTow loading my Road King on the truck
I called the road side assistance number on my American Motorcyclist Association membership card. As the phone was ringing, I thought to myself, I hope this free coverage works. I don't want to be waiting around all day for a tow truck driver who is contracted with this plan. The phone connected and a very friendly voice answered. After only a few minutes on the phone she had me set to get towed to Jim's Harley-Davidson of St. Petersburg. She told me should would call me back in a few minutes to confirm my time. 

towing vehicle
Load and ready to go
Less than 5 minutes later, I got call back telling me KnowTow towing company would be out in about an hour. About 67 minutes later, a specialized tow truck designed just to carry motorcycles arrived at my door. The driver was a fellow biker and sympathized with my situation. He loaded my bike up quickly and with as much care as I would have myself. Within a few minutes we where on the road to Jim's.

I'll find out this week exactly what went wrong with my bike. But I now can ride in confidence knowing first hand that the AMA Roadside Assistance Program works as advertised. I also learned that there is a towing company, KnowTow, in the Tampa Bay Area that uses specialized equipment to tow your motorcycle safe and professionally. There are so many reasons to join the AMA, this free benefit is just one of them. If you haven't signed up for the AMA's free Roadside Assistance Program, I urge you to do it right away. You never know if tomorrow morning may be your turn to hear click...click...click...click...
towing vehicle
My disabled Harley on the way to Jim's in St. Petersburg

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday night Tapas at The Living Room

Somehow this entire "tapas" thing sort of got past me.

Yes, I know they are like Spanish appetizers, and they are a popular accompaniment to drinks. But they have just not caught fire with me for some reason.

However, last night the so-called FWCMC Sunday Supper Club gathered at the Living Room in Dunedin, and tapas are a prominent feature on the menu there. So there were a lot of tapas of various descriptions scattered around the table.

Beth and I both started with cups of soup, tomato bisque for me and cheese beer soup for her. Mine was great, and I had a taste of the cheese beer and that was really good as well.

Next, we split a small order of calamari, which was served with fresh olives and small red peppers that were considerably hotter than I at first suspected. Really good, as were the small salmon tacos that we also shared.

I want to look at this tapas thing a little more closely, because I like the small portions -- I find that as I get older my ability to really pack the food away is diminishing. Thank god.

This Sunday Supper Club thing, which I think Patti Chin is behind, has been a great idea. Our first outing at Pia's in Gulfport was a huge success, and so was the Living Room. Both of these dinners attracted 16 people, which is a pretty good crowd to put around a single table.

If you'd like to join us on a future Sunday evening, watch the schedule and come along.



Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lunch at Suzy Q's


Where do we find these places?

In this case, I’m talking about Suzie Q’s, a little eatery in faraway Myakka City, which is not a city at all, maybe 40 miles east of Bradenton out in farm country.  This is a little roadside joint that you’d blow right past if you weren’t looking for it.

Saturday was a great day for riding, with lots of sunshine and moderate temperatures. This was an over-the-Skyway ride, which was made a little more complicated on the way back because Dick Pritchard had his Sunpass stolen from his windshield in the Suzy Q's parking lot. But more on that later.

Suzie Q’s is as funky as you would expect, with strangely-painted cows on the outside walls and, well, outdoorsy-themed icons on the inside walls (see the accompanying  picture).  The locals who were eating there added some color. Lots of color.

I had done a little research on Suzie Q’s before I left home, and this is what I took away from that:  order the specials, but don’t order the food on the menu. The item on the top of the specials board was a fish sandwich so I took a chance on that (my usual rule of thumb is, “don’t order a fish sandwich more than 40 miles from the seashore,” but I didn’t much like the looks of the  other special on the board).

Much to my surprise, it was one of the best fish sandwiches I’ve had in a long time; a bun that was toasted just right, and a very tasty piece of fish.  Everybody else seemed real happy with their food, which ranged from a burger to a pork sandwich.

Up the road at a gas stop, Dick discovered his Sun Pass was missing. Whoever snatched it left Dick’s Garmin, and they passed up both SunPass and Garmin on my bike, which was parked nearby.  Ride leader Tim Snyder observed that he always puts his Garmin in the trunk when he stops anywhere, and I need to start doing the same more consistently.

By searching around the Internet before the ride, I saw that Suzy Q’s is a popular biker destination. Groups such as the Polk County HOG chapter and the GirlRiders.net group based in Tampa have both made Suzy Q’s a destination recently.

Friday, April 5, 2013

It rained on Glo's parade...

This could have been a day that didn't go very well.

Almost-Road Captain Glo Walsh
Glo Walsh was going to lead a breakfast ride this morning to Skyway Jack's in St. Petersburg. Skyway Jack's is always a treat because it is one of the best (and the funkiest) breakfast/lunch spots in all of Tampa Bay. It's one of the first discoveries I made when I moved to this area 20 years ago -- so long ago that Skyway Jack's was at that time actually located near the Skyway. Now it's in South St. Pete on US 19. Different location, but just as funky as it always was.

Anyway, Road Captain Mike Rieker was going to do Glo's checkoff, and she was really looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, it was raining Friday morning, and the forecast didn't look very promising. I rode my bike to McDonald's anyway, hoping to catch a break from the Weather Gods; instead, I got soaked, and had to spend about a half-hour standing under a Hess canopy.

So the ride didn't turn out to be what we expected. In fact, the ride didn't go to Skyway Jack's at all. But a number of people -- Glo and Jerry, Mike Reiker and Rey Garcia -- showed up in cars. Like I said, I showed  up, very wet, on my bike.

Breakfast at Country Skillet (not Skyway Jack's)
Instead of a bike ride, we had mostly a car caravan. And instead of a ride to St. Pete, we had a ride of about 300 yards to the Country Skillet. Not wishing the opportunity to just slip by, Glo went through the motions of a regular ride checkoff, and she had obviously done her homework. She may have to do another actual qualifying ride in the future, but she handled all the ride preliminaries very well, so she should sail through the actual ride without problems.

We had a good meal and plenty of good conversation at the Country Skillet. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but it was a great time anyway.