Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Ride

Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Ride

What a year this 2014 has been, and It has been, for the most part, a great ride.

Losing Lois to Alzheimer's Disease was certainly the low point for me, but I believe, the high point for her. She is indeed, in a better place.
This insidious illness seemed to go on forever.
It was so good to have so many there that last week, singing gospel and folk songs, reading poetry and most important, holding her hand.
Thanks to Linda and Janice for the hours they spent with her each week and Joni for the weeks and weeks she spent living down stairs while working on her book project and spending hours each day playing, singing and reading with her.
Thanks to Janis and Diana for the great job in organizing things before the family reunion, Roger for the many visits at the Donut Hole and Allen for his every Saturday calls.
The Memorial Service Gospel sing was fantastic and thrilled me and members of the congregation who came to honor Lois with their presence.
Ilidio, Gary, Mike and Pam, thanks for the support you gave us all.
Pastor Miller was right when he said, "Del, you are so fortunate to have such a great family, they have really taken care of you through this trying time."

And ever since.
The two weeks at Diana and Ilidio's in April was a great time to sit in the sun and unwind.
The 3,400 mile ride through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming and South Dakota was a great tune up for THE RIDE!

The Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore 1000 miles in 24 hours ride was a fantastic endurance test.
Thanks to Bill Ryder who did a great set up getting the old sidecar on the Yamaha V Star 1100cc Classic.
Thanks to Barry Reddick for meeting me at 3:30 AM on a rainy Saturday morning to be my start witness on the great ride and to Roger for the pictures and support.
What does it mean?
There are 8 million five hundred thousand motorcycles registered in the USA.
Fewer than one half of one percent of these riders have ridden 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours in a sanctioned ride.
Hey, we Iron Butt Riders are not large in numbers, but we are known as:
"The Toughest Motorcycle Riders In The World"
To do the ride as part of my extended 80th Birthday party made it even more fun.

Maybe it was important for me to complete this ride to let kids, grand kids and great grand kids know that there is life after Alzheimer's.
We didn't want to have a life without Lois, but we will do as she wanted us to do, we  will live each minute, each hour, each day to it's fullest.

So this has been a year of change, a year filled with sadness and joy and love.

And now, comes another year. A year filled with some sadness I suppose, but mostly filled with Joy and Love.

I will be sharing Christmas and New Years with Diana, Ilidio, Jenny and Jared.

On January 13th, while waiting for the North to warm up so I can return home to Montana, I will begin a 6,000 mile ride which will take me to Panama City, Pensacola, Houston, San Jose and back to Lake Mary.
It should be a fun filled and exciting ride.
Spring looks like a good time to make the trek North.
 If all goes as planned, the Yamaha will have carried me over 15,000 miles of every kind of road we find in this great country.
What a ride to remember!
Most of all, I will be remembering all of the wonderful Christmas Eve programs and the Christmas morning family radio broadcasts on Time For Listening.
This is indeed, a great family.
Lois and I were the most blessed parents of all.
I am so thankful and so proud.

Thank you family for all that you do and all you have done

Merry Christmas with Love

Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Florida IntraCoastal Waterway - And Points West

The idea was good, a swing down the fabled Intracoastal Waterway highway A1A, then a jog over to the West coast and a run up the highway through Sarasota, St. Petersburg and back to Lake Mary and Orlando.
Should be a great three or four day ride with lots of great places to see.
Started good too.
Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.
 From Lake Mary, Highway 46 to Mims, Highway 1 to Titusville, Meritt Island and then south on a cut off to A1A.
Good ride, lots of sunshine and a bit of North wind on my back.
A1A is a good ride, despite there being a lot of traffic.
Miles and miles of Surf Shops and other tourist related places to visit.
Views of the ocean are few and far between because of the motels, condos and beach front town house construction.
Still a fun and interesting ride.
The KOA Camp at Fort Pierce was the first overnight stop.
Setting up the Mini Mate tent camper took only a few minutes.
This is a new KOA and showed construction still underway.
Didn't care much for the Uni-Sex rest rooms.
The occupied sign was up most of the time. Or so it seemed.
A very noisy highway made sleeping difficult and the many streets crossing the railroad running through Fort Pierce forced engineers to blast their air horns continuously.
That'll wake you up if you do get to sleep.
The beautiful ride the next day made the whole trip worthwhile.
From Fort Pierce, a high traffic tourist town into the real Florida.
I was now riding through miles of orchards, bright orange in color.
Now I was viewing millions of oranges ripening on the trees.
There were also tree farms advertising Palms, Oaks and other trees for sale and several Sod farms with different kinds of grass growing in huge fields.
The road was long and straight with only a few turns and a few small hills.
The scenery was great.
A real picture of rural Florida without the motels, hotels and tourist places that we see throughout the Florida we know best.
This was a great ride.
Sebring was the goal for this days ride and to reach the city where Grandson Pastor Brian Klebig had his first church, I had to head North on Highway 27.
This four laner was heavy with  commercial vehicles, trucks and RV's.
Although Brian and Dawn had moved on, I still wanted to see the church he had been Pastor at.
While shooting the picture the churches current Pastor Luke Willitz came out to see what the old guy on the motorcycle was up to. Nice young man. He had attended Bethany Lutheran college and Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota and knew several more of my Grand children.  Turns out New Life Lutheran Church had been founded many years earlier by his father, so he was back home and living in the same house he had lived in as a boy.

Highland Hammock State Park, just down the road from the church was my stop for the  night. 
I arrived at the park just as the Ranger was leaving with a Tram load of visitors.
They kindly held up the tour while I parked the bike and purchased the required $5.00 ticket..
Great tour through the back country of the park. 

Retired Ranger Bill talked about the history of the park and the people who dedicated time and money to preserve this part of Florida history.
Despite the warnings of Black bears in the area, the calm and quiet were a welcome relief from the previous nights city noises.
Camp set up time is getting shorter as I gain experience in this new life style.
Dinner was easy.
Bottle of Ensure, WASA crackers and cheese, and a protein bar all washed down with hot coffee. The new electric water heater made it easy for me to master the art of boiling water for coffee.
This was the coldest camping night yet.
Temps dropping in to the mid 40's and a north wind picking up during the night.
The 40 degree below zero sleeping bag held back the cold and the Mini Mate did the same for the wind.
Morning came quickly and my new water boiling talents produced a quick cup of coffee.
The best way to face a cool Florida morning.
That just doesn't sound right does it?
Cool Florida morning?
WiFi brought contact with the outside world and weather reports pointed to winds off the Gulf of Mexico becoming stronger.
The ride up the west coast, along the gulf didn't seem nearly as appealing as it did when I was laying out the ride.
A 200 mile ride up Highway 27 would put me back in Lake Mary by dark, thereby avoiding some of the winds.
Good choice!
I had only ridden a few miles when another biker pulled alongside at a stop sign and shouted, " I'm Iron Butt too! I did the Iron Butt thousand mile ride in New England."
He had seen the "80 year old Iron Butt Rider" sign on the back of my bike.
He turned at the next intersection and I was in the wrong lane to turn so I didn't get to talk to him.
Would have been a fun visit.
I don't meet too many who have earned the title:
Iron Butt Rider - The World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders

It was a smooth ride up 27 to Leesburg, over to Mt. Dora and on 46 back to Lake Mary.
All in all, a nearly 500 mile ride through parts of the state I had not previously visited.
Upon arrival at Diana and Ilidio's I heard the good news that Diana had received company tickets for a performance of the Trans Siberia Orchestra Christmas Program at the Amali Arena in Tampa.                              
  The company has a Suite at the arena which it makes available to employees.

The Suite comes complete with meals and lots of snacks. How cool is that?

The performance was fantastic and capped off a great week.

I'll plan that Florida west coast ride for later.
For now, it was enough to have a nearly 500 mile, 3 day adventure.

Watch for me.
I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Orion Launch - Close up (well, Almost close up)

I've traveled from Montana to Key West, Florida and back to Lake Mary, just an hours ride from Titusville, the best place to be when NASA does a rocket launch.
I made my plans.
Leave at Noon the day before the launch, camp in my Mini Mate tent camper that night, set the alarm for 4:00 AM and be in position to view the launch at 5.

Only problem was I programmed the GPS to take me to a KOA in Titusville and the camp was actually 4 miles North in Mims, Florida.
No problem, I discovered my mistake and drove there.
The KOA was A OK.
Clean and comfortable camp site.
 I didn't bother heating water for coffee and settled for a bottle of Ensure and a protein bar.
A few minutes later I found out the local McDonalds opened at 5:30 AM on launch days and since it was only 4:45 AM I went with out coffee. Tough way to begin this momentous day.
As I made the left turn on to Garden Street and drove over the bridge to the area I had been told was the best place to view the launch from traffic was picking up.
Passing over the long, high bridge I saw hundreds of cars, trucks and RV's lined up along the highway.
A narrow space between an RV and a power pole proved to be an easy in parking site and minutes later I was parked and visiting with people from several states who were all there for the same reason.
The sidecar on my rig is always a draw and the tent camper being pulled behind attracted even more attention than usual.
The large RV I parked next to had a large outside TV and kept us alerted to the latest hold.
Photographers with long lenses on their cameras and sturdy tri pods for mounts allowed others to look at the launch site miles away across the bay.
It was then I discovered why there was an open space to park by the power pole.
Hundreds of birds used the power lines above my rig for their roosting place.
For the most part they missed my rig but the heavy set guy who was looking over the sidecar took one on the shoulder of his nice shirt.
As you all know by now, the launch was scrubbed after numerous delays, especially disappointing to a couple from New Orleans who were there on their third attempt to see NASA do a launch.
Alas, all three attempts ended in NASA scrubbing the launch and they missed again.
I was determined to see it and made plans to stay another night at the KOA and return the next morning.
Traffic was heavy but I was soon back on Highway 1 headed for New Smyrna with it's beaches and colorful scenery.
Took I-95 back to Mims.
Should have stayed on Highway 1.
Heavy construction, uneven lanes and lots of traffic.
But Hey! A ride is a ride and the rig is running great.
As I told many students in Motorcycle Safety Classes, the important thing is not getting on your bike and getting from Point A to Point B.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
And always remember, the slower you go, the longer the ride.
Well, in principle at any rate.
It was a good ride and I even had time take a long nap after doing the two minute Mini Mate set up.
No kidding, it sets up that fast.
Same routine as the day before.
Set the alarm for 4 AM and go to bed early,
Same breakfast too.
There weren't as many vehicles this morning.
But still some interesting folks from many states who wanted to see a launch as badly as I did.
We all staked out our preferred viewing areas and then commenced the visiting.
The launch window was set to open at 7:05 AM and this time there were no delays.
Someone shouted, "Countdown," and we all ran to our staked out viewing area.

Sure enough, a streak of light rose above the trees and in less time then it took to count backwards from Ten, the light disappeared into the low hanging clouds.
It was an underwhelming sight.
Seconds passed and we heard a low rumbling sound and realized that although the rocket was gone from sight, the noise of the powerful rockets was just now beginning to be heard.
Many of us turned to the exterior TV on the side of the RV and watched as NASA, with it's many cameras, showed us the launch on TV, as we listened to the continuing rumble of the engines live.
It was rather strange, but grand at the same time.
As hundreds of vehicles headed back to Titusville for breakfast and the highway, I turned East toward the coast.
A mile down the road and I saw the first sign for the Merritt Island Wildlfe Refuge.

This is a beautiful refuge for animals and birds and with many signs reminding motorists to give them a brake..
Lush vegetation on all sides.
I tried the road leading in to the John F. Kennedy Space Center, but made a U turn when I came to the gate with the armed guards.
After spending a few hours trying some of the side roads in the Refuge I turned West and made the hour long drive back to Lake Mary.
The Orion Adventure was over, but I was already planning the next ride.
Next week I will head back to Merritt Island for exploring of the wildlife refuge and then head south on Highway A1A which follows the coast all the way to Miami.
I'll jump off and head inland at Fort Pierce.
Lois talked many times about visiting Sebring, Florida where Grandson Brian was Pastor of a church.
The Alzheimer decline had already begun so the trip was never made but I'll do it now and even though Brian and Dawn have moved on, I'll stop in and get a picture.
Then on to Sarasota on the states West coast for a circus museum visit and maybe a side trip to the famous Bak Tower North of  Sebring.
Could be a great four or five day ride.
Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America
Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist