First came the pre-event dinner with lots of tire-kicking and get acquainted-with-everybody time, followed by a short meeting which included handing out the packets of information and the official Rally Tee Shirts.
Old friends who have ridden many miles together in IBA rallies visited, talked about bikes and the latest farkles.
It was a fun filled get-together and brought back memories galore of past rides, as well as a chance to see vests, patches, logos and share ideas from local clubs and riders groups from across the country.
The after dinner meeting brought together people who were ready to ride.
Some were handed packets with routes and GPS coordinates for the Florida Grand Tour and over 50 riders received packets of Digital Scavenger Hunt directions.
At 7:15AM the next morning riders began gathering at the Fort Island Gulf Beach Park for the pre-ride meeting. Bikes lined up ready for the official start at 8AM.
The variety of machines in the line up brought together everything from the latest rides to a few vintage machines.
It was a great morning with lots of tire kicking and visiting.
Ray King and his volunteer team checked everyone in and after a short meeting and group photo the days adventure began.
It was a great ride beginning at 8AM at Crystal River on the Florida West Coast and ending at 5:30PM at Flagler's Beach on the East Coast.
Although I didn't follow all of the directions I did visit many interesting places during the six hour ride, including The Villages retirement Northwest of Orlando and made an extra effort to reach St. Augustine North of Flagler Beach.
Pulled off in one small town, whose name I don't remember and saw local folks putting on a Pre-Veterans Day celebration. It was partly sponsored by the local motorcycle dealer. Their were bikers from Northern Florida and Georgia all joining forces to honor veterans and their families.
I got a few of the visitors to pose for pictures when they stopped to see the sidecar and tent trailer rig.
What a good time visiting with people from all over the world who travel through on their vacations.
They included a group attending a witches after Halloween event in one town and people selling Tee Shirts at Fairs and Festivals all over the south.
I spotted some unique (to me anyway) beach houses along the way and enjoyed miles of beach side riding on Florida's A1A sea coast highway.
These houses rose from behind the sand dunes, raised high in the air by beams and columns.
The space beneath the homes provides storage areas for cars, bikes, boats and more.
For someone from the Montana mountains they were strange looking indeed.
The end-of-ride dinner and awards program at Martin's Restaurant was a good time, dampened by the news that two of the volunteers for the event, Ron and Tammy Allen had been injured in an accident in which their Honda Gold Wing had apparently been rear ended by a pick up truck. The group sent get well wishes.
The evening ended with awards for the rally riders with much laughter and fun as some recounted stories about their days ride.
I received a plaque for being the oldest rider in the group.
I may not be fast, but I AM OLD!
Thanks to Ray King and his team for the many hours of work they put in planning and putting this great day together.
Leaving daughter Diana and Ilidio to their remodeling project I headed for Texas two days after the tour event.
I rode out on a foggy morning with a good cloud cover.
A welcome relief after the heat wave which had engulfed Florida for the past couple of weeks.
The fog lifted by mid-morning, but the cloud cover stayed with me for most of the day.
It was a great 530 mile ride across the pan handle of Florida to the KOA camp at Milton.
The morning ride took me through Mobile, Alabama where the view of Battleship Park is always beautiful to see and the ride through the tunnel on I-10 is always exciting on the back of a motorcycle as some drivers ignore posted speed limits and zoom past the old guy on the bike with the sidecar.
One biker passed me and I have to admit, he had a great set of pipes on that Harley.
In the middle of the tunnel they really resonated. Great sound.
Mississippi has a great welcome center and the nice lady behind the counter came out to take a picture of me with an old friend. (well, Elvis always seemed like a friend to those of us from the 50's.)
The target for the days ride was the KOA camp at Lafayette, Louisiana. It was a short 265 mile jaunt and with sunny skies I made good time arriving by mid-afternoon.
Shortly after setting up the tent for the night, the rains came.
Seems like every time I stop in this area, it rains.
And not just showers either. It really rained and continued far into the night.
The next morning started with a few sprinkles.
Well, maybe they were showers.
I got out the rain gear.
As I got closer to the Texas border the rain eased off and finally stopped altogether.
The big Texas Welcome Center had lots of construction going on, but the folks were friendly.
I did try out my new Blue Tooth Selfie stick for a picture.
After seeing the results I'm not sure I want to do that anymore.
The ride into Houston on the Sam Houston Toll road was much faster, now that I am the proud owner of a Texas EZ Sticker.
Riding the toll road is much easier when you don't have to stop and fumble for change at each toll booth.
Brother-in-law Stan was ready for me and had the garage cleaned out and ready to store the bike and gear. A text message from daughter Joni said they would be buying dinner.
It was a fun dinner with Joni & Gary, and Stan's daughter Shellie and his Grandson Johnnie.
Life is good.
Grand Daughter Jerusha wasn't able to make it since she was riding to the dinner with her boy friend who discovered too late that he was working and couldn't come.
I think he might be in trouble with either Jerusha, her Mom, or her Dad, or all of the above.
We'll see them before we head back to Florida next week.
So many people have brought good things into my life as I continue my border-to-border and coast-to-coast sojourn around this wonderful country we call America.
Thanks to you all.
Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.
Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist