Key West, Florida - Part 4

Racoon as pet smThis week I'd like to wrap up my posts on the Key West ride. As you might recall from the first post, we used five days for the trip: two days to get from Raleigh to Key West and three days back.

Photo at left: This fellow in Gainesville tried to convince us that raccoons make great pets…as long as they're "fixed."

Day 4: Crossing north central Florida and exploring the Savannah river front

Day 4 we rode from Mongo's place in Sarasota, Florida to the Best Western near the river front in Savannah, Georgia. We wanted to see a little more of Florida up close so we got off Interstate 75 at Gainesville and took FL 24 through town to US 301 north on the east side of town.

When we had gotten off I75, we stopped for gas and a butt break. A minute after we pulled up, this fellow in a pickup truck parked next to us. He had a small raccoon on his left shoulder and another one in the passenger seat. He also had a couple of the critters in the bed of the truck. It was a strange site, but it got stranger when he walked right into the store with the little varmint on his shoulder. (Cutter took the picture shown at the top of this post after following him into the store.) When this passionate naturalist came out I asked him about his apparent pets. I said to him, "I didn't think coons make for good pets, on account of them being a bit ornery." He replied with a grin and great enthusiasm in his voice: "Not if you get 'em fixed. They're only ornery 'cause they get in heat." He could see I was skeptical but we were both spared an awkward moment when a cute young woman walked up and exclaimed in her sweet southern drawl: "They're sooooo cuuuute!" That was my cue to get back on the road. Yup, we were in Jeff Foxworthy territory.

Timbuktu Lounge Starke FL sm

On US 301 we rode into a little town called Starke and Cutter gave the signal to turn around. He had spotted a joint on the left. Sure enough, his cold-beer radar was right on: we had discovered the Timbuktu Lounge, a classic biker bar. By the way, let me tell you, I learned a valuable lesson on this trip, which in hindsight seems obvious: a big advantage of traveling on a motorcycle, especially a Harley Davidson, is that you are welcome at little joints like the Timbuktu Lounge and Alabama Jacks all over the country. Cutter got me to see that. And unlike a lot of the touristy places, these little dives don't gouge you on the price of a beer.

Photo at upper right: Cutter spotted the Timbuktu Lounge on US 301 in Starke, FL. It's a classic.

After we satiated our thirst and curiosity, we took US 301 north to US A1A over to Interstate 95 where we then headed up to Savannah. We arrived at the Savannah Harley dealership around 6:15 p.m. They had closed at 6:00. That was a bummer. We then headed into the city itself, down to the waterfront. The moss on the trees is beautiful--though unfortunately destructive to the trees. We stopped for some pictures of the moss and then headed for the hotel, which is on West Bay Street.
As we did in Key West, we decided to splurge a little on the hotel and stayed at the Best Western on By Street, right down near the water front. OK, it was just a Best Western, but the location was pretty good. 
We unpacked the bikes and headed down to the water and West River Street. While not in the same league as Duvall Street in Key West, the river front in Savannah has great energy and interesting shops and restaurants. We ended up having a really nice dinner at Rocks on the River Modern Grill, apparently part of The Bohemian Hotel. Cutter bought me a steak dinner. What a guy! And it was really good. I recommend this place. We sat at the bar--Cutter's choice--and we learned that the bar tender had lived in Cary, NC. Small world.

US17 bridge across Savannah R sm

One of the great things about the Savannah waterfront os the view. Straight across you can see the beautiful convention center. About 45 degrees off to the left, you can see the relatively new and pretty Talmadge Memorial Bridge (US 17) and is crosses over to Hutchinson Island and soon thereafter into the great state of South Carolina--the Palmetto State. 
Photo at upper left: US 17/Talmadge Memorial Bridge crossing the Savannah River as seen from West River Street.

Day 5: Returning home by way of Charleston and Beaufort, SC

Patriots Point Cutter sm

On our last day, we rode home from Savannah by way of Beaufort and Charleston, SC. At Beaufort, we stopped and took photos at the Marine Corps air station. At Charleston--Mt. Pleasant actually--we stopped at Patriot's Point Naval & Maritime Museum. The USS Yorktown is docked there, and there are plenty of other historical attractions as well. If you're into US naval history, this makes for a worthwhile stop.

Photo at upper right: Cutter with the US Yorktown with a destroyer escort at Patriot's Point Charleston Harbor.

I had another one of those Harley experiences at the museum. Because we planned to stay only about 20 minutes and were not going to tour any of the boats or buildings, Cutter led us into the grounds through the back gate. We could see a security guard on a golf cart off in the distance and Cutter warned me that we should expect him to approach us at some point to ask us for a ticket or ask us to leave. Well, sure enough, the old fellow rolled up to me while Cutter was climbing on an AA gun. But he didn't ask for a ticket; he asked me about my bike. And then he proceeded to chew on my ear for the next 15 minutes about his many riding experiences over the decades. It turns out he is a retired police officer and loved to ride before his body stopped cooperating. I had a good time listening to him. It really made his day to meet some fellow bikers and I was happy to make his job a little more pleasant. 

Dolphin outside Reds Ice House sm

After Patriot's Point, we stopped for lunch at Red's Ice House on West Coleman Blvd. (SC 703), which sits right on the water. We ate out on the patio and had the pleasure of watching dolphins swim in the canal as boats came and went. Red's offers average fare but a really nice view.

Photo at upper left: Here I managed to capture the image of one of two dolphins that were swimming in the canal outside Red's Ice House in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

The Final Leg

After Red's, we took SC 41 north to US 17 north and headed back to North Carolina. We eventually got on I95 near Lumberton, NC and got off at Dunn, NC to the NC 55 west, back to the same spot from we had started five days earlier.

I wish the weather had been a little better, but on the whole, this was a very good ride. Thank you Cutter for planning it and inspiring me to enjoy the many "joints" along the way.

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