May 6, 2006

After last minute packing and a final check of my trusty Suzuki V-Strom 1000, I was ready to go.  At 10 am I gave my wife Sky a final kiss and headed down the road.  My initial heading was Northwest towards the Gulf of Mexico, through beautiful little towns like Floral City, Inverness, and Crystal River.  I followed Highway 19 North along the coast and went through a number of quaint little towns.  I passed over the Suwannee River (1st pictures below), which was made famous by Stephen Foster's song, "Old Folks at Home" ("Way down upon the 'Swannee' River").  Notice that Stephen Foster misspelled "Suwannee" in the song. 

As I rode further North along the Gulf Coast I was amazed at the horrible impact that the hurricanes had on so many of the coastal towns.  There were large areas of complete devastation, and many of those areas are still not rebuilt.  It really leaves a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach knowing that so many lives were affected by this horrible tragedy.  Even though there was so much devastation, there was also a lot of beauty along the gulf coast.  Mexico City Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen, and there were tons of people enjoying the sun and turquoise water.  The Thunder Beach Spring Motorcycle Rally was in full swing in Panama City, and it took a while to get through the maze of motorcycles. I finally made it out of Florida about an hour before dusk.  I had planned to camp out at a KOA near Mobile, Alabama the first night, but the weather forecast for that area predicted heavy thunder storms, so I found a hotel instead.  There was a Burger King next to the hotel, so I had one of those high calorie Texas Bacon Cheese Burgers and was burping it up all night long. It's a good thing that I didn't camp out, because the weather really was bad that night.




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