October 18, 2016

Florida Fandango I

In 2006, two great things happened to me. One was the birth of my first child. Second was a motorcycle trip I took with some of my best friends in the world from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, next to the Arctic Ocean. We called it the Alaskan Odyssey. What follows is the sequel when we traveled on another motorcycle trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West and back in early August 2016.
This trip was ten years in the making and almost didn’t happen. Due to my sudden India work assignment, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go on this tour. By some magic our schedules aligned, and I found myself flying to Ottawa from Japan, sleeping about five hours at home, then boarding the first flight at dawn to Ft. Lauderdale. I arrived at the airport with blurry eyes, sleep deprivation, a newfound appreciation for Japanese thoroughness (budget airlines--arggh!), and profound excitement about the prospect of meeting my travel mates, Billy X and Mike Penilski. But I had a few hours to kill before they would pick me up during which I met several other cocktail enthusiasts at the airport’s “Lime-A-Rita” bar who quickly became "furendz forevah" through the alchemy of time and liquor. I forgot to write down names, but the blurry chats and political rants are etched into my memory forever.

I also observed The Coolest Wife In The World (besides mine, that is). This Grace Kelly-esque blond woman sauntered over to the bar from the baggage carousel with two elegant-looking aluminum thermoses in hand. I overheard her asking for Moscow Mules to be poured into the canisters. It seems she and her husband had been stuck on the tarmac for a few hours as their jet had no embarkation gate. Then they finally got off the plane and had been waiting for 30 minutes for the baggage to come out. So what better time than to get a few roadies to enjoy with her husband while they were waiting for their bags. Now that is The Coolest Wife In The World.

My road trip amigos eventually arrived and I bid a tearful farewell to Rita. In high spirits, literally, I boarded Bill’s trusty van, which he had driven all the way from Colorado. We checked into our cheapo motel, dropped our gear, and headed out for grub. It was that simple. Ten years has passed yet we all slipped back into old habits as if it had only been a few months. I’ve learned that such seamless transitions are the telltale sign of lifelong friends. We frolicked in the dark and deserted Ft. Lauderdale beachfront like the middle-aged Spring Breakers we so desperately wanted to be.

Next day: motorcycles. Big-ass Harleys, mine a 1000cc pig with major love handles, Mike’s a humongous 1300cc beast that packs a bigger engine than my latest car. Departure! Yeah, it was sunny and very hot--it’s southern Florida in August. Yeah, the Miami Beach area was prosperous and beautiful. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. We made a beeline for Florida City and the Overseas Highway, US1 to Key West. Leaving the Everglades and purring across the bridge spanning the various bays to Key Largo signaled our journey had begun. 
Funny thing is the Overseas Highway is only about 113 miles (182 km) long. Before seeing it with my own eyes, my impression was of many long bridges atop wide expanses of aqua ocean. Reality was a nice two-lane highway, sun-baked asphalt, and us puttering along at a gentlemanly 55 m.p.h., small towns and businesses on linked islands, and a good old American good time. And yes we camped. More to come.

No comments: