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Charley Barnes Recounts His 10,000 Mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride – Leg 5

Steve Gorney and Charley Barnes in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo courtesy of Chad Windnagle.

Today’s story is Leg 5, on my 10,000 mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride. A tour of Florida, a ride with a couple of buddies and Alligator Alley.

Author’s Note: I had a request to explain the need for my gas receipts and why they were needed for beginning and end times and the need for witnesses on the Border-to-Border and Coast-to-Coast runs on previous days. These are “Iron Butt” rides put together by the Iron Butt Association which is a worldwide thing for motorcycle endurance rides. To get a ride certified and to be able to wear the patch, you must document your ride and be able to prove you actually did it. Hence the need for gas receipts to start and end the ride and witnesses to say you were actually where you said you were.

I woke up feeling pretty jazzed actually and quite surprised that nothing hurt at this point assuming a few body parts would start fighting back after all the miles I just put on it in prior days/hours. Today was also another day I would be meeting up with some friends of mine who recently transplanted to Florida from New York. Erik Jon Barrett who had ridden into Jacksonville with me would be heading North and meeting me again in Augusta, Georgia.

Charley at his stop in Jacksonville, Florida

Steve Gorney and Chad Windnagle were outside the lobby when I went out to start packing the bike for the day’s jaunt. Steve and Chad had ridden up from New Smyrna Beach and the plan was for them to ride back South with me into the Miami area before turning back and getting on with their day.

After a quick change of hello’s, some pictures, packing my bike and Steve fixing the zipper on my vest (since I couldn’t focus quite yet) it was off for Southbound I-75 to run down the Atlantic side of Florida through Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and stopping short of Ft. Lauderdale to grab a bite to eat, gas and say goodbye to Steve and Chad.

From there I bounced my way down to I-75 which would start Alligator Alley before gassing up one more time, BUT, forgetting to make sure I had some cash on me or at least some change before the toll. I hate carrying a lot of cash so usually live off my debit card on a road trip but I knew I had a few bills and some change laying around somewhere.

…What a moron!  Check next time…

I got to the toll which was not busy, luckily, as I started to fish for the $3 needed to proceed forward. I had $2.70 and although she agreed that I only had two wheels and it should be a $1.50, I would need to bring it up with my Congressman. In the meantime, I was still .30 short and this ride was in serious jeopardy of being over, right then and there. (She didn’t buy that line either but did chuckle.)  I putt the jiffy down (kickstand for you non-motorcycle type folk) and told her I would ask the folks behind me and at this point, took pity on me and just said “Have a nice day, I’ll cover the rest” and raised my gate; the Angel’s sang upon me.

I said thank you, waved and was on my merry way down Alligator Alley and the Gulf of Mexico.

Not much too it really and was surprised to see no one in the habitat areas gawking at gators and I had no time to lolly-gag around myself so I just kept my eyes open along the canal that borders the highway and it wasn’t long before I saw my first gator swimming across the canal. Success! I had come to Alligator Alley and saw an alligator so it was all good; for a few minutes.

It was shortly after that the unthinkable happened. I lost something…again. Not just something but my favorite something; my favorite pair of sunglasses that have been with me since, well, the last pair I lost. But seriously, I loved these sunglasses and as I removed my bandanna to let my head breath as it started to rain, the sunglasses went with them and in the blink of an eye, I had given yet another donation to the “road gods” who control and consume all.

After a brief rain, a fresh tank of gas and new sunglasses in Naples, Florida, I bombed up the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida via I-75 that would eventually take me back to Jacksonville and on to Georgia. As I got close to Tampa, I decided to take some State highways and bypass the Metropolis of traffic hell and see some countryside up through the Ocala area which was stunningly beautiful and a place I want to re-visit. The best part was actually having to take a detour onto a Country Road that was lined with moss covered Cypress trees that tunneled the roads and just gorgeous. The detour was longer than my next gas destination of Starke, Florida but well worth the extra time; I’d make the time up later.

After putting on the rain gear and riding though some patented Florida storms, I made it back to Jacksonville before gassing up again and heading for the State line and my sleep stop in Augusta, Georgia and a much need oil change.

I would also have a special delivery waiting for me at Augusta Harley Davidson thanks to Matt Voris who totally came through from a previous item I had lost in Wyoming the very first day of my adventure.

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