Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting here

Well, It's near midnight, I'm a little bit inebriated and destined to be awful sleepy.  I couldn't have imagined a better road trip than this one. Highway 129 is spectacular. It may very well be the best road I've ever driven.  Even excluding the incredibly windy Tail of the Dragon, it is awesome.  I've driven many windy roads before, all over the world, that was nothing new. What was new, was later on (from my previous post), there are several miles of very windy, fun roads where there are two lanes in the same direction in an area where there would be zero chance to pass safely without relying on luck. Three lanes total. Two going one way, and one going the other.  It was incredible.  At one point I was stuck behind this alcohol distribution delivery truck. A big one. This guy probably has driven this road every day for years, and it showed. He was  hauling ass. Me, I had the equipment advantage.  I could tell that when I got behind him, that he was showing off how well he threw that giant truck around those curves. It was impressive.  But when, all of a sudden, there was another lane, that I mentioned,  I took my vastly superior vehicle and blasted past him.  I really pushed it, and within two or three curves, I was long gone, and out of his sight.  I was screaming along.  Later, when there were no longer those great three lanes, and I was, again, stuck behind someone else, Mr. beverage distributor meandered up behind me. I showed him that I respected his amazing driving skills with a thumbs up, stuck out my window. I was happy when his thumb, stuck out of his window,  saluted me back. Now I knew it wasn't in my head.

At one point along hwy 129 there's a high school.  I can only imagine the quality of bad ass drivers that, at some point, called that school theirs.  From the look of things, there's no way for the students to get there, other than, I guess,  the bus, or to drive their own cars. I didn't see any other roads, just 129.  There was a full parking lot.

I guess I timed it perfect, as soon as I ran out of 129, and got onto I-985, heading into Atlanta, the rain started.  A big thank you to the weather geeks at NOAA.  I planned my trip using  their graphical forecasts. They were dead on.  When I last looked at them, it was showing rain moving in from the west. It showed it hitting the GSMNP in the afternoon, and that's what happened.  Once I got back on the interstate, it was back to the old grind of knocking out miles.  I stopped to eat at a bad knock off of the Waffle house, which are a institution down here. This place was called a Huddle House. and I had the worlds worst cheese sticks, and a club sandwitch that  cut the crap out of the roof of my mouth.

I drove around Atlanta and then, instead of taking the slightly shorter route down I-75, I got on I-16 and headed toward Savannah.  I've always thought of that City as the 'classy' south. You know, with really looooooong vowels, lots of sweet tea, and southern belles everywhere. Plus I figured I'd take a quick jaunt across the border, and be able to say I've "been there".

This trip, for me, is allowing me to fill in a few of slots in my "places I've been" map, and trust me, there are not many empty spots. I am pretty well traveled.   The 'South', of the USA, is one area I just havn't gotten to, as an adult. When I was a kid, we did take the stereotypical family vacation to Disney. Of course we did it in the big ol' station wagon with me miserable due to motion sickness.  I'm a believer that if you, for any reason, are inside some sort of geographical boundary, even if it is just for a quick bit, 'been there', is 'been there', no matter how long you stick around. At least, in my view that's the case.  Now, in my list (yes I actually have a list that I made on request once), I differentiate between, the different types of "been there's".  There's the most basic 'been there" which usually means you drove through (flying over does not count, you must be in physical contact with the earth's surface, but being on a waterway does count (but only on your list of waterways that you've been on ). The next step up is "stopped for gas" or "had layover". After that it pretty much is based on how long you were there; What your were there for; Whether you were paying to be there, or were being paid to be there; If you had a place to live, in which you were no ones guest (i.e. an apartment of your own);  etc...So, if taking a slightly longer route to get to my destination, to be able to say, forever, that I've been to South Caralina (if even for just a few minutes) is the price I have to pay, then it's worth paying.

So after passing though Savannah and getting onto tried and true I-95, southbound, my plan was to get a hotel in Jacksonville, and have a good nights rest in a bed, because I would be sleeping in my tent for the next several days.  While driving toward Jacksonville I was still feeling pretty fresh so I figured instead of flopping at some trucker dive along the Interstate, I would go ahead and go out to the coast, then follow A1A south until I found a motel that fit my bill.  That's exactly what I did.  I went out Atlantic Ave, toward the coast.  It was nice to be on a long wide avenue that seems to go on forever. Living in Madison, I sometimes forget what  small city it is.  There were quite a few tuner/performance/custom cars out to be seen along a part of that stretch.  I think my 'one' represented pretty well, except for the 1200 miles of road filth.  I have to give these Florida drivers credit (which not many people do), there were almost none of the asshole driving attitudes and dumb/dangerous moves that kept me driving pickups and motorcycles until I finally left that state.  The drivers here had class.  We'll see if that  continues to be the case if I go down to Miami to 'experience' the Superbowl vibe, after the launch (kow) on Sunday.

After driving down  A1A for a while I finally found the perfect motel, The motel Anastasia, in St.Augustine.  I had checked in, squeezed my car into a snug parking spot, unloaded all my stealable stuff into the room, and was making a final trip to the car for something, when I heard a few young guys, who were apparently staying at The Anastasia also, talking about going to the bar across the street.  The seed was set.  Even though I had all my electronics ready to go through the ritual of charging, and transferring files, I decided I would get the charging underway on what I could, and go get me a nice Jack and water across the street.

Walking across the street I see there's a Harley parked in front of the place which can be either a good sign or a bad sign. Then I notice the name of the place is The British Pub. Again a bar in the good old USA calling itself a "pub" can also be either a good sign, or a bad one.  Then I walk in and the place is almost deserted with the exception of the three young guys from my motel, a cute blond, with tattoos, wearing camouflage shorts, and maybe one or two others.  I go up to the rail and in a clear and well enunciated voice, I order my drink, a Jack (Daniels) and water (sin gas), to which the barkeep, in a familiar English accent, say "Beer and wine only"  I'm sure the man saw my face deflate as the anticipation of a refreshing beverage, of my choosing, evaporated in a moment. After I regained my composure, I asked for whatever he recommends from what they have on tap.  I did this mostly because I am not normally a beer drinker (trust me that can be tough living in Wisconsin), but also, maybe a little bit, to see if the guy behind the bar would (this being "The British Pub") draw me the thickest, chewiest, most lumpy, bitter, and prone to induce the growing of hair where I do not want it,    beer I'd ever had. Or would he size me up, and make an honest recommendation based on what he felt I might enjoy.  The beer he drew for me was good, in fact, I ended up having several. He got my respect for that, even if his bar doesn't have a good American, Tennessee whiskey hidden back there somewhere (hmmmm I think I may plan a stop on my trip home to a certain distillery).

I started taking a good look around the bar pub, and noticed a bunch of stuff with St. George's cross on it. Now, never having been to England (Well, I've 'been there', but it was just a layover) someone might wonder why I have, pined on my club vest, just below a blood stained depiction of the city of Madison's flag, a tiny representation of that red cross on a white background, which is the St. Georges cross.  I couldn't help myself but to go back across the street and don my rags to show the bartender that pin and tell him how I came to be in possession of it, and how somewere in the English midlands, there were a handful of bikers wearing a patch depicting the flag of the City of Madison, Wisconsin.   To this, he replied that he too, was from the midlands and as if it were proof of the fact, he lifted the sleeve on his right arm and showed me an aged tattoo which meant squat to me.  He explained that it had something to do with a football club (soccer), apparently from the English midlands. Now, I have about as much interest in most sports, as I have an in beer, that is to say it's minimal.  That said, you can guess that my interest in the happenings of English football  is as near to naught as possible. With the exception of a pretty good movie I watched recently, about an American becoming involved in hooliganism, I am utterly clueless about the world of football (soccer).  Anyway, I figure this is probably my one chance to get in on some hooliganism of my own.

So, I ask Dave (that's the bartender/owner's name) if I could take a photo of it. He says sure. So, I took one, and on the spot, send it, via Facebook, to my mate in jolly old.., asking him if he recognizes it.  Well later (the next day) (I'm actually finishing this post tonight (5 Feb 2010), which I started last night, when this happened, on 4 Feb.) I get a FB reply telling me that the photo shows the emblem of the Leicester city football club.who's wikipedia entry is quite a bit longer than many small countries.  I love that the English love their traditions, I love tradition too.  Also in that FB reply, I've was asked "Who has that tattoo then.", to that, I say to my brother (who should be reading these words, if he followed the link I sent). It's Dave, owner of The British Pub, St. Augustine Florida, United States of America,  (across from the Anastasia motel.  If on one of your trips across the pond, you decide to go to Daytona's bike week, I suggest that you ride the couple miles up the beach, and buy the man a pint!  Unless, of course, The Foxes (I learned that on Wikipedia) are the enemy. In that case, you don't have to buy him that pint, but give him a break otherwise, he was good to me. He runs a great pub. It's a pitty I only had one night to hang out there.  He even gave me a nice interview about watching space shuttle launches from there, a hundred miles away from Cape Canaveral.

Whew! that's quite a little story, huh?  I still have more to write about that Thursday, but it's now about 2 am and I have to be at the NASA press center at 6:30 to catch the bus to the launch pad for the rollback of the RSS.  My campground, is not too far away, plus since I'm going to be at the press center from midnight tomorrow, until a hour or two after the launch (kow), I suppose switchin over to night shift mode isn't a bad idea.  I can nap in my tent tomorrow after the rollback.  More likely I'll try an get caught up to the present on this blog.

Shoot, I still have a more stuff to write about yesterday (Thursday) still.

There's Maggie, the cute, young, tattooed girl with fibromyalgia, the new job, and a pill swiping mom.  She was also the subject of an interview about watching shuttle launches.  When I told her she's going to end up in my blog, she wanted the URL for it, so I hope she reads this.  (Hi Maggie)   She said she was a writer, and as I am feeling the need for either some validation, or the hard truth about my lack of talent. Not that it would make me stop, I like writing down my experiences too much to stop just because I may not be good at it. I don't stop singing in the car, and I KNOW I'm no good at that, but I still do it.  So, I wrote down for her (she asked). In fact, I'm finding that as this blog progresses, I find myself talking about it more, and people ask for the address. Heck I can think of three people, just today (Friday), who asked for it.  I imagine if I break out the manual typewriter in the press center tomorrow, I may give it out a few more times.

Later on, after Maggie left, the place really started jumping. It filled up with some cool people, and some talented singers, singing karaoke.  One of these good singers was a woman (I never got her name) who I also interviewed  about watching shuttle launches.  I didn't know she was a great singer when I interviewed her though. she sang a mix of Janice Joplin songs, but not my favorite (to sing in the car), Bobby McGee. Also, a friend of Ms. no name really caught my attention with her rendition of a blast from the past "99 Red Balloons",  Not only did she sing it perfectly (to my untrained ears) but she 'performed' it. She had kind of a Pat Benitar look to her, with the red top and black skirt, she was wearing (and very confident in them) some high, high heels, on top of that she was totaly rocking the tamborine. Now, it may have been the four or five pints I'd had, that I feel bad that I had to tear myself away and get a little sleep. (king of like now).   I did stop by before leaving to tell them both how well I thought they sounded.

OK, off to my tent now (no this post is not written on my iPhone, I broke down today and bought an "air card", but that's a whole 'nother story.


At February 6, 2010 at 8:28 AM , Anonymous dragonlms said...

Since you took a pic of the bartender's tattoo, I know you had your camera with you and hoping you took some other pictures, including the outside of the bar you stopped into. I'm curious to know if the picture I have in my head from reading your description, meshes
at all with the actual place.

I think I need to take you along on one of my dream trips. You seem to find fun every step of the way.


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