A short day’s ride today and a slightly later start- breakfast in the hotel at 6:30, kickstands up at 7:30. The high clouds are already parting, revealing blue sky, but it is very cold.
We head pretty much due east following Route 20; the map shows it as a landscape of lakes, but there isn’t a great deal of interest to see from the road. After about 30 miles we have to have a brief stop to warm hands and get the circulation back into our extremities. After another few miles we find a Dunkin Donuts and stop again for a proper warm and some sustenance.
We pass through Rice Creek Conservation Area and on to Palatka on the banks of St John’s River. We cross the river and join the 207 then 206, passing between Moses Creek Conservation Area and Matanzas State Forest, but other than the fact that the road is lined with dense forest in places there is still not a great deal to see.
We cross the Matanzas River over another impressive bridge to Crescent Beach, as far east as you can get without a boat, and follow coastal byway A1A south along the coast, past Fort Matanzas National Monument to Flagler Beach, where we stopped to dip our feet into the Atlantic: the symbolic end of our coast to coast mission. As with the Pacific, I managed to get somewhat wetter than planned; luckily the temperature had warmed up substantially by now and my trousers soon dried out once back on the bike.
We continue on through the very British-seaside-sounding Ormond-by-the-Sea and Ormond Beach, where we took Route 40 across Halifax River and onto Route 1.
The purpose for leaving the coast was to find a shooting range. Andy and Jane had both been to a shooting range before on previous trips to the US, but the rest of us hadn’t and were keen to give it a try. We found a place in Holly Hill advertising, as many of them do, “Pawn & Gun”.
Initially we weren’t keen to leave our fully loaded bikes outside unattended, but we were allowed to park our bikes right in front of the shop under the CCTV, which re-assured us: we figured it would take a particularly brazen thief to rob the bikes outside a place with so many guns!
Unlike Andy and Jane’s previous experiences, here we didn’t have someone with us throughout to make sure we didn’t do anything stupid and kill each other and/ or ourselves: we were simply shown the basics of how to load and hold the gun, then left to our own devices. The guy showing us what to do was exactly what you wanted from your US shooting range instructor: a wiry guy with an impressive beard, wearing a flak jacket and full of right wing “you have the right to bear arms” attitude. Amazingly none of us died!
We didn’t have much time, so only got to play with a couple of different guns – a .22 and a 9mm Beretta. I shot with the bigger gun first, and didn’t do a bad job. I was much less accurate with the smaller gun, despite the fact that the reduced recoil should have made it easier. Sharon turned out to be something of a sharpshooter, but she’d had experience of shooting before a long time ago when gun laws in the UK were less tight and you could still join a gun club. People in America seem amazed by our lack of familiarity with guns.
Once we were all done we were encouraged to do the touristy thing: strike a pose with each of us equipped with the most bad-ass looking guns they could muster – and they could muster some pretty bad-ass looking guns!
Still buzzing with the excitement of shooting stuff we went in search of food and found the perfect place: a small roadside place called the Golden Goose Cafe and Deli. This was superb – we sat outside in the bright, warm sunshine and enjoyed one of the best burgers I’ve tasted.
And so to shopping, but at least it was bike shopping: we went off to find J&P Cycles and Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley Davidson. It was then time to find our way to our accommodation for the night.
Through a friend of Andy and Jane’s we had been offered a bed for the night by a local motorcycle club. Not just any motorcycle club, but Leather and Lace MC, an international women’s motorcycle club. The club has been around for 30 years and welcomes women who ride motorcycles over 1100cc. After all of these miles it will be good to meet some fellow motorcyclists and we are honoured to be allowed in despite half of us being the wrong gender.
Finding the place proved to be a challenge. I have no clear idea where we were, I just blindly followed Paul as we travelled what felt like a long way before he spotted a small sign for Leather and Lace on the side of the road. We then followed a smaller road, then a private drive, passing the odd building as we went, but not many.
Finally we came upon a small gathering of buildings, where we were met by barking dogs – one large and two very small. We were greeted by the president of the club, Jennifer, and another member, Michele. Both were extremely friendly and welcoming, showing us into the large club house, which has a number of tables and chairs, a pool table, large bar and kitchen area.
It also has quite a menagerie. In addition to the dogs, there are rabbits – we arrived just in time to help lift a very large newly built hutch into place – and a pig called Penny. Apparently there used to be ducks too, but a previous guest ate them! We later found out that Jennifer also has a pet raccoon.
We chatted for a while, before heading off to dinner in a nearby restaurant, travelling in the open back of Jennifer’s pick-up truck, which was an experience in itself. The restaurant was The Country Kitchen, which was excellent, serving traditional, authentic home cooked food: the fried chicken was delicious. We were joined here by another member, Lisa, who was also extremely friendly.
We headed back to the club house – this time Lisa was able to offer lifts in her nice warm, comfy SUV, but most of us chose to stay with the pick-up truck just for the experience – hopefully she didn’t take it personally! We were showed around the extensive compound some more, so that we could find showers, etc in the morning, and provided with blow up beds and sleeping bags in the club house for what turned out to be a more comfortable than expected night’s sleep.
Miles today: 169
Total miles: 3075