Living in Florida for 60 plus years has made me very thick skinned when it comes to the threat of a hurricane hit. I have always helped board up and stayed put while the storms passed by, overhead and all around the homes that I lived in. Hurricane Donna was an especially strong and damaging storm back in 1960. I vividly remember listening to the coconuts bouncing across our roof as they were pulled from the coconut palms beside our home. I was raised in a camping family so we were always prepared to camp indoors for days if need be. I should have bought stock as a child in Coleman products as it seemed that everything we used had that label attached to it. Fortunately I have always lived in a concrete block structured home so the only real concern was the roof holding tight.  1964 was a bad year for South Florida with Hurricane Cleo blasting up the coast from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Cleo was only one of 9 named storms that year. Again the following year, 1965, Hurricane Betsy swept through South Florida. Betsy was a huge storm, more than 600 miles from edge to edge with a eye estimated to be 40 miles wide at one point. Packing winds of 135 mph, Betsy brought a 6 foot storm surge that flooded the city of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and completely covered the island of Key Biscayne.

After Betsy in ’65, we had a break until 1992 when the all-powerful Hurricane Andrew swept through. Andrew became the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. History. 23 died and at a cost in excess of $25 billion. Area’s that didn’t feel the wrath of Andrew were terrorized by dozens of tornadoes that were spun off. One resident said that her husband was injured when he was struck by a flying refrigerator! “I don’t know if it was my refrigerator or someone else’s,” she said.

12 years later we got to experience Hurricane Frances in 2004. A sluggish and super-sized storm covered virtually the entire state of Florida, 435 miles from Tallahassee to Key West, enveloped in rain and wind. Her characteristics were mass sogginess, a snails pace and a tendency to weaken and stall. Frances is remembered for her rainfall. She dumped over 20 inches of rain which means an immediate future of mosquitoes, meldew, rot and damaged crops. 2004 proved to be the meanest hurricane season in Florida history with 4 hurricanes in six weeks. The last one of the season was hurricane Jeanne. Jeanne hit Palm Beach County the hardest, launching leftover storm debris, tearing apart weakened buildings, cutting power for millions and leaving the nation’s 4th most populous state dazed and confused. At least 6 people died during and after the storm.

Then in 2005 there was Wilma. She came from the west making landfall in Naples, streaking across the Everglades, picking up more warm water before slamming Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties from the west. Wilma caught many by surprise as she was predicted to weaken crossing the state but was able to maintain strength. Wind gusts of 123 mph were reported.

Just another day of life here in South Florida. I still have a couple pieces of patio furniture hurricane-matthewsitting in my living room. We were lucky or in my opinion graciously blessed by a protecting hand this year as Hurricane Mathew was charted to make landfall as a category 4 storm here in South Florida. Mathew steered very slightly east before arriving but then moved steadily up the east coast parallel to the coastline. Florida remained on the clean side of the storm so major damage was spared. My Honda CBR and my Suzuki GSX-R got to spend the night in my air conditioned living room. I had to make room to garage the 4 wheel cage. Thursday at 6:00 pm the storm passed by as a non-event and with light rainfall I was returning items back to their rightful place by 8:00 pm. Friday was clean up and basically a day off work and school.

I had planned a bike trip over the weekend, up to Vero Beach to visit some great friends and motorcycle riders. Vero Beach was hit much harder than Fort Lauderdale where I am, but still not too bad. I was hoping to salvage some riding time for the weekend and the weather did not disappoint. Trailered the CBR1100XX up to Hobe Sound early Saturday morning and met up with Julie who was to be my pillion for the ride. I graduated high school with Julie in 1974, Go Trojans! 42 years later we met up on Facebook and discovered that we both have a passion for riding fast motorcycles safely. Julie joined me for the ride up to Vero Beach to meet up with James and Jennifer Johnson. I have known James for over 20 years and rode with him many times over the years when he was single and riding a Harley Road King. We were often referred to as “Thunder & Lightning” since his Harley was as load as thunder and my CBR as fast as lightning! James married his beautiful bride, Jennifer and sold the Harley. He always had an interest in adventure bikes so eventually picked up his current ride a BMW R1200GS. Jennifer quickly discovered the same desire to ride 2 wheels and participated in several BMW rider training courses before picking up her own BMW F700GS.
With the hurricane well north of us, we had some beautiful weather the rest of the weekend. The 4 of us rode up the coast on A1A north of Sabastian Inlet looking at the damage left behind by Mathew and watching all the many power company trucks from many different states helping restore power lines. A big thank you for the extra helping hands by linemen that traveled from afar to assist in restoration of utility services in the wake of Hurricane Mathew. Stopped and had an amazing lunch at The Red Onion Eatery. Oh boy was that delicious. They serve fantastic gourmet sandwiches, salads and seafood in a mom-&-pop environment. Great atmosphere and looking forward to a return lunch visit in the near future.

Rode about 75 miles on Saturday and then over 175 miles on Sunday just enjoying the weather, winerycooler temps and great company. Made a stop at The Winery Sunday afternoon on the way back. Had the opportunity to do a little wine tasting but declined since we were on 2 wheels. The sights and smells were inviting none the less.

All in all it was a most enjoyable weekend. Looks like the four of us will be riding together again on Nov. 4th at JenningsGP while attending the Fast Track eXperience, (FTX). I don’t find much of anything that is more enjoyable and relaxing at the same time than riding on 2 wheels with other like-minded people that I care about.

I big thank you to James and Jennifer for hosting this weekend ride and a big hug to Julie for being a great pillion rider and companion on the BlackBird. Maybe a rider course could be in your future! We must do this again very soon and lets not wait for another hurricane to make it happen.

 

Keeping the Rubber Side Down

John

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