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Time Machine Tour 2011

Time Machine Tour 2010
The Great 2010 Rush Tour by Motorcycle
4 shows - 12 days - 3,750 miles

Day 1 - Friday, 24 September. It's cool and rainy in Panama City, Florida, and I'm listening to the thunder rumble in the distance as I pack my bike. Hey, now that's a new opening! For the first time I will not be on a borrowed bike, but on my own Harley, a 2000 Fat Boy. You can read all about it here. I'm packing very heavy for this trip. The big HD SAC piece is stuffed full, the small piece on the luggage rack is nearly full, and my new Leatherworks 120 saddle bags are pretty much at maximum load.

The thunder crashes a little closer and I know I'm probably going to get wet as I have no rain gear. I looked around town during the week and could find nothing of quality big enough to fit me. I figured I would pick up something at a dealer along the way. Now an unexpected storm has blown up, I'm unprepared, and it is my fault for waiting so long.

The radar shows my normal country route north of town to be completely socked in, so I ride across town during afternoon rush hour traffic. Again, it is my own fault since I should have gotten out of dodge hours earlier. I finally make it all the way across town and to the east end of the beach when I hit the wall. I'm going nowhere in this! I stop to take cover with some other bikers at a convenience store. They are on their way home to Destin and have no gear at all, just t-shirts and jeans. We visit for a full hour before the rain finally lets up. I say goodbye to Dawn, Road Dog, & friend, and head on toward Pensacola.

The rest of the first day's ride is uneventful. The highway eventually dries out as do my legs, and I enjoy a cool evening ride across Mississippi, through Hattiesburg, and eventually on up to Jackson where I spend the night. My buddy Jay is staying with an old friend in town and we will meet up in the morning. It's been a while since I've ridden this far in one day, but I planned ahead by splurging on a room with a jacuzzi. A nice, long, hot water massage is just the ticket to relax my muscles and get the kinks out. Burning a La Aurora 107 Corona and quaffing a tall dram of Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist help me round out the shank of the evening in grand fashion.

Day 2 - Saturday, 25 September. Morning arrives, I give Jay a call, and he rolls up to the hotel a few minutes later. The first order of business is to get me some rain gear. We plan to ride to Denton, Texas today and there is a major storm front stretching all the way from the southern Texas border up into the northeast. Unlike the day before, the weather today is very hot and I'm sweating balls in the Harley dealership south of town as I'm trying on rain gear. I get fixed up with a good suit and also purchase a new pair of Gore-Tex gloves to supplement the winter leathers I already have.

We stop in Monroe, Louisiana to visit with Mom. She treats us to a nice lunch at a local eatery on Bayou DeSiard. After lunch, a check of the weather radar, and a pause for Mom-hugs and photos, Jay and I decide to ride the next leg sans rain gear. If we see the front looming close ahead we can always stop and suit up.

After a scorching ride across Louisiana on I-20 in blistering heat and oppressive humidity, we cross the Red River, get through Shreveport, enter Texas, pass over a rise, and the atmosphere changes in an instant. Suddenly, the air is much cooler and drier. What relief! We do see the storm front ahead, but even though there are some really dark, low, scudding clouds, I also see what appears to be a lot of scatter at higher altitudes. It looks to me like the storm is breaking up. After filling our tanks, we decide to continue on without rain gear, and, sure enough, we punch through a hole in the front and don't get hit by one rain drop! (We will remain behind the storm line and have perfect riding conditions for almost the entire trip.)

My normal route to Denton involves getting off the interstate at Tyler and heading up to Greenville. I miss the exit, however, and we ride on for a spell before I pull off and take new bearings. We decide to explore our way northward through the country, meandering in the general direction of my sister's house. We stop in Grand Saline to tank up and, as I'm braking to a halt at the pump, my headlight nacelle pops out of the forks and is hanging by the wires! WHAT THE HELL?!?!?

Jay looks at the nacelle and determines that the bolt has broken off inside the mounting block. He tries to get the bolt piece out with a pocket knife, but to no avail. We finally decide to bungee the damn thing on the bike until we can get to a mechanic and have the broken-off bit extracted. Here, then, is the Expedient Headlight Nacelle Mounting Kit:

Please note that the visor is crucial, and must be supplied by the is not included in the kit. A pair of fingerless leather gloves to wedge in behind the nacelle are included, however, as they are otherwise useless. Ha! It is nice to know that the headlight visor is not all definitely has some GO!

It is now dark, so the exploration is over and it is time to head to my sister's house by as direct a route as we can navigate. After a couple of miles, I determine that the Expedient Headlight Mounting Kit is rock solid and we can ROLL ON IT! So, we get to US69 at Emory and ride north toward Greenville and then west to Denton by the usual path. The "expedient mounting kit" has my headlight jacked up at an interesting angle. On low beam, I can't see much of the road. On high beam, the light reflecting off the visor actually gives me better illumination on the road. Either way, I am probably frying oncoming drivers. I'm in the lead, Jay is following, and he tells me later that when I switched the high beam on I was lighting up the tree tops and he was laughing his ass off. Whatever gets you home, hey? The day's excitement is not quite over, though, as I have an impromptu drag race with a pickup truck.

US69 between Emory and Greenville is a two-lane highway. At every small town there is a red light, and the road widens to four lanes for about 200 feet before and after the intersection. We pull into one such intersection and there are several vehicles in the inside lane, none in the outside lane, so I veer over into the empty lane and coast to a stop at the light with Jay rolling up beside me. It should be obvious to everyone what will happen next. The two motorcycles will pull ahead of traffic and clear with plenty of room behind for everyone else. The light turns green and I move out with normal throttle. Suddenly, the lead vehicle in the inner lane races ahead of me. It is a big pickup truck with a crew cab and the driver has his foot slammed to the floor. Oh, mine arse on a bandbox...HELL NO!!! I twist back to the max, rip into to 2nd gear, and by the time I grab third I am slicing into the inner lane at the merge and it is ALL OVER. Damn fool cowboy! LOL

Jay ends up behind the truck, which tailgates me all the way to Greenville before our paths diverge. By the time we get to the west end of McKinney, Jay is ready to head straight for the hotel and pack it in, but I remind him that my brother-in-law Mike has beer and barbeque ready, so I'm able to persuade Jay into a visit to my sister's house. She lives in a hilly, wooded area near Lewisville Lake. When we roll up she says, "We heard you coming WAY BEFORE you got here!" As Jay would explain later when I told the tale to our friend Danny: "THUNDERHEADER!!!" (o;}

We enjoy brews and beef, watch the second half of the LSU-West Virginia football game (Geaux Tigers!), and then head to the hotel for a good night's sleep, but not before smokes and drams, of course. Guess Jay got his second wind...hehehe.

Day 3 - Sunday, 26 September - CONCERT DAY. Today promises to be an especially glorious day, because it is a RUSH day! Jay and I head over to my sister Margette's place, and my new niece Elizabeth ("Izzy" - age 14 months) is up and running around. So cute!! My nephew Charlie ("What IS that?" - age 15 years) is stoked because I am treating him and his parents to their first Rush concert - Charlie's first rock show. Jay and I leave the bikes at Marge's, load up with everyone in the family van, and ride along over to Mike's parents' place to drop Izzy off for the day.

Next on the agenda is lunch. If you love southern fried chicken with down home trimmings, including fresh biscuits with molasses, then Babe's is the best there is. Mmmm...mmmm...GOOD!!! After lunch we drive into town, park the van, and take the train to the venue.

AH, the anticipation! We have great seats right next to the mixing platform. The opening video is hilarious! Everyone loves it. The boys start with Charlie's favorite, The Spirit of Radio, and nail it! WOW, what a show! Geddy's voice is a little shaky at first, but DOES he DO it??? Moving Pictures in its entirety in order to open the second set...'nuff said! And the new songs...Caravan and BU2B are SMOKIN' live!! Great portents for the upcoming project. My only minor "plaint" is that Jacob's Ladder is not in the setlist as rumored. I would gladly have traded all of the S&A stuff for it, but I understand the decision. S&A is new and popular, plus I very much enjoy Faithless which was not played on the S&A tour.

Everybody loved the show. Charlie can't wait to see the Caravan tour. Marge shot me several high-5s during the show. Even Mike said later that the concert "was better than I thought it would be" which is high praise coming from a musician of his prowess and sophistication. Mark the event down as a "best of" with no reservations.

Day 4 - Monday, 27 September. The first order of business today is to get my headlight nacelle properly remounted. Jay and I ride over to the Denton Harley dealer and receive a couple of surprises: One, the broken-off piece of the mounting bolt has vibrated out of the block! All we need is a new bolt. Two, I have worn out my rear brake pads. Apparently, I am a heavy rear braker. Jay didn't expect it and I will have to retrain myself on the bigger, weightier bike. I never had this kind of problem on the old Vulcan 750! Anyhoo...I get new pads installed, the headlight remounted, and then we are off to Oklahoma.

Once we're into Oklahoma, we turn east on US70 and we are in the boonies! Finding high-octane gasoline is definitely an adventure on this stretch of road. It is a nice ride, nonetheless, and I enjoy rolling up through Broken Bow and then over into Arkansas. We end up staying on US70 all the way to Hot Springs before bedding down for the night at a biker-friendly Best Western.

Day 5 - Tuesday, 28 September. My personal goal for the day is to get some mountain riding in. We don't quite get it done, but we do get into some Ozark foothills to the west and north of Little Rock. At one point, we pass a sign that reads "Dangerous Curves Next 2 Miles" and that proves to be a fun stretch of road!

We get into Tennessee on US64 and then begins "The Grind" for me. Our strategic goal is to get as far east as possible, since we have a concert day in Atlanta on Wednesday. Looking at the map, Jay and I figure there are two possible good perches in the middle of the state, but they prove to be small towns with little to offer in the way of lodging. We are at a red light at the east end of some place with the sun setting, and decide that the next recognizable hotel name will signal our stop for the night.

Then we ride...and ride...and ride...and I have no idea where I am. It is pitch dark, the temperature is dropping, and there is not one single freaking road sign that says how far it is to the next oasis of civilization. Oh, there is a sign on every bridge, creek, and county line, sure enough! I can tell you that I am in such-and-such county and four miles east of this-and-that creek which I crossed on you-know-who's bridge, but I have NO CLUE how many miles it is to the next town.

Meanwhile, I'm getting chilled, there is major road construction all over the place, and we are flying up, down, and around unfamiliar mountain curves in the dark. The minimal gear I have on is just barely keeping me warm enough to endure the temperature, and in the blackness I can't see how low my gas gauge is reading, although I am certain I'm about to hit reserve at any moment. This part of the adventure is not terribly enjoyable, to say the least!

Finally, we get to Pulaski and I spy a Comfort Inn up on a hill to the left with a steakhouse next door. A greater-than-ninety-degree turn, up and up a STEEP hill, and then we are PARKED. WHEW! The hotel turns out to be biker-friendly and we are allowed to leave the bikes right by the front door overnight. What's more, I get a room with a jacuzzi for a regular rate, and later I take full advantage.

After unpacking the bikes, we walk down the hill to the steakhouse for beers and meat. Our cute German waitress "Schnookie" is VERY accommodating. (o;} The walk back UP the hill is not so forgiving. UGH! At least my jacuzzi soak makes up for it. A sound sleep ensues...

(After the trip, I told this part of the story to some folks at a local cigar shop and got plenty of laughs. One of the guys in the crowd turned out to be a native of Pulaski! He definitely understood my plight with the dearth of road signs...LOL)

Day 6 - Wednesday, 29 September - CONCERT DAY. After a great hotel breakfeast, Jay and I hit the road. If we don't already know that US64 in Tennessee is "country" then our next gas stop leaves no doubt: the pumps are COVERED with spider webs! Then come the quaint little signs like "Flying Gravel Next 20 Miles" and "Watch For Falling Rocks." Then again, the ride up and down I-24 around Chattanooga is a blast, even with the heavy traffic. I just love revving up my Twin Cam and then laying off into heavy deceleration, with the Thunderheader blasting away! hehehe

We arrive in Atlanta, unpack the bikes, freshen up, have lunch at a Wingo's, and then indulge in a pre-concert dram. Our plan for this show is to ride up and take pot luck...whatever is available is fine. We ride over to the venue, and there is no bike parking available! The cops don't want to let us through, but after explaining that we are getting tickets at will-call (yeah...right) we're told that we can park "for four minutes" while we get our tickets and parking passes. The parking passes are for a "Lot N" that is apparently way off in the distance where you park and take a tram to the venue., thanks!

So, while I commiserate with another biker about the situation, Jay walks down the hill and talks a security guard into letting us slip the bikes into his area. "Hey, that's a nice piece of high ground there...that grassy knoll right under the street light. We won't even crank the bikes!" And so we do not...we just silently roll away from under the cops' noses, letting gravity pull us down the hill, and up onto the little rise right beside the amphitheater. Nice job, Jay! The other biker had already left to park at a friend's house a mile away and walk back. Sure hate it for him. Gotta learn to run with the experienced dogs, mate.

We get to the box office and Jay wants to get a lawn seat (we don't have tickets yet...remember, this is a "pot luck" adventure). That would normally be fine for me, but it has been raining heavily in the area for the last two days and I have no idea what shape the lawn is in, so I insist on getting two tickets in the "all access" area at the back of the covered seating section for $20 more a pop. We go to the lawn anyway and it is fine. After standing on the angled ground for the openers, we make our way down to our designated area and it pays off big time. The view is great and we have plenty of room, even though security insists that we must have seats and can't stand against the back rail. They eventually bring two more folding chairs, and we continue to get our freak on as the boys rock and roll their ever-lovin' hearts out. Geddy's voice benefited from the two days' rest, Alex is on fire, Neil is hammering down with precision, and it turns out to be the tightest show we will see on this trip - a magnificent performance. In our seats or standing in front of them, it's all good!

During the encore a few drops of rain begin to fall. Since Jay and I punched through the hole in the storm on day two, we have been behind the storm front the entire way. The temperatures have been cool, the skies mostly sunny, the air dry, and the ride glorious (except for that miserable night run into Pulaski!), but it looks like we're about to get wet. Sure enough, as we get to the bikes the clouds start to open up. A security guard doesn't want to let us go a certain way, but Jay explains that we are from out of town and we only know one path back to the hotel, so she lets us through. It's a good thing we are only a mile and change from the rooms, because neither of us can see very much and we are fairly soaked by the time we get under the roof. Dry clothes on, wet clothes in the hotel dryer, good cigars lighted, and warm, smoky drams to sip on and enjoy with a dear friend...another successful Rush excursion in the books!

Day 7 - Thursday, 30 September. Today's mission is to meet our friend Danny on the way toward Tampa Bay and get all the way down there if possible. The rain that started at the back end of the concert continued through the night, but is now stopped and the roads are fairly dry. We roll off with rain gear packed away, but we're ready to stop and suit up if need be.

We stay dry and meet Danny in Thomasville, Georgia, then the three of us go south on US19 and pick up US98 toward Tampa. Everything is running smooth as silk until we get to Brooksville, and then MY HEADLIGHT NACELLE POPS OUT AGAIN!!! Are you freaking kidding me?!?!? We stop at a red light when it pops out, and with the interstate to the right, I make a left to pull over in front of a small motel to check things out. When we get parked, Danny says, "Hey, you went the wrong way!" "I know," I shoot back, and just point to my dangling light. Danny has a good laugh, and then we check it out.

Sure enough...another broken bolt. Ok, no problem. Time for Expedient Headlight Nacelle Mounting Kit - Model Deux. Thanks to Danny being with us we have extra bungees to strengthen the kit even further. (NOTE: Owner-supplied visor still required!) Once the roadside "repair" is complete, I have no qualms about rocketing over to and then down on I-75 to the hotel. The extra bungees keep the light down at a more road-friendly angle, and I know from experience that the nacelle ain't going anywhere. (o;} After checking into the hotel, a delicious burger and enticing view at a Hooters just down the street wrap up the day quite nicely.

Day 8 - Friday, 1 October - CONCERT DAY. There are three things we need to accomplish on this day: One, I need to get the broken bolt extracted from my headlight nacelle. Two, we are supposed to meet with two friends of mine who have driven down from Panama City for the show. Three, GET TO THE RUSH CONCERT!!

The first part of the mission doesn't start out too well. We go to the Harley dealer in Brandon, and the little snot-nosed service jerk tells me "we can get to your bike today, but it will take hours." WTF? I'm on the road, I'm on a tight schedule, I just need a broken bolt extracted, and you are going to make me wait "FOR HOURS???" To heck with this. We check the computer listings, call Biker's Bay in Tampa, and they fix us right up. We have some nice Cuban sandwiches next door for lunch while they do the work. Great, friendly folks...highly recommended.

Part two goes off without a hitch. With trusty new headlight nacelle mounting bolt firmly ensconced, I roll with Jay and Danny over to the Cigar Castle to meet up with Sean and Everett. The Cigar Castle is a great place to enjoy a premium smoke. They have a nice humidor, a decent bar, and the Beer Castle is right next door if the selection of single malts and sundries at the Cigar Castle's bar doesn't meet one's fancy.

Part three: THE SHOW!! Oh, YEAH! We ride up and get VIP biker parking right by the front entrance. As it should be!! (o;} Jay and I have floor seats right in the middle for this one. We shelled out for the "premium package" and it was well worth it. The view is great and the boys are rocking. Sean and Everett are not far away. They have never seen Rush live and they tell me later that they LOVED the show. Neither one, however, notices the horrible gaffe in Alex's solo during Tom Sawyer. Whoah, I've never heard him bust one that badly! Oh, well, still better than the "train wreck" we saw on the last tour...hehehe.

As the man said in Countdown, "What a view! What a view!"

Day 9 - Saturday, 2 October - CONCERT DAY. We're up by mid-morning and so is the temperature as we head out toward West Palm Beach. The three of us plus my buddy George made the same ride going the other way during the Snakes & Arrows tour. It is not as hot this time, but the LOVE BUGS! Holy Schneikes, we hit a wall of love bugs along the north shore of Lake Okeechobee. We stop for gas in Okeechobee and the parking lot is filled with cars being scrubbed clean of love bug detritus. Jay pulls us over a bit later to wipe the bug guts off of his helmet visor. This is nasty!

We get to the hotel and I check into my room just in time to turn on the television and see LSU about to beat Tennessee in a wild finish. Then we lose the game on a crazy play. But...WAIT...a flag, and then we WIN the game on a crazy play!! Oh, well...just another chapter in Lucky Lesster's calamity escapades. What a clown.

After a nice meal it is show time. Another venue that knows how to treat bikers: YOU GET WAVED THROUGH TRAFFIC AND PARK UP FRONT!! AAAAYYYEEEEE!! Once again, we do not have tickets and are taking pot luck. We buy lawn seats at the box office, go halfway up, and it is too steep and too hot for me. "To the top!" I order and it is a great call, if I must say. The back side of the hill drops sharply away into a large pool of water with three huge fountains blasting streams of water high into the air. A stiff and steady breeze is blowing across the fountains and up the hill, cooling us and keeping the bugs away. The top of the hill is level ground, the view is great, the sound from the second-tier speakers is good and in sync with the video, and people of all ages are rocking their butts off to Rush. Ahhh, 'tis glorious!!!

A great performance. A great experience. A great evening spent with great friends. 'Nuff said.

Day 10 - Sunday, 3 October. I had planned to race back to Panama City on this day, but Jay talked me out of it. He wants to go down to Homestead to visit Coral Castle, so I say, "Why not?" I had read about the place years before and am interested in seeing it. Danny is familiar with the area, so he leads the way.

It is hot today, and I've never been this far south, but it is worth it. Coral Castle is amazing. It is not a big place, but there are some big...nay, HUGE...stones here. How in the world did that guy move these stones? Heck, how did he quarry them? Was he an alien? Did he have secret technologies at his disposal? Or was he just a clever dude who knew how to get the most out of horsepower, block & tackle, and hoists? And those gates! Where else can you pivot a three ton stone with a finger? I wish I could have visited back when the nine ton gate could be turned by a small child. Astonishing!

Danny and I resting in two of the stone "recliners":

Day 11 - Monday, 3 October. We could really stretch ourselves today and get as far north and as close to home as our butts allow, but I want to do two things that stand in the way of that: One, I want to ride through some new ground around the south of Lake Okeechobee and up its west side. Two, since I figure on not getting all the way home today, we might as well stop in Orlando and spend some time at a favorite local watering hole.

The ride around the lake is not as buggy as it was on Saturday, but we do have another road mishap as Danny loses his jiffy stand spring. The Harley dealer in Orlando doesn't have one, so we end up riding all the way up to the dealer in Sanford to get a replacement. The nice folks there give Danny a good break, and an Outback steakhouse awaits just down the street with a very nice waitress who sits down with us and makes us feel right at home. After packing a nice meal into our bellies, we head to our hotel in Orlando and prepare for the last night out.

If you like premium cigars, single malts or other libations, and beautiful women, there is a place for you in Orlando, and it is the Corona Cigar Company. They have three stores: the big store on West Sand Lake, Avo's lounge north of town, and the downtown store on Orange Avenue. The downtown store has it all. I'm talking PAGES of single malts here!

And the view...ahhh, yes. Our waitress is a goddess. We have to run off a panhandler or three while we are seated at the outdoor tables, but it doesn't take too much away from the evening. Premium smokes are enjoyed with some premium drams. The Caol Isla 24 Year that I have is absofreakinglutely amazing. Is it even liquid, or is that pure smoke I'm imbibing? An Ashton Estate Sun Grown Churchill makes a brilliant pairing. If decadence is a sin, then tonight I am guilty. My buddies are very happy with their pours of Lagavulin. I pick out a Diamond Crown for Danny to smoke and an AVO Compañero for Jay. Both are thoroughly enjoyed. The weather is perfect - cool, dry, and no bugs. This evening is a brilliant capper to a wonderful adventure.

Day 12 - Tuesday, 4 October. The last day. Ah, well, it had to come. We ride out in the morning, race west along the Florida Turnpike and up I-75, exit north of Gainesville, and split up at Perry. Jay and Danny head on north to Alabama and I make my way west on US98, then through the Apalachicola National Forest on the back way to the house. It is mostly sunny and cool, and I roll safely into my driveway by midafternoon.

I've ridden over 3,700 miles in 12 days (10 traveling days), seen 9 states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia), and ridden further on every compass point - west, north, east, and then south - than I've ever been on a motorcycle. I am a bit surprised that I'm not totally beat up. I feel like riding on into the night! Where are we going next? When is the next concert tour? I want to ride to California...Alaska...Maine...ANYWHERE! Ok, I guess I'll have to rest for a spell before then, but in the meantime, Panama City will be hearing the roar of my Thunderheader. Rush will be recording new music and preparing for a new tour...heck, it looks like the Time Machine Tour ain't over yet. There just might be another chapter or two to write on this one.

Until then, ride safe, enjoy your family, bless your friends, thank Jesus, and RUSH ROCKS!!!

Time Machine Tour 2011
The Great 2011 Rush Tour by Motorcycle
The tour continues!

Sunday, 3 April. See you in Nashville!

Friday, 10 June. See you in New Orleans!



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