Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pirates of the Conch Republic

The winters are long in Canada. Most days we get freezing temperatures, snow, rain and conditions unfit for outside activities unless you are into snow activities. Not good days to ride extensively on a motorcycle. Many Canadians travel to the Southern U.S. for better, milder weather. We call them Snowbirds. Like Canadian geese they travel south in winter and return to Canada for the wonderful, cool summer days. So I asked myself, when is a good time to start riding a motorcycle in Canada. There is still snow on the ground in February; even March has days when it snows heavily. To just watch my motorcycle sitting in the garage is discouraging. I really, really want to ride.
Riding a motorcycle is an addiction. I could not wait any longer and finally decided to chance a trip to Florida starting on March 5th, 2016.
A Cold Day to Start Riding
I can only go so long without riding my bike. No matter the weather, I need to ride.

So off we went, freezing weather (20F) or not. Carol and I wore all the clothing we could fit under our riding suits, including heated jackets, gloves and pants, double layer underwear, etc. Still it was cold. It is not only the cold temperatures but riding at 70 Miles per hour also gives us the wind chill effect to deal with. The wind blows right through the zipped up closing, no matter how we try to ward off the cold.
All Bundled Up
Brrrr, it sure was chilly. The heated grips on full blast, double gloves and all did not prevent cold fingertips.
Snow Yes, But The Roads Are Clear 
The perfect excuse to ride south was the annual Pirates’ gathering in the Florida Keys. Yes, I am a member of the Pirates of the Conch Republic and I earned my membership with a 2 year probation. Not just anybody can come along and decide they want to be a Pirate. We have strict rules and some of the initiations are not that easy. For 2 years one has to be a slave to a Pirate and do the bidding of your ‘Master’. That sounds easy enough but I have seen slaves walk behind their ‘Masters’ holding up an umbrella to shade his/her Master from the sun for the week of the gathering. I have heard slaves had to do their Master’s laundry too. Yes, that includes undergarments! To be a slave for 2 years is not an ‘easy’ job. It all depends on whom you get as a ‘Master’ for the 2 years you have to serve. I have never had a slave; I would be a terrible ‘master’. I would have no mercy on wannabe Pirates so it is a good thing nobody asks me to take them in. Carol, however, makes a great ‘Master’. She is gentle and forgiving. I know, because I served as her slave.

Hamburgers in Paradise

 The initiation ceremony, at the end of the week-long rally and after a meal "Hamburgers in Paradise prepared by the slaves, is always the highlight of the meeting. Secretive things are taught and you would have to kill me to reveal them. We, the total group of attendees, are very serious about what is allowed to be revealed and we do have our own, secret rites of membership.

Twilight in Kentucky

But first we need to get to the Florida Keys. For the first few days, Carol and I left about mid-morning so we could be assured that the roads were frost free and the commuter cars had eliminated some of the ice patches that are on the roads in the early morning. Snow was on the ground when we left, but the roads were plowed and the tarmac was reasonably free of snow. We rode mostly on interstate highways and tried to get as far south as quickly as we could. From Toronto we headed west towards Detroit and then rode due south on I 75. For the first day, after about 6 hours of riding we made it to Ohio. Not bad for a short day’s run. Yes, it was cold. Yes it was not much fun but we had to at least try to get as far South as we could. The farther South we went the warmer the day temperatures were for us.
The next day we made it to Kentucky and then the daytime temps were not that bad. We could at least unplug our heated clothing and just ride bundled up, but not plugged in. It was a nutty ride, we did not see another motorcycle for days and we were very lucky because it did not rain much. We had just a few showers on one day that did not even slow us down. Our mileage per day was not great but we were limited to riding between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM because the temperatures were just too cold before 9 AM; and again, too cold after the sun started to go down. So our average miles per day were only around 300 Miles.

Viva la Mexico (they have colorful ideas)
We planned well, because once we were south of the Mason/Dixon line, we felt like we were home free. Spring was in the air, trees were sprouting, grass was green, and cows were in the meadow already grazing contently. Ah, the joy of riding a motorcycle. Layer after layer of warm clothing came off the further south we went. We were in search of the warm sun and we did catch up with it. Our first indication of warmth and sunshine were the carvings on the bench in a Mexican Restaurant. El Sol shined down upon us.
RIP Ida 

Carol had a serious mission to perform while passing Bradenton, FL. The ashes of her recently deceased mom (105 years old) needed to be spread near the condo she had for over 25 years near Bradenton. Carol chose the pond in the center of the small village as a focal point
A Walk Down Memory Lane at Her Parents' Condo
for this duty. Her mom, Ida, had wonderful memories of FL, of her times there with her late husband Al, and all the friends she made while lawn bowling, square dancing and playing in bridge tournaments, where she was a Life Master. Rest in Peace Ida. Ida was one of the snowbirds I mentioned earlier.

The Pirate’s Rally was on Knight’s Key this year, in a campground setting that did not over charge us for our attendance. I understand the property has been sold to a developer so this might be our last time at this location. This sale of the property might dissolve our total Pirate setup, the Conch Republic is changing rapidly, and Profit from Real Estate before preservation of the camp ground seems to be the motto. Carol and I just had to attend this rally.

Rest up Ken 
Sundown, In More Ways Than One!

The weather in the Keys was wonderful. The waters were warm enough to swim in, the whole of the Florida lifestyle was so very different from the Canadian way of living we had just left. No more heavy clothing, just shorts and a t-shirt.

We reacquainted ourselves with the people in attendance, visited the No Name bar, had lunch at El Siboney (wonderful Cuban food), sat on the pier in Mallory Square in Key West at sundown and in general enjoyed Florida to its fullest. I do understand why people want to spend the winter in the Keys, rather than in the snowy north. It is a marvelous way to
spend time literally doing nothing.

Watching the Sunset From Mallory Square

Even Helmuth Came All The Way From Germany 
Pirate Duds at the Initiation Ceremony
I spent my time reading, relaxing and watching the local wild life and the sunsets. Most Pirates are now close to my age and they joined me in being ‘old’. A smile spreads over my face when I write this……yes, age has its privileges. Florida is truly a perfect retirement place. If I were not so restless, so curious, so stubborn, I could spend lots of winter time in Florida.

Bob Brought Tennessee Moonshine, The Real Thing 
Local Wildlife

Blow That Conch Shell, Tom!
The Pirates had their celebrations, with conch shell blowing, lots of drinks and long talks deep into the night. Some folks swam, some played music and some went kayaking. We had our performers, had our speeches of remembrance for men and women no longer able to ride and for folks who have passed on into the Great Unknown.

We spent a week just enjoying the camaraderie, teasing each other a bit, and initiating the latest, newest bunch of Slaves into the Pirates of the Conch Republic.

Carol Celebrating St. Patrick's Day With "Sassy Lassie" Sticker

The time flew by, it was a great trip, starting off very cold but ending in tropical splendor

End of The Day

Coming Into Home Port

Good Night!

No comments: