.

1
Getting Ready to BLAZE PINK!
2
MotoChic® Gear Releasing Lauren Sport
3
No More Turtlenecks
4
Georgia On My Mind
5
Check out my new MOTO-SHOP!
6
Edenton
7
BMW Demo Day!
8
Mountain Moxie 2017
9
Queen of DETOURS!!!
10
From Cloudy to Sunny Old Florida

Getting Ready to BLAZE PINK!

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my intent to accomplish the Iron Butt Association 50 CC ride this Fall…well the plans have been locked down, most of the details ironed out… and now it’s turned into THIS!!! Be sure to let me know if you have questions or are interested in being a part of this worthy collaboration. I’ll be posting more every few days, so stay tuned!

MotoChic® Gear Releasing Lauren Sport

Road-testing kicks off with
“Sisterhood of the Traveling Bag”

June 19, 2017 — (San Francisco, CA) Compelled by consumer feedback, MotoChic® Gear founder, Debra Chin, is releasing a sport rendition of the patented Lauren bag, with weatherproof materials and distinguishing features.

True to the MotoChic® mission, the Lauren Sport combines innovative design with high performance materials to create safe and stylish gear that’s as fashionable as it is functional. Meticulously crafted from durable, lightweight polyester, the weatherproof Lauren Sport features light gray, quilted, weatherproof fabric accented with YKK® water repellent zippers in high visibility red, pink, orange or yellow.

Chin shared, “Customers love the Lauren bag for its versatility, and suggested I offer it in a lighter weight more casual version, too. I’m extremely proud to announce the launch of the Lauren Sport.”

Chin previewed the Lauren Sport at the recent Qualtrics Insight Summit in Salt Lake City. Among those surveyed, 100% had a positive reaction to the bag. Those polled agreed the Lauren Sport is high quality, well made, and functional. An Insight Summit attendee remarked, “It is extremely well designed. You seem to have thought of everything and more.” Others shared comments such as, “It looks very modern. I love it!” and “With the combination of style and utility it seems like a bag I could have forever!”

Chin plans to put the bag through additional rigorous road-testing this summer. Inspired by the best-selling novel and blockbuster movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, two Lauren Sport bags will be sent on the road with five adventurous female riders. The bags will pass from woman to woman, with each woman putting the Lauren Sport through its paces on her journey, and sharing testimonials from the road on social media. The women chosen to participate in MotoChic’s “Sisterhood of the Traveling Bag” are:

• Margaret Vatamaniuk of British Columbia, Canada, a www.twowheeledlife.com blogger, who will ride with the Lauren bag on her Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail from Ottawa to Vancouver Island, June 28 – July 12 (Facebook @twowheeledlife / Instagram @two_wheeled_life / Twitter @margvatman)

• Polly Pierce who will ride with the Lauren bag on her BMW 700 GS from her hometown of Kane, Pennsylvania to Salt Lake City, Utah, July 7 – July 16, for the BMW MOA Rally (Facebook @polly.pierce.50 / Instagram @pierce.polly / Twitter @pollypierce1)

• Kaci Berry of Springdale, Arkansas, a www.ducatidiva.net blogger, who will take the Lauren bag on her Ducati Monster 620IE, July 21 – July 28, to ride the Tail of the Dragon in Robbinsville, North Carolina (Facebook @KaciBerry / Instagram @DucatiDiva / Twitter @Redklberry)

• Shannon Vaughn of Dickinson, North Dakota, a www.lifelipstickmotorcycles.com blogger, who will ride with the Lauren bag on her Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster, August 4 – August 13, to the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota (Instagram & Facebook @lifelipstickmotorcycles / Twitter @Lifelipsticmoto)

• Lisa Wallace of Ohio who will ride with the Lauren bag on her Harley-Davidson 2017 Sportster 48, August 21 – August 28, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Ohio (Instagram @wallacelisa)

After the adventures are completed, the “sister” with the most engagement on social media will win a brand-new Lauren Sport of her very own.

Like its predecessor, the Lauren Sport quickly and easily converts from a backpack to a tote bag with large reflective panels on the exterior for nighttime visibility. An innovative new addition is an LED light that illuminates the interior of the bag. Other distinguishing features include:

    • YKK® water repellent zippers and water resistant motoprint lining
    • Built-in grab handle on the women-friendly backpack harness for easy carrying
    • Soft lined protective pocket on the interior that fits up to a 15″ laptop
    • 100% vegan friendly materials

The MotoChic® Lauren Sport will be in stock August 2017, and is available now for pre-sale at www.motochicgear.com/shop/the-lauren-sport-bag/ for a special introductory price to be announced to newsletter subscribers.

About MotoChic Gear®
MotoChic® answers the need for high quality, design-conscious clothing and accessories for women with fast-paced lifestyles. World travelers, sports lovers, fitness fans, commuters, moms, students and fashionistas will find what they need in MotoChic®. Wherever your next great life adventure takes you, MotoChic® will be there.
For More Information, visit: www.motochicgear.com. #

No More Turtlenecks

(Published in the May 2017 issue of BMW Owners News Magazine; photos courtesy of Stephanie White & yoga instruction by Beth Urban – “thank you ladies, for this amazing collaboration!”)

Riding season for most of us has officially begun. Each time we prepare for a journey, we run through our checklists of gear to be packed and motorcycle maintenance that needs to be done before departure. Many of us like to share riding tips and tricks with each other, so I have one unique tip to share with my fellow riders out there: leave your turtle necks at home, please. Bear with me while I get to the point…

In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that after a series of long days in the saddle, my body is toast. While I certainly don’t consider myself an earthy kind of gal (yet have the utmost respect for those gals), I have often wondered about the benefits of yoga as a remedy. Yes, I said that four letter word. I believe I have many more years of long-distance riding left in me (and don’t care to rely on the bevy of painkillers out there to get me through a couple of decades on two-wheels), so I’ve toyed with the idea of yoga – really for the physical benefits of flexibility and core strength. And recently, to seal the deal, I was approached by a friend of mine, Beth Urban, who happens to not only teach Fitness Yoga, but also is a serious bicyclist. She “gets” my two-wheeled lifestyle and wanted to know when I was ready to work on some “Crazy Eights” and ditch my “Turtle Neck.” I have to admit, I was intrigued (maybe somewhat frightened) and wanted to learn more.

We’ve all heard the old saying “use it or lose it.” Well, that’s the basis of our human muscular makeup. If we don’t use them, we are eventually going to lose use of them. Utilizing simple yoga poses and stretches regularly puts muscles and joints into positions that we don’t assume on a daily basis, therefore building flexibility and keeping our joints lubricated. This is especially important for our bodies to help decrease our chances of injuries…dramatically. Yoga can help lessen the impact of damage to our bodies due to an unfortunate mishap on the highway or even a simple stumble over a tent stake when returning from the Beer Garden at midnight.

Flexibility in muscles and joints equals better odds in unpredictable situations. Another added benefit of yoga, once you regularly apply good posture and stretching, is improvement of our digestive, immune, nervous, and lymphatic systems. With our insides being stimulated and our internal organs being massaged through yoga positions and stretching, our bodies are able to release toxins, which in turn keeps us overall healthier.

So, how in the world was I going to do Crazy Eights and lose my Turtle Neck? And how would I apply all of this to a day of riding? Through Beth’s expertise, we worked out a great yoga plan for not only a day in the saddle, but for my daily routine. And so I share some of these wholesome tips to my fellow riders…

ON THE DAILY

—Tadasana (pronounced: tah-DAW-sah-na; meaning “mountain pose”)


This pose is all about good posture. Practiced on the daily, Tadasana helps relieve stress, aches and pains, and strengthens core while helping your physique look taller, healthier and thinner. Stand with your feet straight and in-line with your hip bones, then tuck your tailbone in; drop your shoulders and open them up; keep your hands straight by your side with your fingers pointing to the ground; and make sure your neck is straight.

—Hip Release


This can be done using a flat, sturdy surface that is equal to your inseam: a table, the back of a couch, even the seat of your motorcycle. Once you’ve achieved your Tadasana (good posture position), slowly bring your bent leg onto the surface, relax, breathe, and feel the stretch in your hip. After you feel the release, switch legs and repeat steps.

—Shoulder Warm Up
Hands cup top of shoulders. With a neutral neck, extend the crown of your head to the sky. Use a full range of motion with your shoulders so your elbows make circles; go forward and then backwards.

WHILE RIDING

—Ban the Turtle Neck


Did you know that a human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds? A 15-degree tilt of your head equates to 27 pounds of pressure on your neck. At 30 degrees forward, the strain on the neck equals a 40-pound head. The greater the angle, the greater the strain. How much does your helmet weigh? Mine weighs just over three pounds, which adds greatly to the overall weight when my neck is tilted forward. Remedy? Retract your head to be aligned with your spine, with a neutral chin, and always try not to scrunch your shoulders. Ditch that ol’ turtle neck and you’d be amazed at how much better you’ll feel at the end of your ride.

—Belly Breath and Girdling


Use your front and back muscles to support your spine and then use a few deep belly breaths as resistance to massage these muscles and the spine. Breathe slowly in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth. This will also help with any anxiety or stress you may be carrying with you on the road. After a few of these “girdling” exercises, you may actually begin to enjoy the ride instead of worrying about that unfinished spreadsheet on your desk hundreds of miles away.

DURING REST STOPS

—Crazy Eights


A kid’s card game? Absolutely not! Think of a belly dancing move…put your hands on your hips, stand with good posture and slowly rotate your hips to form an “eight” pattern, then reverse, releasing the tightness that’s built up in your hips and lower back after hours in the saddle. Be sure to do this exercise gently, listening to your body and your limitations. (Think of the slow and concise rhythm of belly dancing music…and don’t be surprised if you’ve got onlookers at the rest stop!)

—Neck Release Stretch
In a sitting position with good posture, lean your head to the right as you gently pull down with your right hand. Hold for 5 breaths. Release and use your right hand to gently raise your head back to neutral position. Then repeat for the left side.

—Hand Stretch
Using one finger at a time with your palm facing the front of your bike, stretch each finger against the handlebar. Be sure to drop your shoulders and open your chest while doing finger stretches.

—Piston Wrists
Piston? Now we’re talking some motorcycle language! Clasp hands together in front of you, keeping forearms and elbows close to each other. Then much like the movement of the pistons in your engine, rotate your wrists around carefully and deeply (in figure eight patterns) to release the muscles and tendons that can get tense and tender throughout a long day of riding.

AT DAY’S END – INVERSIONS:
(Disclaimer: Like all things in life, inversions are not for everyone. Certain injuries and illnesses will not allow for these positions. Please check with your physician prior to giving these a try.)


Ah, the mighty inversion! Once you’re off the bike for the day, you’ve showered, eaten and are ready to relax – I’m thinking a great inversion will be just the remedy for a fantastic night’s sleep. Any yoga pose that puts your head below your heart is classified as an inversion. Inversions improve circulation and use gravity to provide the brain with more oxygen and blood. Inversions can increase your mental function and immune system, therefore curbing illnesses, and gives you temporary relief from the pull of gravity. They are also great mood enhancers…if your day in the saddle wasn’t quite enough!

—Downward Dog
Throw a towel (or yoga mat) on the floor of your hotel room, tent or grassy area outside and get on your hands and knees. Slowly raise up so that your buttocks are pointed towards the sky, legs and arms extended, feet and hands solidly pressed into the floor/ground, creating an “A” shape with your body. Breathe in and out allowing relaxation, gentle stretch and blood flow to the upper part of the body. Hold for 5 breaths.

—Bridge


On your towel (or mat) on the floor, lay on your back, bend both knees and place your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Slide your arms alongside your body with your palms facing down. Press your feet into the floor, inhale and lift your hips up, rolling your spine off the floor. Lightly squeeze your knees together to keep the knees hip width apart. Place a couple of pillows (or yoga blocks) under your hips to create a cushion, and relax keeping your feet firmly planted. Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths.

When you’ve completed your inversions, enjoy a couple of the stretches/poses that feel good for you before turning in for the night. Then, rise and repeat. Always be mindful of your posture, and never do a yoga stretch or position that causes pain. Yoga is meant to build your flexibility and core strength, therefore its purpose is to keep you more pain-free by the end of the ride…and in life. Practice much and you’ll reap amazing benefits. And hey, those Crazy Eights may stir some attention at rest stops, but I promise you’ll never regret leaving that turtle neck behind!

 💃🏻

Georgia On My Mind

Last weekend, I traveled to LaGrange, Georgia to spend the weekend with my two besties. Even though it wasn’t a “working” trip, I couldn’t resist stopping and nosing around some interesting locations.

I traveled approximately 450 miles that day and enjoyed just about every minute of the journey. The only crappy part was the last stop I made, which was way overdue, to hydrate, fuel up, grab a snack and charge my Scala Rider bluetooth unit which had shut off – meaning I had no tunes, and that isn’t a good thing for me. I was a little over 100 miles from my destination of LaGrange, Georgia, and found a gas station that had a Huddle House attached. Even though it was not my preference AT ALL, I knew I could get out of the heat, eat and charge my electronic. Well, it was downright gross…but all items on my checklist got accomplished. I saddled back up and smiled, knowing I would be to my destination in an hour and a half and surrounded by my soul sisters.

I arrived just in time for a delicious home-cooked meal and a bottle of my favorite Cab (Z. Alexander Brown, to be exact). Most importantly, I was with my tribe and happy to spend some downtime over the weekend. I also had an instant “boyfriend” for the weekend – this little dude, Cavan, would hardly leave my side and slept with me for a few hours every night.

 

The weekend was fantastic and full of heart-to-heart talks, shopping, eating, napping and a little time with this jewel of a human being – Miss Betty, my friend’s neighbor. She is 88 years old, a native of LaGrange, Georgia and has the most beautiful smiling eyes. Betty was quite the character and had me smiling immediately. She is a very unique poet and for years wrote poems to document her travels all over the world. Absolutely fascinating!

Miss Betty’s “Porch Rules”…

As the sun set on the last evening of my stay, I knew I would be returning the next morning feeling stronger and much happier. I spent some time planning my route home so I could do some peeping around the back roads of lovely Georgia.

After an early morning of coffee, packing up and goodbye hugs, I set off to explore…

FDR State Park…

Quaint, historic courthouses and monuments along the way…

  

And, then PLAINS, GEORGIA!!! Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President of the United States…

 

I stopped into the U.S. National Park Service Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, Plains High School, where both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter went to school.

   

It was in this very well-preserved historic building that I found evidence that Jimmy appreciated two-wheels, as well!

Next, it was a quick dip into Billy Carter’s Service Station where the media hung out during President Carter’s election.

And then it was time to explore the Carter Boyhood Farm and Home…

 

It was getting super hot, and the gnats were a tremendous harassment, so I suited back up and hit the road. After almost 70 miles, my gas tank was on fumes and I was dehydrated and hungry. I stopped at a nice, small truck stop, and after a peek at the mileage left of my journey, I realized I was going to have to take the fast route, which is absolutely NO FUN…but necessary.

After a hot, boring and at times scary jaunt on Interstate 16 and then Interstate 95, I got off on a familiar highway and enjoyed a much cooler and pleasant final leg of the journey (which included a last stop for fuel…and a cold treat!)

I glided into my homestead barely before dark and enjoyed an ice-cold libation while unpacking. After this 999 mile journey (round trip), my soul was smiling.

Twenty-four hours later, I had my nose buried back into the maps looking for my next adventure…stay tuned!!! 💃🏻

Check out my new MOTO-SHOP!

Be sure to click on the NEW menu item: MOTO-SHOP to see merchandise available for sale! Currently, I’ve got “Classy Can Coozies” for sale, but will have more IB Fashionista stuff available in the near future.

Your purchase of this merchandise will help support the adventures and anecdotes of my travels.

If you would like to support my endeavors on a larger scale and have your advertisement displayed prominently and permanently on my website, please email me at: debgasque@gmail.com.

I am so grateful to you all, and hope you enjoy the exciting adventures to come! 💃🏻

 

Edenton

logo-footer-circle

Inner Banks Inn

img_0059img_0068

103 East Albemarle St., Edenton, NC 27932; 252.482.3641

THIS!

I can tell you, with utmost certainty, that the Inner Banks Inn, a Select Registry property, is not to be missed. I’ve stayed at this property on two occasions, and will continue to visit throughout my travels around this area. The proprietor, Susan Beckwith, has turned several adjacent historic buildings, which comprise the Inner Banks Inn, into a glorious retreat, brimming full of Southern hospitality and style. The attention to detail, combined with gorgeous antiques and an air of relaxation, has taken this Select Registry property to a level that’s hit #1 on my list.

And they LOVE motorcyclists! The parking is very motorcycle friendly and safe.

The Inner Banks Inn is located within the historic district of Edenton, North Carolina, and has a fine dining, farm-to-table, restaurant on premises – The Table, serving breakfast, brunch (weekends) and dinner. Let me tell you – the food is over-the-top! Chef Ron has taken his award-winning expertise in the culinary world and cleverly combined it with the soulful lessons in his grandma’s kitchen as a kid. End result: a true Foodie’s destination! In fact, this restaurant consistently ranks in the top 1% of the +2600 restaurants in Trip Advisor’s North Carolina Coast Region.  AND…breakfast at The Table is included in your room rate! WIN!

The rooms at Inner Banks Inn maintain the utmost level in luxury and comfort, yet have the perfect touches of antique furnishings and detailed pieces that give this historic property such flair…all in distinct and classy taste. I’ve stayed in both Room One and Room Six, and both times my beds were divinely comfortable with luxurious linens which made my nights so dreamy. Each room has its own bathroom, finely stocked, and the surroundings in all rooms send off an aura of historic luxury.

So, I must ask…what’s not to LOVE?! A gorgeous, historic property, brimming with character; superb relaxation in luxurious rooms; fabulous dining on-site; within easy walking distance of historic Edenton…AND, motorcycle friendly! Why haven’t you booked yet?!

Click here to check it all out:

Inner Banks Inn

 

BMW Demo Day!

Where am I off to now?!?!

CLICK HERE! 😎

I recently took a trip to Motorcycles of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina, to test ride several of the newest BMW motorcycles on the market. Watch for the full story in the July 2017 issue of BMW Owners News Magazine! But, until then, here are a couple of “teasers”….

CLICK HERE! 😎

CLICK HERE! 😎💃🏻

Mountain Moxie 2017

The 2nd Annual Mountain Moxie women’s motorcycling conference was held May 5-7 at Little Switzerland, North Carolina, and what a fabulous weekend it was! I was thrilled to see some of my friends from last year, and enjoyed making new ones. This year, my friend and fellow BMW rider, Sibley Poland, met me in Rutherfordton, NC, the Thursday night prior to Mountain Moxie, and we had a great night in that quaint little town. We stayed at the historic Carrier House Bed and Breakfast and enjoyed a fun evening of Greek food, beverages and a startling visitation from the other side…you’ll have to ask about the ghost “tap” I received. Whoa!

Upon arrival to Little Switzerland, Sibley and I really enjoyed our accommodation choice at the La Petite Chalet, just a short walk from the Switzerland Inn where the events were taking place. The 2-bedroom chalet was gorgeous…inside and out! And after just a short walk up the hill, we were submerged into a fantastic world of women and motorcycles. Robin Dail and Beth Lavinder hosted a wonderful weekend that offered informative and inspiring seminars, on-site vendors offering an array of motorcycle-related products and services, social hours where we made several new friends, delicious food which was included in the conference fee, and just an all-around great time in a spectacular setting!

I highly recommend attending future Mountain Moxie gatherings! Check with Robin Dail’s site, Moto Girl Cafe, for information on future details: motogirlcafe.com. 💃🏻

Queen of DETOURS!!!

Early this May 2017, I took a solo trip to the North Carolina Mountains to attend the 2017 Mountain Moxie women’s motorcycling conference, and I couldn’t help but take a few detours to goof around…

DONKEYVILLE, SC

CLICK HERE! 😎

 

SOMEWHERE, SC

CLICK HERE! 😎

 

PEACHY KEEN!

CLICK HERE! 😎

From Cloudy to Sunny Old Florida

(Originally published in the April 2017 issue of BMW Owners News Magazine.)

This past winter, in particular, was very cloudy. Don’t get me wrong…our winter here in the Southeast, was extremely mild this year. But as far as my outlook, demeanor, thrive and jive – it was cloudy. With my bad case of wanderlust (okay, I admit – I’m a travel junkie), the few months of downtime just didn’t do my soul any justice. With one more month of winter hovering, attempting to suppress every bit of spunk I had left, I gathered all the strength I could muster and rose up in utter determination to be back to my happy place. The perfect remedy? ROAD TRIP! A quick glance at the national weather map turned my head South. And, there commenced the travel plans for Florida in February!

Ahhhhh, Florida. Some of the first visuals that come to mind: Daytona Beach, Key West, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami. I needed to look deeper and find off-the-beaten-path places that not only stirred my thrive and jive again, but also would be appreciated by my fellow two-wheeled travelers. Like a piercing ray of sunshine bursting through, I found the perfect destination – “Old Florida.” Long forgotten as a vacation destination, this region of the Sunshine State is gloriously full of rich historical treasures, bursting with flora and fauna, along quaint waterfront towns that have somehow survived the big shift in Florida tourism. In researching this northern Gulf coast area, I was hooked head-over-Fashionista heels! And when this beautiful synchronicity happens, I start packing my saddlebags!

With my route plugged into Google Maps on my ever-omniscient iPhone (“avoid highways” checked, of course), I set out solo on Superbowl Sunday and rode 400 miles to my “staging location” – Valdosta, Georgia. The first official stop on my journey to Old Florida was only 94 miles away, and I wanted to get a good night’s sleep after a long, chilly day in the saddle. That evening, I enjoyed watching the Superbowl from the pub in a really great chain hotel in Valdosta, while taking pre-travel notes. (Always utilize your BMW MOA benefits for discounts on chain hotels and B&B accommodations – I do!)

I awoke to brilliant sunny skies and knew this trip was the remedy my soul desperately needed. I departed mid-morning on Hwy. 221 S out of Valdosta and took a right onto Hwy. 146 (Ashville Highway). Gorgeous! The road swept through hilly, country roads with massive ancient oaks dripping in Spanish moss for as far as you could see. I suggest riding this stretch very casually so you can hear gentle “Old Florida” calling out and appreciate all of its glory. I approached the historic city of Monticello and enjoyed the ornate architecture of the stately courthouse that I circled during my navigation to Hwy. 19 S. After a mile or so, I turned right onto Waukeenah Highway. Wow! Another fantastic ride just seeping with Old Florida scenery. Next it was Hwy. 59, Hwy. 98, Hwy. 267, then a left into the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (let them know you are staying at the Lodge when entering, which will excuse your gate fee.)

WAKULLA SPRINGS, FLORIDA
Amidst the flora and fauna of the “Big Bend” region of northwestern Florida, lies a hidden little gem – Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, home of one the deepest and largest freshwater springs in the world, as well as a 6,000 acre wildlife sanctuary. In 1937, businessman Edward Ball purchased Wakulla Springs. Through the work of skilled artisans and craftsmen, he built an elegant 27-room Spanish-Moorish guest retreat (The Lodge at Wakulla Springs) using “heart” cypress wood, ornate iron work and imported Tennessee marble throughout the Lodge. Touted as North Florida’s castle, this was my destination for the evening. Upon arrival (easy parking for motorcycles), I knew I was victorious in my quest to discover Old Florida. The “Great Lobby” was a knockout with its checkerboard marble floors and staircase, antique furniture, massive fireplace, historic relics, Spanish-style light fixtures, and most impressively – the ceiling with hand-hewn cypress panels and beams which were decoratively painted depicting local wildlife scenes. If that wasn’t enough to overload my senses, the elevator (c.1937) did me in. The walls were made of walnut with inlays of various colored woods and is the “only known surviving period Art Deco elevator still in use.” It was so charming, with just a smidgen of creepy. I rode that elevator every chance I got!

My newly renovated room was fabulous (Room 28) and included the same gorgeous marble floors that adorned the lobby and dining hall. As soon as I unloaded the bike, I quickly Fashionista’d up and headed for the Edward Ball Dining Room for lunch (pricing for lunch and dinner is moderate, and breakfast is included in room rate). The decor was extremely reminiscent of the 30s and 40s, complete with music from that era playing in the background. Since it was a Monday in February, the lunch crowd was light, and most diners were dressed very casually (with the ambiance of the room, I wanted to put on my pearls and a lovely ballgown). I dined on specialties privy to the Lodge and area: Wakulla Oysters on the half shell, Navy Bean soup (original recipe of the Lodge) and a lovely salad. It was delicious and the perfect energy I needed for a full day of exploration.

Steps away from the back exit of the Lodge is the original tri-level diving platform for a swim into the famed Wakulla Springs. Also, the Florida State Park Service (which now owns the entire property) has a dock and visitors’ center offering boat rides throughout the springs/river area. The cost is $8 for an hour of sightseeing and is well worth it! A fun fact about Wakulla Springs – “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” was filmed on site, as well as a few of the Tarzan movies.

On my boat excursion, I viewed an abundance of native wildlife including a family of five Manatees (the winter is Manatee season in Florida’s warm rivers and springs). After docking back at the Lodge, I took some time to wander about and take in the serene surroundings. Prior to a lovely nap in my room, I visited the Lodge’s soda fountain for a peek at the world’s longest marble soda counter – an impressive 70 feet in length. Later that evening, I enjoyed a fantastic dinner in the dining room, and must recommend the “Wakulla’s Famous Old South Fried Chicken.” There are certainly many entrees on the menu that look enticing, but the reviews I read prior to my visit mostly raved about the fried chicken – and they weren’t lying!

Before it was time to nestle into my lovely bed, I was given a “behind-the-scenes” private tour by one of the many fabulous staff members at the Lodge. One of the highlights was peeping into the secret Bourbon vault that Edward Ball had built during Prohibition. During that “dry” period of Americana, he would invite trusted friends into the vault for an evening nip of the forbidden brown nectar. My kind of guy! From my arrival earlier that afternoon to the moment my head hit the pillow, I felt the “quiet elegance” of The Lodge at Wakulla Springs and knew I had begun my journey for forgotten Old Florida with the perfect place! (www.wakullaspringslodge.com; 850-421-2000)

I awoke the next morning to another bright day with not a cloud in the sky, and I thought of the song “Here Comes the Sun.” The smile had definitely returned to my face, and it was all right! I packed up and set out for my next destination…but first – a few fun detours. Heading south, back the way I came, I found St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Worth the $5 price of admission, the views were stunning with pristine nature and wildlife all around. The prize for a drive to the end of the refuge – St. Marks Lighthouse. Nice detour!

My next stop, after traveling south on Hwy. 98 (the main thoroughfare of the Big Bend) and taking a right onto Hwy. 51, was Steinhatchee – a sleepy little fishing village that’s known for its voracious scalloping season (June-September). Visitors are allowed to shallow dive for their legal limit of bay scallops during the season. Local restaurants in Steinhatchee serve up the delicious delicacies, as well as other native seafare. After a quick look around, I departed south on Hwy. 358 and connected back up with Hwy. 98 to make my last side trip of the day.

I crossed over the historic Suwanee River and took a right on Hwy 320. Destination: Manatee Springs State Park ($4 for motorcycle entry). The facility has fantastic parking and scenic boardwalk-type walkways that overlook the gorgeous Manatee Springs where you can view Manatees (in the winter season) and a plethora of other native wildlife. During my research, I read nice reviews about the park itself. But what really caught my eye was the onsite Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures (kayak/canoe/paddleboard rentals, and boat tours). It wasn’t the water calling my name, but their BBQ certainly was. These guys smoke the most amazing BBQ pork (and chicken) I’ve ever tasted – it’s cheap and freaking fantastic! I ordered the BBQ ribs and annihilated them in no time. With my belly full and ready to arrive at my final destination, I found my way back out of Manatee Springs State Park and took Hwy. 345 to Hwy. 24 westward to the Gulf.

CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA
The moment I crossed the breathtaking marshes and channels leading into laid-back Cedar Key, I knew I should have booked two nights here – at least. My accommodation for the night, Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast, was absolutely perfect with easy parking on the quiet street. The owner, Alice, is big on aesthetic detail, and it shows throughout this delightful property. I immediately felt welcomed and relaxed. My room was impeccable, but still maintained an antique charm, and I enjoyed a delicious bubble bath in the antique claw foot tub before departing for my evening of exploration.

Cedar Key, labeled “Las Islas Sabines” by a Spanish cartographer in 1542, is rumored to be the second oldest city in Florida. From the Paleo period to the Indian War, the Civil War to the present, this 1-square mile city (population of less than 800 people) is brimming with history and the soul of Old Florida. I enjoyed a short walk to the waterfront and then to 2nd Street where most of the shops in this tiny town are located. Low-key character truly bursts through the seams in this old-fashioned village full of art galleries, boutique shops, seafood restaurants, one market and one convenience/liquor store.

I dipped into the historic Island Hotel (c.1859) for a peek and to enjoy an evening libation in their “Neptune Bar.” It was there that I met a few locals, some of which were in the clam farming business. Contradictory to the ultra-casualness of this little town, Cedar Key began a multi-million dollar commercial clam farming industry in the 90s which is currently thriving off the charts, thus breathing life back into the village. (You can score “World Champion Clam Chowder” at Tony’s on 2nd Street.) It was also at the Neptune Bar that I ran into the “Three Amigos,” as I nicknamed them. They were longtime buddies from Gainesville, Florida who vacationed in Cedar Key most of their lives. We chatted more about this paradise on the Gulf over scrumptious, local peel-and-eat-shrimp at Big Deck Raw Bar. After a nice evening, I excused myself and slipped back to my dreamy B&B for some peaceful sleep.

I arose early the next morning, fresh and ready for the new day. Following coffee with my innkeeper, Alice, I stepped outside to breathe in the fresh salt air and spied a BMW motorcycle across the street with the rider standing near. Of course I walked over, and before I knew it, we were enjoying great fellowship and riding stories over coffee. I bid him farewell and placed an MOA membership form into his hands, as he hadn’t yet joined our ranks. Pulling away later that morning, I realized the dark clouds haunting my winter had dissipated. It was another sunny day and more of Old Florida to discover. (www.cedarkeybedandbreakfast.com; 352-543-9000)

That day, I had one important side trip – Crystal River. I followed Hwy. 24 out of Cedar Key and took a right on Hwy. 98. An hour later, I was peeling off my riding attire and squeezing into a wetsuit. I was there with a mission – to rub a Manatee belly. May sound strange, but it was a “bucket list” item.

Thanks to the fine efforts of my captain, Rick, and co-owner, Laura, of Fun 2 Dive, I came away that day fist pumping. Manatees can be very shy, and strict laws prohibit swimmers pursuing them. However, if a Manatee approaches on its own, you may gently give it a rub. I was blessed that day with a curious little guy who needed some attention. Quite exciting, I must say. (www.Fun2Dive.com; 352-228-2279)

MOUNT DORA, FLORIDA
I took a turn east and unchecked the “avoid highways” box to fast track to my last destination. After nearly two hours on the road, still a little damp from the Manatee adventure, I arrived at Farnsworth House Bed & Breakfast in historic Mount Dora. The innkeepers, knowing I was coming on a motorcycle, gave me a parking spot in their carport. (It’s the little things that make a stay so enjoyable.) I was still smiling, but relieved to grab a hot shower and relax. I was totally exhausted, so opted to walk the short distance to Jeremiah’s for dinner, a classic neighborhood restaurant and pub. I didn’t last long chatting with the locals and had my weary body tucked into my comfy bed in no time.

After a delicious breakfast prepared by the super-hospitable innkeepers, Kim and Soren, I set out to explore my last stop in Old Florida. Founded in 1880, the hilly area of Mount Dora rests on a plateau 184 feet above sea level and is situated on the banks of Lake Dora. It was a winter retreat for fishermen, boaters and hunters in the late 1800s, and then in the 1920s, experienced a boom with its residential and business development.

Today, Mount Dora is a mecca for art galleries, specialty boutiques, cafes, pubs and restaurants. I left my motorcycle parked at the B&B and enjoyed a fabulous day on foot perusing several sassy boutique shops; photographing historic buildings and landmarks; and spending quiet time down by Lake Dora near the Lakeside Inn. It was another gorgeous, sunny day, and my soul was soaring. (farnsworthhousebb.com; 352-409-0330)

As I sat by the lake that day and pondered my amazing journey that was drawing to an end, I had a distinct thought – Old Florida may have needed me just as much as I needed it. If you think about it, I was searching to rediscover my sunshine and, consequently, sunny Old Florida is searching to be rediscovered. 💃🏻

Copyright © 2014-2017. Created by Fashionista Iron Butt LLC.