103 Cubic Inches Thundering Along Florida’s “First Coast”

Enough!  Enough rain and wind and lightning!  Our Harley Electra-Glide had been calling for weeks, but business travel, family visits, and rain made our trips far too rare.  This Monday was different – the sun dancing on the surf and the promise of no rain, except the normal Florida afternoon thunderstorms, were all that was needed to ignite the Harley’s roar!

Where to go?  The weather map directed Karen, my wife of 50 years, and me toward St. Augustine – America’s oldest European settlement founded by the Spanish in 1565.  Leaving our home in Amelia Island, the Island of Eight Flags, on First Coast Highway A1A provided a seaside ride filled with both beauty and history.   We passed the Talbot Island State Parks, Kingsley Plantation, the Mayport Naval Station and Jacksonville Beach before joining the Pointe Vedra Boulevard into St. Augustine a couple of hours later.

The ride was delightful.  A canopy of Live Oaks with their Spanish Moss trim alternated with views of the ocean, St John’s River and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The weather was perfect – low 70’s with the smell of salt.  The easterly sea breezes held the thunder storm to the west, creating a drama of white puffy clouds to the east and an unexpected thunderstorm raging not far to the west.

Yes, it was a perfect Harley day.  This is our fifth Harley, now nearly three years old.  Even in stock form, it’s handling, braking and ride were better than that of the 2008 Fatboy it replaced. No matter the brand or model, a motorcycle connects the beauty of nature with our free spirit.

Like most Harley gearheads, we had liberally modified the bike for greater performance, comfort and glamor.  The stage 1 engine modifications provide a full 90 horsepower at the rear tire and over 100 ft-lb of torque between 2,700 and 4,500 rpm – more than enough for easy cruising without the worry of passing on steep hills.  The Rinehart Racing exhaust provides an authoritative bark to match the bite. Comfort modifications include backrests, highway pegs and adjustable passenger foot pegs.  Additional lights and plenty of chrome increase its visibility to others, a key safety factor.

We were hosted by the elegant Casa Monica Hotel, one of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, built in 1887.  This elegant Hotel welcomes motorcycles allowing us to park inside – protected from the weather while our credit card points paid the tab.  It’s location is perfect next to the Lightner Museum, Flagler College and the historic old town with its collection of quaint shops housed in buildings from the early Spanish era.

On this trip we also enjoyed Castillo de San Marcos National Monument – the oldest masonry fort in the United States.  It’s construction was started in 1672 by the Spanish and was later occupied by the British, the United States and briefly by Confederate forces before returning to the Union in 1862.  The fort is unique in its four point star design and soft, shell based limestone “coquina” construction. The view of cannon overlooking the harbor and  thunder of the approaching storm and a pack of passing Harleys combined to create a sense of drama like a battle of old.

As we returned home crossing the Bonaparte Bridge – Jacksonville’s skyline glistened to the west as a classic, blue hulled freighter left the port to our east.   The Harley’s 103 engine roared with authority as we soared over the 175’ high bridge – the only real hill on the entire trip.

We retuned to Amelia Island’s downtown Fernandina where we enjoyed hand-dipped ice cream while watching the tourists meander through our historic city.  The break in the weather provided the opportunity, but it was the Electra Glide that combined the joy of God’s creation with the richness of our state’s history that created a meaningful memory. Another perfect Harley  trip!

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Psalm 18:2 – ESV

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