Face Full of America – Grand Finale

New Orleans Jazz Fest w Foo Fighters

The “Face Full of America” Tour, my (over) 30 day Easy Rider experience, riding my Harley along the I-10 from sea to shining sea, comes to it’s second conclusion this weekend. The first was to culminate in the celebration of my pop’s 80th b-day (POP 80) on April 30, 2012, which doubled as a family reunion. I’ve been living on the west coast for the past god-knows-how-long, and the rest of the family scattered back east, so it was good for us to get together.

nick sharpe on his harley davidson motorcycle in front of marker  that reads 6350 feet elevation

To the toppermost – highest point of the Blue Ridge Skyway

Somehow, the FFA tour gets extended, like this week’s North Carolina adventure. Asheville, N.C. is a relatively short putt from Atlanta thru the foothills of the Appalachians (aka North Georgia mountains). On the way, I took a ride on the Blue Ridge Skyway, a road I haven’t been on since we were kids on a family vacation. Turns out I had some old friends in the area and managed to locate David Dietrich, and ol’ school chum, living in what could only be described as a “Floridian’s Dream”, in the mountain and meadow country some 50 miles south of downtown Asheville.

Downtown Asheville turns out to be an oasis of artsy, modern liberalism surrounded by the community of those who “cling to their guns and religion”. It had bits of the Haight, Telegraph Road and Melrose, a sort-of mini Austin, with shops and restaurants that cater to the young and trendy with a hippie vibe ( I know… I couldn’t figure it out either!).

Bottom line – hot babes, cool town. Go.

The Grand Finale

First off, a big thanks to my old friends and family who helped make this ride possible – Val and Jane in Tuscon, Mike Knox in Miami, my cousins in central Florida and my family in Atlanta for lettin me crash at their pads, saving on motel bills and extending the adventure time!

backstage withe Rami Jaffee playin keys with Dave Grohl and the FooFighters at Jazz Fest May 6 2012

Rami Jaffee playin keys with Dave Grohl and the FooFighters backstage at Jazz Fest May 6 2012


Now we come full circle – thanks to fellow musician and Harley ridin bud in Malibu, Rami Jaffee, for letting me crash at his place the day before takeoff. Now at the end (?) of this adventure, I’ll meet up with him at the New Orleans Jazz Fest for his show with the Foo Fighters (yeah, I know… “Jazz”?) This will indeed be a grand finale to a fantastic experience that I could only touch on briefly in this blog. Sometimes I wish I could download my thoughts as I saw, felt and smelt the wonders of roads less traveled. Like I tell everybody, I dont have “plans”, I have “targets”. And they do move!

The fork is still in the road.
L.A.?
Or South Florida on the beach somewhere????

Let’s see what happens next!

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Fork In The Road

FFA POP80 – Extension

Happy 8-oh! to my dad 04/30/12
Face Full of America Tour: the story so far –

After luxuriating in the warm waters of Miami and the keys, I took off Friday 4/20 morning up 27 with memories of scary 2 lane and insane 18 wheelers passing ma ‘n’ pa Kettle in the pouring rain. I regret to report that kind of excitement has been replaced with interstate width 4 lane, and hardly any traffic from just outside Miami all the way to Okeechobee.
The excitement came when I got to “thunder alley” in central Fla approaching Ocala. I have really good rain gear, but no lightning suit, so I had to park at one of my branch offices, a Denny’s w free wifi.

Florida thunder storm

I have rain gear but no lightning gear

The rain came down so hard you could barely see out the window!
I made it to Ocala safe and sound to my cousin Kathy’s lovely home (built by her husband Bobby Picard, another Bird Road Baby Boomer) by early evening and was greeted by long lost cousins and their beautiful kids (all girls. the pendulum has really swung!). Thanks to Kathy and Bobby and cousin Jim for letting me crash a few days.That gave me time to experience what this trip was all about – to reconnect with friends and family I grew up with but haven’t seen in decades!
I got to see all the sights and for me that was the Garlit’s Drag Racing Museum and the All Harley drags at Gainesville, home of NHRA Winter Nationals, with my cousin Jimmy. A big surprise was my cousin Eric’s collection of iron head sporty parts, enough to build 10 vintage Sportsters! If you knew about my blue sporty chopper, then you can imagine how I felt, being in a virtual Harley Davidson Sportster museum! Aside from restoring vintage Harley Davidson Sportsters, Eric is also an underwater cartographer, an extension of his extreme diving in the underwater caves of Florida, the Gulf, the Caribbean and more.

Rode about 400 miles to my mom and dad’s house in Atlanta on the following Wednesday, then found a Microtel in Woodstock, Ga. where I could rest up and get some web design work done. Georgia is very woodsy in a way that hides the population density of the Atlanta suburbs (and exurbs!).

decouto family all seven- Jean, Tony, Mark, Matthew, John, David Luke and Lisa

The DeCouto family Apr 28 2012 from left - Me (aka Mark), Matthew, Lisa, Dad (Tony), Mom (Jean), John and David Luke

Last Saturday 4/28, the whole fam damily got together for dad’s 80th birthday. It was a great lil family reunion with all my younger brothers and sis (the youngest)Β  in one spot.

Now, Tuesday May 1, 2012, with the “Face Full of America” tour #2 officially complete, I find myself atΒ  a Days Inn somewhere between Asheville and Hickory in North Carolina. I just had to take a blast through the Appalachian foothills of North Georgia to the Blue Ridge Skyway in the Smokey Mountains while I’m here in the eastern US. It’s like the East’s Crest ride, only greener. A lot greener! (my allergies are really going off)

nick on harley at peak of Blue Ridge Parkway elevation 6300 feet

to the toppermost

Now I see why they call it Blue Ridge – the green mountains of the east look blue in the distance, whereas the rocky mountains of the west have purple majesty. The views are still breathtaking nonetheless, and I wish I had pro photo gear to shoot pics that would more accurately convey what I am seeing (better than the iPhone 3 GS). The east is beautiful, but the west is awesome!

Like Yogi Beara sez, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

I am on I-40 at the end of this little extension of my FFA tour – do I go south and find my affordable Florida beach shack? Or go west on the I-40 back to LA?

There’s the attraction of cool, dry air in the mountains of California, but damn, I so miss the bathwater warm ocean beach…

to be continued…

 

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Poppin Wheelies Down Memory Lane

FFA Miami

That’s “Face Full of America” for those just tuning in πŸ™‚ – After a leisurely 7 day crawl down A1A (Florida’s “PCH”), I finally got to Miami last Saturday late afternoon. That “crawl” was primarily in search of old funky Florida, which, it appears was either blown away by hurricanes or washed away by a tidal wave of big development bucks. It’s ironic that the less populated areas to the north were the victims of those calamities, but funny how Deerfield, Pompano and North Ft Lauderdale retained semblance to the groovy and affordable.
The more things change…
After an obligatory stop at Mango’s in South Miami Beach (SoBe to u hipsters) I crossed the McArthur causeway (the one by the cruise ships) into downtown Miami, then south to Coconut Grove, past Mercy Hospital from whence I came.

I said "I'm just goin' to check out LA for a couple weeks" - back in1980

Going down Bayshore Drive, I stopped to see the house that I left May ’80 when I drove cross country to Cali.Β  In the photo, you’ll see my area was upstairs with a rooftop party scene.
It has since been remodeled but not as drastically as other houses Ive seen here. We had 20′ hedge around the property that included a side yard. Very private and clothing optional. This was right before you crossed the bridge to Grove Isle, four 30 story condo towers that were developed on a deserted isle.

I took this shot sitting on the seawall. The clouds come at will around here. That explains the insane GREEN!

View of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from the seawall on Bayshore Lane

I was watching an episode of the cable show “Burn Notice:” that opened with a scene at the lighthouse on Cape Florida. That one viewing was enough to send me over the edge and finally commit to riding back and check out old stomping grounds.

cape florida lighthouse

old light house we use to climb as kids in the 60s and 70s before they restored it


If you’ve been hanging around me for a while, you’ve prolly heard me say “the only thing i miss about Florida is the warm water”. This spot of beach on Cape Florida didnt dissapoint. the ocean was bath water warm and something I sorely needed.

That said, the sun was so hot, it was gonna rip my face off. And this is just April. Not gonna wait around til summer.
As much as I love the color of the sky and the bright sun, I remembered you really needed the shade of Coconut Grove to survive Miami. Otherwise, you come from an air conditioned house, jump into an air conditioned car to an air conditioned office or store… there’s simply no other way around it, unless you’re on or near the water or in the wind. No wonder Florida red staters say “Nuke their ass and take the gas”. They’d never survive otherwise.

Next stop – Key West. Then go from the fryin pan into the fire, up to central FL before getting to Marietta, GA for pop’s 80th b-day bash.

Stay tooned πŸ™‚

She LikesTo Go

Why guys refer to objects in the feminine, I’ll never know. But I gotta tell ya, she loves to go. Fast.
Like a sailor talks about his boat, my baby just wants to go. “My Baby” is a red 2004 Harley Davidson FXSTi softail custom – 88 cubic inches of fuel injected go-fast.

115mph Fully Loaded

Without breakin’ a sweat. Hit the entrance ramp and just turn up the wick. Like a Marshall stack on 11, 115 comes easy. Then when I settle into a mellow 80 mph in the right lane, everybody blows by me like I’m grandma on a Sunday drive.
It appears I’m not the only one who likes to go 100 mph daily.

Arizona

When you cross the colorado river, the mountains take on a whole new character. Much more rugged and jagged, with buttes and mesas. And the cactus! Just like on TV. It’s been 20 years since I’ve been down this stretch of road.

Nice ride.
Day 1

We Have Lift-Off -(No Foolin)’

g’mornin – sun’s up, clear and c-o-l-d! I’ve got thermals on f’rcrissake! Hopefully they will be off by Coachella.
Now begins the cross country ride on my Harley. NWS sez dust storms today.Lots of desert ridng ahead. Pics of St Monica when i get to to her. She’s the west end of I-10.
Tonite, Tucson with Val and Jane and friends. Last time I did this there was no internet as we know it. Prolly post to Facebook from iPhone 3GS as AT&T allows. May swap out for a 4S just for the camera.
Stay Tooned!

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Face Full of America

Fixin to saddle up and ride the I-10 from sea to shining sea. Looking at the Google map, Texas is half the trip! Here’s what’s up (from Facebook Post)-

“Face Full of America Tour 2012″ – gonna be smellin’ the Gainesville green around mid April doin my easy rider thang, rollin the 10 from sea to shining sea on my ’04 Harley Davidson fxsti softail custom, leaving April 1st (ish) from Santa Monica, CA to Jacksonville FL, down to Miami, then wind around FL to see y’all on my way to pop’s 80th in ATL. After that, maybe Nashville, maybe Amsterdam…”

from sea to shining sea sea on my harley

white picket fence and the means to escape

T-minus 2 weeks and counting ’til liftoff.
From the Pacific to the Atlantic in about 2 weeks (depending) with stops in Tuscon, Austin, Dallas, New Orleans, and Pensacola. If you are family, friend or kind soul on this route, let me hear from ya! I’ll be coming in on a wing and a prayer, so a place to crash for the night would be really cool πŸ™‚
Follow this blog for daily posts and travel vicariously with me on this amazing journey. Sign up for email updates and register to comment (trying to keep the comment spam to a minimum).
There’s nothing like a Face full of America πŸ™‚

cheers
nick

ps to all my clients – dont worry, I will still be working! As long as there is wifi, then progress will be made. Gotta luv PayPal and the information superhighway.

REGARDING email sign up to get notification of new posts along the way, please go to homepage an find the email sign up form on the upper right. Hopefully I’ll figger how to get the sign ups for each post. thx πŸ™‚

Handicap Placard Abuse – the Movie

 

Just when you think we’re almost civilized, I couldn’t help but notice that my street, in the lower east side of Beverley Hills, aka Carthay Circle, seems to be a parking lot for the disabled. It’s a quiet, tree lined street situated behind the office towers on Wilshire Boulevard. Because of the proximity to these office buildings, there is “permit parking” for residents (and their guests) only from 8am to 6pm. That’s primarily so the residents of these vintage, upper middle class single family homes and their guest(s) can park. Otherwise, we’d be overrun by people who would rather not pay the parking fees in the more than ample parking structures and adjacent lots.

permit parking sign and handicap placard abuser

Handicap Placard Abuse

Why a disabled person would want to park a block away is subject to speculation. Parking so far away when there are handicap spots right outside the door of their destination (by law)Β  is an indication of “handicap placard abuse”. The problem is, not enough manpower to enforce the laws regarding the the privilege afforded those who genuinely need the access.

Most of these abusers appear to be office workers, because these vehicles park all day in spite of of the permit parking signs.

cars with foreign consulate plates abusing restricted street parking

How cheap can you get?

And don’t get me goin on the consulate tags. Are these foreign entities so cheap they cant afford parking for their intelligence agents? (you should see these guys! Every spy a prince!)