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The ride: Nashville to Fort Walton Beach and back. Three days, 900+ miles.

Most used farkle: eBay throttle lock.
Most appreciated farkle: my SWM Crash Bars. I tested them in a parking lot. Oops.
Most appreciated gear: disk lock and chain.
Gear I used that I thought I wouldn’t: our SENA coms. I had my phone loaded up with podcasts; I thought we’d only use the rider coms occasionally; we ended up keeping them on most of the ride. Even if 20 minutes went by in silence, it was great to be able to quickly give a warning or just comment on something interesting. Made the ride so much more enjoyable. Didn’t listen to a single podcast!
Gear I didn’t use I thought I would: the bike cover.
Things I’ll do before another long ride: Lower the pegs. Hopefully upgrade the seat. Get an Atlas Throttle Lock. I’ll also take more photos; I wish I had more of this trip.

Photos at the bottom of the post!


This was my first long trip, and my friend’s as well. We took lots of breaks and were not concerned with setting any land speed records. So what was a 7 hour trip on Google Maps ended up being closer to 12. That included an hour for lunch, 45 minutes in Selma, gas stops, stretch breaks, and a few miscellaneous stops.

DAY ONE
Left early Sunday am from Columbia TN. A Versys and a Ninja 250. The destination was Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We jumped onto I-65 and headed south for a chilly ride, waiting for the sun to climb and warm the air.

Stopped twice early to get his gear sorted; he had never done a long trip and the 250 isn’t really set up for luggage. A few strap adjustments and we were good.

Stopped again; his bike died. Well, in hindsight it didn’t, he was adjusting his throttle lock and accidentally hit the killswitch hahaha. At this point I’ll mention that he is a far better rider than I am, with at least twice the miles under his boots. I’m glad he came as I learned a lot just in the riding time.

Traffic was light until we reached Birmingham, then it was a bit thick; certainly more than I thought it would be on a Sunday. We made it in one piece for an early lunch at a taco truck I’ve been wanting to try, Los Valadores. Really good!!! Removed some layers and changed gloves as the sun was now in full effect.

Another 30 minutes or so and we left the slab for backroads down to Selma. We stopped downtown, crossed the bridge, and spent some time at the memorial. Neither of us had been before and it was a good stop.

From Selma we continued on back roads to Greenville, Alabama. The Selma to Greenville portion was a great ride: tree-lined roads, swampland and backroads through farms and cotton fields. The weather was perfect, the bikes were running smoothly, and all was well in life.

One interesting sight: in one of the fields, we happened to see a helicopter, blades spinning, sitting on the bed of a dump truck. It sat for a bit then flew off. That was interesting…

Hopped back onto 65 for a quick hop down to Georgiana where we hit backroads again down to Andalusia. We took exit 114; there was a BBQ take-out there that smelled amazing. The sun was sinking fast so we checked in with families and skipped the BBQ.

By the time we hit Conecuh National Forest, the road was dark. I’m not a fan of forest riding at night as the deer are usually moving, but we had little choice. From there we hit Blackwater River State Forest, crossed I-10 and headed into Fort Walton Beach.

These last two hours were the most difficult, only because of the cold. As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, the air was robbed of any warmth. We had both assumed we would be done by that time so we didn’t bring clear visors. Visor up in the cold night isn’t fun but there are worse things.

At one point we passed what I think was a black bear on the side of the road! We were just into the Fort Walton area, right around where the road crosses Highway10. Such a strange thing to see near the beach but I’m fairly sure that’s what it was. Oddly enough we saw a “bear crossing” sign on the return trip in the same general area.

Checked in to a hotel that backed up to Santa Rosa Sound and went to find some dinner; it was late and we were tired, which is probably why I dropped the V while parking at the restaurant. Slow left hand turn at walking speed. I guess I grabbed too much brake. I tried to catch it but knew quickly that was a battle I would lose, so I let it fall and jumped clear. All was well, my hand guards and SWM bars did their job, and the V suffered no damage. My right hand guard is a bit bent; I removed it so it wouldn’t interfere with the brake on the ride home but it will be easy to put back into service.

Back at the hotel, I used a disk lock and also chained the bikes together. This would only slow a determined thief but fortunately we found a space within view of the room so we could be with the bikes quickly if need be.

What an incredible riding day! The back roads in particular were amazing; it was easily the most enjoyable ride I’ve done.

DAY TWO
Bikes were fine. We both felt great, even my friend after 12 hours on a Ninja 250! Frequent breaks and a relaxed pace made a huge difference.

Grabbed a few snacks and water, then some breakfast at a food truck spot and then crossed the bridge over to Miramar beach as my friend was familiar with the area.

Really enjoyed the various bridge crossings; never done that on a bike before!

We parked at Pompano Joe’s and spent most of the day sitting on the beach doing absolutely nothing, which was the goal.

I packed sunscreen but neglected to use it. Big mistake.

Had a great dinner and rode back to the hotel. Packed up for the next morning and hit the hay.

DAY THREE
Left early. Grabbed a quick breakfast at another food truck (can you see the theme here?…) and hit the road. Rode by the Air Force Armament Museum, which is amazing. It’s closed but you can still walk around the static displays outside.

The ride home was basically the reverse of the ride down, without as many stops. By now we had a good pace going as far as gas breaks, stretches etc and we made much better time. We did stop for a final coffee break in Birmingham, at a great shop called Seeds Coffee. We found a Street Triple and a Himalayan parked in front of the shop, so our combo of Versys and Ninja 250 fit in quite well.

At our final gas stop, my bike took a while to start, but after a minute or so we were back on the road. I think I have a solenoid that is failing.

Just like the trip down, it was a 7 hour journey as far as Google Maps was concerned but we stretched it to 11 or so. That made it easy.

What an amazing few days! I’m already looking for a time to do that ride again. The combination of riding and relaxing at the beach is hard to beat. I’ll wear sunscreen next time because… well I’m feeling it today. As stated earlier, I never thought we would use and appreciate the coms feature on the SENA headsets as much as we did but it was a game changer.

If someone would have asked me to go on a 12-hour ride previously, I would have wondered about it. Now I know… it’s no big deal and I'm already planning the spring 2021 beach run!








First (planned) stop: Birmingham.



Selma, right around the corner from the bridge.



The bridge.



The memorial on the south side of the bridge.



The V packed for the beach. Yes, that's an umbrella strapped to the side:)



Breakfast stop. I love finding great food truck spots in a new city. This spot was right by the bridge in Fort Walton Beach.



Sunset; Miramar Beach. Awesome!



After the long ride. And the parking lot nap... notice the removed front handguard on my V.



Seed Coffee in Birmingham. Nice spot.



Two Kawasakis at the USPS in Sardis, Alabama.



The V at a random stop somewhere in Alabama, after crossing the 30,000 mile mark on the odometer. Just broken in!



Forest, farmland and wild burgers.



Sheepskin was a good thing on this trip. As was my Pilot Motorsports mesh jacket. Such a great jacket.



The 250. It is a 2007 and it didn't miss a beat. We synced the carbs the day before the trip and it was running really well. He crossed the 18,000 mile mark on his bike this trip.
 

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Loved reading this, you describe it well and great pics. Cant wait to take trip like this
I have to DOUBLE what "super10wally" wrote.

KEEP it up (ridin' and writin'...)!

:cool:
 

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Once you have one or more 'long' rides under your belt, they seem to be easier to plan and execute. Your future adventures will be walks in the park.

One curious question - why was the disk lock and chain appreciated? On our trips here out west, we were never worried about theft or loss. did something happen on your trip, or maybe because your route and destination was more heavily populated than what we have in colorado and surrounding areas?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Once you have one or more 'long' rides under your belt, they seem to be easier to plan and execute. Your future adventures will be walks in the park.

One curious question - why was the disk lock and chain appreciated? On our trips here out west, we were never worried about theft or loss. did something happen on your trip, or maybe because your route and destination was more heavily populated than what we have in colorado and surrounding areas?
We were staying at a place that seemed a bit on the shady side... Maybe it is just a placebo but I felt better knowing there was at least a small deterrent to theft.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Nice write up.

I have been to the Fort Walton Beach area for work, by motorcycle, at least 100 times. I could have provided you with a nice two lane twisty roads route there and back.
I'm sure there are some fantastic routes, send them on! The back roads we were able to take were great; time was the determining factor in not taking all back roads.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Also props to my friend for most of the great photos... I need to step up my own photo game!
 
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