SAVANNAH, Ga. — We’ve traveled some great coastal roads and waterways since my post on Friday, when we thundered out of downtown Sarasota to start Hull of a Tour² The Freedom Ride.
After waiting so long for the big day to finally dawn, I find myself now wishing I could slow things down and live more in every waking moment. Hard to believe we’re three days down and a third of the way through the tour. Like they say, time flies when you’re having fun — and our pack is having so much fun!
Although we cruised out of town in ideal chamber of commerce conditions with a local TV cameraman catching the roar of our sweet machines, we experienced a totally different sound of thunder several hours later as we throttled upstate. Rain flirted and finally smacked us in the rump with a famous Florida gully washer.
Ever seen a bunch of bikers on the side of the road trying to dig out their rain gear or pull up their rain pants? If that’s not bad enough, the worst is riding in the rain and feeling that inevitable trickle begin to slip down the inside of your boots, eventually cascading, pooling and puddling around your feet. Yuck! No real complaints, though, as we only had to ride wet for about 20 minutes before returning to the sun god’s good graces. And the good news: It’s been sunny ever since!
After about 6-1/2 hours from launch, we rolled together into St. Augustine, Fla., in perfect staggered formation, no worse for the rain, and right through the historic district en route to our hotel. Dinner was at the popular Gypsy Cab Company. Twenty of us piled into a private dining room, where we renewed old friendships with loads of laughter while toasting new ones.
Saturday was nothing short of spectacular!
We met our hostess, Lisa “The Boatanista” Almeida, owner of Freedom Boat Club-St. Augustine, at Camachee Cove Marina, at 10:30 am. Lisa had arranged for the group to enjoy a scenic boat ride to downtown St. Augustine aboard her own Monterey express cruiser and a Hurricane SunDeck, the Freedom fleet favorite. Our crew split up and enjoyed a leisurely morning cruise.
When we arrived in the historic downtown area, Lisa escorted us on a walking tour to her alma mater, Flagler College, the site of the former historic Ponce de Leon Hotel, which is undergoing major renovations. We dined like kings in the exclusive Presidential Dining Room, then enjoyed a personal tour of the solarium, with its amazing collection of Tiffany art. Lisa finagled a private viewing of the rotunda and upper rooms, the latter of which contain a wealth of Flagler family art and memorabilia.
After a second boat excursion back to Camachee Cove, we thanked our charming hostess-with-the-mostess and her amiable fiancée for a memorable outing. We then revved it up for a four-hour ride to Savannah, Ga., along winding, sun-washed coastal roads and highways.
We arrived just in time for a wonderful sunset dinner in Savannah at the beautiful Bahia Bleu Marina, part of Morningstar Marinas. Located in Thunderbolt, Ga., and directly on the Intracoastal Waterway, this first-rate facility is within a bird’s-eye view of the former Palmer Johnson refit and custom yacht-building facility.
Talk about Southern hospitality! Our hosts, Brian and Tom McCarthy and Steve Sherman of Freedom Boat Club-Savannah, and the entire McCarthy clan, including wife Gai, son Brian, daughters-in-law and a mix of adorable grandkids, welcomed our bikers and treated us to a lovely spread at the marina’s private screened waterfront patio. We also had the opportunity to meet the very warm and friendly general manager, Ron Thomas, who graciously opened the marina facilities for our party.
After enjoying bite-size portions of some delicious desserts hand-passed by the McCarthy grandkids, we thanked our generous hosts and hit the road. We shifted into gear and made a beeline to the hotel to wash off the road grime, made a quick change and then cabbed it to the popular Savannah riverfront. We strolled down cobbled streets, listened to live music and street performers, and just relaxed for a few hours. Some partook of stronger libations, while my hubby, Ken, and I opted for a sugar high — southern pralines, oh my!
On Sunday morning, kickstands were up at 9 a.m. It was another flawless, perfect ride past endless dazzling, natural sights. My favorite has to be the salt marshes that dot the landscape here, just like out of a Pat Conroy novel. My senses were assaulted on multiple fronts by the breathtaking flora, pungent aromas, perceptible temperature shifts (only bikers get this) — just the whole glorious palette that unfolded beneath my wheels.
I’ll share our adventures in Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday, along with today’s planned route, which takes us through Myrtle Beach, S.C., for lunch with Freedom Boat Club’s Karen Berry, and then into Morehead City and Beaufort, N.C., where a few more riders will hook up with us there.
So far, the Hull of a Tour² The Freedom Ride is living up to its name. On sea or on land, us boaters and bikers are living the dream — at least for six more days!