There and Back Again: Amelia Island 2014

Date posted: 3/13/2014

Joe and Jim made a quick run down to Florida to see the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. This is the classic car show that is named after the classic Kawasaki motorcycle. Okay, maybe not that last part, but don't tell Olie.

We started the trip on Thursday with the best possible way to start a road trip: breakfast at Donn's. Then we headed to 71 and on to I-10 to start the long drone to Pensacola, our first night's stop. The ride was fine, as interstate droning goes...a little traffic going over the big bridge in Baton Rouge, a bit more traffic going through the tunnel in Mobile, but nothing too bad. The weather was clear and cold at the start, turned to cloudy and cold east of Houston, then started raining at about Baton Rouge.

So the last 250 miles was in cold rain. The heated gear was cranked up. Joe stayed dry except for his hands, because he wasn't wearing his rain gloves. Jim stayed dry except for his feet, because in his infinite wisdom he decided not to spend the extra money for the Gore-Tex lined boots. But as 4 hours in cold rain on an interstate goes, it was all good. Jim had cool "W" brands on the tops of his hands from the heating elements in his glove liners.

There's something really satisfying about being able to hop on your bikes and cover 700 miles in lousy weather and remain largely comfortable. We're very fortunate to have great bikes and great gear. We were making fun of all the Harleys on trailers headed down to Daytona for Bike Week. Then it occurred to us that they were probably making fun of the idiots on the BMW's riding in the cold rain while they sipped coffee in their nice dry and warm trucks!

Day 2 was an easy day, about 425 miles, from Pensacola to St. Simons Island, GA, where Joe's brother Jim A lives. The weather was still gray and cool, but no rain. That night we had a great dinner of crab cakes and flounder at a nice restaurant down by the ocean with Jim A and his fiancée Mandy.

Saturday, Day 3, was Cars and Coffee at the Concours, at the Ritz-Carlton resort on Amelia Island, FL. We had a short ride of about 70 miles down to the show. The weather was our reward for two days in the gray and cold - it was absolutely glorious. Mid-60's and not a cloud in the sky. A definite hat-and-sunscreen kind of day.

Cars and Coffee is pretty casual, sort of a "bring your own" car show. The cars ranged from interesting daily drivers, complete with half-full coffee cups in the console, to very rare vintage race cars, to very exotic modern sports cars. Joe's car would have been right at home, and would have shown very well in that company.

The highlight of the day was the Blitzen Benz. That's the car that held the speed record from 1909 until 1919. It's a four-cylinder Mercedes displacing...wait for it...21.5 liters. Yes, that's not a typo...5.375 liters per cylinder. (That three-decimal accuracy is to keep Joe happy.) They fired it up and people came running to see it from all over the grounds.

Sunday, Day 4, was the real deal...the Concours itself. We thought we had seen cool stuff on Saturday, but Sunday was absolutely mind-boggling. Something like 350 cars, many of them worth more than $1 million. The very first Shelby GT350 race car. The very last Cobra 427 made. Yacht-sized Duesenbergs, Bugattis, Packards, and Mercedes. Ferrari Daytonas and 275's. A 1958 BMW 507 Series II Roadster that sold for $2.42 million at the auction on Saturday night. Wayne Carini, Jochen Mass, and Peter Brock were there. They had something like 100 judges for all of the classes.

At some point you just reach saturation. It would have been easy to spend days there if you really examined every car and talked to their owners.

Here's a link to all of our pictures from Amelia Island.

Monday, Day 5, time to head for home. Rather than put in a long day, we decided to head to Pensacola and visit the Naval Air Museum. We got there about 2:00 and spent a couple of hours looking at the planes. It's a really cool place, many beautifully-presented planes from the very old to the very current. We didn't get to do the bus tour out to the flight line, as the last tour was already full by the time we arrived. So maybe next time on that.

Here are our pics from the museum.

After the museum, we rode on to the east side of Mobile so we could get past any morning rush hour traffic on the final day. There was a wreck on the eastbound side of the interstate coming out of the tunnel that had traffic backed up for miles. Among the cars were three AMA racing team trailers heading for Daytona.

Tuesday, Day 5, was time to head for home. The weather reports were pretty dire, and the message was clear...get on the road early and make some miles fast. It was dry when we started, but we knew we were going to hit the rain later. We made full use of onboard weather radar via the Garmin Smartphone Link that is built into the new Navigator V GPS. It lets you overlay a weather radar animation on top of the map showing your route. We saw that there was a heavy batch of rain coming up from the gulf headed right across Lake Ponchartrain. The weather guys were using words like "torrential" on the forecasts. We decided that if we made great time we might be able to get past it before it came across I-12. So we put the hammer down for about an hour, got lucky with no LEO problems, and just made it past the storm. We figured we cleared the rain by about 10-15 minutes. Without the radar display, we almost certainly would have been caught right in the middle of the heaviest rain.

We couldn't escape all of the rain, and finally had to punch through about 50-60 miles of it between Lafayette and Lake Charles. It was pretty heavy at times. It was really nice to be able to watch the radar and know how we were progressing through the band, and know that we just had a few more minutes to go and that we'd be clear the rest of the way after that. Sure enough, just before Lake Charles the rain stopped, and by Orange we were seeing patches of blue sky. By Beaumont we had clear skies the rest of the way home. We sailed through Houston making full use of the HOV lane, and headed back up 71 to home.

We were struck by how green things were looking along 71, and then spotted several patches of Indian paintbrush, and one patch of bluebonnets! It was almost as if spring had sprung during the five days we had been gone.

We hit the Austin area around 5:00, took 130 to circumvent the worst of the traffic, and arrived home in the 5:30 range.


  • it's nice to have safe bikes and quality gear if you're travelling on a motorcycle
  • even slugging it out on the interstate is better on two wheels than on four
  • add weather radar to ABS, traction control, and heated gear to the road trip essentials for bad weather
  • we don't have nearly enough money to hang with the Amelia Island crowd, but for $60 they'll let you watch
  • we have to start planning a trip to Pebble Beach right away

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