I, like many riders, have long believed that if I’m going to ride somewhere, I’m going to ride all the way there and back. No trailer, no flying there and picking up my bike. That’s cheating. Then, a couple of years ago, I broke my own rules.
I’d been floating from contract to contract gig for a few years, and in January 2014 I finally landed myself a full time job that paid me well. To celebrate – and because I wouldn’t have any time off for motorcycle trips for quite some time – I decided to take a week off between jobs and go someplace warm, because winter sucks. I also decided that someplace warm should involve a motorcycle, because as a New Englander who doesn’t deal well with cold, riding in January is a novel idea. I discovered EagleRider, who rents motorcycles the same way Enterprise rents cars. They have locations all over the country and the world. A combination of factors such as airline ticket prices, EagleRider locations, and the very specific chunk of time I had to take this trip led to me flying to Orlando, FL.
The trip was easy, with no waiting at the JetBlue counter and no trouble getting through security. I always breathe a little sigh of relief every time they let me through, which means I’m not on some No Fly list. Thanks to a shortwave radio reception report I once sent, I was on Radio Moscow’s mailing list for a few years before the fall of the Soviet Union, so I figure there must be an FBI file on me somewhere. Conspiracy theories aside, the flight was rather empty. I had an entire row to myself, and there was ample room for my long legs between my seat and the one in front of me, so it was very comfortable. We landed half an hour early, and my suitcase was one of the first ones down the conveyor. I got a cab, which cost twice as much as the online estimate, and checked into the Red Roof, which I chose based on my 20% AMA discount.
When I went for a walk – in pleasant 70 degree temperatures – to find dinner, I was pleasantly surprised to see “Orlando Ale House” staring at me in bright red letters directly across the street. I love a good microbrew, so I walked across the street, enjoyed dinner, and more than one beer from the extensive selection, since I wasn’t driving or riding anywhere. I ended up having dinner here each night of my stay.
I had trouble sleeping that night. This was no fault of Red Roof – I was too excited to begin my motorcycle adventure. It was raining when I got up that morning, which didn’t bode well. I checked the weather radar on my phone, and saw a line of precipitation stretching from the southwest to northeast. I had two loops planned, south and north of Orlando, and it looked like if I took the southern route as I’d planned to, I’d ride out of the scattered rain showers. So I packed my rain gear and took a cab to EagleRider. As soon as we pulled in I could see my bike for the next two days – a screaming yellow zonker Harley Davidson Street Glide.
This is NOT my usual kind of bike. I’d never ridden a Harley Davidson before. Of course I’ve met many diehard fans of them, as well as many diehard critics. Either you love them or you hate them, it seems. Since the least expensive rentals from EagleRider‘s Orlando location with any cargo space whatsoever were Harleys, I figured why not give it a try. I also got a 15% AMA discount on the rental. Seriously, with the discounts I got on this trip, my AMA membership more than paid for itself that year.
The folks at EagleRider were great to deal with. The required paperwork was kept to a minimum. They went over the entire bike with me, particularly because I’d never ridden a Harley before. This was good, or I wouldn’t have known about the turn signal controls on both handlebars instead of just the left like every other bike I’ve ever ridden. My only disappointment was in the type of loaner helmets available – all half shell “brain buckets.” I certainly didn’t expect anything as nice as my Nolan modular helmet, but since it would’ve been a carry-on bag all by itself, I opted to take EagleRider up on their helmet that’s included with the rental. So be aware of this if you should choose to rent a bike through them. In the future, I’ll bring my own helmet despite the hassle.