through the eyes of the Average Joe

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Tallahassee Bike Fest 2024

riding down dirt hill

By on May 7, 2024


Scrolling through social media one day, I came across an ad for free ADV training from Jeff Stanton Adventures. I frequently see ads for things that I would love to do, but they usually take place on a date that has already passed or in an area that is so far away, it’s just not practical (I’m looking at you, West Coast!). Then I throw a pity party because, “man, I would have totally done that, but it’s so far away”, or “ahhhh, if I had only seen this earlier, I would have rocked it!!!”. But this ad was different. it was for an event that was still about three weeks away, so I had time to row my ducks. Then I noticed it was at the Tallahassee Bike Fest, roughly 250 miles away from my home in Ormond Beach. Ut oh, I think this was the universe finally holding my feet to the fire. I have plenty of vacation time, and a 250-mile ride to Tallahassee was nothing, considering this past weekend, I literally rode 300 miles to buy Salt & Vinegar peanuts. Seriously. Eight hours and two ferry trips later and I was back home enjoying my bounty.

As my mind scrambled to find reasons why this event couldn’t work out, I became excited (and a little terrified) at the thought of pulling it off. Since I was a kid, I have loved all things offroad. Trucks, Jeeps, mountain bikes, motorcycles and so on, however, the latter were always a little intimidating for me since growing up in South Florida didn’t provide much in the way of legal offroad fun, so most of my riding experience is on the street. But that didn’t stop my love for wanting to ride offroad, I just wasn’t very good at it because I didn’t have a lot of experience doing it.

Let’s take a quick trip in the time machine for a bit of context. In October 2021, I purchased a Royal Enfield Himalayan, “All roads, no roads” is their slogan. It was a great bike, and I successfully completed a basic, very basic, offroad training class. Think of the class you took to obtain your motorcycle endorsement in the first place. Now imagine it in a grass field with way too much sugar sand. That was my training. It was a good start, but the bike is a better bike than I am a rider, so I still wanted needed further training to help me feel comfortable as the bike wiggles around under me trying to find its way. Unfortunately, in March 2022, the Himalayan met its untimely demise during an offroad camping trip hosted by a local dealer. As great as the Himalayan was, it could not compress water. Sad face.

The time machine now returns us to where we left off in April 2024 and I currently ride a 2021 KTM 390 Adventure and still want to be a better rider when the pavement ends. No more excuses. Time off approved, AirBnB booked, and I am ready to hit the road, right? Right? Record scratch. It just wouldn’t be Florida without completely ridiculous weather, now, would it? A severe weather system is moving east straight across the panhandle of Florida on the very same day that I am travelling west across the panhandle towards Tallahassee. At some point, the two of us are going to meet. Thankfully, we now have technology that can help minimize my exposure to this potentially spectacular event. My plan is to find a place in Lake City that will bring me food while I hide out and wait for Mother Nature to finish throwing her hissy fit. If the weather stays its course (lol, I know, I can’t even type it with a straight face), I should be fine. If not, I will have to do the best I can with what I have.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous, but overall, I am looking forward to this trip. I plan on learning as much as I can while I’m there, which will help me with some of my future riding goals. One specifically being the MABDR (Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route), a 1080-mile route from Damascus, VA to Lawrenceville, PA. Approximately 65-70% of this route is unpaved, but baby steps. For now, it is ADV Training at the Tallahassee Bike Fest!

Day 1 – Thursday, April 11, 2024

12:22pm Update Well shit. We are not off to a very good start. Technically, we are not off to any kind of start. It is just after 12:00pm and I am still sitting at the house waiting for Mother Nature to finish her “drive by”. For reference, I am the “blue dot”.

Not good…

So, for now, we sit and wait. I have toyed with the idea of leaving first thing in the morning, but “first thing” in the morning means between 4:30am and 5:00am in order to comfortably make my destination by the 10:00am start time. Not sure I want to put myself under that much pressure.

gear spread out waiting to load on bike
Packed up and waiting on the weather to break

3:00pm Update

The last drop of rain just hit the ground. Now it’s a mad scramble to get out of here and make it to the AirBnB in Tallahassee before the sun sets.

3:15pm Update

And we’re off! Holy smokes it’s hot! After it rains, it’s worse. The first 30 minutes or so of the trip were uncomfortable due to traffic, wet roads, and the hot and humid conditions. Thankfully, it didn’t last very long, as the further west I travelled, the better the conditions became. Once I made it to SR100, everything was back on track, and I enjoyed a beautiful ride alongside some beautiful green pastures. Cows and horses can be seen freely roaming around enjoying their afternoon as I casually rode by on my way to Tallahassee.

5:30pm Update

Quick stop in Butler, FL for fuel. Snacks may have also been involved.

I am now in Butler, FL, just over two hours and 100 miles since I departed from Ormond Beach. Things are going well. The bike is running great, I’m feel good, and traffic was reasonable except for one small area due to a car being put on a flatbed truck. Aside from that, the remainder of the trip was very nice and uneventful.

8:00pm Update

I pulled into the AirBnB just after 8:00pm with just enough daylight left for me to unload the bike and make it to my room before the sun was completely down for the night. I wasn’t far behind. A quick shower and I was out.

Day 2 – Friday, April 12, 2024

I typically don’t sleep very well when I’m out of town, and this trip was no exception. I tossed and turned most of the night, even though the bed was very nice and very comfortable, I just couldn’t stay asleep for more than 60 to 90 minutes at a time. Unfortunately, like most times this occurs, I did manage to fall asleep, sound asleep around 5:30am, just before I had to get up at 7:00am. Ugh. It was going to be a long day. But since I didn’t have to be onsite for training until 10:00am, I was able to take my time getting ready.

I pulled into the event just after 9:00am and walked around a bit before making my way to the ADV area. The rough weather mentioned earlier flooded some areas of the park that hosted the event, which meant that some vendors were not where they were supposed to be. Thankfully the crew at the Tallahassee Bike Fest were able to get things sorted with minimal inconvenience to the guests.

Shortly after 10:00am, we met for a quick orientation put on by Fred and Troy from Jeff Stanton Adventures.

Fred from Jeff Stanton Adventures discussing proper body positioning.

Now it was our turn! We had approximately 15 riders for Friday’s class, so Fred and Troy split us into three groups of five. Cones were setup for us to ride around practicing the skills that we are learning. Slow speed turns, offset body positioning for tighter turns, and clutch and throttle control were all things we worked on throughout the morning sessions.

Riders practicing slow, tight turns. Notice the body positioning of the first rider.
We had everything present from adventure bikes, as seen here with a Triumph Tiger…
to full on dual sport bikes, like this Yamaha XT

One of my favorites was this guy on his BMW 1250 GS. He made it look so easy!

Rider on BMW 1250 GS

After our two morning sessions, it was time for lunch. We would meet up again at 3:00pm for a brief review of our new skills and then we were off for an official adventure ride!

water crossing on adventure ride
water crossing during our adventure ride

Whew! We made it back after the adventure ride, and what a ride it was! Slippery red clay, several water crossings, beautiful two-lane twisty roads, it was perfect! We said our goodbyes and around 5:30pm-ish, I decided I wanted a real dinner. I rode past a Sonny’s BBQ but then remembered I saw a Jersey Mike’s along the way somewhere so rather than making a U-turn to get back to Sonny’s, I carried on trying to find the Jersey Mike’s. With Sonny’s still on the brain, I eventually made a U-turn and rode back to Sonny’s only to find out they had a 15-minute wait for a table, or I could sit at the bar. I’m not doing either, so off I went, again, in search of Jersey Mike’s. I could swear I saw one! I rode around for just over 30 minutes trying to find that damn Jersey Mike’s and ultimately wound up back at Sonny’s with my tail between my legs, sitting at the bar. It was worth the wait though. Dinner was fantastic and after getting to relax for a minute or two, I was ready to get back to the AirBnB and be clean.

Day 3 – Saturday, April 13, 2024

I slept a little bit better, but not much. Still tossing and turning quite a bit. So much so, that I changed my alarm from 7:00am to 6:00am because I was already awake since 4:00am. Of course, again, I fall asleep briefly before my alarm goes off. Check out wasn’t until 12:00pm so I didn’t have to rush, but I did want to get a move on to avoid traffic. I am very happy to report it was smooth sailing almost all the way back to Ormond Beach.

Taking US 90 east into the sunrise was just as awful as taking US 90 west into the sunset a few days prior. What a beautiful ride though. There is something about that part of Florida that is so surreal. Endless beauty everywhere you look. From the wide-open pastures with horses, cows and other typical farm animals, to canopy treetops over parts of US 90. There was certainly no shortage of beautiful scenery. Perhaps one of my favorite places along US 90 is the round-about where the Jefferson County Courthouse sits in the middle of the road of this small town.

Jefferson County Courthouse in Monticello, Florida

I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to this little town, but for some reason I am. I have ridden through Monticello several times, but mostly after hours or on a Sunday. However, I have also been through it when it was alive with shoppers, cyclists, and sightseers. Next time I ride through this area, I’ll make sure I stop and experience some of the small-town vibes firsthand.

Overall, I had an amazing trip. The training was great but basic, which is exactly what I needed. I did learn a lot and I did get to do some things I otherwise wouldn’t. Fred and Troy with Jeff Stanton Adventures were great instructors and very patient with us. Fred talked me “off the ledge” more than once, and I’m grateful he did. I was able to conquer some basic fears that have been holding me back from various trips I want to make in the future, such as the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR) mentioned above. The training from Jeff Stanton Adventures allowed me to get comfortable with some of the different types of terrain I will encounter along the MABDR and off-road routes in general.

One last note before I sign off. I want to throw a big “shout out” to the creators of the Tallahassee Bike Fest. I believe 2024 was their 4th year holding this event and it seems to get bigger and better every year. Great job Giovona and Ben! I think bringing the ADV sector along with Jeff Stanton Adventures into the event is a great idea and will open it up to even more riders over the upcoming years. I know I will certainly be back.

Tallahassee Bike Fest
Jeff Stanton Adventures

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