Cruise Dates: February 10 through February 17 2008

Host: ETA (Entertainment & Travel Alternatives) Steve, Ted, Bart & Rick

Your Chapter representatives were: Sharon & Tracey Dunn, Kim & Curtis Palmore and , Dennis & Debbie Magness.

     The date is February 9, 2008. It is 0820 hours and it time to head for Miami and the Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Freedom of the Seas.” The car is loaded with the luggage and I’ve got the bike under control. The schedule is to rendezvous’ at the Dunn residence, transfer all luggage to their van and be ready to depart by 0900. We missed it by about 5 minutes, which is really good, and headed for Peppers on 66th street for breakfast, girls in Tracey‘s van and the guys on the bikes. Curtis made a little side trip to get a spare battery, just in case, and Tracey had to remove his seat to reconnect a cable in the CB circuit. No big deal!


     With the maintenance items and breakfast behind us we took off for the skyway and I-75. I took the lead and Tracey brought up the rear. Tracey’s into rears, you know. Over the bridge and before we knew it we were south bound on I-75. Traffic was moving smoothly with our first and only gas stop near Naples. This assured us of getting across the Everglades OK. Looming in front of us though were threatening clouds, The weather forecast showed a cold front in our line of travel and before we could reach I-95 there was rain, not heavy and not long, but enough to get the bikes messed up. Oh well, they were clean when we started. There were numerous showers around us as we entered the Ft. Lauderdale area so as we caught up with one it was decided to stop for lunch and wait this stuff out. Chili’s was convenient and kept us dry while we ate.

     Only 20 miles or so to go. My GPS took us right to the Holiday Inn Express but I missed the driveway and had to do a “U” turn. Everyone else made it ok. Oh well, that’s life. The hotel staff let us park our bikes under the lobby canopy for the night. I noticed that we were located just north of the flight path for Miami International Airport so I figured we’d have a lot of jet noise, but surprisingly the rooms were somehow well insulated. Too, there was an Ale House restaurant next door. How convenient. Guess where we had dinner, actually only desert. Nobody was hungry enough for a meal.

     We asked if there was a place where we could play dominos but when we checked it out there weren’t any tables big enough. I don’t think anybody cared much because I think we were all tired enough to call it a day. Besides, we’re supposed to have the bikes at the terminal between 8:30 and 9 AM.

     Rise and shine. Got to meet for a McDonalds breakfast at 7 AM. The rain is gone. Great!

    At dockside, we unloaded the baggage from the van then Tracey parked the van in the handicap area directly across from the terminal. He was able to get back to his bike in time to move the bikes to a staging area in parking lot “B.”

     The rules stated that our gas tank could be no more than 1/8 full. I had an el-cheapo siphon with me so Curtis and I attempted to transfer fuel from my bike to his. I had never tried the siphon before so I didn’t know it wouldn’t work. Fortunately, another Wing’r had a different kind that did work somewhat better. They never did check our fuel level. The ETA guys gave us a group ID badge to hang around our neck and an adhesive backed name tag to wear until boarding is complete. From here on it was hurry up and wait. There was no port-a-potty in the area. Can you imagine, me, noticing something like that?

     Next stop, Customs. We rode the bikes into a warehouse to await Customs to check us out. I found and used a restroom, then waited. Finally, I didn’t notice the time, they showed up with a security dog to sniff out drugs, some kind of wipes searching for explosives and an agent to frisk us down. It didn’t take long once they got started. Now we can line up to get the bikes loaded.

     We got to our loading area and I see this little hole in the side of the ship.

“We’re going to go where?” “We’re going to get there how?” Oh S---!!!!

     There’s this ramp (no railing) from the pier into that little hole and it’s at about a 15 degree incline (looked like 90 degrees to me) and it’s about 4 feet wide (looked like 6 inches to me.) Glad I’m not the first one to do this. They get you lined up with the ramp then say “KEEP YOUR EYES UP“ “DON’T STOP“ “OK, GO!” and send you on you way. My God, I’ve got enough adrenaline going to fly up there. Seemed like the ramp was a mile long (actually about 20 feet or so.) I took a deep breath, rolled on the throttle and let out the clutch. Up I went, and I didn’t breath again till I went through that little hole. WHEW! I made it! Wow, some might say that was easy, ……. but not me.

     You’re told to kill the engine as soon as you clear the ramp. Then someone came around and injected a shot of nitrogen into the gas tank. That has something to do with rendering the gas fumes inert. From there you either walk your bike or someone has to push you to your stop point. Of course I needed a push, I’m so tall, you know.

     What’s that? We have to get off the ship? We just got on! Down the ramp we go. Walking is a lot easier than riding. They even put some hand rails up for us. We’re herded over to the line of passengers waiting to go through the cruise line check-in. This is where we met up with the girls and by now I had been to the restroom, again, and things were beginning to settle down for me. We stopped together for a group embarkation photo then on to the “Windjammer” for a buffet lunch.

     The ETA boys called a meeting at 4:30 to discuss the rules of the road with the drivers. Then, at 5 PM, we had to move the bikes to the areas where they would be stored between ports of call. Tracey, Curtis and I helped each other push and pull the bikes to their berthing spots. All bikes had a chock / clamp put on the front wheel which made them stable while on the center stand, all that is except Curtis’ bike which has a “Power Park center stand.” For his, he had to secure it on the center stand with a couple if tie-downs.

     ETA had a party scheduled for 7:30 with free drinks and snacks. Well I’m not one to be bashful on their nickel so I got scotch and soda. The bartender mixed it well. In fact it tasted so good I quickly had another one. Oops! I think they might have been doubles. I had a new med that warned about drinking alcohol. I guess I got over the hill on just two. I could walk but had to be careful.

    8:30 PM was our dining time (second seating) and tonight it was casual dress, shorts were acceptable. There were two formal nights and the rest were coat & tie optional. The food was very good and the service was excellent. Enough said about that.

Dinner is done and where do you think Debbie is? Right, the CASINO. For me, I’m tired and ready for bed. Tomorrow is another day.


     No reason to get up early today. It’s an all day, day at sea. So, it’s breakfast at 10, Dominos from 11 to 1:30, Lunch to 2:30, Nap time, ice show (there is an ice skating rink approx. 40’ X 60’) at 5:00, Dominos 6:30 to 7:30, dinner at 8:30 and a stage show from 10: to 11:00. We met a really nice couple from Floral City who joined us for Dominos and dinner, Kathy and Butch Pomposcelli.

Whew! Relaxing at sea can tire you out!


     A normal at sea day today. We sat around and just BS’d until 2:30. Curtis was telling us about something he’d seen on the TV about the ship and said that the ship was in “dy drock.” Now Curtis doesn’t drink …… does he?

     Another riders meeting was scheduled for 3:30 and at 4:00 we were to push the bikes to and onto the ramp for unloading. These Gold Wings are going to get lazy, being pushed around so much. When I was pushed on the bike I felt like I was out of control. SCARY! Down the ramp you go. “Keep those eyes up …… keep them up! UP! UP!” One of the ETA guys stood in line with the end of the ramp and watched every ones eyes and prompted them when necessary. A good move on their part. Thanks ETA.

     Get in line again and wait for Customs to give us a green light. Then, move to a new line for gas. The girls met us here. ETA had a 55 gallon drum of fuel on the back of a truck from which each bike was given 2 or 3 liters for the pending ride. By now, a rain cloud was bearing down on us as we waited. Fortunately, the worst was off to the right but we still needed the rain jacket. It felt hot now but not any different than Florida. I guess the people from up north were really uncomfortable. The ship was an hour late arriving at San Juan and that put us right in the middle of rush hour traffic. YES, they do have rush hour traffic congestion just like we do. The good news was that we had a police escort to get us through the mess and I must say they did an outstanding job. I can tell you that drivers on all the islands were very aggressive. In fact they would pull right out into our staggered formation. You really had to stay on your toes.


     The end point for this ride was a little bar & grill on the ocean front. The parking area had pot holes, both soft and hard sand with a few rocks thrown in. Not insurmountable but somewhat un-nerving. Someone did go down, hard they say, but I didn’t see it. ETA took some video and we got some snap shots and video too. From there we rode past two old Spanish Forts and through the historic district. Unfortunately it was getting kind of dark so you couldn’t see much. And besides, the streets were narrow, cobblestone, had a high crown and the stones were laid over lumps and dips in the subsurface. Just another challenge. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it was stop & go driving on wet streets from a recent shower.

     It’s now time to get back to the ship. Once again we’re in another line at the pier. This is just like being in the military. Its raining again but for some reason the girls in a different line are getting wetter than we are. Oh man, there’s that ramp and little hole again. This time there is a big hump at the entrance of the ramp and the first few bikes rear wheel jumped into the air as they started up the ramp. ETA saw the problem and got it fixed by adding a wooden extension to the ramp. I’ve been lucky so far. Problems were fixed before I had to deal with them.

     In the storage area, Curtis had a stability problem this time. His center stand had one foot in a low spot in the deck and his bike almost fell over into the bike next to him. Fortunately Curt was big enough and strong enough (with some help) to catch it before it hit the adjacent bike. The bikes were parked and secured, leaving us ½ hour to shower and dress for dinner and we just made it. By the time we finish dinner it’s almost 11:00 so it is late enough to quit for the day. Tomorrow, St. Thomas.

2/13/08 St. Thomas

     Riders meeting this morning at 7:30. We barely had enough time to grab a doughnut and coffee for breakfast. Today’s forecast: 30% showers. Today we ride on the left side of the road. The early meeting didn’t get us riding early. Apparently ETA had to go to the local DMV to get some paperwork cleared up. Debarkation was about 10:00 then wait for another hour before we could leave. A couple of miles down the road we stopped for 2 liters of gas then on with the ride.

     This is a weird sensation, driving on the left side of the road. The straight away’s weren’t so bad but the curves gave me trouble setting myself up for the curves. The roads are narrow there (Americans are spoiled) and there was an abundance of pot holes. Because of the road conditions I had little opportunity to enjoy the scenery as I gave driving my full attention. AND, near the end of the ride, I had a truck pull out in front of me. I got stopped with just inches to spare, WHEW! That was close! I think Debbie put a permanent pucker in the seat this time. Driving manners are non-existent in those islands. AGGRESSION, AGGRESSION, AGGRESSION. It’s a way of life. And we had escorts blocking traffic at intersections too. But that truck came from a non through-affair. And get this, the local motorcyclists ride the center line when passing even into oncoming traffic. Crazy!

     We stopped at a gift shop overlooking Megan Bay, an absolutely beautiful place. This time we had a paved parking lot. Then we rode on to Bolongo Bay Resort and Iggy’s Beach Restaurant for lunch. A strong sea breeze made it feel nice and cool. We spent an hour there then headed back to the ship. On the way down the mountain Curtis‘s attention was distracted for just an instant and he found himself in a paved rain gutter. Thank goodness it was paved. I was right behind him and saw it all. My heart was in my mouth until he expertly guided himself out of it. It was all over in about 2 seconds.

Nice work Curtis.

     There was ample time to shop today. The owner of ETA and leader of the tour (Steve) had a mid to high end jewelry store (Gem Palace Jewelry offering us 70% discounts) close to the pier and we could park right in front of his store. Humm!

2/14/08 St. Maarten

     Another 7:30 riders meeting. Today debarkation went fast and we were on the bricks by 8:30. The bad news though was that one bike went down on the ramp, (Tracey Dunn.) His after-market kick stand caught on a protruding piece of metal near the end of the ramp. I knew that ramp was only 6 inches wide. By the time I could see from inside the ship his bike was already down on the right side. He got a few severe bruises and his bike got 2 cracks in the frame, a bent bracket for the kick stand and a bent center stand that was pushed back against the chrome rail around the left saddlebag. Several guys worked feverishly and straightened things out enough so that Tracey could use the kick stand and go on the ride.

     While all this activity was going on, ETA had gathered the rest of the group for a group picture.

    We had told ETA that Gold Wingers didn’t stop at bars, we stop at Dairy Queens for ice cream. Well, believe it or not, ETA came up with an ice cream shop that morning. Good for them!

     St. Maarten provided great riding, some mountain roads with steep grades, some hair pin curves to negotiate and some back-to-back “S“ curves, and we‘re back to riding on the right side of the road. There was plenty of beautiful scenery to see but once again, driving commanded my full attention.

     We made one stop at a scenic spot on the beach front. Wow, what a parking lot! Soft sand, hard packed sand and rocks protruding up through the surface made for one stressful bit of riding But I didn't drop my bike though. Was I worried? YES !

     We made a lunch stop at Waikiki Beach Bar & Grill located right on the beach. It was a little tight getting the bikes along a narrow board walk to a large square plywood (“parking lot?”) on the beach. And there they packed us in like sardines. I didn’t think you could get so many Gold Wings in such a small area. It was so tight that you could only get the bikes out by last bike in, first bike out.

Waikiki Beach was a really pretty place. The surf was a brilliant blue and turquoise capped with lots of white foam as the waves broke along the shore line and swaying palms too providing shade. A really nice place.



     Nudity was permitted on the beach. Now I didn’t go exploring, but my eyes did roam a little and as I recall, I counted 4 topless bathers nearby. …. How disgusting, …..Of course I pretended not to see anything. I had to look again to be sure I saw what I thought I saw. I’m sure! And once more before we leave ….

     Oh yeah, lunch. They put on a really good spread. Breast of chicken, ribs (lean ones), french fries, salad, rice and fish and bread. Mmmm good. Two big coolers were filled with punch and for those who wished there were several bottles of rum to put a kick in the punch. I didn’t see any GW people using the rum although I heard there were a few.

     Except for two stops the parking facilities everywhere were terrible. Soft sand, sand on wood surfaces, gravel and rocks protruding through the surface were the norm. Very challenging for a short person like me, but I didn't drop the bike.


     The ETA staff were amazed at how well a large group of strangers could ride together so well organized. They realized how much we communicate with the CB’s for the sake of safety and couldn‘t say enough good things about us. Way to go GW.

     I’ve criticized the roads and the parking lots on the islands but I must say that we Americans are spoiled by our parking lots, roads and highways and I presume that if the islands had as much revenue to put into them, they would most likely equal ours. But one look around the islands tells you that abundance is not one of their good fortunes.

Communications: There were several times when better communications between ETA and the patrons could have been much better. And we didn’t always get a straight story.

Patience: Bring lots of patience with you if you take one of these cruises. As you have seen, the waiting lines are frequent on riding days.

     Would I do another motorcycle cruise? Yes, I would, but I would not do it on the same islands. There are other places to see. If I’m going to take the risks, I want it to be in new territory.

Debbie & Dennis Magness