Bagger’s Banquet | Touring America's Other Left Coast

Victory in Florida. Yes, Florida.

By Joe Gresh, Photography by Colleen Tagle

My wife Colleen and I have traveled thousands of miles two-up on motorcycles. And for most of those miles, she’s complained about the passenger accommodations. It’s not so bad for me: Wind noise and exhaust roar drown out the tortured cries emanating from the back seat. It’s kind of like that clanking noise when the refrigerator compressor kicks in. After a while, you don’t even hear it.

If it’s not the seat she’s critiquing, it’s the luggage capacity. My motorcycles are all bare-bones love machines, so we bungee our stuff wherever it’ll hold a hook. Style limits the amount of gear we can carry. Still, I let her bring anything she likes—as long as it fits into a zip-lock sandwich bag.

When Robert Pandya, Victory Motorcycles’ PR agent, offered up a Cross Roads bagger to use on our long-awaited tour of Florida’s Left Coast, I was hesitant. It’s taken me 28 years to forge Colleen into the violent-yet-pliant biker chick she is today. Can I risk undoing all that training for one brief moment of luxury? On the other hand I’m a realist: Motorcycle manufacturers aren’t lending me bikes without Motorcyclist magazine’s market penetration, and this writing gig can’t last forever…

I picked up the bagger from Larry, who keeps the lightly used media-pool Victory in a hanger at Daytona Beach International Airport. I’m immediately leery of the weight and sheer bulk of “Nessie." This motorcycle is gigantic. Respect the bagger, man.

I manage to keep Nessie upright across mid-Florida, arriving in Tallahassee where Colleen flew to join me. She brings one zip-lock bulging with personal items, plus the clothes she has on and one other outfit. If I were a stickler for The Rules, the remote shutter-release she bought for my camera would have put her over the limit, but I’d be a poor husband if I didn’t allow the little woman to buy me gifts. The Cross Roads swallows her gear with nary a burp, leaving plenty of room for my camera equipment, my clothes, my jackets, my rain gear and my new shutter release.

South out of Tallahassee we rumble through towns that could fit inside the Victory’s saddlebags, many incorporating nothing more than a signpost. We putter into Perry, gateway to Florida’s Left Coast and historic home of the last segregated bar in Florida. Perry gained national notoriety in 2001 when the bartender of a local watering hole, who was not exactly up to speed on current events, instructed visiting Maryland lawmaker Talmadge Branch to drink his beer in the colored section.

Outside of Perry, County Road 361 meanders west toward Keaton Beach and the ocean. Marshland bordering the Gulf of Mexico forced Highway 19, the Left Coast’s main north-south artery, inland. This fortunate trick of topography has kept development low-key and isolated. For travelers used to Florida’s concrete economy, the small enclaves of modest homes huddled along the ocean are a pleasant reminder that paradise has not been totally extinguished in the Sunshine State.

Either the Cross Roads is losing weight or I’m getting stronger. The more miles I ride, the less it wants to fall over and crush me. Fully loaded with pillion and baggage, or deadheading solo, the bike handles nearly the same. Under the saddlebag lid there’s a chart with recommended shock air pressures. We’re running 25 psi. The max rating of 75 is used by well-trained circus elephants.

There’s a whole lot of jungle and funky beach savannah between towns on the Left Coast: perfect motorcycle country. Traffic is sparse, so we try out the remote shutter-release, riding back and forth in front of the camera lens dozens of times in an attempt to get a sharp photo. The Cross Roads' steering stem is situated ahead of its fork tubes, a backwards arrangement made popular by H-D. Whatever they’ve done, it’s surprisingly easy to spin two-lane U-turns. I try different shutter speeds, apertures, stabilization on/off; nothing gets rid of the blur. Apparently, studying Ken Rockwell online did not turn me into a photographer. It’s hot and Colleen is starting to look dangerous—a tell-tale sign she’s hungry.

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