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Thread: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Touring - Ride Around Florida Day 1

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    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Touring - Ride Around Florida Day 1

    Trip Diary Day 1 - Orlando to Ft. Myers.....

    Our friends Ron and Mary flew into Orlando this morning for the first annual “Ride Around Florida” motorcycle tour. We were supposed to be joined by another couple, Glena and Dan, but Glena suffered a relapse of the “wayward kidney stone” affliction and they were unable to join us. I know they are disappointed, but there will be other rides and we certainly hope Glena gets well soon!

    Cheryl and I collected Ron and Mary about 11:30 at the airport. We jumped in the car and headed for the Harley dealership. I’d dropped off my BMW earlier that morning, and Ron was renting an Electra Glide for the ride. We arrived just after noon, and proceeded to load the bikes. It’s amazing how much “stuff” you can get into and on a K1200LT. When we go camping, we manage to pack a 4-person tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 Thermorest pads, 2 fold up stools, a shade structure, cooking gear, clothes, rain gear, tools, and various electronic gadgets. Egads, but that’s a bunch of stuff! We have less on this ride, and by 12:30 we’re on the road.

    The forecast for the day is ugly; a 70% chance of liquid sunshine (rain for you non-Floridians), with winds gusting to 35, and possibly even tornadoes. Just the kind of weather for a motorcycle ride….NOT! Actually, as we head west and south our of Orlando, the skies of overcast, but not too threatening…yet. We head west into Windemere, then out along Chase Road and Isleworth. Ron and I are verbally connected via the Cardo Scala Rider headsets, and we discuss perils of being Tiger Woods as we ride past his neighborhood.

    Almost before we realize it, we’re turning onto Highway 27 having slipped around and out of Orlando. We make a brief stop at a 7-11 to grab a quick drink, restroom break, and make sure all is well with the bikes and riders. Our plan is to cover as much ground as we can before the really nasty weather arrives. On the road again (nice title for a song?), the GPS directs our journey along nice, quiet, traffic free two lane roads. These are the kind of roads that motorcycles were really made for. Not the” 4 lane, get the hell out of my way” interstates. It’s a nice ride, despite the ominous skies and threat of rain.
    Our next stop is in Bartow, and quiet little farming/ranching town in the middle of nowhere. The clouds are lower now, and the temperature has dropped from 79 to 71. Ron, the only one who isn’t wearing raingear, decides now is the time. Good thing too, as the first drops of rain find us just a couple of miles down the road. With the raingear – well, the rain jackets anyway, as our pants are still tucked safely away on the bike, we all stay pretty dry. Such is the case until we hit the town or Arcadia.

    As we are slowed in 5 mph traffic near a local High School, we can see a blackness in the distance approaching rapidly. It’s like a wall of water headed our way, and we get slammed with torrents of rain and winds that are easily 40 – 50 mph. Ron and I quickly agree that a motorcycle is probably the very worst place to be at the moment, and we scramble to find refuge. A short distance up the road, we turn left into a large shopping center, and literally ride the bikes up onto the sidewalk and under the shelter of the exterior canopy. We get quite a few looks from shoppers who are certainly wondering if we’ve really lost our way that badly in the storm. We are all pretty drenched from the waist down, but rather dry from the waist up. I pull out my trusty IPhone, and call up a radar image. We “oohh” and “aahh” at all the pretty reds, purples, yellows, and greens on the screen. If you are a fish or a boat it’s wonderful, but not very fun at all if your transportation has only a pair of wheels, and no windows!

    Since we are only about 40 miles from our destination for the night, we decide to forge on once the winds let up a bit. The rain is still falling, but how wet can one get? It takes a bit of maneuvering to get the bikes off the walk, but we manage. The rain is still falling, but it’s just a steady rain now, not a “frog strangler”. As we roll along highway 31, I see red flashing light oncoming. There appears to be a wreck ahead of us, and we slow accordingly. We get to the scene of the crash almost exactly as the fire truck does, and discover a nice, new, Ford F150 pick-up truck lying on the driver side on the right side of the road. The driver appears unhurt, and is talking with another stopped motorist. The windshield is intact, and it appears it was a low-speed rollover. Thank goodness no one was hurt….other than that really nice looking truck!
    The final miles of our ride into Ft. Myers are uneventful, and we stop to top up the tanks before we hit the hotel. We get lots of questions from other guests once we arrive, the most common of which is, “Did you guys get wet?” I guess standing at the front desk dripping wet from the waist down making a really big puddle just isn’t that obvious to some folks! We get checked in and thankfully there is a Cracker Barrel right next door. The hotel clerk is nice enough to allow us to park the bikes under the porte cochere, and the four of us head off to dinner….after we get changed and dried off that is.

    After an excellent dinner with more food than any of us can eat we retire for a bit of rest. Day 1 is behind us. Tomorrow will be a ride across the Florida Everglades, and down the Keys to the fun city of Key West. Stay tuned. It’s not supposed to rain so perhaps we can break out the camera and add a photo or two to this adventure!

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    Day 2 - Ft. Myers to Key West

    Day 2 ÔÇô Ft. Myers to Key West

    Although I donÔÇÖt know for certain, IÔÇÖd like to think God had motorcycles in mind when he created weather like we had today. After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we hit the road about 8:30. There wasnÔÇÖt a cloud to be found, and the temperature was 71 degrees. We did a short stint down I-75, which was pleasantly devoid of traffic and found our way down to Highway 41.

    Highway 41 crosses Florida, running from Naples to Miami, traversing that great wet wilderness, also known as the Everglades. We stopped at a shell station to top up, and found it crawling with motorcycles. One of the ladies riding a Honda Shadow 1100 told us that she and her group were headed down 41 to the Everglades Seafood Festival. Since it was early and we had other lunch plans, we decided not to participate ourselves.
    Traffic headed east was relatively sparse, and cruised along under sunny skies. We saw birds of every variety, and quite a few gators as well. One of the larger specimens was sunning himself on the opposite bank of the canal that paralleled the road, and we estimated his length to be in the 9 or 10 foot range. He was a beast! About 25 miles in, we found the Seafood Festival. It was indeed quite an event, with two police officers in the 2 lane road directing traffic.

    As we continued East, we started to pass other motorcycles heading to the Festival. At one point, we passed a group of motorcycles that easily numbered over 100. It was an awesome sight. Over the 80 mile journey to Homestead, we continued to pass riders heading the other direction; every make and model of motorcycles possible it seemed. When we finally made it to Homestead, we pulled into a place called Dade Corners. It seemed to be a biker stop, as 40 ÔÇô 50 bikes were parked all around the store. We quenched our thirst, stretched our legs, and then turned the bikes from East to South.

    The ride through Homestead and Florida City was congested, but fun. There is something ethereal about old buildings and old downtowns. This one seemed to be taken over by Mercedes convertibles, and scooters. Mary was enthralled by the number of nurseries and farms we passed. I guess the recent cold weather has taken a terrible toll on the tomato crop, as we passed a number of fields that had dead plants with rotting tomatoes hanging on dead vines and all over the ground. About 30 miles after leaving Dade Corners, we turned onto Card Sound Road.

    Just before we hit the toll booth, we found a biker haunt called Alabama Jacks. We pulled in and squeezed the BMW between a couple of Harleys. The rumors were correct, as the food was great, the beer was cold, and the place was full of motorcycle riders. We ended up in a conversation with a guy who rides demoÔÇÖs for Harley. He was on a 2 month old Ultra, and had already put 11,000 miles on it. He took a real liking to my K1200LT which, as it turns out, was parked right next to his Harley. I also bumped into the Golden Knights Parachute Team whoÔÇÖd stopped in for lunch. They are doing their winter training up in Homestead. What a great group of guys.

    Somewhere around 1:20 or so, we found our way back onto the road. Traffic was much lighter than previous trips; maybe the economy is taking a greater toll that we know. The ride down US 1 was quite easy. We passed a total of 5 speed traps (that I actually saw.could have been more). We stopped in Marathon for a spot of gas, and enjoyed the beautiful blue water as we rolled over the 7 Mile Bridge. We made it into Key West just after 4:00. After checking into the hotel and lightening our load, we headed out for a tour of the island and some food. We made the obligatory photo stop at the Southern Most Point in the US, then found a place to park the bike off Duval Street. We strolled over to the waterfront and caught the sunset. After a bid of discussion, seafood was chosen as the fare for dinner. We hoofed it up to the Conch Republic Seafood House. It was a great choice, as we had more food that we could eat. It was a good think the bikes were parked a good distance away, as we needed the walk back. Along the way, we managed to hit a few spots for some fun. We headed back to the bikes and then to the hotel to crash about 10:00. We are lightweights afterall.

    Tomorrow will be a ride back up the Keys, over to Superbowl, then northwest taking us to the West side of Lake Okeechobee. The weather is supposed to be slightly cooler, but sunny and bright.

  3. #3
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    Hey Richard and Cheryl. Glad you guys are out enjoying Florida. As I'm sure y'all are learning....it's not all theme parks. Sounds like a very nice adventure. Post some pics for all the folks up north. Aren't we about due for another central florida ride?

    Ride Safe
    Mike

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    ..and define the 'Quality' of your ride(in less than 400 pages)..? :~}

    Regards,

    Clay
    Kimberton,Pa.

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    Day 3 - Key West to Okeechobee

    First, a couple of housekeeping issues: Seems I can’t post photos because I don’t have proper editing software on the netbook to reduce the 10 meg photos to something that can be posted. As such, photos will have to wait until we return on Wednesday. I’ll post them up as soon as I can.

    Second, regarding the length of the posts from the BMWMOA, I was tempted to say don’t bother reading them if you think they are too long. But, in the interest of being nice, here you go.

    The weather was wonderful, the skies were sunny, there was little traffic, we found a great Bar-be-que place, and had a really great ride today. That was 25 words…happy?

    Now for the rest of the story, for those of you still interested! The morning in Key West was nice and sunny, although the temp was a bit brisk for this far south - 64. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel, then loaded the bikes for the ride up the Keys. Some days the riding just flows. Its hard to know where the rider ends, and the machine begins. It’s as if you are one - smooth and easy, and joyful. Today was one of those days. As we headed east and north, the motorcycle just seemed to glide along the pavement. Not much was said as we all enjoyed the beautiful morning and the essence of the ride.

    I decided we’d stop at Bahia Honda National Park to enjoy the natural beauty at something less than 55 miles an hour. Surprisingly, the park was almost empty. We strolled along the beach with the sound of the waves gently breaking in the background and the breeze running through our hair. Bahia Honda is the sight of a huge steel bridge that was almost destroyed by a hurricane in 1931. Most of the bridge is still standing, and you can walk out on a portion of the bridge, which we decided to do. It’s quite a sight, looking down at the water over 100 feet below you. The views of the Keys are spectacular (yes, photos are coming, I promise), and it’s breathtaking to think about the engineering and labor that must have been needed to construct such a huge bridges almost 80 years ago.

    Back on the road, we resumed the ride up the Keys. Our only other stop was for gas. I’ve discovered that the Shell stations in Florida sell pure gas….not that ethanol laden crap that our government is trying to force us to use. On this trip, I’ve actually seen my mileage increase from 42 to 47 mpg using only Shell gas. Ron told me that the Harley dealers actually have a list or map showing the location of the Shell stations. I’d love to get something like that in GPS fomat….hmm…perhaps another project?

    We made great time back into Homestead, and found ourselves at Dade Corners again. Less bikes this time, but still plenty. We got a recommendation for a barbeque place nearby and headed off to find some lunch. It was simply called, “The Pit”. The food was pretty good, and we ended up talking to several other bikers out for a Sunday ride. We also got a huge kick out of a young boy, 4 years old according to his mom who was chasing behind him, who decided he loved our motorcycles. He ran over to check them out. Thank goodness there isn’t much exposed that’s hot on my K1200LT, as he made a beeline for it! I went over and let his mom pick him up and set him on the bike for a photo. He was NOT happy to be pulled off the bike, but did stop fussing when he got a seat on Ron’s Harley.

    After lunch, we were joined on our ride north by a couple of other bikes. We hit Highway 27 and turned toward Okeechobee. I’d never been on 27 this far south, and the first thing I noticed was the lack of traffic. It’s a nice road, but it had virtually no traffic this afternoon. The second thing I noticed, was that it was BORING! It was straight (28 miles between curves), flat, and the surrounding cane fields contain almost nothing of interest. Heck, we found ourselves discussing the finer design of high tension power lines for goodness sake! What you can do on 27 is put miles behind you, and the 70 miles to Okeechobee melted away. Oh yeah…check your fuel as well. Ron was running on fumes when we hit South Bay because there aren't ANY fuel stations for almost 50 miles.

    We arrived at the hotel about 4:00, checked in, dropped off our stuff and road over to see this big lake everyone seemed to be talking about. First thing you notice is, it’s BIG. Really big. Next, you see that there are boats, lot of boats. And grass. Some places the grass runs out into the lake for a mile or more. We chatted with a couple of fisherman who’d come in. They had caught some bass, black crappie, and a couple of exotic fish I’d never seen before. One of the guys said he liked catching the non-native fish best, because they taste good and there isn’t a limit on how many you can catch.

    Well, there’s only so much lake you can take, so after we had our fill, we headed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner. Since there was a Sony’s nearby and we hadn’t apparently had our feel of barbeque, that was where we headed for dinner. With full bellies we settled in to watch some football tussle that was all the talk while we were in Miami….a Superbowl or something! Tomorrow will be a ride over to and up the East coast, ending up in Daytona Beach. So far we’ve logged over 800 miles, with two more days of riding to go.

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    Day 4 ÔÇô Okeechobee to Daytona Beach

    Brrrr! What the heck happened? We woke up this morning to really nice weather, but it was COLD! Well, let me clarify. 46 degrees in Florida is cold. After breakfast, we broke out the cold weather gear, what little we had that is, and bundled up. I have grip heaters, seat heaters, and an adjustable windscreen. Rons Harley has an engine that gets hot..thats pretty much up for him and Mary. Well, then again, they are from Memphis so they are more acclimated to weather like this than native Floridians such as I.

    Traffic was sparse on 27 and 78 as we rode west, then north, then northeast, then east around the west side of Lake Okeechobee. We stopped at a little bait, tackle, gas, and food (or was it food first, then gas?) place so Ron could put on his rain pants. Seems the cold air was getting to him. While there, we had a beautiful egret fly up, and land on the edge of a shed about 8 feet from me. I was surprised at how bold the bird was. The owner of the shop stepped out, and said the bird was almost tame. ÔÇ£He likes bait fishÔÇØ he said, as he used the dip net to snare one of the small bait fish in the holding tank outside. He tossed the fish onto the pavement about 4 feet in front of me, and down the bird swooped. It grabbed the fish head first, then unsure of me and wary of my proximity, he flew a short distance away to devour the fish. He swallowed it whole, and then came back for more. The store owner said he usually feeds the egret 4 or 5 fish each day, usually those that have died in the tank.

    With the show over we headed back onto the road, turning first north on 441, then east on 70. Highway 70 would have been a nice ride, except for all the trucks. It appears they are four-laning the highway from Ft. Pierce over to Okeechobee. Despite the trucks, we made good time and allowed the GPS to route us around the traffic in Ft. Pierce. We found our way over to A1A and turned north. This was really a nice ride, with very nice houses, immaculately landscaped medians and yards, and not much traffic. We flowed north, enjoying the sun and sights.

    We decided to stop at Sebastian Inlet, and it held memories for all of us. Many years ago when I was but 16, my best friend and I would pack up his truck and drive over for a weekend of fishing and swimming and Sebastian. Ron and Mary had both lived in Melbourne many years ago, and they also spent time here. We walked out to the beach, then out to the end of the pier, sharing stories and chatting with fishermen. Not much was being caught today, and the surf was a bit sporty. After collecting ourselves and our memories, we headed up A1A to Melbourne Beach to stop by RonÔÇÖs old apartment, and the house Mary grew up in. Mary stopped to take pictures and as she was shooting her former home (that her dad had built and she grew up in), the current owner showed up. What are the odds of that? Well, to make a long story short, Mary explained what she was doing and why, and Loran, the current owner, and his wife invited her and Ron in. I took the time to make some calls back to the office.

    Once we were underway again, we decided to hit the Tiki Bar and Restaurant at Port Canaveral for lunch. The place was packed for 2:00 on a Monday. After a great lunch and a quick tour of the Marina, we headed north. Ron wanted to stop at Bruce Russmeyers Harley World (or whatever its called.its the largest Harley dealership in the US. I altered the route to take us up to Daytona, where we did a big loop, riding through old Daytona, and Main Street  where all the Bike Week mayhem and debauchery occurs or will occur in about 3 weeks, then around to hit Bruces. Its a shame Bruce was killed in a senseless accident riding to Sturgis last year. I actually met him with Ron last year and although brief, I was impressed with him.

    I made sure to park my K1200LT BMW right out front, and watched as quite a few people and two salesmen stopped to check it out. No, they donÔÇÖt sell anything like that in there! After wandering about the store and buying nothing, we collected Ron and Mary (who did purchase some shirts) for the ride to the hotel. A short ride north brought us to Palm Coast, our point of hibernation for the night. We were all tired, after riding over 9 hours, and decided to walk over to WoodyÔÇÖs Barbeque for dinner (yeah, BBQ one more time). Tomorrow will be the final day of riding ÔÇô from the East coast to the West coast, then back to Orlando. WeÔÇÖve put in about 1,100 miles so far, and even with the weather challenges - wet and chilly - itÔÇÖs been great!

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    Day 5 ÔÇô Daytona to Home

    At breakfast this morning, we resigned ourselves to a wet day of riding. The weatherbabe on TV was showing us a map full of pretty colors (where have we seen that before?) and telling us about all the rain that was coming. On the bright side, it was about 6 degrees warmer. About 8:30 we had the bikes packed and each of us had already donned the rain gear (most of it, anyway). We headed out into a cloudy sky and moderate traffic.

    We headed Southwest on Highway 100, until we hit Highway 40, then turned West. The ride along 40 was quiet and serene, with just a bit of chill in the air. There was quite a bit of wildlife about, and we rode roughly 30 miles through the Ocala National Forest. We saw birds of all types, a possum, a raccoon (on a front porch no less), and a wayward armadillo. Fortunately, none of those critters were in our path.

    We stopped just East of Ocala to take a break, and assess the weather. We hadnÔÇÖt gotten any rain, and it had warmed up a bit. Our original plan was to head from one coast to the other, stopping in Cedar Key for lunch. Since the heaviest rain was up that way, we decided to alter our plans and make the turn back a little sooner. We headed back out onto the road, and rowed through the Ocala traffic. Once weÔÇÖd passed through Ocala, we were once again on lightly trafficked roads, this time in the rolling hills of the Ocala horse farms. As we turned from one farm road to another, we found the road to be wet. No rain, just the remnants of a recently passed shower. These roads didnÔÇÖt have many curves, but they did have hills and lots of majestic scenery to watch roll past.

    About 2 miles before we made our turn to the South, we began to get a very light rain. Our pace slowed, but we were still able to enjoy the ride. IÔÇÖve made a note that I want to ride these roads again soon, but on a sunny day where I can give a little less attention to not skidding off the highway, and a little more attention to the surrounding beauty. Somewhere north of Inverness, we stopped for a break and some gas. While we were inside, the rain turned from a light drizzle to a steady rain. I decided a cup of coffee was in order, so I sampled the local offering while we chatted about riding in the rain and other assorted issues specific to the task of motorcycle riding. Eventually, we made our way outside to the bikes.

    While we were under the cover of a canopy, the remainder of the raingear was deployed. Unlike the prior Friday where I went into battle half dressed, this time I put all of it on. Suitably attired, onward we trekked. It wasnÔÇÖt bad at all. In full rain gear, both Cheryl and I stay fully dry. The same could more or less be said of Ron and Mary. We continued South and East around Lake Panasofkee, and then towards Wildwood. Somewhere in Sumter County, near the Federal Correctional Facility, the rain really began to fall hard. Both Ron and I decided that it would be best to trim the ride today, and find our way back to Orlando via the most expeditious route. That turned out to be Highway 27 to 50, then back through Orlando to the Harley dealership.

    It took us a bit over and hour to arrive back at the Harley dealership, but other than RonÔÇÖs feet, not much was wet. Cheryl and I continued to our house to swap the bike for a car so we could return to pick up Ron and Mary. We stopped for a very late lunch (or early dinner, depending on your perspective), and then dropped them off at their hotel. TheyÔÇÖll fly back to Memphis in the morning, where the story is 12 inches of snow on the ground, with more expected. Yikes!

    Over the five days we managed to see many of the different faces of Florida. From the older small towns, to brand new developments, big cities, and places that seem forgotten. We rode over and through farms, ranches, everglades, islands, Keys, sugarcane fields, huge lakes, forests, beaches, mangrove swamps, construction, storms, rain, sun, and everything in between. In all, we logged a bit over 1,300 miles ÔÇô cut a few hours and miles short by our decision not to argue with mother nature. It was a great ride, and IÔÇÖd be happy to share our routes with any interested in seeing Florida on two wheels. Thanks for indulging me.


    Photos are coming as well....

  8. #8
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    Photos from the ride....

    Caught by the camera getting the bike ready for departure on Saturday down in Ft. Myers.


    A shot of the Everglades sliding by at 55 miles per hour.


    An over the shoulder shot of Highway 41, Tamiami Trail which runs through the Everglades.


    Our traveling companions, Ron and Mary from Memphis. We've logged several thousand miles with these two, and we are already planning our next ride. They are currently Harley riders, but on this trip they began to see the light and our hope is that someday Ron will changes teams from Harley to BMW. We love them either way.


    Alabama Jacks sign. This was a great place for food and drink, located on Card Sound Road in Key Largo. Definately worth a stop!


    Another over the shoulder shot coming into Key Largo. Awesome ride!


    Seven Mile Bridge south of Marathon. On the right is the original Seven Mile Bridge a section of which was blown up in the movie "True Lies"


    The obligatory photo of the "Southernmost Point in the United State" marker. Actually, the Naval Station is further south, but it isn't open to the public so I guess it doesn't count.


    Everything has to have a beginning. Here is the beginning of US 1 which runs up the East coast of the United States.


    The old steel bridge at Bahia Honda. This bridge was originally built in the 1920's, before parts of it were destroyed in a hurricane in 1931. You can walk out onto the northern section from the Bahia Honda National Park.


    Ron and Mary checking out Lake Okeechobee. Actually, the grass runs into the lake as far a a mile in some locations (like this one), making the actual expanse of the lake hard to perceive. The lake is over 30 miles wide, and ringed by a 15 - 20 foot dike that makes seeing the lake difficult as well. The dike runs over 117 miles and was constructed after floods in the 1920's killed over 2,000 people.


    The "almost tame" bait-fish eating egret.


    Mary recalling some distant memories at Sebastian Inlet. As you can see, the day was a tad chilly and the surf was sporty!


    A clever artist turned an ugly burned out stump into a piece of art. Look closely at the protrusions and tell me what do you see? If you still don't get it, email me and I'll fill you in.
    Last edited by vectorprime27; 02-10-2010 at 02:21 AM.

  9. #9
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    great report... you should post this in Ride Reports.

    i plan to ride these roads in the next couple weeks... this is where i grew up.

    you should have stopped at the seafood festival... it don't get any better than that!

    ian
    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
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  10. #10
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    Yeah, we are kicking ourselves for missing that fesitval. I think every Harley rider in south Florida was there....we passed hundreds of them heading the other way!

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