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Mile Zero

Sunday, January 14, 2018   (3 Comments)
Posted by: Stephanie Tarian #171779

When thinking Spring Break, you don’t automatically think of Key West. However, I like travels that led me to farther most points, whatever those points may be. At 16 years old, I tagged Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Last summer I tagged the eastern and northernmost point in Newfoundland and Labrador.

My dad, his friend Oleg, and I decided to get a snap of the buoy that says Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A. in Key West, Florida. The day has finally come, but unfortunately South Dakota decided to dump a snow storm onto us. It’s a good thing we were prepared; my dad and I put two bikes on the trailer behind the pickup truck and drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Our first mission of the day was to ride the Tail of the Dragon, also known as Deals Gap, The Tail of the Dragon is a 11-mile stretch of paved roads between the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and the Cherokee National Forest in North Carolina. When you ride the Dragon, you keep your eyes on the road, end of story. All throughout the 318 curves and twists, there are sheer drops with no shoulder. It is quite a road and the scenery is breathtaking – if you get a chance to glance over at it.

The curves are so smooth that a few minutes in, they feel unreal because I am so in-the-zone. I slay the dragon for my first time with such a joy riding it. As I pull into the parking lot of the gift shop, the guy working there welcomes me by saying it is the opening day of the season. We look around to buy souvenirs and head to the Tree of Shame on the other side of the parking lot. The tree's branches are full of broken parts left on the Dragon and hung up with pride under the “No shame & a lot of PAIN” sign. Once we jump back onto our bikes, we continue to ride twisties alongside the mountain lakes and creeks of North Carolina all the way our first destination point, Daytona Beach, Florida.

As I unzip my tent, I instantly became one happy camper. I have never tented next to the variation of pine and palm trees. It's such an epic sight to see and be surrounded by. My dad, Oleg and I rode to Daytona Beach starting with the Old Dixie Highway. The road’s scenery became my favorite, it is a beautiful road full of exotic flora and fauna. The few days I was at bike week, I saw mostly Harley riders with all kinds of shapes and colors and deafening pipes. There are bunch of sport bikes and a few adventure riders, a crazy crowd.

We ditched the crowd and entered the gate that leads to a ride on the beach. I was nervous; but sand is just as hard as pavement once riding on it, so the butterflies flew away. Daytona Beach has such a relaxing, getaway vibe that gets under your skin. It instantly makes you leisurely and happy, so when my dad asked me if I wanted to come with him to pick up my sister at the airport, I thought “Heck no!”

Oleg and I decided to chill by the ocean for a few hours until they came back. The beach was crowded with unique people all over that kept me entertained. When my dad and sister came back, we all left together to ride once more on the beach, however this time went a bit differently. We found an entrance, but there was a guy standing in front of the ticket booth saying “go this way” to the Harley in front of us. He had a vicious smile, but I didn’t think much about it. I followed the motorcycle train into the entrance/exit. Right as we started riding, I noticed the beach waves seemed dangerously close and the sand seemed much deeper than a few hours ago. Anyways, you know the saying "red, white and blue represent freedom unless they are flashing behind you" – that was the exact position I was in.

As all four motorcyclists kept driving, the police yelled out, “Are any of you guys going to stop?” My dad, and Michelle on the back of his bike, zoomed away. Oleg and I weren't as daring and pulled over with the Harley guy. Luckily, by the end of all the discussion, he told us to turn around. The reason why we weren’t supposed to be riding on the shore is because the beach closes due to the tides once the wind picks up. Making a U-turn to get out, I revved on the gas and suddenly felt my bike flopping side to side. I lost control and bang, I went down with my motorcycle next to these ocean tides that are coming closer with each wave.

I had a balcony crowd helplessly watching me as I struggled to lift my bike. Two teenage boys came rushing to me asking me if I was okay, but all I really needed was help to put the monster upright. As I sat back up on my bike, my knees and nerves all shaken up at this point, I realized that I simply didn't want to move. The whole time I mentally felt stuck in that spot, until a grandma on the balcony started cheering me on saying, “YOU CAN DO IT!” and encouraging me loudly. I started to hear the voice inside myself saying “I can do it, I can do it.” I started moving and heard her screaming “KEEP GOING, YOU GOT IT” until I saw Oleg rush over to me, stopping my momentum of encouragement. He jumped on my bike and finished the job, getting me out of the loose sand. I don't mind gravel, but deep sand is something I was not used to.

My second day of bike week was in St. Augustine. It claims to be the oldest city in the U.S, and is also know for the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort. We spent most our day there wandering through the town. It’s filled with unique stores and amazing sites throughout the many streets. We went into some of their most interesting attractions. The first one was Flagler College, a four-year private arts college. The campus is stunning with beautiful art everywhere. In some of the girls' rooms there are still antique features intact.

After viewing the college, we visited the Lighter Museum. I was so caught up in the beauty, it took me a while to realize somewhere along the way I lost my purse with my driver license, cards and money. Talk about a mini heart attack! I rushed back to all the places I recently took photos, but it was nowhere to be found. At this point, I was frustrated and the only thought going through my mind was that my motorcycle keys were in there.

After asking everyone around, a worker recommended to look in the lost and found (I know, typical place to go first) and it was there. No-one was shocked by my misplacement, it happened one too many times. We laughed and walked back to the parking lot of the fort, then decided to go explore some more. One interesting piece to the fort is that the thick walls are made of tiny sea shells. After our big loop around the Castillo de San Marcos, we jumped on the bikes and took a coastal road, A1A, to the campsite to cook a delicious meal under the stars and palms.

The next day it was time to pack up our tents and ride to America’s only Caribbean Island. Along the way, we made a quick stop at Sunny Isles Beach. I had the pleasure of meeting Ricardo Serpa and his wife Nicole. He is an amazing photographer and also a tour leader with my dad at Ayres Adventures. They live in an amazing condo overlooking the beach and channels. Nicole welcomed us with shots of expresso and delicious cookies while we all chatted about our adventures outside on the balcony. Ricardo showed us his movies and photography of his adventures around the world which had me breath-taken! We said our goodbyes and went another 60 miles to Key Largo, where we stayed for the night.

Morning came early and the sun was shining, but before we hit the road we had laundry to do. But hey, that's a man's job! I shoved my clothes to my dad and lay beside the pool, soaking up the rays. With the sun beating, I unfortunately fell asleep in the paradise atmosphere. I noticed my hands developing a sun poisoning rash. I thought, “no big deal, I will be okay,” and after all was done, we packed our stuff and left to Key West.

The ride was amazing with turquoise water on each side. It is a two-lane highway that jumps from Key to Key over a series of 45 bridges, one an incredible seven miles in length. The Atlantic is on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right. It’s a ride that will forever be ingrained in my memory. As we arrived, I felt the good vibes and was excited about what the night would bring. Another feeling was the burning of my rash getting worse. I took some Advil and rubbed cream onto it, officially learning my lesson — DON’T SLEEP UNDER THE SUN. Besides that, getting down with the coolest mixture of locals and breakers was a blast.

As the sun went down the party lit up, Key West was as out of control as I hoped it would be. Once you slip into your island groove, you let loose! The night was full of live music and exotic partiers, so my sister and I decided to walk around for a bit. We watched the huge waves by the buoy, and a local mentioned that the waves have never been this strong over five years, they are so strong that water rushed all over the roads. We continued to take pictures which led me to think, who has a picture on top of the buoy of the Southernmost Point? I got two guys to give me a boost and it felt so awesome up there while scary waves roared down.

When leaving Key West, we snapped one last photo by the buoy with my motorcycle and another by the road post of US Highway 1, which says Mile 0. The weather was in our favor, making the road back easy – until I saw my dad with my sister slowing down rapidly. The bike was shaking. I sped up and saw their flat tire. Fortunately, we pulled over to the next driveway under the shady trees. My dad had a spare tube and we were back on the road in no time.

The sun set, but the moon's mysterious beauty kept us company as we rode. Driving up to Naples on the Tamiami Trail, Oleg was no longer in my mirror. It was a narrow highway with no shoulder, so we drove a few miles before we found a safe spot to stop. All along the way, I was wondering what happened. I hope he did not fall asleep, because he told us he was tired. My dad dropped my sister and I alongside Alligator Alley and rushed back to see what happened. Oleg had a flat tire as well. What are the odds, two flat tires in one day? Must have been that shoulder passing in the heavy traffic in some Keys. His S 1000 XR has tubeless tires, so the patching up process was quicker than taking the wheel off the bike as my dad had to do to change the tube.

As they took care of business, my sister and I laid on the gravel, stargazing and listening to all the creatures around us. It was so peaceful. That night we arrived in Naples as planned, but with some unexpected stops. We spotted an Olive Garden, and noticed it closed in 10 minutes. We rushed in for the nice warm bowl of soup and salad we'd longed for all day.

Our last day together was spent at the beach in Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples. My dad swam to the far distant buoy, then swam back telling me, “You should come do it!” I hesitated at first, but he told me a little secret. The secret about the buoy was the sand. It is as high as my waist where the waves crash, so I could literally stand and walk to the buoy. I swam with him and we hung out pretending we were in deep water, holding on to the buoy while my sister worryingly snapped some pictures of us disappearing in the waves. We giggled and swam back to the shore.

We ended the day in Orlando, where my sister had to fly home the next morning. My dad drove Michelle to the airport and we rode back to Chattanooga to pick up our truck. Our Spring Break Adventure officially came to an end. Tagging the most distant points on the map with my motorcycle is an extraordinary accomplishment for me – as I like to say, everything you could want to see is at the end of the world. Now it's time to go elsewhere!

Comments...

Gary L. Campbell says...
Posted Monday, January 15, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed your story. It is awesome that you are able to ride to so many neat destinations, especially at your tender age. It has taken me 40 years of saddle time to be where you have been... but I am not done yet! The chemistry in your family really special, never take that for granted.
Dennis J. Shanker says...
Posted Monday, January 15, 2018
Great story especially since I grew up in SD.
Jerry Scott says...
Posted Monday, January 15, 2018
A very nice story. I am impressed. If you decide to edit it, I'd like to suggest a picture of you without tinted facemask down as I assume you are not ashamed of the way you look. And, how about some details on the BMW you are riding. Other than that, I enjoyed reading this light adventure. Riding on sand and beaches is always iffy and I avoid it like the plague. Where did you get the hand covers? They look like something I could use on my cross country this Spring. Good luck on future rides.

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