Feb 24 - Mar 3, 2005
Mid-February, it's snowing outside and I'm reading the ODSC Forum messages when one catches my eye:
How could I resist! Didn't know who the poster was, but it turns out that Barry had been on one of my ODSC Falls Tour rides so at least he knew me and a week later we are heading south with his KLR in the truck and my V-Strom on a MX-Caddy rack on the trailer hitch.
Everything seems great until we buy a newspaper in Tennessee and see
the weather forecast is rain, thunderstorms, and showers for the next 5
days in Miami. During the lunch stop near Knoxville we notice
we are in the mountains - close the the Smoky Mountain National Park -
and make a quick change in plans. Half an hour later, the bikes are
unloaded, we are kitted up - it's sunny and 4C - and following directions
from the teenager in McDonalds who knows a dirt road to the nearby mountain
top. This road turns out to be too rough for the V-Strom, but we
really luck out when we just head out exploring and find an incredible
selection of dirt and paved roads. Without a doubt. the paved
roads we found were the best motorcycle roads I've been on - and that covers
a lot of riding. Got them marked on my GPS and will be back there
for more riding for sure.
We ended up riding for about 5 hours until dark, so we needed to drive
all night to stay on schedule for our meeting with the 'boat engine guy"
in Ft Lauderdale - no problem with Red Bull - that stuff is definitely
100 octane caffeine (the can says it's Taurene, whatever that is).
Must be good business selling boat engines on eBay - this guy, Glenn, (a
dead ringer for Joe "Vinnie's Cousin" Pesci) lives in a huge house with
all marble floors, a swimming pool, etc and has his boat moored in his
backyard. A real nice guy - tells us just to park the truck
in his driveway, take off on our bikes for few days and he'll load up the
motor, etc while we are riding. An hour later we're on the road to
the Florida Keys. Lunch in Key Largo is relaxing, but we are
too hot as we're riding in Canadian gear. We watch the Harley's go
by with helmetless riders wearing T-shirts and jeans and think they are
crazy. We would never do anything like that! It's a long ride
to Key West - 2 lane, speed limit 30, 45 and very occasional 55mph - lot's
of traffic - and it's a Saturday.
Key West is the most southerly point in the USA and seems to be a party
town. The main drag - Duval Street - is almost all bars and
restaurants, many of the bars have take-out windows as it's legal to walk
down the street with a beer in your hand! Almost everyone there has a rental
scooter or golf cart and the combination of drunken pedestrians, drunken
2 and 4 wheel drivers, street entertainers, and exhibitionist loud-pipe
Harley owners make Saturday night in Key West a night to remember - especially
as it was also pouring with rain and no one seemed to notice.
After trying a slow ride down the main street in shorts, T-shirt and
sandals (just because we legally could), we checked out of our motel fully
clad in riding gear to head back up the Keys. It was so hot, we soon
realized why everyone rides with minimal gear and promised ourselves we'd
ride really slow and careful (ya, right) if we took off helmets, jackets
and gloves. It was really pleasant doing this but by evening we'd
regret it when we found we had 3rd degree sunburn. Watching the late
night news in the motel confirmed we'd been lucky, as nearby West Palm
Beach had been hit by tornado strength rain storms.
Back on the "mainland" we took a room in Homestead and planned Monday's
route - decided a visit to the Everglades National Park and a ride along
Hwy 41 with a detour through Big Cypress National Preserve looked interesting.
The only interesting thing about this part of the trip turned out to be
the wildlife - everywhere we stopped there were numerous alligators, turtles,
egrets, herons, etc - the roads were flat and quite straight so weren't
really interesting in themselves, but - it's February and it's warm and
After a side trip to Marco Island to view "the homes of the rich and
famous", we headed to Ft Myers for the night - the roads were soaked so
we'd again lucked out and avoided the storms which were sweeping Florida.
The roads back to Ft Lauderdale didn't look too interesting on the map,
and we were too far from Ocala National Forest to head there, so we decided
on a visit to Arcadia (one of the badly hit areas in last year's hurricane
season) and a trip around Lake Okeechobee - as there appeared to be a dirt
road between the highway and the water, like on Hwy 41 - and then leave
Florida early for some Tennessee riding on the way home. Okeechobee
turned out to be a disappointing trip - the apparent 'dirt' road was in
fact a paved "bicycle and hikers only trail", but luckily the No Motorized
Vehicles sign had fallen off at the access point we tried so we got to
ride one section before before heading back to the highway. That
was the only view of the Lake we'd get as there's a 30' high levee all
around the lake, making it invisible from the road.
Back in Deerfield Beach, Glenn had done a great job of loading the boat
engine on the truck while we were gone, and in no time we had the bikes
loaded and on our way to Tennessee. Decided to stop off in Daytona
Beach as Trailer Week - err, sorry Bike Week - was due to start in a few
days. Unfortunately it was dark when we got there and the actual
beach was closed for riding/driving but we got to walk on it. From
here, we planned on driving non-stop through the night to Tennessee, but
after a couple of hours driving Barry reverted to his "Fireman night shift
mode" and needed to sleep the rest of the way! Fortunately I was
stocked up on Red Bull so we made it on schedule but as dawn broke all
we could see was snow - all that rain in Florida - which we missed - was
falling here as snow. The Blue Ridge Parkway was closed and there
was too much snow and ice on the side roads to make it worthwhile.
Disappointed, we had no choice but to keep going, but at least we'd now
be able to take a motel on our last night rather than our planned second
straight night of non-stop driving.
After getting ready to explain why we had 2 bikes and a boat motor on the truck, it was a bit anticlimactic just to be waved through at the Canadian border, but it was a pleasant end to a very enjoyable week away from snowy Ontario. Many thanks to my new friend, Barry, for taking me with him on this adventure.