Last Saturday I met with my usual riding pals; Mike on an '04 Road King, and Christine on an '05 Sporty (883 with 1200 kit and Stage 1). Much to their annoyance I left the '77 Low Rider in the garage and took the Connie. Harley snobs, dontcha hate 'em? My twice broken back is recovering, but I can still do longer trips more easily on the Kawi.
We left before dawn. In Florida, unlike most of the country, our best riding season is the Winter. Here it gets so bloody hot in the summer that if you stop, you roast. And if your bike is air cooled, it does too. So, we try to get out early and have decent temps for at least the first part of the ride.
Our route was from Ft. Lauderdale East on Alligator Alley toward Naples. Although Alligator Alley is flat, straight, and the pavement sucks, the views of the Everglades are spectacular. The "River of Grass" they call it, but it's a REALLY wide river. Utterly flat and featureless; the grass hides swamp water about 5 to 8 feet deep, and is home to most of what little wildlife survives in South Florida, including panthers, eagles, and yes, lots o' gators! In the old days, crossing the Alley was no small deal, if you broke down you might be there for a long time before anyone showed up to help. There was almost 100 miles of empty two lane roads. Now it's more like a typical section of Interstate, and is in fact designated I-75.
About 2/3 of the way to Naples, you turn South on SR 29. This is a very well maintained stretch of two lane, not quite as flat as the Alley and with the occasional curve. At least three for four in 50 miles; that's a twisty around here. This part of the ride has mostly small farms and modest houses with dirt driveways. There's a tiny "town" of Jerome along the way, consisting of 5 houses, a church, and not much else. Eventually you arrive at the Southermost part of the Florida panhandle, (excluding the Keys, of course), and Fabulous Everglades City.
Pulling in to Everglades City, I flashed back to the South Florida of the 1960's. Fish camps, cabins on the waterways, a classic City Hall complete with "Gone With the Wind" pillars out front, and a small but growing number of what look to be vacation homes. The town couldn't have more than 1000 or so permanent residents. It took us about 15 minutes to ride through the "major" streets. Our first stop was the general store. They have an amazing selection of hot sauces, which may well be used for the fish chum they sell. The chum appeared to be their second largest item in stock after the enormous liquor section in the back. There resided the largest bottle of Vodka I have ever seen in my life. And I've seen a lot of Vodka bottles. In my peak years of training, I'd have had a hard time polishing that one off, even in midst of a serious coke binge.
Our next stop was the "Roadkill," cafe by day, bar by night. (No, they don't have "poker in the front"). The first thing I noticed as we entered were a bunch of what appeared to be old HD mag wheels scattered around, holding up gum machines and holding down giveaway magazines and newspapers. But inside, there were dozens of HD parts; mounted on the walls, displayed on shelves, and some arranged to look like something...I have no idea what the artist's intent was, but the creative process must have involved a lot of alcohol. Heads, cylinders, exhaust pipes, even an original dash that would go nicely on my FXS. Wonder if somebody drove around with a pickup truck behind the Outlaws back in the 70's and built this collection...hmmm.
After finding out from the waitress that they were "out of waffles" but had plenty of pancakes (we couldn't figure it out either), we ordered breakfast. Food is not the attraction at the Roadkill. Neither is the service. The fact that it's there and open must be it's primary redeeming value. Sitting on a stool at the bar eating breakfast was a grizzled (I love that word) older biker, complete with tattoos, bandanna, and cane. As we were paying, he invited us to come around back to his motorcycle shop.
WTF? Here in the middle of nowhere is "Everglades City Cycle," a very well stocked motorcycle (emphasis on HD) store, including what appeared to be a complete workshop. Bike lift, tire changer, Snap On tool chests, the whole deal. The owner couldn't have been nicer, he showed us the whole operation, swapped some "war stories," and gave us some cool stickers with his store logo. It turns out the offical Everglades City bird is the buzzard, so imagine your sterotypical HD logo with the eagle replaced with one ugly bird. I suspect the shop may not be there for long; it's hard to imagine how he could get enough traffic to support the place, but I truly hope he does. And the next time I'm there I want to see if I can finagle that dash off the wall.
The ride home was uneventful except for one gross miscalculation on my part. I decided it would be a smart idea to even out my farmer's tan by riding a ways with my shirt off. One thing led to another, and two hours later I had a new, very bright red "shirt" that is now coming off in chunks. Gee, it's not like I've been in Florida my entire life...oh yeah...I have been. The 80's took their toll, I guess.
I want to go again. For a 200 or so mile ride, I really got the feeling of getting the hell out of the city and somewhere different. Next time though, I'm taking my son and we'll get one of those cabins. They have cheap boat rentals and the fishing is supposed to be outstanding. And, I want to try some Chum ala Habenero Sauce. Them's good eatin!