Thursday, February 02, 2006

202 sun-drenched, Harley-filled miles

Whether it was pure stubbornness or just meant to be, my Deuce and I had the chance to spend the day together, touring South Florida.

I mentioned in Monday's Biker Diaries that I was hoping to re-arrange the work schedule this week and take wednesday off to take advantage of the beautiful south Florida weather before a stormfront made its way into the state. Even filled with doubt of whether or not I should be working right up to pulling into my riding buddies driveway, it was nice to open the garage and see my baby waiting for me. Sort of.

As if trying to make itself as small as possible, my Deuce was surrounded with all the paraphernalia you'd need to lay a new walkway with stones and bricks. Shovels, sledgehammers, wooden rods and bags..of stuff, lay around the garage between the two motorcycles. Not only did I have to clear out the various items from around the bike, but pull at a large potted spikey plant that scratched my forearms as I moved it, sliding it along the cement driveaway to one side.

Since it had been a while since the bike had been out, I let it run for a few minutes with the excuse of letting the oil flow through the engine but it was so nice just to listen to the V-Twin crying out to be ridden.

Holy Harley Batman!
With no set destination I headed north up Federal Highway taking Hillsborough Blvd to Ocean Blvd, a road that runs along the beach. My mind was made up just to cruise, nice and slow watching the beach, the trees and just waste away this Wednesday on my Harley. As you enter Boca Raton (which means mouth of the rat, and I'm always more than happy to remind those well to do people who live there, especially when they get too full of themselves) the road turns sharply up to a bridge and curves sharply again taking you back down to the roads original level. It was as I came down the other side of the bridge, doing the safe rider thing of scanning oncoming vehicles when I spotted a dark looking car coming towards me.

'Gosh that shape sort of looks like the old 1960's batmobile.' thinking how silly it the thought sounded as soon as it took shape in my mind. Then it drove past me. It was the Batmobile! Not sure if it was the original but the attention to detail was so dead on, it well could've been. The shape, headlights, red trim, dual canopies and fins. Everything was there!

I didn't take this picture, but it could've been the same car I saw on my ride.

I wasn't the only one on the road turning my head to watch this piece of childhood memories drive past. The only thing that would've made the experience better would be to ride behind it for a few miles.

How do you top the Batmobile? Well, the weather was awesome if not a little chilly and the forecast was for it to stay sunny all day with the temperature getting up to 72 degrees. I'd started the ride at 10.30 and at not much past 11 the air was still just a touch cold. I was wearing my leather vest, Short sleeved T-shirt and course the jeans and riding boots, with my leather jacket and a long sleeve t-shirt packed away in the knapsack strapped on the seat behind me. By the time I was at the Boynton Inlet, a favored stop of local bikers, my mind was made up to stop and throw on the long-sleeve T-shirt for some extra warmth.

Even though I already have quite a few of the Deuce at Boynton Inlet, it seemed like a great opportunity for a picture!

The arrows pointing toward the letter N, lets follow that!
With still no idea where I'd end up, continued on heading North along the ocean. Everything looks great until you have to head inland at West Palm Beach and can't get back by the ocean until Singer Island. Unfortunately I was in a different world when sitting at the light where I should've taken the right, so it was another thirty minutes before the chance came up at Juno Beach to get beachside. By this time the congested city had given way to lazy seaside towns that were more designed for vacation home owners rather than the beach seeking masses. Portable Post Offices set-up outside the local pharmacy, people wearing the bright beach clothes only the closest freinds and family should see, it was all there as I rode along. A gleaming Harley among the Sebrings, Corollas and Camrys.

At Tequesta (I don't make these names up, just ride through them) the road went inland, grew some lanes and traffic lights sprung up to stop what had been a continous long steady ride at about thirty-five miles per hour. That sounds slow, but with the beautiful weather and ocean it was the perfect speed.

Just north of Jupiter is a historic red lighthouse surrounded by a national park. As I rode by there didn't seem to be many cars in the parking lot. A thought flashed in my mind. Photo opportunity! Parked the bike perfectly as you can see and even thought to take the ugly knapsack off the back before snapping away.

It's all a blur
I'd like to give you exact directions of where I rode from this point but all I know is the thought was to head north and try to stay near the ocean. The road once again veered away from it but the pay-off was a wide highway through dune type landscaping with what little traffic there was driving along at seventy miles per hour. I think my motorcycle was as glad as I was for the chance to blow out the cobwebs and feel the wind whistling past.

When the traffic lights made their ugly appearance again, I tried to take a right and find the beach and although the ride was down a nice, quiet back beach road, it led nowhere. There was something else going on, so obvious it was on my mind as much as trying to work out where I was going. Everyone was being so nice!

As I rode down the small back road, people walking along waved and smiled, even stepped off the road if it looked too tight for the occassionally busy traffic.

After a dead end I found myself riding on Dixie highway which appears to run along the railroad line up and down the east coast of Florida. With the speed limit at 55 and the road fairly straight I had time to wonder, am I on the right side or wrong side of the tracks? It became irrevelant soon as the road took a quick turn to the right, went over the tracks and a tight turn to the left had the road heading north again leaving me on the opposite side I was just on.

Eventually I stopped for some gas, pee break and caved in to buying a map. Do you know how hard it is to buy a map when you really don't know where you are? Nearly as hard as finding yourself on that bought map when you don't know where you are!

Now I don't consider myself a hardcore looking biker by any means, but with a long sleeve T-shirt featuring flames and a skull on the sleeve, leather vest bearing assorted patches and hair that was less than perfectly groomed its certainly not the most approachable sight. Add to the picture some frustration that just had to be on my face and you'll understand why I was surprised to hear.

"Is there anything I can help you with?" I looked around only to see the sweetest old lady pumping gas next to me.

"Excuse me?" I asked, treating this kindness as some sort of foriegn language my ear couldn't quite decipher.

"Well you look lost and I live around here so I thought maybe I could help." she said with a smile. I must've had the strangest look on my face. We're not used to this kind of behaviour back 'in the city'. I mean how could anyone get a thought going with do-gooder busy bodies butting in?

We talked and even as she explained how to get to the beach the old lady interupted herself and told me to follow her down to the beach since she had some errands to run down that way anyway.

How much are houses in this part of town and could I get a job? When I asked where I was, her face was priceless. I was in Stuart and when she found out I'd ridden up from Fort Lauderdale I got a shocked 'Oh you're so brave!'

This woman had to be the perfect grandmother!

I followed her weaving thoughfully through the beach town, indicating so I'd know when she was turning and watching me in her rearview mirror. Pretty soon, there was the bridge she'd described and as she darted off away from it, a wave came from out of the window.

Now the ride is getting good!
Florida has some amazing bridges which are just breathtaking to ride over. I'm not sure whether its their sheer height which is designed to let the tall ships through without having to be raised or lowered, or the awesome views of deep blue ocean stretching for as far as the eye can see. Either way, its always a treat and highlight of any ride.

It was only about quarter of a mile off the bridge and I could see the beach. Everytime I head out on one of these all day rides, its my most sincere intention to to grab lunch at some small restaurant full of locals. Why doesn't it ever work out that way? I'd held off eating and now it was nearly two in the afternoon with not even a chain restaurant in sight. Of course there was a Publix (a grocery store chain in Florida) right there, so once again I'd be grabbing something quick and very generic to eat. The upside was that the store was located directly across from the beach parking lot. There was the place I'd be eating!

Only the finest of restaurants for this rider

With the best seat in the house!

Even had my own parking spot!

Cruised around the packed parking lot noticing an opening just wide enough for a leaning bike. It wasn't an access way, nor were there any no-parking signs so I pulled in. The biggest worry at this point was whether or not the ground was firm enough to support the bikes weight coming through the small plated kickstand. The wooden poles marking the spot would do some nasty damage to the bike if it fell over onto them. A walk around and jiggling of the bike with no obvious effects made me more comfortable about parking here.

It was interesting to walk onto a beach of sunbathers of all ages in my riding gear, helmet and knapsack in hand. I stripped down to the T-shirt, unwrapped my food and drink and took a break from the roar of a V-Twin to listen to the tranquility of a beach. The crashing waves, birds, excited children and meaningless chatter from surrounding sunbathers. What made it even nicer was how relatively empty the beach was.

If anyone was surprised of how I looked when first walking on the beach, leaving would be even more of an eye-opener. I was at the southern most point of this stretch of beach with the road heading north until the land ended and the road headed west. It was pretty much a straight shot to the freeway from that point and since I wanted to avoid rush hour, the freeway would be the quickest way to get home. With about a hundred mile trip on the freeway my more cautious side was feeling more comfortable with the thought of wearing my leather jacket for this leg of the trip. I also reasoned that it would only get colder as evening came closer so the jacket was an obvious choice.

That is unless you're in swimming trunks soaking up the sun. To suddenly see someone walking off the beach in a leather jacket would strike you as somewhat strange. Okay so I didn't, but it might've been worth the looks!

Heading home
Saddling up and heading out again I was starting to get nervous about the time. The same friends that waited at a restaurant at the end of my long ride back in October of last year were coming over to my house tonight. I couldn't keep them waiting again. To make matters worse I'd forgotten my watch and was using the cellphone to check the time, easy enough when standing still but dangerous to do while riding.

Riding along the beach was just beautiful with most of it undeveloped. The road was straight and open letting me zip along at 55 - 65 mph, and it seemed to go on forever. Up until this point, I hadn't really seen any other riders, which wasn't surprising since it was the middle of the week. They all appeared along this stretch of road, cruisers, sportbikes and sport-tourers. As disappointing as it was to leave the amazing beach road behind me, when it started heading west I felt some relief now I could focus on getting home in time.

The highway riding was fairly straighforward staying between seventy and eighty mph and very glad that I'd worn my jacket. Could've actually worn the long sleeve t-shirt as well, but it wasn't cold enough to stop to put on the additional layer. Managed to beat most of the traffic and enjoying the luxury of hopping into the HOV lane whenever traffic became a little heavy. This was my first experience of using the HOV lane when the time of day limits its use to allowable vehicles only, so I looked into the faces of the cars around me to see if anyone was ticked off that I was riding in it. As riders we know we're legally allowed, but my non-biking friends are always surprised, even sometimes cynical about the law.

If people were ticked I didn't see it and the horror stories of cars pulling in front of you out of anger never happened.

With my half-helmet and the constant wind noise, by the time I pulled into my buddy's driveway I couldn't hear a thing. This is making me think that there could a full face helmet in my future for those long freeway rides, or at the very least a pair of earplugs designed for riding.

From one pasttime to another.
My buddy was home, working on the stone wall in his front yard as I pulled in, so I did what any good friend would do, stripped off the jacket and gloves, lending a helping hand.

Considering the day started off with no set idea of where to go or what to do, it turned out pretty good. 202 miles with all sorts of sights and even some nice people. I need to work out the best way of exploring the roads up in Fort Pierce, the final city I rode through. From what little I saw theres a lot of potential up there. Its on the way to Daytona Beach, the home of the infamous bike rally coming up in a few months, so maybe I'll allow and extra day or two for the ride back?

Defintely a thought!

Heres a map of the route which really shows the scope of the days ride.


benjaminrlopez said...

Thanks for the details of your grand day off man. I almost felt as if i was on that putt myself...Next time i'm in your part of the jungles i now know of some interesting asphalt...

KT Did said...

This was a great ride and I didn't even leave my house. Thanks for taking me along. I would love to ride that one day....A beach with no people--thats a prize ride in itself.