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Old 12-07-2010, 11:39 PM   #1
superkram OP
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Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Central FL
Oddometer: 140
1st RR: Wee-ing the Sunshine Skyway, Keys, Everglades, & South Florida



For my Thanksgiving break from grad school, I decided to take a road trip to see friends and sights in various parts of Florida south of Orlando. I was long overdue for a mini-vacation and wanted to see what my Wee-Strom was really like on the open road. Let me tell you… I love this bike!

For $100 in gas, I rode 1,300 miles of my home state, hung on over the TALL and WINDY Sunshine Skyway Bridge, lazed through the Keys, took some good pictures, drank plenty of Red Bull, and saw the Everglades up close for the first time.

Ready? Read on! (Pics with an asterisk* are not mine, everything else was snapped on my trusty iPhone!)

Day 1: Leaving Orlando suburbs to Clearwater


The Strom at the gas station by my house with 10,300 miles



Easy 120 miles, cruised between 75-100mph, all I-4. Boring. Once in Clearwater, I got to enjoy thanksgiving with old college friends and their cute kids. Got 46mpg(!) staying at 6500 or less.

Fun fact: Clearwater is home to the original Hooters location on SR60 since 1983.

Less fun fact: I lived in Clearwater for over two years and never once went there.

Random picture of hot Hooters employee to compensate for boring fact about never heading there.* Enjoy!




Day 2: Part 1 Clearwater to Sarasota

My friend Willie and his wife decided to join me for the trip to Sarasota over the Sunshine Skyway on his 2007 Triumph Speedmaster, and I was really looking forward to having my first ride together with these longtime friends! Two years ago, before I started riding again, he and two of our other close friends took a bike trip together from Clearwater to Ft. Lauderdale around Okeechobee. They had a great time and ragged on me for not having a bike then, and wished I'd gone with them then. Was really looking forward to this day as a way to make up for lost time!


However, it was windy and they rode slower than I expected, staying in the middle of traffic or slightly slower. Me, I prefer to move slightly faster than traffic; other drivers are more likely to notice objects that move at a different speed than they are. I worried they were having mechanical problems, so I pulled over near the Pinellas Bayway, where they said they were turning back due to the wind.

Yes, it was windy, but… My friends weren’t having any of it, so we sadly said our goodbyes and parted ways. Bummer! Maybe the wind affects cruisers or bikes with forward controls more, and gets compounded with passengers riding pillion? I wouldn't know, I've only ridden standards and squid bikes. Willie's words "It's not a good day to ride" made me a bit queasy, but I was determined to press on.

Well, the Sunshine Skyway is HUGE. It’s the biggest bridge in the Southeastern United States. 431 feet high, 5.5 miles long, with a clearance height of 193’ above the mouth of Tampa Bay. Also known as the lightning capital of the Western Hemisphere.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunshine_Skyway_Bridge

This is what it looks like from a distance*:




This is what it looks like from the top*:




It was windy with 25-35 mph gusts, and I passed under a sign that said “HIGH WINDS WHEN FLASHING” and ummm, the lights weren’t flashing. I began to get a little nervous, especially when I didn’t see any bikes coming from the opposite direction. Nevertheless I kept going, higher and higher into the wind, all while saying “GodlovesmeGodlovesmeGodlovesmeohhhfu-GodlovesmeGodlovesm”

I had a death grip on my bars, and kept trying to distract myself to loosen the grip on the bars, so I wouldn’t bounce around so much in each gust of wind. Eventually, I got up to the top, and was enjoying the majestic view, when I suddenly realized the winds on the southern side were MUCH stronger, blowing northward over the bay and the Skyway itself. CRAP! Counterintuitively, I just accelerated from 70 to 90+, thinking a faster moving object had greater inertia to punch through the wind. Either way, it worked and I made it safely down the other side. I’m telling you, it might not seem like much on a car, but on a bike… whew! One less thing off my bucket list.

Rest of Day 2: Sarasota to Naples

This was a cakewalk after the Skyway. After lunch with a buddy in Sarasota, I noticed a storm approaching so I hopped on the bike and started heading south. Speeds of 90+ are effective at controlling your distance from the weather. Soon, however, I began attracting all kinds of cars who wanted me as the carrot at the end of their stick. One lady in a new Passat kept staying with me at sprints to 7000-8000 rpms in 6th. When I gassed up for the night in Naples, the Wee’s fuel economy was only 39mpg for Day 2 from all this wind at high speeds.

Day 3: Naples-Everglades-Homestead-Keys-Key West-Keys-Miami

Got up early on Day 3 and had some fresh kill from the mysterious Golden Arches:



Headed south on US41 (Tamiami Road) through the Big Cypress National Reserve, which passes through the Miccosukee Indian reservation. Had my picture taken at the smallest fricking post office ever in tiny Ochopee, FL.



Made it to Homestead after 120 miles of the Everglades & Big Cypress Swamp, and got a much-needed can of go-go juice to keep me running for the main event of the trip…




The Keys & Key West



Once through US41 into the western edge of Miami, I headed south via back roads (Krome Road) to Homestead, FL then joined US1 into the Keys. Much has been written about riding through the Keys. I won’t bore everyone, but it’s awesome on a bike. Got the obligatory photos at Mile Marker 0, the 90 Miles to Cuba marker, and paid homage to Hemingway at his old mansion.









Speaking of Hemingway, I once tried to steal one of the famously six-toed cats there during a Hemingway festival a few years back. Didn't end well for me, but that’s another story for another time, grin!

…Turned around, and raced up US1. The sunset was gorgeous cruising down Seven Mile Bridge, and the Wee happily passed three to five-car groups of vehicles with aplomb. Made it to my best friend’s house in south Miami without incident, and averaged 56 MPG for the day over the nearly 500 miles racked up in 14 hours. Nice!


Day 4: Miami to Flamingo, Everglades National Park, and back




After a late start BSing around, my buddy Bak and I had our requisite almond croissants at Delices De France, a local family owned French bakery in Palmetto. If you're in the area, you NEED to get your butt there for coraditos and almond croissants. They are the mother(bleep)ing bomb. Been going nearly 10 years now, and worth it every time! I then split to hit the road to Flamingo, FL which is at the bottom of the Everglades, at the very southern tip of mainland Florida, where the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

To get there, you have to enter via the Everglades National Park





At the park entrace, I got in for free by telling the guards I’d lost my Golden Eagle access card (which allows people with disabilities to enjoy national parks for free) which was true, but neglected to mention that was five years earlier. (I'm Deaf & use American Sign Language.)

Flamingo was 50 miles from the park entrance, and I thought it would be a neat little fishing town, like Card Sound in the Upper Keys, but it was mainly an optimistically named government-run marina and campground with a cheesy visitor center.

The Wee at Florida Bay




There were lots of park rangers, who seemed mostly preoccupied with enforcing the 45mph speed limit. Did my best to behave.

Messing with park rangers. They were glad to do a photo op but drew the line at this after I suggested staging a fake arrest with handcuffs, sirens, and drawn pistols. Aww!




In the parking lot at the marina there, I spotted this sweet '85 solid axle 4-Runner with the best patina seen in a long time (I like honest 4x4s)




You can bring your boat here. Saw lots of low-decked fishing boats being pulled to/from here on the way. Must be some good salt flats here. Not many deep-vee hulls.




I guess the water here pretty much looks like water elsewhere. No sexy water goddesses to congratulate and reward me here.




Since there weren't any sexy water goddesses that day, I had to use my imagination.* Hey, it's MY imagination! I'm allowed!




After leaving the park, I passed by former parts of the Everglades that were drained to make way for agriculture, namely sugar and sugar cane products for Big Sugar.




This interesting roadside stand offers sugarcane milkshakes… Just what the kids need before entering the park for a 3 hour, 45mph ride in the family minivan! Yes, this really is the name of the place: "ROBERT IS HERE" Don’t ask me why.





Eventually, I made it back to civilization and met up with some old fraternity brothers in South Beach for dinner, drinks, and the usual BS.




Wee didn’t look too bad parked on Ocean Drive with all her dirt and grit.




Day 5: Miami to Naples via US41

Regular day. Averaged 75mph at 5500 RPM for 52 mpg. Got to my buddy Chris’s place and took a much-needed nap. Yes I know, we have a lot of yellow townhouses in Florida.




We hopped in his Wrangler to meet up with a girl he’d started seeing. Athletic blonde Canadian golf groupies are awesome. I was a good wingman. Right, Chris??? Sorry, no pics. The innocent shall not be harmed (…much) We also did a little four-wheeling near an exclusive golf course on some old Jeep trails on the property there.

Sunset at Vanderbilt Beach in Naples




Day 6: Naples back to Orlando

I set out wanting to ride past the last remaining solid sections of orange groves from our citrus boom heydays and get a glimpse of an old citrus processing plant.

Orange groves*



Truck full of oranges




Peace River Citrus Plant near Bartow, FL




Trailers full of oranges




Another angle of Peace River Citrus Plant




This is a remnant of the original Juice Train railroad that was built by Tropicana in 1970 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juice_Train



Stopped in Winter Haven, FL for a relaxed lakeside smoothie



On SR33 south of Groveland, I spotted an awesome place to take hang-gliding lessons!



Place was closed, but that didn’t stop me (or the Wee) from riding around for a few pics...










Definitely coming back to take some lessons, it looks like fun!

Some rolling terrain on US19 in between Groveland and Howey-In-The-Hills



Lake Apopka from near Montverde



Finally, stopping off at the same gas station I started out… I finished 1300 miles with an average of 48-50 MPG, mostly riding in 5th & 6th gears at 60-90 MPH. Odometer had 11,6xx miles.



Safely back in the garage




Whew!




My dog sure was happy to see me!




Postscripts:

Overall, I’m really glad I took this trip. Nothing too dangerous was attempted, yet I had great fun getting to know my Wee better after buying it nearly four months ago. Up to this point, I’d only been commuting to school on it or taking short day rides with various friends. It was nice to see what the bike was really like, and developing an honest assessment for differentiating between “necessary” vs “nice” farkles for the Wee.

Am definitely ready for a 16T counter-sprocket upgrade to reduce the Wee’s highway RPMS by 500 RPM or so, a new fork brace for stiffer turn-ins, and new ATV handlebars with less sweep or “bend” to them. Not too sure about the buffeting issues, as I wasn’t bothered too badly on this trip. Definitely need to finish painting the bike soon. Everyone seems to like the flat black Rustoleum I did the right side in – definitely fits me much better than the glittery factory “bass boat blue”!

My stock seat wasn’t too bad. I tried to anticipate and head off the chance of monkey-butt by wearing padded mountain-biking compression shorts between my pants and underwear. This seemed to do the trick, but I admit to periodically stretching and squirming in my seat after a couple hundred miles.

My gear was pretty simple, a long sleeved Nike dri-fit shirt, old corduroys, a Shoei RF1000 helmet, and a simple leather/cordura armored jacket for cooler sections of the road. I bought a pair of Croakies in Marathon, FL so I could enjoy the Seven Mile Bridge with my Raybans and head full of fresh air. I know; I wasn’t practicing ATGATT. A backpack and bungee cords were enough to handle my laptop and change of clothes. My iPhone handled all my mapping/info needs, but apart from the ride into Flamingo, FL - I wasn’t exactly headed into unknown territory on this trip.

A new solid Bestem or JC Whitney case should help me on my next trip, along with adding powerlets for charging the iPhone and Valentine radar detector. Looking forward to racking up many more miles soon on the Wee!
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Now: '01 R1150GS '94 R1100RS '73 CB350
Then: '07 B1250 '06 DL1000 '06 FJR '01 FZ1 '07 DL650

superkram screwed with this post 12-08-2010 at 09:34 PM
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Old 12-08-2010, 04:20 PM   #2
dcwn.45
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Joined: Oct 2006
Location: Waconia,Mn
Oddometer: 753
Great first RR!
Thanks for posting.
My dad just got a retirement job in Captiva Florida, so I plan to go visit on the Wee and ride to Key West and the glades too.
If not this winter, next winter for sure.
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Old 12-08-2010, 05:21 PM   #3
otoko
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Joined: Dec 2010
Location: NoVA
Oddometer: 69
Nice, dude. Looks like you bonded with your bike very well.

I'm about to head down to Jax next Weds for a 2-3 day ride.
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Old 12-08-2010, 06:30 PM   #4
JustPlainDave
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Sarasota, Fl
Oddometer: 187
Nice trip and report. The pics were bueno as well. Although, the Hooters girls don't look like that here as far as I can remember.
I used to commute to Tampa and rode the Skyway everyday. There were days the wind on top of the bridge moved my car enough to increase the pucker factor quite a bit.
Holler next time you get near Sarasota.
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Old 12-08-2010, 08:01 PM   #5
superkram OP
Church parking lot rider
 
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Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Central FL
Oddometer: 140
Thanks!

I appreciate the kind words. I never realized how much goes into making a ride report before.... my hat's off to the writers of all the other great RR's we've enjoyed here!
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"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." -Hunter S. Thompson
Now: '01 R1150GS '94 R1100RS '73 CB350
Then: '07 B1250 '06 DL1000 '06 FJR '01 FZ1 '07 DL650
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