Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trip to Key West



I had 7 days to ride to Key West Florida and return back home. I decided I would do the trip on my Kawasaki Mean Streak. All my friends said I was crazy (I am), they said the bike was too noisy for long distance riding (it is), but I really wanted to get a photo of my Mean Streak in front of the "Southern Most Point in the USA" and so it was, with the bike packed up, wired with a GPS and a camera on hand, my friend Mike and I departed on our trip.


We decided to go down Interstate 81 and ride part of the Skyline Drive in Virginia. The mountains of Virginia are always beautiful in the fall with all the leaves changing color. We rode all day and as the night approached we decided to camp in Buena Vista.

We continued the next day towards Atlanta where a friend had offered us an overnight stay. We arrived late in the afternoon, had dinner at "El Azteca", paid a visit to a local bar for a few beers and called it a night.
The next day we continued south on I75 towards Tampa splitting up near Lake Panasoffkee, Mike continuing towards Tampa and I made my way down the Florida Turnpike through Orlando and on to West Palm Beach on the east coast for the night.

The next morning, got up early and headed out towards Miami and made a stop in South Beach for breakfast at the Cardozo Hotel. South Beach is world famous as a party playground for the rich and famous. South Beach (aka SoBe) is on Miami beach, a barrier island connected to Miami proper by the MacArthur causeway bridge. I took a leisurely stroll along Ocean Drive, which is lined with colorful historic Art Deco buildings, every photographer's dream. Stylish hotels now occupy the iconic buildings - most have cool bars and trendy cafés, which front the sidewalk. "SoBe" is an interesting and colorful place with old and new hotels intermixed with palm trees and beautiful beaches.



I made my way through Miami and continued south on route 1 towards my final destination of Key West. I arrived late in the afternoon and after checking into a motel headed towards Duval Street. If you ever go to Key West, stay until dark, that's when the party begins.



Despite its comparably small size, the island as well as the town Key West are fascinating and bustling with activity. Key West is not only known for its perfect weather, but also for its fascinating culture which is really more a blend of cultures because of the immigrants who have settled here and added to the tolerant and accepting atmosphere. Every night, painters, musician, performers and artists congregate in a park on the west side of the island at sunset to perform for tourists from all over the globe.
I watched in awe the sunset in Key West, the most southern city in the USA, with thousands of people around me. The views over the gulf of Mexico are breathtaking. I enjoyed a shrimp dinner and then made my way to Duval Street again for a few more drinks. The place gets crazy late into the night and I got some unexpected pictures of babes on my bike, all in good fun.

The next morning, after getting up at 6 am to pack the bike, I headed north on route 1 to see the sunrise over the bridges that connect the islands.

The sunrise was spectacular as I traveled alone up route 1 north . Watching the sun rise while listening to the symphonic drone of the engine is just magical.
I made my way towards Marco Island on the west side of the Everglades along route 41, also known as the Alligator Alley. You can be certain to see lots of alligators on the side of the road and I was not disappointed. Route 41 has some very long straights along the Everglades National Park and very few cars travel through it.



The temperatures kept climbing as the day progressed and off came the jacket. All I could think was how a little accident could turn very drastic with all the Alligators eying me as I slowly rode my loud Mean Streak. I had a feeling I was intruding into their space and interrupting their midday nap. I stopped a few times to admire the beauty surrounding me and absence of civilization noise. During mating season, adult males let out a rumble to entice females and young alligators let out a squeal to summon their mother to dig them out of the ground. There were lots of anhingas, a water bird, that does not have oil glands for waterproofing its feathers like most water birds. When it goes swimming its feathers get wet. This helps it dive and chase fish underwater. However when it is above water, it must spread its wings to dry in the sun. I saw Sandhill Cranes, a family of long-necked marsh birds that live in Florida. It stands almost 5 feet tall with a wingspread of 7 feet. The Sandhill Crane wades in the marshy water of the Everglades where it eats small fish. There were Great Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans, Osprey, Red-shouldered hawks and various other beautiful birds going about their usual business.



My buddy



Marco Island is the largest of Florida's Ten Thousand Islands, located on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida. It has been described as Magical, Mystical and Alluring. The attraction is tropical sun-washed white beaches. Nestled in the mangrove islands of southwest Florida's coast, Marco Island is surrounded by miles and miles of pristine, uninhabited islands, bays, creeks, and the Gulf of Mexico. I was getting hungrier by the minute and a stop for lunch was due.

After a quick bite and a large chocolate ice cream cone I headed out towards Tampa along I75. I could see stormy weather up north but after checking the weather radar map on my cell phone I decided to continue as the storm was heading north west. I did catch a few drops but it was the tail end of the storm and not enough to slow me down.



I continued as the glorious sun went down once again over the horizon. It was getting darker by the minute but I made my way north and checked into a motel on the outskirts of Tampa. After a phone call to my wife and daughter and checking on my friend Mike it was time for dinner and relaxing after more than 12 hours on the bike. I must admit, I was surprised how comfortable my Mean Streak was after every long day.

The next day, Mike met me for breakfast before we started our trek back home. After a quick look at the weather map we decided we would change plans and not go back to Atlanta as torrential rains were predicted for most of Georgia. We headed east towards Daytona Beach and proceeded north on I95. We crossed Georgia and into South Carolina where we took I26 West towards Columbia and then I77 North towards Charlotte. We ran into rain late in the evening and after an hour riding in the rain a quick decision was made to stop for the night rather than fight for the road with 18 wheelers under very bad weather conditions. We checked into a motel and proceeded to use our camping cookware in the room to wip out a quick meal. Fire alarms didn't go off but I was concerned. We had done 550 miles for the day, it was time to wind down and call it a night.



The next day we left the motel with fog all around us. We stopped for breakfast and then hit the road again. I was able to convince my friend Mike that we could ride all the way home in one day. He thought otherwise at first but as the day progressed and we covered mile after mile with stops for fuel and a quick strech only, we realised we would be home from Florida in 2 days. It was a very long day with me covering 680 miles in one day. My family were happy to see me back and I got my picture at the Southern Most Point in the USA.

More pictures here:





5 comments:

  1. Excellent Blog!
    I can't wait for the next trip!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was a long way for a 7 day trip. Your friends calling you crazy are surely correct! I wanted to see the picture of your bike at the southernmost point in the USA, so I was disappointed not to find it on your blog, but then finding the link to your other pictures, I found "The Shot" on your album site. But, where are the pictures of the babes on your bike???

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  3. Sorry, I had just started my blog and wasn't that good at putting the whole thing together. This was my first blog. I will send you the pictures of the babes on my bike, a little too indecent for the blog ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cool, I've been wanting to ride to Key West, and hope to do it in a year or two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve, it's a very nice place to hangout, lots of cool things happen at night in the bars, you have to be there to understand :-)

      Delete

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