Day 2
January 30th, 2002
Near Ocala, Florida




We got off to a later then anticipated start.  We needed to be on the road by 7am, but it is after 8 as we idle out of the park to the highway.  Once again, it is foggy and damp.  The air so humid, water droplets cover the seat and windscreen of the ST.

We work our way back to U.S. 41 South.  The morning commute is starting into Ocala, and we ride past fog bound cages and trucks.  In Dunnellon we catch CR 484 and take a bead on I-75 South.  We are suppose to meet Sal at 12pm.  Noway that is going to happen.  I will have to call him later, and advise him we are behind schedule.

The fog lifts as we enter the 3 southbound lanes of I-75.  I know I-75, used it a few times taking trips to Disney World.  It is ugly and boring, but fast.  It is always choked with tourists on their way south to Orlando or Miami.  I have the point and settle the STs in at 80 mph.  We are in the flow of traffic, and at this speed we should not fall prey to the FHP.

The hot Florida sun quickly burns off the fog, and we sail south under warm, partly cloudy skies.  It is 9am and already the temp approaches 80 degrees.  The highway is jam packed with loaded mini vans and SUVs.  The 2 vehicle types, continue to battle it out for soccer mom supremacy.  Neither is my choice of travel, but to each his own.  If I have to be trapped in a cage, make it something close to my bike.  Power, speed, agility are the things I crave.

We pay our tolls for the Florida Turnpike and continue south.  

We take the U.S. 27 South exit and settle in for the run to Miami.  I chose this route to escape the slabs.  What I didn't count on was the urban sprawl that calls U.S. 27 home.  It is HOT as we find ourselves stuck in red lights with stop and go traffic.  

We finally get a little breathing room, and find ourselves riding past orange groves and sage trees.  This is more like it.  Riding to Key West there can only be one kind of music to sing in your helmet.  Jimmy Buffet.  I sing the classic Buffet song, "Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes."  The verse "reading departure signs in some big airport reminds me of the places I've been, visions of good times that brought so much pleasure makes me wanna go back again," strike me as most poignant on a ride such as this, and comes pretty close to how I feel.

We stop at a Chevron station at I-4 and U.S. 27 for gas and a butt break.  I fill the ST to the tune of 6.57, and pay for it at the pump with my Chevron card.  I go inside and procure Mountain Dew and chips.  Ron has a Pepsi and peanuts.  I get out my cell phone and call Sal, and tell him we are behind schedule and we won't make the rendezvous point to after 1pm.  He says, " Whenever you see a sign for Homestead, take it."  Simple enough instructions. 
 
I get out the map and check U.S. 27 South.  I can tell from the map we will be in and out of urban sprawl till we get south of Sebring.  How depressing.  Florida has so much urban sprawl I don't think you can ever get far from it. 

Rested, we continue the ride south under a broiling sun.  There is NO state like Florida in January.  And I use to think Alabama had mild winters.  I have the Roadcrafter and Arai fully vented out, as we pass a bank displaying the time and temp 11:05 am, 87 degrees.  Humidity to match just for good measure.
 
Passing through a town I can't remember, I pick up a sweet aroma.  My brain searches its data base for the identity of the scent.  A few seconds later it comes back-Orange juice.  I look around and see a orange juice factory to our left, cranking out the stuff in the millions of gallons.
We pass through Sebring, home of the famous race.  I see the signs pointing the way to the track.

Riding through the small town of Lake Placid, I think back to the day I passed through the other Lake Placid in New York.  That day in New York it was cold and snowy, quite a contrast to this hot and humid day.

At last we escape the sprawl, and have a straight shot into Miami.  The STs beg to be cut loose, but we keep the reins in.  Can't afford any tickets.  The road is not crowded, and we spread the STs out in both lanes.  I am between Ron and Phil, and ride in the left lane.
  
We see a hunk of recap fall off a 18 wheeler ahead, and dodge it.  As we near it, we see smaller shreds still coming out from the tire.  I scan the tires to see which it is.  There.  Front, rear right side tire.  I quickly go around the truck, and can see the tire is nothing more then shredded wheat, spewing a trail of rubber.  We make it by unscathed.

After 120 non stop miles we stop in Clewiston, a city on shores of Lake Okeechobee.  We stand in the shade with our snacks.  A young man waves at me from the rear of the building next door.  He is shirtless, and his shorts are faded.  He is helping a man load a table in a red truck. 
 
The sun is high overhead, and it bakes the parking lot of the gas station.  This far south, even in January, you still enjoy 10-11 hours of daylight each day.

With out butts rested, we hit the road.  From here 27 is a straight shot through the swamp to Miami.  We ride past miles of sugar cane, passing loaded orange trucks, on their way from the groves.

We pass I-75 at Weston.  The Alligator Alley Road.

A few miles later I see the sign for Homestead and the freeway known as the Extension.  We ride by the airport looking for SW 40, the exit we need to meet Sal.

His directions prove to be right on, and we drop down off the freeway into his waiting arms.  After hugs and handshakes we are off to eat.  I am starving.  We have just completed 300 hot, tough miles, and its time to celebrate.






















          Phil and Ron preparing for a great lunch after a hot ride into Miami

We follow Sal down to a nice Cuban restaurant called the La Carreta.  Great food and atmosphere.  My first experience with Cuban cuisine is positive.  I had some great Cuban pot roast.  We stuff ourselves full, and Sal helps me with my Spanish.  Learning Spanish is on my list of things to do.

I am beside myself with excitement to be in Miami.  Sal is a true brother, and he goes out of his way to make us feel welcome.  We ride to his house in Coral Gables, unload our stuff, and leave out for a tour of the city.

It is awesome having a personal tour guide to follow.  We follow Sal into the city.  It is hot, with lots of stop and go traffic.  We ride down to the water front, and then over the bridge to Key Biscayne.  The fans of the water cooled STs kick on to keep the engines cool, in the low speed traffic.  My temp needle never reaches a critical point, despite 2 hours in heavy, downtown traffic with a outside temp of 90 degrees.

We stopped at the Key Biscayne Bridge to enjoy the view, and savor the atmosphere.  I spotted a young couple in the palm tress, enjoying the weather and the afternoon.






















                   A young couple at the Key Biscayne Bridge

We stop for something to drink in a sidewalk take out place.  Great place.

Miami is a spectacular city, with a true international flair.  We see all the stuff tourists do, and lots of stuff they don't.  We stop and take pictures numerous times. 





















  Sunset in Miami- From L- Ron Epperly, Sal Landa, Phil Derryberry

With night falling we ride down to the port, and watch the cruise ships check in.

We ride the quiet, sleek STs, among the pedestrians and sidewalk cafes.  It's a beautiful night to be out riding.  I find myself people watching as I sit at the red lights of the port area.

Sal takes us by a few more Miami landmarks, and then its time to head for home.  Ending a great sightseeing excursion.  We ride to Sal's home in Coral Gables with a catalog of great sight and sound images.

I pulled in Sal's driveway with 377 miles on the trip meter for the day.

When we get there, I take a shower, while Sal fixes up some great Teriyaki steaks.  We throw them on the grill, and have a great supper.
Sal's lovely wife and family return home shortly after, and we make our introductions.  He has a great family and home in Coral Gables.  No wonder he says "My family came to America over 40 years ago with nothing, and If I never leave the good ole U.S.A. again, that will be ok with me."  Way to go bro, go out and secure your piece of the American dream.

After supper we listen to Phil play some great piano.  The man has talent.

I looked at a photo album of Sal's first motorcycle trip to the North Georgia Mountains.  From his pics he looked like he had a great time.
Sleepy, I make my way to the bedroom and take the top bunk, Ron has the bottom.  We put Phil out in the living room, so we could get some sleep.  Actually, it was his idea.

Been a long time since I slept in a top bunk, it was fun.

Tired and fried I fell asleep quickly.  It was a great day.
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