Day 3
January 31st, 2002
Miami, Florida


We loaded our bikes in the warm, muggy air of a Miami morning.  We were not in too big a hurry, Key West is only a 150 miles or so south.  We took a few pictures in Sal's driveway, and then proceeded out of the city with Sal in the lead.

We rode the back streets south out of the city.  Northbound traffic was thick with commuters on their way in to work.  People work in Miami?  The city is so layed back, it does not seem possible.

We pass through numerous 15 mph school crossings.  The kids wave at the loaded STs as we filter through.  I see walkers, joggers, and cyclists by the hundreds.  The city is loaded with fitness trails and bike paths.  Miami must be one of the fittest cities in the country.  The landscape pretty and green, the trees are leafed out.  We ride by the lawns of half a mil homes, they are being tended by a army of lawn services, and gardeners.  

We ride by a road survey crew.  The guy holding the stick is standing on the line with his back to the traffic.  And they give ME hazardous duty pay.
It was delightful ride out of the city to U.S. 1.

We arrive in Homestead, and decide to ride

down to Flamingo, through the Everglades.  We follow the signs to the park.  We take CR 9336 out of Florida City.  The local road takes us pass fields of green crops, and busy migrant workers.  I see huge water cannons irrigating crops, the sun making huge rainbows with the water streams.  I wave at several workers as they walk out to the fields.  

At the park entrance we pay our 5 bucks, and press on to Flamingo.   The speed limit eases up to 55 mph.  The most I have ever seen in a National Park.  From the entrance to Flamingo?- 34 miles through the swamp.  The sun is high in the sky and it beats down on us, I guess the temp to be in the mid 80s.  Ah, South Florida in January.  I wonder what the rest of the country is doing on this fine day?  In Buffalo I bet they are bundled up on their way to work, in Seattle it is probably raining, in Maine and Vermont they brace themselves for another frosty day, and in Chicago the wind is howling through downtown.   The Rockies are covered in snow, and skiers are making their way to the slopes.  And here I am, basking in the sun, on the ride of a lifetime with my brother riders, its a tough life, but someone has to live it, might as well be me.

The road to Flamingo snakes it way through the swamp.  Pass turnouts such as Snakebite, and Mahogany Hammock.  I pictured the Everglades to be some thing akin to a Louisiana Bayou, but that is not so.  The swamp is not as wet, or thick as I had thought it would be.  The Cypress trees and shrubs scrape the road in a few places.  We stop and take a few pictures.

Soon we land in Flamingo.  The most southern point of the U.S. Mainland.  Here you will find a marina, restaurant and a small store.  We walk around the gift shop and then ride over to the store for a snack.

The store is located dockside.  Yachts and power boats are moored up.  I hear the water splashing against the hulls of boats, and the squeaking noise of marine ropes tied to piers.  The warm breeze blows my bag of chips to the side of the table.  I peeled the Roadcrafter off, and enjoy the atmosphere in my shorts and t shirt.

With our butts rested, we head back north the way we came.  The ride back to Florida City is uneventful, but I did get a chance to see things I missed on the way in.

We stop for gas at a Texaco Mart in Florida City.  Afterwards, take famous U.S. 1 South.  U.S. 1 is busy.  This is peak season for the Keys.  We leave the Mainland over the first bridge, and now I feel like I am really on my way to Key West.

The going is slow, but that is ok, we are in no hurry.

The islands are alive with tourists and locals.  North and South bound lanes ferry the masses to and fro.  We pass RV parks by the hundreds.  Each jacked full with tenants.  So many snow country folks are down here, I begin to wonder who is running the country up there.

I note a guy could make a nice living working on RVs in this part of the country.

In Key Largo, Sal takes us to a local place for lunch that came highly recommended.  Mrs. Mac's Kitchen.  The small cafe is right out of a Humphrey Bogart movie.  Screened doors and windows, tables out front under a wood cover.  When we walk in we find ceiling fans spinning lazily, exposed wood walls and beams, the decor is old car plates from around the country.  The food smells good, and we ask the waitress if we can eat out front on the tables, and she leads us outside.

She hands us menus and we ask what the daily special is-

"its in there on the board"

"so what is it?"

"I dunno, go in there and read it", she says jokingly.

I laughed backed at her, "well damn baby, if ya ain't gonna read it to us, there goes YOUR tip."

Such is the layed back life of Key Largo.

I order some very nicely done chicken fingers.  I was tempted to get the shrimp but passed, cause I wanted seafood tonight in Key West.  I finished the meal off with fantastic Key Lime Pie.






















                        Lunch time in Key Largo.  Mrs. Mac's Kitchen


Our waitress brings us plenty of ice tea, and Coke and we eat till we can't move.  Awesome place.  If you are ever in Key Largo, and what some good food, with a nice local flair, check it out. 

We point the STs south on U.S. 1, and continue our ride to Key West.  The highway connects a string of islands.  We ride across the causeways, and land strips.  

I see a man walking his dog in Islamorada, the canine's leash is wrapped around a speed limit sign, and the man is working hard to untangle things.

As we cross a bridge I look out to the Atlantic ocean to my left, and the Gulf to my right.  The water a beautiful blue green.  The sun reflecting so intensely off the water, I have to ride with my tinted shield down, even though I have sun glasses on.

Some rides stand out.  Even certain segments within a ride stand apart from the others.  The ride into Key West from Key Largo became such a ride for me.  It was a beautiful day, my bike was running great, the scenery magazine like.  I watched the bike ahead of me, and the bikes behind me.  A few times I took the point, and felt like Stonewall Jackson leading the troops.  I could see sail boats, and fishing vessels out in the water. Seagulls and other birds flew over, I even noticed a couple of dolphins off to my right jumping along, as if giving escort.  I watched them submerge and then jump, doing their best to keep pace with the STs. 

I now know why U.S. 1 through the Keys, can be found so often, as a backdrop to many commercials.

We pass through a school zone in Marathon and get a microwave bath by a foot mounted local with a speed gun.  Two chase cars are nearby to run down anybody foolish enough to test the 15 mph speed limit.

We stop for pictures on a section of bridges known as the 7 Mile Bridge.  The most famous part of U.S. 1.






















                                               Crossing the 7 mile bridge


Our plan for the day is to camp at Bahia Honda State Park.  An appropriate place for 4 guys on STs.  We pull in and get the sad news. Full.  We continue on south, and find a campground a few miles later.

We pull into Lone Pine Campground and RV center, and negotiate a deal, that costs us 15 bucks each.  Not bad.  We idle through the jam packed RVs and find a quiet spot to put up our 4 tents.  We camp right on a point overlooking the water.  We can see U.S. 1 off in the distance.  A great spot.

I set my tent up with my front door overlooking the water.  I can hear the water splashing under the seawall, not 10 feet from my tent.  Already, I can't wait to climb in it, and let the ocean lull me to sleep.

With my tent and bed set up, I called home and checked on things. 

















 
 

Day 3
January 31st, 2002
Miami, Florida


We loaded our bikes in the warm, muggy air of a Miami morning.  We were not in too big a hurry, Key West is only a 150 miles or so south.  We took a few pictures in Sal's driveway, and then proceeded out of the city with Sal in the lead.

We rode the back streets south out of the city.  Northbound traffic was thick with commuters on their way in to work.  People work in Miami?  The city is so layed back, it does not seem possible.

We pass through numerous 15 mph school crossings.  The kids wave at the loaded STs as we filter through.  I see walkers, joggers, and cyclists by the hundreds.  The city is loaded with fitness trails and bike paths.  Miami must be one of the fittest cities in the country.  The landscape pretty and green, the trees are leafed out.  We ride by the lawns of half a mil homes, they are being tended by a army of lawn services, and gardeners.
  
We ride by a road survey crew.  The guy holding the stick is standing on the line with his back to the traffic.  And they give ME hazardous duty pay.
It was delightful ride out of the city to U.S. 1.

We arrive in Homestead, and decide to ride down to Flamingo, through the Everglades.  We follow the signs to the park.  We take CR 9336 out of Florida City.  The local road takes us pass fields of green crops, and busy migrant workers.  I see huge water cannons irrigating crops, the sun making huge rainbows with the water streams.  I wave at several workers as they walk out to the fields.  

At the park entrance we pay our 5 bucks, and press on to Flamingo.   The speed limit eases up to 55 mph.  The most I have ever seen in a National Park.  From the entrance to Flamingo?- 34 miles through the swamp.  The sun is high in the sky and it beats down on us, I guess the temp to be in the mid 80s.  Ah, South Florida in January.  I wonder what the rest of the country is doing on this fine day?  In Buffalo I bet they are bundled up on their way to work, in Seattle it is probably raining, in Maine and Vermont they brace themselves for another frosty day, and in Chicago the wind is howling through downtown.   The Rockies are covered in snow, and skiers are making their way to the slopes.  And here I am, basking in the sun, on the ride of a lifetime with my brother riders, its a tough life, but someone has to live it, might as well be me.

The road to Flamingo snakes it way through the swamp.  Pass turnouts such as Snakebite, and Mahogany Hammock.  I pictured the Everglades to be some thing akin to a Louisiana Bayou, but that is not so.  The swamp is not as wet, or thick as I had thought it would be.  The Cypress trees and shrubs scrape the road in a few places.  We stop and take a few pictures.

Soon we land in Flamingo.  The most southern point of the U.S. Mainland.  Here you will find a marina, restaurant and a small store.  We walk around the gift shop and then ride over to the store for a snack.

The store is located dockside.  Yachts and power boats are moored up.  I hear the water splashing against the hulls of boats, and the squeaking noise of marine ropes tied to piers.  The warm breeze blows my bag of chips to the side of the table.  I peeled the Roadcrafter off, and enjoy the atmosphere in my shorts and t shirt.

With our butts rested, we head back north the way we came.  The ride back to Florida City is uneventful, but I did get a chance to see things I missed on the way in.

We stop for gas at a Texaco Mart in Florida City.  Afterwards, take famous U.S. 1 South.  U.S. 1 is busy.  This is peak season for the Keys.  We leave the Mainland over the first bridge, and now I feel like I am really on my way to Key West.

The going is slow, but that is ok, we are in no hurry.

The islands are alive with tourists and locals.  North and South bound lanes ferry the masses to and fro.  We pass RV parks by the hundreds.  Each jacked full with tenants.  So many snow country folks are down here, I begin to wonder who is running the country up there.

I note a guy could make a nice living working on RVs in this part of the country.

In Key Largo, Sal takes us to a local place for lunch that came highly recommended.  Mrs. Mac's Kitchen.  The small cafe is right out of a Humphrey Bogart movie.  Screened doors and windows, tables out front under a wood cover.  When we walk in we find ceiling fans spinning lazily, exposed wood walls and beams, the decor is old car plates from around the country.  The food smells good, and we ask the waitress if we can eat out front on the tables, and she leads us outside.

She hands us menus and we ask what the daily special is-

"its in there on the board"

"so what is it?"

"I dunno, go in there and read it", she says jokingly.

I laughed backed at her, "well damn baby, if ya ain't gonna read it to us, there goes YOUR tip."

Such is the layed back life of Key Largo.

I order some very nicely done chicken fingers.  I was tempted to get the shrimp but passed, cause I wanted seafood tonight in Key West.  I finished the meal off with fantastic Key Lime Pie.























                           Lunch time in Key Largo.  Mrs. Mac's Kitchen


Our waitress brings us plenty of ice tea, and Coke and we eat till we can't move.  Awesome place.  If you are ever in Key Largo, and what some good food, with a nice local flair, check it out. 

We point the STs south on U.S. 1, and continue our ride to Key West.  The highway connects a string of islands.  We ride across the causeways, and land strips.  

I see a man walking his dog in Islamorada, the canine's leash is wrapped around a speed limit sign, and the man is working hard to untangle things.

As we cross a bridge I look out to the Atlantic ocean to my left, and the Gulf to my right.  The water a beautiful blue green.  The sun reflecting so intensely off the water, I have to ride with my tinted shield down, even though I have sun glasses on.

Some rides stand out.  Even certain segments within a ride stand apart from the others.  The ride into Key West from Key Largo became such a ride for me.  It was a beautiful day, my bike was running great, the scenery magazine like.  I watched the bike ahead of me, and the bikes behind me.  A few times I took the point, and felt like Stonewall Jackson leading the troops.  I could see sail boats, and fishing vessels out in the water. Seagulls and other birds flew over, I even noticed a couple of dolphins off to my right jumping along, as if giving escort.  I watched them submerge and then jump, doing their best to keep pace with the STs. 

I now know why U.S. 1 through the Keys, can be found so often, as a backdrop to many commercials.

We pass through a school zone in Marathon and get a microwave bath by a foot mounted local with a speed gun.  Two chase cars are nearby to run down anybody foolish enough to test the 15 mph speed limit.

We stop for pictures on a section of bridges known as the 7 Mile Bridge.  The most famous part of U.S. 1.






















                                           Crossing the 7 mile bridge


Our plan for the day is to camp at Bahia Honda State Park.  An appropriate place for 4 guys on STs.  We pull in and get the sad news. Full.  We continue on south, and find a campground a few miles later.

We pull into Lone Pine Campground and RV center, and negotiate a deal, that costs us 15 bucks each.  Not bad.  We idle through the jam packed RVs and find a quiet spot to put up our 4 tents.  We camp right on a point overlooking the water.  We can see U.S. 1 off in the distance.  A great spot.

I set my tent up with my front door overlooking the water.  I can hear the water splashing under the seawall, not 10 feet from my tent.  Already, I can't wait to climb in it, and let the ocean lull me to sleep.

With my tent and bed set up, I called home and checked on things. 

With the camp ready to go, we now had to book to get to Key West to watch the sunset.  We had a 20 mile ride.  We took off.  It was going to be close.  

After what seemed like forever, I led us into Key West.  As we entered the north side of the city, we passed the Naval Air Station.  I am startled, when a Navy F-14, landing at the base, flies directly over me, so close I can smell jet exhaust.  What must it be like to pilot such a awesome machine.

Key West is full of tourists.  Indeed it is the busy season. The sun is slipping below the horizon as we ride through the streets to Mallory Square.  I didn't get to see it set at the Square, but I did get to see it.

I can see why Key West is so legendary. Warm, friendly, and one of kind. Yes, the city is very touristy, but it has managed to retain some of its Hemingway character.  As I rode along the streets, I wondered what it must have been like, in the old days.  Back in the time, when the only way to get here was by boat.  The days when fisherman, and those that catered to them called this place home.  When the city was home to but a few hundred people.  The sailors spending their spare time on Duvall Street,  carousing with the local girls.

Somehow, I like to think we are like the sailors of old.  Far from home, on a great adventure, passing through, on our way to another great adventure.  We are here but one night, and tomorrow we ride out.  Just like a seaman in a port of call.
We ride down to the Southern Most Point Marker, and take the obligatory pictures.  We tip a guy in a funny hat, and he takes our picture.  He makes more then a few bucks from the gathering tourists. 





















                                 Phil strikes a pose at sunset. 


We ride back to Duvall Street and park the STs in a motorcycle only area.  I leave my gear in a tattoo shop, operated by a Harley rider from New Hampshire.  He suggests Pepe's for a seafood supper and that's where we go.

We casually stroll Duvall Street taking in the ambiance and sights of the area.  It was fun.  Sidewalk cafes, night clubs, and T shirt shops.
At Pepe's we sit outside to enjoy the warm night air.  A 30ish waitress comes to take our order.  She seems nervous and scared.  She does not know the menu, and asks us to order by number.  I speak to her-


"you from around here?"

"no, New York City, been here a few months, had to move my mother south because of her health"

"how long ya worked here sweetie?"

"just a few days"

"look here relax, we are easy to please, we are not like many of the folks that come to Key West, heck we are sleeping in tents down the road."

"thanks"

Onellia is her name and we all make a effort to be easy to please, I tell her don't worry if she must leave to take care of the more demanding customers, staying in the 500 dollar a night rooms.

I have some great fried shrimp, on the expensive side, but hey, this is Key West at the height of tourist season. 

Onellia comes over to chat with us a few more times, and at the end of the night we leave her a nice tip.  She thanks us, and we walk back out to Duvall Street.  I think all of us had a nice feeling when we left Pepe's.

I pick up my gear from the tattoo shop, fire up the ST.  I am parked next to a 1978 Gold Wing, with a Windjammer.  Same bike I use to have.  Even the color is right.  Could it be?




















STs Loose on Duvall Street.  Taking in the sights and
sounds of Key West in January.

It is after 10pm when we reluctantly leave Key West.  On the way out of town I see the sign:  Begin U.S. 1.

Prior to leaving for this trip, I replaced a burned out low beam bulb with a H4.  This will be first time to test its effectiveness.

Riding north on U.S. 1 the combination H4 with my PIAA 1700s overwhelm the darkness. I beat back the night totally.  The road before me bathed in a intense white light.  Seeing was no problem.

The ride back to the campground is the stuff legends are made off.  We rode along with a full moon rising.  The moonlight reflecting off the water as we crossed the bridges.  The night warm and hospitable.  A ride I will always remember.

We get back to the campground all too soon.  I wanted the ride to last forever.

We rode 294 miles for the day.

Back at the tents, I gathered my shower stuff and went to clean up.  Nice facilities with plenty of hot water.

We sat around the table and talked economics and politics.  I decided I could live pretty good if the government let me keep all that I earned,

instead of taking it from me right out of my check.  I have always said, if you wanted a revolt, tell people to cut a check for their taxes, and let them see how much the government robs us, instead of the sanitized payroll deduction plan.

Sleepy, I crawled in my tent and curled up.  I leave the flaps open, to let the the warm breeze blow through.  I could see the twinkling of car lights in the distance, as they move across the bridges of U.S. 1 out across the water.  I could see, but not hear them. The soft music of the ocean slapping the seawall, knocking me out like a clinical gas in minutes.
   
I was sleeping very well, when I had a disturbing dream concerning my 24 year old niece, Katie.  I raised up in my tent not sure where I was.  I don't believe in ESP or anything like that, but I was quite upset.  I thought about calling her, but when I checked my watch it was 3 am, 2 am in Alabama, and decided not to.

I layed back down, but did not sleep well the rest of the night.  I finally drifted back to sleep, by assuring myself I would call her first thing in the morning.
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