Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cross Creek, Old Florida, and The Yearling Restaurant

We spent a wonderful day on the bike today. The goal was much the same as it usually is, we set out to explore back roads and see rural America. Today the ride went to Cross Creek Florida, the home of author Marjorie Rawlings.

North of Orlando we joined state route 19 at Altoona, population 89. Altoona sits on the southern end of the Ocala National Forest, an area that I enjoy riding for the chance of sighting a black bear. There were none today, but there are always many types of birds to be seen. That could explain why I seldom see the bears, I am always looking up at the birds.

At Salt Springs, we turned west on 316. This road exits the forest and enters what everyone calls horse country. There are many beautiful horse farms in the area. The roll of the terrain and the pristine horse farms are reminiscent of parts of Kentucky. Yet the area is all its' own. 316 is lined with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and in many places this forms a kind of canopy over the road. It is like riding through a moss covered tree tunnel.

Turning north again on 200A, we slipped through the small town of Citra. Population not mentioned on the town welcome sign, but this is a bigger town that Altoona, I'd say it has closer to 100 residents...

It is a true pleasure to ride through this area and to enjoy the small rural towns. We turned northwest on 325 and after about 4 miles, we found a sign that welcomed us to Cross Creek Florida. It is good the sign was there as there is little else to let you know you have entered a town. Cross Creek seems to be more an area than a town and there are very few houses in the area. If I must live in a town, somewhere like Cross Creek would be about right.

What there is in Cross Creek is magical. There is a very small creek that runs between Lochloosa Lake and Orange Lake. Sitting right on this short creek is the Yearling restaurant. This place is a glimpse of Cracker style old Florida. Florida Cracker is a term used for a native Floridian, but most likely the word Cracker came from the crack of the whip the early cowhands used to herd and guide the cattle. The cattlemen were called crackers and eventually people born and raised in Florida became known as "crackers".

Outside "The Yearling" restaurant

We stopped for a sandwich at "The Yearling" restaurant. The menu includes many local favorites. I suspect the menu changes a bit with the season, but while we were there they offered; Venison, Quail, Alligator, Cooter, (that's turtle), frog legs, catfish, as well as more typical land and sea food. They also have live entertainment. There was a blues singer sitting on a chair singing the blues and chatting with the patrons. We noticed they also have a small stage that could accommodate a small band in the main dining area. The decorations are perfect for enhancing the atmosphere and include many items that a country family would have put to daily use back about sixty years ago.

Inside The Yearling

There are a few small cabins on the grounds that can be rented at very reasonable prices. They have the appearance of being either small tourist cabins from years past or possibly the homes of people that worked the orange groves or hunted and fished for their living. This would be a perfect and very quiet get-away.

The above photos are from the grounds around The Yearling

One more picture of the bikes outside the restaurant.  That is a US Motors generator in the background, used before electricity came to the area.

After leaving the restaurant, we rode about 200 yards and stopped at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings homestead. Rawlings was an author that wrote much about the life of rural Floridians and in particular, those that lived in and around Cross Creek. Florida really has two very different personalities and histories. The coast and coastal history is very exciting and interesting. At the same time, the inland history and the lives of those that made a living there is equally interesting and exciting, but very different.  There is so much history here and you can get a good look at life in central Florida by reading some of Rawlings stories.  The Yearling, the book the restaurant is named for is one of her most well known.  All are good reading though.

Above from the Marjorie Rawlings homestead

Much of the old Rawlings orange grove is still there and the buildings have been preserved so we can better see and feel what it may have been like to have lived in this very remote section of Florida 60 years ago. Wandering the grounds made me realize how far the life of today’s children and adults is from what it was when Rawlings lived here. There is a bit of sadness at what has been lost. Even the fact that these simple, yet complex times even existed have been lost to so many...

As always, it was a pleasure to get out with my good riding friend and father in law Gary. We certainly enjoyed seeing the back roads and small towns of Florida. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tail of the Dragon, Moonshiner 28, The Gauntlet, and other great rides

My good riding buddy, and father in law, Gary and I took a nice bike ride last week to ride the Tail of the Dragon. The Dragon is a great destination in itself, but there is so much great riding in that area as well as on the road to the Dragon that I thought I'd share some of the roads with you.

We travelled through central Florida, north through the Ocala National Forest and picked up route 100 in Stark and US 129 in Jasper, Florida. We stopped for a BBQ sandwich in Jasper before continuing north into Georgia. The Tail of the Dragon is a section of US 129 so we could have taken 129 all the way north to Tennessee, but we deviated here and there in our efforts to stay away from the larger towns.

US 129 passes through Lakeland Georgia. Lakeland is a clean small town and county seat of Lanier County. Continuing north, you begin to parallel a railroad at Ray City. The ride along the railroad is very pretty and continues for a number of miles. The road has tall trees lining both sides and little traffic. The afternoon smells of pine drifted on the air as we kept eyes open for deer and other wildlife.

A bit further north we passed through Fitzgerald, a town that was founded as a settlement community for civil war veterans. Fitzgerald is just a few miles from the location where Jefferson Davis was captured.

We stopped for a break in Abbeville. Abbeville has an impressive courthouse and also some older abandoned and semi abandoned buildings that add to the feel that you have travelled back in time at least fifty years.

Abbeville, Ga.

Abbeville Courthouse

From Abbeville you pass through miles of cotton fields and pecan groves. The cotton is now picked by machines, but just looking at the size and number of cotton fields makes you realize how many people must have worked the field in days past when the work was done by hand. The pecan harvest must be something to see. My riding friend and father in law, Gary told me they grabbed the tree with a special large machine and shook it to knock the nuts down.

Well Gary has been known to tell tales and I was a little skeptical that this was one of them. Pecan trees are big, and in my mind they seemed too big to shake. Turns out he was spot on. The trees are shaken with a large tree shaker until the nuts are dropped, and then a sweeping machine sweeps the ground and puts the nuts in piles. Lastly another machine scoops them up and separates all the unwanted twigs and leaves from the nuts. The tree shaker is a machine like none I have ever seen. A person sits in it and grabs the tree with a large pincher on the end of an arm, then begins the shaking process. I'd really like to see it being done, has to be a nasty ride if you happen to be the person that operates the shaker. I bet he sees double for a while afterward.

We continued the ride north toward Hawkinsville, where we picked up 129 alt to stay away from Macon. Near Hawkinsville was a large complex that seems to have been built for the training of horses for harness racing. Not much was going on when we passed by, but given the size of the facility, it must be a jumping place at times.

We meandered around the back roads and stopped in Gray by early evening. From Gray to Monticello, the road follows a railroad and once again tall trees border the road as you search the edges of the trees for deer. Last year we stopped in Monticello for lunch. We had climbed off the bikes and were wandering around the city square when a well-dressed gentleman stopped to ask if he could help us find our way. We told him we were looking for a bite to eat. He kindly told us of a couple options, but recommended a cafe called the corner cafe. The food was great and was closer to the size of dinner than lunch. Tab was around $7.00 each and we had the pleasure of visiting with the owner/cook/waitress while we ate. There are many nice towns along this route, but Monticello is among the best.

We continued north on 11, picked up 52, and then transitioned back to US 129 in Clermont. As you leave Clermont the land becomes alive with hills that slowly become mountains and sweeping curves that turn into switchbacks the higher you climb.

Once you realize the ride is the goal rather than a destination or timeline, the navigating gets pretty easy. My method of navigation amounts to reviewing a map and remembering as much of it as possible before storing it away in a saddle bag. Then I ride until I am longer sure I am still on track, or until I am sure I am no longer on track, then I stop and review the map again. Gary has a more sophisticated system than I do. You see he has a tank bag with one of those little windows in it. He writes down the route he wants to take and puts the directions in the little tank bag window and more or less follows it. The end result is about the same. That is we take turns leading the other into planned and unplanned areas. This way we get to experience the joy of new and unknown roads that may or may not be close to where we expected to be.

This was the case as we attempted to ride the Gauntlet in north Georgia. After passing Turners Corner on US 129 the road climbs steeply and the sweepers become tighter and tighter until they are nice sharp curves. Leaving 129 for 180, we rode west through some very pretty country. Using our "navigation systems" to their fullest, we found ourselves in Dahlonega. Not too far from our intended course. Dahlonega is the site of the first gold rush in America and it is believed the phrase "thars gold in them thar hills" originated here.

After a careful review of our map and tank bag navigation window we found we had accidentally blundered into Blue Ridge after leaving Dahlonega. We wondered how we could be so far off track so quickly, but didn't really care because the countryside was so beautiful. Once we sorted things out, we rode the Gumlog Road to the Unicoi Turnpike. (Don’t let the name fool you, it's a winding narrow two lane.) We missed another turn and wound up in the touristy, but very nice town of Helen, Georgia.

We stretched our legs and consulted our nav systems once again. This time we found our way to the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway. The Highway is a winding two lane that climbs and crosses a mountain ridge on its' way back to US 129. We pulled off on an overlook and while we were looking out over the mountainside we heard a car pull in behind us. When we looked at who was sharing this fantastic view with us we saw it was Santa! Yep, the old man himself. After looking at the view for a few minutes, he turned, gave a two handed wave and disappeared down the mountain. I guess we all need a vacation now and then.

Santa vacationing in north Georgia

After recovering from seeing Santa on a remote mountain top in north Georgia, we wound our way back down to 129 and rode toward our day 2 destination of Robbinsville, NC.

Robbinsville is a friendly town and home to the Two Wheel Inn and I highly recommend it. Each room has a private garage sized to fit a motorcycle. The rooms have a nice roof overhang you can sit under and you park your bike right on the sidewalk while it cools and you prepare it for a night in the garage. They also have a pavilion with a fire pit nearby. Riders sit in front of their rooms and relax while telling each other basically true stories about the days' ride and their bikes. There is a club type atmosphere to the place. What a great way to end the days' ride.

Relaxing after a long day of riding

Next morning we were up at dawn and readying our bikes for the days' adventure. We enjoyed the smell and feel of an early fall morning as we watched the fog slowly burn off from the mountains. Our plan was to ride the Tail of the Dragon, the Foothills Parkway, then spend time in the Great Smoky National Park.

The Dragon is a great ride. We started at Deals Gap (another great place to stay, but with a different atmosphere) and rode north into Tennessee. For those that have not ridden the Dragon, let me say that the road is a safe road but it is challenging. There are many sharp and changing radius curves as well as a number of off camber curves. Something like 318 curves in 11 miles. It feels like one big curve that changes direction frequently. All the while you are steeply climbing to the ridge top then steeply descending into the valley below. It is fun from start to finish and I recommend it if you get to this part of the country.

Deals Gap

Aside from the enjoyable challenge of the road, riders must be aware that a leaned bike takes much more road space than an unleaned bike. It is easy to have your wheels in an autos' left wheel path, or even in the center of the road, and have your head and shoulders in the oncoming lane even at pretty low speeds. Also watch for oncoming traffic that may blunder into your lane. The scenery is pretty and the road challenging so riders need to pay extra attention to what is going on and not get distracted. The road is narrow and the curves are very tight.

From the Dragon we turned onto the Foothills Parkway. The Parkway is very much like the Blue Ridge Parkway, but with even less traffic. It is about 70 miles of climbing and descending sweepers. All the way the views are outstanding.

From the Parkway we rode down into the Great Smoky National Park and into Cades Cove. Cades Cove was an area of settlement in a largish valley that lies in the Smoky Mountains. There is plenty so see there, old cabins and barns as well as churches and mills. Just beware; it is pretty crowded with the automobile types.

Cades Cove

It was in the Smokys that we saw eight black bear fattening up for the winter. They look so adorable, but give them plenty of room as mommas separated from their cubs can be very un-understanding of intruders.

Leaving the Great Smoky Mountains, we rode south to Cherokee, and then picked up highway 19 through the Nantahala Gorge. The gorge is known for the scenery and for the spectacular whitewater. The river varies from mild to wild, so check with an outfitter if you are planning any rafting or kayaking.

We made it back to the Two Wheel Inn tired and content after only about 200 miles of riding.

Next morning we were up early getting our bikes ready and enjoying breakfast while we waited for the fog to burn off. The plan for the day was to ride back to the Nantahala gorge and pick up the Wayah road. Some maps and most locals call Wayah road Warrior road. We planned to ride Wayah into Franklin and join US 28, known as the Moonshiner 28, for a ride south into Georgia. The Moonshiner actually runs from the Dragon all the way down to Walhalla, South Carolina.

Wayah road is a pretty ride as it climbs and winds its' way through forested mountains. Wayah road ends before reaching Franklin, but, using our navigation system we wandered into town without much trouble.

Franklin stands in the midst of what was once the Cherokee Nation in times past. Then it was known as Nikwasi. You can still see some of the Indian Mounds in downtown if you know where to look.

As it turned out, US 28 was one of the most scenic roads we travelled. The curves are not quite as tight as some other roads so you have more time for sightseeing. There are a number of falls along the road. Bridal Veil Falls is well known and you can ride your bike behind the falls for a cool photo if you like. We stopped at Dry Falls. They were spectacular when we were there. US 28 winds and snakes south into South Carolina, but we turned off on Warwoman road in Georgia. From there we poked around the Georgia mountains for a while before turning north again in Clayton. North took us back to Franklin where we backtracked the Wayah road to the Two Wheel Inn.

Moonshiner 28

Dry Falls

As we climbed along the Wayah road, the air was still and the leaves were dropping slowly and gently from the trees. The falling leaves reminded me of that beautiful and gentle snow that is sometimes seen on a still winter day. It was on just such a section of road that we saw four bears getting ready to cross the road ahead of us. The momma bear saw us and said something that sent the three cubs scurrying back up the side of the mountain. She then took to high ground and stood on her hind feet to show us we had no business there and that we should continue on. You can just see her as the black dot over Gary’s' left shoulder in the picture.

Momma Bear

That evening we sat around chatting with our Two Wheel Inn neighbors and comparing rides. Our last day in North Carolina was approaching, so we decided to ride the Dragon once again as well as spend time on the Foothills Parkway.

Bright and early the next morning we climbed to Deals Gap for another ride on the Dragon. We were there early enough that the smell of the fog and dew still hung on the leaves and fall flowers. What a ride! The air was cool and crisp and we saw very little traffic.

At the bottom of the Dragon, we discovered the Foothills Parkway was closed so we turned our bikes west.

Using our Navigation Systems, we chugged and whirred into Tellico Plains. Tellico Plains sits on a past Indian settlement. The area has a busy past that includes the Cherokee Nation among others and gold mining that continues today.

We had a great lunch at the Tellico Grains Cafe. After lunch we wound and wobbled our way through miles of eastern Tennessee mountains and found ourselves back in camp just as darkness set in.

Tellico Grains Cafe

We stayed up far too late talking with other bikers, comparing bikes and adventures. We slept in later than usual the next morning and reluctantly packed our bikes for the ride home. It was another fantastic early fall ride that was coming to an end. Already we have started plans for next year.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Story of Nothing

Well we have had a very slightly cooler, but still hot summer. We have also had an unusually high amount of rainfall. The monsoon season is slowly coming to an end and with that is the arrival of our good riding season.


It rains everywhere and most riders just keep riding, but our summer rains are accompanied by fierce thunder and lightning as well and this alone keeps us mainly to short rides that get us home by noon. We have taken a few rides for breakfast or early lunch and a ride in to work once a week or so, but nothing blog worthy. Hurricane season ends in November, so we should be able to get out for a better look at central Florida again soon.


It is not just the weather that has kept us (me) from making any significant rides, but I also took this summer season as an opportunity to learn to play the ukulele. I know, the sound of it makes me smile and laugh too, so go ahead... If you pass a bike on the back roads and happen to notice a ukulele strapped to the riders' back, that is most likely me. Be sure to flag me down.


We do have a nice ride planned for the near future. We'll be riding the Concours and the Vulcan to north Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina. We'll be riding some of the more familiar rides in those states as well as exploring the back roads and small towns. It should be big fun and we'll take a few pictures to share as well.


Earlier this summer I changed the tires on the Vulcan. Have to tell you that I had Dunlops on it front and rear and was very pleased with them. They held well in the rain and rain grooves and other road irregularities caused very little squirming.  I switched to Metzeler 880 Marathons more to try something new than for any performance deficiency of the Dunlops.  The report on the Metzelers is also very good.  They hold tight in the rain and are not much effected by road irregularities.  They do seem to roll in and out of the curves with very little effort, but that may be because they still have a nice round profile and the center of the Dunlops were gone.


One thing that came to light when changing the tires was a bit of corrosion on the inside of my rims.  Our bikes are kept in the garage except when being ridden or when sitting in the parking lot on trips or at work.  Seems the rain must have found its’ way into the rim by following the spokes, then it went to work on the inner rims.  They cleaned up nicely, but it still puzzles me that there was any corrosion at all.


The last little bit of nothing to pass on today involves a germ of an idea that I both hope comes true and also hope does not come true.  Because I am one of those that sings the praise of simple bikes, I have been thinking it would be fun to take a long trip on a small displacement bike. 


Two events have entered my head and have been taking up way too much of my free thinking time.  The first is a notice I received that there will be another cannonball run in 2014.  This time the ride is limited to bikes built before 1937.  In 2012 the cut off was for bikes built no later than 1929 and in 2010, the newest machine eligible was made in 1915.


The second thought that keeps running through my brain is that 2014 is the 110 year anniversary of the start of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Why not combine these two events into a just for fun, small displacement trek from the Atlantic coast in south or central Florida, northwest to St. Louis to pick up the trail of Lewis and Clark, then continue northwest for a final destination of Oregon?  Well, it would be fun and it deserves more thought.  I’ll get to that later, I have to practice my ukulele now…

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Suzuki TU250X Does it Again

The weather in central Florida has been wetter than usual lately.  We are known as the sun shine state and the sun does shine nearly every day, but summer is also the wet season.  For the past six weeks we have had rain in the form of afternoon thunderstorms nearly every day.

The storms are grand affairs with huge rain drops that can come down at a rate of 2 inches an hour.  To keep our minds off the heavy rain, the storms also produce some of the most intense lightning anywhere on Earth.  We have the nick name of the lightning capitol of the world.

After a busy weekend with no bike riding, I had been feeling pretty antsy to get a ride in.  There was plenty of moisture in the air this morning, but my plan was to ride to work before the rains came and, depending on lightning severity, ride home through the afternoon monsoon or wait until things died down in the evening to make a run for home.

The ride in was so nice.  I left home a bit early and had very little traffic.  The clouds had that beautiful pink and gold hue that we get when the moisture is high and the dawn is young.  Last nights' dew still smelled nice and fresh on the air as I slipped down the road.

Once at work, I stuffed my helmet and jacket into my office and nipped out to greet customers and fellow employees as they arrived for the day.  (some would view this as dodging work, but I like to think of it as relationship building)  I should have had a camera.  The TU250 attracted attention all day long, there would be individuals and little groups of 2 or 3 around it off and on throughout the day.  A couple of my coworkers stopped by to see how old it was and to learn if I had rebuilt an older bike.

It hadn't rained by 1 PM so I slid out to grab a sandwich.  As I walked to the bike I was chatting with a customer that I thought was also heading out to lunch.  Turned out he had seen the helmet in my hand and just wanted to take a look at what he thought was a restored Triumph.  Now, I don't think the TU  looks much like a Triumph, (maybe a 250 Ducati Mach I) but I was flattered that he thought it was a beautifully restored vintage bike.

After returning from lunch I was hanging around the break room, building relationships again, when 2 of our long term customers sought me out to ask if the bike was an old BSA.  They were plenty surprised to learn it is a modern Suzuki.  Later it the day I saw them out in the parking lot giving it a good looking over.

Around 3 PM the monsoons hit and dumped a good amount of rain on us but not too much lightning.   By 5 the sun was back out.  Whahoo!  As I worked my way out to the parking lot, I was joined by another that had thought the bike was an older restored bike, but the rumor had made it to him that it was in fact a newish Suzuki.  Still, he joined me for the walk out to look it over and listen to it run.

I have to say that this bike draws a lot of attention where ever it goes.  I am flattered that so many people think it is a vintage bike that I have rebuilt, but in truth, it is a thoroughly modern bike and I am very happy that it is.  The TU250X manages to retain some of the beauty and simplicity of the vintage bikes many of us enjoy, yet it is a completely modern machine with an oil filter, fuel injection, disc brake etc.

The ride home was super.  My route neatly split between two big areas of thunderstorms.  Great towering giants to the east and the west.  I had the nice benefit of enjoying the smell of the rain and riding in the cool outflow air of the storms.

So the TU250 did it again! It gave me a great ride both to and from work and helped build relationships with customers and coworkers.  If only it would have done a little more of the work I needed to accomplish in my office...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Little Switzerland, N.C.

We had a chance to get away over the long 4th of July weekend so decided to head for the hills of North Carolina.  Because time was limited we decided to trailer the bikes up rather than ride them.  This would have been my first experience at trailering bike, as I prefer to ride them to the destination.  This of course makes getting to the destination part of the fun rather than something to "get through".  Our plan was to rent an open U-Haul.

We had every thing packed and ready except for loading the bikes.  We'd been watching the weather and in the last few minutes before departure decided to leave our bikes at home.  It was a choice that hurt, but was the best.  I don't think we'd have taken them from the trailer.  It not only rained but rained extremely hard the entire time we were there.  They had flash flooding all through the area and the visibility in the mountains was often less than 100 yards.

Even without the bikes we had a great time and still plan to get back up to the mountains later this summer.  Because we had packed for riding bikes we had plenty of rain gear with us and thought maybe we could rent a couple bikes if the weather gave us a break.  We had made contact with Action Cycle Sports in Boone, NC.  Turned out the weather did not give us a break, but we'd still recommend the good folks at Action if you need to rent while staying in the area.  They had a number of bike choices and we had planned to ride a BMW 650GS and a Suzuki V-Strom 650, two bikes with great reputations. 

We spend our nights at the Big Lynn Lodge in Little Switzerland, NC.  The lodge is located on NC 226A, a well known bike and sports car road that is known as the Diamondback.  Lots of twisties and steep grades, similar to the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee, but without all the traffic.  The view from the Big Lynn was spectacular during those short glimpses we had during breaks in the clouds.  Our room was a cabin that was clean as a whistle and finished in knotty pine.

View from our porch at the Big Lynn Lodge

Breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the room and they have space to park bikes and welcome bikers.  There were a couple other places to stay in the area, but no gas at the top of the mountain, so you don't plan to gas up when you get to Little Switzerland.

One really nice part of being in the mountains when there is so much rain is the waterfalls run full.

The rivers and waterfalls ran full
We spent a good part of our time hiking and taking pictures between rain showers.  The Blue Ridge and the nearby areas are some of the most relaxing back roads to explore and there are so many trails to hike that you could spend a lifelime and not walk them all.

A creek along a foot path

Foot path to a rushing stream

Above is one of the many footpaths we walked.  Because there had been good rain, most foot paths led to streams and waterfalls that might not exist during drier days.  I have to say we were fortunate to be here during this period of heavy rainfall.

The view from the roads is beautiful, this is biker country

During times of good visibility the views were spectacular.  We noticed that we could be in heavy rain and fog that reduced visibility to a few yards, then round a bend that put us on the other side of the ridge and into clear weather for a few minutes.  These little gifts really added to an already fantastic trip.

Sunshine! What a surprise to round a bend to see this.
We have been on the Blue Ridge many times and it is always beautiful and it changes so much with the season and the weather that we are compelled to return time and time again.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Port Canaveral

Summer is here and that means afternoon thunderstorms most days. Today the forecast was for a 60% chance of rain. After sniffing the air early this morning we thought we'd have until about 2 PM to ride and get back home before the rains began.

We made a plan to ride to the Port for an early lunch. Kim and I would ride the Vulcan and the TU250X and good riding buddy Gary and his daughter Margie would ride the Concours and meet up with us enroute.

We were on the road by 0930 and already the clouds were beginning to build. We turned east on Hwy 192 just east of St. Cloud and road a few miles out of town to Nova Rd. Nova is one of those little travelled back roads that cuts through ranch land and swamp as it meanders generally east and north. Nova is about 35 miles from 192 to Hwy 520 where it ends.

We poked along at about 50 MPH and enjoyed the sight of hundreds of cattle egrets along the freshly mowed roadside. There were more egrets along that stretch of road than we'd ever seen at one time. They were rummaging through the cut grass looking for bugs and lizards. The smell of freshly cut grass from a bike is one of the all-time great smells and we breathed it in deeply.

Once at the end of Nova Rd. we turned south east on Hwy 520. After crossing the St. Johns River, we pulled into the Lone Cabbage fish camp to wait hook up with Gary and Marge.

It is possible that herons can't read

Airboat at the Lone Cabbage



And friends

Fish camps are pretty much what the name implies. They are places to put airboats and other shallow draft boats into lake, river, or swamp. Most fish camps catered only to fishermen and hunters in years past, but now they often entice tourist and locals by having a restaurant and sometimes airboat excursions into the swamps. The Lone Cabbage has been around for many years and has great old Florida food. You can try gator, frog legs, turtle, catfish and much more. Today our plan was just to catch up with our friends and head to the port for a quick lunch and try to beat the storms home.

There is a sea breeze that drifts in from the ocean and tends to help the development of thunderstorms inland while keeping the coast clear and sunny. We hit the road east bound and turned our backs to the thickening clouds to the west and rode into sunshine. As we worked our way northeast, the air cooled and took on the salty smell of the ocean. We pulled into the port in time for an early lunch and welcome drink of iced tea.

Port Canaveral has docks for a few cruise lines, but more importantly to us, is it is also home to local fishing vessels. There are a number of restaurants at the port and they all have fresh fish brought on shore at the nearby docks. Like many places in this part of Florida, there is open air dining. Today we enjoyed our lunches while watching sea turtles and porpoises playing just a few yards from our table.

Following our lunch we felt the urge to head for home as the sky was getting dark inland to the west and rain could be seen falling from some of the better developed clouds. Gary and Margie headed northwest toward home and visible rain, while Kim and I rode southwest toward slightly better looking skies.

We threaded our way through the growing showers with little trouble and managed to stay reasonably dry. There was thunder to our south, west, and north as we rolled our bikes into the garage right at 2 PM.

What a nice way to spend a day, good friends, a fun motorcycle ride, and a chance to explore a little bit of central Florida.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Searching for Eagle and Hawk Nests

Took the Suzuki TU250X out today in search of eagle and hawk nests.  Only saw one bald eagle, but saw many hawks and was able to get a nice picture of hawks on the nest.

The summer weather pattern is beginning to set in and that means afternoon thundershowers most days.  The rain starts anywhere from noon to five, and although the rain is isolated (usually) you can plan to get wet sometime during the afternoon or evening.

On one trip a couple years ago, Kim and I had ridden to St. Augustine for the day.  It had been a killer hot day with no rain along the coast but as we headed home in the dark we could see flashes of lightning inland.  We slid south along the coast thinking we'd get around the south end of the rain before we needed to turn inland.  Well, we didn't ever get to the south end of the storm and eventually had to turn west for about fifty miles to get home.  Again, we thought we'd make it home just short of the storm and all would be good, but that didn't happen either.  About 20 miles short of our home, we had to cross over one of those triple decker overpasses.  We made it to the top of the over pass at the same time the storm hit.  There was lightning everywhere and I can tell you that the lightning was intense and very scary.  I may still have the bruises on my ribs where Kim was hanging on...

That was a long way to go to tell you I got out early and returned early, just as the first little rain shower of the day began.

The first nest I have pictures of was off the road a little way. Eagle and many big hawk / falcon nests are very course. They seem to be made of large branches with minimal padding for the chicks. They are nearly always at the very top of tall trees and are added to and reused each year

Eagle Nest


 I can't resist taking pictures of this bike. You do get a very nice idea of what rural Florida looks like in this part of the state, but you have to look around the bike. :)

On one of my stops, was at Lake Marian. I had placed the bike under a nice looking tree and was taking pictures of the bike, great blue herons, and wood storks when a couple alligators started croaking a few yards away. Some say an alligator sounds like a bull frog. They actually make many noises from squeaky sounds to big booming croaks. On this day they were croaking. It is a sound that sends chills up my back. No need for me to trek any deeper into the swamp!

Parked at Lake Marian.  Gators croaking in the swamp just down the bank from the bike.


 I don't know for sure what type bird these fellows are.  If anyone knows, please drop me a note.  I thought they were Peregrin Falcons at first but I couldn't see the tell tale "sideburns" of a Peregrin.  There was a parent in the nest with them and another on a wire just out of view.  The parent on the nest flew off and the youngsters popped their heads up to take a look at me.
As you can see, the sky was beginning to fill in and I had to head for home shortly after taking the photo of the chicks.  I stopped at the Ural/Enfield dealer to slip into my rain suit only to ride back into the sun for the last 20 or so miles.
I did see one bald eagle soaring over an orange grove near the house.  What a sight, I always think they are one of the most beautiful of our birds.