Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Ghost Stories Today

Took a little ride with my best friend and riding buddy, Kim, today.  We had planned to poke around some nearby ghost towns to take a few pictures and spend some time on the bikes.  The weather had other plans though.  We rode through a strong and gusting crosswind for about twenty miles before deciding it would be better to save the ghost town trip for another day.  We did stop at Lake Cypress for awhile and took a few photos before we turned for home.  You can get an idea of the strength of the wind in some of the pictures.  We had to take care of how we faced the bikes when we stopped, for fear the wind would blow them off their stands.

After taking some pictures and strolling around a bit, we headed back home.  Shortly after we put the bikes away we had some pretty severe weather blow through, a number of trees came down in our area and Orlando had a tornado as well as straight line winds that did a bit of damage.

Still, we managed a few pictures of old Florida that you might enjoy.  We'll save the ghost town tour for another time.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cypress Lake and Lake Kissimmee

I had a little time this afternoon so took a ride on some of the back roads around our home in central Florida.  Many parts of Florida are still pretty wild and uninhabited and this includes much of central Florida.  In recent times, the area has become well know for its' tourist attractions but much of old Florida still lives and thrives.  It is a beautiful part of the state where many make their living on ranches and hunting and fishing the many lakes and swamps of the area.

I traveled a gravel road through stands of trees and open pastures on my ride to Cypress Lake.

Stand of trees on the ride to Cypress Lake
There is something peaceful about riding a pleasant bike down a gravel road.  The muffled thump of the engine and the soft sound of wheels rolling over the gravel and fine sand can make the ride almost magical.  I stopped often to watch the hawks and eagles soar and at one point stood and watched 12 deer as they grazed.  They kept a watchful eye on me, but continued to feed.  Thinking I could get a picture of them, I shut down the engine and tried to dismount from the bike as slowly and quietly as possible.  While they were not alarmed while I was seated on the bike, they wandered away as soon as I got off the bike.  Too bad as they would have made a great picture.

These fellows didn't mind having their picture taken.

The cattle were happy to pose for me though.  They were inquisitive and inched closer to get a better look at the bike, or maybe the guy riding it.

I have had friends tell me they had ridden through the middle of nowhere, but I actually stopped there and have a picture to prove it!

The Middle of Nowhere
After leaving the middle of Nowhere I stopped by a stand of trees dripping with Spanish moss.  I had just fired the bike back up to head further along my journey when another bike slowly made its' way past me.  The rider only went about one hundred yards beyond me when he turned around and came back for a little chat and a better look at my bike.  As he pulled up and shut down his bike he asked how old my bike was and how much work the restoration was.  He was surprised to learn the bike is only a few years old.  (It is a Suzuki TU250X)  As you can see the bike does have an older look about it.  It is a smallish single cylinder with the look of bikes we used to call standards.  It has a natural riding position that makes it ideal for back road riding, whether the roads are paved, gravel, sand, or cow pasture.

I'll write a rider report on the bike at sometime in the future.  I have to admit it is one of my favorite bikes.

As you can see from the pictures the sun was getting low, but I had time to ride down to Lake Kissimmee before it got too dark and I needed to head home.  The sun was just a few minutes away from setting when I snapped a shot of the lake.  One nice thing about the back roads is you feel you have them to yourself, yet when you do bump into other folks, they always seem friendly and unhurried.  This is one of the best reasons to travel the roads less traveled.

Lake Kissimmee
 As I headed home from Lake Kissimmee, the air was cooling and the light began to turn everything that beautiful golden color that fades so fast, yet is the highlight of the day.  The evening air carried the wonderful scents of the pastures and trees.  The temperature of the air varied as I road from pasture land to wooded areas.  At first the pasture lands being the warmest, but as the sun slowly sank below the horizon, the pastures cooled and the wooded areas held their warmth.

After stopping to take these last two pictures I turned toward home and made no more stops.  There is something very nice about riding at night, the sights, the smells, and temperature changes that just keep getting stronger, but as pleasant as it is to ride at night the dangers do go up a bit.  The worry of animals and other objects on the road can make the ride less fun than it would otherwise be.  Tonight, I made it home just as the first stars began to blink and twinkle into view.  It was the perfect end to a perfect ride.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Florida's Green Swamp Area

My Green Swamp ride leaves from the Kissimmee area and heads west on a road my Florida Gazetteer calls 531.  531 generally parallels the more heavily traveled 17/92 and in fact eventually dead ends on 17/92.  I chugged south on 17/92 a few miles to another road with two names, Ronald Reagan / Deen Still Rd.  Deen Still has a bit of traffic on it until you cross west of 27.  From this point on, you be in the country enjoying the great scenery rural Florida has to offer and will see but a few cars.  The road winds around as it follows a low creek area through small cattle ranches and scrub brush.  There is a very nice loop you can make by turning north on Brown Shinn Rd.  Brown Shinn will drop you off on Route 33.  This day, I chose to continue on Deen Still all the way to Rock Ridge Rd.  Rock Ridge is poorly named as you are travelling the low country with real no ridge in sight.  It is a swamp ridge, that is it once was the higher sand areas that skirted the worst of the wet and was often used as trails by the native people and animals.  Turn north on Rock Ridge and you will enjoy some very nice riding with very few cars or houses anywhere to be seen. 

The land is wooded with open pasture and you can expect to see deer and turkey as well as the many other birds Florida is so well known for.  Alligators are everywhere in this part of Florida, all water must be treated as if there are alligators present, mainly because they are.  You can also see them sunning themselves on the roads soaking up a little warmth.


Rock Ridge will meet up with Rt. 33.  I turned north on 33 until reaching Lake Erie Rd - must have been named by an expat. Ohioan.Lake Erie Rd is a nice meander through the Green swamp and there is a nice loop at the end of it you'll want to take.  The loop is named Bay Lake Loop and it takes you through more wooded swamp land.

From the Bay Lake Loop, I took 565 north to Hwy 50.  West on 50 then a few hundred yards you turn north again on a small road that my map has as unnamed.  Unnamed travels more country lowland through a small area that was at one time the town of Tuscannoga.  There are sections of this road that can be flooded during heavy rains, but are dry most of the time.  Unnamed ends at Rt 469.  I took 469 to Town Center and continued on Hwy 48 west to spend the afternoon wandering Dade Battlefield Historic State Park.

This area is full of history and sites of old battle fields.  From the park it would be easy to continue west reaching the Gulf coast in a remote area near Homosassa, but I had only a little time left in the day so retraced my travels back home.

I have some nice photos of this ride, I have digitally misplaced them and will post them as soon as I recover them.

Well it seems I have lost the photos for good.  I'll ride this ride again one day and post a better report.  The roads are great motorcycle roads and deserve a better write up.