For the better part of a decade, I've been going to Florida every January for a few days to get away from the cold. I've either driven down or flown down then rented a car. This truly sucked because during the whole trip, all I could think of, was riding. Well, this year I finally did something about it.
Since I love my Black 2001 MZ Baghira so much, I decided to buy a second one to have in Florida. When I saw this sweet silver-grey 2003 on eBay, I got ready to pounce. I asked the seller, Dean in Tennesse, if he could take it down to Florida, and the answer was yes, because he heads south for the winter, and trailers his bikes down. That's all I needed. I paid a bit more than what these normally go for, but this was a really clean one, and as eBay goes, if you want it, chances are someone else does too, besides the fact that GOOD stuff costs money. This bike didn't look like it needed anything.
Ahead of time, I get the title stuff sorted out, bike in my name, insurance, license, I'm good to go :-)
I fly down by Southwest.
...and the plan would be to meet Dean, who would trailer my MZ down, in St. Petersburg. I get nervous because a few days previous to my departure there were bad ice storms in his state and Georgia, thus delaying his departure. Maybe he won't make it down with my Baghira before I have to return back to West Virginia. Wow, that would suck. Fortunately he makes it, just in time !
It feels gr-r-e-at to get on my MZ Baghira for the first time, on a bright Saturday afternoon in the Sunshine State.
First thing is to get on the bike and head over to my friend Steve's in Lakeland.
I do this after dinner, so it is dark. Steve leads the way in case something happens. In fact the only delay I have is where I don't have the correct change to feed the unmanned toll booth when I get off the Turnpike. Steve tells me not to worry about it, as you can run four of these in that manner before you are fined. I am really happy how the bike runs :-)
Steve agreed to store the bike for me while I'm not in Florida, which unfortunately is about 51 weeks of the year.
I start my trip Sunday afternoon at his house in Lakeland.
The plan is to ride down to Key West and back. I'd go down the East Coast via US 1, thru Miami to Key West and then return to Lakeland via a different route, depending on what time I have left on my hands. I've never been to Key West before. No freakin' way I'd consider driving such a trip in a car.
I head out of Lakeland on US 98 South to FL 60, which I will take east to Vero Beach.
On FL 60, I stop by a large orange juice making plant. Lots of transport trailers with oranges.
The whole operation reminds me of an oil refinery with all those columns, pipes and steam.
FL 60 East soon becomes straight as an arrow once it goes from four lanes to two.
Nothing but empty fields here.
Pass through a strange place called Yeehaw Junction which has a historic tavern/motel, but I'm have too much fun riding my MZ to stop.
Finally get to Vero Beach mid-afternoon where I visit my friend Howard who lives right on the harbor inlet (Dolphin Drive).
I could get used to having a backyard like this.
By late afternoon, it's time to get back on the road. I'm heading south on US 1
The day is getting pretty long in the tooth as I reach Stewart. Dig my MZ shadow.
My MZ and I, looking across US 1 to a 60s style BBQ joint.
US 1 southbound isn't all that interesting around here. Light standards on the right, palm trees going down the median.
After filling up at Tequesta, I need to start looking for a place to stay. I pull up at this nice quaint motel but they want about $160 a night. Yikes, I didn't realize it was that expensive around here. The innkeeper told me I'd find cheaper places away from the shoreline, off the Interstate. So, I backtrack to I-95 and since it is dark it doesn't matter if I'm on that or US 1.
I find a place called the Inn of America off I-95 in Palm Beach Gardens.
Next, I need to find some chow. I ride to a nearby Winn Dixie to get a hot chicken dinner to take back to the hotel. Actually the girl behind the deli counter gives me a gr-r-reat deal on the leftovers since she shut down the hot plates for the day (besides the fact I walked in with a motorcycle jacket on, proving that I am riding).
I notice it had rained overnight, as the bright morning greets me. Not exactly a scenic view, that's the Interstate you see in the background, but hey, it was less than half the price of a comparable place on US-1.
I ride back to US 1 to continue my journey south towards Miami.
Now US 1 is straight, but is fun to ride in a straight line when you're at the front, waiting for the light to turn green, blowing away the competition. There's a speed limit, but no acceleration limit.
Which brings me to my next point. You know the old saying Loud Pipes Save Lives ? Well, I counter Loud Pipes Cost Lives. My MZ is loud, but then I'm really rockin'. This sudden rush, I'm more focussed on my bike and how badass cool I am, instead of what's around me. On top of the fact that I'm going faster, and therefore reducing my reaction time if something unexpected should happen. That's why. Fortunately I do not prove my theory right.
I noticed the battery is weak, so I figure I'd better get it checked at an Advanced Auto Parts in Oakland Park.
Advance Auto tells me it will take a couple hours to charge the battery.
I grab lunch, two burritos with Fritos made with real beef at the Taco Bell next door.
Next, I check out the Goodwill across the street. Perfect, if I needed glassware.
At the back, are shelves of stuffed animals the kids were playing with.
The rain continues, so I am basically stuck here. At the back I check out their library and settle down into a plush sofa. I read over a book on parenting (reminding myself that kids are a load of responsibility, but it would be the way to get into dirtbikin'). Next, I polish off a tourist book on Central America (minus the parts in Spanish), then a coffee table book on Spain, and finally a textbook on Television production (there's more to producing a TV program than what we see on TV).
The rain finally stops by late afternoon, erasing most of my day, but my battery is charged and I'm now ready to rock and roll.
After Fort Lauderdale, it soon gets dark, and I'm now just north of Miami. As I crest an overpass, my map packet comes loose from my handlebars.
I spot it soon enough, but the traffic is heavy, so I can only helplessly watch the cars run over it, hoping it won't be torn
to shreds by the time I can get at it. Finally a break in the
traffic so I can run out and grab it. Fortuantely it's all intact, save for that map of St. Petersburg (which I won't need anyway).
But I have another problem. The battery doesn't seem to be holding its charge so I will need a new one, so I keep an eye out for another Advance Auto. Fortunately it's next to a motel, so I can buy a replacement battery and get it charged overnight.
I park my bike under the alcove because of the rain. I'm pretty far south, so it feels rather muggy.
This is an older motel from the 60s. Nice and roomy.
Wake up to a nice day, no rain.
After breakfast at Denny's and installing my new battery, I'm ready to rock and roll. The day looks nice, and I have a lot
of ground to cover.
Now heading towards downtown Miami on US 1, you may wonder why I'm stopping here.
Because there's a Tiger in the window of a furniture store! One thing I love about riding, is that you can stop just about anywhere.
Now my digital camera dies. Darn it. Can't seem to get it to work. So, I either pack it in, and that's the end of the
photos, or buy another camera.
Soon after that I'm close to downtown, looking as some lofty condos that no doubt overlook the eastern shore and Miami Beach.
Now, I would normally keep on US 1, pass right through downtown Miami but I have a conquest. I need to visit MZ Miami to get some parts for my MZ back home. I learned about this place at Mid Ohio last year where I met another MZ Rider (he was on a Saxon).
Behind schedule that I am, I don't have time to explore downtown, so I head towards I-395 (Dolphin Expressway) which will take me west of downtown.
By now it's worth putting in a sidebar about US 1. I found from Vero Beach all the way to Miami it was built up all the way.
Looking back towards downtown, the weather is starting to look ominous again (though when I called Steve back in Lakeland, he assured me the weather system had basically passed through).
Zooming in on the skyscrapers.
I tell the woman with a nice rack behind the counter about my MZ parked just outside and that I need some parts for my MZ back home. No English was the response. Hmmm, I must be in the Spanish part of the city. Since my Spanish is non-existant, I try some pointing to what I need, then admire the photoalbums of vintage MZs and their owners. Fortunately then, the shopkeeper shows up who speaks English.
We have a great MZ conversation, he is fascinated by my bike, of course. Turns out he deals mainly in the older two-stroke MZs when it was East Germany (MZ = Moto Zschopau where these bikes come from). I look at a photo album of the patrons' bikes. He doesn't have quite the set of mirrors I need for the Baghira, but something close enough. And I got a brake lever that will replace the one that is bent on the Baghira I'm on right now. Rather, I'll keep it as a spare until it breaks. Then some various screws and bolts I can't seem to find at the fastener shops.
He's got a pretty cool truck.
I tell him about my journey to Key West. He said he once lead a group of MZs, the two strokes, all the way down. Wow !
Anyway, happy that I made the detour to this place, it's time to move on.
FL 959 meets up with US 1 just south of Miami, where I then stop at an antique shop.
The place is packed to the gills with STUFF. Kind of the opposite of what I'm trying to accomplish, which is to downsize the JUNK out of my life back home. I do buy a 1956 license plate from the Canal Zone (I wonder how that got there), and a history book from Hallendale, which I have no problem carrying on my Baghira (along with the MZ parts I had just picked up). No more stuff, though! You see how light I like to travel!
Onward and upward, I find myself on the main thoroughfare leading to the Keys with 122 miles to go. It's about 1:30pm, still lots of time to get there, even with a few stops along the way, which I'm sure I'll do.
It is at this point I miss a great photo opportunity, for a guy on a Harley zooms past me as I get back on my bike. Thing is he had almost no clothes on (shorts, footwear, shades and that's it), reminded me of what Santa Claus might look like during his tour through south Florida. The license plate said PA, I don't believe he rode all the way from up there in that kind of gear. (so *damn* I wish I had the picture to prove it).
The causeway is pretty straight with the water appearing on the left side
To actually get onto the keys, you go over a causeway, which I had to first go under to get a great photo shot.