It's that time of the year again. To head to Florida, drag that grey MZ Baghira out of hibernation and enjoy almost a week's worth of riding in the coldest month of the year
I fly down by Southwest, well above the clouds.
Steve picks me up at the airport, then it's time to head to his garage in Lakeland where my MZ Baghira lies in hibernation.
Didn't need much. A new battery, chain lubed, tires pumped up, carburettor drain plug screwed back in, fresh gas added, and he started right up. Yay!
The next morning, Steve gets in his pickup.
And I'm ready to head out on my MZ (cool!) The blue chest protector should keep me safe from the jungle out there!
We both head to the Francis warehouse in St. Petes, and Steve wonders how I get there first by a large margin (without putting the chest protector to use).
As expected, the Francis warehouse hasn't taken down the Merry Christmas sign.
Inside the warehouse we have all manner of signs and automobilia (i.e. an American Pickers paradise).
From there, we have dinner at a Greek Restaurant across the Tyrone Shopping Mall, and then it's time for me to head down to Bradenton. The ride down to Bradenton, thru St. Petes along US 19 and over the Sunshine Skyway I've driven numerous times, but this my first time on the MZ which is way more fun. One tip for riders: it's convenient to carry those new gold dollar coins to pay the $1 toll. Saves you time digging to pay (unless you have the Sunpass)
At Bradenton, I'm to meet my friend Craig and his wife Cathy. They are going to be heading to Haiti to attend a friend's wedding and don't mind that I stay at their place while they are gone, minding the house all the while. Works well for both of us. This place in Bradenton will be my home base for most of my trip in Florida. They leave around 1:00am to drive to Miami in order to catch a morning flight to Haiti so when I wake up the next morning, they are gone.
I forget my digital camera at their place so I have no Saturday pics. Sure glad I didn't lose it, otherwise I wouldn't have any web write-up at all. The day was sunny but quite chilly, especially on a bike. I had to turn the heat up for the evening.
Sunday, nice and sunny, I'm ready to head out on a trip north to Reddick where they have MX races. Maybe I'll get there before the races are over.
In the process of finding that, I come across this Dolphin Pier, makes an excellent shot.
Then a dead-end looking out onto the Manatee River Bay.
I knew the house was on one of these side streets in the old town. I find it on 3rd St. It's one one on the left, built around 1926.
Now it's time to head north. I make a point of stopping at Palmetto TV. I pass this enroute from St. Petes to Bradenton, so I might as well get a photo.
It's pretty rare to find TV repair signs as nobody repairs TVs anymore. These days they are chucked out when they stop working. Looking closely I see this place stays in business by doubling as a computer repair shop.
Now I head up US 41 towards Tampa and stop at a flea market, which turns out to be almost all Hispanic.
No problem parking my MZ, but I'm definitely in the minority here.
I have a feeling the shadow my MZ casts will be more interesting than anything for sale.
Here's a company that advertises transporting vehicles to and from Mexico. What, no bikes?!
Interestingly, the booth that provides advice on legally entering the US was empty.
Next I stop at Foy's Tire (Best Place in town to take a leak), though the tires on my MZ are okay (and I don't need to use the bathroom).
Then I note a neat reflection in the metallic glass window.
Now I take the gateway to Tampa which is the 22nd St. causeway (Business US 41). You can see downtown from here.
This leads me into Ybor City and an industrial area just east of downtown. I decided to get on I-4 then I-275 to save time getting thru the city. Of course I could take I-275 all the way up to Ocala, but I want to make my trip somewhat interesting so I get off at the exit just after the greyhound race track. That puts me back on US 41 north.
I stop at Brooksville, county seat of Hernando, and photograph the courthouse. The front view is well hidden in the trees.
The corner view is better.
After lunch at Wendy's it's time to get on the road. I'm also getting quite a bit behind schedule if I want to see any of the MX races at Reddick. So, I continue on US 41 north, and FL 200 conveniently takes me diagonally to Ocala. I get on I-275 for a couple exits to bypass the city and then I find myself on US 301, and I want the US 441 split at the 'Y'.
Now to find the MX track. When I pull over to the side to check my map I can hear it. So, I take the side road and finding the track is then obvious.
I get there around 4pm, only to find nobody at the gate (at least I don't have to pay to get in) but all I get to see is the last race of the day.
I've seen this MX'ers for Jesus RV before. There's quite a few MX ministries out there for obvious reasons.
Neat photo of spray washing the Kawasaki before putting it away.
I realize I need to lube my chain and I forgot my can on this trip. So I'm hoping to find someone who has it for sale and I come across Daniel LaPlaca who just finished racing, and he has it. Great. I then ask Daniel if Barry Carsten raced today and he then says Barry is his second cousin. Wow. But no, Barry wasn't there, though that veteran master always does the Florida Winter Pro-Am series and that's where I've seen him before.
The day is getting late and I want to take a scenic route through the Ocala forest before thinking of some place to stay for the night and I know even at this time of the year Florida gets cold at night. So, I'm all ready to go.
I take a county side road to Sparr where I stop at some truck dealership to get my bearings, fascinated by all the old trucks lined up, some rusting away and a couple even older than me.
Then I take county road 316 towards the Ocala forest that takes me past Fort McCoy and also past this building supply grounds.
Joe's Stuff 'n' Such. The sign suggests they've been in business for a while
Now I'm in the Ocala forest, along this causeway. As you can see the day is getting long in the tooth.
Kerr City is definitely not that, but it leads me to FL 19 which I then take south.
Now I'm eager to find accomodation, but I need to get out of the Ocala Forest National Park as I don't have any camping gear with me.
Crossing FL 40, I see the direction sign to Ormond Beach (which is just north of Daytona). I didn't realize I got that close to the east coast. As that is out of my way, I head south, but wow, it's getting cold and my chest protector and liner is barely enough. I figure it's got to be down in the 30s, and I need to find something fast or I'm gonna be one frozen tiger!
Just as it gets dark, I reach Eustis and stop at the Colonial Inn, a run of the mill motel. When I check in, the innkeeper gives me a heater as there isn't one in the room. This is Florida, after all. But tonight I am definitely going to need it. I get a really decent Chinese buffet just down the road from the motel then a great night's sleep.