Four Corners Day 14, Epic Ride Day 34 (revised to Day 38… explanation to follow):
I got myself back to Gainesville so I can be at Streight’s Honda tomorrow morning when the UPS truck gets there with my new rear Michelin Pilot Road 3. I’ve gotten 13,560 miles out of the one that’s on the bike and I think it would have done another couple of thousand, but it’s down to the wear bars and I’ll be more secure with a fresh one. I’m also having them replace my front brake pads. They’ve lasted over 40,000 miles. The rear pads will probably last forever; I rarely use the rear brake because my knee surgery makes it awkward to bend my ankle far enough to use them unless I’ve pre-planned the move.
I slept fairly late this morning, ate a leisurely “brunch” at Denny’s, got gas and left Florida City around 12:15. I made the mistake of riding up FL-997, the road in front of my motel. I didn’t know it was going to have a 45mph speed limit and lots of traffic turning and entering the many nurseries along the 20+ miles to US-41, the old Tamiami Trail through the Everglades. There was more traffic on it than I thought there’d be, too. People going to the Indian village and the various airboat tours of the ‘Glades, kept that traffic going pretty slow. By the time I got west to FL-29, I decided to make a turn and head as quickly as possible for I-75.
To really see the Everglades, you need to take one of those airboat tours, and that probably wouldn’t really do the job.
Signs I’ve seen only in Florida:
1. “Crocodile Crossing” — on US-1 between Key Largo and Florida City.
2. “Panther Crossing” — on US-41 and FL-29 in the Everglades.
3. “Caution: Key Deer Habitat” — on US-1 in the Keys.
4. “Turn on Lights and Windshield Wipers During Rain” — on the Florida Turnpike and I-75.
At a rest stop near Punta Gorda, I got closer than I ever expected to get to two Sandhill Cranes:
I wanted to go over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It’s a different kind of suspension bridge:
(Obviously, my lens cover was back to its old trick of not quite opening all the way).
Just as the highway leaves St. Petersburg, it heads onto the “Howard Frankland Bridge.” And just as I got onto the bridge, traffic began the infamous Freeway Crawl. Unlike California, there was a clear reason why it did it in this case: there had been two wrecks, one at the east end of the bridge (in the eastbound lanes — my lanes, of course) and another a couple of miles east of that.
To make everything more delightful, just as I got onto the bridge and the traffic stopped, IT started. “It” was the typical afternoon Florida deluge. In stop-and-go traffic in heavy rain, one of the unique challenges when riding a motorcycle is keeping clear vision. At speed, the wind keeps your face shield pretty clear and with my “Pinlock” insert, it rarely fogs up. But when you’re crawling along, not even the Pinlock can keep it clear. Opening it is your only real option, but that breaks the seal and rain gets on the inside of the shield and on your glasses.
But the Crawl only lasted about 5 miles and probably 30 minutes.
The rest of the ride to Gainesville on the Florida Autobahn went smoothly. I’ve been riding at about 76 (+ 6mph over the speed limit) and I’m not passing very many cars. I’d guess that about 80% of the traffic is going 80+. Trucks supposedly have a 65mph limit, but they’re mostly running 70.
Tomorrow, after I get my tire and brake pads, I’ll head toward my brother Mike’s house. It’s going to really wet in Georgia. I’ll dig out my “more-waterproof” winter gloves. The ‘Stitch does a pretty good job of keeping water out, so I’ll be all right … as long as there’s no flooding.
Stats: Day, 421 miles, Trip, 13,441 miles; Year, 19,328 miles; Total, 71,415 miles.
I realized that I had not counted the ride to Spearfish, the ride to North Dakota with Rick and Jim Moore, or the two rides to Rapid City to the Honda dealer to pick up and return Jim Rau to his bike before we left for Alaska. Those miles are part of the Trip, so I’ve revised the count to show all the time since I left home.