Attending the MSTA Florida Central Lunch
at Stumpknocker’s Restaurant in Dunnellon, FL
on March 10, 2012
by Don Moe
During the week prior to the lunch gathering in Dunnellon, the weather for the weekend promised to be reasonably nice with only around 20% chance of rain. I decided that it would be a good opportunity to attend a gathering of other MSTA Florida riders and then to try out my new tent at a campground in the Ocala National Forest. Since Daytona is less than 50 miles from my prospective campsite, I could ride there on Sunday for a brief visit before heading south on I-95 to my home in Jupiter that evening. [Ed:This article appeared in the October 2012 issue of the Florida MSTA Grapevine.]
The fastest and most direct route from Jupiter to Dunnellon was 225 miles via the Florida Turnpike, taking around 3 hours. What a boring trip that would be! However, after speaking with a good friend in Orlando, the first part fell into place with an invitation to spend Friday night there and thus break up that very lengthy ride to Dunnellon.
The adjacent map shows that first 158-mile segment of the trip on 3/9/2012. Initially heading west from Jupiter on SR-706, I continued along SR-710 to Indiantown, where I met up with Jim Park at the Crackers Restaurant for lunch. He had the new MSTA Florida T-shirts for several of the west-coast group and I had volunteered to take them along.
After lunch I resumed my trip along SR-710, turning off onto 128th Avenue, which nicely bypasses the town of Okeechobee and offers a few curves, including two 90° sweepers, before reaching US-441. Other than an occasional truck, there is usually very little traffic along this road through a very rural area.
Heading north then on US-441, I noticed increased truck traffic, but there was no problem in passing them. All the way to Holopaw, I enjoyed a pleasant ride and made the most of the few curves in the road. After turning west on US-192 and then north on CR-15 towards Orlando, the amount of traffic increased significantly, especially when I reached the high school in Narcoosee, where local police blocked traffic to let about twenty school buses out.
Around 9:30 AM on Saturday, I departed from my friend’s home and headed west on the 408 Expressway to put Orlando behind me as quickly as possible. (See the following map segment.)
For lack of a better alternative, I took SR-50 west through Clermont, Groveland and Mascotte, finally turning north onto CR-469 just past Stuckey. This road turned into CR-48 at Center Hill and took me through Bushnell all the way to US-41 in Floral City. That county road was actually quite a pleasant ride with a few curves. I then followed US-41 north to Hernando, where my route branched onto SR-200, also called the Carl G. Rose Hwy.
Upon arriving at Stumpknocker’s Restaurant at 11:45, I found four sport-touring bikes already in the parking lot. The main contingent lead by Bill Royal arrived a few minutes later. Here is a photo of the group of twelve bikes.
Although the sky was mostly overcast, it was quite pleasant sitting outdoors on the open-air patio, as can be seen in the following photo. Since the restaurant had expected us, there were several tables ready with menus, etc.
The restaurant is located next to the highway right on the Withlacoochee River, as can be seen in the following photos:
Another visitor, not in our group, offered to take my picture posing on the “alligator” next to the river:
After finishing lunch, we all put on our riding gear and departed for our various destinations just after 1 PM. The food was quite good and reasonably priced. I enjoyed the fried catfish dinner ($9.95).
The next segment of my trip today took me into the Ocala National Forest. I rode about six miles north from the restaurant and turned east onto CR-484. At US-441 I turned south for a short distance to CR-42, which runs along the southern border of the Forest. At SR-19 I headed north to check for campsite openings at Lake Dorr and Alexander Springs. Unfortunately Alexander Springs was full and tent camping was no longer permitted at Lake Dorr ever since some naïve tourists baited bears into the area for pictures. (See the following map segment.)
The ranger in the visitor center recommended that I go to the Big Scrub Campground along Forest Road 14 about seven miles west of SR-19 (N29 03 02.5 W81 45 18.8). After learning that the road was unpaved, I was initially apprehensive about riding on a dirt road that might turn muddy after a rain. I was assured that the road was hard-packed sand and should not be a problem. Indeed that was the case and I was easily able to drive at 40 MPH along this road and reached the campground just after 3 PM.
There were only a few other visitors at this very large campground with 62 sites and two restroom buildings, including showers. With my Senior Pass from the National Park Service, the normal $12/night fee was half-price. After setting up my new tent, I settled in for the evening. Here is a photo of the campground as seen from the east side near my site, with my new blue tent.
Most of the other campers were families with four-wheel ATVs to explore the nearby Centennial Trail. The Centennial Trail offers riders an opportunity to view the unique Big Scrub ecosystem. The Big Scrub is the largest contiguous block of sand pine scrub ecosystem in the world. The scrub ecosystem is home to numerous rare species such as the Florida scrub-jay, sand skink, scrub lizard, gopher tortoise, black bear, white-tail deer, wild turkey and numerous plants.
Other than a constant buzzing noise from the nearby high-tension power line, seen on the left side of the photo above, the campground was reasonably quiet. The power line noise indicates that there is a significant leakage of power, perhaps due to defective insulators.
On Sunday morning I awoke to discover that a light rain shower had apparently passed over the area during the night. After turning on my Zumo 665, I checked the XM/NavWeather radar and found that there was a very large rain system stretching along the east coast from south Florida nearly to Orlando and thus covering my planned route home. Instead of riding over to Daytona, I opted to head south and stay to the west of that system and thus minimize my riding time in rain.
After breaking camp, I headed west on Forest Road 14 to 182nd Avenue and then south to CR-42 to Lady Lake, where I stopped at the Denny’s Restaurant for breakfast and to take advantage of their free WiFi. (See the following map.)
At the restaurant I used my notebook computer to check on the weather and to plan my return route, which I then loaded into my Zumo.
Although I tried to skirt the rain system well to the west, by the time I reached the Bartow area, I had encountered a few, mostly brief showers. At roughly 20 minute intervals, I checked the NavWeather radar to see how my route intersected the weather system.
At Zolfo Springs I finally turned east on SR-66 towards Sebring, where I took US-27 south to SR-70. By this time the rain was mostly to the north of me and moving away. Thus I stayed on SR-70 through Okeechobee and took SR-710 and 706 back into Jupiter. (See the adjacent map of my return trip.)
Although the 236 mile length of my return trip was only about 36 miles longer than the fastest route along the Florida Turnpike, it did take me 4½ hours, including stops, compared to a straight-through time of approximately 3½ hours for the direct, but much wetter route. I arrived back in Jupiter just before 5 PM.
Despite the rainy weather on the return trip, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the lunch and the opportunity to test out my new tent under realistic conditions.