Just-For-Fun Ride to Alachua (11/2011)

Attending the MSTA Just-for-Fun Non-Event
Nov. 11-12, 2011 in Alachua, FL
by Don Moe

Several people, who could not attend this event, requested that I write up a report for our monthly newsletter.  The following is a synopsis of the event from my perspective. [Ed:This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of the Florida MSTA Grapevine.]

Early on Friday morning, November 11th, I rode my 2010Kawasaki Concours 14 from Jupiter to Port Mayaca on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee, where I joined the south Florida group led by Jim Park.

Our route from south Florida to Alachua

Jim had plotted out a GPS route to northern Florida that would maximize our riding enjoyment with as many non-straight roads as possible in this state, while avoiding the large cities and traffic as much as possible.  The purple track on the adjoining map graphic shows our route.

Our first stop was the Landing Strip Café at the Okeechobee Airport, where we enjoyed a very good breakfast along with nice conversation.  We resumed our ride north along US-441 and then jogged east along US-192 to Deer Park Road. This route passes through Fort Christmas, avoiding the congestion closer to Orlando.  However, we did pass through Sanford along the shore of Lake Monroe and entered Deland along US-17/92.  That was the only section of the route that involved significant city traffic and congestion.

Our second stop was at the Dublin Station Irish pub and restaurant, where we met up with Bob Shields and his son Bobby from Lakeland, who had arrived earlier. We enjoyed an excellent lunch while sitting outside in the beautiful weather.

We resumed our trip by heading west from Deland along CR-42, which is a very nice road on the south side of the Ocala National Forest.  Just past Eustis, we turned north on 182nd Avenue to bypass both Ocala and Gainesville.  We finally arrived in Alachua at 5:30 PM, checked into the Quality Inn and, after discussing it with others, made plans for dinner at the Sonny’s BBQ across the highway from the motel.  Sitting at the bar while waiting for a table to become available for our large group, we sampled some of their draught beers without concern about driving.

The weather forecast for Friday night and Saturday morning promised very chilly temperatures, even dropping below freezing to around 27°.  In the morning we found our bikes coated with significant layer of frost.  Everyone therefore agreed to delay our morning tour of the area until later, when it would warm into the 50’s.  We finally started out just after 9:30.

Our ride around north Florida on Saturday

In all, eleven motorcycles and thirteen riders participated in the Alachua event.  Phil Ridgdill led us on a nice tour of northern Florida on very well maintained roads through heavily wooded areas.  The road had numerous nice sweepers and other opportunities to carve some curves.  The gray line on the adjoining map shows our route, as captured by my Garmin Zumo 665.

During the ride we pulled in at the lakeside park in Lake Butler in order to take a break.  It was a very nice location, as you can see in this photo.

We stopped at Lake Butler for a short break

A new aspect of the area for me, not being a hunter, was the seemingly large number of hunters we spotted alongside the road, usually in pairs, wearing camouflage and standing next to their trucks.  One time we spotted a probable deer in one of the trucks.  Whenever we approached a hunting party near the road, the group leader slowed down in case any animals might dart out from the woods and present a hazard.  Thankfully we never had to deal with that, nor with any police.

Our guide had made arrangements for us to have a delicious buffet lunch at the Telford Hotel located very close to the Suwannee River as it meanders around White Springs, which is on US-41 just to the northwest of Lake City.  As is customary practice according to our guide, we parked our bikes on the sidewalk across from the hotel, as shown in this photo.

Parking for motorcycles across from the Telford Hotel

After lunch, several of us walked to the nearby bridge over the Suwannee and discovered that the water level was so low that the river seemed to be nearly stagnant.  We then gathered on the steps outside of the hotel for the obligatory group photo, taken by Jim Park with the help of a tripod.

Standing l-r: Don Williams, Bob Shields, Bobby Shields, Steve Phillips, Don Moe, Sandy Spice, Roger Spice, Carmel Ridgdill, Phil Ridgdill, Jim Johndro, Bill Bishop. Seated: Jim and Dianne Park.

The return ride to Alachua went just as well, although the roads seemed straighter than in the morning.  We all very much enjoyed our outing, which went totally without incident except for sunglasses left behind at the hotel.  Thanks to radio communications in our group from south Florida, we were able to alert the group leader to pull over briefly to let the forgetful one catch up.

For dinner, we had a reservation at the Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs, just a short drive northwest of Alachua along US-441.  Despite our large group, the staff was able to take good care of us with some very good dishes.

Although we returned to our motel in Alachua well after dark, several of us decided to pay another visit to the Sonny’s BBQ for a beer, since many of us had avoided any alcoholic beverages at dinner.  After our first round, the manager gave us a second round on the house, for which we were definitely grateful.

On Sunday morning, my south Florida group left on its own to make a quick run down I-75 and the Florida Turnpike in order to get home in time for a ball game.  In contrast, I decided to take the opportunity to stop by nearby Cedar Key, located on the Gulf Coast west of Ocala, since I had never before been to that area.  This town is the venue for the Wizard’s Wild Weekend from December 2nd to 4th that I would not be attending.

The following map shows my route from Alachua to Cedar Key and then to Ocala, where I joined the heavy traffic heading south on I-75.

My route from Alachua to Cedar Key and to I-75 near Ocala for the return trip home

Apart from a very congested turnpike service plaza at Canoe Creek, due to significant construction around the service station, my return trip to Jupiter went without incident.  However, I was unable to fill up there with premium fuel and had to make due with 87 regular. My Concours handled that easily, even though 91+ premium is prescribed.

After attending this event, I am looking forward to visiting northern Florida again over the next few months.  So many good riding opportunities on the numerous rural roads make the area a worthwhile destination while we wait until spring permits us to travel further north.

All of us enjoyed our brief tour of northern Florida and I thank Phil Ridgdill for making the arrangements and for being our tour guide.