Monday, August 4, 2008

Biking the back roads

Beloved and I spent Saturday roaming around the backroads of Florida on our motorcycles. Of course we got wet. Because it is, after all, August in Florida. We had decided to try and see some small towns in Central Florida. There's no better way to do that than on a motorcycle. On our short list for the day were the towns of Oklawaha, Dunnellon and Yankeetown. However, the rain cut short our trip so while we got to see Oklawaha, we ended up visiting Leesburg and Mt. Dora instead.

What I enjoy most about motoring through Florida's back roads is a little game I've invented called "Florida roadside retail." I look for handmade signs advertising items for sale and keep track of the most unusual. This weekend I spotted the following for sale by independent entreprenuers: piglets, goats, frog legs, horses, watermelon, vine ripe tomatoes, "wholesale" pottery, and of course boiled peanuts in the cajun and regular variety.

My favorite roadside peanut seller is an independent businessman at the intersection of SR 44 and 44B near Mt. Dora who advertises his boiled pnut stand as a "Drive-Thru." You pull off the road alongside his truck with the pnut boiling apparatus off the tailgate and he brings the pnuts to you. Now that's service!

Beloved and I have often wondered about these unique Florida pnut entreprenuers. Beloved's theory is that the men who operate these operations (and most are men) are just trying to find some time alone and get away from the wife and kids. Making money is an afterthought.

We saw some beautiful scenery and cruised some lovely two-lane roads despite the weather. At one point, we pulled over after not finding our turn (notice I didn't say getting lost). Beloved pulled out his fancy, schmancy new GPS and I had to carefully stifle a laugh when the high tech gadget couldn't locate Oklawaha. Seems the town with only one blinking caution light and a population of less than 1,000 was "off the grid." Lucky for us a fellow biker came along and stopped to be of service. That's one thing about Florida bikers, they know the backroads of Florida better than any GPS, Atlas or professional map. They also keep our economy going by patronizing local businesses and giving to charity.

We dried off at Gator Joe's in Oklawaha. The town is famous as the location where the notorious Ma Barker and her gang were taken out in a shootout with law enforcement. Gator Joe's is on a lake that attracts water ski enthusiasts and offers charming "cottages" for vacation rental. Gator Joe's is a typical Florida bar and grill with an expansive deck and menu items like froglegs and gator tail.

While we waited out the rain, we discussed some of the small Florida towns we've visited by motorcyle over the years and which ones we liked the most. Some of our favorites include: Cedar Key, Appalachicola, Fernandina Beach and Crescent City.

Perhaps when fall comes along and the rainy season draws to an end we can finally add a few more small towns to our list.

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