Tail of the Dragon recently completed the Florida A1A trip that we started back in October of 2005. Hurricane Wilma had just laid waste to south Florida and we only got as far south as Jensen Beach before seeing extensive damages. We have been trying to reschedule this trip for two years and finally made it to Key West in November 2007. This leg will run from south to north and meet-up where we left off in 2005 at Jensen Beach.
A1A is a very unique Florida State Roadway with its northernmost terminus at 9th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach (just 2.7 miles south of the Georgia line). It hops and skips 333 miles (by my calculations) mostly along coastal islands passing by the Southern Most Point in the US just a few blocks before ending at Whitehead Street and Truman Avenue in Key West. First designated as SR 1 in 1945 it was changed to its current status in 1946 to avoid confusion with US 1. Some believe the designation stands for “Atlantic 1 Alternate”, but there is a St. Petersburg road A19A which is located on the Gulf.
A1A has undergone some changes over the years including the addition of the Key West section and relocation of the Fort Lauderdale access southward from Las Olas (FL 842) to SE 17th Street. Oddly it does not include the 10 miles of beach road (SR 707) from Jupiter to Hobe Sound.
There are four sections of A1A designated as “County Roads” for a total length of 32.7 miles. These are as follows:
(7.2 miles); and
We like to make our trips in the off seasons to avoid the crowds, so we thought the weekend after Thanksgiving might be a good time. We trailered to Port St. Lucie and then made a mad dash down I-95 early Sunday morning riding two-up on the old CapoNorde. We dodged a typical morning coastal shower which is common in south
and saw nothing but clear skies from
West Palm Beach
The traffic was light and we were glad for that as we had to negotiate construction in West Palm at 70 mph. Traffic became heavier as we neared
Lauderdale, but it was not so bad that Nancy had to close her eyes. She is not too keen on this highspeed Interstate travel. I ride extremely defensive constantly watching my mirrors, lining up to see ahead of the vehicle in front of me, darting around trucks and suspiciously incompetent drivers. My head is in constant motion and the old beaner is processing as fast as it can.
We jumped off the Interstate in
at Calle Ocho (
SW 8th Street
) for an early lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. It is unclear why this Cuban restaurant is called
, a French city near
, but the food is definitely from the islands. We were disappointed that we were too early for black beans and rice, so we had to settle for a tasty Cuban sandwich and coffee. This treat has slices of ham and roasted pork, cheese and pickle on Cuban bread. It is grilled on a sandwich press just enough to steam the pickle and melt the cheese. Cuban coffee is perfect to get your motorcycle rolling through the Interstate traffic. Nancy and I both were going about 100 mph after sipping on a couple of these sweet, thick expressos.
Back on the road we took the Turnpike all the way to the end at
rather than fight the stop and go traffic on US 1.
has become almost as bad as
with toll booths wanting your money. Take a handful of bills that you can easily get to when you stop. Stall too long and you have horns blaring behind you. On a bike you’ll likely pay $15 in tolls along the entire Turnpike from Wildwood to
we took US 1 south. The first 15 or so miles was about as exciting as watching trees grow. Straight, no scenery, and bumper to bumper traffic are not our cup of tea. At least everyone was moving at 55 mph and there are no traffic lights. One wonders why there are so many ubiquitous “Drive Safely” markers,
’s way of denoting deaths along the highway.
’s Turnpike holds the record for these perverse warnings with one nearly every mile or so it seems.
As we neared the northern most
the scenery improved. There is some new road construction going on here so traffic might be heavy at times. We also noted several Florida Troopers with radar in this area ….. wonder if THP told them to watch for us?
A few miles down the road a Florida Highway Patrol car came up behind us with sirens blaring. For a moment I thought they had recognized me and were in pursuit. Another couple of miles we came to the accident. It was a fatality because there was body covered with a sheet in the middle of the roadway. Traffic was backing-up as it was rerouted along a side road. Luckily we passed-by soon enough to get through without much of a delay. We met stopped traffic coming at us for the next ten miles. One of the negative points for the Overseas Highway is there are no other routes to bypass such traffic jams.
We passed over a bridge onto Islamorada and saw several people kitesurfing in the brisk wind. A large crowd of bikers and tourists were perched on the open deck of the Whale Harbor Restaurant and Mirina watching the action. We wanted to stop for a brew, but still had more than 80 miles to our destination.
We zipped through the rest of the Keys, some 100 miles planning to begin our tour on the way back home. We had to slow a bit crossing Big Pine Key which is a protected area for the endangered Key Deer which grow to only 30 inches tall.
We had reservations at the Southernmost Point Guest House just half a block from the famed Southernmost Point in the Continental United States. The second floor efficiency at the Southernmost Point Guest House was perfect for us offering a somewhat private balcony overlooking the butterfly exposition next door. The stove and refrigerator came in handy for our coffee/tea and beer.
We unloaded and took a short ride to the grocery for some snacks and beer. This was the first time we had ever ridden without our helmets. It looked fairly safe as traffic moved at a bustling 25 mph around town and most of the vehicles were scooters. It did feel refreshing, but we vowed not to go helmetless on the open road no matter how good it might feel.
After a couple of brews we headed down
to find a place for some fresh seafood. Now we don’t eat seafood unless we are near the beach. Something is just not right eating seafood in the mountains. And we are spoiled from living in south
many years ago. We took our chances on Crabby Dicks mainly because it was on the second floor with tables overlooking the action on
. And there is just about always action here. Directly across the street a bartender at a streetside open bar was belting out a tune and he was “out of tune”. We couldn’t quite determine if it was a male or female, but all of the clientele were guys.
As a sidelight,
is touted as the longest street in
. It is only 13 blocks long, but stretches from the
Gulf of Mexico
itself is closer to
had lobster while I chose the fried snapper. Both were excellent. The whole snapper filet was done to perfection, crispy outside, moist and tender inside. And it was really fresh.
’s salad and boiled potatoes were good, but my coleslaw was only so-so. We enjoyed our meal as scooters darted the street and bicyclists dodged the scooters, all to the music of the he/she across the way.
We were too late to see the sunset show at
, but we were here for three days so we could catch it on another night. As we strolled back to the room we were entertained by the artwork in various windows and the obscene T-shirts in nearly every store. A couple of women of the night sitting on their front porch tried to lure me into their den in iniquity but
had a firm grip on my arm.
TOTAL DISTANCE: 285 miles
TOTAL TIME: 8 hours, including a couple of stops
HIGHLIGHTS: Riding along Calle Ocho (8th Street) in Miami and seeing/hearing the Latin influences and smelling the Cuban cooking.
Lunch and Cuban coffee at Versailles
Scenic views along the Overseas Highway, US 1 in the Keys
Arriving in Key West and taking a sceic tour as the sun set
Dinner at Crabby Joes with a couple of brews
Watching the nightlife on Duval Street as we chilled