While many riders across the country were suffering from PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome), and yet others were bravely(?) suffering extreme weather in order to put some miles on their rides on New Years Day, we here in Florida were very much luckier as you will read. But first, some background...
Though never an actually officially planned ride, for the last few years, some HSTA folks have habitually been getting together for a ride on New Years day. It seems to be a tradition that a lot of riders try to practice, though it's a tough time of the year weather wise for most. This year, as in the past, no one had really planned anything until I got a call from a couple of non-members about doing a ride. I very much liked the idea, but time was short and the holiday festivities were getting in the way of plan making.
I knew of a destination I had been led to once, a few years back by some friends I made on the internet before I even moved here. It's a place called Ozello, located just south of Crystal River and North of Homosassa. It's sometimes referred to as the "Deals Gap of Florida". OK, before you fall off your chair laughing, it really doesn't come close to measuring up to Deals Gap, BUT, it certainly does qualify as the twistiest section of road anywhere in the south and central parts of Florida. In fact, it is so popular with the sport bike squids that it has attracted the attention of local law enforcement so that should speak to how much fun it can be.
So, with limited time and a desire to get back to a favorite ride, I set about planning the ride. Since I do this regularly for HSTA Florida lunch rides, I do have a method I use to locate destinations, plan out routes, generate maps and route sheets, upload waypoints to my GPS and notify an email list of riders I know, both HSTA members and non-members alike. That method starts with using Delorme's Street Atlas USA 2004 to locate the destination and plan the route. Unfortunately the software only showed three restaurants in the area and I could reach none of them by telephone. Undaunted, I planned the ride to the road as a destination, relying on being able to find something local once we got there.
Now, if you've ever ridden in Florida, and been fortunate enough to find any "twisties" at all, you know that it's best described as riding miles of straight roads, punctuated by the occasional turn. Well, over my 3 years of riding here, I have managed to find many of the "better" alternatives and string them together into halfway decent rides. This one was to turn out to be one of my best combinations yet! I published the ride plan to my email list and one recently added non-HSTA member replied from Miami that he not only knew of Ozello as a great road to ride, but also highly recommended an establishment that was said to have the BEST BBQ in the area! What luck! I now had solved the final destination issue. So I mapped out the route, loaded my GPS with the waypoints, and emailed the plan to a sub-set of my mailing list that I felt were close enough by to possibly be interested in making the ride.
Plan created using
© 2003 DeLorme (www.delorme.com) Street Atlas USAź
then importing to Microsoft Excel and adding ETA Column and calculations
|Start||at||Winn-Dixie - Sun City Center||9:30 AM||0:00:00||0.00 mi|
|Go straight (N)||on||Trinity Lakes Dr||9:30 AM||0:00:00||0.00 mi|
|in||0.03 mi||Turn right (E)||on to||SR 674||9:30 AM||0:00:06||0.03 mi|
|in||1.26 mi||Turn left (N)||on to||US 301 (SR 43)||9:31 AM||0:01:59||1.29 mi|
|in||23.77 mi||Turn left (N)||on to||Jefferson Rd||10:00 AM||0:30:46||25.06 mi|
|in||0.57 mi||Turn left (W)||on to||SR 582 (E Fowler Ave)||10:03 AM||0:33:03||25.63 mi|
|in||1.31 mi||Bear right (ENE)||on to||CR 579 (Morris Bridge Rd) ramp||10:05 AM||0:35:13||27.31 mi|
|in||0.30 mi||Bear right (SSE)||on||CR 579 (Morris Bridge Rd) ramp||10:05 AM||0:35:34||27.61 mi|
|in||0.07 mi||Turn left (NNE)||on to||CR 579 (Morris Bridge Rd)||10:05 AM||0:35:39||27.68 mi|
|in||19.44 mi||Turn left (W)||on to||SR 579A (Prospect Rd)||10:34 AM||1:04:23||47.12 mi|
|in||1.95 mi||Go straight (N)||on to||CR 577 (Curley Rd)||10:36 AM||1:06:50||49.07 mi|
|in||1.39 mi||Turn left (W)||on to||SR 52||10:38 AM||1:08:41||50.45 mi|
|in||5.21 mi||Turn right (N)||on to||CR 581 (Bellamy Brothers Blvd)||10:44 AM||1:14:55||55.66 mi|
|in||12.16 mi||Turn right (NE)||on to||CR 572 (Elgin Blvd (Powell Rd))||11:01 AM||1:31:06||67.82 mi|
|in||0.55 mi||Bear left (N)||on to||CR 581 (Emerson Rd)||11:01 AM||1:31:49||68.36 mi|
|in||2.90 mi||Turn left (W)||on to||SR 50 (Cortez Blvd)||11:06 AM||1:36:25||71.26 mi|
|in||1.17 mi||Go straight (W)||on to||Barnett Rd||11:08 AM||1:38:10||72.43 mi|
|in||0.06 mi||Bear right (WNW)||on to||SR 50 (Cortez Blvd)||11:08 AM||1:38:15||72.50 mi|
|in||2.06 mi||Go straight (N)||on to||Cobb Rd||11:11 AM||1:41:20||74.55 mi|
|in||0.25 mi||Turn left (W)||on to||Fort Dade Ave||11:11 AM||1:41:56||74.81 mi|
|in||1.75 mi||Turn right (N)||on to||CR 491 (Citrus Way)||11:15 AM||1:45:17||76.56 mi|
|in||23.49 mi||Turn left (NW)||on to||SR 44 (W Gulf To Lake Hwy)||11:46 AM||2:16:31||100.05 mi|
|in||1.84 mi||Turn left (WSW)||on to||W Crystal Oaks Dr||11:48 AM||2:18:43||101.89 mi|
|in||1.32 mi||Turn right (W)||on||W Crystal Oaks Dr||11:51 AM||2:21:52||103.21 mi|
|in||0.29 mi||Go straight (W)||on to||W Venable St||11:52 AM||2:22:33||103.50 mi|
|in||1.81 mi||Turn left (S)||on to||US 98 (N Suncoast Blvd)||11:59 AM||2:29:00||106.20 mi|
|in||0.58 mi||Turn right (WSW)||on to||CR 494 (W Ozello Trl)||11:59 AM||2:29:38||106.78 mi|
|in||6.02 mi||Finish||at||Island Outpost||12:07 PM||2:37:39||112.80 mi|
I hade a lot of telephone interest, but much of it was from folks who really didn't want to leave at the planned 9:30 AM departure. Sheesh - what do you want - a real ride or just to say you were on the bike? I ride because I love it. Any ride is OK, any ride over 100 miles really begins to make me smile. The plan had us doing 113 miles to get there, and NONE of it on any interstate so it was a planned 2 1/2 hour ride to boot. Whatever. The plan was the plan and whoever would show up would make it. The rest would be on their own. As it turned out, 6 or seven expected riders bailed out, but 10 riders on 9 bikes showed up for the ride. That was perfect. Not too large a group as to be hard to manage and big enough to feel like the planning effort was appreciated! Thanks Gang.
All Maps courtesy of:
© 2003 DeLorme (www.delorme.com) Street Atlas USAź
This first map shows the whole route from start to finish - highlighted in red
And this second map shows the ultimate destination
Here's the "hand": Almost 4 pairs. We had a matched pair of Silver '91 ST1100's, another matched pair of the ST's "sister bike" '96 Pacific Coasts, another pair- though not matched, a '97 and a '99 Magna, and yet another close pair, two '03 GL1800 Gold Wings, one of them having been converted to a trike. And last but by no means least the only non-Honda of the group an '02 Yamaha 650 cruiser. Exactly half the group were HSTA members, and all had ridden on rides with me before. One rider, Tom on the 2nd ST was to meet up with us en-route since he lives almost half way to the destination.
So off we went at 9:30 as we'd planned. It was a clear day, temp about 66 degrees, with a forecast high to be in the mid to high 70s. The initial 25 miles or so led us through the suburbs of Tampa along the east side, on US301 - a fairly heavily traveled with more than a few stoplights. But, it would lead us to some nicer back roads in a round about route towards our destination. The traffic turned out to be fairly light since it was a holiday. We made most of the lights so we didn't have to stop too much either. This was turning our to be a nice ride already. By the time we turned out of the urban Tampa area onto Morris Bridge Rd. it was warming up nicely. This 20 mile stretch of the route is a nice meandering 2 lane county route that rolls through largely un-developed land. Its popular with bicyclists as much of it had bike lanes and it is lined in a few places with entrances to parks which have hiking trails and canoe launches. Nice easy riding. It ends up amid some large orange groves where we jog off west bound to catch SR52 which will bring us back across I-75 and to the start of the "fun roads".
It is there, at the intersection of SR52 and CR581 (Bellamy Bros. Rd) that we pick up Tom, arriving exactly as planned at 10:44 AM. It still amazes me that through the power of computers and mapping software that I can predict with such accuracy an arrival at a location without having ridden and timed it previously. Cool stuff. We stopped only long enough to add Tom into the group and he eagerly took up 2nd slot so as to assure he'd not be held up in the turns. While this road looks pretty straight on the map, it really has some sweet twists. Most of the road is posted 45 or 55, but there are several bends where the post drops to 35 (but are really sweet staying at 55!) and a few sharper 90 turns that are posted at 20. The good news with those 90s is that they don't generally have the sand/gravel build-up that is often the case and at least one of them has outstanding line of sight to any oncoming traffic as you approach the turn. There are a few genuine "esses" that just beg for speed, and even a nice pair of steep hills near the Brooksville end to boot. I never fail to come off that road with a smile and I heard from more than one of my co-riders that this was their favorite road too.
At the end of CR581, we're in Brooksville, actually the outskirts, and we weave our way around avoiding the downtown traffic, lights and one way streets. A short stop is in order for a couple of the gas tank capacity challenged cruisers and it gives us all a change to stretch the legs before we're off again. Here, I try a piece of road I've never taken before, Fort Dade Ave which though straight is very pretty with its canopy tree lining as it skirts what I believe to be a rock mining area. Then we intersect with CR491 which turns northward and though some rough pavement and a bridge under construction, turns out to have a couple of nice sweepers in it before turning pretty straight for the duration up to SR44 in Lecanto. This stretch of 25 miles is gently rolling with a few sweeping turns and fairly light traffic. Lots of farms, and one large state forest (the Withlacoochee) line its sides. Plenty of passing opportunities though few are needed and just terrific scenery along the way, especially if your at all interested in wildlife.
Once in Lecanto, we head onto SR44, and here it gets interesting. Just west of us is US98. It is where we need to get to for the entrance road to Ozello, but this stretch of US98 (actually US19 all the way from St. Pete to Homosassa where it changes name to US98 and on Crystal River) is very heavily developed and traveled. Some of it's lower stretches are renown in the state as the most dangerous for pedestrians. I try to avoid it like the plague! On previous versions of my mapping software it appeared that there was no direct way over to US98, I had to jog either south or north and then come back on 98 to where I wanted to be. The latest version however, showed a road through a development, that if correct, would lead us into US98 just 1/8th of a mile from where we wanted to be! I say if correct, because as good as this mapping stuff can be, there ARE errors. Roads that dead end or turn to sand where they show as paved and through and the like. So it was with great anticipation that I took the left off SR44 and slowed for the 35 MPH wend through the community. Lo and behold though, there we come to the intersection that assures me we will make it through and minutes later we pop out onto US98 exactly as planned. Hurray! Thank You Mr. Delorme :-)
We turn south and then pull into a gas station at the intersection of US98 and Ozello Trail where I take a minute to remind everyone of the following - speed limits, police presence, twisty roads, water on both sides in places (don't go swimming!), ride your own pace, be safe, have fun, meet you at the end. That's it and off we go. At first it seems straighter that I remember (its been 4 years), but that's only near the beginning. Quickly it starts to kink up and before long I'm carving back and forth and having to pay close attention to the radius of the curves. I say "I" because at this point Tom and I, on the lead ST's, have passed a couple of slower cars and left the group behind them. Now we fall behind two more even slower cars who even at the posted speed of 35 are having difficulty staying on the road and within the lines. The nice part here is even though there's no passing zones, at that speed they are easy pickings for an ST in 2nd, 3rd or even 4th gear to be by in a flash, and that's exactly what Tom and I do. No unsafe or daring riding here, just paying attention, lining up the opportunity and then executing the maneuver. And the reward is a few more un-encumbered twists and turns before we reach the end where we park and await the rest of the riders. They show up in short order, every one wearing broad smiles. We stop for a few pictures and then had back to the BBQ place for lunch.
From the left:
Jack & Jane on their matching '97 PC800's, Ed & Ann - two-up on their '99 Magna, Tom on his '91 ST1100 with Bill's ST1100 next to him (Bill's the one taking the picture), then Fannie next to her '03 Gold Wing, then Eve (my better half) next to her '97 Magna, then Sue on her '03 Gold Wing Trike, and finally, way in the shade astride her '02 Yamaha 650 is Willie.
Tom and Bill (me) with their matching SSMST's
As we dismount and I look the place over, I begin to panic that it might not be open or large enough to accommodate us. It's a combination convenience store, video rental place and restaurant. The store is open and the smell of BBQ is strong so that's a good sign. I walk in to check it out and am greeted by the owner John. I ask is he open for lunch and can they handle a group of 10 and he replies no problem. I start to tell him how we found him and he replies - "let me guess - Paul sent you". What a riot - He is absolutely correct that Paul, from Miami, has referred us from Tampa, to his establishment in Ozello (260 miles from Miami as the crow flies). So we file in and get comfortable, in great anticipation of a nice BBQ feast when John informs us that here's the menu, but sorry, we're OUT of BBQ! Turns out they've been very busy leading up to the holiday depleting his supply of pork and chicken, and with the New Year's eve celebration the evening before he was just a tad late getting the smoker fired up that morning so the BBQ won't be ready 'till around 3:00 PM... Oh well. At least he's got some steak and other fare such that everyone finds something to eat. I got the cheese steak and it was among the best I've had in a long time. We all ate up and chatted a bit and then paid the tabs and mounted up. As we were in line to pay the tabs I couldn't resist jabbing John, the owner - He's got a big sign over his indoor grill that says Plan Ahead - you know - with the ..ead part trailing off the side due to lack of planning :-) We "ribbed" him about it and the BBQ situation and he took it in the way it was intended with everyone roaring laughing.
The trip back home was essentially the same route as coming up, only now it was in the mid to high 70s and we shed any warmers we were wearing. I was perfectly comfortable in my Joe Rocket Phoenix pants and jacket with just a t-shirt and jeans underneath. I can't fail to mention how many bikes we saw. All day long, all along the route, and especially on Ozello Trail and on Bellamy Bros rd, just bike after bike. Almost enough to make the waving arm tired. We dropped Tom off where we picked him up at the southern end of Bellamy Bros and headed home. It was 4:30 by the time we pulled into the garage. 233 miles, 4 Hrs, 58 minutes of riding time and everyone home safe and sound and still smiling no doubt. Can't think of a more perfect way to start off the new year of 2004. I hope all of you had an equally enjoyable day and wish everyone out there a safe and happy New Year!
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