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Toronto to Key West... and More


piotrek

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Placeholder thread for my next trip. I've been riding the familiar Ontario roads this Spring, and it's time to venture out. My wife and daughters are flying to Orlando this July for a week... so I am going to ride down and spend a day with them... and check a few places off my go-to list while in the U.S.

I will ride the Dragon, visit the Kennedy Space Center, do lunch in Key West, ride through the Everglades... and stop for a day at the Barber Museum on my way back. I am heading out early July... so it's gonna start pretty warm, and get progressively worse I imagine. Nevertheless I am looking forward to this.

The trip is almost entirely off major highways (save mostly for the last day on way back to Buffalo). I'd welcome any tips, especially around 129. I am hoping this road won't be too busy on a weekday morning. Maybe there is better place to stay than Dragon City (it looks convenient). There look to be equally good and maybe less busy roads through the range, so... idk. At the moment it's 129 and a bit of 28 on way south toward Dublin GA. Waypoint plan below (adjusted, as ridden)...

  • Buffalo NY
  • Johnstown PA
  • Beckley WV
  • Maryville TN
  • Dragon City Motel TN (129 the next morning)
  • East Dublin GA
  • Orlando FL (Kennedy Space Center with family)
  • Florida City FL (ride to Key West for lunch)
  • Perry FL (cut through Everglades on way there)
  • Brooksville FL
  • Dothan AL (cut through Everglades on way there)
  • Leeds AL (stay a day and see the Barber Museum)
  • Williamsburg KY
  • New Martinsville WV
  • Walton KY
  • Home

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~ TBC ~

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Looks like a good trip but lots of interstate.  Not sure about Pennsylvania but the interstates in the south are fast and in the big cities traffic is very fast and aggressive.  I've been thru Birmingham (live here), Nashville, Memphis, Indianapolis, and Kansas City and they are all about the same.  Last July on the way back from Sarasota I75 was flowing at 85MPH.  Tampa is particularly crazy in a car or bike.  Looks like you are doing lots of non-interstates which is good.  Our favorite way to Sarasota is Birmingham to Columbu GA on US280 then south to Albany GA and over to Tipton GA and then I75.  I would advise against traveling on weekends particularly Saturdays.  Beach rentals on the gulf coast generally run Saturday to Saturday and during July traffic is really bad.  Heat - it is July and in the south.  You folks from up north are not used to 95F and 95% humidity - it is bad.  I live here and ride in it so am maybe used to it.  Tampa Bay is home to lots of thunderstorms and July is prime season.  Cloud to ground lightning in the Tampa Bay area is intense - lightning capital of the US and maybe world.  Travel in the early part of the day and watch the weather radar.  Not trying to discourage you just be prepared.  I recommend a good mesh jacket and when caught in a rainstorm then wear a rain jacket, not a rain liner.  I've ridden thru quick showers on the way to Sarasota and not stopped cause 5 minutes later the sun is out and being wet will cool you off.  

PM me when you are going to be a t Barber, maybe I could meet you there and show you around the museum.  I'm there all the time and know the people and the museum.  When you go to the museum be sue and go out on the bridges as they offer a fantastic view of the track.  

Big question is will you have any money left after a week of wife and daughters in Orlando.  My wife and I went to Universal Studios for our 46th anniversary trip at the end of January.  My wife really did try and kill me - she conned me into doing one of the tube slides LOL.

Edited by PhotoAl
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I live in Ft. Lauderdale.

Florida City to Key West is at least 3 hours maybe 4. (Traffic) Depending on traffic and time of day. 

A couple suggestions. For your route down in my area. Cafe 27.  (4690 US Hwy 27, Southwest Ranches, FL 33332) A truck stop/biker bar with solid food choices. Leaning towards Cuban cuisine. It's a good choice for a pit stop before heading south.

From there run Chrome Ave to Florida City. It is slower than the Fla. Turnpike by about 30 mins. But. It takes you through farmland and not the bat-shit crazy Miami traffic.

Once in Florida City. Run down Card Sound Road. Take the left at the "Last Chance Saloon." You will be riding through mangrove swamp and the cooling area for Turkey Point Nuclear plant. 

~13 miles in, just before the bridge you will see Alabama Jack's on your right. Stop in. It's a dive bar and a Florida Icon. Been there since the 40's. Owned by the same family for 3 generations IIRC.

Card Sound road will drop you back on US1. You are now trapped. US1 is the only way to Key West. 

There are places to stop on the way down. This is the keys. Funky stops are everywhere. The Giant Florida Lobster.  The Lorelei, The No Name pub and others. My Advice would be to spend the day going to Key West. Key West is a very different place, have dinner, spend the night then head back.

On your way back North. Tamiami Trail. J. Not at dusk/night. There is a lot of wildlife moving around out there. Joanie's Blue Crab Cafe Is a on point place

After that. You're on your own. Ceder Key is worth a stop. 

PM if you want. 

Jeff

 

On Edit.

If you need anything. 

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"It doesn't matter who walks in, you know the joke is still the same"  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. USA

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Thanks @PhotoAl for the apocalyptic weather imagery 😁. Noted... and I will try to prepare accordingly. I have traveled in miserable weather before, but granted... rarely in much north of 30C (86F). Traffic-wise, there are (almost) no Interstates or big cities along this route. I am looking to see the country a bit, so I am not intending to be very fast. I should be arriving at Barber on the 16th and taking the 17th (Monday) off to see the place. I will ping you in advance to confirm. It would be nice to connect at Barber if you're available.

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Thanks @fddriver2 for great info around SOFLA food and roads. I should be arriving in Florida City around noon on June 13 (Thursday). Once checked-in, I was planning to do Alabama Jack's for lunch (you posted about it once). Could meet there if you're available. The plan at the moment is to ride out to Key West the next (early) morning... do lunch, walk around a bit and head back to Florida City before heading north the next morning. I looked into an overnight stay in Key West, and might still re-consider if I can find an inexpensive place to stay and the schedule works out.

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Will be near Sarasota at the beach and not get back until the 23rd.  Looks like I will not be able to hook up with you sadly.

Make sure you see the advanced design center on the top floor.  It is incredible what they have.  They have Docent led tours which cost more but I think are worth it.  You may need to call a day or two before and see about them.  I do a lot of race photography for them and am there at all the big events.  During the big events like the IndyCar race and the Vintage Festival it pays to look closely at what is going on in the museum.  During the recent IndyCar race the had the fella who designed the Fiat 500, Mini, Ferrari F450, first BMW X5 and every McLaren road car.  He did an autograph session and on Friday evening talked for about an hour.  Every was welcome to come but only 50 to 100 people came.  It was an incredible talk as he described his life, what got him into styling and all the way to inventing a design language for McLaren.  I forget his name but couldn't spell it if I could - LOL I have an engineering degree.  During the vintage festival they have seminars on many different topics and of course there is the grand marshal.   I put all this in really for others to hopefully encourage them to find what I think are some real hidden gems.

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The outside temperature a few days ago.20230615_154724.thumb.jpg.5bddb7553fb4c306b102c236245d8535.jpg20230615_154724.thumb.jpg.5bddb7553fb4c306b102c236245d8535.jpg

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"It doesn't matter who walks in, you know the joke is still the same"  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. USA

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I've ridden from Birmingham AL to Sarasota Florida in July a few times.  Not too bad but lots of sweat!  I always wear all the gear - boots, mesh jacket, overpants, gloves and helmet.  Always wear long pants and a t-shirt under the gear.  Nowadays I wear a Dianese AirBag vest.  It really doesn't make it much hotter.  I stop for gas every couple of hours.  Fill up with gas, use the restroom and drink a coke or GatorAid or both.  Have to stay hydrated.  Not too bad if you start early in the day and stop at 2PM.  I can remember riding to my sons apartment in Gainesville totally drenched from the stop and go traffic on Archer Road and all the scooters zipping around wearing t-shirts and shorts and maybe shoes.  It takes a while to acclimate to the heat.  Last Saturday I was at the track taking photos and it was pretty miserable, riding you sweat but the wind cools you down.  I've ridden locally in over 100F and in Kansas 106F and Montana 104F.  Florida is not as hot but high humidity, not too bad while moving but stop and it get very hot quickly.  But don't take the gear off!  You need that and don't run off the road and into pond - gators might eat you.

What I enjoy about going places is the differences.  It is really fun to see new sights.  

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13 hours ago, Ride365 said:

I recommend doing that trip in the Fall, otherwise you are gonna be miserable........

I hear ya... but it's Florida or bust at this point. Our Summer is all planned out. 🙂

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1 hour ago, PhotoAl said:

Florida is not as hot but high humidity, not too bad while moving but stop and it get very hot quickly.  But don't take the gear off!  You need that and don't run off the road and into pond - gators might eat you.

Well... that last bit there might be good cause for pause. 😬

1 hour ago, PhotoAl said:

What I enjoy about going places is the differences.  It is really fun to see new sights.

This ^ ... and as travel writer Rick Steves says... the most valuable souvenir you will collect when you travel is perspective. T-shirts, hats and photos are great too. 🙂

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  • 1 month later...
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PART 1/5

Another adventure completed. As forewarned by some of you on here, I rode into a bit of a hot, soupy mess, but it all worked out with some ride-time adjustments, light snacking and hydration. Ontario was experiencing a heat wave at the time, so I’ve had some time to adjust. Posting the report in several segments.

Heading South

The crossing at the Buffalo NY (Peace Bridge) was a bit busy in the morning (8am), but other than the annoyance of having to wait… I was excited to cross and head south. It started to rain shortly afterward, and continued on and off for a couple of hours.

The plan was to make it to Beckley WV relatively quickly without having to ride the Interstate. I know PA is full of nice twisty roads, but I had to keep it southbound as possible. I still found the roads (219, 949, 119 etc.) interesting enough and light on traffic to not be a chore.

The Appalachians

Once in WV, roads 26, 20, 60 and 41 took me to Beckley. 20 and 60 were very, very good, and honestly hardly anyone on the roads. Road 60 was where I had an uncomfortably close encounter with a Jeep barreling the opposite way. I was just exiting a blind right corner, with a Jeep heading the opposite way and cutting through my lane by a good 2ft. It was very close, and jarring enough that I had to stop and compose myself before moving on.

Beckley WV to Maryville TN was expectedly very good. It was early morning on a Sunday… so I had the roads to myself. I left Beckley via Harper Rd. (3) then weaved my way along the plateau. It rained for the first 2h steady, but the twisty roads and lack of traffic made it fun. Of note were 83, 638, 606/23, and 70 (Tail of the Lonesome Pine Rd.) between Jonesville VA and Rogersville TN. This was a long, tiring but entertaining day. I took a photo against some street art in Welch WV, then crossed into VA and found more of it in Appalachia VA.

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Tail of the Dragon

I had a good restful sleep in Maryville and departed for the Dragon at 7am. There was no traffic on way to the start location, and once there, I found the place empty. Took a photo and off I went.

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Starts off easy and scenic but once it picks up, it’s relentlessly twisty the rest of the way... wow. I encountered maybe 3 vehicles (cars/trucks) heading the opposite way, but nothing in front or behind me.

The photo people were just setting up for the day. No regrets though… a chance to ride this road and not have to share it… priceless. I took it easy, not knowing the road and being far from home... but it was still fun.

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I took 28 from there. Another great road. Things became a lot calmer between Franklin NC and East Dublin GA. From this point onward I was eager to meet-up with my family in Florida.

~ TBC ~

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  • piotrek changed the title to Toronto to Key West... and More

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