Thursday, June 11, 2020

Rocket Ride to the Gulf of Mexico (December 2018)

This is a belated Ride Report that I just had to document.  It happened in December 2018. 

In short, a group of riders who owned Triumph Rocket III motorcycles met to ride the West Ozello motorcycle Trail - Crystal River at the Gulf of Mexico. For me it was a 250-mile ride.  

The ride began at the Flying J at State Road 52 and I-75 near San Antonio/Dade City and ended at the Pilot Travel Center at State Road 44 and I-75 near Wildwood. 
In between there were twisties, sweepers, and a lot of pretty countryside and even a wonderful view of the Gulf of Mexico. 

We all met at 9:30 at the Flying J Travel Center, 29933 FL-52, San Antonio, FL 33576 (I-75 and State Road 52).

Right away we were into the backcountry roads of Brooksville, headed to the Istachatta Road-Trails End-Withlapopka-Gobblerroads. It was just one great riding area blending into the next, culminating with some serious twisties on the Ozello Trail in Citrus county. The End of the Road sign announced we had reached the Gulf of Mexico. 

At the halfway point we enjoyed a good Mexican restaurant (Habanero’s) in the town of Inverness.   

The total ride took about 6 hours. The one-way portion, from the I-75 to the Gulf, was 130 miles. 

I took a straight shot back to the I-75 and arrived back home at about the 6-hour mark after a 250-mile loop. 

What a great ride! Thanks for putting this together, Paddy. Lots of fun. Great meeting you, Fingers.

And Paddy adds: 
The weather was perfect. Sunny and temps in the mid 70's. I believe the roads we went on today to be some of the best roads in the state of Florida for twisties, sweepers, rolling hills, and scenery. 

While all of the roads we hit before lunch were good, the most fun were Istachatta Road-Trails End-Withlapopka-Gobbler. Lots of twists and turns there. 

We stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Inverness named "Habaneros" to eat and it was very good. 

The last road we went to was Ozello Trail in Citrus county. Another rider (non-Rocket) and Fingers were very familiar with this road. Dandiego said that Fingers did not touch his brakes once on this road, he knew it so well! If you every ride this road you will realize the enormity of this statement! It takes a lot of rides to master this 

If you are interested in this ride I have a GPX file of the route.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Big Bear (Off-road) Experience: May 2020

My friend Dave, who knows a bit about great California riding, heard that I’d never ridden any off-road Big Bear stuff. I’ve visited BB for decades, and have done some fun street rides up there, but have never explored the fire roads and trails I’d heard about. Well, that was about to change.

Dave called a couple of friends and explained the situation. His friends asked, “Ah, so he wants the real Big Bear experience, huh?” And they set about preparing it.

We left Escondido early on Memorial Day and met the other two riders in Devore. From there, we took the back way via 138 towards Big Bear, past Lake Arrowhead then into the mountains via Bowen Ranch Road. The three of them were on big KTMs and I was on my trusty Gen 1 KLR.

Upon leaving pavement, the trail was a mix of hard dirt, sand and rock. The others had aired down their tires but I left mine alone, fearing bent rims from the rocky terrain.

The riding was truly spectacular—a mix of elevation, fast straightaways and multi-surface terrain. And, of course, the scenery was breathtaking. Big Bear lake sits at 6,700’ and most of our riding was in the 7k foot range (our highest point being 7,889’). Temperatures were between 70-80 all day.

We stopped at a couple of choice locations where the air was brisk and smelled of pines...and it was silent but for the breeze. THIS is what I’d been missing all those years.

After stopping by the old Belville cabin, we rode into Big Bear for lunch. A few locations were open so we had burgers and beers on the patio at Thelma’s.

We didn’t see many other riders at all. One group we stopped to speak with was made up of some real old school guys. They were riding old carbed bikes (DRZ 350, Honda XL) and wearing jeans, work boots and no gloves. I remember those days! And we did see a slew of Jeeps and mountain bikers toward the end of the ride.

Though not really challenging, I had to pay attention to sloping sides, rutted roads and trail debris. No one had any get offs, though there were definitely some opportunities.

We only rode a total of about 80 miles, though there are MANY more miles of trails to explore. I’m told we only scratched the surface of what BB has to offer, offroad-wise. Here’s the route we took, with as many trails and fire roads as I could recall:

Coxy Truck Trail
Big Pine Flats
3N16 towards Big Bear
Holcomb Valley Rd
Bellville Cabin
Hwy 18 out of town
Skyline Drive
Bradford Camp Road
1N09 down to 38 (this long, rocky, downhill stretch was challenging and my favorite part of the ride)
Hwy 38 to Yucaipa

If you plan to ride these trails—which I highly recommend—it would be a good idea to go with someone who’s familiar with the area. Doing that made a huge difference in the enjoyment factor.

Here’s a cool link showing our route: