Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Getting Lemonade from a Lemon: Tampa to Perry and back, November 2022

The four of us had planned a 4-day ride to see Florida’s historic Highway 30A along the gulf coast just southwest of Tallahassee.  As well, we wanted to celebrate the life of Joe Bonacuse, a fellow rider who passed away recently.  Well, it all fell apart when one of the riders hurt himself and another rider had to leave town… so we postponed the ride. 

I’d booked hotels for three nights along the planned route but was only able to cancel two of them.  We all agreed to eat the cost of the hotel in Perry, Florida, which was to be our first day’s stop.  

While the four of us were having lunch the other day, one of the other riders asked why he and I shouldn’t just take an overnight ride up there anyhow, since we had hotel rooms already paid for.   While we both agreed that there wasn’t much—if anything—to actually see in the town of Perry itself, the ride would be nice.  

So we agreed to meet on Monday morning and ride to a Perry and back…just because.  

I met Paul at the first rest area after the toll booth on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Monday at 9am.  He was on his badass Harley and I was on my Beemer.  We’d both dressed for warm Florida weather but it was a bit brisk.  NOTE: 70 degrees is “brisk” for us!  We both donned sweatshirts and off we rode.  

Paul had planned the route up through St. Pete, Clearwater, Oldsmar and Odessa before getting on the Veterans Expressway (589).  

It turned out to be a pleasant day of riding and we reached Crystal River in time for lunch.  After some BBQ at a place where we’d eaten before, we headed north on the 98.  

This part of Florida is full of small towns that look pretty much the same.  While some are remain fairly vibrant—Chiefland is an example—most are slowly disappearing, victims of environmental events and lost industry.  

We passed through towns like Inglis, Otter Creek, Fanning Springs, Salem and Athena, the human populations erased and replaced by boarded-up shops, rickety houses and abandoned buildings. Towns once full of people are now dusty streets and empty structures surrounded by ghosts and the memories of what used to be.

Paul pointed out some mansions in various states of disrepair and I remarked that even now they look stately, evidence that there was once money in these parts.  What’s left are once-ostentatious houses and ubiquitous Florida Historic Heritage Site signage.  

We arrived to Perry by 3pm and settled in.  The famous seafood place where we intended to eat was closed so we chose the 5th best place….an unimpressive Mexican restaurant down the street.  

Later, over drinks in chairs outside of our rooms, Paul and I discussed past and future rides.  We spoke of motorcycles, golf and other stuff guys on the road talk about. We turned in early because Perry, Florida doesn’t have much of a night life.  

The next morning we grabbed coffee and pastries at a local place before heading back via Highway 27.  

Again, we passed through many small towns—or the skeletons of former towns—like Mayo, Alton, Fort White and High Springs.  At the latter, we turned south on the 41 and made our way through Newberry, Archer, Raleigh, Williston, Romeo (with its very cool and very abandoned charcoal ovens still visible from the 41) and Inverness before stopping for lunch in Floral City. 

We continued on the 41 south, encountering traffic in Brooksville.  We took the 54 east to the 75 south and reached home within the hour.  

My total mileage was right at 500 miles.  

A ride that wasn’t supposed to happen turned into a nice little overnighter through some Old Florida backcountry.  

Now…the postponed Historic 30A coast ride planning continues.  

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