Day 4: June 26, 2000
Orlando, FL to Islamorada, FL
(499 miles)

On Monday morning, I was up, showered, and on the bike by 6:30 AM. The temperature was already in the 80's, and the humidity was high, so by the time I had packed the bike, I was soaked. No rain in sight, and no jacket on, but it was plenty hot. It always feels so good to get moving on the bike when it is hot, and it felt extra good this morning, because it was the start of the touring part of the Four Corners Tour, and there was no schedule to follow, just get to the other 3 corners of the US, and get to Spokane, Washington by July 9 to meet Carla's plane.

I found Florida's Turnpike, and made my way south to a part of Florida I had never visited before. I took the Sawgrass Expressway, and needed gas, but there were no signs to tell me which exits had services, so I took a chance and got off near Sawgrass Mills, which is a huge up-scale mall in Sunrise, Florida. Like most newer planned communities, it is really difficult to find what you need when you don't know the area, so I drove around for a while until I found a gas station. While pumping gas under cover of the station, something pretty cool happened. It started raining! The reason this is cool is because I was able to put my rain gear on under cover, and prepare to ride in the rain! I love it when this happens. It doesn't happen very often, see Day 1.

Back on the Sawgrass Expressway, and it rained pretty hard for about 10 minutes, then cleared up. The next few days of the trip would be marked by rain gear on, rain gear off, several times each day.

Down into the Florida Keys, and the scenery was amazing. The water is the most beautiful blue/green color, and there are water fowl of every type, including pelicans (great flyers, lousy landers), egrets, and other long necked brown birds I could not identify. The Keys are really a contradiction, with all this natural beauty, and lots of the worst uncontrolled commercial development that characterizes a lot of our National treasures. US1 from Florida City to Key West is approximately 130 miles, and there are hundreds of small busineeses selling T-shirts, shells, and other souvenirs.

The road is 2 lanes all the way to Key West, so there were lots of opportunities for "passing roulette". At one point road construction stopped me on one of the many bridges, and I got a chance to get off the bike and check out the scenery.

Finally I made it to Key West, and the commercialism seemed to get worse, if that is possible. Key West used to be a sleepy fishing village that was famous because Ernest Hemingway lived there. Old Ernest would surely have moved away if he had to live there now.

A curious thing about Key West is that there is a large population of fat white haired white men with white beards living there. Everywhere you look downtown, you think "Hey, that guy looks like Ernest Hemmingway, no THAT guy looks like Ernest Hemmingway". Pretty weird.

I'm sure that if I visited Key West with a group of friends, and was ready to party, it would be a great place to go. For me, on this trip, it seemed like there was a party going on, but I wasn't invited. Lots of people were walking around carrying drinks, and those who weren't drinking were riding rented scooters. Probably some were doing both, but I didn't see that. The place seemed like Mardi Gras on scooters. I would love to know their scooter accident rate, because in the 2 hours I was there, I saw scooters being ridden on the sidewalk, going the wrong way on a one way street, and my favorite, against the traffic on the side of the street! Riding my ST1100 through this multitude of scooters, I felt like Gulliver when he visited Lilliput!

The other reason I didn't have such a good time in Key West was that I had to get some documentation for my Four Corners Tour, and the instructions referenced businesses which are no longer there, plus there is a real shortage of street signs in Key West, which makes it difficult to find what you're looking for. I spent the better part of two hours driving around in the heat and rain getting all of the required documentation, including the obligatory picture of me sitting on the bike in front of the "Southernmost Point in the US" monument. When I pulled up and waited my turn to take a picture, a guy who I'm sure lives in one of the nearby alleys stepped forward to take it for me. I believe this is his regular job, and he was quite good at it. After the picture, I said "Can I give you something for your trouble", and he said "That would be okay", and when I gave him a couple of bucks, he vanished! I mean, I put my wallet away, and when I looked up, and he was gone! I think he was thirsty.

I found a small motel about 2 blocks from Duvall Street with motorcycles parked in the courtyard, and I really thought about spending the night (which was the original plan), but something told me to move on. When you go to Key West, either bring your own party, or be prepared to join someone elses'. So I made my way north about 80 miles until I got to Islamorada on Marathon Key, and turned in at a large sign which said "Islander Motel". The sign and the motel looked like they had been built in the 60's. They had a room for me, and wow, did I pick a winner. This place had a regular swimming pool and a salt water pool, a couple of hundred palm trees, an 1100 ft. private beach, and a fishing pier sticking out into the ocean. I took some pictures of the scenery and facilities, and I know when Carla sees them she's going to say "Why don't you take ME to a place like that?".

I finally had some time to write, and I stayed up way too late in this beautiful place.

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Rick Brookes
ST1100, VFR750F, Hawk NT650GT
1998: 50cc Quest
1999: Bun Burner Gold
Summer 2000: BBG 3000, Four Corners Tour

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