Monday, January 4, 2016

Everglades Re-Do

I kicked off 2016 with a run down to South Florida to visit the Everglades and some of the other parks. I had done a similar trip in September (including the Keys), but I wasn't able to hit some of the other parks in the area because it was the wet season. Another trip was in order.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I now have a 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 that I picked up new at the end of October. My son, who had a couple extra days off from his plumbing job wanted to come along, so he rode the KLR and I rode the Big Versys 1000.

Our Tyre Track is reflected below. The entire trip covered 733 miles.

We kept off the highways and headed first to Port Mayacca on the Okeechobee Lake. Then from there we rolled down to Florida City, which is the best entrance into the Everglades. From the Everglades we road back up to the Big Cypress Preserve and the Fakahtachee Strand Preserve to ride some of the more popular gravel roads. Specifically, we rode Loop Road, Turner River and Jane's Memorial Hwy. Below is a map that reflects the locations of these roads.

First stop was at the Mayacca Locks on Lake Okeechobee. You can roll right up on the dike there (and a number of other places as well).

You can also drive/ride along the canals and lake. Just don't tear it up. :)

This is the entry into the Everglades southern point at Flamingo.

It appears others stop right there for a photo with the Florida Panther sign.

Flamingo is about 35 miles past the entrance and there's a small shop, boat launching and camping, as well as a visitor center, located there. I was seriously thinking about camping there this round and even called to see about availability of primitive camping sites. Fortunately, there were none available on January 1 eve. Camping always sounds fun, but me and camping have never gotten along for some reason.

It's $15 per motorcycle ($20 per car) to visit the park. Camping would be a few bucks more.

After the Glades, we rode Krome Ave. up to the Tamiami Trail (US41). Krome is one of the most dangerous roads in Florida for some reason. They actually have a couple signs with the "death count" on that road. As we rolled in the night before (January 1) the sign already reflected three deaths. Yikes!

We stopped at a cafe along Krome for lunch called Redland Cafe (location in Redland, Florida). The place had a Cuban flair to it and I like Cuban food. Good stuff! Sam, my son was complaining that the prices were so much higher than here in Tampa. He thought $10 burgers were a little steep. However, keep in mind, this is a guy who eats as many meals as possible at Steak & Shake. Anyway, when the burger arrived it was huge. The damn thing had to be a full pound. LOL, worth every cent. I had perhaps the best flattened Cuban Sandwich in my life. Or maybe I was very hungry. :)

From there we went straight to Loop Road. The Loop runs about 25 miles into the Everglades back-country. Of those miles about 20 are gravel. Sometimes this road is impassible, but on this day it was awesome. The surface was smooth, the weather was great. It didn't even feel buggy out there!

As you roll into the Fakahtachee Strand Preserve, there's a big pile of sandstone rocks. Not sure who put them there, but they are much more sturdy than they look.

Jane's Memorial Scenic Highway is the principal attraction in the Fakahtachee Strand. It's a 14 mile dirt road. Making it all the way through is hit-or-miss. It's narrow, terribly rutty and there is always flooding. Cars roll in their and can't take the ruts and potholes; end up backing most of the way out. I think I read somewhere that TripAdvisor lists Jane's as the worst "scenic" highway in America. LOL

There's a sign a couple miles in saying maintenance ends. I can assure you that you will have seen no sign of any maintenance before that either.

Maybe they mean that's were all the ruts start.

The first water we hit was about 8 miles in. Although this is the dry season, technically we're still in the Everglades and water is constantly flowing. Spots that are flooded today could be dry tomorrow, but other spots that were dry will be flooded.

Water holes such as this are often passable but you have to stop and inspect the big ones. You can't just roll into a water hole for a couple reasons. First, it may be over your head! Second, as I said it's the Everglades and the Everglades is full of alligators! One could be laying in the bottom of one of those holes waiting for some lunch to roll in.

So I've done many, many water crossing, mostly on dirt or true adventure-class bikes. The Versys 1000 with its Bridgestone Battlax tires is definitely a challenge.

Of course my son on the KLR650 made it look easy.

So after the first flood hole, they started coming at us one right after the other. Some we could skirt around, others we had to navigate through. Navigating water takes a lot of extra time. At this point, we're about 10 miles in (out of 14 miles) and it's getting dark. The last place you want to be is on Jane's in the dark!

So at about 10 miles, we came to a point where we couldn't see where the water ended. We were just about to walk it to see if it was going to be passable and a big "mudder" pick up truck came up and rolled in. He rolled in and stopped about 100 yards (you can see his brake lights). Then we could see him roll in. It was deep; almost covered his 35s.

And at that point, we just bit the bullet, turned around and did it all again in the other direction ... and in the dark!

I'm telling you, next time I go on this trip, I'm doing that road first. It felt like it took forever climbing out of that mess in the dark.

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