Home / Journal / Serious frolicking in Florida

 

After spending three days in a truck driving to southern Florida from northern Minnesota, we were pretty excited to get riding again.

First thing we did was hook up the trailer and take it for a spin in traffic. Ehren took it on his bike first. Our test track in Bonita Springs was a road called Three Oaks Drive. It was a relatively quiet and winding road with minimal traffic lights and a speed limit of 45 mph. At the end of Three Oaks we had the opportunity to try the trailer out on I-75. Ehren had a hoot. He said the trailer wobbled quite a bit at 70 mph, but he thought that might have been caused by the knobby tires on his bike. He also almost became a hood ornament for a cargo van.

Then it was my turn. I learned from Ehren and decided not to take it on the interstate. It’s really the slow-speed maneuvering that’s most different when it comes to handling. Starting from stop, making turns in parking lots, and hitting bumps lopsidedly will result in some definite feedback through the handlebars. At speed, however, it is phenomenally easy to get used to. I did have to learn how to more delicately reposition myself in my seat while I was riding (you learn very quickly how wiggly of a rider you are when pulling a trailer).

Hey look, it’s a photo of the trailer not taken in the shop!

Some fixes we’re considering are a steering stabilizer (since we’ve both added handlebar risers to our setup it doesn’t feel quite as planted as it could be), an independent suspension setup for the rear swingarm (which we also discussed while we were doing our trailer overhaul—it would take a little bit of work), and finally doing some stiffening up of the front swingarm that connects the trailer to the bike (Ehren thinks he’s got the weak spot sussed out just behind the swivel). One or a combination of the three proposed adjustments would help reduce some of the feedback that results from the above-mentioned situations. If we did nothing it would still be perfectly rideable too, and with time we could come to learn exactly how the trailer would respond.

I rode the trailer down to the Keys. Remaining quite conscious of the trailer’s presence the whole way there, it helped make the 240 miles fly by but took quite the mental effort with all that focus (no enjoyment of ‘the ride’). When I next rode the trailer—from Sebring to Crystal River—I had become so used to having it tagging along behind me that it was easy to forget it was there at all. I mean, besides the people who would take pictures and ask us about it while stopped at traffic lights.

We saw people filming us on their phones as they passed by on the street. On two separate occasions we had people roll down their windows and jokingly ask if we had ice cream inside. Plenty of people gave us major thumbs up and encouragement from their cars while stuck in traffic. And anytime we stopped at a wayside rest to take a butt break or eat lunch we would be there at least an hour talking to people and getting our pictures taken. Looking back I wish we had brought our Follow the Elefant stickers to hand out!

It is quite the attention-getter, which is a wonderful thing for a couple of ragtag motorcyclists trying not to get run over by retirees.

Ehren says pulling the trailer is not his favorite thing because he feels laden down and can’t do powerslides. I honestly didn’t mind toting it around so I think I can guess whose bike it will be attached to most of the time.

So that means I get to be the one to name it, right? Bartleby it is!

We left the trailer at our campsite near Marathon the next day so we (‘we’ being Ehren, his mom Vicki, his dad Steve, and me) could ride out to Key West and back without the extra weight. We parked all four bikes for three hours ($40!) and explored Key West on foot. Wandering into the Key West Butterfly Conservatory we discovered a unique way to relax, with butterfly wings brushing our faces as we slowly walked through a splendid tropical dome of flora with some ambient New Age sounds entering our consciousness through hidden speakers.

This was by far the most common butterfly there. Reminds me of a reverse polyphemus moth (not random! I’ve had some close encounters with those moths in the past).

We quickly did a pass by the Southernmost Point of the United States (only 90 miles from Cuba!) just to say we saw it (there was a line to get your picture taken in front of it, so we snapped it from across the street). Then we split our efforts so half of us could tour the Hemingway House and the other half could check out the Lighthouse Museum, and then we regrouped and had a delicious little bite to eat at a cafe called ‘Le Petit Paris‘.

The real reason you visit the Hemingway House.

After rejoining the bikes we rode over to Fort Zachary Taylor and checked out the Civil War-era fort. Then we started to make our way back towards Marathon, but before we could even leave Key West it was discovered that my exhaust header had come off from my front cylinder. It made a nasty racket all the way back to our campsite, when we were finally able to access our tools (since we stored them in the trailer) to retighten the nuts onto the exhaust studs.

Look how pretty the trailer looked sitting around all day!

The next day Ehren and I headed to the Sebring area in central Florida to camp out for a night at Highlands Hammock State Park. We had a gorgeous campsite (P-15, if you’re curious) with red dirt, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and plenty of distance and foliage between us and the next set of tents. We had a good long chat with one of the park employees who had developed a fascination with Italian bikes while stationed there in his military days. He really appreciated what we were doing and was very interested in the modifications we did to the bikes and all the little details we put into the trailer. Then we finished out the night with some salami, cheese and raspberries that we picked up at the local Aldi.

Just pulling into camp.

Our night at Hammock was the most peaceful, undisturbed sleep we had gotten in a while. The next morning we cleaned up camp and got to walking the park. There were a bunch of great trails that took you from ancient hammock groves at the south end to the developing hammock spreading across the pine flats to the north. Narrow wooden boardwalks carried you over soggy cypress swamps to the west where gators, snakes and wading birds dwell. Scattered throughout were thousand year oaks and hundred year orange groves where wild boar and white-tailed deer would start and scuttle away. We walked every trail over the course of 2-3 hours, about 5-6 miles total. They weren’t very long circuits, but were quite engrossing.

Ehren makes his way through the cypress swamps.

After our morning jaunt we toured the park’s CCC museum then started out for our next destination in the early afternoon. Leaving the park on N. Hammock Road (County Rd. 634) we wove our way through fragrant orange groves to get to U.S. Rte. 98, which took us all the way into Crystal River. We spent two nights there visiting Ehren’s uncle Bill. He showed us the best seafood joints in the area (The Crab Plant and The Freezer down in Homosassa) and suggested some cool places to visit. We took a quick ride down to the marina at the end of Ozello Trail (a decently curvy road through a mix of swampland and developments), where we met an older fellow with whom we had a pleasant but meandering hour-long chat. Afterwards we visited Homosassa Springs State Park, which used to be a zoo before the state purchased it in the 80s. We watched the manatees for a while (both captive and wild manatees dwell within the park, drawn to the warmth of the natural springs) and then checked out the rest of the resident Florida natives (gators, panthers, Key deer, etc.).

The sixth day of the tour found us on our way back to Bonita Springs from Crystal River. We opted to take the Sunshine Tollway to avoid the heavy truck traffic and general craziness on I-75. We decided to continue onto the Sunshine Skyway for a nice ride over Tampa Bay before getting into the stop-and-go traffic of U.S. Rte. 41, taking us through Bradenton, Sarasota, and Fort Myers before plopping us into Bonita Springs once again.

The next day, despite my ongoing battle with severe fatigue from an impending case of influenza, we made our way to Lover’s Key State Park so we could see the beach at least once before we left (it was a desire I had vehemently expressed the day previous, so I couldn’t let flu ruin it for me now!). We went in the truck because we (‘we’ being Ehren and his dad, as I had been drifting in and out of sleep all day) had already packed up the motorcycles in the trailer to ready them for the trip home. The three of us strolled along the beach up to the point and back, after which I promptly fell asleep in the truck en route to a gas station.

Totally worth it. Even Steve enjoyed himself, though I was probably using him to prop myself up at this point.

And that was our Florida trip. If you would like to watch some of the video we shot while we traveled, you can check out our two 15-minute compilations below:

For those curious, we hope to be starting The Trip by the end of March/beginning of April, as soon as we finish making some last adjustments and changes. Stay tuned!

—Britt

 
 

4 Comments

  1. I am so excited you guys are on your way!!! Stumbling across this seriously made my morning. Please stop in Houston if you get a chance on your way South! I will be here for you whenever you get a chance. I’ll make sure there is some BBQ and icecream ready for you 🙂

     
    • Follow the Elefant says:

      Thanks Julia! Were very excited too, next step really is to get on the road. We are planning on heading into Mexico through the Baja Peninsula. That being said a stop in Houston would be fun, and we love BBQ and Ice cream. If we do make it to Houston, well certainly stop for more than a few hours!

       
  2. Yes Shirley and I agree with Julia. This made our day! I request permission to live vicariously through your exploits!

    God Bless you.

     
    • Follow the Elefant says:

      Permission granted!!! We would enjoy very much for you guys to follow our journey. Once up and on the road we should have some fun content to check out on here. Were both really looking forward to getting some video while paragliding, birds eye view of the land!

       

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