March 22, 2016
Back in February on one of our adventures, ‘To the Everglades...Not Quite’ we had discovered a route through the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park that looked as though it might be an interesting ride. But at that time flooding had closed the road and prevented us from exploring the more ‘wild’ side of the ‘Real’ Florida. Today I figured that by now the water should be dried up and figured we should try it again.
The temperature started off a little too cool for my liking but the weatherman promised me that it would eventually be a sunny warm day. So taking him at his word (this time), we headed out. We would be coming in from the opposite direction from where we had initially found the road so I had printed off a Google Map to help us navigate through the Picayune Strand State Forest that would eventually lead us to the Scenic Drive that I had waited this long to experience.
SR-82 was extremely windy and even the perpetual wind tunnel of 29 was windier than usual (if that is at all possible) but I persevered. Eventually we got shielded from the flat openness of farmland when we got into the town of Immokalee. Next we turned down 1st and passed the Casino leaving the town behind us and headed back into the more remote side of the country side. After a short jaunt, we soon were turning off at Everglades Blvd. No surprise it was a very long, and wait for it... straight road. However this was not the usual orange field and palm tree kind of a road out in the middle of no where. Instead, looking strangely out of place, an upscale neighbourhood emerged tucked behind chainlink fences and cement walls with iron gates.
Eventually we crossed over a bridge that spanned over the I-75 highway and left the huge houses behind to come upon the Welcome sign to the Picayune Strand State Forest.
According to Google, the road was supposedly paved, however today that was not to be. At least it looked hard packed and lucky us, while we were standing there having our moto-break a water truck came by to spray water on the road to keep the dust down.
The gravel road continued for several miles until we came to the next Welcome Sign where the entrance to the ‘pay’ portion of the park starts. Which incidentally was closed due to a restoration project that was going on. Our route was to go left down Canal Rd., so we paid little attention to the signs. We made our turn so that we would eventually get to the start of ‘Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive’. At least that is what we thought. It was nice to see that the pavement was also back and gave me a chance to cough out the dust that I had swallowed from following my BF. Apparently that water truck earlier really didn’t make a difference.
It was a little unnerving when I passed a road sign that warned of Panthers, but knowing that Panthers are nocturnal I wasn’t really worried, and besides I didn’t plan on being in here after dark. At least I was fairly confident we wouldn’t be.
A few miles down, the road simply vanished into nothing more than walking path forcing us to turn around. After consulting our backup map and figuring we could get there in the other direction we went back to the park entrance.
That is when we noticed, staring at us plain as day, that the road we had been on was in fact Closed.
Also posted nearby was a convenient Detour Route sign. *Blush*
A few miles more of dust filled lungs we turned onto Miller Blvd and pavement once again returned. If you could call it that, it had more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese. In the sections that didn’t have potholes it just gave way instead to a washboard effect that had me intermittently standing on my pegs to keep from getting my insides whipped into a smoothie.
We came upon a Park Employee in a golf cart who disappeared after we passed and after that we never came across another soul for quite some time. I was glad there was no traffic as it gave us plenty of space to play dodge the pothole and avoid the possibility of losing the bikes in one.
Looking a little strange on such a deserted road we pulled up to a stop sign. I had a hard time picturing this place as a busy intersection. It was time for another moto-break before we made the turn onto Stewart (100th Ave SE), and I welcomed the time to settle my stomach from the shake, rattle and roll contortions I had just done.
Getting off my bike I noticed the road was littered with shot gun shells and it made me wonder if someone from the movie Deliverance might jump out of the thick brush.
Then I glanced over at the condition of the stop sign. I am guessing the stop sign bandit was hunting the elusive ‘Stop Sign’...
The one on the other side unfortunately didn’t fare nearly as well...
Continuing on Stewart, once we crossed over a bridge it was back to gravel again. This was turning into quite the ‘adventure ride’ on a Harley. And became painfully obvious that we were on the wrong bikes for this type of outing.
The further we went down that road the more it deteriorated to the point where there was no way to get past 2nd gear. Harley’s just were not meant to ride this slow! In some spots the road was completely level with the swamp and water lapped at its edge. Then came the puddles the size of swimming pools in the middle of the road.
This began to test every moto-skill I had. I even surprised myself a few times. Keeping as close to the edge of the road without going into the mushy swamp was definitely a balancing act. Then there was a section where I swear that all the sand from Fort Myers beach was just dumped so as to soak up excess water on road. It was a stretch of pure beach sand and was a little ‘hairy’ to say the least just to get through it. I started to bog down a bit, then gave it a little more throttle to push through which made me fish-tail a bit while the brush whipped me in the face and scrapped down my side. But I eventually made my way through and I am proud to say I didn’t dump it! *Pats myself on the back*
Plenty of birds flew out of the brush as the roar of the Harley’s cut through the silence. In a clearing there was a family of deer that were crossing the road, they stood for awhile as we approached, probably wondering what the hell we were doing way out there. But by the time I was able to stop and grab my camera they had disappeared into the thicket. After that I just slung my camera over my shoulder in case I had another opportunity. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem carrying it this way because my max speed was barley 10 mph. As my luck would have it, none came.
Even with the road as challenging as it was, I was still optimistic we would eventually get to Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive, that was until we came to this...
It was evident that there would be no possible way to get through. Not only was the water completely across the road from edge to edge, it looked quite deep. The Harley’s finally had met their match. As we were accessing the situation a Park Ranger pulled up. The two Rangers inside each had that look like either we were one cracker short of box to be way out here on a Harley or we were Canadian tourists. Anyway, the passenger politely told us with a slight smirk on his face that it would probably take another month or so before the road would be passable and that further up it got a lot worse. Worse? As I watched them leave, the water went well past the tires on their pickup. Well that settled it. Time to turn around.
There was an alligator sunning himself on a broken piece of cement by the road when we first pulled up. He was not more than a few feet away down a slight embankment.
After the Rangers left I looked backed to see where he had gotten to and to make sure he was not sneaking up behind me. But he had slithered down in the water although he was still keeping a watchful eye on me. Glad he wasn’t hungry. Was that a wink?
So close, yet so far... by my estimation we were about 2 miles before we would enter Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive
Inspecting the bikes when we got back on the paved solid ground I figured it would definitely be time to wash the bikes when we got back.
Lately I had wondered what it might be like to go on one of those motorcycle adventure tours, not anymore. As far as I am concerned our little tour might not have been exactly like one but it sure came close (minus the hills)... uh, where is the Rub A535!
Here is the route we took, at least as far as we could go
We took a slightly different route home once out of the park