Sunday, March 2, 2014

2014 - A Ghost Town in Florida

*Note: If you are new to my blog may I suggest you read "the back story on the Frozen Canuck" first - Also you might want to start from the bottom up in the blog archives list to the right of the page* 

March 1, 2014 

Decided to do a little Ghost Town hunting on the bikes today. The idea was intriguing and I thought that it could be exciting to walk through some ruins of a time gone by… 

I had been scouring the Internet like I often do for a place to go to on our bike tours. After searching numerous sites I came across one that was dedicated to listing Ghost Towns across North America, so I focused on Florida of course. As I  started scanning through all the towns, surprisingly the list was quite long, I happened to come across a place called Venus, now that sparked some recognition. (We had been through that area last year). So seeing it was a familiar area, and not too far away I figured it would make for a nice afternoon ride.

The Road Trip

We headed out and decided to take our favorite route along North River Rd (78) towards LaBelle – (it is so much nicer of a ride then driving State Rd 80 to 29) 
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And of course we had a stop at our favourite park, which is always a nice break. 

Bob Mason Park
yes, I finally took a picture of our park!
Ultimately you have to go back onto 29 but looking on the map we could take a secondary road that would get us there and be much more interesting than the highway.  (I have come to the conclusion that Florida has too many names for the same road and that those roads don’t necessarily appear as they are on the map) After a short jog up the highway we made a left so that we could connect with 720 / Fire Tower Rd.  When we came to a dead end further up we realized we had missed the turn to get onto the 720 – after a short back track we were where we were supposed to be. (isn’t that half the fun?)
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As 720 ended and we came to the Fire Tower (hence the name of the road  J) on the corner we stopped to ponder whether we should take the dusty, graveled covered 731 (honest, the map showed it was a regular paved road!) We figured that it couldn’t be any worse than some of the back roads that we have ended up on back in Canada. (besides, if it got too rough, you can always turn back, right?) So throwing caution to the wind we headed up 731. (after all a biker knows that following the road less traveled is what it is all about J )  It wasn’t as bad as the looks of it, like I said we have been on worse. Sure there were times when the rutted washboard of a road shook the hell out of you, but for the most part it was packed solid. I am sure there was a time when it was paved…
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Damn map...

the Fire Tower
731 ends abruptly at 74 and there are only two choices, left or right (right will just bring you back to 29) So, we turned left so that we could connect back with the 731 /Tasmania Rd. (731 is split, can be confusing.. at least this half of the 731 is a truly paved road) Now this was much better, smooth and it even had a few curves, not much traffic, if any at all. (Ok, one if you counted the car as we turned onto the road) [Most of the main roads in Florida are straight and from a bikers point of view just plain boring]
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After travelling along we made a left onto Old Venus Rd. (Which was more of a hard packed lane way than a road).Our destination! - or so I thought...
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We stopped as we got to a bend in the road and were confronted by a steel gate blocking the way with about five ‘No Hunting/Trespassing’ signs that were plastered along the fence line. Hmmm, are we in the right spot? Sure does not look like a deserted ghost town to me.(Not that I am expert on Ghost Towns) To the left nestled way back in the field there is a huge modern house and further up some barns. To the right is just a swamp… 

Ooops, I must of got it wrong (Ok, I admit, that does happen, not often, but on occasion J ) A short time later a women comes driving up to us in one of those golf cart/atv vehicles and asks us what we are doing. (I am assuming we are still on a public road but who can tell anymore) So I tell her about the supposed ghost town, she has never heard of it. The expression on her face told me she thought we were nuts to be looking for a ghost town here. Her main worry was that we were hunters and were trying to poach on her family’s property. We assured her we were not hunters (never heard of someone taking their motorbike to go hunting, I guess you never can tell...) She was pleasant though, and I guess she figured we were not a threat and harmless loons, so off she went. Well that was a bust… 

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We continued on our journey as the plan was to head up to Lake Placid taking a scenic route, which we had been told about the previous year. 

From Old Venus Rd we turned left back onto the 731 then made a  turn left onto Old State Route 8 [17]

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It ends at State 70 /Myers Rd (Turn left on 70 and Route 8 will continue - make a right off 70 just before the train tracks and it brings you up the other side of Lake Placid) Instead we turned left onto State 70 to Placid View Dr. That was a really nice super curvy road! It also brings you around Lake Placid. I would definitely recommend it. We then turned right onto Lake Mirror Dr. that brought us out to Hwy 27. (If you stay on Placid View Dr. which turns into Lake Dr. E. it will take you past more lakes in the area – Mirror Lake, Lake Sirena and Lake Pearl) 
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It was time to start heading back (there are not a lot of choices when it comes to back roads, so we did go back over on a few of the roads that we had came up on) We didn’t want to take the highway all the way back so we just took Hwy 27 until it met State 70. Turned right on 70 and left back onto Old State Route 8 [17] 
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When we got back to 731 we turned left, just a short jog up 731 (not the dusty 731) then made a right turn onto Detjen’s Dairy Rd. That is a nice quiet country road among the farmland. As we drove by some crumbling old buildings in the field I saw the hugest bull I have ever seen! Wish I would of got a picture… (maybe I should invest in a helmet cam!) The road unfortunately connects back onto Hwy 27 and heads back towards Labelle, but at least it was a break from straight highway driving for a while. 

Stayed on 27 until we connected with North River Rd again and headed home.

Guess you are wondering just how far this was?  - The round trip for our afternoon ride was 142.4 miles (229.17 km) You can follow the trip with google map here if you like J 

This morning before I got started on writing my post I decided to go back to that site where I found the Ghost Town. Surprise! I got it wrong, oh so very wrong! (No wonder that woman thought we were nuts) I think I need glasses (oh, I already wear glasses, ok maybe stronger ones!) After reading over the article again I noticed a little caption at the end of the comments “This is not the town of Venus in Highlands County”  Guess where I had took us… Maybe it was going through all those listings and different websites that mixed me up a bit…yeah, lets say that.. (we may never know) J 

 Even though I never got to see my Ghost Town, we had a really nice tour on the bikes, and really, isn’t that what it is all about…

Curious as to where the real Ghost Town is? You can find it here   (Yes, I know, I see it as plain as day - it is in Palm Beach county not Highlands County - I plead the fifth!)

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