Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 7 Bridges Ride

This was the Big Weekend for the 7 Bridges Scooter Club.

It was the weekend of our annual 7 Bridges Ride, where we ride across the 7 bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida.

These bridges include three on Interstate Highways and four on major local roads, five very close to downtown.

The weekend begins with Saturday rides.  I led the group to Fernandina Beach for the second year.  Tom Rogerson led a larger group to Palatka, riding south along State Road 13, a fine riding road on the east side of the St. Johns River.

Our group had spectacular weather with a ride over the Dames Point Bridge to Heckscher Drive, then up A1A to the historic town of Fernandina Beach.

We dined at Brett's Waterway Cafe, a few explored the town while others helped one rider who's scooter battery failed.  We jump started the scooter, but it quit again on the way home so we took it out of her scooter and I rode to O'Reilly's (It was St. Patrick's Day) for a new one.  Purchased and installed it and the scooter was good again.

The evening was topped out with a group dinner at Bono's BBQ in Neptune Beach.

Sunday began early.  I had to be at Hardees on Mayport Road, 20 miles from home, at 7:30.

When I arrived almost everyone was already there, including my brother David and Conchscooter, one of my favorite scooter bloggers with his Key West Diaries. 

I will discuss him in another post, but to sum it up, I liked him.  Very fine follow, that Conchscooter.

We left at 8:30 with a short jaunt to the Mayport Ferry, where we waited fifteen minutes for it to return.  I led the boarding party and we all got on and traversed the St. Johns River easily. 

Once on the other side, we headed west on Heckscher Drive to I-295, the Dames Point Bridge, a large cable-stayed bridge built in 1989.  I had a friend who knew the contractor and was allowed to tour the bridge while it was under construction.  Quite a sight, standing on the unfinished bridge back then.

Wind was brisk as we crossed the Intracoastal Waterway, so I turned left onto the ramp to the bridge with some trepidation, but it turned out to be just fine.

From there we too expressways to the Mathews Bridge, a red, steel truss bridge built in 1952. 

We then rode past Everbank Field to the Hart Bridge, a green cantilever truss bridge built in 1967.  I watched it being constructed from my neighborhood as a kid.

We stopped for a break at a gas station, then headed downtown to the Main Street Bridge, also somewhat known as the John T. Alsop, Jr. Bridge.  It is a blue lift span truss bridge built in 1941. 

We then rode through downtown to the Acosta Bridge, a new concrete bridge built in 1991 as a replacement for the oldest bridge crossing the river.  The original bridge was a lift span steel bridge with a railroad bridge, that remains, alongside.

Next was the Fuller Warren Bridge, a multi-lane Interstate Highway bridge that replaced a drawbridge in 2002.  As is the case in Jacksonville these days, it is currently under construction to add lanes and a pedestrian walkway. 

It was time for another stop and we did this after riding down Riverside Avenue to Memorial Park.  The centerpiece of the park is a large statue, Life, sculpted by Charles Adrian Pillars in 1924.  I went to school with Mr. Pillars granddaughter, so there has always been a small connection for me.

We hustled out of there and rode through Riverside, Avondale and Ortega before getting on US-17 for the ride to I-295 again, this time to ride over the Buckman Bridge. This is the longest bridge at 3.2 miles, but quite nondescript.  It was built in 1970 and had 2 more lanes added each way in 1997. 

We finished the ride by heading through North Mandarin and Beauclerc, then Baymeadows Road to Southside Boulevard to the 7 Bridges Restaurant for lunch.

It was a great weekend with over 40 riders and nice weather.

The only down side was that our leader, Russ, had to do the tour in a car.  He will be back in the saddle soon.

 Scooters gathered for the Saturday ride.

On the Dames Point Bridge

 Crossing the Intracoastal Waterway

 Crossing onto Amelia Island

Big Talbot Island on A1A 

 Canopy road on Amelia Island, this one Amelia Island Parkway

 We created our own parking area.  No problem.

 Awaiting a table on the porch at Brett's

 Getting scooters arranged for a jump start for a bad battery.

Another canopy road on Amelia Island. 

The marshes at Heckscher Drive. 

Part of the dinner crowd at Bono's BBQ.  They no longer have baby back ribs, replaced with fried catfish.  We got a kick out of that.  Who would want catfish when they wanted ribs? 


At the start, scooters all arranged. 

More marshes at Mayport Road, heading to the Mayport Ferry.

 Scooters lined up to load onto the ferry.

I was first on.

 We took up half the deck.

 The Dames Point Bridge again

 Mathews Bridge

 Everbank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, from the Hart Bridge ramp.

 On the span of the Hart Bridge.

Conchscooter at the break.

 The ramp heading to the Main Street Bridge with downtown Jacksonville beyond.

 Grating on the lift span of the Main Street Bridge

 The Acosta Bridge with Conchscooter following.

The sign said no parking on the tracks, so I parked between them.  These are very active tracks.

 All smiles waiting for the light to change so we could cross the Fuller Warren Bridge.

 On the Fuller Warren Bridge with the Southbank of downtown Jacksonville in the background.

Life at Memorial Park.

 Group Photo at the park.  Most were looking at Russ.

St. Johns Avenue in Avondale, my neighborhood.

Approaching the drawbridge between Avondale and Ortega.

Coming off the drawbridge.  This one crosses the Ortega River, also known as McGirts Creek and Cedar River.

Curves in Ortega 

 Buckman Bridge

 Buckman Bridge

 Back at the 7 Bridges Restaurant.

We dine outside.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Where I Belong

Since the 2018 Scooter Cannonball Run route was revealed, one day at a time over the past couple of months, I have been studying each day.

Several, especially the early days, appear to be quite difficult.

These days have long, twisty climbs into and out of the mountains.  Several of these add dirt and gravel to make for long days, especially considering that some are well over 400 miles.

I was getting a little concerned until recently.

When I got onto Rocket to ride to St. Petersburg to meet Ken and Gary for a five day ride around Florida last week, within the first hundred miles I again realized that enjoy riding these scooters more than anything in my life. 

It is where I belong.

So, instead of worrying about the long days, I am embracing them.  Dirt,,,who cares.  I have ridden worse roads than these. 

And these roads are through some of the most dramatic scenery anywhere.

Sequoia National Forest
Death Valley National Park
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Glen Canyon Recreation Area
Moki Dugway

These are some of the places I have been wanting to ride for years.

I am in for a month long, 5500 mile ride when getting to the start from Seattle and riding home from Virginia Beach are factored in.

What could possibly be more fun than that?

The adventure begins in mid May where I left Vanessa after 2016.  Seattle.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Another Oyster Tour

Ken organized another Oyster Tour around a lunch with fellow Modern Vespa friends for this past week.

He set it up to meet with Terry and Nada at a restaurant in Palmetto, then ride to Avon Park to one of our favorite hotels, The Jacaranda.  From there we rode to Cedar Key followed by Apalachicola, making it another Oyster Tour.

We had to meet at Ken's house in St. Petersburg, so I rode from Jacksonville.  Captain Gary rode a longer ride from Dothan, Alabama and he arrived a bit tired.

We had dinner at the Casual Crab with more friends, Walt and Helen.  Ken's wife Vicki and their friend Rich joined us too.  It was an old Florida type of place and the food was average.

Sunday was lunch with Terry and Nada, so we rode over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Palmetto.  The lunch was fun, talking to such nice people.  They are living in Malta, so we discussed that along with their time in England, especially about their canal boat.

Gary, Ken and I then headed east to Avon Park, through miles of orange groves, now blooming with the pleasant smell of orange blossoms along the way.

When we arrived at the Jacaranda, our friend Bob had come over from Titusville, and we dined at a Taqueria a few blocks from the hotel.  There, we thought this should be called the "Fine Dining Oyster Tour"  but it withered on the vine.

Monday started with breakfast at The Depot across the street from the Jacaranda.  It was filled with interesting patrons and the food was average.

Riding to Cedar Key took us through more orange groves and small towns.  We rode through a very well preserved residential area in Floral City on the way to see another scooter friend, Jim Mandle at his house in Hernando.  We observed a cool project of his, then had lunch of BBQ in a local restaurant, also filled with interesting characters and average food.

We made it to Cedar Key and checking us into the hotel was fourth grader William, as his dad was in Chiefland buying groceries.

Gary and the rest of us were tired so we ate dinner at a seaside restaurant across the street from the hotel.  Nice views, interesting patrons and a average food.

Gary decided to head back to Dothan on Tuesday morning, skipping the westerly end of the ride in Apalachicola.  We dropped him at Pouncy's in Perry.  Very sad to see that the home of the best BLT in the world had closed.

Ken and I made it to Lynn's for a lunch of oysters.  Lynn's is a colorful place of interesting staff and much better than average food.  The oysters, unfortunately from Texas, were perfect.  I even met Lynn.

Ken and I stayed in our favorite hotel, the Gibson in downtown Apalachicola and dined on the porch of The Owl restaurant, where our server, Robin, did a great job serving very well prepared fish followed by an extremely rich chocolate dessert.

We got up early and headed east as the sun was rising.  I dropped Ken in Perry where he rode south to St. Pete while I went further east to Jacksonville.

All said, a better time couldn't be had.

Somewhere along the ride to St. Pete.

Scooters in Ken's new garage

Gary arriving

Riding in St. Pete

Near the top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Ken and Nada

Gary and Terry looking at boat photos

The four of them with scooters

Orange groves

Bob meeting us at the Jacaranda

The Taqueria

We crossed the railroad tracks at dusk.

Scooters at the Jacaranda.  I liked the shot with the truck passing.

Ken in a sandwich board

We stopped to photograph orange trees.

We missed the big show by a week.

Scooters at a gas stop. You should have seen the guy's gold grill here.

Floral City's historic street

Gary and Ken posing at Jim's house.

A shirtless William Jr. checking us in.

I went for a ride and got an afternoon shot of the estuary at Cedar Key

Scooters in Cedar Key

Breakfast in Cedar Key

What is a ride without a dirt road?

Ken took us to the Bat House.

And a volunteer fire department with a big flag.

"Say it aint so"

Rocket crossed 85,000 miles on the way to Apalachicola.

Along route 98 near Carrabelle.

Lynn's of course.

Ken and oysters.

Fred doesn't visit the Gibson without needing a new exhaust gasket.

Shrimp boats in Apalachicola.

The sun rising on the Apalachicola Bay Bridge.

Ken saving a turtle.

And on the road before heading south.