Friday, March 30, 2018

Peace River Canoe Trip

Ken let me know a month ago that he wanted to take another canoe trip, this time on the Peace River near Arcadia, Florida.

We have been on two similar outings in the last two years, Fisheating Creek, near Lake Okeechobee in 2016, then the Santa Fe River near Hi Springs, Florida last year.  Both were such fun that we were all excited about doing it again.

This trip included Jim for the first time, Dave in his third paddle, Larry coming for the first time and Celeste, also coming for ride one.  I hadn't met Celeste but she turned out to be a nice addition.

I worked until 9:00 on Wednesday, then headed south to find much traffic on US-17 through Orange Park and Green Cove Springs.  Traffic cleared as I got past the packed 16 turn and was clear to Palatka, where I picked up 19 through the Ocala National Forest.  This led through Umatilla, Eustis and Tavares.  In Groveland I picked up 33 that had north bound traffic backed up for miles.  Luckily I was going south.

I finally got onto the boring 27 into Avon Park to the Jacaranda Hotel, Ken's favorite and one of mine too.

There we met up with Jim and had dinner at 18 East, a restaurant across the street from the hotel.  18 East is a pleasant place, good food and service, the owner always comes around to say hello to Ken.  But this time they had inserted music.  The two man band was not good and, to make up for it, they were loud.  We dined and attempted conversation, enjoying the good food while wondering what the owner was thinking with the band.

As usual, in bed by 9:30.

Thursday we were up early and had breakfast at a small restaurant on the next block, then Jim and I followed Ken on a two lane ride to the Canoe Outpost to meet up with Celeste, Dave and Larry. After paying for the canoes and getting prepared, we loaded onto an old school bus for the ride to the park where we pushed off after the staff put the canoes into the river.

I had a kayak on the last two paddles, and after a few minutes I could see that I preferred those light, one-man boats to the long, cumbersome canoes.  My canoeing partner was Celeste, a skilled canoeist who helped keep us away from the shallow spots.

We faced a big headwind between turns on some of the straight parts of the river.  These made paddling a bit more difficult than usual, but going downstream made up for it.

The main activity for paddling the Peace River is to collect shark's teeth.  I don't know how they got there, there certainly aren't any sharks on the river anymore, but people were finding lots of them.  One young girl let us know that she had collected more than fifty.

It was all great until we decided to stop for a break.  The chosen beach was rather steep with the water a few feet deep just ten feet from the shore.  Because we didn't have enough shoreline to come in parallel with the beach. we tried straight in.  Celeste got out easily but when they pulled me up, the canoe tilted and my awkward, clumsy body went straight into the river.  With my Canon G9X camera.  It was a very cool camera for the two and a half years I had it.  It is now a short circuited mess, never to work again.

But that is life and we paddled further to the Outpost where we got on the scooters and went to lunch at the Oak Street Deli in Arcadia.  That was followed with ice cream from a shop across the street.  Arcadia is a bustling town compared to Avon Park, but it still struggles a bit.  The downtown hotel there was damaged by Hurricane Irma.  The ice cream shop was for sale, along with many of the other buildings, including a cool pink and white Victorian block.

I was chosen to lead the 46 mile ride back to Avon Park.  We all prefer two lane roads so I had Garmin help me pick one.  It had us riding 10 miles north on 17, then turning off onto Fish Branch Road.  As the road became more remote as we rode east, it suddenly became a dirt road filled with lots of turns.  I offered to turn back, but everyone was OK with pushing forward.  It was only maybe three or four miles of dirt, but I and the others enjoyed something different.  We got back onto the paved roads and were riding along when Ken blew past me.  Of course my racing instincts kicked in and I took off in pursuit.  We ran nearly wide open until we came to the first place where the other two would get lost, so we waited.  Ken gave me a hard time, called me a bad leader, leaving Jim and Celeste.  But I said that they wouldn't get lost because we didn't pass any places where they would have to make a decision.  They soon pulled up and off we went.

Back at the hotel, I was sitting by myself on the front entry to the Jacaranda when a Vespa 300GTS Super Sport pulled up.  I spoke with the rider, a nice fellow named Brian for a while.  Then Jim came down and I went to take a shower.  When I came down Brian was still there with Jim and Ken.  We went over to 18 East for a drink.  The band this time was jazz, with two guys playing instruments with no singing.  Much better.  Then we gathered Celeste for a Mexican dinner at the nearest Taqueria.  It included tacos, tamales and a shared quart of beer.

The ride home was quick as a storm was approaching.  I beat the rain and made it home at 11:30 after a four and a half hour ride.

All said, except for breaking my favorite camera, it was a very nice adventure.

One of our favorite hotels, the Jacaranda in Avon Park.

Traffic turning from 17 onto 16, south of Green Cove Springs

15 through the Ocala National Forest

North of Altoona on 19

Lake Eustis 

Gas and lunch at a Race Trac in Groveland

Northbound traffic on 33.  Luckily I was heading south.

Traffic backed up on 27

At the Jacaranda, looking at Avon Park from the balcony.

Facing west.  Deadest town anywhere, but we like it. 


Heading west from Avon Park.  I liked the clouds and to the left is 
someone flying a powered parachute

The Peace River from the Canoe Outpost

On the bus heading to the start.

Canoes being off loaded, by the staff.

Boarding the canoes.

Celeste leading the way. She is a skilled canoeist.

A group searching for shark's teeth.

One of the five or so alligators along the way.

Ken and Jim

Ken and Jim

Sand beach along the way.

The Canon G9X's last photo.  It was a great camera, but I got
 thousands of great photos.  Time for a new one
The Victorian block in Arcadia, taken with my phone.

And the Arcadia Opera House.

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.