Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
July 27, 2013
When it comes to motorcycle tours, Florida's flat landscape doesn't offer the breathtaking scenery of a mountain pass in Colorado or an old New England village.
Yet the state still beckons bikers — and not just for the mammoth, road-clogging spring and fall celebrations of Bike Week and Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach. With consistent tropical temperatures year-round, motorcycle tours never go out of season, according to biker and travel writer Gary McKechnie of Mount Dora.
"We can ride in July and we can also ride in December and not many states offer that," says McKechnie, who included two Florida-based road trips in the fifth edition of "Great American Motorcycle Tours" (Avalon Travel, $21.99; motorcycleamerica.com). "Even from the middle of Georgia north, there will be times when it's just too cold to ride."
The guidebook features 25 motorcycle tours, ranging from an excursion through Amish country in Pennsylvania to an exploration of blues history from Memphis, Tenn., to New Orleans, and a Pacific Coast run in California.
In Florida, McKechnie's "Tropical Paradise Run" travels south from Miami Beach to Key West and his "Southern Comfort Run" heads north from St. Augustine to Charleston, S.C.
In a book that touts the spiritual benefits of riding, the Key West trip represents a rite of passage for motorcyclists, McKechnie says.
"There's not a lot of scenery," he says. "A large part of the appeal has to do with the fantasy and legend of Key West. You almost have to do it. It's genetic coding if you're on a motorcycle."
McKechnie's suggested stops in the Keys are familiar ones: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the Dolphin Research Center and Ernest Hemingway's Home and Museum. Still, he makes a convincing case that the sites look different from the saddle of a motorcycle.
"When you do those things on a motorcycle, there's that independent spirit that is emblematic of Key West. It captures that."
McKechnie, who will speak Aug. 29 at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, turned 50 while working on the new edition. He was 38 when the guide was first published in 2000.
"I want people to see the possibilities out there, because the years will go by pretty quickly, whether you want them to or not."
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