There's a Houston in Florida? Who knew?! I learned this while working with Microsoft's Streets & Trips as I prepared for what will most likely be my last road trip to finish out the AMA's I've Been Everywhere Tour for 2007. This is the much-anticipated trip over to Tampa, where the Florida coast to coast ride - or FLC2C - begins. This event is in its third revival year, raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I have worked as a volunteer for FLC2C for the past two years, this year hosting the website for the event.
A straight shot east on I-10 Thursday morning (Oct 11) gets me as far as DeFuniak Springs FL for the night. The next morning I continued east to pick up Highway 90 at Live Oak. There's a tiny dot on the map east of Live Oak that is supposed to be the location for Houston FL. Of course, if there proves to be nothing there, I have Houston TX as my backup plan. The city limit - and the green city sign - are just three miles from my house. But a Houston in Florida will be worth three points. So I exited I-10 onto Highway 90, a convenient and scenic alternative to I-10 and the I-75 interchange.
Just as Jill, my GPS, told me I was approaching "Houston," I spotted the green sign marking the town limits. I put my flashers on to warn the truck following behind, and pulled over. Highway 90 is a very pretty road through this part of FL, rolling countryside, its ancient Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss. That photo complete, I continue along this lovely road to I-75. A dreadful 18-wheeler accident early that morning had I-75 completely stopped just 4 miles before my planned exit. After a 3 hour delay, I finally made it to the next exit where I got off, got gas, took a break, and then headed west a few miles in search of a sign that would mark the location of Cadillac FL. The GPS location came and went, with no sign marking its location. Oh, well...
Back onto I-75, my stop for the night would be the host hotel for the start of the FLC2C ride in Tampa. The next morning saw the parking lot of the hotel and the restaurant next door filled with motorcycles of every type, as riders arrived to sign in for the event. I told the event organizer that I'd see him at the end point in Daytona, and I headed out to bag a few AMA points on the Gulf coast side of FL. First stop was University of Tampa in the downtown area. Tampa is beautiful! And so is the University campus. I turned into the campus and rode the brick-paved streets just to admire the buildings. I exited back out, stopping long enough to pose the photo of bike and AMA flag in front of the University sign. Next stop: Sarasota.
I had the post office flagged in my GPS but on the way, I passed the perfect fire station, complete with circular drive that let me park my bike beneath the lettering on the building without blocking the firetrucks (although my red BMW next to their red firetrucks would have made a nice photo). Photo done, I retraced my route back north to get onto I-4 east toward Orlando. The next town will be Davenport, which lies a few miles south of I-4. Urbanization doesn't extend much beyond a narrow corridor on either side of the interstates in FL. Davenport is a tiny little town surrounded by farm country. The tiny municipal square seemed like a good opportunity, but they were having some sort of festival and the parking lot was blocked off. So I let Jill guide me to the post office which was surprisingly big and new for such a small town.
Back onto I-4, I headed toward Daytona, taking a lunch and gas break along the way. I was being passed by packs of sportbikes and I was pleased to see that most of them were riding responsibly and all wearing full or nearly full gear. One group of 6 or 7 bikes caught up with me and the lead bike pulled along side of me, waved, gave a thumbs up, and flipped open his visor. I did the same as we rode along for a couple of miles this way, the remainder of his group on either side of me or behind me. Judging from their lean and trim bodies, these were all fairly young men...and the lead rider is flirting with me! How fun! Little does he know I'm old enough to be his mother, maybe old enough to be his grandmother! Kinda made me wish I'd sucked it up and ridden my FZ this trip. They tired of this after a while and took off, leaving me to proceed at my own leisurely pace.
The event having concluded Saturday night, I headed off towards home Sunday morning and made it to Lafayette LA for the night. The next morning I would continue my ride home, but not before seeking out my last AMA tour points on this trip: Grand Lake. This is another of those tiny dots on the map and I wasn't sure there'd be much out there in the swamps and waterways south of Lake Charles LA. But I let Jill take the lead, wary the entire way of the possibility of bad or nonexistent roads. But it was a pleasant surprise, as the road led me through marsh lands, past large tanker ports, and over pontoon bridges spanning the Intracoastal Waterway. The last pontoon drawbridge was raised and as I waited for the boats and barges to pass, I suddenly realized that this bridge was marked the Grand Lake ICWW. So there would be a photo opportunity after all! After getting this shot, I proceeded over the pontoon bridge and immediately on the right was the sign marking the town line. There was virtually no traffic on this road, so I stopped and took this photograph as well.
From here I could either continue on this road, which would take me back up to Lake Charles eventually, or I could do a U-turn and backtrack the way I came, which would be about 15 miles shorter. I opted for the U-turn, headed back to Lake Charles and I-10 and towards home.
The tour is nearly over, just one more short month to go. This has been an incredibly enjoyable adventure!