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The Search for the Giant Alligator: A Motorcycle Ride through Florida

A Motorcycle Trip in Florida: Day Seven

We left West Palm Beach about 9:00 AM and headed west on US 441 towards Lake Okeechobee. We take US 98 north to Port Mayaca then on to Okeechobee City, past a million fish camps and bars.

After leaving Okeechobee, we ride the motorcycles north through the Kissimmee River valley on US 441. This is dairy country and the smell of hay, mud, and cow manure surrounds us as we ride past thousands of black and white milk cows. You can smell a milking barn or feedlot before you see it.

Our first stop was the Desert Inn, in the little crossroads town of Yeehaw Junction. This place is a real jewel - an old roadhouse and motel with dummies of Seminole Indians in the dinning room, smart-ass signs on the walls, chickens in the yard and a museum upstairs. This may be the only saloon in Florida that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Desert Inn started as a railroad watering station and a stop for the old cracker cowboys who drove their herds through there in the early 20th century. Nothing much has changed since.

US 441 between Okeechobee and Holopaw is 70 miles of cattle ranches, dairy farms and swamps. There is very little development on this road and the scenery is beautiful. Slow down and look for Sandhill Cranes and Caracaras. Watch out for the vultures.

We continued north on 441, then east on 192 to Deer Park and a stop at Spencer's Fruit stand on 192 and SR 419, where Spencer himself greets us with a free fruit cup. Took a water break under a giant oak tree and watched the chickens scratching for a meal. We then ride north on SR 419, which turned out to be a beautiful backwoods two-lane bordering the Tosohatchee State Reserve.

Then it was east on Highway 50 to the town of Christmas to see the famous Swampy, the world's largest alligator. Swampy is a 200-foot long concrete alligator with a gift shop inside, located at the Jungle Adventures attraction. No Florida alligator pilgrimage is complete without a visit to this shrine. He is the undisputed king of all the giant fake alligators. Stand in Swampy's mouth and have your picture taken.

It was then on to Titusville and the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a haven for all kinds of birds and wildlife and a beautiful ride. We detoured through the Black Point Wildlife Trail and saw many alligators, Spoonbills and Black-necked Stilts. The nearby Canaveral National Seashore contains some of the finest Atlantic beaches in Florida and is well worth the ride.

We spend the night in an appropriately shabby 1960ish motel in Titusville.


Fxrguy says:

Great trip. I live in Florida and a lot of the places you describe are places I ride quit a lot but I still learned about a few places. Loved it!
Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 9:47 PM

warhoop63 says:

This is the type of adventure, trip down memory lane that I love. Great journaling of the trip. A wonderful trip, and a wonderful read!
Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 5:47 PM

BilltheDiver says:

Great story and some good pictures! I moved here in the 70's and have been to most of the places you visited. Brings back memories. There are more spots to be discovered like Solomon's Castle and the Linger Lodge. Thanks for sharing the adventure!
Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 12:55 PM

Riverman777 says:

That was a good adventure story. Nice job. I'll bet you guys enjoyed it. I live up around the Crestview area. I'm looking forward to making that trip soon. Good luck and happy trails. michael
Fri Mar 16, 2007 at 7:56 AM

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