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

A Motorcycle Trip in Florida: Day Eight

We leave Titusville late and exit through the Wildlife Refuge. We stopped at the Manatee viewing area, but saw no Manatees. The last few miles of this road take you by acres of old abandoned citrus groves that were there long before the space center.

We ride up US 1 to our next stop, near Oak Hill, at a place called Seminole Rest. This was the site of several old Indian mounds and a couple of old houses. It has been inhabited by Indians and white men for many years and is now part of the Canaveral National Seashore. It's a very exceptional spot with an excellent view of the islands in the Mosquito Lagoon.

We bypassed Daytona Beach on Highway 5A. (Nova Road) Although Daytona Beach is certainly a bastion of the kind of attractions we have been seeking, we elect to skip it due to the usual traffic congestion and crowds. Anyone that rides motorcycles much has been there for Bikeweek, so you know what you're missing.

Next, we find ourselves at the start of the Loop in Ormond Beach. During Bikeweek, thousands of motorcycles a day take this scenic ride. This is a beautiful drive through jungle hammocks and salt marshes. It crosses the Intercoastal Waterway and the Tomoka River and takes you by Tomoka and Bullow State Parks. We cross High Bridge road and go north on A1A to start the cruise up to St. Augustine.

This portion of A1A is a very nice ride, with a good view of the ocean for most of the way. There are lots of public beaches and places to pull over. We make a stop at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park for an ocean view.

Our final stop before getting to St. Augustine was at Ft. Matanzas, at Matanzas Inlet. The fort was built by the Spanish in the 18th century to guard the southern approach to St. Augustine. By the early 20th century, it lay in ruins. It was eventually restored to it original appearance and opened to the public. The National Park Service provides free ferry service over to the old fort on Rattlesnake Island. This is a must see. There's no gator heads, miniature golf or souvenir shops here, just history.

After lunch at an outdoor burger joint near the old Lighthouse, we finally ride into St. Augustine. This city is a weird mix of the truly historic and the classically tacky. Walk a block in either direction from the massive old Spanish fort in the center of town and you're standing in front of Potter's Wax Museum or Ripley's Believe It or Not. Stand in front of the oldest house in the United States and watch carloads of tourist being pulled by on rubber-tired trains, ala Key West. Walk down old St. George Street at night and see group after group of tourists on Ghost Tours lead by women dressed as gothic vampires. As you walk through the oldest city, you see the oldest drugstore, the oldest school, the old (not oldest) jail, and on and on.

What St. Augustine does have, and what makes it a mandatory stop on this pilgrimage, is the oldest continuously operating tourist trap in the state - The Alligator Farm. It started back in the days of Henry Flagler, when some enterprising operator realized that tourists would pay to see large live alligators. After a time in town, the Farm moved out to the beach, where it has been ever since. Probably because it has no giant fake alligator outside, it's transcended mere attraction status and become a respectable zoo. It has every species of Crocodilian found in the world on exhibit. It is the grandmother of all alligator attractions and should not be missed.

I also made sure that I was photographed under the sign at the Fountain of Youth Park, but it didn't do any good. I woke up the next day and was still fifty-something.

We spend the night in St. Augustine and walked down to the Milltop Tavern and Listening Room on St. George Street before calling it a night. (The bartender swears the Milltop is haunted.)

Travel Pictures

Motorcycle Ride in Florida
Motorcycle Ride in Florida
Motorcycle Ride in Florida
Motorcycle Ride in Florida
Motorcycle Ride in Florida
Motorcycle Ride in Florida
Motorcycle Ride in Florida


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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