TAIL OF THE DRAGON - FLORIDA KEYS ADVENTURE 2008
THE BIKE AND FISHING
November 20 - December 8, 2008

Wolf Creek Road
Nancy's first BIG fish, an 85 pound sailfish, caught and released

THE BIKE AND FISHING
WHERE TO STAY AND WHERE TO EAT
ROADS, PLACES OF INTEREST

 

After having such a great time in Key West in 2007 we decided to take another trip in that direction and try a few different things. Nancy’s never really caught a large fish and she was eager to have a go at one or two.

After much research on the Internet we decided to stay at Captain Pips Marina and Hideaway on Marathon in the Middle Keys (mile marker 47.5). The rentals are located right on the small harbor with docks and views of the Gulf. Your rental boat which comes with the room is but a few feet away. And these are not your typical beat-up runabouts with 20 year old engines. They are open fishermen with 120 hp or better 4-stroke engines. The boats are equipped with live wells, marine GPS units, depth finder, and radio for emergencies.

We always look for a couple of things in the places we stay. We like privacy, clean, nostaligic, different, secure motorcycle parking, and good location in our accommodations. We do not like large stuffy, typical, new resorts with kids running rampant. We can take old, quaint, and secluded. These are some of the reasons we like the Southernmost Guest House in Key West. Even though it is located in a bustling tourist town, the grounds and pool area give guests a little privacy. The rooms are nothing to write home about, but they are comfortable, clean and quiet. The hosts are friendly but not intrusive.

So as you read about our get-a-ways understand that where we stay may not ring your bell. But they are what we quest for. And should we run across any blatant negatives we will certainly pass them on to you.
Also of note are the places we like to eat. We like unique, special, eclectic, laid-back, interesting, historic, and off the beaten path. And the food must be good and service friendly! We do not care about cost, but the food must be special or we will not return. We do not like stuffy, touristy, high-priced places with average quality food and service. Give us the dirt floor, corner market fixing specialty sandwiches for the locals and we are happy. On this trip we found some good hidden gems – not with dirt floors, but almost.

So here are some of the details of our 2008 Keys adventure.

Keys Sunset
A Keys sunset.
Bird Bridge
We call this one Bird Bridge.
Hot Springs RV Camp
This is the FJR with side bags removed. We still needed the big top Givi in case Nancy wanted souvenirs.
Southernmost Point
The FJR at the Southernmost Point, fully loaded except for Nancy. Actually we travel light compared to some riders. I like to be able to handle the bike without too much difficulty.

We had to revisit the Beginning/Ending of US 1 in Key West at 490 Whitehead Street. US 1 stretches 2209 miles to its northern terminus at Fort Kent, Maine on the Canadian border. While we were taking the photo a bicyclist stopped and began telling us about the Tail fo the Dragon. He spends much of the summer in North Carolina and rides several motorcycles.

The Nolan N102 helmets were great for quick stops like this Cuban coffee at one of our favorite quick stops in Key West, Ana's Cuban Cafe and the Southernmost Deli and Groceries.

OUR MOTORCYCLE AND EQUIPMENT

This year we rode a 2003 FJR 1000 jetted, Muzzy pipes, and tuned by Wheeler to 129 horse power – yes we know the significance of that number. It is surprising how many times we accidentally encounter it. The FJR has stock side hard bags and we added a large Givi top bag with rack and large tank bag. We were able to bring everything that we wanted too, including a notebook computer, camera gear, and enough clothes for the week long trip. We ride by the old biker adage, “Saddlebags can never hold everything you want, but they can hold everything you need.”

We have Givis for all of our bikes including the KLRs. We have tried all the options for carrying our gear and the Givis can’t be beat for durability, security, weather resistance, and looks.

We purchased new Nolan N102 helmets and added the blue tooth option. We also added the weather and XM option to our Garmin Zumo GPS unit and also took along our XM Delphi unit and an IPod loaded with Nancy’s running music. Our cell phones are not blue-tooth and just as well ... I'm not answering the phone while on the bike.

In setting up the helmets we found a few problems. One is the difficulty in installing the blue tooth units in the side pod. You have to basically take apart the inside of the helmet, insert the unit and then put all the padding and liner back inside. Once we did this we only had one side speaker working in each helmet. After contacting tech support and various forums (which were great by the way) we had to disassemble the helmets and add a small part to get both speakers to finally work.

We also found that the XM on the Zumo would not work wireless. Back to tech support and we learned that we needed to hard wire the Zumo to get XM. We purchased a wire for this and then we couldn’t get much volume on the XM. We hard wired the IPod and XM Delphi and got all the volume we needed. No time to look for solutions as we had to hit the road. One suggestion was that the Zumo mount might be the problem. We still haven’t had a chance to try another mount.

We also purchased two gel seats which made the FJR much more comfortable. Nancy didn’t think she’d need a backrest on the top Givi, but after the trip she decided to add one.

We always run with an Escort Passport 8500 radar detector with Screamer attached. We can hear the Screamer alert even at 80 mph or better.

On the road the FJR was wonderful. Great acceleration, much more comfortable than last year’s Aprilia CapoNord, and handling was easy even with our two-up full load. The only problems encountered were ground clearance (the previous owner had lowered the bike – now corrected after the trip), the Muzzys were a little loud, and vibration in the bars numbed my throttle hand. We now have a throttle control that allows me to rest the right hand while on the move. The FJR gave us no problem with heat from the engine. The previous owner had worked out this particular negative with lots of insulation stuffed under the fairing.

The blue tooth helmet to helmet communications worked fine once we learned the tricks of turning it on. The units have to communicate with each other and this is done by placing the helmets close to each other and going through a series of button pushes on each helmet.

We finally gave-up on the Zumo XM and used the Delphi and IPod hard wired into Nancy’s helmet. We had music and were able to communicate with each other by voice activation. At times it was a little difficult to understand each other because of the wind noise and pipes rumbling. We also lost connection if we moved more than about 30 feet from each other, but it’ easy to reconnect.

The flip-up chin-bar came in really handy. We often stop for quick snacks, shots of expresso or a Red Bull, and taking off a standard helmet is a pain. With the Nolans we were also able to put the helmets on and take them off (chin-bar up) while wearing our glasses. Overall the helmets were great and we were glad that we made the purchase.

We’d rate the Nolans on a 0 to 10 basis: Comfort – 9; Wind noise – 7; Versatility – 10; Communication – 10.

We used our two Canon Powershot Elph digital cameras with 8 gig SD cards. We just didn’t have room for the EOS 30D with lenses and flash. Plus the Elphs are much easier to use while on the fly. We never had to download with the 8 gig cards which had enough room for all the shots we took the entire week. We do carry two spare batteries which were needed on the full day rides.

 


Sailfish in the Keys
Just one of the six sailfish we landed. This one was in the 85 pound rage too.
Sailfish fight
Ron fighting one of the sailfish.
Nancy's dolphin
Nancy's dolphin, dinner for two nights.
Bruell Express
The Pips 36' Bruel Express
Capt Bobby Manske
Captain Bobby Manske, excellent sailfish guide.
Cleaning fish
Flying the sailfish flags as we entered the harbor.

FISHING

We had planned to do a lot of fishing and snorkling using the rental boat that came with the room. The cold, windy weather, unusual for the Keys this time of year, dashed our plans.

A couple words of advice if you come to the Keys with fishing in mind; the fishing laws have been made so technical that you just about need a computer to know what is legal and what is not. There are lengths, seasons, limits for each fish and some species have four or five varieties each with different requirements. Even having decades of experience fishing in Florida before the new laws I feel uncomfortable trying to understand these laws. Then there are also restricted areas where no fishing is allowed at all. Out of state residents must also purchase a salt water fishing license.

The rental boat did have a great chart depicting each fish and a ruler for measuring. We recommend that if you want to fish on your own: 1) study the laws before you go, 2) take along a copy of the laws, 3) bring all of your own fishing equipment (rentals are available, but you still have to provide your own tackle including leader, plugs, hooks), 4) spend some time talking to some of the locals about the regulations.

We opted for the easy way out, a charter for a full day. Charters do not require a fishing license and they know all of the rules and regs.

We chartered the Pips 36 foot Bruel Express with Captain Bobby Manske and First Mate Mike. The all-day charters are not cheap at $950 (Pips discount to $875), but our day on the water was well worth it. On the way out of the marina we stopped and loaded-up with live pin fish from a fish trap in the Gulf. Motoring out into the Atlantic we spent about an hour fishing for and netting live ballyhoo, a needle nosed baitfish that sailfish relish. After catching several dozen we were off chasing the sea birds that lead guides to the sailfish.

Within minutes we were tossing out the first liveNancy with sailfish on line ballyhoo on top of a large dark shape passing along side of the boat. The fish struck and Nancy had here first big fish on the end of the line. The struggle entailed several deep runs and at least six beautiful tail walking jumps. Fifteen minutes later the 65 pound sail was boated for a quick photo and then returned to the water to live for another fight.

Ten minutes later we had another on the line and it was my turn. A little while later we had two sails on at the same time. Nancy and I would have to swap places several times as the fish crossed paths in the water. By one-o’clock we had landed six sails and lost three others. Three of the sails were big boys in the 85-90 pound range. All were returned to the depths alive.

We asked Captain Bob to get us one fish to have for dinner. Sure enough he found Nancy a lively dolphin to fight. It too did some aerials delighting Nancy to no end. It was the perfect size for us to have two dinners.

By mid afternoon we were heading back to the docks with sailfish flags flying. Bobby had a new sail flag which is flown upside down to signify releases, but only had two red flags. We were supposed to fly six, one for each fish landed. Nancy had the biggest smile of her face all day and that alone made the trip worth the money. Bobby and Mike got nice tips and we had satisfied Nancy’s request to catch a big fish. It was one great day of fishing.

We filleted the dolphin and cut it into fingers for frying. It was just a little more fishy tasting than the grouper and snapper, but is was delicious.

You always attract a crowd when you clean your fish in the Keys. Not only large groups of various seabirds, but cats, dogs, and even people.

THE BIKE AND FISHING
WHERE TO STAY AND WHERE TO EAT

ROADS, PLACES OF INTEREST

THE BIKE AND FISHING
WHERE TO STAY AND WHERE TO EAT
ROADS, PLACES OF INTEREST


Tailofthedragon.com website for Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, Cherohala Skyway, and other area roads
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