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Old 06-05-2007, 11:13 PM   #1
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Vespa in the Everglades

I was riding home down Krome Avenue in Homestead when a metallic maroon Yamaha 1300 pulled up alongside me at a light.
"I had a Vespa, years ago," he said. "Nice color," he added checking out my Vintage Red GTS.
"I had one years ago too," I said. "Bit faster nowadays."
"And more expensive," he added. "Where do they sell them?"
"Miami Beach," I told him.
"Nice," he said pulling smoothly away and past the trundling cage in front of us. I took my time passing, watching his saddlebags disappear in the distance.
A man sure of his place in the universe I guess, because not everyone acknowledges the existence of a stepthrough moped on the street. Not everyone wants to hit the road on a 22hp 250cc that isn't an Enduro ("dual thing" as the advertisers call them nowadays), and doesn't even have a clutch.
The status of the Vespa in the public conciousness never did bother me. I spent my misguided youth enjoying cafe racers and Vespas indiscriminately, and nowadays when I travel I like to take an Eaglerider day off to rent a Harley and enjoy a different sort of ride. My best friend lends me his 1200 BMW, which reminds of the overweight Goldwing I once tried to learn to love, and sold unconsummated. For my own life at home a 70mpg, 80mph, $6,000 Vespa GTS does me just fine.
Even on gravel...


I took off around 4:30 am bound for a dirt road I had long wanted to explore, a couple of hundred miles from my home in the Florida Keys. I've heard it said that Turner River Road (839) off Tamiami Trail is a birders paradise, not that I am interested in birds. I just wanted to check out some wilderness, as one does, and even though it was late in the year to be hitting the Everglades, early June was the best I could do,this time around.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:18 PM   #2
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The sun came, luckily, and displayed the delights of Homestead to me, a funky agricultural town stuck at the bottom of the urban sprawl that is Miami. Homestead used to be an airforce base till Hurricane Andrew ended that in 1992. Nowadays it boasts a huge population of Mexican field workers, who bring in their wake a whole south-of-the-border approach to eating. Key West has lots of great eateries but to get real mexican food you have to drive north to Homestead, 3 hours away, to eat comida casera.
No time for that I have a date with myself in alligator country with a slice of frybread with my name on it.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:23 PM   #3
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Krome Avenue is also known as Highway 997 and stretches from Florida City, just below Homestead to Highway 27 to the north, and cuts through fields, farmland and future development. Its named for Henry Flagler's ill-fated railway engineeer who designed the opening stages of his Oversea Railroad to Key West in the dawn of the 20th century. He died young, in his thirties I think, felled by a yellow fever mosquito. His legacy is a road and an Immigration Detention Center. I'm thinking, given the choice, he'd have taken obscurity in exchange for a few decades more of life. But thats just me.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:25 PM   #4
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Ranchette anyone?
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:30 PM   #5
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Krome intersects Highway 41, Tamiami Trail, at the Miccosukee casino, an eyesore or a landmark depending on your point of view. The Tamiami Trail transformed south Florida when it opened in the 30's allowing Model T's to go in one single gasp from Fort Myers to Miami overland. i can't imagine what an adventure that was, and they didn't even have the internet to post their journeys on.
I've read accounts of people driving with kerosene smudge pots burning in their cars in an effort to keep the mosquitos out. South Florida was pretty much unliveable unless you were incredibly tough , or on the lam, until the advent of affordable air conditioning in the 1950's.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:35 PM   #6
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The Tamiami Trail is typical of South Florida, a place where subtlety rules. if you need cliffs and chasms, the everglades will only disappoint. This part of the world is big sky country of a different flavor, long straightaways, piled clouds and thunderheads, silent gators and loud birds. You can stand in the middle of the River of Grass , as Marjory Stoneman Douglas called the Everglades, and only hear your heartbeat. I've managed that feat on land in a few places, the midwestern prairies, and southwestern deserts. In Florida there's way too much development to find solitude. Hereabouts solitude crams itself down your throat.
Which is all well and good but the inner man needs accomodating for that.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:37 PM   #7
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Roads, canals and not much else.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:38 PM   #8
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Wait a minute commerce comes a-calling. Coopertown open for business since 1945 and determined not to succumb to the siren song of development.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:40 PM   #9
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And this is what they sell. A barge that slides over the grass and the water propelled by an airscrew and an air-cooled engine that sounds like the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a very bad mood.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:45 PM   #10
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That gambling den you passed earlier has given the Miccosukee tremendous financial independance and they have run with it. The tribe has splendid facilities, a school, a police force, villages served by lots of cars and work aplenty for all. The tribe is very private and are happy not to "put on a song and dance" as they put it, for outsiders. Their villages are not open to the public, generally, and they reside in perfect privacy behind stockades. Its my kind of living actually, except for the irritating walk over the bridge to get from my car to my house, with the chance some maladjusted driver may sideswipe my Escalade parked at the side of the highway.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:47 PM   #11
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I am quite fond of the Miccosukee restaurant located opposite the entrance to the Shark Valley visitor's center to the Everglades National Park. A valley is a relative term around here as nothing is more than a couple of feet above sea level.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:49 PM   #12
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Some people slag the diner for its food but I always like to stop by on my expeditions for a soild breakfast- all this including frybread for $6.09 plus tip. ( The paper miraculously was delivered early to my drive before my oh-dark-30 departure).
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:53 PM   #13
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Some other buggers were also breakfasting as I sped by. The pong got to me even at 70mph. I suspect some person shot the gator and it went belly up for the buzzards. They are recovering nicely from near extinction, ( the gators, not the buzzards) but are not supposed to be killed. They do get mown down on the Tamiami Trail especially during mating season, but not by Vespas. Apparently hard black tarmac is a turn-on for gators.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:55 PM   #14
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Like I said, leave them alone, please.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:58 PM   #15
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This is your obligatory "Gator in the Everglades" picture.
Mostly they are shy creatures, not surprisingly, as, like sharks, they suffer tons more from us bugging them than from them trying to eat us. If you poke one with a stick or hold out dead chicken in your hand ( people DO this!) you will get what you deserve. And the gator will get what it doesn't deserve: which is a severe talking-to about decapitating the tourist economy in Florida.
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