Again I’d worked for tire vendors at the Daytona rally. That was over now. The mid March date still held winter over most of the country and I had no intention of moving into the fringed north until warmer spring months. There was money to last and plenty of free time. I might take a while to move around southern Florida and explore different places and events, but for now was content to hang in Daytona a while. And I had a new home...
As is the same for most coastal Florida towns, Daytona and its adjoining cities are laid in one long thin strip along the coastline. The next town north is Ormond Beach and this area was familiar because I’d worked vendors in the parking lot of Rossmeyer's Harley shop on other occasions. Heading east from Rossmeyer's on hwy 100 the land quickly becomes wooded. One large uninhabited area offers a series of trails, an old barn blown apart probably by hurricane, small lake, and one dirt road ending at a solitary cell tower. I’d made camp in those private woods many times. One morning, while exploring the area on foot, I'd come across a very nice, and obviously very abandoned, 35 foot travel trailer sitting behind the barn. Its door stood wide open. The large field before it sat surrounded by tall trees and, although one could hear nearby traffic, no other sign of civilization could be seen or heard. After cleaning the place up, I moved in. It was a good home. The sun soaked days then became filled with leisure, beaches, short rides, visiting friends, and attending local events.
A couple I know had opened their home to a young girl who'd recently moved from California. While visiting these folks, the girl and I hit if off and, strangely enough, she became interested in my funky camp and asked to see it. The place suited Robby fine and almost immediately she started began staying over. Robby was 20 years my junior. For many, my offbeat freedom loving lifestyle with its lack of electricity, running water, and other luxuries, proves a real problem. But not so with Robby. In fact, these inconveniences seemed almost more natural for her than I. As she talked, the reason for this came shining into the light. I learned that: for eight solid years Robby had lived the consistently mobile life of a freight train hobo. As she spoke, her eyes would brighten then glaze with dreamy romance as she told story after story of those wonderful, hard, and sometimes tragic, years upon the rails. I'd just sit transfixed in the listening, Although I’d met men-of-the-rails before, never had one been so knowledgeable of that life, its people, and the ways and movements of trains. But I doubted she'd ever return to that world. It had simply been too hard.
The sunny days passed with leisure, laughter, motorcycling, and sex.
Again the sky was clear as we walked my property and discovered that, aside from my trailer, an abandoned boat was tied to an abandoned dock that floated in the abandoned lake. Noting the shabby condition of both boat and dock it seemed amazing that either still floated. Like degenerate children, we climbed aboard and spent the better part of an hour playing on these things.
One day, as I watched Robby walk into the woods with her toilet paper, a thought occurred, She seems so well adapted to this life. It might be fun to travel with her. So I said, “How about we load my bike and take a trip across Florida for a couple weeks or whatever?
“I'd love that! But you know I don't have much money.” Robby was unemployed.
“Won't cost more than staying home. I’ll buy the gas. I mean, it's what I’d be doing anyway.”
Florida's a long thinish state with ocean on three sides. Although both east and west coastlines are mostly lined with grand cities and super freeways, the state's central strip moves through tropical forest and small towns. With the bike packed for two, I grabbed a small road leading inland for a while before abandoning it in favor of a southern route. My job would be to pick roads, routes, and camp spots. Robby's was to look pretty, keep company, and mostly enjoy herself. After all, she'd never seen this part of the country before`.
A bike loaded for travel constantly attracts curiosity seekers and, when stopped, many approached to ask questions and spark conversation. When a drifter's day is busy with responsibilities this can be a nuisance, but there were few responsibilities here and these conversations only added color to the ride.
That night was spent at camp along a heavily forested dirt road. By the second evening however, I got a hotel—or possibly it had once been a resort.
Although entrance to the parking lot was blocked by a steel gate, there was room for a motorcycle to pass. The beat up parking lot soon disappeared around a corner to finish its horseshoe run at the back lot of this astonishingly huge place. We'd only stopped to explore the structure; for it was kind of amazing. These abandoned places are always a mystery and it's fun to contemplate what happened. My guess was a hurricane took this hotel out. I parked the bike and we set out on foot. In places upstairs the roof no longer functioned and Florida rains had destroyed those rooms in a most interesting way. Beds lay in disarray with plants growing from them. Wooden nightstands were literally disintegrating into the floor. Trees grew over balconies and crowded walkways. Robby's inner child decided to frolic and the exploration of this dead Goliath became a fun game.
In a downstairs section of one building (two buildings in all) we found rooms unaffected by whatever had happened. They still offered beds, nightstands, and furniture under a dry roof. Being late afternoon anyway, we decided to take a room. Figuring management probably wouldn't mind, I pulled the bike through a hall and parked on the walkway outside our window. We settled in for the night.
By morning, the next door gas station provided hot coffee. But eventually the bike was repacked and it's wheels left the lot.
The southward journey resumed.
Because Robby'd never seen the Florida Keys, I took a long ride upon the bridges that bounce across those islands. From high upon the bridges, with the golf of Mexico at one side and Atlantic on the other, this is a ride unique unto itself. But it was only a day ride and by late afternoon we were again on the mainland and in the town of Homestead. I had history here and intended to visit an old friend.
Steve’s home occupies five acres of fantastically forested tropical vegetation. There's two houses and he offered us one. Although Steve (an eccentric character to be sure) and I are great pals, he didn't hit it off with Robby to well. She talked to much for his liking I think, and could be bitchy at times. Still, for all her failings, this was not one of those rides where I was sorry to have invited the chick and just wanted to stick her on a bus. No. I was really enjoying Robby's company.
Steve's place lasted a couple days before we moved on. From here there was no direction but north.
Miami, like Daytona, is stretched along Florida’s eastern coastline and on weekends many of the concrete bound bikers take day rides east into the nearby countryside. They come by the hundreds to cafe-27 for the parking lot scene, bands, and outdoor tiki bar that offers shade, friendship, entertainment, and reprieve from the city's madness. Cafe-27 sits just 40 miles north of homestead so Robby and I spent an entire day.
As the small highways wound slowly north, it was my intention to spend time in the town of Leesburg. Because of past attendance at this town's yearly motorcycle rally, I was familiar with the place. In fact, with so many winters spent in Florida, I was pretty damn familiar with the entire state. Anyway, since this little adventure seemed kind of molded around a strangely uncommonly string of abandoned structures, I figured why not one more...
The beautiful little trailer park had been built very near a large lake. A mote was constructed to allow park residents with boats to motor in from the lake then park in one of the park's dock-slips. On the shore a small dock-house had been constructed with a sturdy wooden walkway in front and its roof extending past that to cover the boat docks as well. As we passed the big trailers that sat as only silent reminder of a time now forgotten, I noted the place had decayed some since my last visit. But this area was still beautiful and its docks, dock-house, and wooden boardwalk were still intact. As before, I parked the big Harley on the wooden walkway and erected tent beside it. Robby loved this place. So we stayed a while.
The following day I said, “This water looks to murky for a bath. I know a gym in town that'll sell us showers for five bucks.”
“The water's fine Scotty. That's just silt floating on top. Below it's clear.” So, on Robby's recommendation, we walked to the concrete boat ramp and took baths. She'd been right about the water. Leave it to a freight train hobo. Robby's background, along with mine, made for a very interesting mix of like minds. While in Leesburg we met a few folks and also enjoyed many interesting sights—all of them new to Robby. When a few days had passed we moved on.
In the luxury, privacy, and beauty of that final camp Robby said to me, “You've taken the hardship out of this Scotty.” The comment struck me hard. From the very start of this 22 year journey it had been my intention, and hope, to make road life comfortable enough to work as a long term lifestyle. It seems I'd achieved that.
But Robby needed return to Daytona to attend the building of her new life in this state. For you see, she was pregnant (and very excited about it. I wasn't). And although only starting to show, the time would come soon enough. This little jaunt may have been her final hurrah before motherhood.
And so the ride into Daytona ended our journey together. From the start neither had held reservations of our romance becoming permanent. In truth, our attraction had been bonded by only the glue of fun, common interest, restlessness, and something to do. And although we'd spent more time together, eventually I turned my back to Daytona and set out for adventures unknown.