Most two-wheel enthusiasts have heard of the fabled road by Deal’s Gap in North Carolina. It is famous for its 318 curves on 11 miles. We have the opposite: 11 curves on 318 miles!
Searching for the Dragon’s Tail in Florida sounds like a futile dream. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to look for new roads in hopes of dragging the footpegs.
Both of us kid-less on Easter Sunday, my girlfriend and I took off on one of those expeditions. We were as ready as possible. I checked a new route on Google Earth that would take us to the enchanted Solomon’s castle – an abode built by a wacky, yet talented artist named Howard Solomon.
Just in case, I loaded my Ducati Multistrada with all the right toys: a radar detector and a GPS. I felt as if I were cheating on real adventure, but for a change it was nice to know where we were going.
We left Charlotte County, in Southwest Florida, via US 769, a.k.a. King’s Highway. The few light curves on this road would barely get anyone excited if it weren’t for the slew of slow drivers in need of being passed very quickly. These are the last days before the snowbirds leave the area. You can sense it in the air and feel it on the road. For the inexperienced: Snowbirds = Slow drivers from up North, sent to Florida over the winter to annoy the Southerners.
Ten miles of beautiful scenery later, we turned right onto 760, which led us to my favorite secret road. 661 has the best curves in the area, albeit only six of them. Sometimes we would make several passes - such is the amount of satisfaction that they generate. The area was as quiet as possible: orange groves and munching cows, with a lonely private airport.
661 ends abruptly at US 72. A short ride to US 70 doesn’t even touch fourth gear. We turned from 70 immediately north back onto 661 which once again becomes a desolate road.
As we passed dozens of stacked-up canoes ready for the Peace River adventure to the right, we noticed the minimum-security prison on the left teeming with Easter visitors. Who would have thought it was already mid-April? The orange trees were still in bloom on both sides of the road just a mile further, while most of them were not even harvested yet. The sweet smell of orange blossom lingered in the air, squeezing through the open visor.
With the Duc happily purring and the radar detector fast asleep, it was pure pleasure cutting through the 80 plus degree air. Achieving infinite speed (not that I ever speed) was marred only by a couple of near-ninety-degree curves that eased us over the railroad tracks that nobody uses. Aside from the light bump in the middle, the curves were awesome adrenaline boosts. Take that, caffeine!
One of the roads we have never tried came up on the right: NW Brownville St. It greeted us with two more 90 degree curves, quite unexpectedly after a mile of an arrow-straight road. It followed with a few light bends, eventually opening up to a heavenly beauty.
The bridge over Peace River offered a bird’s eye view above the otherwise flat-as-a-pancake land. It was Easter at its best. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were gently waving in the breeze, and the alligators were staying away from the nearby swimmers. The water was so clear that we could count the fish. What a day!
After a short break, we lifted up the anchor and quite energized continued on our quest. As if mimicking the winding upper part of Peace River (wish we had a road like that!), an awesome nameless road appeared on my GPS. It was right off Murphy road in a tiny community named Limestone. Interesting that there are many named roads in the area with no homes on them.
Someone mentioned Murphy to me before, bragging about its curves, but he must have been a wide cruiser type. The two slow bends couldn’t get us excited. However, the nameless road looked great. Until it turned out to be a dirt road! Oh well, it is called a Multistrada after all! We donned our Long Way Round attitude and gave it a try. We had a blast!
There were cows in the distance and nary another living being. Suddenly, a great eagle flew over our heads. It was bigger than the Ducati! I was hoping we didn’t enter the land of the mythological Griffin, lest we be goners.
The place was sheer beauty, despite the gut-wrenching sandy patches, so famously throwing Obi-Wan Kenobi off his Beemer. We had to give up when we reached a spot that was just too risky for even a weekend dirt biker.
Back on 661 the low-caffeine gauge was blinking red. We were only a few miles from Solomon’s castle with its Boat-in-the-Moat restaurant offering some good java.
A few more orange groves and cow pastures later on County Road 665, we pulled in to the empty parking lot. I realized that it was already past four – their closing time. Nevertheless, we gave it a try.
It is a nice walk on the yellow brick road to the castle, which is covered by tin saved from old printing machines, giving it the shiny look.
Howard Solomon created a dream in the middle of Florida nowhere. His art is made of scrap metal. Lion made of an old oil drum, Cleopatra with bicycle-chain hair, and a “plain wall,” covered with – you guessed – wood planes. The wacky sense of humor is all around. The black and white knights protecting the entrance to the castle are named day and knight.
The boat in the moat is just that, plus a restaurant. Better not fall into the moat. There are real alligators in it.
They were nice enough to make us some fresh coffee, coupled with an apple cobbler that shot my sugar level to the stratosphere. A perfect treat on a perfect day.
Leaving sluggishly, I noticed the cage in front of the castle. It housed a huge Iguana: the castle’s dragon. And sticking out of it, there it was: the dragon’s tail – all two feet of it! Not what I was looking for, but made us laugh all the way home. Yep, we do have a Dragon’s Tail in Florida!
Since we were trying new roads, on the way back we bravely headed off on Pine Level Road, which was supposedly a dirt road for only the first mile or so. I only had anecdotal evidence to confirm that. The GPS already fooled us once that day.
The dirt road was really a white pebbly-gravely mix that wanted to slide the front wheel in the most awkward of directions. Finally, as we got used to the wiggle, a truck came from the opposite direction lifting up the white dust to a point of zero visibility. Well, at least we knew there was another end to the road!
The dirt turned into concrete just a couple of miles later, with many huge farms on both sides. A couple of light turns and a few more orange groves later, we were on US 70 heading toward Arcadia.
Eight miles of smooth riding later, we turned right onto 72, just before reaching Arcadia. It was at the spot by the Canoe Outpost that we passed earlier that day.
Surprisingly, my helmet’s visor was still clear. On a day like this, I am usually a mass murderer of thousands of flying insects. Especially in early May, it is not uncommon to run into swarms of amorous love bugs that stink to no end once encountering a fast moving helmet. Luckily, only a few mosquitoes made it to the plexy.
Repeating the 661 curves a few more times filled up the adrenaline-batteries yet again. This time it was my girlfriend who suggested the repetition. She is a keeper!
Arriving home happily and in one piece is always a plus. We have covered over 120 miles, with only 4 on dirt. The Ducati gave us 39 miles to the gallon, which is not bad for under-two riding. It was a shorter than usual ride for us, but there was no pressure and the scenery was definitely worth it. And we found the dragon, too!
By Csongor Daniel, B.S., L.M.T., C.P.T.