Dual Sporting It on the Bonnie
Yesterday, I set out to see if I could see the solar array down near Arcadia, Florida. This facility Is capable of generating 25 megawatts with an average output of 4.8 megawatts. It is the first commercial photovoltaic array installed in Florida and the largest in the country and is composed of 90,000 photovoltaic panels. I thought it would make for an interesting sight and a handy destination for an outing on the Bonneville.
I decided to Zen navigate part of the route and explore some roads I had never been on. I headed south from Lake Wales on Scenic Highway (State Road 17) through Frostproof, then out onto US 27. I turned right toward Highland Hammocks State Park on County Road 634. I've been to the park a bunch of times, camping and hiking the boardwalks over the creek there, and knew that the county road passes through and beyond the park, but I had never taken it out the other side to the west. I stopped and asked a a smiling and quite attractive lady ranger if there was a charge to pass through on the county road. She said, No,” but, “It's bumpy.” I told her I was out scouting roads I had never been on, so I said, "Perfect; just what I am looking for," and headed on.
Just past the park boundary the road changed to gravel and, yes, it was bumpy, but the gravel was not deep and the surface was firm. It was a nice ride in second gear under a shady, and relatively cooler, canopy of trees for a while, then I crossed a wood planked bridge and found pavement again.
I got to Parnell Road and turned south. I'd never been on this one, either. I rolled south, crossed State Road 66, where the road changed names to Crewsville Road. Crewsville ended at Fish Branch Road, another gravel road, but in good condition. I turned south and followed it for miles until it eventually veered to the west and crossed another creek on another single lane wooden bridge beyond which there was tarmac again. Finally, I came to a stop at US 17, turned left, and started looking for Bobay Road.
Bobay Road was where I thought the solar array was supposed to be, at leats a quick Internet search made it look that way. Bobay was such a little road I missed it completely and had to turn around to get to it. It, too, was gravel and soon turned into two track trail passing though open gates. I came to a hard right, and there I could just see the array to my left beyond a ditch and behind some low trees. A bit of an anti-climax, as I had to climb up on a big rock to see much at all, but it was obviously the right place with panels covering a very large area. The track turned south away from the array. I thought about continuing, thinking it might eventually turn back towards the solar farm (Someone has to go out there to work, right? I mean, it can't be that automated.) but the track showed no signs of turning back so I U-turned and headed back. I didn't discover until; later that evening that the entrance was just north of Bobay on Northeast Karson Road, where I would have probably had a much better view, but that would have to wait for next time.
Back at US 17 I headed south toward Arcadia. Passing through the little central Florida town, I cruised beside a fellow rider on a KZ900 in beautiful shape. We chatted a bit at a stop light, then I turned off to the left on State Road 70, east toward Lake Placid, where my parents had told me there was a bike event os some sort going on. My new friend on the KZ continued south. Arriving at US 27, I headed north, but passing Lake Placid I didn't see any sign of an event, so I rolled north past the “Caladium Capital of the World.”
Just after Lake Placid, I saw the sign whiz past for County Road 17, so I U-turned again and took it north. My map showed it eventually would take me through Sebring, which is a nice back road route to take home, although I had not been on this section of it before. “Perfect,” I thought.. I came to US 98 and turned right. Something didn't feel right, so I checked the map; “Nope that would take me to Okeechobee.” Another U-turn later and I was headed in the right direction and turned onto County Road 17 again, heading north. Sebring was quiet as I rolled though the downtown roundabout with no traffic about at all. Leaving town I was getting hot and stopped in at "Yogi Bar" to share the air conditioning with a bunch of older local fellows and a pretty bar maid and have something cold to drink.
Once I felt sufficiently cooled down I left Yogi Bar and headed back to US 27, as it was getting late in the day and I thought I might still catch up with rest of the family who had gone to a friends when I had left to ride. I took 27 to Alturas/Babson Park Cutoff and turned right and then north onto State Road 17, Scenic Highway at the "Lake Wales Wyie."
I soon turned off and found my way through the grove land to our friend's house where Andrea's Element was still in the drive. I pulled in after some 170 miles, chatted, had a beer, and then jumped into the inviting pool water.
Once in a while I will take a grove road or some other gravel just to get a feel for the ride on loose material, so this day gave me lots of practice. I had replaced the Bonnie's back tire with a dual sport, a Pirelli Scorpion Trail. but had left the stock Metzeler up front, as it had lots of life left in it. On the gravel the rear seemed well-planted, but the front did a bit of squirming. When that front wears out a matching dual sport will go there and I will have to try these roads again, or , better yet, others I've yet to discover.
"Ride Your Own Ride"