A View From the Central Florida Highlands
By James Alaimo
The Suzuki SV Riders held their third annual bike rally at the Lake Louisa State Park, Clermont, Florida, and I was honored to be invited by Tom Swartz, the event organizer, his lovely wife, Lori, and Craig Freger. We were greeted by cool crisp nights, bright clear skies and dry, well-paved twisty roads.
Lake County Florida is situated only 25 miles west of Orlando, with towering 400-foot vertical elevations. Certainly not the Florida seen on “Wish you were here” postcards. Hell, back when I lived in upstate N.Y. we snow-skied at such staggering heights. For this ride I joined a mixed group of riders with a diverse mix of bikes other than Suzuki SVs; among the non-conformists were a Kawasaki ZRX1100, Moto Guzzi California, Kawasaki ZX636, BMW R1200ST, a real, authentic, raced-back-in-the-day Yamaha RD350 and my own fresh from a frame-off restoration Honda CB650 Café.
The ride was led by our trusted friend and local Russell on his trusty BMW ST1200, which has logged an incredible 119,000 miles and still looks and runs pristine. The route, while not rivaling the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Tail of the Dragon, was an incredible 180 miles filled with enough switchbacks, corkscrews and decreasing radius turns to keep us well entertained for a full day of riding, broken by a spectacular lunch at Gator Joe’s, where we witnessed a sea plane land on the placid waters of one of the hundreds of lakes surrounding the area.
And of course what self-respecting bike event would be complete without a spectacular cookout, a few cool ones, some tall tale telling (you know the older I get the better I was) and camaraderie second to none.
Pleased to report everyone survived and returned home safely only to begin plans for next year’s even more spectacular riding event. You can keep the beaches and seashells; I’ll take the Florida high country anytime.
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