Sebring, Florida Shamrock Tour®

Sebring, Florida Shamrock Tour®

So you’ve done the Daytona Beach Bike Week, you’ve ridden SR A1A, you’ve visited Key West, you’ve traveled through the Everglades, and—with the last kid on their way to college—you’ve made your final pilgrimage to Mouse Land (at least until the grandkids come along). At this point, you’ve probably written off Florida as a motorcycle tour destination. In the Sunshine State, it seems, it is the destination and not the journey. It’s a place that you ride, in spite of the roads and not because of them.

But sometimes, we need to re-evaluate our thinking with a bird’s eye view or, in this case, a Google Earth view. Open up the latest satellite pics and zoom out to a “space shuttle just about to punch a hole in the ozone layer” level. You’ll notice something interesting. Nestled inside the spiderweb of interstates and the paisley patterns of subdivisions that dominate so much of Florida’s landscape, there’s a big green hole. Bisected by a lone major north-south and east-west road, it’s as if old José Gaspar himself had marked the spot.

The Circle B Bar Reserve, near Winter Haven, is a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of Florida’s

The term “Old Florida” has taken on a bit of marketing hype as of late, but it is a reminder that things existed in the Alligator State B.D. (Before Disney). Pre-1970s Florida had its own Wild West history of untamed wilderness, pioneers, and cattle drives, followed by an agricultural revolution, land booms, and roadside tourism. Old Florida is a place that harkens back to these times in a nostalgic manner, avoiding kitsch. It is a place where the elements of Florida’s past are not animatronic, but authentic.

As our base of operations for this Old Florida Shamrock Tour®, Holly and I chose Sebring. Most famous for its international raceway, downtown Sebring is a historical district on the shores of Lake Jackson, with its streets radiating off from the circular town center where you’ll find lodging, dining, and entertainment options—all within foot access.

Motorcycle & Gear

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure

Helmet: HJC FS-15, HJC IS-Max II
Jacket: Joe Rocket Phoenix, Tourmaster Ridgecrest
Pants:  Joe Rocket Ballistic, Tourmaster Ridgecrest
Gloves: Icon Sub, Tourmaster Switchback
Boots: Altama Aboottabad Trail, Cortech Apex RR
Luggage: Kawasaki 21L side cases, Givi Trekker Dolomiti 46L top case
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mk II

For a “modern old school” ride, what would be a better steed than a Kawasaki KLR650? Like a senior citizen trying to enjoy their retirement, the KLR has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century (Fuel injection? ABS? Get off my lawn!). Age can’t take the edge off a KLR. Riding one creates tension, like having grandpa at the Thanksgiving table with your hipster friends. The reluctant thump of a big single. The nervous prance of skinny tires on pavement. Like a southern Florida ‘gator, the KLR has survived and thrived by giving evolution the middle finger and refusing to separate rider and machine across a digital divide. Since our number one criterion for this tour was to avoid interstates, the KLR would be perfect, even when riding two-up.

Planning a Shamrock Tour based in south-central Florida is simple—pull out a compass and head to all four cardinal directions. First, we ventured west.

The American white ibis is just one of the hundreds of bird species that you can spot along the coasts of Florida.

West: Gulf Coast

The term “cracker” is not a pejorative in this part of the country. It denotes a breed of cattle, a type of horse, and the culture of the people of south-central Florida who developed them both. The early settlers in this area were cattlemen, and the east-west path on which they would drive their cattle from central Florida to coastal ports became known as the Cracker Trail. We planned to head both east and west, exploring Florida’s agricultural heartland as we followed the trail to each coast.

For our first loop, we head west on SR 66. Like most of the roads that we would spend our tour on, SR 66 is mainly a two-lane blacktop. As soon as you break the boundary of Sebring’s suburbs, it’s cattle country, with arched ranch entrances lining the roads. Cattle fill the savanna fields and egrets perch on their backs as they graze in broom sage that can cover them to their withers. The animals come so close to the edge of the road that you can sometimes smell their earthy sweet odor inside your helmet as you pass by.