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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Highways, bridges and soccer.....a punishing night on the Burgie

I've been wanting to ride the Burgie down into St Petersburg for some time.  After all I would be able to get some glorious shots of my ride against the ocean, the yacht club and other interesting things.  This past Saturday night the local soccer team, called the Rowdies were playing, and I could not think of a better reason to ride down.

As it so happened though life through me a couple of twisties before I could even start to plan to go to the game. My camera went boom, meaning that any picture I took with it was a fuzzy mess. My wallet was either lost or stolen, and since my bank is up north it would take several days to get my bank cards straightened out.  My license reissued, etc.  I questioned if I should even bother going down but as a nearly perfect Saturday dawned I had my answer.  I would ride the sixty miles down to the game, enjoy it and spend some time exploring the city.  So I jumped on the Burgie and went.

Traffic was not this bad on Saturday.
Frankly there are lots of ways to get into St. Pete but generally speaking the easiest and quickest is to cross one of the three bridges that connect Tampa to St. Pete.  The Howard Frankland being the one I choose.  This is also a major highway (I-275) and a very long bridge which is open to the water on both sides (remember this, it's important for later).  At various times I've seen dolphins leaping from the water, sea birds hunting from fish and several species of fish break the waterline for whatever reason.  All while traveling at a nice clip of 70 miles per hour.  The ride down into St Pete was uneventful, I don't care for driving on highways but felt pretty secure and sure of myself on the way in.

Photo courtesy of Jay Anthony
Once into St Pete I drove past the famed Dali museum, the Pier with its upside down pyramid (which has since closed and is being rebuilt.  For pictures of the old pier please use this link), around the lovely yacht club with the boats flying their multicolored flags. The real fun started when you get to the game.  I'm a member of Ralph's Mob, where your expected to stand, sing, clap and generally yell yourself hoarse for the entire 90 minutes of a soccer game.   It was a pretty good game, with the Rowdies dominating it for the most part - but their is an old saying in soccer.  "Football is a lot like life sometimes despite the effort, it's disappointing in the end."  The Rowdies lost 2 - 1 in a game that they should have won.  The reasons for that loss is for another blog.  So I considered my options and decided that after the game instead of enjoying a soft drink or two at the after-game party, I would head home; after all I lived 60+ minutes away.

Courtesy of Jay Anthony (find the author as well)
St Pete's offers a lot of motorcycle/scooter parking which is nice, I found a spot 2 blocks from the stadium earlier that eveing and started home.  I pulled out and the wind off the water hit me like a ton of bricks.  It got worse as I entered the highway...hitting me from both the side and the front of bike.  My speed dropped as I turned the throttle up, but if I turned it to much I didn't feel safe from the side winds that seemed to want to drive me into the next lane over.   I moved over to the right as far as I could, feeling the bike be pushed, fishtailing a bit, the wind relentlessly pushing me over to the left.  The bridge went on and on, I leaned forward and into the wind never feeling that I would lose control but feeling I was on the edge.  Again and again I was buffeted.  It seemed to take forever to cross that three mile span.

I got off the bridge safely and I'll be honest, feeling a bit lucky but decided to cut through town to avoid the rest of the highway as the wind was still playing havoc on the bike.   What I didn't think about was the part of town I would be riding through.  I was riding through an area of town so rough that even the cockroaches were packing guns.  I never feared for my safety, I actually thought I was safer on the city streets then on the highway at the time and besides...I was on a scooter.

The last 15+ miles of ride was into a strong headwind but this I could manage.  So eventually I made it home, safe and sound and with some knowledge under my belt about how to drive in unpredictable gusts of winds.  I would have to work on that.


David Masse said...

Robert, I can't remember which bridge it was, but we drove through Tampa headed down the west coast towards Alligator Alley and eventually on to Fort Lauderdale.

I have a fear of heights (mostly irrational). The Tampa bridge was the highest bloody bridge I think I have ever driven. It felt like driving on the top of a skyscraper. And yes it did set my palms to sweating. I can't imagine what that would have felt like on a bike, even it there was no wind to contend with.

I'm glad you made it home safely with something to blog about.

Nice story.

Unknown said...


a few years ago I rode my Kymco X500Ri down to Oregon for a scooter rally which was in the Columbia Gorge. This is the windiest place for hundreds of miles and is known as the "windsurfer Capital". Anyway there continuous heavy winds mostly all the time, plus the bridges are all grated, you can see through the deck to the river below.

I still get nightmares . . . Luckily we all made it home safely

Riding the Wet Coast
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SonjaM said...

A scooterist and a soccer (make that football) fan. You are a man of my heart.

Bridges are the nemesis of every two-wheeled rider, I guess. Here in Vancouver you cannot get away without crossing at least one bridge. At times that can be quite the nightmare.