The Ten Best Paved Motorcycle Roads in America
Part Seven of an Eleven Part Series
By Mark ‘Buck’ King
Over the last fifteen years I have had the privilege and blessing to have ridden almost all of the top motorcycle roads in the country. Practically every bike magazine and web site has at one time or another published their own list of the top roads. All the lists are a little different. Some list many of the same roads, but in a different order. Some add a different road and leave another out. I really don’t think anyone can rank these roads for anyone but themselves. Your opinion might be quite different from mine, but you won’t know that until you ride these roads for yourself. So I encourage you to quit reading articles like this and get out there and ride them for yourself!
So why eleven parts to the series on the top ten roads? That’s because there are many GREAT roads that didn’t make my top ten that just might be on YOUR top ten lists.
Part Seven – Overseas Highway #7
My seventh ranked road is the Overseas Highway or if you aren’t familiar with that name it is the highway that connects Miami to Key West. This portion of US1 connects most of the Florida Keys to Key West, the city that is most known as Earnest Hemmingway’s favorite place.
The road itself is certainly not twisty by any means, but with 42 bridges crossing the sea waters between the islands of the Keys it is most noted for the stunning ocean views along its course. The length of the highway from Homestead all the way to Mile 0 in Key West is about 127 miles. But speed limits are low and by the time you stop a few times along the route you should allow a full day to travel it.
But long before there was an Overseas Highway the first access to the Keys was via the Overseas Railroad built on the initiative of Henry Morrison Flagler and completed in 1912 after years of hardship for the engineers and laborers who designed and built it.
The road and the views are really the same in both directions and because you wind up in Key West when it’s time to leave there is only one way out – the same way you came in.
Sunset at Mallory Park
A few highlights along the way are:
- Key Largo – The self-proclaimed dive capital of the world. If you are into diving you may want to plan a stop at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Or check out the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary where you can explore the wreck of the Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot retired Navy ship sunk as an artificial reef in 2002 and now resting 130 feet underwater near Dixie Shoal. If you are looking to spread this road over several days and need a place to stay here try the Hungry Pelican Motel.
- Islamorada - visit the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum here. Or if it’s early when you are here, have breakfast at Harriette's known for their biscuits and generous servings. Try lunch or evening meals at Snapper's Waterfront Restaurant known to be frequented by celebrities. If you need a room here go to Kona Kai, a restored 1940s bayside resort.
- Duck Key - The middle section of the Keys are often overlooked by travelers. If you stop at Lost and Found Reef you might spot big schools of goatfish or even giant sea turtles.
- Hawks Cay - A major resort with its own restaurants and an enclosure where you can get in the water to interact with the dolphins.
- Marathon – Stop at the Keys Fisheries Market and Marina for a legendary lobster Reubensandwich. Seven Mile Bridge – This bridge, south of Marathon, is the longest bridge in the chain. On the Marathon end of the bridge is a nice eatery called the 7-Mile Grill.
- Big Pine Key – Swing by the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key for pizza and a cold one if it’s hot. An overnight option here is the Sugarloaf Lodge, a 31-room resort that has its own airstrip. Around here be on the lookout for Key Deer, the smallest species of American Deer. Bucks only weigh an average of 50 – 75 pounds.
- Key West – my favorite place to stay here is the Southwinds Motel on Simonton Street. A small place with a lot of character. I have smoked more than one cigar out on the covered porch in front of the rooms. And that cigar will be better if it comes after some great seafood at the Half Shell Restaurant. Duvall is the street where all the action seems to be and everyone congregates at Mallory Square each evening to watch the sun set.
The Keys were discovered in 1513 by adventurer Ponce de Leon and fellow Spanish explorer Antonio de Herrera who were in search of the elusive Fountain of Youth. They never found the Fountain but they did find the Florida Keys.
The Keys remained remote and inaccessible until well into the 20th Century, but that only added to the intrigue and fascinating tales of pirates, buried treasures and shipwrecks that litter their history.
The islands have seen the comings and goings of the ship salvaging, cigar making, sponging and shrimping industries. It has also seen the coming and going of a star-studded list of writers, artists, and statesmen – from Hemingway and President Truman to Tennessee Williams and John James Audubon. Their residences have since been turned into museums.
Key West, also known as the Conch Republic, is home to some other peculiar creatures in addition to those eccentric humans. You literally cannot go anywhere in Key West without running into the wild chickens that are allowed to roam free all over the island.
The other interesting creatures that call Key West home are found at Earnest Hemmingway’s home. There are about 60 six-toed cats roaming the grounds of the home that Hemmingway owned from 1931 until his death in 1961. The story is that the first six-toed cat, Snowball, was given to Hemmingway by a ship captain. Six-toed cats were considered to be a significant good luck charm by mariners. As the descendants of Snowball continued to inbreed, the six-toed trait was passed down and many of the 60 cats now there exhibit this trait. Earnest Hemmingway's presence is felt all over Key West and he is permanently ingrained in the history of this small island.
Be sure and try Conch Fritters and Key Lime pie while there. The end of a perfect day in Key West is having dinner at the Half Shell, watching the sunset at Mallory Square and then going back to the Southwinds Motel and smoking a cigar out in front of your room. You’ll be saying, “Ole Buck was right about this one, too!”
The next article in the series is coming soon to the BMWMCON web site.
#1 is the best road in my opinion so this is my list to this point:
#1 Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Highway
#2 San Juan Skyway
#3 Pacific Coast Highway
#4 Going to the Sun Road
#5 Icefields Parkway
#6 Utah Highway 12
#7 Overseas Highway