Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Old roads and Royal Enfields go together

The rider of an old-fashioned motorcycle naturally seeks old-fashioned roads. So I hit the brakes when I saw the sign for "Historic Jungle Trail" running off State Road 510 near Vero Beach, Florida.

Jungle Trail is unpaved, dusty white dirt running into a forest of Australian pine trees. Beyond those pines, for much of its length, are the golf courses and mansions of Orchid, Florida, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. Gradually, though, the road comes out into the sort of scrub land that must have greeted the first motorcyclists to visit the state in the Twentieth Century.

Once known as State Road 252, Jungle Trail was built in the 1920s and '30s to bring citrus fruit from farms to packing houses. Only 7.5 miles remain on the part I drove. The road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It owes its continued existence in part to naturalists who managed to get Teddy Roosevelt to name tiny Pelican Island as the very first National Wildlife Refuge.

Unless you have a boat, Jungle Trail is the only way to see Pelican Island. The pelicans were not roosting when I visited, but I wasn't disappointed because it was the road that interested me. How much had it changed in 60 years?

For years, I commuted to work on another road that had served the citrus fields, Orange Drive in Davie, Florida. I considered the paved but narrow road along a canal a real respite from city traffic and a sort of journey into the past. My opinion changed, a bit, when an old-timer along the road noted that he and his wife used to take a trip up Orange Drive when it was time for their babies to be born: the potholes tended to encourage things to get moving.

So it's likely that the motorcyclists of the previous century found Jungle Trail harder going than I did. Here's a photo from the Florida state archives of a man resting on his motorcycle and sidecar on a dirt road in Volusia County, Florida, sometime early in that century. The road looks far more challenging than Jungle Trail is today.


  1. Fascinating read David. It made me want to be there to experience the old road myself. You've inspired me to seek out North Carolina's old, hidden roads.

  2. Thank you, Chris. North Carolina must have a million of those old roads. Let me know what you find.

  3. Anonymous3/21/2009

    Wait, how were you NOT interested in the pelicans?



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