Friday, January 14, 2011

Royal Enfield dealership is far off the beaten path

Royal Enfield motorcycle in Frostproof, Fla.
Possessed of a fancy new phone with the ability to take and email photographs, my friend, screenwriter and wit Douglas Kalajian, decided to tease me.

He transmitted the picture above, of a new Royal Enfield motorcycle, without explanation. My only clue to its location was that I happened to know that Douglas was on a road trip through Florida at the time.

I replied to his message at once, with one word: "Frostproof."

Frostproof, Fla., is the home of one of the most unmistakable Royal Enfield dealers in the U.S., O'Hara Motorsports.

Unmistakable? Well, how many motorcycle dealers can you name that also answer the phone for a dry cleaners?

Their website, explains that the business is owned by Bob and Sandy O'Hara, who moved their car restoration business to "downtown" Frostproof in 2002.

“We have done restorations on hundreds of cars, trucks, tractors and even boats, over the years...We have restored Aston Martins, Maseratis, Rolls Royces, Fords and Chevys, Fiat 500, Isetta, Daimler, Packard, Cadillacs and more,” the website claims.

The parking area in front of O'Hara's is full of intriguing cars of the past including, when I visited, a big Packard and the Metropolitan featured in Doug's photograph.

That Metropolitan was my tip-off. I could only peer into the store windows when I was there: it was the weekend and, contrary to what you might expect, O'Hara's is open only Monday through Friday (weekends by appointment).

The view through the big plate glass windows reminded me more of an antique store than a motorcycle dealership. The past lives on here.

But what's this about dry cleaning?

"We're just a drop-off point for dry cleaning in the area. But we do a variety things. We rent U-Haul trucks. We wear many hats here," office manager Donna Murray told me over the phone

Frostproof is in the middle of the state of Florida, off the beaten track, but close by the old roads that tin-can tourists took on vacation in the 1920s and '30s. They were called "tin-can" tourists because these were the days before motels; tourists didn't just check into a Best Western — they camped with gear unloaded from Fords, and ate out of tin cans.

It's not hard to believe that some of them left their old Packards and Plymouths in Frostproof, waiting for the day someone would want to restore them.

The big new highway bypasses Frostproof. "Downtown" Frostproof is now on what's called "Scenic Highway." Population is only about 3,000.

Surrounding roads meander through orange groves across the Lake Wales ridge.

It is a fine place to ride a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

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