Escape to Cafe 27

Aug 25, 2015

Just beyond the concrete jungle, on the border where civilization — by law — cannot encroach any further lies an outpost on the edge of the Everglades that has become a weekend ride destination for South Florida motorcyclists looking to get away from gridlock, condos and overdevelopment.

Cafe 27
The front parking area at Café 27. Photo by Bill Andrews.

Cafe 27
A happy photo. Photo by Bill Andrews.
Café 27 sprung up from a simple gas station and truck stop on U.S. 27, which physically marks the eastern boundary of the Everglades and separates it from… everything else. Across the street is Everglades Holiday Park, where tourists can take airboat rides and have alligator meet and greets. This used to be the big motorcyclist getaway from the big city, but then the state took over from private ownership, they started to advertise, and then the cars simply took over.

airboat rides
Right across the street from Café 27 is Everglades Holiday Park, where you can get an airboat ride. Photo by Bill Andrews.

The folks at Café 27 probably saw an opportunity. Slowly, over a decade or so, an area off to the south of the truck stop started growing. First just a tiki bar, then a stage, and now there’s a covered stage with multiple tiki bars spaced all about, a kitchen serving up typical bar food with a sampling of local cuisine (read: gator bites and frog legs), and big TVs everywhere.

Hayabusa
You see all kinds out here, including fast... Photo by Bill Andrews.
chopper
...and stretched. Photo by Bill Andrews.

As I ride west from the Atlantic, it’s a 20-mile ride through the suburbs, or a 33-mile loop of interstate to get there. I usually take the beeline, which is longer in time but shorter in distance, and then super-slab it back. Riding through the suburbs, traffic peels off to the left and right into little subdivisions. By the time I am about four miles from the glades, I am the only vehicle on the road.

That's the obvious draw, for anyone living in South Florida.

U.S. 27
A rider rounds the corner into Everglades Holiday Park. Photo by Bill Andrews.

“It’s out of town,” says Mike Queen from Davie, Fla., who lives about 15 miles away. Another rider overhearing the conversation adds, in a most un-Floridian British accent, “It’s hard to find a place that hasn’t been built up with golf courses or condos.”

Cafe 27
Heading out after a fun afternoon at Café 27. Photo by Bill Andrews.

Out here, you’re away from the endless construction and most of the traffic that clogs up everything along the beach.

Mike points across the street to the State Park and says, “I used to run airboats, right over there.”

Cafe 27
A diverse crowd of riders visits Café 27. Photo by Bill Andrews.

And as you look due west, you immediately notice just how remote this location is. Nothing but flat Everglades as far as you can see. Storms typically start to build out here in the summertime, and we can clearly see a one forming today, but it’s still way out west and appears to be moving southeast.

vintage bikes
Some guys look over some of the antiques that rode out while a storm brews in the distance. Photo by Bill Andrews.

pinstriping
A bike gets some pinstripes at Café 27. Photo by Bill Andrews.
A small village of vendors has popped up around the parking area, selling biker paraphernalia, pin striping services and leather goods. A band has kicked up the volume level over the rumbling bikes, covering classic rock hits from Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton and others from this era. They’re obviously playing to the older crowd, but there’s a nice sprinkling of younger folks out here, too. Sportbikes roll in, along with younger guys riding that renewed bobber style. One guy has a skateboard attached to his Sportster.

gnarly davidson
A rider has attached a skateboard to his “Gnarly Davidson.” Photo by Bill Andrews.

Animal
“Animal” says he’s here for “rock and roll and peace and fine-lookin’ women” — plus "therapy." Photo by Bill Andrews.
By the stage, I run into a guy jammin’ to the tunes. He introduces himself by saying his name is Animal and that he loves “rock 'n' roll and peace and fine-lookin’ women.”

I ask, why does he ride out to Cafe 27? He gives the answer that I believe explains why most are out here on the border between the concrete jungle and the real jungle: "For therapy."