On Sunday, more than 100 Jack Kerouac fans, Beat-nuts, lit geeks, cyclists and assorted beautiful-day aficionados gathered outside dive bar The Flamingo to take part in a cycling tour of the author/tragic figure's St. Pete haunts. Organized by Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival executive director and all-around community arts force Margaret Murray and friends, the first-ever Kerouac in Paradise Bike Tour exceeded all expectations.
Considering the number of participants, a couple of flat tires and broken bike chains, and the ire of a few impatient, asinine motorists, the three-hour, ten-mile tour flowed surprisingly smoothly from downtown St. Pete west across U.S. 19 to Kerouac's last Pinellas abode at 5169 10th Avenue North and back again. Other stops included the St. Petersburg Police Department (where Kerouac spent a drunken Thanksgiving for the crime of public urination), a stretch of Central Avenue between 21st and 23rd Streets where some of the writer's favorite bars once stood, and St. Anthony's Hospital, where Kerouac died.
The mood lightened back at The Flamingo, however, as the drinks flowed, including Kerouac's own beloved "shot and a wash" — a bolt of whiskey with a half-beer chaser — and WMNF provided tunes and a raffle. Mitzi Gordon's Bluebird Book Bus was on hand with a number of titles by the Beats, and Pitas on the Run's food truck served up killer falafel, among other wraps.
Given the overwhelming success of Sunday's ride, Murray is already considering another Kerouac in Paradise Bike Tour for some time in the fall.