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Friday, Aug 29, 2014

St. Pete bike tour goes down Kerouac’s old roads

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— For someone who lived so unconventionally, it’s a tad ironic that Jack Kerouac died in a city that’s only recently begun to shake the moniker “God’s waiting room.”

A legendary progenitor of the Beat Generation, and many say the cultural revolution that ensued, Kerouac spent some of his final years here and died at age 47 in 1969 at St. Anthony’s Hospital near downtown.

In his final years, he was known less as a freewheeling, manic writer than a constantly inebriated, gradually deteriorating recluse.

Sunday’s Kerouac in Paradise bicycle tour aims to celebrate the “On the Road” author by taking riders along a path that winds past places he was known to haunt, including a favorite watering hole or two.

The ride was organized by Margaret Murray, who designed the literary bike tour for her master’s thesis at Savannah College of Art and Design.

“It grew out of some previous research that I’d done on Kerouac,” she said. “Cycling is such an important part of St. Pete’s culture, and there’s so much interest in St. Pete’s history right now.”

Murray, a cyclist for years, came up with the idea through conversations with Chris Page, a friend who organizes the annual St. Pete Tweed Ride.

Page mentioned she had been kicking around the idea of a tour highlighting the counterculture icon.

“And from those conversations came this germ of an idea to do a bike ride,” Murray said.

The ride starts 11 a.m. at the Flamingo Bar & Grill, 1230 Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., and ends there as well.

That’s the bar where Kerouac is said to have had his last drink — or, probably, drinks — one October night in 1969.

The several-mile tour also hits Haslam’s, the bookstore on Central Kerouac is said to have frequented between bars; a former jail site where he would spent a night or two; and the two houses in which he lived with his wife, Stella, and his mother, Gabrielle.

When the tour passes St. Anthony’s, Murray plans to play audio from a Kerouac family friend, Ronnie Lowe, talking about the author.

One of those houses, at 5169 10th Ave. N, is the subject of an ongoing preservation effort that Sunday’s proceeds will benefit.

Participants may toast the author at the Flamingo with “a shot and a wash,” a beverage combo the writer was known to imbibe a little too often.

Projected on the wall will be the work of Gregor Weichbrodt, a German student who combed through “On the Road” and plotted protagonist and Kerouac alter ego Sal Paradise’s 17,527-mile route.

kbradshaw@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7999

Twitter: @kbradshawTBO

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