Motorcycle sensation Ricky Carmichael has been called the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) over his 20-plus year career. He retired at age 27 in March 2007 and returned home to north Florida, where he welcomed twins Elise and Kadin with his wife Ursula. He now shares his love of the sport with the next generation and his love of fishing and family in his home state, Florida with fans around the world.
My first days were welcomed by the sunshine along the beautiful west coast in Clearwater, Florida, a little south of the Sunshine State's capital. I am the fourth generation of Carmichaels born in Florida. My first memories of the Sunshine State are in the hard-working town of Tarpon Springs. At first glance, it looks just like a Greek fishing village on the Gulf coast, with its sponge docks and some of the finest Greek restaurants and bakeries in America. When my father had the opportunity to work in Tallahassee, my family found a whole new kind of Florida in the northern part of the state, perfect for a teen looking for a two-wheel adrenaline rush. The dirt was different - it was rich red clay that was slick on the tires when wet but gave you just the right traction as you landed hard over a 60-foot supercross jump. I found a new home filled with Southern hospitality among the plantation lands surrounding Tallahassee. Most importantly, I found new places to ride under the canopies of centuries-old live oak trees and weaving in and out of the loblolly pines.
My thrill-seeking love for motorcycle races sometimes took my family as far away as California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, but my best memories from those trips were the drive back in our family motorhome, heading back to Florida.
Early on in my professional career I was offered, and sometimes pressured, to relocate to California which was the home base for our sport. The thought of leaving the hundred-year-old live oaks and their Spanish moss and the multitude of riding options on the hard-packed dirt of Tallahassee's Springhill area or the sandy areas in the more than 600,000 acres of the Apalachicola National Forest never appealed to me. I must have started a trend too, since now every top rider in the US is based in Florida.
On land and on the waters, adventures never end in North Florida. Rolling hills and scenic trails are great for mountain biking. Navigating among the live oaks and palmettos and the sometimes sandy trails are a great way for me to keep in shape and also keep my mind and muscle memory sharp. We have some of the best trails that twist and turn around the trees and ravines right here in Tallahassee. What we don't have in elevation we make up for in picturesque viewpoints like Lake Hall and Lake Jackson. The 16 miles of former railroad track that have been converted into the St Marks Bike Trail is a gem for Tallahassee road bikers! Just an hour away from the capital city is one of the most beautiful coastlines in America, correctly called the Emerald Coast of Florida. The sugar sand beaches and crystal clear waters make it one of my favorite places to go now that my family includes children. Relaxing on the boat with my family on a sandbar is my favorite way to retreat from the busy lifestyle of a professional athlete. In the fall, the activities continue with fishing rodeos in Destin and seafood festivals in Destin and Apalachicola and all along the northern Gulf coast shores.
When I'm not racing, I am never far from the water. Wakulla Springs is a magical place where you can spot the Florida manatees gliding through the pristine waters. Wakeboarding or tubing with my kids on any of the dozens of lakes in the area is another family favorite. Fishing for bass among the lily pads on local lakes is one of the most serene activities after high octane noises of the engines and the demanding precision and tensions of the race. The only sounds you hear on the water are frogs chirping and lines plunking under the surface as the lures sink below.
With sun, sand, crystal-clear waters, fish and the perfect racing clay for my bikes, I love looking for that next adventure in Florida. Tallahassee, where it all comes together beautifully, I love you!