So the journey has begun…
Paul and I set out for our first loaded day expecting to do about 50 miles. We made our first stop about 30 miles from the campground at Bahia Honda state park. It was a very relaxing, beautiful park with some historic old bridge that we joked about riding on on the way into the park as it ran along the road we took in Not sure what we'd do about the 30 foot gap in the middle. As we came to a stop upon arrival, Paul had his first fall. He cut up his leg on his gears and was bleeding a bit. He was fine, but did ruin a pair of socks. After that we met a fellow tourer who was quick to give us amateurs pointers, and also offered us a free place to stay for the night at the park, but we of course kindly declined.
After taking a dip in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico in our biker shorts, we headed east towards the middle of the keys. Having taken the same road over at night on a first night getting into Key West, we were unable to appreciate the beauty of the keys. This was not the case during the middle of the day in the blazing Florida sun on bike Shortly after Bahia Honda, we crossed the 7-mile bridge, (which got its name from its coming second to Detroit in the setting for Eminem's movie) which was quite a site. After the bridge and about another 20 miles we arrived at Long Key State park where we would stay that night. The campsite was right on the water, and was very nice. We met a group of bike tourers there, whose names we would curse in the ensuing days, but were generally helpful. Day 1 was over, and we had traveled over 60 miles, and had beaten our goal. Life was good.
After rising, Paul and I headed to another state park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef state park. This was about 35 miles from where we were, and was done in one straight shot, less a quick gas station stop. John Pennekamp was nice as well, and we decided to do a snorkeling tour there We saw a barracuda, and some string rays, but no sharks… damn… sorta. We also met some nice european ladies there (they are all over since they're rich as hell now) that Paul apparently thought were attractive, I of course had no opinion. Much to his chagrin, they weren't on our boat and we thought we'd never see them again.
We left John Pennekamp with the intention of doing two 15 mile runs that would keep us alive in the intense record-setting Florida heat. We followed the path that two separate tourers suggested that would circumvent the dangerous construction going on on route 1. The path would cost us ten extra miles but would be a safer ride The folks that advised us to take this path failed to mention that there would be no shade (95+ degrees, and more on pavement) for about 30 miles. This is the beginning of our cursing the kind touring group.
We were able to stop at a toll booth and get some refreshing cold water from one of the guys working at it. This was a life saver as we were both pretty much out and had to travel another 15 scorching miles. To this piont, Paul and I are pretty sure that location provides the only cold water in Florida.
We eventually made it to the mainland after this less than desirable experience. We wanted pasta (we had already agreed on it), and a cheap place to stay with the internet. The first place we stopped in town was a motel for $45 a night with free wireless which was next store to an Italian restaurant that just so happened to have an all-you-can-eat special on Tuesday nights for $6.25!!!!!! We were in heaven Things just seem to work out. I was able to fix the tracking on the site (which still needs some work), and fall asleep way before doing stuff I wanted to do, but that was just fine.
Day 3 began with us traveling north for 20 miles to meet up with route 41 which we would head west on. We stopped at a gas station where we fueled up (ha) and met a handful of people who were interested in what we were doing. We find this to be the case everywhere There were also a couple of “needy” girls asking for monetary handouts so they could fill up their car. After collecting about $20 from generous strangers, the girls took off without filling their tank. Some people!
Anyway, remember the touring group whose names we would curse? They insisted upon how lucky we were to be riding now with a nice tailwind from southeast to northwest, it would really help us out for the next week! Man were they wrong We were riding straight into it. I am no Hilton Cadderly (sp? and is he still around), but we must have been riding into 15-20 mph consistent winds. We were not able to keep nearly the pace we had been getting used to, and had to work harder for it.
About 15 miles into the trip, I wanted to take my camera out while riding (not a good idea) to take a picture of a sign for a town with population 0008, while I was drafting Paul (you can see where this is going). Turns out if you put your front wheel into the side of someone elses panniers and then turn you will indeed fly off the bike. The camera and everything was intact, and I ended up with a few cuts and bruises, no biggy, I'm a bike rider.
Shortly after that we stopped at some random place with boat tours and alligator wrestling. We weren't that interested but decided to stop anyway for maybe a drink. As we inquired about some stuff and looked around we noticed two familiar looking faces… the Europeans from the day before! Paul and I had joked earlier that's a lovely accent you have… New Jersey… and wouldn't you know it they were from Austria! They were doing an American tour and for some reason decided the everglades would be a good place to go They were heading west like us, but stayed for the fan boat tour and we left on our bikes.
We made it another 15 miles or so to ANOTHER state park, where we took a a tram tour around the park, through a piece of the everglades. We saw tons of alligators, and one was 14 feet long. It was a good place to spend the hot part of the day I got bit from a horse fly, that immediately drew blood. The bugs are no joke down here. After about 10 different renditions of the horsefly being more of a horse than a fly joke, Paul was growing tired, and we left.
We decided to head to a campground that was another 18 miles away and would be no small task after being drained from the headwind that was still strong. We were assured by 3 people this would be the place to stay since there wasn't much after it for a while. I can easily confirm the second part, but it turns out the campground was closed as well We were very hungry, and were running out of options. We tried the visitor center, nothing…. we stopped at a truck stop… nothing…. we rode another 12 miles and saw a cop with ap ickup truck yes, he'll come to our rescue. Nope, keep on riding fellas sorry, be safe on this road with no lights! We got into “town” which consisted of one building and hopped a fence to get to a vending machine. It didn't take anything but singles of which we had one. Are you effing kidding me? We were getting desparate. After traveling about 25 extra miles than we intended we eventually made it to a closed gas station with two people still there. We expressed our situation through the art of body language, through the glass and the attendant opened the door. He was the first nice person we had met that evening and was very understanding and helpful. We bought $25 worth of crap: two snickers, 3 gatorades, oreos, teddy grahams, chipwich, smartfood, and pop tarts. Again heaven, and it made us appreciate the comfort of having three meals a day, among many other things, that we all take for granted in this country. The attendant instructed us to head south 3 miles to Everglade city, oddly enough where the Austrians were staying that night, and there would be lodging there. We got a very nice place, with wireless access that I am writing this on right now. It is now the morning, and we will be heading north sometime soon to continue the journey. I will keep you posted.
still haven't though of a cool signoff, any suggestions?