Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 10, All the Way To Key West!

All the Way To Key West!

Monday February 9, 2015, 66 miles (106 km) - Total so far: 566 miles (911 km)

I awoke to a soft rain, but packed up dry beneath the awning of my little tiki. I was on the road by 8:30 as I stopped and tried to charge the phone.
Really was a great ride. The wind with me more than against me. Had a bagel in Big Pine Key and was able to call the hostel in Key West and book a bed. $50, but it is HIGH season.

I rode over the 7-mile bridge which wasn't so bad on a Monday. There certainly are no turn-offs or places to park. It's just an incredibly long, lowish bridge with a wide shoulder to bike on.

Made it to the southern most by 3:45, where I was actually greeted. I rode out and someone yelled, Jane! Jane! I wasn't expecting that. It was Steve, the rider I met a few days ago, and his wife. We took pics of each other and exchanged e-mails.

So, my journey is done. Will do a wrap up from home. I ate some Cuban beans and tomorrow will take the fast ferry to Ft. Myers.
end of the line

southern most point, only 90 miles to Cuba

the sun sets on a fabulous journey

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 9, Homestead - Long Key State Park

Homestead - Long Key State Park (via Card Sound Road)

Sunday February 8, 2015, 77 miles (124 km) - Total so far: 500 miles (805 km)

One of my longest riding days. My tires were again soft this a.m. and this worried me. I pumped them both up to capacity before taking off for Card Sound Road. The ACA maps have riders taking Hwy 1. Card Sound probably has less traffic, less Winnebagos blowing down your neck. I thought it was fine, desolate even. Eventually after getting to the Keys it meets 1.
I had to pump up my rear tire again and again. I knew I'd better change it out, but hated the idea of doing it by the road by myself--so I kept pumping it. A bit south of Key Largo I stopped at Adventure Travel Bicycles and a guy helped change out the inner tube. He found the tiniest metal sliver. He only charged me $5, using my own inner tube.

In Islamorada I took a short break and decided to call Long Key and they had 1 available primitive camping site. I jumped on my bike and got there by 4 p.m. along the way I had to skirt iguanas on the path. Truly pre-historic looking creatures.

Primitive only cost me $8.16 and it was like having my own tiki. It was built on stilts up on a mangrove swamp. Downside: lots of little no-see um bugs. I put the rain fly on for privacy, but I didn't need to, the shelter protected me from rain.

Only 67 miles to go to Key West.

on the way back to my camping spot among the mangroves

my own little tiki

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 8, Ft. Lauderdale - Homestead

Ft. Lauderdale - Homestead

Saturday February 7, 2015, 55 miles (89 km) - Total so far: 423 miles (681 km)

My friends say I'm hardcore--and maybe I am. I survived the racoon invasion and now falling seriously sick. I don't think my host knew and I didn't talk about it this a.m. but I threw up all night long. Yet I got up, got dressed, and was in the saddle by 8 a.m.
First though I checked my tires. Both were startling soft. My host helped me get them up to speed. Wow, good thing I checked. Long rides such as mine--I think I should check them every couple of days just to be sure.

I rode through Miami. What a happening place. People blow their horn here just as much as in New York City. I actually saw the typical: guys in muscle shirts riding beach bike with big upturned tall handlebars with BOOM boxes strapped to the front.

My favorite today among several favorites was the Venetian causeway. Most of the causeways have been big modern bridges where you have to gear down and push for about eight minutes to get up. Not a lot, but you see them looming in the distance, waiting to sap your strength. This one was several low bridges that eventually got me over to Miami proper (or improper). I stopped for a quick snack at the Vizcaya Gardens.

The rest of the day was spent riding the South Dade trail to Homestead. It was great--and an easy push with the wind at my back. It was 17 miles. Not a lot of scenery, but safe. Protected from traffic. The only thing to look out for is glass around the bus stops. Also there were some root bumps.

Now I'm in the most lovely place. Truly paradise--my Warmshowers host in Homestead runs a B & B and also runs events out of a gazebo on the farm property. When I arrived a spiritual event was underway with drumming and enthusiastic singing.

Where I pitched my tent reminded me of pictures of Angkor Wat, a temple in Cambodia. There were these ancient stone walls set up like ruins with banyon roots growing out and in between. On the way to the bathroom I passed a flowering honeysuckle.

After this--the Keys where I have no where to stay and will have to make it up as I go along.

views from and of Venetian Causeway

view of Miami

the well-marked South Dade Trail

unique camping spot among ancient-looking rocks

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 7, Jonathan Dickinson - Ft. Lauderdale

Jonathan Dickinson - Ft. Lauderdale

Friday February 6, 2015, 65 miles (105 km) - Total so far: 368 miles (592 km)

So, after a rainy, blowy night, I awoke early and tried to dry my shorts, socks, etc on the hand dryer in the ladies. Also had to plug in phone to charge because the outlet at my OVERPRICED RV site wouldn't work for some reason. I was off at 7:30 to a dribbly overcast sky. Also it was cold. I had on both pants and over shirt to start. I really wanted HOT Florida.
About 10 miles down the road I met Steve, another tourer on his way to the Keys.

We rode together the rest of the day, and the miles just flew.

Bridge going up

Finally a pic of me
Today was a day of dodging coconuts in the road rather than nails.

The other big story has to do with reservations. I decided to stop at the library before going to my Warmshower host and make reservations for the fast ferry and camping. Nothing. No state park will have me. Everything is full. And even the ferry was booked for the day I needed.

So I'm here and have decided to go on and see what can be worked out. I reserved the ferry for Tuesday and must reach Key West by then

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 6, Sebastian Inlet Marina - Jonathan Dickinson

Sebastian Inlet Marina - Jonathan Dickinson State Park: terrorized by a racoon

Thursday February 5, 2015, 65 miles (105 km) - Total so far: 303 miles (488 km)

That's right. After finishing up my blog post I returned to my tent to find the zipper had come apart. Wow. Didn't expect a zipper fail. Things were fine when I left it. I'd gotten to the campsite pretty wasted and just threw everything into the tent to relax on the screened patio and watch the sunset. About 7 miles from the inlet I'd stopped at a Subway and gotten a sandwich to go. I was looking forward to eating that sandwich back at my tent.So I found a gap in my zipper. I worked it back on track and crawled in, zipped up and--where was my Subway sandwich? I felt totally violated. All that night I heard the racoon skittering around the campsite. I was totally freaked out he would break in again.

The next day I told the ranger what happened and with a note of pride in his voice he said, I told you he was smart. Then as if talking about a native son, he added, he was raised around here.
The day was filled with several stress factors. One was the bridge out was going to close. No one knew when, so I was up and out early. Also I had to pack up in the rain. It was supposed to clear up, but turn extremely windy. So I tried to hurry.

I got in 40 miles by lunch.
Indian River Road
Egret by lunch spot
I was on track to make it to Jonathan Dickinson by 4:30. I passed under a beautiful canopy of banyan trees on St. Lucie Rd.
St. Lucie Road

Now very tired and there was a big rain cloud following me. I emptied out onto 1 from A1A and there was no shoulder or apparent bike lane, then it started pouring, and the traffic was atrocious. Rush hour. I ventured onto 1 and risked my life. Eventually there was a bike lane, then a bike trail. I was soaking wet when I reached the park entrance. The ranger said they were full.
I told him I wasn't leaving. It was totally dark with the rain and almost 6 pm. I wasn't going out on 1 with measly bike lights.

He eventually found me something. I paid $28.00 for: an RV pad with no shelter from the wind. Nothing. And I wasn't able to drive my tent spikes into the RV pad. So in the wind and rain, with my tent blowing, I dragged it to some bushy grass and put it up there. I was wet and tired. And the rain and wind tried to get in.

But I was safe from raccoons, at least.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 5, Titusville - Sebastian Inlet Marina

Titusville - Sebastian Inlet Marina

Wednesday February 4, 2015, 55 miles (89 km) - Total so far: 238 miles (383 km)

What a beautiful ride today. Yes, I was tired and ready to quit, but the weather and roads were great.
One word=Indian River, this road inspired me. I can't say why exactly. Maybe when I get home and update I'll have an epiphany. It was quiet, went along the river, and mostly I had it all to myself. I felt like I was in another world and so glad to be alive and in Florida.

In Cocoa Beach a very nice, well put-together woman on her bike stopped me. She really wanted me to come to her house for breakfast, to do my laundry. I hated to say no; I had just stopped and wanted to keep going. She said she had cycled across the country in 1977, Bikecentennial. Plus found out she was pregnant. She still finished the ride. She was a real trip.

All too quickly that ended and I was back to the real world of ugly sprawl and fast traffic. And, after that a lot of my energy went away. I made it over the causeway bridge to the inlet. On one side I see the Atlantic and on the other is Indian River. Also this afternoon I was dealing with a cross wind from the east.

I was happy to stop at Sebastian State Park where a ranger informed me I was not at their camping place. Oh. And, that it was over the tall bridge and full up. Oh. But there was primitive camping available at the Marina for a reduced price. Okay!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 4, New Smyrna Beach - Titusville

New Smyrna Beach - Titusville

Tuesday February 3, 2015, 32 miles (51 km) - Total so far: 183 miles (295 km)

Not much to report today. The route was pretty boring, much of it along US 1. Old Florida.

Roads. ACA maps, and wind. Let's first start with the wind--it matters. It is the difference between pedaling downhill and being able to coast along flat terrain. The wind, by the way today, was at my back, from the north. Simply put: wind can either sap your energy or give you an extra 20 miles. Love it, hate it, but it's there.

ACA maps=good. Concise, yet detailed. Segments are do-able and give me incentive to keep on going. The only thing I might wish for is a picnic table icon. Invariably I'll stop for a rest or snack and a mile or two later see a better place I should have stopped.

ACA maps can take you onto some busy, boring roads--like, What the heck!?--but usually there is a bike lane or shoulder. Though often this shoulder can narrow, dwindle, disappear--and, then I'm really cursing.
Roads. I've never seen so many nails in bike lanes. I began to imagine a guy in a truck dropping a nail every mile or so and then later gleefully laughing thinking about some poor, lone cyclist's tire popping.

Have good tires. There are bumps, skree, sand, glass, and palm fronds that must be navigated.
Below. views of old Florida

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 3, Matanzas - New Smyrna Beach

Matanzas - New Smyrna Beach

Monday February 2, 2015, 65 miles (105 km) - Total so far: 151 miles (243 km)

Wind and weather was the issue today. And, no, the miles did fly by.
But first, the camp site. It was so perfect. Probably around trip it added 15 miles, but worth it. Imagine sleeping soundly in the quiet of nature. There is a 2.5 mile gravel road back to the camp sites Nd can be messy. Camping cost me $10.

There was a brisk wind ALL day from the west. And, by the oceanfront there was no escaping it. This was my third day of cycling without too much training (toughening up the fanny), so I was starting to feel the miles. I had a hard time getting into it.

I stopped around 9 a.m. at Fort Matanzas to eat the other half of my foot-long sub. I think the sandwich filled my tank. One of the rangers boiled me some water so I could have tea in my thermos. As I was leaving they offered me a free ticket for the ferry. Apparently I wasn't at the fort, but at the visitor center. The park service provides a ferry ride over to the island so that visitors can tour the old fort. This is where the Spanish fended off the French.

After that it was on to the road. I seriously was tired. But, then I got a text from my Warmshower host, Deborah that it'd be great if I could get to her house by 4:30. That helped motivate me and I rode pretty much all day with very few breaks, just short spells.

At around Ormond-by-the sea a steady rain began to fall and for 10 miles I rode through rain AND wind.
Not much else to report. Saw a cool bird just hanging out outside some old apartments. The ACA map put me onto some seriously busy roads: S. Nova, 5A, then 1. I was in such a hurry to meet Deborah, I just white-knuckled and pushed.

Tomorrow, an easier day mileage wise.
Stormy ocean. I got rained on, but rode through it and eventually dried.

Views from Deborah's boat deck

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jacksonville - Matanzas State Forest camping

Jacksonville - Matanzas State Forest camping: 55 miles

Sunday February 1, 2015, 55 miles (89 km) - Total so far: 86 miles (138 km)

I got an early start after realizing the sun sets pretty fast--6-ish. I'd read at a few other blogs or somewhere the phrase:old Florida, to describe certain locations. I think I know now what that means: bungalows, working class, people who drive pickups. Then there is the greater proportion of what I saw: palatial homes, gated communities, Jaguar convertibles, Tiny women walking toy dogs. At times there was very little beach access, but then along A1A things opened up.St Augustine was a zoo. Very touristy. But I got a free wristband to climb the lighthouse and got some great pics.
After that I was officially on the ACA map--which is lovely. Not sure if it was the map, wind, or what, but it seemed like the miles flew by. I know it won't be like this ever day, but the 55 miles (knock on wood) were easy. I'm camping in Matanzas State Forest where my tent rests beneath a grove of palettes and the place is absolutely quiet and deserted.
The gravel road in


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bicycling the Sublime

I have just returned from a 550-mile bicycle trip. It was the first extensive tour I’ve ever taken—over 10 days—and I did it alone. There were many times out there, bicycling in the early morning light, sore and tired, where I asked myself: Why am I doing this?

It’s a good question, one I ask myself a lot in life. There are so many reasons to go back into my comfort-zone shell. Spend money, get someone else to do something for me, or simply go into denial. Writing is also hard work and I often ask myself why I bother. What are the rewards versus the effort? It is hard to put into words—except that it is a bit like touching the sublime.

That fleeting moment when all feels in balance and you are your truest self. It is the golden sunset before the blazing orb dips below the horizon. Here and then gone. The fire extinguished.

This feeling is not of time or physical matter. It is a mysterious state of surrender.

While riding there was so much beyond my control. Road conditions, the busy traffic, swooshing up from behind and passing so close I can smell the driver’s breath, filling me with sudden panic. There is weather: the sudden cloud bursts, the hot sun, the early morning chill, wind—lots of it, from possibly the “wrong” direction. There is also the fact that bicycle mechanics is not my strong suit. Any number of things can go wrong. The jumble of fear in my heart is exactly that: chaos. The knowing of not knowing. Of being at the mercy of everything.

And, then, while pedaling I feel this fear subside, melt into the here and now. There are no hours, minutes, even seconds, only this.

Soon enough I awaken to some new crisis or the stabbing pain of beauty or a physical sensation that wow! I am doing this, or to worrisome thoughts, or . . . .

On my last night on the road I awoke early, unzipped the tent, and there in the sky was a tapestry of stars. Momentarily the answer to my question hangs above me: This is why—

Tomorrow: St. Augustine and Matanzas State Forest.

Monday, February 16, 2015

True Love Will Go On

A little over 3 months ago I wrote True Love.

I’m sorry to write that over the weekend, Valentine’s Day weekend, time ran out . A good friend lost his struggle with cancer. He was a father, husband, musician, dreamer. And, this seems so unfair. Of course if it were fair it would be rationale, make all sorts of sense, and most likely have resolution. Instead, I am lost for words, without the mental capacity to imagine, and there is certainly many unanswered questions. Most of all: why?

On your journey Don Hill, I wish you well. I wish you synthesizers and electronic soundscapes, McDonald’s at Wilson and Sheridan, and long conversations in the lobby while waiting for the school bus, or in the dining room with Jude at your feet holding a blue train called Thomas. I wish you God’s speed, whatever that is, and good luck, whatever that may be. But, most of all, I wish you were here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

so far behind with blog, but not my ride

For now pics, trip diary will come later

I'll keep going till I get to Key West.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

From JAX to Jacksonville

Here is a pic of my bike being loaded at Midway Airport. Little did I know  a record snowstorm was coming. What did I care,  was going to Florida.

I flew out January 31, arriving at 1 p.m.. where I didn't have to wait for luggage to arrive. Right away I was able to re-assemble my bike, load the panniers ,and get prayer from two Jehovah Witnesses before taking off.

I had 31 miles to ride to make it to my host's house in south Jacksonville. I rode by quite a few industrial sites until I came upon pelicans and water. I crossed St. John's River in a ferry, making it to my host's by 6p.m., right as the light switch in the sky was going off.