June 3, 2018
Sally, Dee, and I started driving south from Durham Tuesday morning, following Dee and Sally’s two-day drive from Rhode Island. Saying goodbye to Bob was a little easier than leaving my two dogs on Sunday, because I can call and text Bob and we will see him in three weeks when we ride through Durham, and enjoy a rest day at home.
We had a luxurious stop Tuesday night on Amelia Island at our friend Virginia’s gracious new home. We will be back to stay with Virginia in a little more than a week, with most of Florida behind us.
We take off in the morning from the buoy in Key West that marks the Southernmost point in the U.S. We’ve checked out the buoy already, it’s a popular tourist spot. We took a ridiculous selfie this morning by the first East Coast Greenway sign, just up the street from the bouy. Finally a couple walked by and we asked them to take our photo. “We’re going to be famous, we are riding from here to Canada,” Dee told them. The husband, posed to snap our photo, pulled the camera down and told us, “Funny, you don’t LOOK that crazy.” But we are. See you tomorrow night in Marathon after a windy 50 miles from Key West.
May 4, 2018
We were so innocent and naive Friday morning in Key West as we sipped our Cuban coffee (delicious) and walked our bikes down to the buoy marking the southernmost point of the U.S. Sally snapped a few photos and we were off — after so many months of planning this trip.
The weather was pretty at 9 am: summery and bright. Once we left the busy streets of Key West the sights were fun: teal green sea, iguanas big and small scurrying away from us, visits of upcoming keys off in the distance. We had some separated bike paths in the morning but many of the bike/pedestrian bridges are closed due to hurricane damage from last fall.
At mile 25, halfway through our day’s ride, we stopped for a little lunch and more delicious Cuban coffee at Island Coffee inSummerland Key. I asked the shopkeepers for intelligence about the infamous 7-Mile Bridge that I knew was ahead of us. They gave ample warning but you always take it with a grain of salt from non-cyclists and non-runners.
Lordy. I never want to see that bridge again! It was mile 40 to 47 on Route 1 and we were riding dead into the easterly headwind blowing 18 to 22 mph. The protected bridge for bikes and pedestrians is closed with major storm dam age so there we were riding the shoulder, a nonstop stream of cars and trucks loudly rushing by us.
Have I mentioned that in the last 20 years, really since having kids, I’ve developed a strong discomfort with high bridges and edges of all sorts?? So Dee rode ahead, helpfully blocking out some of my view, and we ride slowly for a good hour on a smallish shoulder. We averaged 6 mph — as Dee said, that’s about our running pace these days.
I kept my head down and sang to myself the old folk song, “inch by inch, row by row, I’m going to make this garden grow” — on repeat because that’s all I could remember. At mile 43 you climb a little bump up on the bridge — fun! It devastated Dee that we couldn’t even coast down the other side because the wind was too strong.
I realized by then that I was going to make it without having to walk. I offered to switch places with Dee to block some of the wind for her. But I was feeling stranger and stranger. Hot, dehydrated, exhausted from not being able to change position for fear of swerving into a truck. I began to see a chained link fence that wasn’t there above the jersey barriers, as if I could lean against it.
With maybe a be a mile to go on the bridge (it was like a mirage, we never seemed to make progress) I finally had to stop. Dee pulled up behind me and we were both shaking. Distraught, exhausted, we took some swings of water, then — Bob will hate this part — we crouched and peed against the Jersey barrier, while the trucks roared by.
About a a mile after we hit solid ground in Marathon, we pulled off to a roadside open air bar offering thatched-roof shade. We slumped ourselves onto two bar stools and ordered ice cold cokes: heaven. A couple beside us, celebrating their first anniversary, asked us a bit about what we were doing (“riding to Canada!) and then asked to take our photo. “You’re the most interesting people we have met all week,” the woman told us.
Fifteen minutes later (after free Cokes, the bartender said they were on him) we were revived enough to make it a few miles to our motel. It made me think of our iPhones, both of which are losing battery power too quickly, but also recharge quickly. I was definitely I in low-power mode but one coke took me back to about 69 percent in 15 minutes.
I havent mentioned that I got a flat tire a few miles before that scary bridge. I haven’t had a flat on my bike for maybe 20 years, but there was plenty of debris on the road shoulders. Dee kept me calm and helped me change it pretty efficiently in the shade of a gas station that was working to reopen after storm damage.
Day two offers more bridges as we make our way out of the Keys. It’s ok, I’ll keep my head down. “Inch by inch...”
Dee on the road in the morning, before the headwind and bridges got hairy.
Our lunch stop. Best iced coffee ever.
May 6, 2018
Maybe we’ve sounded a bit cranky our first few days? All I know is last night I collapsed on the carpet when we finally got to our AirBnb room and moaned for a while as Dee took a shower. Pathetic.
But today was a whole new day. We enjoyed the 13-mile Old Cutler Trail from Homestead to south of Miami, then the M path greenway (top photo) into the city. It is very cool: you ride under the elevated train in the middle of the road. The train tracks above gave us perfect shade from the morning sun, which was already hot.
The rest of our 72 miles today were a mix of Route 1 and A1A. We had hot sun, rain showers that we waited out under an awning, and much-needed cloud cover for the last few hours. We passed the bouncing beach scene in Fort Lauderdale and gawked at seaside and waterway mansions in Hillsboro before rolling into Boca Raton.
And here we are, at the beautiful home of a running friend from Greensboro. She’s gone on a work trip to Canada but left us a key, treats in the refrigerator and towels for her pool. The bar has now been set quite high for all hosts still to come!
Before I doze off, some of the things I’m grateful for:
Our bikes taking in the sunrise in Boca Raton.
May 7, 2018
We had a fun day of riding despite the unrelenting heat. After breakfast and one more goodbye to Sally before we see her in R.I., we headed north past ultra lavish homes along A1A, appreciating mostly that their sculpted hedges and such gave us some sweet morning shade.
We rode across lots of bridges today, back and forth across the Intracoastal Waterway...but they were flat! Drawbridges! I love drawbridges! And the sea. We got great views of it every so often between the mansions and over the hedges. It was an exquisite blue with a little green and it was sparkling. The light breeze coming off the water was as refreshing as a cool drink.
The riding went easily today, with nice stretches of greenway interspersed with bike lanes. And because we stopped to take photos, here’s a small gallery from the day.
Dee enjoying the Greenway outside of Titusville, FL
May 9, 2018
What a difference a day makes! At this time last night I was truly worried. We had biked into strong winds the last 20 miles of an 84-mile day. It was hot and the winds were defeating, then Dee reported the same northerly winds were forecast for the next two days. The sun has been relentless and my skin is fried. I climbed into bed with chills, mentally and physically spent, and worried that maybe this trip was just too much. (Dee, characteristically, was doing fine, you should know. I’ve known this woman for 32 years and she’s a bit super human.)
This morning we left our little roadside motel without even the comfort of a cup of coffee before hitting the road. Our aim was to ride as much as we could in the relative cool of the morning when the wind would be as gentle as possible. We climbed over a bridge back over to the mainland, turned right and headed north. It was a beautiful morning.
Good morning from Melbourne, looking back at the bridge we just crossed.
The first 20 miles were delightful. We rode along the West Bank of the Indian River enjoying the views and along a bike lane of Route 1 enjoying bits of shade from trees along the road. At 20 miles, just before entering Cocoa, we spotted the Tilted Cup and enjoyed a delicious breakfast right on our route. Well fueled, we headed for Titusville, the temperature continuing to rise. Next stop was the Village Inn, at mile 38, where it was free pie day! Dee loves bargains as much as my husband does. It was a perfect treat: sharing a slice of strawberry rhubarb with vanilla ice cream, ice coffee, and ice water for our water bottles.
Titusville is embracing trails these days, after years of being known for its Kennedy Space Center. We enjoyed the longest stretch of greenway yet, a beautiful wide path that took us maybe 20 miles north.
Gary Norman, a local greenway enthusiast, gave us some local knowledge, including that we’d find a little tent up the way in Mayville selling drinks and snacks to cyclists. We found it and loved it — ice-cold Gatorade and water on the honor system.
Please note how I am wearing as much clothes as I can stand in the heat to keep the sun off my arms and quads. Dee has gone the opposite way, opting for as little clothing as possible: a sun dress with an open back. Today I told her that when she gets home to Rhode Island and it’s a nice hot day, I want her to go for a run in a long sleeved shirt and capris and feel a little of my pain.
Economic development along the East Coast Greenway comes in all forms.
All in all, our 76-mile day was a good one. I am climbing into bed at the Best Western with less heat rash, slightly sore quads, and a renewed sense that this crazy journey is possible. With 450 miles behind us, we have met coastal Florida up close and personally (two more days of riding here before we cross into Georgia) and we’re excited to be heading for St. Augustine tomorrow. Cheerio!
The Sweetheart Trail in downtown Daytona
May 10, 2018
The bike-tour gods were smiling on us today — or, as a woman we talked with in a riverfront park in Daytona put it, little angels were following us. Neither of us is much into angels but we appreciated the woman’s sentiment and her hopes that we stay safe.
We had a wonderful ride, Edgewater to St. Augustine. The East Coast Greenway here forms the eastern side of the developing St. John’s River to Sea Loop. It’s gorgeous, highly recommended. In the early morning we pedaled along the river out of Edgewater to a fun greenway along the riverfront in Daytona. After we crossed the Intracoastal Waterway for the 547th time or so (immersion therapy for my bridge phobia, I think it’s starting to kick in) and cooled off with a mid-morning snack stop at Starbucks, we had a gorgeous road along the river from Ormond north, complete with precious shade from trees and hedges. Then we crossed over to the ocean side and enjoyed the views of beautiful beach while riding on a nice greenway path on the other side of the road. At Flagler Beach — hopping with surfers and parasailing and beach goers— we stopped for cold drinks and to honor our two Kona Roves for hitting 500 miles on this trip.
In Palm Shores, at what looks like the tip of a skinny spit of land we’d been riding most of the afternoon, we stopped in at Trailhead Bikes, a shop that sits right on the Greenway, and then rode through a magical stretch of winding greenway with jungly, tropical vegetation on both sides — delightful.
The last 20 or so miles took us past Fort Matanzas, the site of a bloody massacre between the Spanish and French, and on into St. Augustine, a charming city with its own fort, Castillo de San Marcos, and plenty of Spanish-influence architecture. We are staying at an AirBnb in a beautiful neighborhood of older homes, some shambly and some quite handsome, just up from the fort. We got to take a nice evening walk into town for dinner and back through the fort.
I don’t know the formula that made today so nice. No headwinds makes a big difference, certainly —at worst we had easterly winds and sometimes even a tailwind. The scenery was varied, the roads and greenways often quiet. Partly I may just be settling into the cycling on our seventh straight day of riding. Or maybe it was angels. In any case, this is the kind of day I pictured when I dreamed about this trip: sailing along on two wheels all day, sharing interesting stories and conversation with Dee, taking in beautiful shorelines, smelling boxwood blooms and cut grass and sea air. I had no cares or concerns beyond keeping myself hydrated and fed (and relatively cool by squirting water on my long sleeve shirt) and checking the map on my phone every so often to keep us on course.
Every day won’t be like this, we know that. Rain, hills, highways and more are ahead of us. Which is all the more reason to savor the good days.
Front steps of our AirBnb in St. Augustine — thanks Pam!
Post dinner, walking at The Castillo.