Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sanibel to Key West, Fl

March 6th to 16th, 2016

Garmin Info with Maps

Saying goodbye to Chere

I really had a nice time with Chere and Don. They are so sweet. It was a very fun meeting since only knowing them on Facebook for so long. After a good breakfast, Chere discussed my route south. She was concerned the road after the Causeway wasn't safe enough and offered me a lift off the island. Great! She took me to a Publix Market just a bit further down the Tamiami Trail than where I turned off for Sanibel Island. The wind was blowing at about 15 mph and expected to get much stronger. After picking up some supplies, I said goodbye to Chere and pushed on down the road. There were lots of cyclists riding passed getting in their miles before the winds would get stronger. The thing about a headwind for these guys is it's only going to be for half the ride. They will turn around and get pushed home. I would have to grin and bear it all the way to my destination. 
Myrtle enjoying the Naples digs
Even though the winds were blowing, the skies were clear and the sun was warm. I turned off Hwy 41 to Alice Rd and then on to the Three Oaks Parkway which has a good bike lane. Then I rode Livingston Rd due south to Naples. Lucky for me, the wind changed and I had a nice tailwind, woohoo! Naples is another very exclusive beach community. There are lots of RV parks mostly catering to snowbirds.  I have an app on my phone called All Trails and it listed a couple of RV Parks on the eastern outskirts of town that accept tents. The first one I stopped at had a tent area but 3 guys pulled in yesterday and it was full. The RV park was very rundown and didn't feel especially safe so I happy to move on. The reception lady gave me the name of another park just a couple of miles down the road. This RV Park wasn't listed on my app but I figured I had nothing to lose by checking it out. As I approached, I could see this park catered to a whole 'nother level of camper. The cars were all very expensive and the RV's were giant coaches.  I saw the sign pointing to the camp host and then I saw a couple riding ICE trikes. Oh boy! I turned around and followed the trikers.  It didn't take long to be riding along side and, in typical triker fashion, we all stopped to chat. They had just finished their ride for the day and asked what I was doing. I explained about my trip and that I was looking for a place to set up my tent. They didn't hesitate to invite me to camp at their site. How easy was that?!? First, we went to the park office to get approval. The camp host was a very friendly guy who wasn't sure how to make this work. He was optimistic about making it work though. It took some finagling and I think they finally said I was a friend or guest to fit into the camp rules. Then we rode to Paul and Linda's site. Oh my, what a huge RV they live in. It's really a giant coach. Master bedroom with a full bathroom, big kitchen with a dishwasher and living room. It even has a washer and dryer. Paul showed me where I could set up my tent and then Linda poured a glass of red wine. So civilized. We all sat outside in the sunshine and lots of people came by to say hello. There just happened to be a pot luck dinner party that night too. So much good food and I met a ton of people. Linda and Paul introduced me like we have known each other for a long time. I couldn't believe my luck finding Linda and Paul. Trikers are the best!

Camping with trikers Paul and Linda
Paul parking the ICE trikes
Frustrating construction zone

After a good night's rest, Linda made us a healthy breakfast. I thanked them for their generous hospitality and pushed on. Today I would be riding Alligator Alley east through the Everglades. On the map, there are many campgrounds and I planned to ride until something showed up. The wind was very strong and it was slow going. At least the sun was shining and the temps were warm. After Naples, the Tamiami Hwy turns southeast and I was riding into a direct headwind. No bueƱo! This road has been recently repaved and, unlike years past, now has a shoulder. Between Naples and Miami there isn't much of anything in terms of towns or even businesses. I stocked up in Naples with this in mind. At one point the shoulder was being redone and I had to ride next to the road on a bumpy gravel mess. I was lucky the shoulder wasn't being work on today because there would have been no where to ride safely. I get very upset when road works don't take cyclists into account. I was also lucky the construction zone was only for a couple of miles. The headwind was slowing me down and then the unpaved shoulder slowed me down even more. Ugh! I also saw signs to watch for panthers, yipes.


Snakes, gators and panthers, oh my!


Eventually, after 49 miles, I made it to Monument Lake campground. I had hoped to get further. I have a Warm Shower's host to stay with tomorrow with more miles to go than I'm comfortable riding. The wind is expected to be even stronger tomorrow and I'll have a lot of miles to cover to get there. But, for tonight, I got a space in a primitive site along a lake for $7. The wind was so crazy I wasn't sure if I would be able to get my tent up. The campground has rest rooms with hot water but no showers.  To make dinner, I stacked my panniers on the picnic table around the stove to make a fort against the wind. It worked! This campground also had 'Be Bear Aware' signs and no bear boxes. I asked the camp host what I should do with my food and she gave me a cooler. Very nice!



Pannier wind fort



I slept surprisingly well considering how the wind howled all night. In the morning, it had died down and I was able to make breakfast without so much drama. The strong wind also meant no morning condensation in the tent which is always nice. Then it was back to Alligator Alley. Maybe today I would actually see alligators. This ride was very frustrating. I was on a perfectly flat, newly paved road going 6 mph. I think the wind was blowing over 25 mph all day. I stopped at a wildlife park to use the bathroom and they had a canal exhibit outside stocked with lots of gators and other animals. Some of the gators were impressively big. This wasn't the same as seeing a gator in the wild but I enjoyed seeing them anyway. 

Gator on the side of the road
The day was long! I wasn't able to get to the Warm Shower's hosts home and, instead, made my destination a Casino just beyond Alligator Alley. On my way, I actually saw some 'real' gators. They were swimming in a mangrove. Wow was that exciting. There were lots of companies along the road that take people out in airboats through the Everglades. These boats are very loud. Often I could hear them far away but couldn't see them through the vegetation.  Once out of the Everglades, I was back in civilization. The casino was only 2 blocks from the Tamiami Trail but getting there wasn't easy. The 2 lane road had widened to 4 lanes. I needed to make a left onto Hwy 997 and there was a ton of construction. I had to ride over 2 lanes to get to the left turn lane. Traffic was also really backed up so I made eye contact and then rode between the cars waving thanks to everyone. After turning left, the shoulder was a construction zone and I had to ride in the road. No one was happy about this. There was lots of traffic and then I had to turn left again into the Casino parking lot. This was very stressful but I made it. 

Good shoulder on Alligator Alley
Giant gator in a mangrove
Huge casino tuna salad
The Muccosukee Indian Casino is huge. I parked outside the main entrance and walked to the reception area to ask about the room rate and where to park my trike. At first, the reception lady said there wasn't anywhere to park the trike. Seriously, even though this place is huge? I really didn't want to find another motel because I would have to go back into that unfriendly traffic. Then another lady took over and let me put the trike in the luggage storage room. Myrtle was safe. I couldn't believe how expensive this place was. Usually casinos are cheap. This one was $170 for a room! But, if I got a players card, which is free, the room rate dropped to $120. OK, that's better but still a lot more than I'm used to spending. I go to the players card desk which also has a long line. The card comes with $30 to gamble with. I went up to my room and got settled. While taking a shower the steam set off the smoke alarm. Oh my! I had to call the front desk to get someone to come turn off the alarm. This guy insisted I was smoking. He tells me he will have to talk to management and there's a big fine for smoking. First of all, there wasn't any smoke in the room and no, I don't smoke! You'd think the guy would apologize for the inconvenience instead of accusing me.  After all that commotion, I went to a dining room for dinner. I got a tuna salad that came with half a loaf of french bread for $4. The salad was so huge I took half to go.  The room was actually very comfortable but the wifi was also extra. I could hardly believe it. $120 and no wifi. What a bunch of cheap-asses! I have internet on my phone and a mifi router for my laptop, but still... wow. Anything to keep visitor's focus on gambling, huh?

I slept well and after getting packed up decided to try my luck at the slots with the $30 house money on the player's card. It didn't take long and I had won $50. OK, that's better. My $120 room was suddenly $70. That, I can live with. I had called my Warm Showers host last night to ask if I could come a day later. No problem. He suggested I find a different route than taking Hwy 997, the most direct. He said construction made that road too dangerous. The first couple of miles were rough with busy traffic but after that my new route went through quiet neighborhoods. The winds were still strong but at my side for much of the day. At one point, Googlemaps wanted to put me on a dirt road. A patrol car passed me and I flagged it down to see if taking that road was a good idea. These two cops were great. At first, they couldn't comprehend what I was doing. They informed me I had another 20 miles to go and that's just too far on a bike. I assured them I would make it. Then they actually drew me a map and said the dirt road would be fine.
Google dirt road
It only goes about a half mile before asphalt returns. Suddenly, I was passing a lot of farms. Mostly organic. The roads were quiet except for the occasional tractor. I got a bit lost when Googlemaps tried to take me on a dirt road that wasn't much better than a mud pit. I found a good way around it and before too long I was at my Warm Shower's hosts home in Homestead. This is also an organic farm. I called the manager of Paradise Farms and he met me at the gate to walk me in. There were already many cyclists set up in a large grove of palm trees. This farm is really beautiful and peaceful. Much of the produce grown is micro greens and mushrooms delivered to high end restaurants in Miami. Gabriele is the owner, who is also a touring cyclist, and her farm is always open for cyclists to stay. The toilets are composting and solar showers are outdoor. It was cool. I think there were 6 of us cyclists. The farm also has bungalows that are rented out. We all had dinner together. 2 of the cyclists are also chefs who made a delicious dinner using the micro greens, mushrooms and food all the cyclists donated. The mushroom soup was outstanding. Gabriele joined us and she was very interested in everyone's story. She talked to me about riding in Cuba and asked if I would like to join her next fall. Yes, that would be super cool. Let's keep talking about it and see how things work out. Some of the cyclists had been here for many days doing work on the farm.  They all seemed very comfortable here. Who could blame them, the place is really lovely.

Sun rays over Paradise Farm
Cyclists camping at Paradise Farm
Outdoor shower
Composting toilet instructions
In the morning, I got packed up, thanked Gabriele and pushed on. She also invited me to stay again on my way back to Miami. Very nice!!! I followed a couple of young gals who were also riding out to the keys but they were, not surprisingly, much faster. The first 20 miles of the road out to the keys is on Hwy 1 and was really busy. It felt like all of Florida was on their way to the Florida keys. I had a front right tire flat. This was the first flat since Del Rio, Texas. There is a big grassy strip next to the road and I had lots of room. I got packed up hurriedly and left my patch kit bag behind. About a mile down the road, I started to think about that patch kit bag and couldn't remember putting it away. I stopped and walked back to find the bag right where I had left it.  The winds were even stronger than they had been over the last few days. Again I was riding on a perfectly flat, nicely paved road and I couldn't go faster than 6 mph. At least today I didn't have so far to ride. The last 9 miles to Key Largo were on an established bike path. What a relief to be away from the busy, loud road.  I had entered the Conch Republic. My destination was John Pennekamp State Park. I expected that all the state parks in the keys to be full. This is spring break season and the height of the tourist time of year. As expected, the park was full but the ranger lady was very relaxed about it. She let me stay in an open group site that is usually filled with boy scouts. The site was huge with 2 picnic tables and big circles using tree stumps as seats for 10. The area was isolated from all other sites and was very quiet. The bathroom wasn't far and I used the disabled shower to lock the door and then left my electronics there for charging.  After dinner, I went back to clean my dishes and met the camp host. Debbie was very sweet. She invited me to stay in her site on my way back to Miami if the campground is full. That was a real relief and I thanked her for her generosity.

Route 1 through the Keys
After my flat
Nice bike path
Coffee break on the ocean
The next morning was warm. I like warm. I packed up and headed back out to the bike path on Route 1. My first stop was for Cuban coffee in Tavernier which I enjoyed at a park next door with a lovely view of the ocean. The Keys are a string of islands connected by one road. The bike path merges onto the road whenever it goes over the many bridges. There's also a shoulder on the bridges with plenty of room. Sometimes the bike path would be on the right side of the road and sometimes the left. It was interesting seeing where this path would go next. Sometimes the path would go over a bridge on the wrong side of the road. The bridges usually weren't very long but it felt weird to be on the wrong side of the road. I, eventually, made it to Long Key State Park. I was in luck as there was a primitive site available. These sites are built in a mangrove in a completely different area from the RV sites. I first went to the RV section to use the shower and then rode to the primitive section. These sites are really cool. They are built on a raised boardwalk above a mangrove next to the ocean. At first, a ranger told me I couldn't ride on the boardwalk but I knew this wasn't true. The entrance rangers told me I could ride to the site. I waited for him to drive off and then rolled to my site. What a surprise to see camper Bob. This is the guy who had let me camp at his site in the Myakka River State Forest where I almost got kicked out. We had camped together a week ago and he couldn't believe how quickly I got here. Knowing how slow I am that sounded funny. He had parked his car in the lot and ridden his bike to the site. The sun was setting and biting flies, no seeums, were everywhere. They were ferocious and unrelenting. This area is completely isolated and there was no wind. I got my tent set up and walked down to the end of the raised path to see the beach. The other campers were complaining loudly about the biting flies too. We all slathered bug spray on but it didn't seem to help. When I got back to my site I discovered raccoons had found their way into my panniers and run off with a big bag of oatmeal. I could see the bag in the mangrove but couldn't reach it. Then I discovered they ran off with something more significant. I had a bladder full of Maker's Mark bourbon I was saving to toast when I got to Key West. Dinner was difficult with all the flies. In the middle of the night I heard raccoons fighting. Probably drunk raccoons fighting over my tasty bourbon.

Welcome to the Conch Republic
Primitive campsite in a mangrove
Camper Bob, again!
The flies were gone in the morning and Bob made me breakfast. Such a nice guy! Who knows, I might be camping with him again before this tour is done. I started down Route 1 finding the bike path again. I had no idea there were so many keys. This was a very fun ride on a beautiful day. The winds had died down and the riding was much more enjoyable. I left Layton Key and crossed over Conch Key, Little Conch Key, Duck Key, Grassy Key, Crawl Key, Little Crawl Key, Long Point Key, Fat Deer Key and Vaca Key before arriving at the Seven Mile Bridge.  Yes, this bridge is 7 miles long. The shoulder is wide but it does feel daunting. The road dumps onto the Bahia Honda Key before going onto Big Pine Key. Big Pine Key is famous for the little Key deer that live there. Half the island is a refuge for the deer. They are very cute. I was coming to Big Pine Key to stay with another triker I have been in contact with for many months. I would text Kim along the route to let her know of my progress. She was still at work and gave me directions to a farm that is being restored. Kim works for the county and is a master gardener. Her work takes her all over the keys. She is seeing more and more problems caused by salt water entering areas of fresh water. This is clear evidence of climate change. The farm is a labor of love that she hopes to see restored. The man who originally owned it planted over 100 types of trees. It fell into disrepair during probate and then the next owners neglected it as well. She introduced me to the new owners and people at the estate. Then escorted me to her house riding an Elf. The Elf is an enclosed electric bike with a solar panel on the roof. A friend in Portland also has one and it gets a ton of attention.  


Little Key deer
Fishermen on a bridge between Keys
Kim escorting in her ELF
No Name Pub covered in money

I got settled at Kim's house and then we drove to No Name Key to have dinner at No Name Pub. This pub encourages people to write a message on paper money and then staple it to the wall. It's estimated $70,000 is stapled to walls here. We had a nice meal. Kim had a great idea percolating. She suggested I leave my gear at her house and ride to Key West tomorrow. Key West is the end of the Florida Keys. Kim would drive in with a folding bike and ride with me to mile zero. Then we could load up my trike in the car and drive back to her house. Wow, this would not only save me finding a place to stay in busy Key West along with the expense but actually save me a whole day.  What a great idea!

Kim at her folder

The next morning, after a good night's sleep in a very nice guest room, I started out riding to Key West. This was a lovely day and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Much of the route was on bike paths. I got messed up at one point and didn't see the path continued across a bridge. Part of the bridge was under construction and a center area was coned off and closed to traffic. There wasn't any construction going on so I took the empty lane getting across the bridge. Once on Key West I rode along the ocean. There were lots of people out playing volleyball and enjoying the beach. I found Kim at a beach bar and she got on her little folder to ride with me to the southernmost point in the US and then on to mile zero. There was a long line of people waiting to get pictures at the southernmost point. Kim offered to take photos. Wow, I was really emotional arriving at these landmarks especially mile zero. What an amazing feeling to have ridden a tricycle from Portland, Oregon to the end of the Florida Keys. It was so fun to have someone to share this accomplishment with. We celebrated at the Green Parrot bar drinking a couple of Yuenglings. The live music was also really good. I left a few Travels By Trike stickers around the bar too.

Mile Zero
Southernmost Point in the US
Celebrating with Kim at the Green Parrot

Myrtle and the folder have a cozy ride back to the house


3 comments:

  1. Sylvia,

    Just looking at your 2016 journals. Maun and I are in Paris whence we are going to pedal to Mont St. Michel and beyond. Happy travels, we just told our 85 year old host in Paris about your trike as he is beginning to have balance problems and does not want to quit biking.

    Our best,

    David and Maun

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello David and Maun!! Great to hear from you and enjoy France!!

    ReplyDelete
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