Friday, June 17, 2016

Big Pine Key to Miami, Fl

March 15th to 21st, 2016

Garmin Info and Maps

Kim's favorite beer
Getting to Key West was an amazing ride. To get so far on my tricycle was a great feeling. Key West was the furthest point on my US tour but not the end. I spent 2 more nights at Kim's house. She is such a sweetie. I got laundry done and mailed out 74 postcards. The ladies at the post office were so cute. The counter lady and another lady waiting in line helped me put stamps on all the postcards. With their help, I was able to get the postcards mailed quickly. We had fun too.
Bike path markers

The next morning I got packed up and said thanks and goodbye to Kim. She was so generous to open her home. It was great having Kim to share this momentous tour achievement. And again, as so many people I've stayed with across this great country, I had never met her before. She followed my ride and offered a place to stay once I made it this far. People in the US really are very nice and more trusting than what I expected. I've met so many people in Florida I didn't have time left in the day to write my blog. This tour has been so social. Every other day I've stayed with people I hadn't met before. These are people who often have seen my posts on Facebook and felt inspired. It's been an amazing feeling.

Sweet birds
Seven Mile Bridge

After leaving Big Pine Key, I started riding back to Miami on the very same road I took to get here. The winds had, finally, died down and weren't an issue for the first time in over a week. The sun was shining and the temperature was perfect. About 15 miles into the ride Kim texted to say she was having lunch at a burrito place. I was only a mile away and pulled in for lunch. It was fun to see Kim again and the burrito was delicious. Then it was back over the Seven Mile Bridge. There were a couple of bikers who were riding toward me over the bridge on the wrong side of the road. The man was furious at having to pass me. The traffic was too loud to stop and tell him he was on the wrong side of the road and there wasn't a way they could get on the right side of the road anyway. The rest of the ride was easy and I pulled into the Long Key State park. I got a real site at the park right on the ocean. I could hardly believe my luck that a site was available. These sites are quite expensive at $33 but I had a beautiful place to stay for the night. It was a lovely site and bugs weren't even an issue.

Drying out my towel

Beautiful end to the day
Letting the tent and fly dry out in the morning

Denny and Nancy

I slept well and started out on Route 1 again. I stopped at the same places including getting Cuban coffee again. Although this time I also got a piece of flan, yummy! After my coffee and flan, I started to ride away when I heard someone yelling at me. It was one of the waitresses, I had forgotten to pay. What a dork! I went back and left them a good tip. Then it was back through a lot of small keys to the Pennekamp State park in Key Largo. Nancy, the camp host who offered to share her site, was waiting for me. This was so nice. This couple was awesome and even made me dinner.  

View from the road.

Local flavor

Returning to camp with hosts

Beautiful boats
Sharing a campsite with camp hosts
In the morning, my camp host site mates had chores to do and got going early. I packed up and rolled over to where they were working to say thanks and goodbye. Another example of the continuing generous hospitality I've experienced throughout my tour. This was a really beautiful day. Most of this tour has been in much colder temperatures then I expected and to ride in warm weather and bright sunshine was a delight. I followed the bike path and found it easier to negotiate going north than south.  I made my way to Homestead where, again, the last 20 miles are on a very busy and loud road. Paradise Farms was expecting me and I retraced my route. Again, lots of cyclists were camped in the grove of palm trees. Some of the cyclists were the same as I met the last time I was here. It was fun to see these guys again. Later in the afternoon, an older woman of 70 showed up. She was doing a tour of Florida on a Brompton. The farm manager had to go find her because she was hopelessly lost.  He escorted her on his bike back to the farm and she couldn't understand where she went wrong but was happy to end her ride for the day. She set up her tent with everyone else in the palm grove. It was as if she had never set up the tent before because she set up inches from other tents and just a half hour later, her tent was sagging badly. There was some rain over night and her tent didn't stay dry. 

Flowering mango trees at the entrance to Paradise Farm
George and Bridget and puppy

There was another fun couple, George and Bridget, who were touring on a 3 wheeled motorcycle Polaris pulling a popup tent with a bike on top. George was sagging Bridget who cycled everyday. They also had a sweet dog along. All of their gear was stored in fascinating fashion. They had rented one of the bungalows on my first night here and now they were camping too. This couple is a lot of fun.

Bridget takes Myrtle for a spin
Cyclists enjoying a nice meal with owner Gabriele in the black top
Micro greens
Entrance to Paradise Farms
One of the reasons I wanted to be here 3 days before my flight home was a college friend who lives in Miami asked if I would give a presentation to her daughters elementary school. Sure, I thought that would be fun. This friend forgot about spring break and the presentation was cancelled. So, I had a few days and decided to spend it at Paradise Farm. Cyclists can stay as long as they want if they are willing to put in a little work. There are lots of palm trees all over the property and removing large palm fronds is a continual battle. I helped Gabriele and another cyclists load up a trailer with fallen fronds. It was hot and humid but I enjoyed dragging the fronds from all over the property. The trailer had fronds stacked high in the air and then we drove to the dump. That was all the work I was asked to do. The next day was a bit rainy and the cyclists sat around drinking beer using the wifi. The older cyclist had taken a ride to the everglades and, again, gotten very lost. The ride to the everglades national park is only 5 miles away and she got very lost putting in over 50 miles for the day and she never said anything about actually finding the everglades. Her stories were very humorous and, even though she is always lost, she doesn't get discouraged. 

Lots of bike path routes around Miami

The following day I would be riding to a hotel close to the airport to prepare for my flight back to Portland. I said goodbye to Paradise Farms and Gabriele. Again, she talked enthusiastically about riding in Cuba this fall. That would be an amazing tour. I rode away from the farm with the older cyclist on her Brompton. Within a few miles she had to return to the farm to retrieve something she forgot. I said goodbye and wished her luck. A few miles further Bridget rolled up on her way to the beaches east of Miami. It was fun meeting up with people I knew from the farm. We were on a bike path and when it ended I continued north on busy roads. I stopped at an office supply store to pick up bubblewrap and tape I would use later to wrap up Myrtle for the flight home. When I got to the area around the airport I pulled into the first hotel I saw even though I knew there would be cheaper ones further on. I got checked into the airport Hilton taking the trike into my room. Once I got settled, I spent the rest of the afternoon getting Myrtle folded and protected with bubblewrap.  I attached the flags, cooler bag and helmet under the seat. Then I connected the 2 panniers and attached them together with a bungy cord to form 1 piece of luggage. I was very happy with this technique.

Last hotel room of this tour
Myrtle chainrings and derailleur wrapped
Myrtle ready for flight

My flight in the morning was very early and I was outside the hotel ready for the shuttle van at 6 am. There was only one other passenger waiting. The driver easily loaded my trike and gear into the back of the van. I gave him a good tip and he made sure I was taken care of once we got to the airport. The whole experience was so easy. I rolled Myrtle to the ticket counter and the agent didn't hesitate to accept the trike. She asked if I 'needed' the trike and I said yes and the trike went on the plane at no extra charge. American charged me $25 for my checked panniers. I took my rack bag as carry on and my handlebar bag as my purse. Even though I rarely have issues with the trike on flights, I still get nervous. There is no way to predict how the check-in procedure will go. This was a very easy check-in and I was happy to be at the airport early enough to get a cup of coffee and relax. I was also ready to get home to Portland.

Panniers weigh 29 lbs - nice!
Myrtle waiting to be weighed

Myrtle on the baggage trailer - last to be loaded on the plane

Wow, has this been a fantastic tour. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who followed along, gave me a safe place to stay, offered advice and for all the encouragement. Being a part of our cycling community is truly a privilege. My tour across this great country was simply put, a blast. I can hardly believe all the people I met and especially all the trikers and recumbent riders. Fantastic and fun! Now I will be spending the summer in Portland recovering and then figuring out where to go next. 

Until next fall, enjoy and adios!

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