Days One and Two

Yesterday morning Tom, Ken and I set out by bicycle from Key West at 7:00 AM, accompanied by James in the sag wagon. Our destination for the day’s ride was a home belonging to Tom and his wife Sera on Key Largo, about 114 miles ENE. The hope was that we would arrive in time for the mid afternoon massages that Sera had arranged for us.

We had walked to and from dinner on Friday night. Key West is an interesting, elegant and distinctly inelegant place. Fabulous restaurants are sandwiched between strip joints, tourist shops and dilapidated homes. Public art – not the sort paid for by some government program, but spontaneous, amateur art – decorates many buildings. Chickens roam the streets, dodging tourists on the sidewalks. Hotels, including the one we stayed in, are enclaves of both wanton behavior and quiet elegance. A drunk, not bad looking 51 year-old (she volunteered her age) woman from Maine saw that I was wearing a Maine logo baseball cap, demanded we chat and unmistakably tried to hit on me just before my friends and I went to dinner – a truly startling experience. OTOH, when the fire alarm went off at 3 AM, and I vacated my room to wait for the all-clear, a perfectly lovely – in both appearance and manners – couple vacated the room next to mine and we spoke politely while we waited for blessed silence.

Yesterday morning’s wind was severely adverse – in our faces, blowing at 17 mph – for the first 70 or 80 miles, so the going was very slow. Even so, we enjoyed ourselves if not with every pedal stroke, the great majority of the time – at least until exhaustion began to set in at around hour six.

We set a relaxed pace. The winds alleviated any distress we might have felt from the heat (a steady 85 degrees) and humidity if, in the absence of the wind, we had been inclined to push ourselves for speed. By hour seven our direction had turned northward and the wind more southerly so an enemy became a friend. We managed to finish at a bit faster pace than we had been riding when fresh.

Much of the ride was quite beautiful. The Keys, if you’ve never been there, are low-lying, tropical islands set out in a string, connected by dozens of bridges, some of them quite long. We got into the van to cross the longest of these bridges – seven miles in length – because I hadn’t liked the look of it on our southbound drive (thus shortening our total day one route to 107 miles by my measure). The combination of lots of traffic and a narrow breakdown lane had looked kinda scary to me. (See a picture taken from the van below). I ended up feeling good about that decision because not 5 minutes after we got back on our bikes one of my tires flatted for no reason I could see; changing a tire on the long bridge without support from James (who couldn’t have stopped safely) would have been really frightening.

We limped into Tom and Sera’s house too late for the hoped-for massages, but feeling very good about having all completed the ride in good order – particularly Tom, for whom this was the first 100 mile plus ride in 20 years. Sera greeted us with great warmth, and snapped the second picture below.

Today’s ride was completely different. Ken and I were alone on our bikes – Tom had never planned on accompanying us for more than a day – and the wind was our friend. It was also a vastly shorter ride – 59 miles to downtown Miami. When designing the first few days’ ride plans, I decided on Miami as the day two destination, knowing that day one would be very long and that day three should bring us to the home of another friend – Jacques, who was my boss 35 years ago – in Stuart, roughly 100 miles up the road from Miami. Plus, James had never seen Miami, so stopping here would give him a chance to look around a bit this afternoon and tonight.

Without the wind’s resistance, today’s ride was vastly faster than yesterday’s, at least until the final ten mile leg through busy streets. It was unbearably hot, though, 93 degrees according to my Garmin, so arriving at an air conditioned hotel came none too soon for my tastes.

Miami seems like it’s on a different planet from the Keys. It’s new and shiny, with spectacular skyscrapers and breathtaking views – a decidedly happening place. I like it here, but we won’t be here long – another early departure is planned for tomorrow morning so I can have more time to catch up with my old mentor on arrival in Stuart.

I’ll post the links to the Garmin data on these rides later. Below, there are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s ride.

The seven mile bridge
Yours Truly, Tom, Ken and James on arrival yesterday

Since we’ll again be visiting an old friend tomorrow night, I will plan to write another two day summary on Tuesday.

M.H. Johnston.

P.S. In my haste to get off a quick note about the first two rides of this adventure, I was seriously remiss in not mentioning today’s real highlight: lunch with Sandy, Ken’s delightful, Miami-based mother-in-law. I think this picture says it all:

9 comments to Days One and Two

  • Anonymous  says:

    Well done Mark. Looking forward to coming days and more updates. Ride safe. D

  • Bill  says:

    Excellent report. Hope you have time for further observations and comments along the way.

  • Bob Parisi  says:

    Ride safe!

  • Rob  says:

    Ride safe and enjoy!

  • John  says:

    Nice work Mark and team. Be safe and have fun.

  • DENNIS A PAINE  says:

    What a great start to your FLA/ME ride! Looking forward to each report.

  • Timothy Huban  says:
  • Eric Schilling  says:

    Awesome-thanks for sharing. Nice to hear about your experiences on the Keys.

  • Abby  says:

    “In my haste to get off a quick note”…but you had time to describe in detail the lady who hit on you? Priorities, Daddy.

    Otherwise, so proud of you. Stay safe and keep writing.

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