August 15, Wednesday (Ft. Lauderdale to Coral Gables):
This was almost exclusively an urban ride. There were times when I had to claim a lane for myself which is becoming a repetitious statement. The ride has become dealing with traffic more than the pedaling. That is not an improvement.
We ended in Coral Gables, which is just south of Miami, because the lodging in Miami just wasn’t feasible financially. Yes, it was too expensive for me and Patty did a good job of taking that into account.
Most of the time the wind was in my face but there was a stretch where I was doing 23 mph without extreme effort. That is 3-4 mph faster than I would expect without any wind. So can I say that my speed is decreased 3-4 mph when it is a head wind? I do know that there are times when the wind lets up and my pedaling immediately gets easier and my speed increases.
Two things stand out today. One was that another road cyclist went speeding past me while I was stopped behind some cars at a red light. His weaving around cars suggested he was a local with experience in dealing with the local conditions. Then we came to an overpass with some climb to it. I enjoyed returning the favor of speeding by him. Cyclists aren’t at all competitive. I would guess I have more experience at climbing than he does, especially after Maine.
The second notable event was that I saw 2 monkeys crossing a road. I didn’t know that there are wild monkeys in Florida and especially in such an urban area. I would have stopped to take a photo but the monkeys were considerably quicker than the crushed turtle I moved a couple of days ago.
Speaking of crushed. Until a couple of days ago, I had regularly seen a number of armadillos and a couple of turtles that had been met by some kind of vehicle before they had managed to make it across the road.
Today was only 42 miles at 14.9 miles per hour. It was so slow because of all of the stops that are part of spending most of the ride negotiating city streets. I am looking forward to getting away from the traffic of Miami. I hope that happens tomorrow.
Johnny and I had dinner at a Cuban restaurant. I told him that Sandi and I hadn’t been crazy about the Cuban food when we were in Miami a few years ago because it was too dry. Unfortunately, he had the same opinion about his chicken sandwich. My steak fajitas were much better. We both also noticed the numerous attractive Cuban women at the very Cuban restaurant.
Only 3 riding days left. I cancelled the scheduled R&R day in Miami so that I could split the 99 mile ride from Key Largo to Key West into 2 days. Marathon is almost exactly half way between so that my rides will be about 50 miles each. In this heat, and with the frequent headwinds, that sounds a lot more palatable to me than 1 99 mile ride. So now 58 miles to Key Largo then 48 miles to Marathon followed by a final ride of approximately 52 miles to Key West. Yes, I am looking forward to that.
August 16, Thursday (Coral Gables to Key Largo):
This ride was interesting for the variety of conditions. It started in a very urban environment. That meant roads with fast cars and no good place to ride. Then there was a bicycle path that meandered along side the VERY busy Hwy. 1. That was a good thing because I wouldn’t have ridden on that portion of that highway.
Finally I got out of the city and first went by the airport then along side a large speedway. Then Google maps led me to a few miles of a dirt and gravel road that slowed me considerably. It is also more tiring with all of the jarring and me being less relaxed because of the ever changing road surface.
I had said a couple of days ago that country roads were all in the past. I was wrong. For a while I was as isolated on that dirt road as I have been any place on this trip. It wasn’t as green or pretty as country roads I have ridden on in any number of other states but it did have wildlife I haven’t seen any place else. That ranged from numerous types of birds, from vultures to a number of different types of water fowl, to large bright green lizards to an even bigger Iguana. (I have been told that the Iguana go from bright green as youngsters to a darker grey as they age. Based on the frequency of sightings, there are a lot more youngsters around than there are senior citizen Iguanas.) Photos would have been good but they were too fast to photograph.
After the dirt road I was ultimately returned to Hwy. 1. Before then I had switched from Google’s bike route to the “cars, no highways” route because I was being led back to some more dirt roads I didn’t want to ride on. The problem was that Highway 1 soon deteriorated from a bicyclist’s perspective, at least this cyclist’s perspective, because the volume and speed of the traffic increased at the same time the shoulder decreased and even disappeared. So I switched back to the bicycle route even though that was going to add about 7 miles to the ride. That had me turn off of Highway 1 onto a road that was going to last 17+ miles.
That was fine with me. However, the constant head wind and, even more than that, the 95 to 100 degree heat started getting to me. I hadn’t gotten any more water or stopped any place where I could cool off so at around 42 miles or so I pulled over to some of the rare shade along the ride and sat down, I drank some water that I had supplemented with an electrolyte powder and ate part of a ClifBar. Though that helped, it didn’t do a lot to lower my body temperature.
I got back on and rode for another 8 miles when I pulled over to wait for the truck for its ice and air conditioner. Bt this time I was at 50 miles and that was too far for me to have ridden in that heat without having some cold liquid and a means to cool off. (Some say that cold water isn’t good for you when you get too hot but I beg to differ; ice water is my salvation then.) When Johnny finally got to me – he had a learning curve with the app that is used to find me – I got into the cooler truck and drank 32+ ounces of iced water. Although that helped a lot, when I got out to resume my ride I decided that it had come too late. Simply put, I was wiped out and the thought of riding another 17 miles in 100 degree temperatures given the way I felt didn’t do it for me. As Sal would say, it wouldn’t be prudent. So I called it a day. As I told Johnny, this isn’t a contest.
Johnny and I were both extremely pleased when we got to our destination in Key Largo. Patty had booked us into a beach front resort. It was somewhat rustic and consisted of small cottages but it was great. It had its own private beach, pretty grounds and a good room. Actually, it was at least a bit wasted on 2 single guys; it was very much a romantic destination.
The beach and water were so inviting that we both decided to go in. We were told you could walk out a pretty good distance and the water would be well below mouth level.
I waded in and was up to my waist when I heard Johnny yell, “Rick, look out!” in a very concerned, if not panicked, voice. I turned around and within a couple of feet of me, under the water, there was a very large dark creature of some sort. I immediately retreated out of the water and then saw what I later confirmed was a Manatee that was a lot longer than I am tall and MUCH bigger around. Well, it turns out that Manatees are harmless, though often curious. That was nice to learn after the fact but I won’t deny that I had been frightened when I saw such a large unidentified creature so close to me. All just part of the adventure, right?
We ended the day with a good sea food dinner at a small local restaurant that was a bit on the pricy side. That’s what I get for ordering a special without asking about the cost..
August 17, Friday (Key Largo to Marathon)::
I started the day knowing that it is my penultimate ride. I also knew that it was only 48 miles. Both of those were good but I did wonder about what the road would be like along the causeway. That turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Though most of it was Hwy. 1, Google’s bike route did take me onto some side streets to avoid part of the highway. The only problem with that was that most required a left turn which entailed crossing a very busy highway. I dealt with that by pulling over to the side of the road, stopping and waiting for a break in the traffic before crossing to the other side. For most of the trip I have made left turns by getting to the left and then turning but there was too much fast traffic for me to do that today.
The few times that Hwy. 1 didn’t have a shoulder there was a good bike path available, though there was one stretch that was so broken up and interrupted by protruding tree roots that I had to cut my speed in half.
Today for much of the ride speed was fun. I wasn’t constantly battling a head wind and occasionally there was a bit of a tail wind. So there were stretches of 22+ mph which was fun. At 48 miles my average was 18 mph which is the fastest, or near the fastest, I have done for that much distance. I lost .3 mph from that at the very end when I had to meander around to find the final destination. But I will claim the 18 mph for today. Though it isn’t a race.
I mentioned before that originally I had scheduled a century for the last day. Given today’s conditions and how I felt, I could have done that if I had dialed it back a little. But I am glad I split it up because with the shorter ride tomorrow I hope to be more energetic for the last day’s ride. If the conditions are comparable to today, I may even push it some since I don’t have to save anything for the next day.
I am looking forward to tomorrow though I will miss not having Ale, Sandi and Patty at the end. Ale and Sandi have been there to greet me at the completion of the previous 2 rides and they will be missed. As will Patty’s enthusiasm.
But I will still enjoy the finish. Or at least I will enjoy finishing.
After the finish we will spend 2 days in Key West that I admit I scheduled when I thought Sandi was going to be here. Then we drive to Orlando from where I catch a flight home. Johnny will drive the truck and bikes hone for me which works great because I have to be home for something. Plus, I am just anxious to get back and wasn’t looking forward to the drive.
PS: we have gotten a couple of additional donations and I appreciate that. Although it doesn’t look like we will match last year’s total, every little bit helps because it all goes to a very good cause. So, if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, now is a great time to contribute.
PPS: More praise to Bag Balm. With all the sweating and having neglected to use chamois cream a couple of days ago I again developed sone very raw spots where I greet the saddle. What could have been very debilitating was cured with some generous doses of Bag Balm. As good as new. Or as new as someone my age can be.