Friday, June 5, 2009

June 5, 2009: Key Largo to Marathon

Ride Stats
Distance: 57.3 miles
Duration: 4 hrs 29 mins
Avg Speed: 12.8 mph

Temp: low 75; average 86; high 128 (probably when bikes were sitting out in the sun while we were eating the first of the “worst sandwiches in the world.”)

Today’s ride followed an annoyingly familiar, though not unexpected pattern: headwinds and wheel trouble. We did not, however, spend the day dodging thunderstorms, as predicted by last night’s Weather Channel forecast. It was clear and hot all day.

We left Key Largo at 7 at a good pace, covering 32 miles in the first two hours. We expected to stop within those first two hours for a hearty, sit-down breakfast. Our best hope for that was the Little Italy restaurant south of Islamorada, but when we pulled up in front, we found it closed for remodeling! We stopped for some emergency rations but continued to look for something better. We never found it. Yours truly tends to get a wee bit cranky when hot, tired, and deprived of breakfast.

When I broke yet another spoke at about 42 miles of our 50 mile ride, I just stopped, removed the broken spoke and got back on the bike. There was nowhere to attempt a roadside repair in any comfort, and I figured the rim was already so screwed up that it wasn’t worth the effort. We finally got into Marathon and found a place to cool off, and get some cold liquid and a lunch of sorts, though Fred declared his to be “the worst sandwich I have ever tasted.” I had the same thing, but I didn’t think it was that terrible.

While at the restaurant, we got directions to a bike shop approximately 60 blocks down the road that might be able to help with the wheel. We had no trouble finding it, and after a bit of stalling, the fellow minding the store decided to help us. I wasn’t very impressed with his approach to the task and sure enough, I noticed later that he did not lace the new spoke correctly. I called my bicycle authority, Steve Katzman, who offered the opinion that it was not worth trying to correct the error for the one short ride I had left. If the wheel is going to fail again, it will do so whether or not I go to the trouble to fix the spoke. I am not at all keen on doing Seven Mile Bridge with the compromised wheel, but I don’t really have much choice. If they had had a wheel of the proper size at the shop, I would have rented or even purchased it, but they did not. The best shop in the keys is, of course, about 15 miles from here, on the other side of the big bridge. If we make it that far, we’ll just keep going. I do have a plan B, which is that Fred would finish the ride by himself, pick up the van in Key West, and come back to get me. I hope it won’t come to that!

I mentioned earlier that Fred had his worst sandwich ever at this little place when we first got to Marathon. Well, that was only until he took a taste of the Cuban sandwich he ordered at the restaurant across the street from our hotel, The Blue Waters Resort. After one bite he traded it in for some black beans and rice. At the moment he is out behind the hotel trying to catch some fish. The proprietress hooked him up with bait and a proper fishing rod and reel, but when I last checked he was not having any luck. Earlier this afternoon we watched as pelicans, terns, and a big tarpon shared the bounty as a couple of fisherman cleaned and filleted the day’s catch and tossed the refuse into the water.

Pelican-Tern Feeding

Egret watching closely from a safe perch:

Below is a photo of the back of hotel. Almost everyone here is here to fish. From what I gather, a good number of them come back to this hotel regularly. This place really takes me back to Krieger family trips to the keys.


Oh, Jim will like this: I finally saw another touring cyclist, the only one I’ve seen so far. He was riding a recumbent trike! From where I was standing, it looked like he had some kind of mask across his face. Maybe a shield to protect him from flying road debris! If there is anything you can say about the keys, it is that there is litter EVERYWHERE!

Fred Le Gourmand: It’s been three days of memories. Bad sandwiches aside, Miami Beach, Miami, South Miami, Homestead, and the Keys just flood me with memories of growing up (age 0 to 18) in South Florida. This afternoon, I went behind the hotel on the Gulf side, and used a borrowed fishing pole and my drop line to almost catch a 2 pound barracuda. The first time he took my bait and cut the line surgically. The second time, I lifted him from the water, but again the line snapped. This time there were jagged cuts just before where the hook used to be. I was fishing behind some hurricane damaged docks. It was like ghost docks. Quite eerie. And then to make it more weird, I saw two big, 3 ft long iguanas roaming the docks like prehistoric creatures. Wait, they ARE prehistoric creatures. And I saw another large one last night while fishing under the Adams Canal bridge. 

For months, I have been picturing riding my bike along the many Keys bridges. It was as beautiful as I imagined, but it was hotter than my imagination could picture. It is great, though, to be in such good shape, such that we can crank, mile after mile, hour after hour. I kept getting distracted by the clear waters. I was always looking over the sides of the bridges for places to fish. One final fish story: As I was fishing off the end of the coral rocks behind the hotel, a 4 ft plus bull shark came swimming right through my bait along the rocky shore. He must have weighed 100 pounds or more. That was exciting, and then just as quickly, he swam away.

Marathon sunset


  1. The trike will be me soon!

    Good luck on 7 mile bridge.


  2. Fred: Just think of all the culinary treats I will fix you when you get home....sorry I have elevated your palate

  3. Oh, and Ellery is enjoying the pictures!!