Here’s the final GPS track of the 590 mile Gainesville to Key West tour:
I had a great time, even with the wheel problems, the heat, the headwinds, and what was mostly an unpleasant route.
A further note on the last of these: The route from Gainesville to Palatka and on to New Smyrna, and the first couple of hours from New Smyrna toward Palm Bay were delightful. With the exception of some brief interludes here and there (including a magical morning riding A1A in the rain from Boca to Fort Lauderdale), the rest of the way to Key West left a good deal to be desired. Mostly it was on high traffic roads. Although it never felt particularly unsafe, the constant sound of cars passing by, and the need for heightened awareness and vigilance in those conditions, was quite fatiguing. Admittedly, if we had been willing to take a longer route we would have spent more time on A1A and less on US1, making some sections a bit more pleasant, perhaps.
The bottom line, however, is that I would not recommend riding the lower East Coast of Florida if other tour options are available. As an example, in a few weeks Kathy and I will join several other tandem-riding couples for a week of riding in the area around Apalachicola and Monticello in North Florida. Between the two, they represent wonderful options for rural, Florida riding. The former offers the Gulf waters, beach, and quaint fishing towns; the latter offers beautiful, rolling, wooded terrain with lots of canopied country roads. I am very much looking forward to it.
Fred and I have already started thinking and talking about the mountains waiting for us early next summer! It is sure to be another adventure, and quite different from the past two tours. Ray, our companion on the Tour de Fred (Little Rock to Gainesville), has already promised to rejoin us. It will be great to have him back!
I have been off the bike since last Saturday. Tomorrow morning we’ll be back on the tandem doing one of our regular local rides with our friends Steve and Debi. It was fun being away on an adventure, but it also makes me appreciate all the more the “regular” activities, people, and comforts of home.