Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 6, 2009: Marathon to Key West

Ride Statistics
Distance: 55.3 miles
Duration: 4 hrs 44 mins
Average speed: 11.7 mph

I started the day by being startled awake by Fred’s pounding on the door at 6AM. There he was, in my doorway, with his (Kathy’s) bike in hand, telling me about how he found his tire flat this morning. Gradually my wits began to assemble into a useful pattern, and we quickly got the flat repaired. Fred went back to his room to finish getting ready and I did the same. We were on the road by 7:15, headed for Seven Mile Bridge, a mile or so south. In spite of overnight thunderstorms, the sky was clear.

Even before we got to the bridge, it was obvious that we were not going to enjoy the relatively still early morning air of the previous day. In fact, with the exception of maybe 15 minutes, we rode into a stiff head or side wind, which is why our average speed was so low today. In addition, I was being particularly gentle with my rear wheel in hopes of avoiding yet another broken spoke. There were no rapid accelerations or exaggerated rocking of the bike when I stood to give my rear end a break. Whether for this reason or just plain luck, the wheel held up and there were no additional incidents today, thank heaven.

Both of us got to see our first Key Deer! There were two of the little guys standing in the open just as we crossed onto the island set aside for their preservation.

When we finally reached our hotel, some 17 miles north of Key West, we checked in so that we would be able to leave our baggage behind while we completed the ride to our destination. Riding into the wind was hard enough without the extra weight and wind resistance of the panniers, though, to tell the truth, neither of us felt a huge difference without them.

When we got into Key West we stopped for a photo...


… then we headed toward the airport, which is where we thought the car rental company was. Turns out they are on the other side of the island, so we continued down US1 to get a photo at mile marker zero:


That done, I programmed the address of the car rental place into the GPS and off we went. For once, it took us exactly where we wanted to go, without any extra side trips. As we made our way through downtown, neither of us saw anything that we particularly wanted to check out later. Even in the summer heat, the downtown streets were packed with over- and under- dressed tourists. We loaded the bikes in the rental car and headed back to our hotel on Sugarloaf Key.

Fred owns a lot on Sugarloaf key, on which he may or may not ever build a house. He has therefore visited the Key several times, stayed at our current hotel, and eaten at a nearby restaurant called Mangrove Mama’s. After cleaning up and changing into civilian clothes, we headed to the latter for lunch. Fred had a fried grouper sandwich, that he declared to be “the best sandwich I have ever eaten.” I had a salad topped with perfectly seared slabs of yellowfin tuna, which might just have been “the best salad I have ever eaten.” It was really, really good.

So, the Tour de Seth, aka the Pirate Tour, comes to a conclusion. It met all my expectations, including lots of laughter and my hope to have just enough adventure/adversity to make it unique and memorable without anyone getting hurt. (I do have some mysterious scratches on the outside of my right leg that Fred believes will result in some righteous scars, but I am guessing there will be no trace of them in a few months.)

We rode 590.5 miles and spent 41.92 hours in the saddle over the course of nine days. Including last year’s Tour de Fred, we have now covered approximately 1,800 miles of our goal to ride from one side of the US to the other (and then some). Our current plan is to continue next year with the Mountain Goat Tour of the Rockies, riding half of the 1,600 miles between Colorado Springs and San Francisco. We’ll finish that section in 2011, then do the final, middle section (Colorado Springs to Little Rock) in 2012. The whole thing will be something like 4,600 miles when we are done.

I had a vivid fantasy as we started across the bridge into Key West this afternoon: It is 2012 and Fred and I wheel up to the Comfort Inn at the airport in Little Rock. We enter the lobby and find Cathy, the wonderful clerk who helped us get this thing started by bending the rules to accept our shipped bikes, standing at the desk to welcome us at the end of the long road. Stranger things have happened.

Fred Says: I was imagining ahead of time, back in Colorado, all the wonderful bridges we’d cross and all the clear water. Surprise! 7 mile bridge was a bear! The water was white capped and often murky. But at many points, the water was wonderfully clear, and I saw another bigger shark cruising the shallows. It was at least 5 or 6 ft long. Seemed to be another bull shark. I’ve been to Key West a bunch, even recently, and it’s lost its soul. Just crazy crowded touristas, me included, so I had no desire to stay and go to Jimmy Buffet’s bar. Even Jimmy Buffet in his prime, way back when, would NEVER have gone to a bar like that. There are no dives left. At $2 million a commercial building, who can afford a dive? I did get to visit my property with 200 ft of water on the corner of two canals. It’s a real jungle with Australian pines and Jamaican poison pepper trees. I did get jabbed, cut, and bit, but it’s a pirate’s tour …. arrghhh. But all the anticipation, planning, preparing, training, and riding is now over. It was great, tough, and manly (personly?). It was a great adventure. And probably the best thing is, it continues. We’re already talking about next year and the Colorado mountains.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 4, 2009: South Miami to Key Largo

We broke with tradition and left this morning at 9 instead of before 7. I wanted to spend a little more time with my parents and maybe get a little more sleep. I figured that with only 50 miles or so to cover, we could afford to sleep in, for once. Fred was agreeable, so that’s what we did.

Given the simplicity of today’s route, I did not expect much in the way of GPS challenges, but never underestimate Mr. Garmin! He tried to route us on several non-existent and dirt roads, and refused to accept our Card Sound Road route. The latter was my fault for having checked the setting “Avoid toll roads”. Apparently the presence of the toll for the Card Sound Bridge (irrelevant for bicycles anyway) qualified the road to be avoided, so the GPS kept trying to get us to turn around and go back to US1. Once I realized the problem and changed the setting, it was happy.

The view from the top of Card Sound Bridge, looking east during a very brief moment of relief as a cloud passed above us

So, the ride was pretty tough, in spite of the relatively short distance, because we had headwind most of the way. Normal cruising effort generally produced no more than 14 mph, and sometimes only 12. In addition, the clouds and rain, which would have been welcome, stayed either in front of us or behind us, so it was sunny and hot. We were hit by no more than a few dozen drops all day. 

We were therefore pretty bushed by the time we made it to the populated part of Key Largo at around 1 PM. I was hungry and thirsty, so when I noticed an inviting seafood place (Captain Shon’s), I pulled in. The food was good, but pricey. Fred liked it so much that he wants to go back tonight. I’m not that hungry, so I think I’ll just get an appetizer or something.

Fred just loves spotting these gators!
Our waitress suggested lodging at a mom and pop place across the street as a good, budget alternative. It turned out to be just barely acceptable, but we decided to stay anyway. The proprietor is quite a character and he and Fred traded quips while we took care of business. We asked about a bike shop (the last rear wheel fix yesterday left me with a bump-bump-bump on every revolution, and inspection showed the wheel to be most definitely out of round). We were directed to a pawn shop a mile up the road which is run by a man who had a bike shop for 20 years before deciding a pawn shop would be easier. The shop is still at least half bicycles, but almost exclusively cruiser type stuff. The gent was pretty good with a spoke wrench, though, and when he was done, the wheel was considerably better than before. The rim is probably toast, though. I just hope it gets me through the last 100 miles of this trip.

Fred’s Addendum: It was like homecoming staying with my best friend Kevin from high school. As I pulled in yesterday evening, after a 70 mile ride and living through Miami downtown traffic, Kevin had his camera ready in his driveway! His wife Dolores made me arroz con pollo and flan, all from scratch. She said it was her father’s recipe. I had thirds. But before dinner, Kevin and I wandered his backyard, gathering mangoes from his four big trees. He said one tree provided the juiciest and tastiest fruit. I ate a warm one from another tree anyway but Kevin went in the house and got a chilled one from the good tree. Dang! It was like mango sorbet! After I peeled it and cut in into pieces and ate everything but the nut, I sucked every bit of pulp from the center nut. Kevin sat there laughing at me saying he had never seen anyone enjoy and attack a mango like that. 

After dinner, Kevin asked me if I wanted to take a little drive. Sure, I said! Let’s go to Hot Shoppes on US1. That’s what we used to do 43 years ago in high school! He laughed. I asked to go the Matheson Hammock. That was truly one of my fondest memories of early Miami with my family growing up. We’d go outside the lagoon, north, at low tide, when a mile long sand bar would develop. My dad would take me and my brother and we would walk and examine every little tidal pool. As my wife so astutely observed, my parents weren’t wealthy, but they took advantage of all of Miami’s beautiful bounty. 

In the morning, Dolores made me scrambled eggs and hash browns and toast and orange marmalade and orange juice. Kevin had cheerios. He says he is proud to say he takes no medications whatsoever (despite his high cholesterol), and he is trying to control this problem with cheerios. I kiddingly told him, I’d mention it at his funeral (god, I hope not). 

Here’s Kevin: No medications! 

We talked old stuff and new stuff. Old hopes, new hopes and dreams. We walked around the entire lagoon. And we passed the old coral rock building, now housing the Red Fish Grill, where we’d buy Eskimo Pies as kids. This trip has been a thousand memories for me. Street signs even triggered memories: Ludlam, Red Road, Bird Road, Galloway, 64th avenue, 57th avenue. I knew a few years ago, when I conceived of biking back to Miami, that it was somehow appropriate to go back to where I was born and raised. With my mother’s passing in February, eight days short of her 93rd birthday, I never conceived of how meaningful this would all be for me.  I am moved beyond belief. It makes me appreciate how wonderful it was for me growing up in Miami. It makes me appreciate my family, tough times, good times. It really makes me appreciate my friends, old and new. And Seth, a ‘new’ buddy, only going on 34 years now. You are a gift. We’ve now biked 1,800 miles together, 5 broken spokes, a few flats, and some great great times. And it makes me really appreciate my wife Pat, who puts up with me, encourages me, and takes drum lessons. When I get home, Last Dance with Mary Jane! Me on guitar, Patty on drums!

Today’s ride stats
Distance: 57 miles
Time: 4 hours
Avg speed: 14.25 mph
Temperature: low 78; average 91; high 100

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009: Boca Raton to South Miami

Today was supposed to be a shorter, easier day. With respect to pedaling effort, I suppose it might have been, but it was not shorter, either in distance traveled or duration. In fact, I did not reach my parents house (where I am spending the night) until around 3:30 this afternoon, in spite of a 6:53 AM start. Part of that was because of a visit with a friend in Hollywood, but mostly it was the result of more spoke problems! 

Here is how it went…
When we came down for breakfast this morning at 6, it was raining steadily. From the satellite imagery on the Weather Channel, it looked pretty localized, and sure enough, by 6:45 it was barely raining at all. It started raining lightly again shortly after we got underway. During the first hour or so there were periods of real rain, but nothing torrential. In fact, as we rode down A1A, I was very much enjoying the comfortable temperatures, the still air, and the absence of traffic. A1A was like a ghost town! I felt great, my tush was enjoying the new saddle I had installed the night before, and we were moving at that perfect, all-day pace that seems almost effortless. At one point I even had a momentary sense of bicycling-nirvana, in spite of, or maybe because of, the rain.

We stopped for a rest just before crossing over the bridge into Fort Lauderdale. Back on the bikes we turned onto Eisenhower immediately after the bridge. Jill and Marc had suggested that as an east-of-US1 alternative to bypass the Hollywood-Ft Lauderdale Airport mess. Unfortunately, we were turned back by a guard who informed us that we could not go into the port under any circumstances. Fred and I decided that we would just try going straight down US-1. It turns out that there is no shoulder and the traffic pattern is such that you have to be willing to bicycle assertively, but we have honed those skills and did not really have much anxiety about proceeding.

A bit before reaching the airport entrance area I heard the all too familiar twang of a spoke breaking and saw the tell-tale loss of true in Fred’s rear wheel. We pulled over as soon as there was a safe place to do so, I twisted the broken spoke around its neighbor to keep it out of the way, made sure that the brake calipers were wide open, and confirmed that the wheel would revolve satisfactorily to ride the bike to a better place to work on it. It was exactly the same kind of break as mine from a couple of days ago.
Pretty soon we came to a shaded picnic table, where we got to use the Stein cassette removal tool and the FiberFix spoke yet again. 

While I was working on the bike, Fred went to ask a guy he saw nearby about a local bike shop. Turns out that there was one in Hollywood a mile or two from where we were. I wouldn’t have even bothered with the fix if we had known that, but there was no point un-doing what was already done.

Shortly thereafter, we were in Lee’s Bike Shop on Federal Highway in Hollywood, having the temporary spoke replaced with a real one of the proper size. This place was BUSY! I counted five mechanics who were all working one job after another. Luckily, someone was able to take care of us right away. They were very interested in the kevlar spoke.

After about 30 minutes, we were again on the road. We were right around the corner from the law office of a good friend that Fred also knew from our State Hospital days in the mid-70’s. We looked around, but could not find the office, so we decided to stop by the house, which was on our way back to A1A anyway. Larry wasn’t home, of course, but his wife Janet (a very special friend, as well) was, and we spent a very nice half-hour with her before resuming our ride.

We were only a few blocks away when I heard the now familiar sound of spokes breaking on my rear wheel! What the heck! (The actual words I used were somewhat more graphic.) I stopped and found two broken spokes – one from each side of the wheel, plus one of the spare spokes that should have been locked onto the chain stay was also mangled. It looks like the spare spoke came loose and drifted into the wheel, taking out two of the good ones. Back to Lee’s Bike Shop, where we got a special quantity discount!

The rest of the ride went pretty much according to plan. In spite of a bunch of signs saying that the Venetian Causeway was out, it wasn’t. We rode across without encountering any obstacles at all. We made our way through downtown and finally to Old Cutler Road. It was after two at this point and I was very hungry. Fred had not had enough to eat either, but mostly he was thirsty. There really was no place to stop, so we rode on, splitting up toward the end toward our respective destinations for the night. I assume that Fred made it, but he didn’t answer when I called earlier tonight. The plan is to go out later tomorrow for our 50 miler to Key Largo. We will be meeting at a designated corner at 9 AM.

Day’s Statistics
Start: 6:58 AM
Finish: 3:30 PM
Distance: 70.5 miles
Riding Time: 5 hrs 30 min
Avg Speed: 12.8

Fred at Matheson Hammock
Fred at Matheson Hammock later in the day

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009: Stuart to Boca Raton

Early start (6:30), no mechanical issues, hot, some headwind, plenty of traffic.
Today was pretty much about getting from one place to another. We arrived at our hotel in Boca at 12:15. We spent 4 hours and 13 minutes on our bikes, covering 64.6 miles at an average speed of 15.3. In spite of the early start, the temperature was a very humid 74 degrees. Moving through the damp early-morning air quickly left us dripping, even though we weren’t working hard enough to produce that much sweat. In fact, for the first 15 minutes or so, we hit red light after red light. Finally out of the commercial area, we cranked up the speed, cruising easily at about 19 mph. I thought we must have caught a bit of tailwind, but the flags we passed were all slack. Both of us are experiencing some leg soreness, but clearly we are picking up condition as well. We covered over 17 miles in the first hour, in spite of the start and stop in the first quarter-hour.

The honeymoon ended around 9 when the southeast wind woke and got about its business of inflicting hardship on cyclists headed south. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I utter a silent prayer of thanks to Al Gore for inventing aero-bars. The difference they make when riding in a head or side wind is near-miraculous. Nobody will ever convince me that they are not worth the extra 500 grams. I go about 2 mph faster, with less effort, than riding with my hands on the brake hoods. Down in the drops you can get maybe half the speed advantage, but not the comfort of aeros. In spite of the fact that Fred is riding bare-bar, he took the lead quite a few times over the course of the day, but with my aero-bars, it was much easier for me, so I was content to do most of the time at the front.

Today’s ride stats:
Total elapsed time: approximately 5 hrs, 45 mins
Moving time: 4 hrs, 13 mins
Distance: 64.6 miles
Average Speed: 15.3
Temperature: low-74; high-95; average 84.

Miles to date: 350.5
(red track in image shows today’s ride)


Except for a few miles we spent riding through the Palm Beach area, with the Intra-coastal to our left and the old-money “shacks” to our right, there was not much scenery to admire on our route. We repeatedly opted for the efficiency of US1’s more direct path and faster pavement. Fred did snap this Bird of Paradise at one of our rest stops, though:


Fred Adds: Some of the old moneyed houses in the Palm Beaches were amazing. I did notice when we rode through those neighborhoods and along the waterways, we kind of dilly-dallied. And we rode along a series of majestic Royal palms, at least 40 feet high or more. Ah, scenic old Florida. But I agree with Seth: mostly we just cranked. 

At about 50+ miles and a short break during which Seth took some Aleve, he started moving about 17+ mph. Ah, I said to him, "I hate it when your aspirin kicks in this late in the day." 

Seth said, “Am I going too fast?” 

"No", I said, "I am just teasing." That’s again when I appreciated being in such good shape. I would have preferred going at 15  mph, but I still had the resources to kick it. And we did. This was an easy 65 miles! As per my tradition, I went in the hotel pool, and then for a neighborhood walk. We’re about 2 blocks from the waterway, and I spied about a 5 pound barracuda hanging out under some docks. They always seem so menacing. But I could not find a public place to fish. That would have completely destroyed my little fishing pole anyway, and barracuda require heavy metal leaders. Ah, but for five-prong gig (when I was younger). Now, it’s live and let live. Ahimsa!

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009: Palm Bay to Stuart

What a long, tiring day! We were rolling today before 6:30, but we did not get to the hotel until 2:00.

Statistics: 5 hours, 4 minutes riding time; 72.9 miles; average speed 14.5 mph; temperature range was 70 degrees to 100 degrees with an average of 85.

At around 8AM one of my spokes broke, right at the “J” bend at the top. Needless to say, it was a rear spoke, on the drive side. Any other spoke can be changed or replaced with a Kevlar temporary spoke in five minutes or so. A rear, drive side spoke repair requires the removal of the rear gear cluster (aka “cassette”) and is virtually impossible without the correct tools. As it happens, a while back I started carrying a Stein cassette removal tool, which is not as convenient to use as shop tools, but weighs maybe 75 grams and fits in a closed fist. I also had a Fiberfix emergency spoke and a couple of real spokes. I had never used the Stein tool or Fiberfix spoke before.


I first tried the latter, but without removing the cassette I could not use the emergency spoke to return the wheel to some semblance of true. Giving up on the soft spoke, I pulled out the Stein tool and read the brief, but adequate instructions. It took a little while, and some cooperation from Fred to hold and lift the bike, but I was able to remove the cassette, replace the spoke with a spare, and get the wheel reasonably true. I was concerned that the spoke was the wrong size, though, and that I had torqued it during the installation to the point that it might fail later in the ride, so I resolved to stop at a bike shop along our route to get the wheel properly checked out. This roadside repair, although successful, cost us an hour or maybe a bit more. When we finally saw a bike shop in Port St. Lucie, just 9 miles from the hotel, we stopped and spent another 30 or 40 minutes there while the spoke was replaced with a fresh one and the wheel was expertly trued.

Let me put in a good word for Chris and the Village Bike Shop in Port St. Lucie . He was terrific and did a fine job on the wheel. If you are ever in the area and need some work done, he’s your man. From what I heard while he was handling a phone call from a prospective customer, he can give you extremely good pricing on a new bike, as well.

Once we had showered up, we hit the Chinese buffet a block from the hotel and consumed mass quantities. I was still full when we went to dinner, so I just had a side salad.

Tomorrow’s route is just a bit shorter than today’s, and a whole lot of it is down A1A, which probably means wind. Well, whatever it is, it is. When we get to the hotel in the afternoon, a replacement saddle from my home stock (the one on this bike is overdue for replacement) and a refreshed supply of Chamois Butt’r should be waiting, thanks to my dearest Kathy. My rear end will be most thankful for both!

Oh, a wildlife note: We stopped for a little rest in some shade across the street from a pole with an Osprey nest at the top. One bird was home and kept talking the entire 10 minutes of so we were beneath it. I thought it might be a young bird calling for its breakfast; Fred just thought it was telling us to move along. At any rate, it walked around up there, but made no attempt to fly.


Fred Notes: Dang, it was a very hard 73 miles. The heat was beastly. I could feel my body core reach fever pitch, and I just had to stop. Seth was good about it, and I’d go into 7-11 in the air-conditioning and drink 32 ounces of Gatorade and be refreshed, at least for another hour or so. Still the scenery is often beautiful and typical Florida: blue and green expanses of ocean, coconut trees, and a 1,000 kinds of palm trees. I saw one of the most beautiful light blue cabbage-like palms. I grew up in the this stuff so elephant ears (monstera deliciosa), and oaks, and pines, all seem so appropriate. But then suddenly, the wind changes, and it brings me out of my reveries and back to a lower gear and grinding against the wind. 

When we finally made it to Stuart’s Howard Johnsons, I immediately jumped in the pool, with all my biking clothes on. Just what I needed: more time in the sun. I kept my ball cap on (the one I bought in Franklinton (sic), MS last year on the Tour de Fred for $5 that looks exactly like Seth’s $25 Columbia) and my sunglasses, and removed all my clothes in the clorinated water, except for my Exofficio underwear, that looks exactly like some French guy’s bathing suit. But hell, no one was in the pool at 3 PM except for me! I had a seared tuna sandwich at dinner at Flannigan’s. Excellent! And I must say, Seth was absolutely amazing changing his broken spoke out! He evened trued his wheel! All in the minor shade of an oleander. He has not missed his calling: he just has a lot of them.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 31, 2009: New Smyrna to Palm Bay

Today’s ride was shorter than we had expected because we decided to take a more direct route, which saved us five miles at the cost of spending the last part of the ride on fairly busy streets as we made our way to our hotel. The stats: 80 miles in 5 hours and 12 minutes of riding (15.5 mph average speed). We got started today just as the sun was coming up in a nice cool 65 degrees. On the road the temp reached 98; the average was a tolerable 83.


Harris did our lead-out this morning, pulling us at 17 or better through some real pretty scenery until finally bidding us farewell at around mile 13. I spotted a deer crossing the road a hundred yards up, but other than a rabbit or two, that was it for wildlife.

We had two route options today. We could go through the Merritt Island Preserve and Kennedy Space Center area on the east side of the intra-coastal, or take the more direct route down US-1. The former would be less traffic and more scenic; the latter would be more direct and have plenty of convenience stores. We decided on the latter, figuring that traffic would not be an issue until 10 or even later on Sunday morning. That turned out to be the case. We had US-1 pretty much to ourselves for at least the first 40 miles.

We took a rest stop at about that point, but when I dropped my bike off the kickstand to get back on the road, I realized that the rear tire was flat. Prior to our stop it had seemed like it was taking more effort than usual to keep pace, and I had meant to check the tires but had forgotten. Fred helped for a bit, including finding a pin-hole in the tube, but he also took advantage of the delay to spend some more time in the convenience store’s AC. I carefully inspected the tire, inside and out, but didn’t find any cause for the puncture. While I worked I had some company for a while, as a young man (a heavy-weight boxing hopeful, as it turned out) came over to ask about our trip and equipment. It later struck me that this kind of discussion was a regular feature of our stops last year in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, but very rare in Florida. You can draw your own conclusions.

South of Cocoa, US-1 was under construction and rather unpleasant. Our GPS route diverted a few block east at that point, to a small road running right alongside the intracoastal. This 6 miles or so was a real treat. The pictures below tell the story:


When we emerged from this idyllic little diversion, we were back at US-1. A passing local bicyclista kindly stopped to offer suggestions on a route south, which corresponded closely to that shown on the GPS. The remaining 23 miles were on gradually busier and busier roads, particularly the last 15 or so. At any rate we made it to our hotel, a Quality Inn in Palm Bay, without further incident or delay, other than a little bit of head wind. The hotel is interesting in that the rooms – indeed, the whole hotel – is really rather nice, especially considering the $50 room rate. As near as we can tell, there are only a handful of  people staying here at the moment.

We had dinner in a little restaurant that offered a variety of Greek, Italian, and other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare. During the time we were there, only two other tables were occupied. The owner explained that they are about to move. Between the road construction outside and the loitering patrons of the pool hall next door, they simply can’t attract the clientele that they want, and deserve, based on the quality of the food.

The hotel’s breakfast is at 6:30. We want to be riding shortly after six, so we picked up some basics at the local 7-11 to provide enough energy to get us a couple of hours up the road. In Kathy’s honor, I also picked up a chocolate-on-chocolate ice cream bar.

In the first three days we have covered over 206 miles, shown on the map below. (Click the image to see the whole thing.) We are finally south of the Orlando area!


Fred adds: It was a relatively easy 80 miler despite the heat. I think it part it was because we got an early start, it was cool in the morning for the first hour or so, and Harris broke the wind for us. I never thought I’d thank someone for breaking wind. As we entered Melbourne and drove along Wickham road, I couldn’t help but get wistful. My parents moved to Melbourne Beach (actually Indialantic) in 1974, and spent over 20 years there until my dad passed away in 1994, and my mom moved to Colorado in 1998. So I knew so many of the roads, and names, and street signs. We were always fond of Uranus Street. One of my mom’s favorite jokes was telling us what if you lived on Uranus and ordered pizza. Where do you want your pizza delivered, lady? Up Uranus! Oh well, a joke a minute at the Coolidge House, 153 Coral Way, North Indialantic. 

When we finally arrived at the Quality Inn, Palm Bay, I went fishing across the street in a retention pond. There were brim and some larger fish with red fan tails. I got only one real bite on a piece of Slim Jim. I could not find worms for the life of me, and I am quite a worm whisperer. I then bought a hotdog and bun at 7-11, but the fish ignored that too. My hooks will be good for Keys fish but too are too big for brim. My dinner was excellent: seafood pescatore, mussels, clams, and squid in a red sauce over pasta. At 4,000 calories expended daily, I can afford it!