Not all who wander are lost.

Posts in category Florida Bike Trip

Thoughts From the Saddle of a Bike

Well, the bike trip is over and we are home getting ready for the next part of the plan.  For me, traveling is not only about relaxation and fun.  It’s  also the best way to learn something new and not just about the place you’re at but about yourself and maybe even the person you’re traveling with no matter how long you’ve lived with them.

Lesson #1- Maybe research the area that you’re traveling to at least a little.  We just assumed that since the Keys are basically a chain of little islands surrounded with water, we would be by the beach the entire time.  We thought if we wanted to, we would be able to just jump in the ocean any time we felt the like it.  I think we thought we were going to find a place like Hawaii. The Keys are snorkeling, diving, fishing  communities.   When we did find the beach from a public access, it was actually more like a little salty lake.  Since the area around the Keys is mainly coral, there are no natural sandy beaches.  If you do find a beach its usually man made.  One of our rooms had a screened porch right above the canals so you could see the fishing and diving boats go by (some of them are HUGE) which was very cool, but just not our thing.  We wanted waves, surfers, sea shells and white sands which couldn’t be found here.  The people here are very friendly and genuine, and we liked the laid back “to each his own” atmosphere though so its not a bad place to be.  And it was sunny and warm without winter getting ready to rear its ugly head so that’s always good!

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Lesson #2-    Be Flexible. At first I was a little discouraged that the trip we ended up taking, wasn’t quite the trip we were planning but I realized that part of living this way is that we can change directions pretty quickly and it only affects the two of us.  As we got closer and closer to Key West and kept wondering “Where is the beach??” and “Why do we keep peddling toward a destination that we aren’t sure we really want to get to anymore?”  we finally remembered that we don’t HAVE to go anywhere.  So we turned around and headed back to the place that we know we love, the beach.  We stayed in the same hotel at Melbourne Beach that we took the kids to when they saw the ocean for the first time.  I couldn’t help but remember their faces when they saw the ocean from the balcony that first time or when they actually got to swim in it.  This is also where we got to see the second to the last space shuttle launch, which had to be one of the very coolest things I’ve seen.  We ended up finding a couple days of relaxation in one of our favorite spots.

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Lesson #3–  Shut your mind up and trust your own body.  Even though we have been biking for a good 3 years now, I was very concerned about being able to make some of these longer trips a couple days in a row.  I bike almost daily but a lot of times it’s running errands, or maybe a 20-30 mile ride one day on the weekend.  We had planned to do more longer rides to prepare for this trip but just as in Florida, it never seemed to stop raining long enough.  Once I learned how to quiet my head and just let my body take over, I found I could do over 5o miles one day and still be able to peddle another 20 or 30 the next day.  I could climb these ridiculously long bridges and when I got to the top, there were amazing views. Aside from the sun burn, or occasional shoulder pain from my injury in March, I really felt pretty good on the bike most days.  Don’t get me wrong. I still whined once in awhile because that’s what I do.  But was an important thing to learn about myself and I felt thankful that I’m strong and healthy enough to be able to take a trip such as this.  A few years ago, it would have been the last thing I thought I would be able to do!

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Lesson #4–  Take time to appreciate your surroundings, especially the little stuff.  There were so many little things we would see along the way that we just though were amazing but if the locals heard us they would have thought we were nuts.  As we biked it was really difficult not to hit one of the million little lizards or crabs that would run across our path.  We would laugh at them and swerve a little so we didn’t hit them. I witnessed this large Blue Crab trying to cross A1A and I kind of cheered him on a bit until the big huge truck didn’t swerve and then I felt genuinely sad that he didn’t make it back to his home in the ocean.  It was during this ride that Jason and I decided that the person who created Frogger may very well have been from Florida.  To us, these were fascinating little creatures and we would smile every time we saw them, but the locals most likely thought of them as we do squirrels and grasshoppers.  One of my favorites was the little turtle who wandered by our campsite munching on every little piece of vegetation he could get in his mouth.  Even though I was terrified at the prospect of sleeping under the colony of huge Banana Spiders, I had to admit they were actually quite beautiful…from A FAR.  The plants that we saw along the way were quite different from what we have here and very interesting, but I had to remember to move away when biking past because thorns scraping across your sunburned arms really hurt!    Every time we travel we see a lot of the same things like hotels, strip malls and Applebee’s.  To me, its like little things like a iguana jumping in front of you on your bike, or the star fish you see on a beach that gives a place it’s identity.  That’s what I’m always looking for when I travel.

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 Lesson #5You don’t have to go ANYWHERE to find complete happiness. This bike trip was actually supposed to be our 20th anniversary trip but with the house sale and everything else that’s going we went much earlier than October 29th. Since it was our anniversary trip and we are at the threshold of becoming “empty nesters” I suppose it caused me to spend a lot of time in the saddle reflecting on the last 20 years. I realized that I truly am the luckiest person that I know because I get to spend every single day with my   cycling partner, my favorite person in the world and my friend, my husband. I’ve always known this. I’ve always known he spoils me every day and he’s a much better person than me but something about this trip made me really realize it. Maybe it’s because after the end of October it will be the very first time we’ve lived alone without any kids and this is the first time we’ve spent this much time together completely alone. It has allowed me to notice the little things he does for me every day like open the doors for me, turn my bike lights on for me because he knows I’ll forget, or patiently wander through Walmart with me picking out yarn so I’ll having something to do in the car on the way home. The little things are actually huge and I believe they are all the difference in truly happy marriages. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be REALLY hard not to be around my kids every day and I’m really going to miss the bantering of the “Three Stooges” that we’ve grown to love around here. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of this quiet that is certain to take some time getting used to. But I’m also looking forward to the next 20 or 30 years and the adventures that are sure to come our way with just the two of us. Who knows what kind of trouble we will be able to find!

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From Sea to Shining Sea

All the rooms at the DoubleTree have balconies with ocean view which is part of the reason we chose to spend our last few days here.  We felt like we didn’t get enough ocean time so we wanted to make sure we could see it every time we looked out the window and we can.  Last night we had left our curtains to our deck open and as soon as we opened our eyes we were treated to this sight.  We’ve stayed here before but I had forgotten how beautiful the sunrises can be.  This picture doesn’t come close to capturing it but it was still awesome nonetheless.

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Some of the best things are the simplest and one of our favorite things to do is wander along the beach watching the waves and hoping to catch a glimpse of a dolphin, crab, or any other type of life that we don’t have at home.  I like to see what the evening waves discarded on the shore and it’s always different from the night before.   On our walk today we found your standard seashells, a little sand crab, and of course the many different birds that are flying around trying to catch their breakfast.  We saw a few other things to.

(picture me stepping on soap box)

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Awhile ago we had watched a documentary on Netflix called Bag It .  It was one that I had stumbled upon probably while I was spinning, knitting, and avoiding work.  I typically have the TV on while working with my fiber more for something to listen to.  I’ve HEARD several movies, but seen very few.  I’ve also found myself a little addicted to documentaries lately  (don’t get me started on food documentaries!)  After a little while a stopped what I was doing completely and actually watched it..with my eyes!  It’s about a man who started out trying to study the impact of plastic bags on the environment.  Paper or plastic?…those bags. By the time he was done, it was more about how all plastic, particularly single use plastic containers have impacted not only our environment but the lives inhabiting it as well (think bottled water, Lunchables, toys, stuff like that.) After I watched it, I asked Jason to watch it with me later because I couldn’t believe what we are doing to our planet, to our wildlife, and to ourselves with this stuff.  I couldn’t explain it all to him so I wanted him to see it too.   There’s way too much information for me to explain it all here which is why I included the link. Watch it for yourself (its FREE.) This movie is partially why we ended up giving our credit card information to a nice young girl on the street of Boulder, CO so we could be card-carrying members of Green Peace.  It’s also why we’ve probably become a little annoying at the grocery store by not putting our produce in those plastic bags if we can help it which causes them to weigh them separately sometimes (apologies to those behind us in line at HyVee)

I had never really given it much thought before, and now I can’t seem to stop looking for this stuff.  And it’s everywhere.  As we walked along the beach we couldn’t help but notice all of the plastic bottle lids mixed in with the seashells in the sand.  There were little bits of plastic everywhere we looked.  Straws, bottles, little chunks of who knows what scattered around the beach.  How do you lose 1 shoe in the ocean?  Maybe it matches that one that is always along the highway.

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We also could see how the sea life would make the foreign object part of their environment in some cases.

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In our opinion, Florida has some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen and that is still the case here.  There are many places that are much worse off but we couldn’t help but wonder when these beaches would start looking like some of the ones we saw in the movie.  After watching this movie we made a conscious effort to reduce our use of bags and bottles whenever we can.  In fact, when we first started talking about taking a long bike trip we tossed around the idea of biking across the country (well, part of it anyway) picking up garbage until we realized that we would never actually be on our bikes, and then where would we put it all anyway?  It seemed like an enormous task.  We have taken a few steps in the right direction, but we know there is still more we could do.  Did I stop along the beach and pick up each little piece of plastic that I saw? No.  It seemed like too big of job and how much impact would I have by just picking up whatever bits and pieces that my hands could carry?  But I suppose that’s the problem.  We don’t realize that if everyone grabbed whatever they could carry it could be a lot of plastic and maybe the job would seem a little smaller.  Next time, I think instead of complaining about all the bottle lids everywhere, I’ll just pick them up.  It would be great if we all did the same.

(stepping off soap box now)

 

Day 8 & 9 (Changing Direction 180˚)

Day 8 was a short ride down to Islamorada about 10 miles south of Key Largo. There is a bike path on the east side of US 1 from Key Largo that goes all the way to Islamorada. Once we got to Islamorada we where both a little disappointed not much to see or do. As we sat in our hotel room we decide that the Key’s or southern Florida was not what we were expecting. There is not much of a view of the ocean if any, there is no access to the ocean unless you find a state park and when you do find a beach there are no waves. If your into fishing, snorkeling, or diving you would love the Key’s.IMG_1750

The nice thing about traveling with no real plans but the ones you make on the way can be changed at any time. So after talking we decide we are going back to the placed we enjoyed being at.

Day 9 we rode back to Key Largo rented a car (Mini Cooper Countryman) and drove back to Melbourne Beach. We are staying in the same hotel that we brought the kids six years ago. Our journey has been about enjoying life and seeing Florida from our bikes. Life is good. IMG_1751

Day 7: Key Largo (Great Day of Riding)

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.”

Ernest Hemingway

We dropped our car rental off this morning and hopped on the M bike path that runs adjacent to the bus only road (Busway). Path goes all the way through Homestead and Florida City where is ends and connects with US 1. From here we decided to take Card Sound Rd instead of staying on US 1. From what we have read is has way less traffic. I will say traffic was not bad but one thing to note is there is no shoulder at all. It also will add about an extra 5 miles to your ride. It was a great day to ride sun was out with a few clouds and best of all NO RAIN. Also should mention that before we left this morning since we decided not to camp because of all the rain we shipped about 30 lbs. of our stuff back home. We crossed our first toll on our bikes. When she saw us coming she just smiled and lifted the arm and wave us through. After the toll is a very large bridge with an  amazing view. This bridge did not have a bike lane or shoulder but the traffic was very low. IMG_1731

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We finally reached Key Largo around 2pm. We decide to grab some ice cream since we couldn’t check in to our hotel until 3pm. We checked in to the Key West Inn which is right on a canal. Rooms are very nice and price was even better. After checking in we learned Key Largo in not really much of a beach town. It is more know for diving, snorkeling, and fishing. The gal at the front desk said the only place close that had beach access was the John Pennekamp State Park. After getting settled in our room we wandered down the road to eat dinner. We ate at a local place called Mrs Mac’s. Food was good and prices were not bad. Tomorrow will be a short ride to the next town only about 10 miles and then to two days of 30 – 40 mile days before we get to our final destination Key West. We are only 100 miles away.

Day 6: Change in Plans

As we watched it pour and pour during breakfast our spirits were getting pretty low.  We were starting to feel like all we were doing was hotel jumping just trying to stay dry and we weren’t able to enjoy our surroundings or relax at all.  Once we got to where we were going, we had to unpack everything and make sure all was dry, find a place to hang the wet clothes from our ride, and figure out what our next step was going to be for the rainy bike ride the next day (pretty sure we’ve done laundry more in the last few days than we have in a couple weeks)  Even though we have been doing lots of research we still had not found a way through Miami and surrounding areas that we were comfortable with as well which was kind of stressing us both out.  Neither one of us have any urban biking experience so everything we read about going through that area from the traffic to the rough areas of town that we were told Hwy 1 would take us through sounded absolutely terrifying! We decided that in order for us to enjoy ourselves a little more and maintain our safety, we would rent a car that we could throw our bikes in and drive around the Miami area which would land us in Homestead, FL.

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We knew this would shorten our trip by a few days but there were some things going on at home that were weighing a little heavy on us too.  Right before we left, we had to make an appointment for Sam to get his wisdom teeth removed which was going to happen while we were gone.  We also had received some not so great news from Webster City RV and we are going to have to shell out a couple thousand to get the RV repaired.  Once we figured out our new plan and picked up the car, our stress level dropped quite a bit and we felt better about the rest of the trip.  The sun came out too!

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Getting home a little earlier will allow us to be home for Sam’s surgery and we’ll save a few bucks so paying that bill for the RV won’t be quite as painful (still plenty painful though!)  We spent our evening re-planning and re-booking the rest of our trip.  Day 7 is back on the bikes for a 40+ mile ride.  Next stop Key Largo!

Day 5: Are ya kidding me??

We decided to make today a short riding day after our unplanned 52 mile ride from yesterday.  Since rain and storms are in the forecast pretty much every day until at least Oct 2nd, we thought we would just go ahead and reserve a hotel instead of trying to camp.  We left late morning so it was already pretty hot and humid after about 10 miles. Just as I was beginning to get a little cranky in the heat, the sky started getting that familiar dark gray color and the next thing we know we are peddling in the pouring rain…AGAIN.  This time we also got to deal with some thunder, a little lightning, and an old friend from Iowa that we did not miss..WIND! We were pretty happy that we were able to be on a path off of the road the majority of the time because I gotta say these are some of the worst drivers we’ve encountered so far.  Add that to the weather and its a bit frustrating to say the least.

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Our favorite possessions are quickly becoming the small garbage bags that we snagged from our hotel room in Cocoa Beach.  We stuff all of our clothes, tent, and sleeping gear in them and once we get our rain protectors on our bags, everything has stayed pretty dry except us.  This has saved us a lot of time and effort trying to get everything dry when we get to our hotel.  Now, all we need to do is hang our rain coats, bag covers, and clothes we were wearing.  Jason spoke to a man in a convenience store today and he said this was the rainiest he can ever remember and he was not a youngster so that says a lot.  Its getting a little difficult to maintain a positive attitude about this weather!  Its causing us to stay in hotels more than we planned so we are hoping that it won’t put us way over budget, or cause us to have to come home earlier than planned or both!

We ended up at The Royal Inn Beach Hotel- Hutchinson Island.  This is an older place just across the street from the beach.  Hutchinson Island is right along another Indian River inlet and seems to be more of a little fishing town.  The inlets are sights that are difficult to describe.  You can see the river flowing one direction into the ocean and then right next to it, the ocean is moving the opposite direction toward the shore. Right where the river hits the ocean, the waves swirl around in all different directions. It’s a beautiful sort of quiet chaos that is nothing short of awesome.

I immediately liked it here and started picturing myself living in one of the many little pink or peach stucco houses we biked past.  It seems to have a pretty laid back atmosphere and not too touristy (although we are here in the off-season so I have no idea how busy it gets)  Maybe while we are wandering around on the roads we’ll come back here for a while.  We wandered down to check out the ocean and there were quite a few people fishing right off the beach.  It’s strange how the same ocean can have so many different characteristics depending on the shore land it crashes upon.  We could see all of these huge fish jumping and flopping around close to shore so we asked someone if that is what he was fishing for and he explained that they were either Snook or Tarpon.  He was hoping for a Snook because you can’t eat Tarpon.  As we watched him he was able to snag one and it took him quite awhile to reel him in.  He finally landed it and we walked over to see his 30″ catch.  You could tell by the smile on his face that he was going to have a nice dinner tonight!

 

Day 4: Sunny Florida not so Sunny

And on Day 3 we rested. We left our hotel in Cocoa Beach this morning and started riding around 8am. It was already warm and very humid. Our destination for the day was Sebastian Inlet State Park about a 36 mile ride were we would setup camp for the night. The ride was pretty good once we got pass Melbourne we actually rode on a bike path. At least I think it was a bike path or a really wide side walk. Either way it was nice. We met a young guy riding his bike to the Key’s also but he started riding from Pennsylvania. He was riding alone and put a lot more miles in a day then we are. It was very cool to meet him and super awesome the ride he has doing. Sebastian Inlet is a pretty good sized park. The inlet is where the Indian river meets the Atlantic ocean. Park is very nice, there is a small gift shop and the only place to get something to eat for miles, which sucks when you just rode 36 miles. We crossed the bridge to get to our campsite (which by the way there is no bike path on bridge but very little traffic).
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Once we found our site we were a little disappointed in the fact that the site is for rv/tent but 90% of site was gravel.Not even enough glass for our tent. After about 10 min of trying to figure out where we are going to setup our tent it started to rain. So we waited it out up by the rest rooms under the awning. Rain stops and sun returns. Then about 20 mins later the rain starts again this time it is rain hard. So once again we go hang out under the rest rooms awning. We look at weather radar and it is going to keep on raining. We wait for about 30 min and it lets up a little and we decide to ride another 15 miles and stay in a hotel.[KGVID width=”640″ height=”480″]http://outwandering.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/IMG_17131.mp4[/KGVID]

We finally arrived at the Surf Club Hotel just north of Vero Beach. Lets hope for dry weather tomorrow. I will be adding photos to the gallery as we travel south.