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!
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.
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!
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.
Lesson #5– You 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!