Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Homestead Fla to Sugarloaf Key KOA 112.2 miles in 8:15 December 21

This trip turned out to be one of the great biking adventures of my life. Anticipation of getting on the islands, weather, darkness, and not knowing what to expect, gave the whole trip a great deal of excitement compared to other days. I left Homestead and headed south on Rt. 1 thru swamplands, which turned into shallow lakes, with a 20 mph wind at my back. I knew the wind advantage I was enjoying was gonna change after I left the mainland and turn west across water. What I didn't know was that the wind was going to keep increasing in velocity as the day went on. Before the trip was through, the wind was a steady crosswind at 30-35 mph. I have NEVER ridden in such a situation , especially for such a long distance. The trip was slowed by crosswinds, so I rode about the last hour, in darkness. It was in the 60's, the water was white capping, didn't look clear at all; definitely not the Keys I was expecting! The wind was really rocking over the bridges, of which there were many, including one that was seven miles long. The mangrove trees, or whatever they were, did buffer the wind a great deal when I was on land. When the trip was over, my biceps and triceps were fatigued from white knuckling the handlebars, and that has never happened before. Every gust felt like it wanted to take my front tire out, especially on the bridges. Did I mention that there were a ton of bridges, and many more Keys than I expected?
One of the things I really noticed on the trip, was the memorial markers for each highway death that Florida installs on their highways. I have seen them all thru Florida, but the sheer amount of them thru the Keys was always a sobering reminder that I had to pay attention , not only to the wind, the scenery, but also to the large volume of traffic that was pouring into the area for the Christmas holiday. It was like a parade for 80 miles, and there were more people leaving than there were coming! Another thing that I didn't know about was the parallel, now unused for traffic of any kind, train bridges that run next to almost every bridge, especially in the upper Keys. It was built by Henry Flagler, who is definitely the most influential person (at least on the east coast) that I've never heard of , until this trip! He made his money with Standard Oil, and his name started to appear in South Carolina, all the way down the coast. He has as many streets and buildings named after him as Martin Luther King!
The ride was made even more interesting by the quality of the shoulder on which I was riding. I gave up on the bike trail after a while because it ended and started quite randomly, switched sides of the road without warning or markings, and was usually a low quality ride because of the root swells in the asphalt caused by the very trees that were helping block the wind.
WOW! What a ride! I wouldn't have traded it for anything. When I got to the campground, all I wanted to do after 112+ miles was eat a half gallon of ice cream, but I was immediately whisked off to KOA's very own outdoor bar by my welcoming party, (Charlie and Susan Watson)(Pam was there too!! Thank you very much!) for beer, pizza and many hours of joviality.

Not to take anything away from Mike's ride, but it was a white knuckler driving down in the motorhome.  Every time I got to a bridge or a gap in buildings or trees on the keys, I got hit broadside with a major gust of wind!  When you are a 37 foot tin can that is towing a light weight jeep, you get nudged!  Before I would hit a bridge, I would tighten my grip and steer slightly onto the shoulder, that way when I got pushed to the left, I didn't hit the oncoming traffic!  Sugarloaf KOA was a welcome sight to me!  After I got set-up (no awning today due to the winds!) I went to visit Charlie and Susan who have a lovely sight on the edge of the water.  Unfortunately the wind was whipping across the water and they were both bundled up like it was a Pittsburgh snowstorm!!  We decided to go over to the pub and have a drink and watch the bridge that Mike would be coming across - I could only have one beer since I didn't know if I would have to go out and pick-up Mike after dark.  Right!  Like he would let me pick him up!  Anyway it did get dark, we got worried and Charlie drove us out to look for him.  We got about 20 yds up the road and here comes Mike!  Talk about a weight off my shoulders!

Spiney lobster stature

My bike wanted to go diving....

This is what US 1 looks like heading thru the keys, on the bridges I had nice shoulders.

Took a detour over to Long Key State Park

This is about one of the railroad bridges - the longest and most famous in the Keys
Yeah, the water was rough!

This is the 7 mile train bridge

Look at the branches on the palm trees!  That was my wind - looks and felt like a hurricane (but it wasn't)

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