Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bicycling from Homestead, Fla to Sugarloaf Key, Fla. Dec 17

118.58 miles in 7:51....(1096.22 total miles from Statesville NC to Sugarloaf KOA)...The Keys owed me a ride like today. Eighty degrees, mild tail wind, not a cloud in the sky. Compare that to last trip, two years ago, with the 20-30 mph head wind and cross wind, and I arrived at the KOA about a half hour after dark. Last time, I had no idea where Sugarloaf Key was in the chain, and I really didn't have a bead on the mileage. Today, I remembered every detail, every Key, every bridge, and I rolled in with a hour daylight to spare. I rode 6 more miles today than last trip, and finished almost one hour faster. I was also intelligent enough this time to be in the pedals by 8 am. I was pumped up and tapered for the challenge, so it was easy to get out of bed. I planned on wearing an outer layer to start, but the 58 degree start felt really good in the sunshine. The first eight miles or so was in the Redlands Agricultural Area, a very interesting ride, with the multitude of topiary nurseries, as well as many other tropical plants, as well as many things that grow in the Pittsburgh area. As I rode along, I couldn't help wonder how many plants from this area that I actually planted in my 22 years of landscaping. Who knows.
From the agricultural area, Fla 997, went into downtown Homestead, an older area that is separate from the massive commercial area that is US1. US 1 has all the Walmarts ( three of them), Targets, Best Buys, and on and on and on. The area I rode through has the smaller, older, mom and pop type places that made up the town of Homestead 20-30 years ago. After about eleven total miles, I merged into US1, the only route through the Keys. It starts off kind of slow, with lots of scrub trees and marshland for about ten miles, until you get into Key Largo.
 One thing that was consistent the entire 118 miles was the traffic. It never stopped. I had a slipstream caused by lines of vehicles to ride in pretty much the entire trip. The few times I had opposing traffic only, stirring the wind, I could tell a difference. From Key Largo, there is a bike lane or trail, in various stages of completion and quality all the way to Key West. I rode on it very seldomly, for all the reasons I don't like trails, and also because it kept changing sides of the road, but 75% was on the northbound side, opposite the way I was going. The slipstream advantage would not have been there had I rode on the same side of the road as opposing traffic. Even when the trail was viable and present, on my right or left, there was usually a bike lane on the road, where I like it. The only place where their was neither a bike lane or a trail, was in the towns, like Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon. There may have been sections, but they came and went with no rhyme or reason, and they were not very well signed. It's just better to stay on the road, even though there were times when I thought it best to ride on the sidewalk, which I did, with great distain. 
Largo is a long, narrow town, not especially appealing, unless you turn right or left, and see the color of the turquoise water, the docks, the nicely landscaped homes and resorts on the water. On US1, not so much. Largo melted into Tavernier, after crossing a bridge to Plantation Key, which becomes Islamorada, after crossing another bridge. The bridges, with the water and the view, are my favorite part of the ride. After Islamorada, another long stretch, the populated area dies down, and the bridges and state park areas increase. The final town, Marathon, is before the world famous Seven Mile Bridge. From there, the keys each seem to get smaller, and the water more frequent. Every bridge is paralleled across the water by the old Flagler Railroad bridges, in various stages of repair. The railroad opened this area as a tourism mecca, and I'm not really sure when it closed down, but the bridges that are still safe are used as fishing and walking piers. Very few are passable end to end, as they are either fenced off in areas, or a piece of the bridge is removed so you can't cross certain areas. 
Today, I could have ridden 150 miles if I needed to. It was just one of those good rides that a cyclist lives for. I'm so grateful that I've had the opportunity to ride some of the epic trips that I've done. There are only a small percentage of people that would want to attempt a ride like today, and there are even less whose circumstances allow them to do it. What a life.

Our home for the Christmas holidays!

This guy (an iguana) lives in the palm tree next to our site.  He has 3 buddies that live up there with him!

Close up of "Iggy"

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