A slight change in plans

This is exactly why plans suck.

I “planned” this trip loosely because I knew we’d be improvising at some point. All it takes is one thing to go wrong and it changes everything. So, I’m already a day behind In my wildest dreams, I was supposed to be renting a car Friday morning and driving back to Fort Lauderdale to continue my coast ride and meet up with Tom. Instead, I found myself pitching a tent in Boyd’s Family Campground, Stock Island, just outside of Key West. I had made it but was at least 1, maybe 2 days behind where I wanted to be. Meanwhile, Tom was barrelling on.

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One thing I needed to do while here was to at least see the basic Duvall Street happenings which was made easy by taking a cheap public bus from the campground to the center of town. That and a beautiful sunset worked like a charm.

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So, after spending the night camping on Stock Island, I rented a Ford Escape and threw my gear into it and headed to Daytona Beach where I could drop off the car and meet up with Tom on Sunday or Monday.

Couple of problem with that plan. One, the ride was really far and took me the entire Saturday to ride from Key West to Daytona, 450 miles away! I’m learning how big this state really is. Holding as true to form as possible I searched for the cheapest place to drop into and found the La Bella Oceanfront Inn.

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For $89 a night it has a king size bed, no rugs, fairly clean, dimly lit and right on the ocean. Absolutely no amenities to offer except towels and WIFI. Above my road trip budget. Yeah, below my standards, but this is a trip to strech my limits. Two days here. I’m heading north on Monday to St. Augustine and back on the road again with Tom.

 

 

Just when you think…

Rewinding again to Friday the 13th, I was way too confident thinking I had solved my mechanical problems and added new tires. I’ll repeat that that the shop All Keys Cycles said that the new Continental Plus Contact Travel 700X35c tires were built to take rough street roads. Really, the issue is whether there’s enough tough tread to avoid a puncture. This was the latest model with Kevlar.

cocpr2-1After I finished the 7-mile bridge I was feeling a little heady and maybe too optimistic. I had a 50 mile ride on Friday and had finished about 20 miles when my rear wheel flatted, with one fo the new tires. The good news – it did not happen on the 7-Mile Bridge. The bad new was I needed to fix a flat on rims that were a problem. But the shop said it should be easier on these new wider tires.

Wrong. The tire was still incredibly hard to roll on to the rim. After 1/2 hour of trying, I saw a construction workers nearby and challenged him to help. It was good to know my wimpness would be shared. So we both tried to figure a way to stretch the tire over the rim, trying to avoid roughing up the tube and destroying a new tube in the process. Finally, both of us forcing the tire it went over the rim and pumped up fine. I’m looking good again.

But, I have to say to myself how do I handle this the next time? I watched the bike repair guy pretty easily put on the tire. It looked like a piece of cake. There are little minute tricks to doing this. But mostly I’d just rather not have to think about the next time. Which I do. This is the new reality.

This is Sunday and I’ve ridden the bike at least 50 miles and all looks good. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and believe in the indestructibility of good new tires. And, maybe the good nature of others to help…if I need it.

Riding the 7-MIle Bridge

Where we last left off on Thursday (4/12), I rode from Key Largo at the start of the Keys to Marathon (1/2 way or 50-miles). Half-way on any journey is a good feeling. This US highway 1 gets a little less crowded and you see more water. But you also see traffic moving very fast.

Now, on Friday the most intimidating section was ahead, the 7-mile Bridge. This is a long, long stretch that rises up a few hundred feet that was never designed with the cyclist or pedestrian in mind.  Probably the closest example is riding something like the Chessapeak Bay Bridge. On your right is a 3-4 ft high cement barrier edge and on the left is the traffic. The only relief for a cyclist is to hold the line with within a 4 foot shoulder with no relief for the next 7 miles.

For this challenge, I’ve been advised to use mirrors on the bike and helmet to stay safe. In my riding experience in traffic, the more important thing is to be super aware of sounds and the road ahead and concentrae on holding a line – not waivering. Its simply not possible to react to someone coming up on your left in traffic with all that’s happening around you. If you do, I would bet you would be less safe and be scared to death of reacting the wrong way.

The Seven Mile bridge was fairly easy for me, but not as nice a ride as it could have been if there were provisions to stop. Fortunately, there were many other places along the way where that was possible. For cyclist and cars, there are many turnouts, parks and even shoulders where you can stop and take in the beauty. In fact, one unique construction you find are pedestrian bridges with cutouts for fishermen(women) because fishing is such a popular activity.

The road ahead

A lot of shoulder, blue skies and blue-green water ahead. Miles and miles on both sides. This was one of the more friendly wide areas. Looks like they continue to construct friendly bike paths that run parallel when they can. Just have to get used to the mix and sometimes feel the swoosh of a dump truck buzzing by at 60 miles an hour (or more?)

What a difference a day makes

To sum it up we are back in business.

After a tough Tuesday today fell right into plan.

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The day rested on finding the bike shop, getting there early and them fixing what needed fixing. They beat that. All Cycles in Key Largo was about 3 miles away. I needed to get there on time an get them working. So, I Ubered a ride with my bike hanging outside the driver’s trunk.

The repair guy had no problem fixing the flat but we discussed the possiblity of the tire being shot after several big hits that day. If you’ve ever had to fix a tire you know you do not want to fix anything that has a possibility of causing another future problem.

So, we went with a new Continental 33cm somewhat treaded tire with Kevlar linking. I was going bigger, wider and tougher to get thru the upcoming ordeal. Then it suddenly dawned on me that if I was going to upgrade the toughness oon one, why not just do both? Now I feel more ready and capable for what’s ahead.

So, finally finished the bike and I was ready to roll again by 11:30. I’ll be brief on ther ride except to say it was great, beautiful, hot, challenging and satisfying knowing that I’m back on track again. I’m here in Marathon, about 1/2 way out on the Keys staying at a airbnb cottage which is a nice reminder where I am.

My upcoming plans have changed slightly and I will be heading from here another 50 miles tomorrow to Key West where I have a camp spot on the ocean. That will be a new experience with me. I leave Saturday morning driving me and my bike to Daytona Beach. I will be missing a chunk of miles from Fort Lauderdale to Daytona that would have been on our route. But, its all part of my new revised Plan C.

That’s Life. That’s what the people say.

Whoa! I’m remembering what “Old Blue Eyes” once said. Big time.

“Riding high in April. Shot down in … (April?)”

So, today, Wednesday, April 11, started out great. This is the first full day on the bike!

I left the airbnb in Plantation, FL and headed south on almost a straight line for 30 miles. An early disappointment was the roads which were busy and randomly friendly to bikes, Some had dedicated lanes, some not even a shoulder. Some speedy, some pleasurably slow. Then the best part was the southern Miami area where there was a nice well kept bike trail for about 10 miles called the Old Cutler Road.

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The shit part started right after that ended and I, thinking the omniscient Google would always pick the best routes, decided to follow their suggest route which looked out-of-the-way and peaceful. That may be true but there’s more to pay for that.

Looking at the Google map to get to Key Largo takes a coastal route without any highway but it does not tell you that it’s a long 30 mile dusty trail in the middle of no man’s land, Biscayne National Park  and miles and miles of mangroves following a canal. Presumably, this is the Everglades or something like it.

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I’ll totally blame Google for this day’s woes. Once I got on the trail I suddenly realized that I need more of a pickup truck or fat bike to ride this stuff. My Ex Pat is designed to tow and take some weight and bounce but this was ridiculous, Rocks, millions of pebbles, ditches, all took its toll on the bike until I broke a bolt holding the rear rack to the frame. Then finally near the end of this torture I flatted after hitting some severe rocks.

The final straw as the flat was very difficult to fix as the tire was too tight to get on the rim. After an hour of trying I finally got it on only to have the new tube blow out. I was 1000 feet from hitting the road again but it was not to be.

Its getting near 5 pm and I still have another 25 miles to go so I did what any sane person would do these days and call a Uber. Pedro arrive in about 15 minutes and delivered me to Key Largo my destination (almost, since I was so beat my plan to camp was replaced with a room, somewhere, anywhere). That place was the Key West Inn (in Key Largo). I will not go into rating this right now because I’m not sure how you can rate this place. Maybe more on this later.

Anyway, I’m in Key Largo. I have a broken bike. But its nothing that can’t be fixed. 🙂 However, I’ve got to get that done before I can do anything and this will set my schedule back. I’m going to sleep on what are my next steps. The trip goes on. Meanwhile, here’s where I had dinner and caught a little of the Keys mojo at Sharkey’s. More on that tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully a better one. No one said this would be easy. In a perverse way, I like the new challenge of improvising solutions and remembering that even the best plans of men oft go awry. I’m totally in my McGiver role right now.