Besides his impressive resume of solo bike rides, which includes one from Florida 7 years ago, Tom is an experienced sailor and knows about winds.
My first leg of this long journey was to be starting in Key West by renting a vehicle in Fort Luderdale and driving ito Key West to start my bike ride on Thursday 4/12. Only problem is wind. But its a bg problem on the Keys. According to all reports I had a strong 15 MPH wind blowing East against me.
But if I switched the logic and rode to Key West then took the car back I could make the wind work for me. So, the plan has changed. I’m on the road riding tomorrow Wednesday, 4/11 from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys. Depending how the day goes I’ll try to make it at least 75 miles or so. Then pick up a car in Key West and drive back to Fort Lauderdale on Friday. There I’ll begin catching up with Tom who will miss the Keys.
I started planning this trip at least 6 months ago with only a vague notion of wanting to do something that thrilled and scared me. Something that challenged what I thought was my limits. But why should that matter? Is the game to outlast everyone and play it safe or to ride the edge?
Basically, I’m just looking for some serious fun. As we age we discover more of our limitations. Yet everyone says the old revert back to children. That may not be a bad thing. Maybe what I’m looking for is joy and exhileration. Something that’s easy to see in my grandkids.
The New York Times Magazine published an article recently called “Why would anyone kayak across the ocean – at 70?”. That title caught my attention since I can relate to the age but not the scope of that challenge. Aleksander Doba started in Barnegat Bay and ended in France as he had planned, 110 days later. Doba’s feat is awesome in every respect and even more so at age 70. It’s hard to say why he did it but it’s easy to say he felt he had to.
We all create our own personal challenges and why we do it is besides the point. The act of doing it is the journey. In a way, I’m already gifted by starting this journey. Where it will end and when remains to be seen.
Okay. Made it through my first night on a train in a sleeper car, top bunk. Hard to beleive that it’s really pretty cozy sleeping in tight quarters. The top bunk is on rails and slides down a couple feet. You climb over the compact and hidden toilet and sink. Mattress is a few inches but very comfortable and good air circulation. You hear the hum of the train moving steady and quietly through the Carolinas. Its dark and little to see but some street lights here and there.
By all rights I should have been rocked to sleep quickly but sleep was hard to come by. Rest, however, was easy. We woke to some movement in the train around 6:30 a.m. and went out for breakfast. I had the quesadilla breakfast special which was a tasty quesadilla with minced eggs, peppers, sausage and salsa. Nice and tasty.
Tom reminded me of his personal complaint about food just not arriving hot. Yes, presentation is not bad but it seems the timing of the food us such that its delivered about 5 minutes later than it should be. And for eggs, thats 5 minutes too late. Still, not bad and we had our choice of the menu, plenty of coffee and a nice serving staff.
It looks like the rest of the day (Tues) we will be riding thru Florida (about 500 miles?) to our final train destination in Fort Lauderdale. Light rain out there. Better now than later on our bikes.
It was a hectic day/week/month getting ready for this bike trip. The key point of failure at this early stage was anything that could go wrong with the train, our chosen means of getting to our starting point in Florida.
Tom, who has ridden trains on other bike adventures, led us to taking the Amtrak as the best way to move the bikes and advertised it as a unique adventure. Having some love for trains since I was a kid and a commuter as an adult bit the bait. We soon discovered that there was a decent priced package to Miami/Ft Lauderdale that included a sleeper car room for 2 and all meals for about $250 each for a one-way. Maybe the only catch was the 27 hours. But hey, I’m retired now so time takes on a new meaning.
The bikes went on at Newark surprisingly easy just hooking them up to the baggage car wall which we witnessed. The awkward part was lugging 5 smallish bags back to the sleeping car, then finding a place for them. My weight of baggage was about 50 lbs or 10 more than planned for. Amtrak tickets say 2 bags not totaling more than 50 lbs. but they clearly are not as anal as the airlines.
There’s this clear difference in train people where sometimes it seems they are too abrupt and expect you to know tbe routine, sometimes extremely friendly and personal and sometimes just a feeling that they don’t like working here, or maybe anywhere. Maybe that’s just what we all feel like sometimes but just don’t express it because for us it would get us fired. I’ll reserve my final opinions for later.
We adjusted to the micro-space of the sleeper car and had dinner in the dining car. We soon met our neighbor cabin across the asile. Paul and Eleanor from Fairfield, CT were a normal looking young senior couple who were very friendly and enjoying the train ride to Ft Lauderdale where they were going to catch a cruise to the Panama Canal. They joined us at dinner and we soon learned that Paul was an expert clock repairman and Eleanor an Exec Assistant in her day. Right now they were considering retirement and enjoying life and they liked train riding. Less hassle.
I’ve set out a personal challenge to ride a bike along much of the east coast starting in Florida. A friend, Tom Landes, who rode this route a few years ago was the inspiration for the idea. Here’s a quick look how Google Maps sees the challenge:
As you can see, following this route the entire trip will be 1595 miles. My objective is to get back to home in Morristown by Saturday, May 12, 2018. I’ll hit the road on the morning of April 11, leaving 31 days to complete the trip. We are counting on making an average of 50 miles per day. But our route will vary from this map. Just getting out to the Key West will require a extra 3 days.