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Monday, July 17, 2017


I had one last day of fun in the Miami area with Taryn before she drove me to the bus terminal to board my midnight bus (which was 25 minutes late) to Orlando, the first of many stops on the way home. So here's one last, surprise post with some pictures from our trip to Key Biscayne. They're happy thoughts to focus on as I wait at a bus terminal at 4:30 in the morning for my next bus, of three more, to get home.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


I woke at midnight to a lick on the mouth. That dog... He barked at me when I showed up as if he'd never seen me before, then spent the whole night curled up next to me. I had a hard time getting back to sleep after that, and I woke several more times through the night, usually to him wanting my attention. When 6am came around, I was more than ready to get up and get around. I ate a quick breakfast, gathered up my stuff, and hit the road a little after 7. I wanted to get through Miami and get to the end.

I followed the same route along the M Trail, a good diagonal and safe from traffic. But hitting all those crosswalks made it painfully slow. Riding highway to the end is always exciting; you feel empowered to push to the end, the harder you pound your legs, the sooner you cross the finish. But riding on that trail, it felt like as soon as I got up to speed, I was slowing to a stop at yet another light. That glaring red hand seemed to taunt me as it bid me to wait and wait at every crosswalk.

Then at last I got off the trail, opting to take a different, shorter route...right through the thick of the city. I started moving a little faster, but with the new concern of riding in traffic, rather than just waiting eternally on it. For awhile I was on side roads through neighborhoods and didn't have much traffic to deal with. Google navigated me through Tropical Park, a nice park where I took a moment to break, and to get on my trunk bag as it began to rain. Though as usual, the rain didn't last long.

Then after a little more neighborhood navigation, the peaceful part of my day was at an end. Let me tell you, Milan Dairy Road is not nearly so pastoral as it sounds. It was heavily trafficked and had no bike lane at all, so that I was riding right in it. Not going to lie, it was not fun. But at least the adrenaline had me moving at a damn good clip, often over 20mph, trying to stay alive and get through it as quick as possible. There was much less stopping at lights, and they became momentary reprieves. I was so glad when I finally got off, meandering through neighborhoods again...before getting right back on another busy road with no shoulder. I actually sidewalk rode for a little while, because I needed a break from the blaring horns and angry drivers.

But at last, I was joyously rolling my shoulders and wagging my elbows in my "shoulder dance" as bike lane at last appeared under my wheels. I was finally safe...more or less. It disappeared briefly at one point with an aggravating "use the sidewalk" sign. But on a whole, I had bike lane for that whole road, until I turned off and had a less-than-great but functional bike path through an aptly named "Linear Park", a long, narrow park wedged between road and canal. Then my road to the end (or close to it) also had bike lane...I just had no way to make a left turn to get onto it. I sidewalk rode again for some time until I could get a crosswalk, because it was the only way I was getting over to the other side of the road.

Before riding to the end, I stopped at a bike shop and inquired about getting my bike boxed up. It apparently could be done quickly and it would be no problem to put my emptied panniers in with the bike. Perfect. I biked the last bit to Taryn's, and at last had a chance to relax in AC. Then it was right back to tackling the logistics. I dumped out the contents of my panniers, all of my stuff, and then with weirdly deflated bags, biked back to the shop. It was such an odd feeling leaving both Bree and my bags there, walking out alone. After spending the last two months with her as my one steadfast companion through every triumph and ordeal, I had left Bree to be put in a box to be shipped home, each of us traveling our own ways home. Rationally I knew I shouldn't feel so emotional about it, but I did.

I still do. This is it. The tour is officially over.  It never feels any less strange. The only thing left now is getting both Bree and I home. I got things arranged with BikeFlights for FedEx to pick up my bike from the shop...on Monday, after I'll have already left, because they don't let you schedule on weekends. I'm trying very hard not to feel nervous about that. I came back to the house, on foot, to relax a little more. Then right before they closed, I got into the library and printed off both my bus tickets and my shipping labels. I tossed several items at the end of their life, including my belt bag that has been with me since midway through my first tour, when my one since childhood gave out on me, as well as my sun bleached and pad worn helmet, and my torn balaclava.

Today I went to Walmart and bought a duffel bag, earbuds, and food. Then I brought my shipping labels to the bike shop and observed that Bree seemed to be decently boxed before they closed the lid on her. I dislike that she won't be picked up until after I leave town, but so it goes. And just now I finished packing my trunk bag, mostly with food (as my carry on), and new duffel with everything else (as my checked luggage). There's nothing left now but to hang out for awhile, hopefully have some fun with Taryn tomorrow, and then take the bus, at midnight Monday morning.

So, the tour is done. It's back to bed with this blog. I'll catch y'all (I am still in the South after all) next adventure. Until then, have fun and live free.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Out of the Keys

Today was a much easier day than the previous. I had only 50ish miles to go and I wasn't fighting the wind nearly so much. I got breakfast at Lorelei's, where I had gotten dinner last night. There was a man just in front of the restaurant brooming the massive pool of water from the storm last night into the drain, because with no slope, it wasn't going anywhere on its own. Iarrived just after they opened and was the only customer there. My arrival was greeted by an egret standing in the middle of the outdoor restaurant. He apparently is a frequent visitor and has been for many years, getting customer's scraps. He hung out close by during my whole meal (a very good vegetarian omelette) and several times scared off another egret who came along, very territorial about "his" restaurant.

I didn't hit the road until after 9, lounging in the hotel room a bit watching television. Since my face mask on my balaclava is torn to shreds and my nose has started to burn, I decided to use my hankerchief for face protection today and tomorrow, and styled the new look in the mirror before heading out.

I made good time and few stops. Things went relatively well, but there was a stretch where for some reason I had one incident after another with drivers. I had a driver neglect to stop at a stop sign in front of a trail crossing, another driver turn right in front of me while I was in a bike lane, forcing me to slam on my brakes, and best of all, someone in a stupidly oversized pick-up truck spew a plume of diesel gas in my face, clearly on purpose. It was frustrating.

I took highway 1 this time around rather than Card Sound Road. It was the much, much better way to go. There is far more traffic, but a wide shoulder, over the bridge we're talking interstate wide, and still plenty wide after as well. I felt much safer that route, and I strongly recommend it to anyone heading to and from the Keys, no matter who else says Card Sound is the way to go. For awhile, perhaps from a slight wind shift, or the slight westward slant of the road, I was flying along at 18mph. It was great. There was scarce to see, just like with Card Sound, but it went much quicker.

Then suddenly the shoulder was gone at Homestead and it was a frantic bid to get off as soon as possible. That done, it was a quick meandering route to get back here to the same host I had before, here at Paradise Farm, arriving in advance of 2pm. There was some temptation when I was really moving along that I should just go all the way today, but I don't think that would have worked out for me, not with all the stop lights and with rush hour traffic, not at all.

I don't look forward to getting back through Miami tomorrow, but at least I have a couple days inside to look forward to after that...before the horror of the 48 hour bus ride. Non-bicycle travel really is a drag. I am somewhat torn about my decision not to bike it back to Lincoln. But the choice has already been made, so there is no sense regretting it. It's too late into the Summer to be riding like this. And I'll also be able to attend the family reunion I had previously expected to miss. I know it's the right choice, I just have to keep reminding myself of it. And once all the stress of packing and enduring the bus ride is done, I know I'll feel a lot better about it.

One more day of riding to go.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Full Reverse

It's not over until it's over. To be completely nerdy, the analogy that comes to mind is that I beat the game and now I am playing some mirror mode where everything is reversed and also harder, thanks to the tail wind turned headwind. But hey, hard days are nothing new.

I also need it noted my claim of 3700 miles in my video yesterday was erroneous. I'm not sure where my head was when I did that math. I was at 3630 miles, which, well, is not 3700. So, consider that claim corrected. Though I have cleared that 3700 as of the 80 mile day today, so I wasn't *too* far off in that remark. It was a long 80 miles against that wind, and in this heat (especially as my balaclava's face mask has  continued to tear, leaving my nose and cheeks more exposed). But it was not boring as I had feared for covering the same ground. The Keys are just as beautiful coming up as going down. And I also noticed, or at least saw closer, different things for being on the other side of the highway.

I ate breakfast (greatly disappointed the expensive hotel had cold boiled eggs rather than hot scrambled eggs as previous cheaper ones have had), reluctantly checked out, and hit the road a little after 8, biking out of Key West. I was amazed when only 30 some miles in that I had drained my CamelBak (that I had added a bunch of ice to from the ice machine to make wonderfully cold) completely dry already. I must have been drinking more than I thought. I was worried that I would be low on water right when I had to cross the seven mile bridge, but thankfully there was a convenience store just before it, where I was able to fill up, use the restroom, and get some junk food, all of which I needed.

The Seven Mile Bridge was much less exciting this time around and a lot more drudgerous, and not for having already done it, but for fighting the wind. It was a slow-going struggle, my troublesome left knee aching, and I just wanted it over. But I got over the bridge at last, straight into a rain cloud, that I was grateful to have waited over the island, as the welcome rain might have been worrisome on the bridge for its reduction in visibility. The rain didn't last long, but another cloud would bring it  I back later (funny the isolated nature of the storms here). Somehow even the rain was barely cooling, as it felt like I was swimming already in the humidity. I struggled today. But sure enough, mile after mile, I made my way back here to Islamorada. I checked into my motel (not much more than a campground around here) at about 4:30, and then collapsed in the AC. I looked around for what was available for food, and discovered there's a restaurant a stone's throw away with a vegan sautee and a happy hour with cheap beer going until 6. So I hastened to get around to take advantage of said happy hour. And because Taryn had told me I had to get key lime pie while I'm in the Keys, and I had not yet done so, I got myself one expensive, but good, piece of pie for dessert. And now, I relax for the night with some mind numbing television. Just two days left to go.