The last day – Key West!

Wheel full 70px I will always remember November 10, 2016.  It was the day I completed riding a bicycle from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Key West, Florida, but that’s not why.  It was the day Leonard Cohen died.

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“I came so far for beauty
I left so much behind”

Wheel full 70px My wife Heather told me when we talked by phone that evening.  I had ridden back from Mallory Square to the hotel where I would spend the first night in 84 days that I didn’t have to leave from in the morning and ride a bicycle 40 miles/65 kilometers or so.  I’ve felt pretty sad and subdued every since, but that is now changing into a sense of wonder and appreciation for the amazing body of music he left us.  I won’t dwell on this further, except to say how lucky I am to have lived during his time among us.

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Wheel full 70px I have now travelled by bike, more or less, the length of the line between the start and end point on this map.  The distance, which I will look at more closely once I am back to a desktop computer, is a little over 3,600 miles/5,800 kilometers, but that includes a number of ferry rides and the van ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  I plan to publish detailed information about the ride, to include what I believe to be the exact final mileage, in a couple of future blog posts.  It’s just too hard to do from an iPhone, even a 6 Plus, which is what I’ve carried with me.

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Wheel full 70px I rode through two Canadian provinces and 14 states along as much of their coastline as I felt I could reasonable do without having to backtrack  from places where there was no outlet except for the way I rode in.  I compromised in just a few places, mainly to avoid unpaved stretches or roads that looked “iffy” for some reason once I reached them.  I can pretty much say with confidence, though, that more than 98% of the time I was riding on the through road in each province and state that was the closest to the shore.

Wheel full 70px Here’s the ride across Florida- 600 miles/960 kilometers, which I did in 12 days.

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Wheel full 70px Here’s a close-up of the Florida Keys, which from Card Sound bridge to Key West was a 125 mile/200 kilometer stretch.  This took two and a half days to complete.

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Wheel full 70px When I reached Key West my sister Sue and her daughter Sarah were there to meet me.

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Wheel full 70px What a lift seeing them provided!  They had driven down from Sue’s home north of Tampa/St. Petersburg and will take me back up that way so that I can fly home to Alaska from Tampa next week.  When I passed them at the Key West sign, though, I still had a few more miles to go.

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Wheel full 70px I rode on through Key West past the “Southernmost Point” monument (it really isn’t, but I’ll post about that later),

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past the end of US Highway 1, which I first saw back in Maine shortly after crossing the border from Canada,

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and finally to the seawall at Mallory Square.

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Wheel full 70px My ride was finally over.

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Wheel full 70px The Surly is now reduced to parts and stuffed in the trunk of Sarah’s car.  I am headed north for the first time in three months.

Wheel full 70px I can do did this.

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Three days, 150 miles to go

Wheel full 70px After riding yesterday to the very tip of Florida’s Atlantic Coast beaches at the north entrance to Biscayne Bay

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today I will make my way onto the Florida Keys! Here’s a couple of postcards from yesterday’s ride, which somehow managed to include a leaky gas main and a little less than two hours of riding across the Miami metro area at night.

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-oOo-

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Wheel full 70px I’m starting the day in Cutler Bay, a completely unremarkable portion of Miami’s urban sprawl north of the old Homestead Air Force Base, which has been decommissioned and closed.   I’ll head south on minor roads until I run into Card Sound Road, which crosses onto the Keys east of US Highway 1 over the toll bridge shown on the map.   From there I’ll ride to John Pennekamp State Park just outside Key Largo and camp there for the night.

Wheel full 70px Here’s where I am right now in the context of the entire trip

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and of Florida

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and of the Keys.

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Wheel full 70px Margaritaville, here I come!

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Five days, 250 miles to go

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Wheel full 70px When I was a kid growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the late 1950s and 60s, I could think of no place on earth that held the same allure for me as the southern Florida coast.  Place names like Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach were inflated in my mind to the status of tropical oases, with limpid blue water coming ashore onto endless beaches of dazzling white sand.  If you were really cool you got to live on a boat, like the guys on Surfside 6.  Plus, we Chicagoans had a direct connection to the area.

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Wheel full 70px Yeah, turn right on to good old Lake Shore Drive  out there at the end of the US 34-US 66 duplex just past Buckingham Fountain and drive.  The spitting snow and sullen gray shores of Lake Michigan would then, as if by magic and a couple of tanks of gas, be transformed to the balmy breezes and endless sunny horizons of the Atlantic Ocean.  And 41 would have transported you all the way in between.

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Wheel full 70px The reality, as I’ve come to learn, is quite a bit different.  Carl Hiaasen’s take on south Florida these days certainly appears to be the more accurate one, at least based on what I’ve seen during my ride so far.

Wheel full 70px But rather than say I was misinformed, better to hold on to the notion that, if I had only been here a little over 50 years ago, it would have been the way that I then believed it to be.  And so that’s what I’ll do.  See you in the Boom-Boom Room.

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Wheel full 70px Today I’ll ride most of the way through Fort Lauderdale, and tomorrow Miami Beach and Miami.

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Wheel full 70px The threat of drizzle remains in the forecast, but all I felt yesterday was a couple of drops that could have been stray ocean spray, for all I knew.

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Wheel full 70px The new wheel is performing, well… like a bike wheel is supposed to perform.  The bike shop only had black to work with, which allows me to now easily tell which end of the bike is which.

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Oh well, this ride has never been about appearances in any event.

Nine days, 450 miles to go

Wheel full 70px That’s where I was at this morning- a quarter of the way from the Georgia border to Key West.  The trip is ending way too fast.

Wheel full 70px I rolled through Daytona Beach yesterday.

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Wheel full 70px Last night my friend Scott drove up and met me in New Smyrna Beach, where I spent the night.

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Wheel full 70px We had a great dinner at a place called Blackbeard’s Inn.  I ate a huge prime rib, which was very tasty.  Scott and I spent a couple of hours filling in the gaps of our decade plus long friendship on the Internet.

Wheel full 70px Today the highlight was a sign.

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After I passed it I rode for what seemed like hours through scrub and swamp, until I came to a gate where I was politely told I couldn’t go any further- that the road across the facility was closed to the public.  So I rode over to the mainland and stopped in Titusville for the night.  I’ll enter the space center from the south side early tomorrow morning and take a look around.

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Wheel full 70px Tomorrow night’s destination is Melbourne, where I’ll get together with my nephew Jack.  It should be an interesting day.

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And then there were none

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Wheel full 70px No states left to go before I get to Florida because I’m in Florida!

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Is it just me, or is this a really, really big sign?

Wheel full 70px As this is written a little more than 20 miles/32 kilometers in, in fact.  I’m in Fernandina Beach on Florida state route A1A, and just about to make that big right turn down the coast.

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Wheel full 70px Key West is still a long way off but, in the context of where I started out, I’m almost there.

Ten Weeks In

Wheel full 70px I started this madness ten weeks ago today- August 18th- in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Wheel full 70px I’m the blue dot.  In the past 70 days I have traversed two Canadian provinces and 12 states. I am now in Georgia.

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Wheel full 70px Only Florida remains to be crossed, which I will do by traveling from its northern border to the state’s southernmost point that can be reached by road.  That point lies in Key West, and I’ll get there on November 10th- a date I have announced and stuck by from before leaving Maine way back in September.  That took a little planning, a whole lot of pedaling and more than my fair share of good luck.  More on all that, and especially the good luck part, in a future post.

Wheel full 70px Oh yes, and

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Wheel full 70px It’s right on the border with South Carolina, so I kind of got a twofer today. That, and a big “HOO-WAH” to my hosts last night: the United States Marine Corps.

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