Itasca State Park

Wheel full 70px The source of the Mississippi River took a while for the early explorers of the North American continent to find, apparently. I can’t imagine being out in what must have seemed to them like a vast trackless wilderness trying, without aid of GPS or aerial photography, to figure which little brook flowing out of one of an innumerable number of similar-looking lakes was the start of a river the mouth of which was thousands of miles/kilometers away.

Wheel full 70px It’s a lot easier today. Those guys decided on Lake Itasca, and who is to second-guess? Then, I guess so we wouldn’t lose track of it, the State of Minnesota established in 1891 Itasca State Park. My guess is that the park was not very busy for its first half-century because driving out here seems like it’s still sort of a haul from anywhere with a McDonalds.

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Wheel full 70px But here we are, modern day adventurers following in the footsteps of a lot of intrepid folks who pretty much sorted all of this out for us in advance.  All we had to do was get here, set up our tents and then wait out the rain which at six in the morning on the first day of our ride, is streaming down pretty hard.

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Wheel full 70px But, just like those early explorers, we won’t melt.  In a couple of hours we’ll end our short stay at this place and be on our way.  Thanks for coming along with us in the ride.

David

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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Last day, 35 miles to go

Wheel full 70px On August 18th when I started this trip in Halifax, Nova Scotia I had absolutely no sense of any connection to a “last day” of what has turned out to be a 3,600 mile/5,700 kilometer 84 day bicycle ride.  Key West, of course, was my destination then as it is today, but it existed back then only as a remote point on a map.  For all that it figured in my consciousness when I set out I could have just as easily been riding to Tierra del Fuego or, for that matter, the moon.

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Wheel full 70px And now I’m here on the cusp of the end.  The connection has been formed, one rotation of my bike’s pedals at a time.  For whatever it is worth, I now have a string of memories that carry me at 10 miles/16 kilometers an hour down the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, past beaches and capes and rocky headlands, through farms and forests and  small towns and great cities, and punctuated by ferry rides, tent and table-top camping, and a variety of motels and other lodging, some nice, some not.  Those memories also include visits with friends and family and phone calls with my wife, as well as a lot of time just being alone with my thoughts.  It has been a great trip, and I can be satisfied that, within the context of my life to date, to the extent that I wanted to do something epic I have done just that.  I have nothing to complain about and no regrets.

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Wheel full 70px So I’m the blue dot, and in a few hours will ride the last one percent of my total mileage on the road.  That distance is a little more than five percent of my Florida miles

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and puts me about two-thirds of the way along the Florida Keys.

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Wheel full 70px My last night on the road was spent at Bahia Honda State Park, where I braved the bugs and raccoons and slept once again on a picnic table-top.

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Wheel full 70px I had ridden almost 68 miles/110 km to get here yesterday from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  That ride included crossing the Seven Mile Bridge on the Overseas Highway.

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Wheel full 70px The bridge is, in fact, seven miles/11 km from one end to the other.  How about that?  Another amazing thing on a ride that’s been full of amazing things.  And today I’ll be in Key West.

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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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Seven days, 350 miles to go

Wheel full 70px Today there is just a single week of my bike trip left.  Each day will be “the last,” as in “the last Friday of the ride.”  I still haven’t really dealt with that- I’ll keep you posted.

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Wheel full 70px After riding across the southern end of the Kennedy Space Center complex

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I finished up yesterday’s ride on the coast across Indian River from Melbourne.  My nephew Jack met me there and we had a nice evening of pizza and conversation at his friend Julie’s house.

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Wheel full 70px I got a chance to do laundry in a real washing machine as opposed to a motel sink.  This morning I got a  bright and early start back where I stopped the evening before and will ride about 70 miles/~110 km down the coast to Stuart.

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Wheel full 70px As this is written I am in Fort Pierce, with about 50 miles/80 km behind me. It’s been another gorgeous sunny day with a light tailwind. There haven’t been that many glimpses of the ocean, but it is always very easy on the eyes when it comes into view.

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A Week

Wheel full 70px One week from today I will ride my Surly Disc Trucker into Key West, Florida.  A trip that took three radical changes of plans (and, come to think of it, two four day hospital stays) to get under way will be over.

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Wheel full 70px Today’s ride will take me back to and through the Kennedy Space Center and on to Melbourne, where I will spend the night with family.

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Wheel full 70px After that, my daily destination points, barring unforeseen change, are as follows:

Friday, Nov 4 – near Stuart
Saturday, Nov 5 – West Palm Beach
Sunday, Nov 6 – Fort Lauderdale
Monday, Nov 7 – Cutler Bay
Tuesday, Nov 8 – Key Largo
Wednesday, Nov 9 – Marathon/Bahia Honda
Thursday, Nov 10 – Key West

Wheel full 70px So there it is- all laid out and looking mighty finite.  Time to hit the road.

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