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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Two days, 100 miles to go

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Wheel full 70px I’ve been on the Keys for about 15 miles/25 km now.  I have almost exactly 100 miles/160 km to go to reach Key West, and I’ll ride something more than half that in order to make it to Bahia Honda State Park, where I have a campsite reserved for the night.

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Wheel full 70px I started at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the view from my picnic table-top bed this morning was very nice.

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Wheel full 70px Strava, after a couple of weeks of behaving, was generating garbage yesterday, so no Relive track.  I’ll try again today, but it’s hard to look past the fact that RidewithGPS has generated 82 straight days of reliable ride tracking.  Just sayin’.

Wheel full 70px Tonight’s my last night on the road. I can do this!

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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.

Cape Hatteras

Wheel full 70px I just couldn’t help it.

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Wheel full 70px I saw the lighthouse and I just had to stop for the night.  I have the NPS campground here almost all to myself, and I can sit at my picnic table in the dark, watch the light wink as it turns around and around, and recall past visits to this amazing place dating back 35 years.  Is this the last time I will ever be here?  So many important memories to call to mind, so many days that were about as perfect as days can get.

Wheel full 70px I’ll get up in the morning, pack the bike, say goodbye to the lighthouse as I ride by (just in case), stop to eat breakfast (biscuits with sausage gravy) at the Diamond Shoals restaurant, and head for the ferry landing at Hatteras and the village of Ocracoke.

The Outer Banks, Day One

Wheel full 70px This morning’s ride put me back across the Currituck Sound at Powell’s Point, which is well-nigh unrecognizeable to me as the building of the second US 158 bridge span changed everything since I was last across here.

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Wheel full 70px There used to be a marina and gas station here that I recall stopping at several times on frequent trips to the area when I lived in Southside Virginia in the 1980s.  Other than that, though, things along 158 seemed familiar and still retained an almost indescribable laid-back kind of atmosphere.  I really enjoyed this part of the ride.

Wheel full 70px Once across the sound, I was back on the Outer Banks- OBX to more than a few.

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Wheel full 70px It seems like in years past I always found myself hurrying through the string of towns before you enter the National Seashore area, which begins south of Nags Head and extends, except for a couple of villages, for about 75 miles/120 km of a narrow strip of dunes traversed by NC 12’s two lanes of blacktop.

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Wheel full 70px As a result I had never stopped at the Weight Brothers National Memorial despite passing right by it driving through the village of Kill Devil Hills many, many times.

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Wheel full 70px Today I finally did that, and enjoyed circling on my bicycle the tall monument erected on a great sand dune to honor the nation’s pioneering aviators.

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Wheel full 70px Then it was

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and on into the National Seashore.

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Wheel full 70px I reached Oregon Inlet NPS Campground a half an hour south of Nags Head, and I’ll sleep there tonight with the surf pounding the sandy shore just a short distance away.

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