For several years I dreamed of biking the Florida Keys. The East Coast Greenway project had information about the route and I read numerous blogs about people who did. This year my wife agreed to go to Florida and me to ride from Key Largo to Key West. Today was the first half of the 106 miles from Key Largo to Marathon for a total of 53.4 miles. I rode my new bike, the Blue Norcross AL. For most of the ride it was probably overkill but towards the end some of the bike path/trail was not asphalt or concrete but sand and rocks.
I wasn’t out to set a blistering pace but rather to stop and take pictures and enjoy the scenery. I did that.
Some background first. Before today my wife and I went on a seven day cruise to the U. S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Nassau. All went great until the shore excursion in Nassau where we took a Segway tour. The reason I mention this is because in order for me to ride the Florida Keys my wife had to overcome pain. During the Segway training session, we never rode one before, my wife rode too close to a tire obstacle and tumbled over in the dust. The Segway tour people quickly administered first aid and she decided to go ahead with the tour but later the pain got to her. She braved through the pain today to drive from where I started to our hotel in Marathon. And to top it off it is Mother’s Day. She deserves a big medal.
Reading the East Coast Greenway’s one page overview of the route I didn’t expect any issues that I haven’t dealt with before but I am afraid the overview left out information on the route once I passed the Long Key bridge and earlier where the asphalt path was very bumpy. Contrary to the overview’s description of the surface as paved there were several spots of sand and gravel. Also the overview states “The Keys are well-populated so there is no shortage of food and accommodations.” but there are places where no stores or food is available between towns. For several miles when the bike path disappeared from beside the west bound side of the road I switched to the east bound side but there was one section that looked like it would continue only to end abruptly with three yellow diamonds on metal poles and nowhere to go but to climb over the guard rail or go back. I climbed over the guard rail and biked on the wide shoulder until I found the path beside the west bound lanes and crossed over to it.
Rolling along around 40 miles into the ride I started to feel some rain drops. This was a section with no place to get out of the rain until I saw a small shelter (maybe 8′ x 6′) on the bike path just before entering the separate way to cross Long Key. Looking ahead I saw rain blocking out my sight of land and traffic on the other end of the bridge. I decided to stop and wait out the coming rain. Good decision. The rain came and I would gotten soaked. But more than that the visibility of the the cars later on would have been dangerous. I waited until the majority of cars were not using their wipers as a sign the rain stopped where they came from. I don’t remember how long I waited. I started across the Long Key bridge which according to the information I read while the shelter is over 2 miles long. As I got close to the west end it started to rain lightly and I hoped there was another shelter on that side. There was and I stopped to wait for the rain to pass. While waiting I checked my phone to see how far I needed to bike to the hotel and learned 9.5 miles separated me from there.
When the rain slowed and/or stopped I resumed riding and then the bike path got sketchy. I should’ve expected it since the map at the shelter detailed where the path had gaps. The last 7+ miles I rode on wet to damp roads and path. From the sandy portions I picked up some splattered sand on me and the bike. When I got to the hotel I walked my bike into the lobby and asked if it was okay to keep it in our room. Both front desk people said go ahead. This will make it easier to start tomorrow’s ride to Key West. I started my Elemnt computer at 10:26 this morning and finished around 5:15. The rain delays added an hour or more to the time. Tomorrow’s route is slightly shorter at 51.3 miles, hotel to hotel.