When I walked out of the hotel this morning in Marathon I saw a decked out touring bicycle in the lobby. The rider was talking to the desk person but when I came back in he sat on a chair and I started talking with him. He was riding to Key West like me and while chatting we agreed to ride together. While talking I learned he had biked from Palm Beach where he lived to Marathon yesterday. This was his twentieth time biking to Key West so I figured he knew a lot more about the route than I did. His name was Jim and his touring bike included a trailer.
Jim is what I would call a loaded touring biker.
After helping my wife load our suitcases into the Jeep I finished dressing and waited for Jim to come out of the hotel. We rolled out of the hotel parking lot and crossed US 1 to begin the ride to Key West at 11:00 AM. Jim told me he didn’t ride fast with the trailer and I agreed that I wasn’t in a hurry and the 12+ mph average was okay with me. It was encouraging to have an experienced Key West biker leading the way. Riding with Jim I didn’t stop to take pictures like yesterday. I did take some whenever we stopped.
The 7 mile bridge was a concern because I wasn’t sure what the shoulder would be like. Jim told me it was about 6 feet wide. Biking over the bridge was beautiful and the shoulder was as Jim said. Road debris was nonexistent which made the ride good.
After crossing the bridge we stopped at a Chevron station to rest and refill water bottles. Jim liked to talked to everyone who stopped at the store and we had great conversations with a number of people. After some time two other bicyclists rode into the station and the conversations ensued. They also were on the way to Key West having started in Marathon like us. They had planned to ride from Key Largo yesterday but the weather canceled that plan. We agreed to ride together and found out their names were Peter and Sandrine from Toronto. While talking with the newcomers we had many laughs and learned a lot about each other. After they filled up their bottles we hit the road. Jim was in the lead, I followed him, Sandrine next and Peter last.
We rode around 12 to 14 mph and stayed on the west bound shoulder with Jim’s three orange flags deployed to alert motorists and his numerous taillights flashing.
We came to one town and Jim wanted to stop at the Bucktooth Restaurant but a man came out and told us they were closed today due to some kitchen upgrades he was doing. With that place out Jim asked for a recommendation farther down the road. Later after we crossed one of the bridges Jim pointed out Kiki’s Restaurant off to the right. We made a turn onto a side road and a few hundred yards later we pulled into the parking lot for lunch. I had eaten a large breakfast thinking I would ride the 52.3 miles without a break. I brought two trail mix bars in case I needed to eat.
Kiki’s is a dog friendly place and Sandrine went to met each dog. After everyone ate we got back on the bikes and headed back to US 1. During the ride we learned Sandrine’s pet name for Peter was “Baby”. Later this would cause us to stop at a place with a connection to his pet name.
On the left Jim spotted a store with the name Baby’s Coffee and we all rode to the south side of the road for Sandrine to take some pictures and we could fill our bottles again. Inside we met a friendly lady behind the counter who filled our bottles with ice and water. Sandrine noticed several shelves near the front door with bike parts and tools and we knew they were bike friendly. Jim, the ready talker, asked people entering if they were new or long time customers. After filling the bottles we went outside and a man was walking his German Shepherd. Everyone moved there and talked with him.
Back on the road we had about 12+ miles to Key West. Riding about 9 miles we stopped at a gas station for a short break. This is where we decided to each go our way. Jim was camping near where we stopped, Sandrine and Peter were riding to a hotel near downtown Key West and I to a hotel on N. Roosevelt. We shook hands and wished everyone a great time in Key West. I rode away from the station followed by Peter and Sadrine. I could see them in my mirror for a awhile but then I lost sight of them. I pulled into the hotel parking lot a few minutes after 7 PM biking 52.3 miles for a total of 105.7 miles from Key Largo to Key West.
Links to RideWithGPS.com and Strava.com.
Me just before leaving the hotel in Marathon.