After a rapidly passing “cool” front last night today’s weather was superb for a bike ride. I selected the “New Caney – Tavola – Valley Ranch” route heading north. This was challenging at time with the wind out of the west at 16 mph and 23 mph gusts. I biked 34.6 miles moving May to a total of 208 miles leaving 92 miles to reach my goal.
The PowerPod worked perfectly on the bike ride reporting the watts like it knew what I was doing.
When I exited Tavola onto Roman Forest Blvd. I saw the the new convenience store was open so I rode under the pump canopy to respond to a text message my wife sent. As I did that I saw a Roman Forest police cruiser a couple of pumps away. I moved over to that pump to ask the officer if he knew what all of the earthwork was for behind the station. He replied that it is a new Woodbranch neighborhood. With the Grand Parkway now open housing construction and commercial buildings are popping up all around. I can remember when I lived in New Caney in the 1970’s and 1980’s construction was rare. At some point this will affect biking but I am not sure in what way.
The partly cloudy sky meant the sunshine helped to offset the coolness in the strong wind. I made a wise choice to wear a long sleeve jersey. It was 77 degrees when I started the ride at 11:12 and 84 when I finished at 1:46.
Today is the first bike ride since we returned from Florida. Yesterday it rained until late afternoon keeping me off the bike. That gave me time to install some new sensors and waxed the chain on my Blue Norcross AL bike and put the repaired PowerPod back on the Stradalli Red Pro 14 bike. I am not sure what Velocomp fixed in the PowerPod but my Elemnt computer saw it when I started the bike ride at 11:16 AM. But the PowerPod would display power on the Elemnt screen. I stopped to be sure it was paired and even removed the sensor from the Elemnt and added it back in. Still no power readings. After doing that a couple of times I held the PowerPod start button long enough to begin the sample ride process. After it counted up to 100 the watts showed on the Elemnt screen. Now I was a happy biker. I did need to edit the power readings using the Golden Cheetah program because there was a spike showing over 32000 watts right after the PowerPod completed the setup calculation.
I didn’t notice any changes while we were in Florida as I biked the the “Atascocita – Walden – Huffman” route for a total of 33.46 miles. My goal for May is a lowly 300 miles and I am at 173.45 miles with today’s bike ride.
The weather was pleasant during the bike ride. when I got up this morning it was a cool 67 degrees. By the time I started bicycling it was 77 and at the end of the ride (1:49 PM) it had warmed up to 84 degrees. A partly cloudy sky and light 7 mph breeze meant I did not sweat too much though after not riding for many days I needed to lose a few pounds. Later today or tonight a “cool” front may arrive dropping the overnight temperature into the upper 50’s, cool for this time in May. By the time I bike tomorrow it should be in the 70’s.
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.
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.