The Longest Ride

Well, the longest ride in quite some time anyway, and the longest ride I’ve done in several years apparently. The Garmin shows that we didn’t do anything quite this long in Europe, but of course Europe has more hills than Florida so not much was easy. On Thursday (February 12) we rode 53.5 miles from Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge to the Ocean View Pub and Inn in Islamorada. The weather was spectacular, as evidenced by the fact that we all got at least a little burned despite having carefully applied lotion early in the day.
Despite being a pretty flat ride, it was hard work. If you look at the map, it looks as though we were riding across the water, but we’re not that awesome, it’s just that the Keys are very narrow in many places and barely wider than the road.

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And there are a lot of bridges too, on many of which you ride with the traffic (cars, semis, giant RVs, and trucks pulling boats, among other things). Today’s ride included the most daunting bridge of the trip, Seven Mile Bridge, and a couple of others that were only slightly less challenging.
We arrived at Seven Mile fairly early on in the day and paused for a snack at a nice little beach just below it. (That’s a great egret in the first picture.)

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Feeling as fortified as we were likely to be, we made our way onto the bridge. What makes this particular bridge so unpleasant is that you are riding in a relatively narrow lane, with little protection, alongside all manner of vehicles that are going past you at somewhere around 55mph, if you’re lucky. And you can’t stop.
Since I am the slowest rider, I led the way. This enabled Angie and Henry to match my pace and stay close by. I actually managed to get across in around 37 minutes averaging 11mph, which was better than my average speed for the day. I’m paying for it a bit because my left knee is really sore, but I actually did try not to push the pace too much. We were all pretty relieved when we reached the other side of the bridge.
I have to say that parts of this trip are really pretty and we have been seeing some cool birds along the way, tons of pelicans, cormorants, turkey vultures, egrets of various sizes, and many ibises, along with the odd heron. And also some hawks and today a lot more shore birds, including sandpipers and more kingfishers. But at the same time, I think this is mainly a ride one does to say one has done it. It is sufficiently grueling that I don’t feel any need to do it again. We had to share the road with vehicles way more than we’d have liked and the noise of the traffic alone was tiring, without even accounting for the stress of staying out of the way, trying to figure out if there is an alternative bridge for cyclists, and crossing the always busy road whenever the bike lane switches to the other side.
We saw a lot more cyclists and a lot more touring cyclists on Thursday. At one of our last stops, we met Steve and Dodie Miller, a lovely couple from Canada who are touring on folding bikes and also blogging about their adventures. They gave us a very lovely name-check on their blog about today. We had a good time with them, exchanging notes about touring and traveling. They blog as Grampies Go To Florida.
Once we said goodbye to Steve and Dodie, we trekked on toward our destination. After all the bridges we had crossed today, we were ready to be done, but with about two miles left to ride, Angie spotted an ice cream parlor and pulled off right away! We each enjoyed a kid’s cone (not that small) before carrying on. I was a bit bummed to see that when we were a half mile from our destination, we still had one more bridge to traverse, but I figured that at least that’s one less bridge tomorrow, right?
Finally, we crossed over the road one more time after a kindly driver stopped for us, and checked into our accommodations for the night, the Ocean View Pub and Inn. What an interesting place.

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The current ownership is two former NFL players and they’ve tried to improve the rooms so it’s not just your average motel.

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It’s more pub than hotel (only half a dozen or so rooms and you check in at the bar, rather than at a formal reception) but once we’d cleaned up and headed over to the pub we saw that it was hopping. We got there just about at sunset and barely scored a table outside.

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Apparently, there had just been a big rush of new arrivals and our server was very apologetic about the slight delay in service. He was very good, especially given how busy it was, and we had a very enjoyable dinner that helped us all replenish after our hard day.

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