This tour was in three stages. Stage 1 was Fort Lauderdale to Key West. Stage 2 was the ferry from Key West to Fort Myers Beach, on the gulf coast, and the ride to St. Augustine with a stop over in Tampa to visit a friend. Stage 3 was St. Augustine back .
I had this plan to go to New Zealand in late January. Then I had to have hernia surgery which kept me off the bike for long enough to loose a lot of fittness. Then I got word that my dad was not doing well so decided to go to Florida instead. So I shipped my bike via Bike Flights.com to my sister's house and flew out. Also aranged for a my daugters and 2 of my 3 granddaughters to be there also. So I had some nice family time and then set off for a bike tour. Certainly would be nice to ride in the sun for a change.
This tour was in three stages. Stage 1 was Fort Lauderdale to Key West. Stage 2 was the ferry from Key West to Fort Myers Beach, on the gulf coast, and the ride to St. Augustine with a stop over in Tampa to visit a friend. Stage 3 was St. Augustine back to Fort Lauderdale.
For the ride from Fort Lauderdale to Key West I had mostly tailwinds, which was nice, especially over Seven Mile Bridge. For the rest of the ride I had mosty headwinds, mild in the interior, but strong on the coast. The last six days from St. Augustine to Fort Lauderdale were especially difficult. I also discovered that Florida does indeed have some hills. Real hills! These were in Lake County which I very much enjoyed.
The highlight of this trip were the wonderful Warm Showers hosts I stayed with. On five occasions I was hosted and treated royally by some great people, some of which I hope to see again when they tour through Oregon. I also meet some great people on the road, at least two of which also promised to visit me at home this summer.
Below is my log for each day of the tour. Use the navigation controls to scroll through the days .
Sue's house to Laurie's house (my sisters). The tour has begun. Perfect temperature but very windy. I was riding into the wind for about half of the ride. Such is Florida I guess. Hope I get some tailwinds.
Day 2. Misques, rough roads, and wind.
Got out super early. Decided to follow the ACA route which meant heading over to the beach. The Lehman causeway had a nice bike lane. A1A was a combination of bike lanes, sharrows, and competing with the traffic. Not bad at all. Things were looking up until I got on the Venitian causeway which was supposed to take me back over the bay, only to see a big "Bridge Closed" sign. Of course ACA and everyone else tells you to always check local road conditions, which I did not. I rode up to the bridge anyhow thinking maybe I could squeeze through on a bike. No such luck. The draw bridge was raised.
So I back tracked which added about 5 miles to the day and went over another causeway which was much busier, but had a good bike lane.
Then I was in downtown Miami. Crazy but I survived. Here the ACA route is quite good, taking some side streets that have bike lanes or sharrows. Eventually things mellowed out as I got south of the city.
Coconut Grove was quite nice. Mostly through quiet neighborhoods, some with modest old homes all surrounded by dense palm trees. I rode around a bit looking for something interesting, but didn't find it. There was one part of town which had a large outdoor eatery which was packed.
Eventually I got on the Old Cutler Trail. The ACA map said the trail was rough and a good alternative was South Dade Rail-To-Trail which parallels US1, but first I had to get further south. Rough is an understatement. Tree roots had pushed the pavement up so much it was really unridable on a loaded touring bike. A bunch of road bikers were riding Old Cutler Road so I abandoned the trail and stuck to the road. There was no shoulder but the speed limit was 35 and traffic was not bad
Once I was far enough south I cut back west to get to US1 and the South Dade Trail. It was about 5 miles, which may have added a bit to the total. The trail was nice. Wide and mostly smooth and well separated from the highway. The only problem was the busy side streets that had to be crossed every quarter to half mile. This wore me out. It requires a lot of effort to start and get a loaded touring bike up to speed. One there it takes much less energy to maintain speed. Especially since the wind was mostly at my back.
The highlight of today was my Warm Showers host at this beautiful organic farm. I didn't get to talk to the owner Gabrielle very much, but spent some time with Ernest who works there and takes care of the B&B guests as well as the bike tourists. Ernest is from South Africa and has toured all over the world. The farm has gardens, greenhouses, and a large avocado orchard. The place is a true tropical paradise. I hope I can return.
Day 3, another long one. I am now officially in the Keys.
Got up at what I thought was first light but it wasn't really that early. Took my time getting going. It was hard to leave Paradise Farm. I doubt I'll find anything near as lovely on this trip. Glad to have connected with Ernest as well.
From Homestead the South Dade Trail continues a few more miles to Florida City. After that it is bike lane on US1 for about 15 miles to Key Largo. The rest of the day was 90% bike path, some right along the highway, and some set back nicely. For about 8 miles into Key Largo I had a mostly headwind, but after that it was mostly side/tailwind. By late afternoon the wind seemed to stop completely and it got pretty hot.
I met Oak, from Sacramento, and Leah from Sarasota who were traveling north. They had tried and failed to get a boat from Key West to Jamaca, so are headed to Miami to fly down.
Got to the park pretty fried and tired after to long days. Looking forward to a couple of shorter days from here to Key West.
Day 4 - Destination unkonwn. Tried to find a campground but they were either full or too expensive. Tried to find a place to wild camp but did not want to try camping in the Key Deer wildlife refuge. Ended up at the Big Pine motel. At least there is wifi.
Another perfect day for riding. Mostly cloudy with a good tailwind. Met two couples on Co-Motion tandems from Ohio heading north. Met a couple from Canada going south packed very lightly for motel camping.
Not so much nice bike path today. Seven mile bridge was quite intimidating, but with the tailwind went by very quickly. Seening the old bridge right next to it was a tease. I hope the complete the bike path on the old bridge someday. Further south there was a bike path crossing a lot of old bridges, but they were all closed. I was told they were open just two years ago. Fell into disrepair I guess.
Rode through Marathon today which I guess is the biggest town before Key West. Even has an airport with small jets. Big Pine is fair sized as well. Wherever the sandbar is wide enough it becomes a city. Most of what I rode through today was barely wider than the road.
Stressed about where I will stay in Key West as none of the Warm Showers hosts replied. Motels are in the $250 range. I booked a bunk in the hostel. I would much rather camp but could not find a spot. Tent camping is $60 in that area, with few ammenities. Oh how I long for the Oregon State Park hiker/biker sites.
Day Five. Took it nice and slow. No hurry. It rained overnight but cleared by morning. Huge puddles though.
About half highway and half path today. Some gorgeous paths through Sugarloaf Key, but in typical Florida fashion they would abruptly end. About 10 miles from Key West there was a nice path that used some of the old bridges The ride into Key West on A1A was right along a sea wall and was delightful
Rode though the crazy tourist part of town. Lots of people on beach cruisers and motor scooters, and lots of tour trolleys. Got to the Southern Most Point where dozens of people where waiting for a photo op. I managed to get a good selfie. Found the Hostel but I was 2 hours early. Found a bar on the beach and had a beer.
Arrived in Key West early and did a loop of the town before checking in to the hostel. There is about two miles of really nice beach.
Hundreds of bicycles on the roads. You can rent one just about everywhere. Everything from rusty old beach cruisers to new fat bikes and Electra townies. Also motor scooters and tiny electric cars. That combined with the trollies and tour buses and the streets were a free for all. Bicycles have the right-of-way and pretty much just cruise through intersections regardless of the light.
There are thousands of tourists and probably hundreds of homeless, although I only met four of them. They were the friendliest people, and probably the happiest. I mean if your going to be homeless Key West is certainly the place to be.
Since all of the homeless ride around on bicycles with all their stuff in a basket, the indiscerning tourists were not able to distinguish between me and the homeless. My high end touring bike and quality gear escaped the casual viewers, although there were a few people who knew their bikes and chatted with me about mine.
I did not enjoy the hostel. Sleeping was fine. My bunk mates were quiet and I slept well. It was all the smokers that drove me out of the otherwise lovely common area courtyard. Makes me appreciate Oregon's no smoking laws.
Day two was hot and windy. I walked down to the beach to take a swim but the water was uninviting and I skipped it. Played my ukulele for the passerbyers along the beach walk. Once again my biggest fan was a homeless guy.
Ride up and down Duval street and then made my way to the ferry. It's about a 3 and a half hour ride, at high speed. Past through the rain during the ride and it had stopped by the time we landed. Found the spot right next to the terminal that Rob from Australia had told me about and set up my tent at about 10:30.
Day 7. Headwinds and no shoulders.
It was much farther from Fort Myers Beach to Fort Myers than I thought and I got off route. My route may have been a little shorter but if followed a busy road. The head winds were brutal all day. Really wore me down. It was much cooler today and I was hoping for big miles, but not with this headwind.
Got a little past Port Charlotte and camped in a nature preserve near the Peace River.
Day 8 - Orange groves
As I was leaving my camping spot in the morning I looked back at the sign and saw a tent symbol on it it was a legal campground! I thought I was stealth camping.
Finally got away from the busy traffic and on to some quiet roads. Pulled off the road at one point and was greeted by a van all decked out as a SAG wagon for Bike Florida. They put on a multi day ride along the lines of Cycle Oregon. They were out scouting the route.
It was a gas to reach the orange groves. They were small at first but later got much larger. The trees were fairly small as well. I resisted the temptation for some time but eventually gave in and picked one. It was very juicy and sweet, but not an eating orange. I guess they all go for juice. Later in the day I saw some big trucks filled with oranges and then (with Tom in his truck) passed the Peace River Citrus processing plant where they had huge bins full of them.
I had told Tom to meet me in Wauchula at 4:00 but I got there well before 3. There was a sign coming in to town saying "State Academic Champions" and listed a bunch of years. I stopped at a convenience store and the cashier asked me where I was from. I said Oregon and she gave me a blank stare. She had grown up in this town but had never heard of Oregon. Wauchula seemed like a nice town though, with a large Hispanic population.
I hung out in a nice little park and waited for Tom. When he arrived we loaded up my bike in his truck and headed to Tampa, where I would spend two nights with Tom and his cousin Sandy.
Day 10 - Highway, a lake, and hills!
Day 9 was a layover with Tom in Tampa. After a relaxing day yesterday Tom drove me out of Tampa to the outskirts of Brandon where I started riding. I would follow state road 60 straight east to get back on the ACA route
The first order of business though was to attach the flappy flag that I found on the road on Friday. There had been some discussion on the FB group about being seen, after a car plowed into 4 riders in North Carolina recently. Frosty Woodrich said you must have a flappy flag. So when I saw this one lying on the road side I grabbed it. It looks like one that would have come with a kids trailer. So I attached it to my rear rack and I am very happy with the result.
The new flag got put to the test today as I was on a busy highway all day. The shoulder was fine in some places but narrow in others. Traffic was not bad but steady and fast. I had no problems.
The route I plotted through Lake Wales took me along the lake and then up a real hill! I was amazed. I think I found the biggest hill in Florida. And I did it 3 times. I found a great place to camp but had stupidly not stopped in town to get water and enough for dinner. So I made a trip back in. The place I found is on a sandy road in some trees next to a golf course. And at the end of the sandy road, at the edge of the golf course there is an outhouse! That is twice in a row I found stealth camping spots with an outhouse for my morning poop.
Day 11 - No shoulders and lots of traffic.
Really the most interesting thing today were the street names in a community called Timberlane. Names like Stumpknocker, Panfish, Snapping Turtle, and Shellcracker.
After that and the nice places along the lake there was not much scenery. There is a lot of mining here. It looks to me like they are mostly digging up sand and hauling it places. A few of these sand haulers buzzed me as well.
Once through Davenport it became evident that we were not far from Orlando. Traffic picked up and touristy places sprung up everywhere
As usual it was farther to my destination than I anticipated. Got to the park worn out and hot not even sure if there would be a spot. Low and behold there was another loaded touring bike and Robert was happy to share his site with me. Robert is from Maryland and is cycling South.
Day 12 - Bike paths, quiet country roads, and real hills.
Today's ride was the highlight of the trip so far. Beautify lakes, lush vegetation, quiet roads, nice towns, and a welcoming warm showers host at the end.
Lake Lousia State Park was very nice as far as parks go. Lots of room, spread out campsites, and great showers. It's 3 miles in from the highway though mostly open pine forest. A little hilly but very plesant. Robert got out a little before I did which was about 9.
Quickly turned of the highway on Lake Louisa road and thats where the real beauty began. Georgeous lake side houses with hugh shade trees (oaks with lots of spanish moss) and lovely landscaping. Ths continued until the town of Clermont where I got on a bike path. The route is pretty clear but I managed to get lost twice, and both times was rescuded by a rider on a trike. Many riders on the bike path which goes for at least 20 miles and has other branches conecting to it. After the bike path it was more quiet lakeside roads, but now the homes were older and smaller, still with lots of large oaks providing shade.
Mount Dora is a hoping town with a lot of history, and a lot of tourist oriented shops and antique stores. There is a large artist prescence which is very aparent by the store fronts and decorations. I rode around a bunch of times trying to find a grocery store and eventually had to ride well out of my way to find one. Did not want to show up at my Warm Showers host empty handed.
Mike and Lucia are very gracious hosts and are preparing to ride the TransAm this summer. So we had lots to talk about. They seem to host a lot of the riders on the Florida Connector route. They have a website at http://twotravelingtrikes.com/
Day 13 - More quiet roads, less tourists, and the last big hill.
Had a very nice stay with Warm Showers hosts Mike and Lucia. They are gearing up to do the TransAm this summer so lots to talk about I hope to see them again in Oregon.
That hill came not far from today's start and was called "Thrill Hill". Not nearly as thrilling as coming down a mountain pass but very nice anyway. There were nice open pine woods on top that would be nice to camp in.
The scenery was not as nice as yesterday but still pleasant. Very rural. Some of looked like it could have been Oregon. The route then skirted the edge of the Ocala National Forest. Had it been later in the day I certainly would have wanted to camp there. Lots of trails including a bike only trail which went 20 miles or so through the forest. If I ever get back it would be fun to take a mountain bike and ride and camp in these woods.
Started looking for a place to camp early. I had seen some likely looking spots earlier but as soon as I started looking everything was fenced, and where it wasn't the undergrowth was impenetrable. I stopped at a state forest and a ranger even said I could camp there but there really wasn't a nice spot. Finally I found what I was looking for. There was a gate, but easy access around it and some nice open pine woods well hidden from the road. I was able to hang my hammock and get some quality relaxation. I believe this was in the Lake George State Forest.
Day 14 - Back to the beach.
More quiet roads, all the way to US-1. Cloudy day, which was much appreciated.
Packed up quickly to leave my stealth site. Ate a little but did not make tea. Must have been 7 or 8 miles until I came to a convenience store and got some tea.
Very scenic route between Old Dixie Hwy and A1A. Narrow road along a waterway with lots of large birds.
I got to Gamble Rogers SP before 1:00 but the spot they told me would be available was not. Lady had mercy and let me camp in the day use area. Much nicer actually.
Made hotel reservations for 3 days in St. Augustine. Since I hit it on a weekend it is costing me. Plus I happen to hit the week of a big motorcycle rally, which does not bode well for my return ride. I am considering bagging it and driving back to Fort Lauderdale. We'll see.
Day 15 - Stage 2 complete after 674 miles.
It rained overnight but my bike and stuff were all under a shelter and my tent did fine. Sunny, bright, and windy in the morning, enough to dry the rain fly. Didn't hurry as it would be a shorter day. Headed out into a howling headwind, and just as soon as I got north of Flagler Beach it was cloudy and almost cold. So the miles where shorter but the wind made it a hard day none the less. A1A had a decent shoulder all the way to Saint Augustine.
The highlight of the trip was the bike path, and nice little bike shop, through Hammock. The trail wound back through some trees away from the road, and had picnic tables with shelters every few miles. The bike shop right on the trail was great. I stopped to lube my chain and got talking with John. I mentioned my front tire was looking a little worn and he sold me a decent looking Panaracer Tour 700x35 tire for $25. I'm carying it as a spare until I get around to changing it out.
Got to St. Augustine and went to Kalima's gift shop before finding my motel and getting a rental car. I'll stay here for 3 nights as I need to rest up before the final leg back to Fort Lauderdale.
Spent one day with Kalima. We went to the Vilano Beach, which was cold and windy, and then the movies. Crazy traffic in St. Augustine.
Spent the next day with Rob. I first met Rob on the road as I was getting to Key West and he was leaving heading north. Found out on Facebook that he had stayed with Rob the night before so we arranged to meet up in St. Augustine. Rob is from Perth, Australia. We passed a pleasant afternoon drinking beer and talking to people at an Irish Pub. Rob is riding to the west coast so we made arrangements to meet again in Oregon.
Day 18 - Motorcycles and more headwinds.
After roaring out of the north for the past week, the wind did a switcheroo just as I did and cotinued to blow in my face as I rode south. Lots and lots of motorcycles on the road today. Really glad my hearing aids can block a good portion of the noise.
I retraced my route from Friday down to Flagler Beach and then had the plesant surprise to see the route took a quiet back road from there to Ormond Beach. It then left the beach and followed US-1, taking a lot of side roads, through Daytona and on south. The route happend to go right through the heart of the bike week festivities in Daytona.
I cranked out some long miles today in order to make it to my Warm Showers hosts, Debbie and Harry Samuels. It certainly was worth it. They have a gorgeous house right on the water and treated me royally. I have come to the conclusion that the best way to tour Florida is to forget the tent and camping gear and schedule as many Warm Showers hosts as possible, with the occasional motel. While it would be great to camp more, Florida is just not setup for it.
Day 19 - Wind and Wildlife
Got out fairly early as my hosts are early risers. Harry headed out on a bike ride and Debbie was teaching a yoga class. I stopped for a second breakfast and an early break at a very nice fishing park in the town of Egewater.
I was really tired after yesterday's long ride, and it did not help that the headwinds came early and hard. Add to that the really rough pavement on US-1 and I was feeling really beat. I did not have a lot of miles to cover so I didn't fight it and went really slow.
Things improved dramatically when I went off route to ride through the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. It was still into the wind, but the pavement was now smooth and the traffic was very light. I stopped often to sit and rest.
Another great Warm Showers host tonight. Rich rides, but doesn't tour, but really enjoy's hosting people and meeting cyclists from all over the world. He's active on Facebook and provides a good connection for a lot of cyclists riding through Florida.
Day 20 - Meetups and more wind.
Had a great stay with Rich and got out at a reasonable time. Got off the highway on Indian River Road to Cocoa, and then Riverside after. Very nice ride right along the water, but the wind was picking up.
I first met Donna who has been riding from North Carolina, and then a few minutes later met Jerry who is returning to Jacksonville. Shortly after I took the picture Donna pedaled off and I never saw her again.
An hour or two later I met Trish and Darren from Darwin Austrailia who will be staying with Rich tonight and had stayed with my next WS host Lisa the night before last. They are headig north as far as Washington D.C. where they will finish this leg of their world tour.
I had wanted to do more miles today but the wind was beating me up pretty bad. Jerry had mentioned the county park in Melbourne which is on the ACA map, so I stopped there. Expensive at $25 but they just don't differentiate between a cyclist with a tent, and an RV neededing a full hookup. I got a large shady spot and it was fine. Most of the people at this park were there for a while, maybe all winter.
I went to bed as early as possible determined to get up at first light and beat the wind, but I could hear the wind all night and it was not letting up.
Day 21 - Unending wind
Got up before light hoping to beat the wind, but it hadn't let up overnight at all. So today was all head down, gear down, and just keep pedaling. One nice thing about riding into the wind is that it keeps you cool. I knew I had a lot of miles to cover to reach my WS host for the night. I just had to ride slow and keep going.
All in all it was a pretty nice ride. A1A has a shoulder or an actual bike lane but I spent a lot of the day riding on the sidewalk/bike path that parallels the highway the whole way. Often it provided some shade and a tiny bit of protection from the wind.
I met my WS host Lisa at her shop, Lisa's Kayaks, where she rents kayaks and paddle boards and takes people out on tours. She gave me the code to the gate into her community and said make yourself at home. It continues to amaze me how open and trusting people are of bicycle tourists they have only met on time. Lisa shared whatever food she had and we talked a bit before she had to run off to some other activity. She was up and out of the house early but I was under no pressure to hurry. I was pretty beat but managed to get going in timely fashion.
Day 22 - Just keep riding.
Slow but steady. The wind continues. Yesterday I was managing 9 mph, today that dropped to 8, and even slower at times. Had a bit of a headache too. Stopped a lot but never for very long. Really a very enjoyable ride.
I started look for a place to stealth camp early. As I entered Jupiter Island it was apparent it would not be there. The place was well patrolled and I'm pretty sure the cops knew exactly where I was at all times. This seemed to be where the richest people lived in Florida. Ocean front estates of an acre or more, all lushly landscaped. It was vey plesant to ride through.
I stopped alot during the day to refuel and rest. I think I was eating and drinking enough, but it was still tough going into the wind. After a while the route rejoined US-1 and shortly after that I saw one of those Florida Bird viewing trails and I did not hesitate to ride out it. It started out paved and then turned to a boardwalk which ended at a covered area with a couple of benches. Beyond that there was a sand trail that continued, but I saw no need to go further. I setup my tent under the roof, and for the second time I was under cover when it rained overnight.
Day 23 - I can smell the barn
Didn't sleep much last night in anticipation of finishing the tour. I had another great stealth site on a birding trail. A covered platform with benches. So for the second time this trip I was under cover when it rained overnight.
Got out shortly after first light. Almost caught the sunrise over the ocean but the view was blocked by high rise buildings. Stopped a lot for tea, food, more tea and more food.
I decided to stay on US-1 instead of following the route back over to the beach. Mistake. After slogging through West Palm Beach with no bike lane and lots of traffic I went over to A1A and it was much more pleasant. Just being closer to the ocean made it a nicer ride. The communities along the route would alternate between highrise condos and public beaches which were all in well use.
It was going to be a long day, but I knew I woul get there and my ride would be done. Getting through Fort Lauderdale was an adventure of its own but I made it trough and that was that. I got to my sister's house tired but in good spirits and very happy to have completed the ride.