12 January, 2015, Monday - Reston to Miami

We were ready for some warm weather so we decided to head to Southern Florida to ride from Miami to Key West. The Overseas Heritage Trail extends from Key Largo south toward Key West on the old Flagler railroad line. Seventy miles of the trail are currently paved and the plan is to have a continuous paved trail from Key Largo to Key Weest.

It was a cold, wet taxi ride to Dulles to catch a non-stop flight on American to Miami at 5:30pm. We shared some fries at 5 Guys to supplement the pb&j sandwiches we packed for dinner. We were both ready for a warm winter break. The flight was one of the roughest ever. Kerie had a serious case of the hand sweats. The flight was only partially full, a novelty these days.

Our bags were the first off the plane and cabs were waiting right outside. It's a flat $33 fee to South Beach and I added a $7 tip. Hotel La Flora is a basic, clean, and well-situated Art Deco hotel in the heart of South Beach. We dropped off our bags and took a short walk at around 10pm; most stores were still open and there were lots of people out.

13 January, Tuesday - South Beach/Miami ride

Breakfast is served in the hotel lobby, cereal, bagel, juice, and hard-boiled egg. Sat outside watching the passing traffic. We brought our Bike Friday folding bikes and we spent about an hour putting them together in preparation for a short ride around town. That's when the rain started. Instead of starting the week with a wet test ride we decided to take a walk to the beach. A wide, winding paved trail extends along much of the shoreline in South Beach and into Miami Beach. Much of the trail is separated from the beach by a berm with vegetation so the views of the ocean are few but there are many gaps in the berm where you can catch a glimpse of the water. There very few people out in the drizzle. The beach snack vendors were looking very bored.

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Hotel La Flora in South BeachLunch at News CafeRiding the beach trail

Large puddles had accumulated across the width of the trail in a few spots and since we were walking we headed inland. Lincoln Road extends east to west across South Beach and has been converted to a pedestrian Mall. The rain came in earnest so we huddled under an awning of a bakery's outdoor seating area. This happened off and on so we headed back to the room before seeking out News Cafe which we heard was a good lunch spot.

On the way there the sun came out and the day turned lovely. We sat outdoors for lunch at News Cafe and watched the passing crowd. Saw lots of people using the CiTi Bikeshare system. Several stations are scattered around South Beach and we saw a steady stream of CiTi bike riders throughout the day.

Back to the room for a quick change and finally a chance to test ride the bikes we had assembled that morning. All was well and we had a pleasant ride along the beach trail headed north. Rode briefly on very busy Dade Blvd then north of 22nd St for quite a way along neighborhood streets, then back to the beach. The beach trail extends all the way to the southern point of South Beach where a crowd had gathered to eat in the outdoor restaurants and watch the sun set at South Point Park and Pier. At the pier a woman was swimming, occasionally raising her top to reveal large melon breasts. Interesting to see a guys jaw literally drop when he caught a glimpse.

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Sculpture at South Pointe ParkSouth Pointe Park sunsetCiTi Bike riders

Beautiful light as we rode toward Miami Beach Marina where massive luxury craft were parked near a small grassy dog park. Back to the hotel in time for a free glass of wine for me and a mojito for Kerie. The bartender suggested Havana 1957 for good Cuban food and it was excellent. Sidewalks were packed with walkers and diners. Another stroll along Lincoln Road Mall. Back in the room We packed our panniers and double-checked the gear list. We would start our ride to Key West in the morning.

14 January, Wednesday, South Beach to Florida City, 46 miles

I was up before 8am and took a walk along the shoreline trail where lots of runners and walkers were out. Fog had rolled in and there was a mist in the air. Emily, one of the runners on the beach trail stopped and asked if I would take her photo to prove she had reached that point in her run. I had time to really check out the Art Deco architecture of the many small hotels and restaurants along Ocean Dr. Development is limited in that section to preserve the unique, Art Deco buildings. One building on Collins was being redeveloped and just the bare frame of the old frontage was standing; the rest of the building would be replaced.

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Starting our ride south on Venetian CausewayBypassing the Venetian toll boothRiding through Miami morning rush hour

It was time to part with our suitcases and we wanted to be sure we didn't leave something might need during the week. The hotel staff agreed to store the suitcases for free. Another OK breakfast of a bagel, cereal, and yogurt. Finally left around 10:30. One of the first streets on our route was closed but we snuck through on the sidewalk. Our route to the mainland was via Venetian Causeway that had a bike lane. Waited a while for one of the drawbridges to open for a barge and huge luxury yacht. Then a horde of cars passed us as we gingerly rode across the metal grate covering the drawbridge section.

Explored one of the islands along the causeway and then headed into the city. Our route included several very busy roads crowded with impatient rush hour motorists. It was not a pleasant ride. We'd noticed during the first couple of days that when they can, nearly everyone seemed to speed and many motorists are aggressive when they get behind the wheel, with horns constantly blaring. We saw one long distance rider checking his map as we passed. We later met Mike who started today in Ft. Lauderdale headed for Kendall. He is also riding to the Keys and we ended up running into him a couple of times during the trip.

The route included several long sections with trails and we chose to ride on a few sidewalks as well to avoid the aggressive drivers. We stopped early in Coconut Grove for lunch at Jaguar along the Coco Walk. OK fish tacos. Took a short ride to check out the water/marina and we caught a glimpse of Mike again passing through town. We then rejoined the route and made our way toward Old Cutler Trail which we followed for several miles. At the start of the trail Mike, was studying his map. He had read a book about a guy who rode the same route that he was following, He and his wife had wanted to ride this route last year but was sick so he and his wife drove it instead. Mike was not far from his motel at Kendall but we still had a long way to ride so we didn't linger. With the tree roots and other obstacles we averaged about 7 or 8 mph on the trail, but it beat competing with the heavy traffic.

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Eating at Jaguar in Coconut GroveStart of Old Cutler TrailTight space for the trail
but at least it's there

The last 10 or so miles were pretty desolate; long, straight stretches past Homestread Air Reserve Base and the landfill site with little traffic but what cars and trucks we saw were going about 15-20 mph over the 40 mph speed limit. Most drivers were very courteous and no one passed too close. Saw several cyclists training near the speedway, two of whom were motor pacing.

We reached the Travel Lodge at around 5pm and checked in. Our room was mostly clean and didn't smell (two of my main criteria regarding a motel room). We could hear the roar of traffic on US Route 1 (Dixie Hwy) from our room but it wasn't too loud. So so dinner at Mutineer Restaurant nearby that took forever to be served while those around us ate and left.

15 January, Thursday, Florida City to Key Largo, 39.5 miles

Good ride today, partly cloudy and started off cool, with nylon vest. After waffles and yogurt for breakfast at the Travel Lodge, took a left on US 1 and headed to Card Sound Rd. Our choice of routes were to take the paved shoulder on Route 1 with heavy, fast traffic or Card Sound Road with lighter traffic but no shoulder. We chose Card Sound road. There was a short but very busy stretch of Route 1 and we were glad to be on Card Sound Rd with less traffic, but nearly everyone was going FAST. Was thinking Florida police must not have radar guns as nearly everyone, everywhere, town or country, goes about 10-20 over the speed limit.

Most everyone was courteous when passing even though going very fast. I think the speed limit was 55 but most were going 65+. With a tailwind we were thankfully averaging around 15 mph so the trip to the toll booth and bridge was relatively quick. Bit of a climb to the top of the bridge. Wanted to stop for a photo but there was no place to pull over.

Stopped at Crocodile Lake Wildlife Refuge and shortly after that we rode through Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park ($2.50 for cyclists). The park an aborted housing development fought by Dagny Johnson. Interesting place; took most of the 2 mile long loop but had to walk over some of the rougher areas. Where Card Sound Rd met Route 905 new bike lanes had just been striped after a repaving project all the way to Rt 1. We made good time on the bike lanes with new asphalt.

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Kerie after crossing Card SoundCrocodile LakeLunch at Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill
one of many outdoor meals

Had lunch at Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill, first conch fritter, like a hushpuppy with grizzle, and very good fish tacos. Slowly made our way along the Overseas Heritage Trail and wandered through some of the oceanside residential areas where we saw two large lizards, one in the road and the other on the side that escaped up a tree. They might have been green iguanas which are said to have been carried on ships carying fruit from South America.

$5 for 2 cyclists at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, saw the glass-bottomed boat return with a crowd of people, kayakers and a few paddle boarders, 2 decent beaches, curved beak birds scavenging. Sat and relaxed for a while, getting into Keys time. Large aquarium in visitors center and several smaller ones with coral and other displays.

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Pennekamp Coral Reef ParkThe Tiki Suite at Sunset CoveLunch at View from the motel beach

Walgreens for drinks then on to Sunset Cove Beach Resort where they still had vacancies. Quaint old Florida place with mostly small separate cabins. The Tiki Suite was clean and neat. Walked to the private pier to check out the water action, then next door to Bayside Grill for a couple of beers and margarita, delicious seafood enchiladas (BW) and peel and eat shrimp (K). By now a crowd was gathering for the sunset celebration. Added a key lime pie to finish off the meal. Left just before the live music started that we heard loud and clear in our room. Fortunately the guitarist, Popa Chubby, played well and the music ended by 10pm.

16 January, Friday, Key Largo to Key Colony Beach, 49 miles

Long riding day. Decided to skip the packaged muffin breakfast at Sunset Cove Motel and opted to check out Harriette's Restaurant where we had good apple and peach crepes. Left with a homemade key lime muffin.

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Harriette's RestaurantIslamorada Visitors Center
Note bamboo-painted rack
Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery

Stopped by Old Settlers Park in Tavernier and the Islamorada Visitors Center (with a bike rack painted to look like bamboo), a bit of an upscale community. The trail in this area was torn up at almost all of the intersections where ADA pebbled surfaces were being installed, but the driveway asphalt had been ground up and not yet replaced so we slowed every few feet. Then the trail turned into a sidewalk in the more developed areas. Rode on the old highway on Plantation Key.

Saw the huge lobster sculpture at the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery and one of the poured concrete Hurricane Houses built by the WPA after a major hurricane wiped out many of the houses. The basement walls were 18" thick and the entrance was raised, accessible by stairs.

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Cleaning fish and feeding the pelicansLunch at Robbie'sPelican posing at Robbie'sFeeding fish at Robbie's

Before crossing Lignumvitae Bridge the trail ran out and we stopped to figure out what to do next. Watched a fishing boat captain clean fish and throw the remains to the waiting pelicans. Rode on the bridge shoulder and decided to stop for a lively looking lunch spot on the far side of the bridge, Robbie's, where people buy bait fish to feed to the tarpon and dolphin (mahi mahi). Met a group of 4 cyclists taking the same trip only riding shorter segments and camping. They were headed to Long Key then Bahia State Park for a couple of days, staying at the boat-in camping area. Two of them also had Bike Fridays. Earlier they had seen our bikes at Harriette's, and they had met Michael who we think is Mike that we met at the start of Old Cutler Road trail.

Heard about a large charity ride that started in Key Largo today headed for Key West. Then we saw signs for Autism Speaks, the designated charity. The signs helped us find our way as there were almost no trail signs.

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Riding the old road
now a fishing bridge/trail
Arriving at Key Colony Beach MotelBeach at the motel

Rode one very long stretch of ped/bike/fisherman bridge, probably a couple of miles. Some people had wheelbarrows of fishing gear. They walked long distances from the parking area to reach their favorite spot.

Passed a couple hiking north hauling their camping gear in what looked like backpacks on a frame with a large wheel; like a BOB trailer for hikers. We learned later they were headed to Maine.

Our destination for the night was Key Colony Beach Motel. We sat for a while at the private sand beach. Later we walked over to Sparky's for yet more fish tacos. Live music from the bar next door wafted through our open window. Our ride to Key West the following day would be our longest.

The only traffic signal we saw from Key West to the motel was on the road leading to the motel. At that intersection were 2 pedestrians and us. Of course a motorist honked at one of the motorists who had the audacity to yield to pedestrians and us in the crosswalk with the walk signal. Along most of Route 1 pedestrians are on their own when trying to cross the road.

17 January, Saturday, Key Colony Beach to Key West, 67 miles

Good breakfast at Leigh Ann's Coffee House near the motel where there was a big hound dog and black pug sitting outside. It was a cool morning but we ate outside to keep an eye on the bikes. Very good vegetable frittata with whole wheat toast. Earlier we talked to a couple who regularly visit the area and were staying in KCB for a month. They asked about our bikes when we arrived the previous evening. Today they were inflating the tires of two bikes they bought a while back at a yard sale for $15. They store them at the beach over the summer.

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Breakfast at Leigh Ann's Coffee House
in Key Colony Beach
Seven Mile Bridge on the leftEntrance to old Seven Mile Bridge

We followed a good trail for much of the early part of the day. At Big Pine Key the route was on the shoulder of US 1 and we passed a long line of cars waiting to get through the signalized intersections in that community. The traffic jam was due to a very popular nautical-themed yard sale and police were directing pedestrian and auto traffic into the site.

After checking out the NWR Key Deer Refuge visitor center tucked away in the Winn Dixie strip mall on Big Pine Key, we headed to Blue Hole, a former quarry pit about 3 miles away on a bike lane/trail, where we were told we might see the endangered Key deer. There were no deer there but there was a large alligator below the viewing area, probably awaiting a handout. As we were leaving, a local told us about a neighborhood nearby where residents feed the deer and sitings are common. Sure enough, we saw three deer, including a buck with a large rack.

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National Key Deer Refuge
visitor center
Key deerRoute to Blue Hole

It was getting late, we hadn't eaten lunch, and we had another 30 miles to ride. After riding a few miles along US 1 we came across a local bar/restaurant on the water, Kiki's, where I opted for a lighter lunch of salad and hummus with large, fried pita chips.

We rode on the shoulder for several miles leading into Key West although there were a few good sections of trails. It was difficult at times to tell whether it was worth crossing US 1 to reach the trail if it ran out in a few miles. The arrows from the autism ride help greatly. It would be nice if some group would work with the trail overseers to establish a wayfinding system.

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Lunch at Kiki's
visitor center
Typical wide shoulder
on Route 1
Photo op at Southernmost Point

We made our way to the southernmost point in the continental U.S. marker where a long line of people were waiting for a photo opportunity . We waited with our bikes along with everyone else. A gentleman from Cuba was nice enough to take our photo. Next we rode to the start of Route 1, Mile Marker 0, about a mile away, for another photo.

We stayed at the Seascape Tropical Inn, a very nice, very expensive inn a half block from Duval St, next to Hemingway's former residence. After a brief discussion we were allowed to bring our bikes up to the deck next to our room, but not inside the room.

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Mile Marker 0 of Route 1Seascape Tropical InnOur room at the inn

Since it was Saturday night, most eateries had long waits, including Sarabeth's where we ended up. After a shower we walked there to put our name on the list, then walked around for a bit and were able to get a table within about 30 minutes. Had delicious tomato soup, seafood cake made with cornmeal with a good sauce, salad, and bread pudding with a basil tree in the middle.

18 January, Sunday, Key West

Breakfast at the inn consisted of fruit, cereal, yogurt, hard boiled egg, croissants, english muffin, but we decided not to partake of the chilled bottle of wine. We visited Hemingway's home around 9:30am and beat the crowds. Several streets were closed due to the half marathon that morning and the grumpy guy at Hemingway's, who had been stuck in traffic on his way to work, thought the runners "should get a life." Good guided tour included in $13 admission. Took several photos of the many (over 50) cats on the premises.

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Hemingway HouseHemingway's studyHemingway House tour guide

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Decided to explore by bike, first to the seawall at Truman Annex where there's an old Coast Guard ship and several anglers lining the wall. A large crane was hoisting an inflatable boat into the water. Later saw it doing the same with some of the racing sailboats here for a week of competitions.

Then we headed west toward Mallory Square then north and east where we discovered the shoreline trail. Tried to eat lunch at Louie's Backyard but there was a long line and their power had just gone out. After watching the dogs at the dog beach next to the restaurant we headed north on the trail where we found another restaurant on the beach, also without power but it soon returned and we and a light meal of caprese salad and cuban white bean soup (cold shrimp, K).

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Seawall near Truman White HouseLunch on the beach

Called Louie's but couldn't get a table until 8:30. That was OK since we wanted to check out the sunset celebration at Mallory Square. The place was packed with people. We spent most of the time watching Dominique the Cat Man's cats performing. Lots of jugglers and a few acrobats and musicians performed. Beautiful sunset but too much jostling for a good photo.

Dominique the Cat Man
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Sunset at Mallory SquareKey West sunset

Dinner at Louie's was excellent, swordfish with a potato side and sautéed vegetables with olives with a pinot grigio. K had shrimp with icky bacon and mushrooms.

19 January, Monday

Started the day with a visit to the Butterfly Conservancy, the highlight of which was the large, glass enclosed, climate-controlled exhibit area loaded with hundreds of butterflies, along with a couple of flamingoes and a few other birds, and turtles. Spent nearly 2 hours there and it was crowded when we left. Tried to have lunch at Blue Heaven but there was a 40 minute wait so we walked across the street and got a table at the creperie and for a good, light lunch of half a caprese panini and salad.

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Later we rode to the car rental place to find a bike-friendly route as we planned to load our gear and ride our bikes there the next day.

Our friends Steve and Ruth who were also visting Key West, picked us up for the short drive to Geiger Key Marina Fishcamp and Tiki Bar for a good meal of hogfish and chips and Bells IPA. Good to catch up with our dancing buddies and learn more about their many travels over the years. They are staying at a military RV park with their popup tent. They were unaffected by the recent power outages since they have a generator. Power went out at the restaurant so we waited a while for our check once the power returned 20 minutes later. Beautiful sunset.

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Had to include a photo
one of the free-range Key West chickens
Dinner with Steve and Ruth
at Geiger Key
Geiger Key sunset

Last stroll along Duval St, spa dip in hot water, then packed for our ride to the car rental place the next morning after breakfast.

20 January, Tuesday, Key West to South Beach with rental car

Breakfast at the inn and then packed the panniers and got ready to leave. Decided to load up the bikes and ride to the Enterprise place via the beach trail. Started with a ride through the Truman Annex and along the water, then back to the beach trail and around to Enterprise. Rented an SUV with seats that folded down. The bikes fit OK after we removed Kerie's handlebars, laying her bike on top of mine lying on it's side, with some panniers in between. Drove north along US 1, stopped for lunch around MM 77, then visited one of the art galleries in Islamorada.

At that point we realized it would be close to 6pm when we arrived in Miami when the rental car place closed, so we headed straight there, using a couple of toll roads. Made it there in plenty of time. Removed the bikes, loaded our gear and rode to the hotel via the beach trail.

Decided to return to Havana 1957 for dinner and had the same meal, enchiladas y camarones and half pitcher of red sangria. Then packed the bikes and it was 11:30 by the time we got to bed.

21 January, Wednesday, Miami to Reston

Up early and motel breakfast on the porch, low 70s. Walked along the beach and took photos of buildings along Ocean Dr. Lots of people on the beach but not crowded. Receptionist at motel called a cab, $35 to airport with $5 tip and $3 to motel receptionist for calling cab and storing bikes. It was snowing in DC when we landed. We had a great trip and were pleased that the logistics worked out. In the future the trip will be much more pleasant once the Overseas Heritage Trail is completed.

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Rental car return in South BeachBike share with champagne bottleOne of many Art Deco buildings
along the beach drive