Bicycling through south Florida, page 3

Page 1: Naples to Key Largo
Page 2: Key Largo to Key West
Page 3: Key West to the Everglades
Page 4: Everglades to Naples.

Sunday, January 8

Distance: 14.8 miles
Riding time: 1 hours, 25 minutes
Average speed: 10.4 mph
Maximum speed: 20.2 mph

This was the 2nd rest day of our trip, so we left our tent and gear at camp and biked into Key West for some sightseeing. Key West was a wealthy community in the 1800's and early 1900's and it has some elegant neighborhoods from that time. The first industry that made Key West rich was "wrecking" - salvaging cargo from the shipwrecks that occurred about once a week. In more recent decades tourism has pumped a lot of money into Key West and the historic section is now very expensive. We saw 1 historic home that had been subdivided into 4 condominiums. The cheapest condo (2 bedroom, 1 bathroom) was $599,000 and the most expensive (2 bedroom, 2 bathroom) was $799,000.

Victorian homes in the historic neighborhoods of Key West. 2-level porches are very common.

Our main stop today was at the butterfly conservatory, where hundreds of butterflies from all over the world flutter around inside a greenhouse. Since butterflies live only about 10 days, new butterflies are constantly raised and released. Some of the butterflies have brilliant colors on the tops of their wings and excellent camouflage on the bottom so they can hide by raising their wings. Butterflies spend so much time in motion that I found them difficult to photograph, but they are fun to watch.

Before returning to camp we did the most touristy activity of our trip when we stopped to eat some Key lime pie. There are a dozen or more shops in the downtown area that sell Key lime pie, so we ate a couple slices at The Blond Giraffe, a tiny shop that sells just Key lime pie and coffee.

A few of the many different butterflies at the conservatory.

These two butterflies are the same breed, but the first has its wings extended to gather heat and the second has its wings upright to hide in leaf-like camouflage.

These 2 South American butterflies are also the same breed. The tops of their wings are a bright blue-purple-green that changes color with angle, like a hologram; the bottoms of their wings have false eyes to confuse predators.

Resting at the conservatory.

Kathy with a decorative butterfly.

A butterfly getting Daniel's attention.

Eating Key lime pie at The Blonde Giraffe.

Daniel chewing on a new toy.

Monday, January 9

Distance: 56.0 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 31 minutes
Average speed: 12.3 mph
Maximum speed: 17.7 mph

We began our long trip back to Naples today, riding east away from Key West. This is our first long bike tour that has backtracked across the same roads, and we will try to visit a few places that we skipped on our way to Key West. Unfortunately we had a strong headwind again today, just as we did when we were traveling this road in the opposite direction. At least it was warmer this time around, making the ride much more pleasant, and Daniel was well behaved, sleeping or playing in his trailer.

We're camped at a private campground on Marathon Key tonight. It's expensive ($44) but at least it was available. The state parks along our route are full for the next couple of nights, as are some private campgrounds, and there is virtually no public land open to dispersed camping within the Keys.

Daniel smiling at us during a brief pause in our long ride.

Tuesday, January 10

Distance: 52.0 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 5 minutes
Average speed: 12.7 mph
Maximum speed: 19.7 mph

Since Kathy and I planned to travel fewer miles today (we wanted to camp in Key Largo,) we took some extra time to eat breakfast by the sea. Lots of pelicans were there catching and eating their own breakfasts. I had never noticed before how hard a pelican must work to get a fish down its throat and into its stomach after trapping the fish in its beak. Some fish fight hard, and it can be minutes before a pelican finishes swallowing.

We hardly stopped anywhere today until we reached our campground. We had to backtrack about 4 miles today because the campground that we wanted to use did not accept tents - only RVs. This seems very common in Florida - I guess the RV park owners don't want to maintain a bathroom for tent campers. I'll be glad to get off the Keys tomorrow because we don't feel welcome on the road here. The people that we meet in person love to talk to us and look at our baby, but on the road we've been honked at and yelled at more frequently here in the Keys than anywhere else in the country. We checked with Florida's Department of Transportation before we started this trip and we know that we're allowed on Highway 1 throughout the Keys. It's possible that some honks are repeat honks by the same people since many people commute to work along Highway 1.

Daniel letting us know that it's time to get up.

A mural on a roadside building in Islamorada. Outdoor murals are common on businesses in the Keys.

Wednesday, January 11

Distance: 45.8 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 2 minutes
Average speed: 35.6 mph
Maximum speed: 15.1 mph

Our ride was more peaceful today that it's been for the past few days because we spent very little time on busy U.S. 1. We followed a county road to the north end of Key Largo and then took Card Sound toll road to Homestead. It's about 6 miles longer than U.S. 1, but much more enjoyable. A tailwind helped push us along, which was much more fun than the headwinds we've had for several days.

At Homestead we departed from our route back to Naples and headed west to the east entrance of Everglades National Park. We want to get a closer look at the Everglades, so we'll take a day off tomorrow before continuing on to Naples. We're camped in the park at Long Pine Key tonight.

Outside a Burger King in Homestead today a woman asked us, in German, if we spoke German. She was surprised when we said no because "you look so German." I told her that I'm of partly German descent, but speak no German. My guess is that our bicycle, spandex clothing, camping gear and my failure to shave for a few days practically shout "European Tourist" in this area, where we've noticed many foreign tourists. An employee at the Everglades Visitor Center today thought that we were from Holland. What's very true is that few people bicycle for fun around here, and we've seen no other bike tourists. Most people that we've seen on bicycles are simply riding from their RV down to the dock or to the restaurant across the street. When we ride past pedestrians or folks fishing from bridges most of them stare at us with a confused, what-the-heck-are-you-doing look. So I'm not surprised that some people think we're from another country.

White ibis's near our campsite this morning

Entering Everglades National Park


Page 1: Naples to Key Largo
Page 2: Key Largo to Key West
Page 3: Key West to the Everglades
Page 4: Everglades to Naples.