Friday, December 10, 2010
Riding through banyan tree tunnel.
At some point later in the day, I got a flat tire on my trailer (one of many, many flat tires to come). As I changed the flat, a jovial old man rode up to us on a folding bike. He stopped in the parking lot to tell us that he is an author, and that his latest work revolved around some touring cyclists. He said that it was a pleasant coincidence that he saw us pedaling down the road. As the old man told us this, a car entered the parking lot, and pulled within a few inches of the old man. The driver proceeded to lay on his horn. The driver's strategy was effective in doing two things: 1) causing the old man to remove himself from the parking lot; 2) demonstrating that Miami drivers are rude. Miami drivers are, without a doubt, the rudest drivers we have come across in the past few months. They honk more than geese, ignore red lights, and have a misanthropic attitude towards everything else on the road. We never intended this blog to be a forum for negativity, so I'll end my description of Miami's roadways.
96 miles later, we were relieved from having to brave Miami traffic. My uncle met us for a beer, and then we piled our stuff inside and on top of his car for a ride to his house. We took two days off in Miami, and spent some great time with my uncle, aunt, and my two little cousins. That Saturday, we had a real breakfast, played the Nintendo Wii, burned some burgers and chorizo on the grill, and had a generally pleasant day. My cousins are learning to play guitar, so we played a couple of songs together. Isabella is going to be the next Eric Clapton!
After a much needed two day break, we hit the road again for our final leg of the trip. We crawled through Miami at a snail's pace because we hit almost every red light Miami had to offer. The stop-and-go feel of the ride was annoying, so we stopped for a lunch break on the beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful: snowy white sand, crystal clear waters, and gentle waves. There weren't many people on the beach, either. The reason for the beach's sparse population became evident a few moments later. Vanessa spotted an older gentleman walking down the beach, displaying himself in stark nudity. A ways further down the beach, a few more entirely naked (and older) beachgoers were laying out. Upon these observations, I concluded that we were walking on a nude beach. We quickly made our exit so as to avoid the remaining nudists and their very unflattering physiques.
Lunch break beach, sans nudity.
I wish we would have seen this sign earlier!
After our inadvertent visit to the nude beach, we looked forward to some 15 miles of bike paths. Unfortunately, Miami failure to properly sign and maintain these paths forced us to ride on the road, and ultimately to find a new route to Florida City. Fortunately, our new route involved some 20 miles of dedicated bike lanes that ran alongside a bus-only road. Unfortunately, the bike paths were littered with broken glass. Unfortunately, a piece of glass ripped through my tire just as the sun was setting, and we had no spare inner tubes. Most fortunately, we were a half mile from a hotel, and only a quarter mile from a bike shop. Fortunately, we would end up sleeping in a warm bed on what became a record breakingly cold night for the Miami area. Talk about luck!
Ed's uncle had some extra Hilton points and generously put us up in the Hilton in Daytona. (Thanks Uncle Chris!) We felt a little out of place walking into their lobby sweaty and smelly in our spandex, but the friendly front desk folks didn't even flinch. The guys outside even offered to valet our bikes! We laughed a little, then took our bikes up the elevator and into the room instead. We may or may not have been seen riding through the hallways! The room was great, and gave us a really nice view of the city as well.
The next couple days we had a change of fate in terms of wind - we actually had a tailwind! A cold front had blown in (yes, we had a few nights into the low 40s, even though we're in south Florida. Come on, weatherman! Help us out here!), and the wind was a great help in getting us through West Palm Beach (the houses there were ridiculous!) into the Miami area, where Ed's uncle, Tio Fede, lives. We met him for a couple of drinks and some delicious food near Fort Lauderdale. We stayed in Miami for a great couple of days - filled with food, beer, music, and video games. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
After spending two months traveling at 15mph, car travel is almost surreal. Bestowed upon us was the power to actually pass other cars, to ignore hills, and to actually enjoy a slight breeze. Cycling forces an acute awareness of traffic, hills, wind, visibility, and debris on the shoulder of the road. As our trip has progressed, the acuity of that awareness has gradually slipped into a subconscious resignation of our powerlessness in the face of those elements. A car removes the need for that subconscious resignation, which leaves a strange void in our daily modus operandi. All philosophical waxing aside, exchanging the bicycle pedal for a gas pedal makes life happen at a faster and more convenient pace. However, I am sure that our dear reader doesn't need to be told that cars are convenient machines. This is just a long winded way of saying that I like driving.
We used the rental car to carry us to the movies, where we vegetated in front of the silver screen for nearly 6 hours. We saw Due Date and The Next Three Days, which were thoroughly entertaining even if they weren't Oscar winners. We emerged from the theater after dark, which would normally be a bad thing on a bike. Don't ride at night, kids. Unlike our bikes, our rental car had some blazing headlights, so night travel was no problem. We cruised to a campsite near Jacksonville Beach, where we were greeted by the sounds of dozens of (possibly drunk) neighbors trying to sing a campfire song.
The next day, the rental car took us to St. Augustine. We spent some time crawling around the oldest city in the U.S. St. Augustine is home to a fort made entirely of coquina shells and populated by men dressed in 17th century costumes, which was, for lack of a better word, pretty cool. The fort has stood in its present condition for more than 400 years, despite periods of inclement weather and mortar shells. After touring the fort, we returned to the campsite and made s'mores (a great recovery food).
Unfortunately, our time with the rental car came to an end. We shared our farewells, parted ways with the rental, and began pedaling once again.
In our next episode, your heroes discover headwind, and land at the Hilton on Daytona Beach! Stay tuned!
Monday, December 6, 2010
We had a great week in Tampa - maybe a little more time than we would have liked to take off - just in the interest of finishing the trip - but it was well-needed rest. We ate tons of food, drank lots of beer, and visited with lots of friends and family. Ed's stepdad promptly enlisted Ed's help in deep-frying 5 turkeys (yes, five!).
We also got to see Ed's sister's new house, complete with a big-screen tv, a kegerator, and a gator in the lake in the back! (it's Florida) No really... they're getting a fence soon. Despite the lack of fence, we discovered that the kitchen works quite well, and stuffed ourselves with a delicious chicken dinner.
We went out the day after Thanksgiving to visit with some family friends and celebrate Ed's passing the bar exam. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino, and had a few drinks and a delicious dinner at their fancy steakhouse. I had escargot for the first time (yum!) and we were also impressed with the lobster bisque, steak tartare, the lobster mac and cheese, and the long-bone steaks. Tasty!
We headed back to Jacksonville to return the rental, but unfortunately got back about 10 minutes after the rental car place closed for the weekend. We were left with a nice little dilemma - an extra 2 days off and a car at our disposal!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The remainder of Georgia was flat, isolated, and, I dare say, boring. Desirous of a short, direct route, we rode US 301 for about 150 miles, and the following two pictures encapsulate what we saw during those miles. The reader may decide for themselves the which of the two pictures was most exciting:
We headed back to the house to pick up some nets and bait because Mike wanted to take us crabbing. The blue crabs in Charleston have quite a fondness for chicken necks, so we picked up a few, tied them to a line with a weight, and tossed them into the water at a salt marsh near Mike’s dad’s house. Wait a minute or two, and reel them in slowly, catch them with your net, and you’ve got yourself quite a tasty dinner, my friend! We had a blast pulling in the crabs and trying to net them before they caught wind of our sinister plans. In 3 hours we caught about 15. If I’m ever back in blue crab country, you’ll know where to find me.