The actual ride: February 26, 27, 28, 2016
We’ve finished our Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame trails, but we still wanted to keep riding (probably to our husbands’ frustration of our bicycle fanaticism). So we started thinking of where we wanted to go next. This particular trip to the Florida Keys in the wintertime was Martha’s idea, but it wasn’t difficult to talk me into it, and I’m really glad we did this trail. It was beautiful, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Florida Bay on the other side. So that we were prepared and wouldn’t get lost—because the actual trail is not distinctly marked in several places—with the bike trail and Highway 1 being one and the same—Martha had done extensive research on Google Earth to determine just exactly where the trail deviated from the road and which side of Highway 1 the OHT was on—bay or ocean. This detailed chart REALLY helped us get around without any confusion. I was grateful that she had prepared it.
Ron and Ed came with us on this journey, though they didn’t ride as many miles as we did. In all, we went about 93 miles—34 on Friday, 28 on Saturday, and 31 on Sunday. Ron rode all of day 1, about 14 miles of day two, and about 10 miles of day 3. Ed rode all of day 1 and then decided he would be our official shuttle, which turned out to be a good thing because it took less time to do the bike rides without having to drop off one truck and then drive to the next destination. We crossed 11 bridges on Friday, 9 bridges on Saturday, and 7 bridges on Sunday. We skipped the 7-Mile Bridge and the Channel No. 5 Bridge because they were long and had really narrow shoulders for us to ride on, biking next to the 45-55 mile an hour traffic that was zipping past us. On some of the bridges we had our own bike lane, which was really nice, on others we had a designated bike lane that was about 3 feet wide, on others the roads were four-lane which meant that cars could move over to the left lane and not be so close to us, but on the rest of the bridges we were
riding with the fast traffic on fairly narrow shoulders. We just didn’t stop or look around as we rode across these bridges. Some were less than a mile, so that wasn’t too bad. On the separate bike lane bridges we were able to stop and enjoy the fisher people and the view of the water and other smaller keys. Some sections were in isolated tree areas, not really forests, but growths of palms and mangroves. Other sections were less than appealing—like being on a sidewalk in a town—because there were several commercial properties that we were going past. These “sidewalk” parts of the trail are what Ron skipped. Martha and I didn’t mind them; I guess we’re used to different locations and take it in stride. We just like to ride our bikes in different areas and see the scenery—whatever it is—up close. Funny thing about this trail is that it is a Rail-to-Trail, but not once did we see any indication of that. We did see, though, some signs indicating it was the Overseas Heritage Trail. The main thing is that it was different from all our other rides, and that made it fun.
Sightseeing we did:
Thursday before we met Ed and Martha, we went to the Holiday Inn in Key Largo to see the African Queen boat, used in the Humphrey Bogart movie of that name. Didn’t do a boat ride, just saw it, but it was interesting.
Friday morning we woke up a little after 5 a.m. in order to drive to Higgs Beach at Key West to watch the sun rise (6:58 a.m.)—southernmost, easternmost point of the U.S. Clear day, and it was beautiful, worth getting up so early.
Friday morning: National Key Deer Refuge/Blue Hole Observation Platform—saw alligator but no Key Deer. Nice little nature walk.
Friday afternoon: Harry Truman Little White House in Key West and Hemingway House in Key West—both were very interesting and informative tours, really glad we did them. Then we rode the bikes to the official statue of a buoy, indicating the Southernmost Point in the U.S., and took our pictures.
Saturday afternoon: did a 1.2 mile Golden Orb Nature Trail at Long Key State Park—nice and relaxing, saw a lot of palms and a group of people patiently waiting to see a rare goose; didn’t see any animals, but it was a pretty walk. Skipped Curry Hammock State Park because some people we met at a crossing told us the Golden Orb was similar and better. (They said if we had time we should see Bahia Honda Key State Park at MM 38.7, but we didn’t have time.) Before dinner that night we went into the Bass Pro shop and got to walk around in Hemingway’s actual boat. That was fun.
Sunday: Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park—very interesting quarry-type display of the fossilized corals that are the “earth” basis for the Florida Keys, I liked this; Hurricane Monument in Islamorada, built to honor the several hundred people who lost their lives in the Labor Day hurricane in 1935—interesting. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park–took a glass bottom boat tour for 2.5 hours. It was really fun riding out on the Atlantic Ocean to above the coral reef where they slowed down the boat so that we could see all the fish and coral below. They weren’t as colorful as what I saw in Hawaii snorkeling, but the fish were interesting. Even though I can’t remember all the different fish we saw, it was worth the trip. We had a good time.
Accommodations for future reference: (all checked out with good ratings on Trip Advisor by Martha)
Truck rental (Ford 150) from Royal Car Rental at Miami airport.
Bike Rentals from All Keys Cycles in Key Largo. Only $35 a day and good comfort bikes.
Thursday, February 25, stayed at Panama Suite at Sunrise Suites, a VRBO rental in Key West, 2 bedroom, shared with Martha and Ed, really nice place, about a mile from Southernmost part of the Key West island. Friday and Saturday, February 26, 27, stayed at LaJolla Resort in Islamorada, nice place on the Bayside, and reasonable in price. Sunday, February 28, stayed at Days Inn at Miami airport north, right near the airport, decent room, reasonable price.
Restaurants: Abbondanza Cigar Restaurant for dinner in Key West Thursday night; Southernmost Beach Café for breakfast in Key West Friday morning; lunch at convenience market on bike ride; Flamingo’s Ice Cream on Duval Street in Key West for ice cream after bike trip and sight-seeing on Friday; Islamorado Fish Company for dinner Friday night; Bob’s Bunz in Islamorado for breakfast Saturday morning (bought cinnamon rolls to take along for snack); Stuffed Pig just north of 7-Mile Bridge (forgot which town it is in) for lunch—good bbq sandwich; dinner at Morada Bay in Islamorado–good salmon salad and pepper appeitizer, near LaJolla Resort motel. Breakfast at Mangrove Mike’s Café in Islamorada—tasted good; Key Lime pie from Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory (delicious!) for a snack; lunch from Trading Post but eaten at picnic table at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park before our glass bottom boat trip. Snack dinner at motel in Miami before bed. Breakfast/lunch on Sunday morning at airport because plane was delayed for two hours.
All in all, good food, good accommodations, good company, and a great ride!