After a good night’s sleep at La Jolla Resort, we ate a filling breakfast at Bob’s Bunz where we also purchased a few cinnamon rolls to eat later on the trail :-). Joyce and Ron followed us in their truck to the south end of the 7-Mile Bridge (MM42) where we unloaded the bikes for the morning ride. Ed decided not to bike today, but we appreciated his willingness to provide shuttle service for us. Joyce, Ron, and I biked 10 miles south to Big Pine Key, crossing five bridges with traffic (no separate bike bridge). Although the noise and close proximity of the traffic was a bit unnerving, the bike lane was sufficiently wide enough to feel fairly safe. However, it was much windier (15-20 mph) today; in fact, when we crossed Spanish Harbor, I felt my bike being blown toward the passing cars. I gripped my handle bars tightly and pedaled faster. Despite the swirling wind, we met Ed at the CVS in Big Pine Key in less than an hour.
We picked up Ron’s truck, drove back across the 7-Mile Bridge, parked his truck at the Marathon Trailhead (MM73.2), and drove a couple of miles north to the Stuffed Pig for a barbecue lunch. Afterward, Ed transported us to the south side of the Channel 5 bridge at MM73.2 (just south of Islamorada) where we resumed our bike ride. Ed did some sightseeing while Joyce, Ron and I biked south toward the Marathon Trailhead. Fortunately, all four bridges had separate bike/pedestrian walkways, and we only had to cross US1 twice. Considering the wind, I was thankful for the barricade between us and the traffic.
Along the trail, we met Ed at Long Key State Park (MM69.8) where we took a 1.2 mile hike on the Golden Orb Nature Trail. Although we did not encounter any namesake spiders, we did pass several avid birdwatchers in pursuit of a rare dove which had been spotted the previous day. After the hike, Ron decided to quit biking and to ride with Ed to Duck Key where they watched fishing boats dock at the marina. Although our next stop was supposed to be Curry Hammock State Park, Ron & Ed met us near the entrance and discouraged us from taking time to visit the park. When a local couple concurred, we decided to skip the park and to take a brief break to eat our cinnamon rolls instead :-).
This portion of the trail through Grassy Key was separated from US1 by a tropical hammock. Joyce and I rode side by side and could actually carry on a conversation without the noise of cars drowning out our voices. Before we realized how far we’d ridden, the town of Marathon appeared on the horizon. This was one of my least favorite portions of the trail because we rode along the highway for six miles, passing numerous businesses and crossing several intersections. I was thankful that I had purchased a small rearview mirror prior to our trip, which helped me see approaching cars that might be turning directly in front of us.
After biking through Marathon, we met Ed and Ron at the north side of the 7-mile bridge. I decided to ride out on the old train bridge toward Pigeon Key, a restored work camp from the railroad days. Joyce and Ron followed on foot. With the sun setting directly in front of us, this was a perfect ending for the day. We loaded the bikes and returned to La Jolla Resort. After a quick shower, we drove to Morada Bay for dinner. Since there was a long waitlist, we decided to walk over to the Bass Pro Shop to see Hemingway’s fishing boat on display. Returning to the restaurant, we were seated at an outdoor table; however, the night air was too chilly, and we had to ask the waiter to move us inside to finish our delicious prime rib dinner :-). I collapsed into bed and almost slept until the alarm rang the following morning!