New River Trail State Park – July 6, 2016

Bridge Crossing Creek @ New River Cabins

Bridge Crossing Creek @ New River Cabins

Wednesday morning was an 8:30 a.m. start. I’m sure Martha would have liked to begin earlier, as she is a much earlier riser, and I thought at first that I would be ready at 8:00 a.m., but finishing up breakfast of zucchini bread, banana, and orange juice on the cool porch cabin overlooking the creek and then getting my stuff on my bike took more time than I thought it would. But we did leave at 8:30. Martha had already ridden down to the beginning of the trail (about ½ mile) and back to meet me at the cabin, but she agreed to ride about 100 yards down so that I could be opposite our cabins and then turn around and start on our way. (I had pictured myself riding on the trail while eating breakfast and wanted to complete the reality of the situation by riding there.) Anyway, we said our goodbyes to Ron and Ed, who were going to handle the logistics of getting the car and the truck to their respective parking lots so that they could ride part way with us and then still have a car at the trail’s end. Ron was installing the bar ends that Tommy had given him for his birthday, so that he wouldn’t have to lean over quite so much to grasp the handle bars. (Which, by the way, worked just fine, and he looked a lot more comfortable as he rode in front of me on the trail.)

Bridge over New River

Bridge over New River

The first 12 miles was back to the junction where we had left the night before, following close to the creek all the way. The creek was actually as large as a river, and it was very scenic. That might have been my favorite part of the whole trail. And then just before the junction was a long trestle over the part of the river where the creek met the New River. That was great. And for my physical comfort, a clean toilet awaited me before we kept going along the New River. The weather was great—about 68 degrees—and shady under the canopy of trees, and right next to the water. During the next 14 miles along the New River, it was wider, of course, but not as many rocks to create any white water, and some of the time it was harder to see the water because of the trees and shrubs between us and the river. One really nice feature of this trail was the several picnic tables and even little parks situated alongside the trail. And it was well marked with these yellow posts/gates that helped us see where to go next at any intersections. The crushed gravel had quite a bit of packed dirt mixed into it, which made the ride fairly smooth. It was pretty scenery, and I think is near the top in my list of favorites. Our only problem was that the mist that started to surround us eventually turned to rain, and we had to stop to put on our rain jackets, which wasn’t all that bad actually, except when the rain stopped and the mist was thick and hot and we were in a sort of sweat bath with our rain jackets on. But it was all tolerable and not totally uncomfortable. About every hour I had to pee, but the trail was accommodating because about every hour we saw an outhouse. Not just an ordinary wooden outhouse, but a nice cement structure that even had hand sanitizer installed on the wall. Not a flush toilet but good enough to serve the purpose.

Foster Falls Trailhead

Foster Falls Trailhead

After 26 miles we saw Ed on the trail by the Shot Tower where he and Ron were waiting on us. I don’t think they had to wait too long—maybe 10 or 15 minutes. It was still raining a bit, so we decided to drive to Foster Falls and have our picnic rather than bike over there. That was good. It was a nice break, the area was pretty, and we found a little gazebo to eat under. Ron and Ed had picked up sandwiches at the Draper Mercantile before coming to meet up with us. So after lunch the rain had stopped and we headed back to Shot Tower (where in the early 1800’s they used to drop bits of lead down this 150 foot tower, where it formed into a ball and landed in a bucket of water as a round bullet for their shotguns.) We had to carry Ron’s and Ed’s bikes down the steep trail to the New River Trail, but we did it.

Ron & Ed on Trail

Ron & Ed on Trail

Then we started out on the next 20 miles. This section, according to bloggers, was the prettiest, and it was pretty as it paralleled the New River almost all the way, but the river was also sometimes camouflaged by trees. There were a few trestles, but not as many as we had on the first 26 miles and no tunnels (we had gone through two tunnels before we met up with the husbands). It was oftentimes shady, so that was nice, and fairly flat. In all, it was a good ride. The Hiawassee Bridge over the river was long and neat. Soon after that, though, we left the side of the river into the woods for about four miles, and the last two miles were noticeably more uphill than the rest had been. By the time we reached the Draper Mercantile, where Ron and Ed were stopping, Martha and I were ready to forego the last 4.2 miles and stop there also. It wasn’t supposed to be as scenic, the bugs were noticeable, it was hot, there was no river, and I guess my age was showing because I was getting tired after 46 miles. So we decided to just ride with Ed and Ron in the truck over to Pulaski where we cooled off in McDonalds with ice water and a fudge sundae. That was a good finish to a good ride.

We then all rode in the truck back to Shot Tower to pick up the Subaru and part paths. Ron and I drove back to the Brownie House and Martha and Ed went back to the New River Cabins in Galax.

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Virginia Creeper – Trail July 5, 2016

This ride was only from Abingdon to Damascus. At the end of this entry I’ll say something about past rides from White Top Mountain to Damascus.

Scenic Bridge on Virginia Creeper

Scenic Bridge on Virginia Creeper

The scenery from Abingdon was just as pretty as I remember it from past rides on this section of the Virginia Creeper. The trail is composed of hard crushed limestone and dirt, it is well packed, and it is wide enough for two people to ride and talk. All this makes for a pleasant ride, plus the weather was exceptional—maybe in the 70s and no rain. We rode along the Holston River most of the time but also went through some farm lands, where we had to open and close some gates, which means private land and the owners are good about letting the trail go through their land. We crossed several wooden trestles either over the river or over wet or low parts of the land. It was really pretty. That area had had quite a bit of rain, so several places were a bit muddy, and my legs became covered with splashed up dirt. Oh well that’s part of the trip.

Creek along Virginia Creeper

Creek along Virginia Creeper

Surprisingly, I had a flat tire ½ mile northwest of Alvarado. Unfortunately, it was a back tire, which meant we had to deal with gears also. I was proud of us—Martha and I stayed calm, turned the bike over, released the brakes, removed the axis holding the rim, got the chain off the chain holders, and then removed the tire from the bike. Once off, we used my tools in my tool kit to remove the nearly flat tube and the old Teflon liner that looked like it was pretty well worn out. We got out the spare tube that I had brought along for just such an emergency. Martha said she thought we should remove the whole tire from the rim before we tried to put the replacement tube back into the tire. So we did that, and that process seemed easier than what I’ve done before, trying to put the tube into the tire while it’s still on the rim. Once in, Martha used her hand pump (glad she had it because I don’t know if I know how to use mine properly) to pump it up a little, and then we put the tire back inside the rim.

Joyce @ Junction on New River Trail

Joyce @ Junction on
New River Trail

That was a bit of a challenge, but between the two of us, we were able to do it. So with the tube in the tire and the tire back into the rim, we pumped the tube up more, and were pleased that it was filling up just like it should. Then when it seemed solid enough, we got the tire back into place on the axis, tightened the bolts holding it in place, and then got the chain back on, and turned it back over to rest on the tires. After we finished pumping it up to max, we put the brake back together and got on our way. We felt pretty good about the whole process. The biggest anxieties came from batting off the flies that kept getting on our legs as we tried to think and act, and then trying to get hold of Ed to let him know that even though we had texted him to meet us in Alvarado that now we got the tire fixed and he could just meet us in Damascus. (His lack of cell phone service was indeed an obstacle.) We had thought we should just exchange my bike with the flat tire for Ron’s bike. But we were able to fix it ourselves. The other problem with the flat is that during the entire event we didn’t even think about taking a picture, as it would have been a great photo of the only flat tire we have ever actually fixed on the 30 plus trails we have ridden.

Joyce & Ron Paddling on New River

Joyce & Ron Paddling
on New River

We eventually met Ed on the trail in Damascus near the restaurant, had a great lunch with Ed and Ron, and then we drove to Fries, Virginia, where we rented a canoe and had a nice hour float down the New River. After the canoe trip, starting at the New River Outfitters, we picked up the New River State Park Trail and rode 3 ½ miles to the junction where it meets the trail coming in from Galax, which we did on the next day. We then rode the 3 ½ miles back to the New River Outfitters where Ed and Ron were waiting for us. Then we drove to Galax to the cabins and then out to eat and then to bed.

As said earlier in the entry, the Whitetop Mountain to Damascus ride was done years earlier, in fact many times years earlier. We’ve done it with our sons more than once, with our friends (Ollie in particular enjoyed it), and with Martha and Ed. It is a beautiful ride in the mountains, crossing many old train trestles over high places, creeks, and river, and is shaded most of the time. The other great thing about it is the elevation decline, so that we are riding downhill most of the way. I hope someday my daughters-in-law can make this bike ride, as it is a very pleasant experience. The trail goes through some very small communities, again where land owners are allowing us to cross their pasture land, and follows streams several times. The only problem with this part of the trail is that either someone doesn’t get to ride it because he is the driver getting our bikes to the top, or we pay for a shuttle ride. Someday we might get ambitious to ride from Damascus to Whitetop, but right now it is a memory of only downhill riding.

Virginia Creeper: Abingdon to Damascus (17 miles)

Although I have biked the lower half of the Virginia Creeper Trail from Whitetop Mountain to Damascus multiple times, I had never biked the upper half from Damascus to Abingdon. The lower portion is downhill and crosses numerous trestles and creeks through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It offers spectacular scenery in the fall, which attracted my husband and me to this trail over 20 years ago. On a later trip, we brought our two teenage daughters to experience this scenic, easy trail. Our most recent ride on the Whitetop portion was in 2004 with Joyce and Ron. Due to the steepness of the lower portion of the trail, most cyclists take a shuttle to the Whitetop trailhead and ride downhill. On all of our previous trips, we utilized the shuttle services provided by Mt Rogers Outfitters in Damascus; however, there are several more options now.

Joyce & Martha @ Abington Trailhead

Joyce & Martha @
Abingdon Trailhead

On this trip, my husband, Ed, dropped Joyce and me off at the Abingdon trailhead at 10:30 AM on a drizzly, surprisingly cool July morning. Unlike the southern portion of the trail, the ride from Damascus to Abingdon is almost flat. Although most of the trail is tree canopied, there are open sections through lush green pastures. We passed through many fenced cattle fields, which required dismounting our bikes to open and close the gates at each end. One of the highlights of the ride was a newly constructed trestle in an open field overlooking the surrounding hillside.

Trestle on Hillside

Trestle on Hillside

About one mile north of Alvarado, Joyce had a flat tire. Fortunately, we had tools and a spare tube. Since the flat was on the rear tire, it required a little more work to disconnect the brakes and to release the chain from the derailleur. Joyce has changed a tire before, but I have only watched :-). We worked together to remove the punctured tube from the tire. Based on advice from our local Trek mechanic, I suggested that we take the tire off the rim before inserting the new tube. Using the portable pump that I had mounted on my bike, I pumped a little air into the tube to give it enough shape to prevent it from slipping out of the tire while we remounted it on the rim. We finished pumping up the tire, placed it back on the bike, and reattached the chain. The trickiest part was the brakes; thankfully, Joyce remembered out how to reconnect them :-). Within 30 minutes, we were back on the trail.

Creek along Trail

Creek along Trail

Since cell service was spotty, we were not able to call our husbands to notify them that Joyce had a flat tire. We attempted to text them but weren’t certain that our texts were received. Hoping that they would not be too worried by our 30-minute delay, we proceeded to Damascus. The trail paralleled a beautiful creek on our left, and we repeatedly complemented each other on our teamwork and maintenance skills while riding slightly downhill toward our destination. We met Ed and Ron at the MoJo’s Trailside Cafe for a delicious lunch before driving on to Fries, Virginia where we plan to bike the New River Trail.

Caboose in Damascus

Caboose @ Damascus Trailhead

Joyce has been trying to persuade me to ride this portion of the Virginia Creeper for several years, and I’m glad that I finally had the opportunity – it was definitely worth a flat tire!

Overseas Heritage Trail – Day 3 (John Pennekamp SP to Channel 5: 31.3 miles)

Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory

Blonde Giraffe Key Lime
Pie Factory

This morning we ate breakfast at Mangrove Mike’s (a block south of La Jolla Resort) and then drove both trucks north to John Pennekamp State Park. Joyce and I biked south while Ed and Ron purchased glass bottom boat tickets and parked one of the trucks at the state park. After 10 miles, we met them at the Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory. Since the pie factory was not open yet, Joyce and I continued riding south while Ed and Ron waited for the store to open.

Giant Lobster

Giant Lobster

We stopped to take photos of the giant lobster in front of the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery. Our next stop was the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (MM87.7). Ed & Ron met us in the parking lot, and we ate our key lime pie slices at a picnic table behind the visitor center.

Windley Coral Reef SP

Windley Coral Reef SP

Walking to both the Windley Quarry and the Flagler Quarry, we saw several hundred feet of exposed coral. The formations were very intricate; in some places, you could see outlines of fish and other ocean creatures carved in the coral.

Hurricane Monument

Hurricane Monument

We resumed our bike ride south toward Islamorada where we met Ed & Ron at the Hurricane Monument – a tribute to the 200+ individuals who lost their lives in the 1935 hurricane as they tried to escape the islands by train. This hurricane destroyed many of the railroad bridges through the Keys, and the haunting remains are a vivid reminder of this tragic storm.

Ron decided to join us on the last leg of our bike ride from Islamorada down to the Channel 5 bridge. This 10.1 mile portion of the trail remained bayside and crossed five bridges. Although four of the bridges required that we bike with the traffic, the scenery was so gorgeous that we did not mind. At the crest of the bridge over Lignumvitae Channel, we spotted Robbie’s Marina, which is a popular kayaking launching spot for those wanting to paddle out to either Lignumvitae Key or Indian Key state parks. Just beyond the marina, the trail turned away from US1 and passed beautifully gated homes with lavishly landscaped lawns.

Martha on Channel 2 Bridge

Martha on Channel 2 Bridge

Approaching the Channel 2 bridge, we caught a glimpse of kite surfers at Anne’s Beach. If I was younger, I would have loved to try this sport! The pedestrian bridge over Channel 2 was lined with fishermen, but I hardly noticed. This was our last bridge, and I decided to savor the moment. On the other side of the bridge, we biked about a mile to where Ed was parked. We loaded our bikes and drove back north to John Pennekamp State Park for a picnic lunch before our glass bottom boat tour.

Glass Bottom Boat

Glass Bottom Boat

We thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour ocean tour of the coral reef, located six miles offshore. We spotted a shark, stingray, and several other types of fish. I was amazed at how clear the water was, and I was sad when the captain turned the boat back toward the coast. The sun was setting as we pulled into the dock, and we saw a few majestic herons perched along the mangroves.

Anhinga in the Everglades

Anhinga in the Everglades

Joyce and Ron drove north to Miami for the night, and Ed and I returned to Islamorada. We ate dinner at the Lazy Days Restaurant (excellent) and spent one last night at the La Jolla Resort. The following morning, we stopped briefly at the Everglades National Park on our way to Clewiston where Ed and I met almost 40 years ago.

Alligator in the Everglades

Alligator in the Everglades

The town had changed dramatically, but we were still able to locate the church, our apartments, and the home where we lived for one short year prior to moving to south Georgia. We drove back to the Miami Airport, turned in our rental truck, and flew back to Atlanta. I enjoyed the Keys and understand why many folks, including several presidents, have made this a frequent vacation destination.

Overseas Heritage Trail – Day 2 (Channel 5 to Big Pine Key: 33.8 miles)

Biking over Bridge

Biking over Bridge

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.

View of Gulf

View of the Gulf

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.

Coconut Palm

Coconut Palm

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 :-).

Poisonwood Tree

Poisonwood Tree

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.

La Jolla Resort

La Jolla Resort

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!

Overseas Heritage Trail – Day 1 (Niles Channel to Key West: approx. 29 miles)

Although the Overseas Heritage Trail (OHT) is not a Hall of Fame trail, it possesses a few traits that appealed to us. It is a long (106.5 miles), scenic trail located in a warm spot (Florida Keys) for a winter bike ride :-). Joyce and I invited our husbands to come along on this trip, and we plan to integrate sightseeing activities as we bike from Key Largo to Key West.

 

Cigar Store on Duval

Cigar Store on Duval

We flew from Atlanta to Miami yesterday, rented two Ford F150 trucks from Royal Rent-a-Car, and drove to Key West. The drive to the southernmost point in the United States took longer than expected due to traffic and slower speed limits. After we arrived in Key West, we checked into the Sunrise Suites and drove to Duval Street for dinner at Abbondanza (Italian restaurant constructed from three cigar maker houses). After dinner, we strolled up Duval Street before returning to our condo for the night.

 

Sunrise @ Higgs Beach

Sunrise @ Higgs Beach

This morning, we decided to set the alarm early so that we could watch the sunrise at Higgs Beach. We drove both trucks to the beach and walked out on the pier to soak in the sunrise. Leaving one truck parked at the beach, we drove the other truck to the Southernmost Beach Cafe for breakfast.

 

Southernmost Beach Cafe

Southernmost Beach Cafe

The food was excellent and the scenery from the outdoor cafe, located just a few feet from the ocean, was spectacular. After breakfast, we drove north to the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key where we took a brief hike to the Blue Hole Observation Platform. We spotted one alligator but no deer. Since the refuge visitor center is located in the Winn Dixie parking lot, we stocked up on a few drinks and snacks.

 

IMG_0648

Ed & Martha on Bridge

Originally, we planned to park our truck at the visitor center and bike back to Key West (32.4 miles); however, since a portion of the trail and two bridges below Big Pine Key were not complete, we decided to park the truck at the south end of Niles Channel (MM27.2) and start biking from there. This portion of the Overseas Heritage Trail weaves back and forth from oceanside to bayside, which meant we had to cross the busy US1 highway numerous times. Portions of the trail were separated from the highway by a barrier of trees, and we enjoyed these brief respites from the cars and trucks whizzing by us. Fortunately, all seven of the major bridges below Niles Channel have a separate bike bridge. Personally, I enjoyed riding across these bridges because I felt safer and because we got a closer glimpse of the breathtaking water on both sides. Several fishermen had staked out their favorite spots along the pedestrian bridges, and it was fun to occasionally see them reel in a fish :-).

 

Baby's Coffee

Baby’s Coffee

At MM15.7, we stopped at Baby’s Coffee located in the Saddlebunch Keys. We purchased sandwiches and ate our lunch on one of the picnic tables located behind the coffee shop and the Baypoint Market. After lunch, we resumed our bike ride oceanside, crossing several short channels before returning to bayside as we approached Key West. The OHT splits as you enter Key West, but we chose to turn right onto North Roosevelt and follow the trail along the bay. Prior to our trip, I printed the Google Map bike directions from the end of the OHT to the various sightseeing attractions in Old Town. These directions helped us navigate the streets to our first destination, the Harry Truman Little White House.

 

Little White House

Little White House

We parked our bikes and purchased tickets for the 45-minute tour of the Little White House. Ed realized that the naval base where his Mom & Dad were stationed was the same location where President Truman and five other presidents stayed while visiting Key West. I enjoyed the historical tour through the two-story naval officer housing building that had been remodeled for President Truman and his wife in the 1940s. Apparently, Truman much preferred the Little White House to the ostentatious White House in Washington, D.C.

 

Hemingway's Home

Hemingway’s Home

After our tour, we pedaled our bikes a few blocks to the Ernest Hemingway house. Although we expected a self-guided walking tour, we were fortunate to arrive at just the right time to join a tour guide who made the home come alive with stories and historical facts about Hemingway and his four wives. We spotted several six-toed, polydactyl cats roaming and sleeping quite luxuriously on the furniture throughout the home. Supposedly, these cats are all descendants of a white, polydactyl cat that Hemingway received as a gift from a ship captain. At the conclusion of the tour, we were allowed to take the stairs up to Hemingway’s writing studio. Although I wrote a research paper on Hemingway in high school, I don’t think I realized how many of his novels and short stories were actually written in Key West.

 

Flamingo Crossing

Flamingo Crossing

Next, we biked a few more blocks to Flamingo Crossing, an ice cream shop located on Duval Street. I treated myself to a double scoop of mango and key lime :-). We ate our ice cream outside on a patio table and rested for a few minutes before proceeding to the official southernmost point of the continental U.S. Remarkably, there was a line of tourists patiently waiting in line to have their pictures taken in front of the buoy, which designates this geographically significant location.

 

Southernmost Point

Southernmost Point

We pedaled about a half mile back to the truck we had parked at Higgs Beach this morning. We loaded our bikes, drove to Niles Channel to pick up the other truck, and drove north to Islamorada where we had reservations at La Jolla Resort. After unpacking, we drove to the Islamorada Fish Company (owned by Bass Pro Shops) where we ate dinner outside along the bay. It was kinda chilly, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fried shrimp that I ordered. Finishing dinner after 9 PM, we drove back to La Jolla and I fell asleep within minutes after my head hit the pillow.

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

The actual ride: February 26, 27, 28, 2016

Joyce Crossing Bridge

Joyce Crossing Bridge

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.

Joyce & Ron on Channel 2 Bridge

Joyce & Ron
on Channel 2 Bridge

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

2016-02-26 13.20.39

Joyce & Martha on Bridge

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.

Little White House

Little White House

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.

Coral Quarry

Coral Quarry

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.

Bay @ La Jolla

Bay @ La Jolla

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!