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Friday, October 27
For a change, I took my time leaving, working on reports and checking
my e-mail until about 9 o'clock. I packed up and did a last check of the
room, which always includes locating the motel key. I was still looking
when the phone rang; the owner was wondering if I was still in the room,
a reasonable question since there is no car parked in front. I said I was
about to leave but had misplaced the key. I continued my search until
there was only one explanation for the missing key: I had left it in my pants
pocket after walking to the Subway. I located the plastic bag into which
I roll my dressy clothes, and sure enough there it was.
I exited the room and was busy zeroing my cyclecomputers while the
owner checked the room. At all other motels in which I've stayed the
owner doesn't rush in just as you leave, but I guess this one figured that
anybody who is cheap enough to argue the price is likely to steal towels.
He was in the room long enough for a complete inventory, and then came
out and wished me a good day.
After a few miles with a good tailwind I stopped at a "family restaurant"
for breakfast. I looked in various windows and startled a few diners until
I saw an unoccupied table. I latched the velcro around the brake lever,
entered, and waited to be seated. "Smoking or non-smoking?" I was
asked. "I don't care, as long as it's that table", I said, pointing to the
one with my bike outsite its window.
Many restaurants since mid-Texas have had mini-buffets. This one
had a breakfast buffet, and as always I walk down the line to check it out.
It looked fine, and the price was only $3.95 so I got it with no regrets.
They even had a man making omelettes to order. A good gastronomic
start for the day.
Without hurrying I watched the miles fly by. I'd thought of stopping
at a State Park near Sebring, but that was only after 50 miles, and once
again the fear of a headwind on some later day kept me going. I stopped
at a Hardee's and asked my usual question: "How big an iced tea must
I buy so that I can keep getting refills until the tea comes out my ears?"
Sometimes the answer is a "large" ($1.50), sometimes a lesser size.
This time the answer was "You get unlimited refills for any size." So
I bought the smallest they had.
After fixing the flat the night before I noticed I was down to only three
remaining patches, so getting some more became a high priority. I stopped
at a Wal Mart and got an extra tube and a patch kit. After a few more miles
I spotted a bike store, and for even more insurance decided to get an extra
kit. I asked the manager if Highway 27 continued to have the four-foot
shoulder I'd enjoyed for the past 50 miles. He said no, and that if I was
going to Miami I should "make every effort to find another route", and went
to great lengths to describe the horrors of that road. When I asked him
what route he would recommend he said he didn't have a recommendation,
but repeated that Highway 27 between South Bay and Hialeah (a 59-mile
stretch) "should be avoided". Well, that gave me something to worry
about for the next 75 miles.
I was in orange-grove country, and could see that there would be no
trouble pulling into a grove to pitch the tent. To avoid traffic noise, I
left Highway 27 in favor of a side road that paralleled it for a few miles.
My decision was rewarded within a mile by spotting a wild pig scampering
across the highway. (Until that sighting I'd only seen one roadkill
example of that species.)
The sun was within an hour of setting when I came to a road that led
across some railroad tracks between two groves---one active (green leaves,
fruit hanging from the trees, signs of recent irrigation), and one abandoned
(water-starved trees, little or no fruit, broken irrigation tubes). It would
be easier to pitch the tent in the abandoned grove, so I walked the bike about
200 feet between two rows of trees. I felt some discomfort on my legs and
discovered that my socks had picked up dozens of burrs. Each burr had
one spine that was especially stiff, and could easily cause a flat. I looked
at my tires, and they also were covered with these burrs.
I stopped right there, managed to find a clear sandy spot to lay down
my tarp, and with great care pitched my tent, insuring that no burrs were
between the tarp and the tent. Fortunately, I had a pair of tweesers, so I
was able to pick the burrs out of my socks and shoes. I put all the
essentials into the tent, and with great care removed the last of the burrs
before entering. I didn't want my air mattress to go flat. I had a good
meal (orange juice and a sandwich), but spent a restless night expecting
both tires to be flat in the morning. Thank God I'd bought those extra
Day 55. Saturday,
Fortune smiled on me. Both tires were still inflated when I arose at
Breaking camp was a pain, because everything was saturated with
dew. Sand stuck to both the tent and the tarp, and I gave up trying to
rid everything of grit and finally just stuffed everything into the panniers.
I carefully walked the bike back to the highway, a distance of about
a quarter mile, and with the tweesers removed every burr from the treads
and sidewalls. Then I spent another 15 minutes taking the burrs out of
my socks and shoes. Finally I was ready to bike.
The next few miles were among the most beautiful of the entire trip.
The morning was foggy, but peaceful landscapes became visible as the
mist lifted. I saw a feature I'd never seen or heard of, that I will call a
fogbow: a grey arch (actually two arches) but without the colors of a
rainbow. I couldn't get the entire arch in the frame, and I briefly
thought of backing up until I realized that wouldn't help a bit.
The landscape provided a photographer's paradise, and I had to
guard against filling my camera's memory. (Of course, I could have taken
out my computer and downloaded the pictures if necessary.) I passed
through the small town of Venus and photographed their small classic-
After a few miles I came to a small store that had a sign announcing
"home cooking" and "friendly service". I stopped, entered, and saw a
general store with no place to sit down. I fellow in his 20's asked if he
could help me, and I said that I was expecting to find a place for breakfast.
He said that his mother came in around noon, but that he would be glad
to fix me something "if you're hungry." Well, that was certainly friendly
service, but I wasn't especially interested in such an informal feeding.
He spotted my reluctance, and said "How about a barbecued pork
sandwich?" That sounded good, so I filled my water bottles from a hose
outside, sat down at a wooden table, and shortly thereafter was brought
a wonderful large sandwich. "I make the sauce myself", said the fellow
with justifiable pride. It was one of the better $4-breakfasts I've had.
A couple of miles later I rejoined Highway 27, and was relieved to see
that the shoulder was still there. My tailwind continued, and I moved
along at a steady 16 miles an hour. Mother nature was paying me back
for the misery she caused during the battle into Monticello on day 20.
My plan was to spend the night at South Bay, the last town before
the long horrible stretch into the northern part of Miami. For a few miles
before South Bay the highway stays close to the southern edge of Lake
Okeechobee. There were several motels in the small towns, but I wanted
to get as close to the jumping-off point as possible, in case I had a head-
There was a motel as I entered South Bay, but it obviously looked
upon itself as a resort so I didn't bother stopping to ask their rates. Just
as I was about to exit the town and give up I spotted a motel, with its
sign mostly concealed behind a tree. Several hispanics were gathered
in a shady spot near the front, and when nobody answered my ring at the
office, one of them went to the back and returned with the owner. The
rate was only $27, and when I asked to see the room the very friendly
lady gave me keys to two rooms I could check. The first I looked at was
around the side, with a railing that I could see would make a good place
to dry my still-wet tent. It even had a refrigerator. I didn't even check
the other room. Great luck!
She didn't take VISA, and couldn't break a one-hundred dollar bill,
but cheerfully told me that I could move in now and pay after I'd found
change. The closest grocery store was all the way back in Clewiston
(17 miles) so there would be no orange juice for me that night. But a
nearby convenience store supplied me with milk, and the clerk didn't
complain when I paid with a large bill.
I began my clean-up by removing my socks and throwing them into
the trash together with the remaining burrs I'd missed. (I had one more
pair of socks I'd been saving for such emergencies.) I pulled out my tarp
and tent, dried them over the railing, and brushed off the sand. There
was no phone in the room, but a payphone was conveniently close. I
left a message for Mary, and then had a satisfying supper of milk and
canned vegetables, warmed in the usual way.
The only thing that disturbed my sleep was the worry about the
upcoming horrible stretch of highway I'd face tomorrow.
Sunday, October 28
Never again will I believe anything anyone tells me about biking
conditions. Back in Lake Placid was this fellow who ran a bike shop.
A cyclist (me) came in and asked about road conditions. I was given
a detailed description of the horrors that awaited me. It was all a big
I left just as soon as it was light enough to see the road, for I wanted
to try to beat the traffic, and I figured that early Sunday morning would
be a good time. Who wants to ride a shoulderless road with heavy
traffic? Well, the road had a very smooth four-foot wide shoulder the
entire distance into Miami Springs, about 65 miles. The traffic was not
light, but most of it was large trucks going to or from the sugarcane
fields which had gradually replaced the orange groves during the
preceeding 100 miles. No rest for those drivers---they were at work
early on this Sunday morning.
And my tailwind was still there. I maintained an average moving speed
of more than 14 miles per hour, stopping only to drink, or to eat some
of my emergency rations. I'd suspected that this was likely to be the
longest no-food-no-water stretch of the entrie trip (I was right) so I'd
a plastic milk bottle with some extra water. The first place I saw where
I could have gotten water was after 60 miles.
But it was about there that I met Joan. She was on a serious
(over 40 miles) Sunday solo ride when she saw me biking the other way.
She turned around and caught up with me, and asked the usual questions.
We rode together for awhile, talking biking, and after she concluded that
I wasn't completely out of my mind invited me to her house for something
to eat and drink. This was shortly before noon, I was ahead of schedule,
so I gratefully accepted her invitation.
She had told me that her husband was used to her bringing home
cyclists she would meet on the road, so when we pulled into her backyard
a few miles later I greeted her husband with "I followed her home. Can she
keep me?" He also was a fine person, retired, and very tolerant of his wife's
interests, which besides biking included large dogs (one is a huge mastiff)
and many tropical birds. Three of their six children still lived at home; all
were pleasant and gave off the aura of winners.
Only a cyclist knows the food-needs of a cyclist. No sooner had I sat
down than I was brought a large glass of grape juice. The juice was replen-
ished as soon as it was gone, which never took very long. She fixed me a
turkey sandwich, and before that was finished I was presented with a
bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. I finally had to call a halt, or else she
would have emptied her refrigerator for me.
After about an hour of pleasant conversation with Joan and her husband
(retired after 40 years with the phone company) I felt it was time to move
on. My plan was to find a motel on the north side of Miami, and finish
the ride to Gerry's place the next day. We got out my Miami map and
Joan pointed out likely places where I might find a motel "that doesn't
charge by the hour". (With all the kids living at home it didn't surprise me
that I wasn't invited to stay the night. Actually I didn't want to because
I needed some solitude to work on reports.)
Joan biked with me as far as the main street that bordered her
residential area and saw that I was headed in the right direction. I then
faced the city of Miami on my own.
She hadn't been joking about the hourly-rate on the motels. The first
one I came to had a few suspicious characteristics, including advertising
rooms called the "buckaneer room" and "pirate's paradise". But I went
ahead and asked their rates, got a funny look (how do you pick up
someone on a bike?), and a rate of $45 plus tax. The next place I didn't
bother asking because they posted their rate as "rooms as low as $20"
next to a picture of a man and woman kissing. I kept moving.
Finally I came to a place that looked normal, and was shown a poor
(but acceptable) room for $28. The closest grocery store was three miles
down the street. I wanted something cold to drink so I said I might be
back. Another mile down the street I came to another. This room also
was poor, at the same price, but the fellow said there was a grocery
store only four blocks away. It was now about 4 p.m., so I took it.
The owner explained how to get to the grocery store, I followed his
accurate instructions, and came to a supermarket whose exterior was
crowded with Cubans. I had been warned about crime in Miami (not just
from Cubans), and I stood outside the store for five minutes while I debated
locking the bike and making a rush for essentials. Looking inside I could
see that all the checkout lines were long, so I decided not to risk having
everything stolen on the next-to-last day and biked away.
I returned to the main street and spotted an Arby's a couple of blocks
ahead. Relieved, I bought a large jamoca shake, and two sandwiches to
take back to the room. On the way back I passed a "big bargain store",
locked the bike in sight of the exit door, rushed in and got some ice, a
large bottle of root beer (2 liters for 59 cents), and two small bottles of
pineapple juice (29 cents each). (Later I wished I'd passed on the root
beer and gotten six more pineapple juices, which were excellent.) I was
now equipped to hole up and work on reports.
The room was the worst I've had on the entire trip. It had a TV with an
unwatchable picture (no problem, since I was going to work on reports),
a rusted faucet that allowed water to emerge from ports other than the
one intended, only two towels (very small and thin), and a bed lamp
without a bulb (the ceiling lamp was adequate). I was relieved to find
that the dark spots on the sheets were really cigarette burns left by former
residents. The best of the worst: What do you do with chewing gum when
you retire for the night? Why, just stick it to the wall next to the bed. I
guess the owner expected the resident to return someday and reclaim
it, because it obviously had been there for weeks.
On the positive side, the door stuck so solidly that it acted like
lock, which made me feel more secure. The shower had lots of hot water
in a strong stream, and most of it did eventually go down the drain. The
bed was comfortable, once I found where the lumps were. The air condi-
tioner worked, and made enough noise to easily block the sound of trucks.
I saw no bugs that I couldn't identify. I woke up the next morning without
itching more than normal.
So I had a night that was better than many, including the burr-filled
orange grove. And I could look forward to seeing Gerry tomorrow, after
more than 40 years. My GPS told me that I was within 15 miles of the