I flew into Orlando with a duffel bag full of bicycle gear and my heart full of ambition. California, the destination. I didn't know how long it was going to take me, or the route that I was going to ride down - but I had five months until I need to be at work for the summer, so I wanted to try something different and ride my bicycle across the country.
My ride, a Salsa Vaya, was waiting for me in Del Rey Beach with my uncles, Charles and Cletis. I spent the week there, becoming acclimated to the weather and slowly building up my rig.
I went to a Florida ocean for the first time. The sand was white and the waves were crystal blue - something I've never experienced before in my life...
...but as mysterious and beautiful the ocean is, my innate need for movement was already tugging at my sleeves. I decided that I saw what I could, and on January 10th I finally set off to see a friend in West Palm Beach. The goal was to see her, and then go down to Key West. Why? Because I had never been there before, and it seemed cool.
I met my friend, Sarah Schulkins in West Palm Beach. We used to go to school together, and had the same passion for photography - but as we progressed through the educational system we both fell out of love with the culture that surrounds it, and found ourselves on different (happier) paths.
Now it was time to head down to Key West. I had lined up some Couchsurfing/WarmShowers hosts - I just needed to get there.
I was riding from Homestead to Long Pine State Park, when I had an uneasy feeling. I looked at the map, then back at the face of the trail it wanted me to ride down. Nine miles of what seemed to be a fire road, full of potholes and high bushes in both sides.
I had a pit in my stomach. The road seemed to pull at me like a scene from a horror movie, and I could see myself sprawled in the middle of the road with a bone arrow sticking out of my chest as cavemen danced around me waving torches.
I pedaled furiously, every tire rotation bringing a deeper sense of dread into my stomach.
Seven miles in, I hear a deep yell from behind a tall shaking bush on my right. My hands gripped the bars, and I pushed on my pedals like I've never done before. Don't look behind you! My heart was racing, and adrenaline pulsed through my body like a cackling ball of electricity - if I made an attempt to recognize wherever that voice came from, he/she/it would see me and run through me with their tribal instruments of torture.
Fifteen agonizingly slow minutes pass by, and I finally exit the trail onto the freeway. I gingerly look behind me, and the road was just as empty as it was before - no sign of any screaming twisting creatures with machetes and blood running down their faces. I breathe deeply, waiting for my heart to settle. I was nine miles closer to my campsite in Long Pine Key State Park.
I had settled into my campsite on the water, when I realized that I was in the wrong place - I was supposed to be in the hiker/biker sites at the end of the property. A light rain had already started to fall, and I packed up my gear with a frown slowly making its way across my face. I take one step onto my "official" sleeping place, and immediately an unforgiving horde of No-See-Ums manageed to bite every inch of my body...needless to say the sleep that night wasn't too good - but I definitely learned a lesson in the lackluster effect of natural bug sprays!
I bailed the next morning super early to get to Key West, only around 60 miles to go! The sun would come out in bursts - but the rest of the day would be rainy and windy.
Finally making it to Key West.
I met two travelers, Dorian and Heather - they're from Massachusetts, starting in Key West and heading to Texas! I pretty much hung out with them every day for the five days I was in Key West - time trickled elequently in their presence, and laughter pushed itself out of my lungs in a way that has been sorely missed. We'll be meeting up in the near future, and continuing our ride together, I can't wait.
Not going to lie, it's pretty expensive down here, but there's a lot of interesting things to see down here for free. The nightlife is insane down here, so if you're planning on visiting, at least that's one thing you can check out!
Now I'm heading up to Delray Beach, going north alongside the east coast of Florida! Stay stoked, beautiful things are happening.
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