Key West Bike Tour Planning

  • My Atlantic Coast Route maps have arrived from the Adventure Cycling Association. I spent an hour plotting a tour from DC to Key West.
  • There are many maps covering about 30 miles per map. Each one has tons of detail indicating camping, food and lodging locations along the way. Mostly this means that you have to curtail a day here and there to find a place to rest your head. It also means that getting past Miami will likely involve riding a century. This will not be a whole lot of fun.
  • Each of the maps has a narrative. Sections of the Florida Atlantic coast sound very unfun. There are long sections of the route with no bicycle repair facilities. Derp.
  • I addition to riding the main route straight to Key West, there are four optional side trips to choose from.
    • I can ride the outer banks of North Carolina. This adds 80 miles and about 2 days to the trip. It might also add a whole lot of wind. And sand. I’ll probably take the inner route since I have already driven the outer banks.
    • A spur route goes to Charleston. This would be fun. Another 2 days.
    • A second spur route goes to Savannah. Another 2 days.
    • There is an alternate route through the Okefenokee Swamp. This only adds 15 miles and I’ll almost certainly do it just for the bragging rights.
  • I tried to plot a course that averaged 60 miles per day. It’s not really doable, because of camping/lodging issues. I’ll probably end up averaging 70 miles per day which is okay since I don’t expect to be dealing with a lot of hills once I get to North Carolina. I am more concerned about wind and thunderstorms and meth addled rednecks and alligators. Oh my.
  • A possible alternate route would take me diagonally through Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando and on to Fort Myers on the southwest coast of the penninsula where I would take a ferry to Key West then ride back to Miami. The instructions for riding in Fort Myers are pretty scary. (Ride on sidewalk. Take the lane. Call your momma.) Also, this diagonal route might cause me to bypass Saint Augustine which might be the coolest thing ever.
  • I am still debating with myself whether to do this as a straight unsupported tour or to do Jacksonville to Key West as part of a supported charity ride. The charity ride has lots of logistical advantages. Basically I’d flip the tour on its head. I’d have the bike transported to Jacksonville at the start, ride back to Key West, then get a lift in the support support van, back to Jacksonville, and ride home). The charity ride adds the burden of raising $2,000 by October. Over the last weeke or two, I have watched a friend drive herself to distraction raising money for a charity (for a different ride) in the last couple of weeks. Being a world class introvert, I honestly don’t need the stress nor do I feature hitting people up for money. Worst case scenario: I raise only a couple hunder bucks and I’m on the hook for the shortfall.
  • I can think of a thousand reasons not to do this trip at all. So the thought of just getting on the damned bike and riding until I run out of road has a very strong appeal. I can figure out the return logistics once I get to the Keys. There are three options: fly back, take a train, or rent a van and drive my ass home. What I don’t want to do is schedule the return too far in advance. Then I would stress out about meeting a flight or train for the last week or two. The best option is to fly Southwest back (using points) and ship the bike home via
  • I know of 3 or 4 people who live directly on route (depending on my specific route). I am not above mooching a layover at their places.
  • Finally, there is the unanswered question: what size bike pump would I need to fend off meth-addled rednecks and alligators?


6 thoughts on “Key West Bike Tour Planning

  1. I’m feeling stressed just listening to your obsession regarding route logistics! Do yourself a favor and join Warm Showers and you’ll have more overnight options. Once you’re on the road, I’m sure it won’t be as problematic as you’re imagining. I’ve toured the East coast, albeit 30 years ago, and what most impressed me was the people were friendlier than I had imagined.

    1. Warmshowers requires reciprocation. We’d be inundated! You never know what will pop up on a tour. Churches, barns, back yards could all be home for a night

  2. Do the trip!

    I’ve ridden portions of this root (self-supported, with a group of friends), from Central Florida (Palm Beach) down to Key West (and back to the start). The way to avoid your Miami problem — and avoid lots of traffic, if you don’t mind missing a few miles of A1A and the congestion of Miami proper, is to take a train. Or two. South Florida Tri Rail (, the commuter line, runs from north of West Palm Beach to Miami. I would get on in southern Broward county, say Hollywood. Then take it to the Miami metro connection (, and get on a metro train to Coconut Grove. From there, it’s an easy shot down to Homestead.

    Ft Myers is not that bad, but none of us was able to follow the routes, so just have a good map/working GPS as backup. And I definitely recommend the ferry from Key West to Ft Myers. The only problem is that the ferry gets you to Ft Myers after dark, so be sure to have a reservation at the campground that just a few miles away.

    At a campground in the Everglades (on the way back from Ft Myers to the East Coast) was the only time people reported seeing/hearing alligators at the campground. But they didn’t bother us, and we didn’t bother them. (And I slept through it.) And we potentially avoided some problems with cars by riding a few miles on the LOST (Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail), which I don’t think was on the maps, but was delightful. ( Hard-packed dirt on top of the levee surrounding Lake Okeechobee.

    Now, that’S (LOST) a detour I might consider. As well as Savannah (the ride into town is not bad). The ride down the Outer Banks is “meh”, unless you want to visit Kitty Hawk, but it sounds like you’ve already been there/done that.

    1. Wow, This is great info! Thanks so much. I think Kitty Hawk is inspiring especially after reading David McCullough’s book on the Wright Brothers but I have already been there. 70 miles of headwinds and sand don’t float my boat. So inward I will go.

  3. I have been to Key West and Charleston, albeit not by bike, and highly recommend them. I would suggest planning to spend a few days in Key West perhaps an afternoon at Sloppy Joe’s making your way through the drinks menu and reading Hemingway, I hear Mojito’s are a recovery drink. And you owe it yourself to see at least one sunset there. If you decide to go multi-modal to get through Miami I won’t tell -shhhhh. I checked and buses in Miami/Dade have bike racks…..just saying. Mostly have FUN!

  4. Just saw bikesbytesbites comment about the train, a much better option than the bus so forget what I said about buses thru Miami and use the train, I have taken my bike on Amtrak from SEA to PDX many times and it’s great.

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