No Way So Hey – Day 28

Most people of my time in Key West these last two days has been taken up riding around town. The island was one mile wide and one mile long. And it is flat as a board. 

I have been riding in sandals and going very, very slowly just taking in the sights. I rolled along the sea wall bike path to take in what I missed during my weary entry to town on Saturday. The ocean was calm and dotted here and there with fishing boats. A long pier extended out and I rode to its end. Two women were doing yoga together. They seemed quite accomplished and unbothered by the sea birds nearby. 

At the start of the pier was a memorial to Key West’s AIDS victims. So many names but also so much blank space. Was it designed before medical advances or are there so many more names to come?

After a few hours of comfortable weather, the sun does its thing and the town becomes uncomfortably hot and muggy. Nobody seems to mind sweating through their clothing. 

The town has chickens darting about. They out number pidgrons and add a bit of kooky noise in the early morning and in the evening.

Most of the inns have plenty of vacancies now that the long weekend is over. I don’t know if I’d like this place if it were full of tourists. Right now it has a sleepiness to it that suits my mood. 

I met a bike shop employee yesterday who moved here from Capitol Hill 12 years ago. He gives tours by bike. He said if you’re not into cats skip the Hemingway house. It has more than 50 cats inside. They have 6 toes. I checked out the house from the street. I’m not a cat person, regardless of toes.

I’ve managed to ride another 34 miles here, just cruising around town. Still no sign of a duffle bag but there are WalMarts on my route this week. If I can’t find something I’ll just mail some of my stuff back. I haven’t used my camping gear since Georgia. 

In a few hours I head to the ferry terminal. Then it’s a 3 1/2 hour ride to Fort Myers. I called a motel near the terminal last night. I gave them my name. They said there’s no need for a credit card number to hold the room, “just call when you get on the property.” This should be interesting.

Taking the ferry one day earlier than planned gives me three days to cross Florida. Instead of being two 85 mile days, I’ll ride between 50 and 65 miles per day. 

My rear shifted cable is freezing up. This is not a big deal. The Mule will be getting some serious maintenance when we get home. 

With another 42.5 miles in the books, the tour has reached 1,995.5 miles, just a hair under 500 miles per week. 

Late Update

Inn anticipation of a tough boat ride I ate lightly. A cup of ice cream, a coffee, and a scone. I continued to ride around town and encountered people helping an old man lying in the street. A motel worker stuck his head out the window. I made a hand signal for a telephone and mouth “call 911”. 

The police arrived within minutes. I bystander told me the man was riding a scooter and stopped. The scooter toppled over on him. He was conscious and was in some pain but I think he’ll be okay in a few days. 

Before getting on the ferry I happened upon a book store. An honest to go book store. Of course, I went in and bought a book. I have a 30 hour train ride on Friday.

The ferry terminal lounge was up a flight of stairs. The elevator was out so I had to unload The Mule, lug all six items of stuff up the stairs, lug The Mule up the stairs, then reassemble the whole thing so that it could be inspected, dissected, and disinfected by the local security people. Not a single passenger was asked to show the contents of their carry on bags. I feel safer now.

The boat was big and powerful and fast. I stayed inside and read. There was no wifi and no cell phone services I couldn’t listen to the Nats playoff game. Only after we arrived did I learn that they lost. 

I walked my bike off the boat. It was darker than dark outside. Good thing I brought my Stella headlight. I rode s budy highway to the hotel that I had arranged. The manager never returned my calls to sign me in so I threw in the towel on economizing and booked a room in a Hampton Inn. I rode another mile or two along my room to get to it. The desk clerk gave me two bottles of water st check in and the senior discount. Breakfast is also included. And there is a WalMart next store so maybe I’ll solve the duffle bag problem.

It was great to be back out on the road on the fully loaded Mule. Tomorrow should be no more than 60 miles. 

No Way So Hey – Day 27

And so The Mule and rider rested.

I got about 10 hours of sleep last night at the hostel. I had my ear plugs in. Sorry if I snored roomies, I was dead to the world. 

Last night’s dinner at a Cuban restaurant, El Siboney, was a bit of a risk, I’ve gotten sick on Cuban food three times in the past. The Omega in Adams Morgan (DC) was a two-time offender. It was delicious but something got to my tummy.

The hostel is crowded. People were hanging  out in the courtyard and listening to Latin music. It was a fun vibe. 

Today was a day off. I rolled slowly around town without the pile of stuff I brought with me. The Mule felt like a carbon fiber bike.  I wore my Tevas and a floppy hat. Hello tropics.

I had a hearty breakfast at Camille’s another Cuban place. The two restaurants and the bar I went to last night are away from the touristy strip called Duval Street. 

I rolled through town and found the ferry terminal. It turns out the ferry doesn’t run on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I’m leaving on the Monday evening boat. Yeah well. 

I spent a few hours shopping for essentials. Sunscreen, soap, Dramamine. I looked in vain for a big bag to consolidate my luggage. Maybe I’ll just ship some of it back. I’ve got time to figure it out.

I stopped at a bike shop and had my front brake adjusted. Suffice it to say this bike is going to get beaucoup TLC when I get home. 

Back at the hostel I did my roomies a favor and did laundry. Truth be told, my clothes don’t smell bad. They’ve been rinsed every afternoon by Mother Nature.

I also lubed my chain. It has been exposed to too much salt and sand and water. Thank god I missed the king tide here a few days ago. The streets were flooded.

After being all grown up, I rolled to Mary Ellen’s bar for a grilled cheese sandwich. Amanda (my former co-worker and advance person for travel destinations) made me do it. You were right Amanda. Muy bueno.

No one called me Forrest Gump today. 

Also, special thanks to Katie Lee for cheering in my absence at Nats Park last night. The sound on the bat TV was off but I could hear you and your crew loud and clear!

Tonight it’s drinks and maybe dinner with Melissa. I have all day tomorrow to hang out.

No Way So Hey – Day 26

I began the day dowingca quart of sports drink and 1/3rd of a sub sandwich. And then I hit the road at 8 am. 

The directions were easy: Go south. 

Storm debris increased with each passing mile. Some stretches were perfectly clear, probably because crews had finished the clean up. In other areas piles of debris ran down one side of the road. 

The middle Keys got hit hardest and it showed. Debris was strewn among the mangroves along the east side of the road. Roadside piles were bigger and bigger. At a state park a consolidation area was set up. Plant based debris was being ground up into a mulch. Lord knows what will be done with the appliances, furniture, and house parts I saw. South of marathon the mother of all debris piles stretched on and on. Mount Irma. It’s hard to believe a month has passed. I can only imagine what Puerto Rico is dealing with. 

Under normal conditions there would be flowers and breezes. Now junk and smell. 

Any discomfort I might have on this trip pales in comparison to what these people have been going through for the last month and a half.

If I had s place to stay in the middle Keys I’d have gone to the sea turtle rescue place of the dolphin research center. But the only place to stay was in Key West. 

The morning was cool and humid. Then the clouds burned off. It got hot. I drank and drank and drank. I forced myself to eat so that I wouldn’t bonk.

As it turned out stores were open almost all the way to Key West. I stood in one. A young Israeli dude started talking to me about the ride. He was incredulous. Hr called me Forest Gump. Just last night a convenience store clerk did the same. Bike Forrest! Bike!

The ride wasn’t all trashy debris. Many miles were spent in bridges with the Atlantic on my left and the Gukf of Mexico on my right. The water was a pale green. Just beautiful.

I rode on the shoulder of US 1 and never had a problem with cars. One picked up pulling a trailer right hooked me at an intersection but he was no match for The Mule.

(The bike path along US 1 would have been nice but it was blocked by debris so often as to be useless. Near the heart of the storm it was torn to pieces.)

I crossed the seven mile bridge. Seven miles with ocean and gulf. Jesus. What a ride.

At 80 miles the skies turned black, just like yesterday. Temperatures dropped. Ran fell. The storm passed. I rolled into Key West and took the path along the sea wall.

I ended up at the Southernmost point in the 48 states. No more road. 


Former co-worker Melissa is in town. She was an all star on Mrs. Rootchopper’s staff. She steered me to a local Cuban place. I ate all the food. So good. 

And so I rode 101 miles today, 1,953 miles to the end of the road. Time for s few days of rest before a ferry, two more days of biking, and a long train ride home. 

My Fiend Irma

I apparently have been infected with the notorious WABA weather virus. Events run by or benefiting the Washington Area Bicyclists Association have a rather distressing propensity for crazy weather. My planned tour to Key West is beginning to look rather dicey. Hell, Key West is looking dicey.


During my 2005 tour I encountered the remnants of Katrina but I was in Ohio. I got rained on. I noticed the price of gas had spiked as my tour continued. This is very different. This monster could threaten not just my destination but most of the entire route. Not that my tour is of much importance in even the not-so-grand scheme of things.

So what are the alternatives if the Keys or some other part of my route get clobbered?

Option 1: Go south until I can’t anymore, then turn around. Maybe this would involved riding to some nifty place like Charleston or even St. Augustine, turn around and ride home via the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Option 2: Bah Hahbah. The set of maps I bought go from Bar Harbor Maine to Key West. I could just head north. I ride to Bar Harbor Maine would lack the heat (and humidity)  of the Keys trip but riding up there and back would be about 1,500 miles. It would also be much, much hillier.

Option 3: Kill Myself on the Blue Ridge. It’s something like 600 miles to the other end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Cherokee NC. What could go wrong? Oh, it’s unbelievably hilly. And how would I get home?

Option 4: A Big Loop. I could ride from here to Erie Pa then bang a right and ride to Albany or maybe through the Adirondacks. Then I’d take NY Bike Route 9 or 11 south to DC. It’s easy to put together a tour of 1,500 miles. Much of it would be on flat trails and canal towpaths.

Option 5: Ride up to Vermont, around Lake Champlain, across the Adirondacks and back on NY and PA bike route 11.

One problem is that Irma has to go somewhere after the Carribean. If it heads up the East Coast any of these options could be a washout. No decisions will be made until Monday at which time I’ll have a much better idea of what’s doable.

In the meantime, my fingers are crossed for Linel’s and Richard’s families in Puerto Rico, with Renee in Florida, and with Wendy on the southern coast of North Carolina.


Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.