No Way So Hey – Surreal Morning


I wake up. Still dark out. I’ve got time to sleep some more. This bed is so comfortable. Odd that I am in bed at Renee’s house. Didn’t I sleep on the sofa? Someone else is in the bed.


I wake up again. Really need to get up. What’s Mrs. Rootchopper doing in this bed? I roll over and face the alarm clock. My ribs ache from the slightest movement. Going to be a tough day. How far am I going today?


I wake up again. I’d better get up. There’s a fan standing in the corner, droning as it blows air. And a window above a dark brown bookcase. And an alarm clock with the big red numbers. I’m in my bed. At home. My ribs ache. Nowhere to go. And plenty of time to get there.

No Way So Hey – Thoughts

No bike tour goes quite as planned. Somehow the surprises on this tour worked out in my favor time and again. One could attribute this good fortune to God or the universe. I’d rather go with Shit Happens.

  • On Day 4 I deliberately overshot my camp ground only to find myself miles from the next known source of food. I called a second campground not far away and learned it was 1 mile from a gas station with a little grill inside. And the campground was quite nice too.
  • I decided to try out Warmshowers and lucked into a fun evening at Ken and Dani’s house outside Jacksonville, NC. Dinner, laundry, beer, bed, breakfast, and great company. I had hoped to try other Warmshowers hosts but it didn’t work out.
  • My pre-tour itinerary called for a near-100 mile ride from Conway to Charleston SC. It was hot and I was burned out on rumble strips and passing trucks so I quit early at a motel in Andrews. Two hours later a thunderstorm raged through the area for hours. Had I continued I’d have been riding through the Francis Marion National Forest with no opportunity for shelter from the rain and wind and lightning.
  • The tropical depression that I rode through for four or five days in Florida had a silver lining, a strong tailwind. It put the kibosh on a trip to see the manatees and Cape Canaveral but made for long, enjoyable miles in the saddle.
  • I decided to press on from New Smyrna Beach FL after getting my brakes fixed at a bike shop. This was a bit of a risk but it paid off with me finding a terrific little inn in Mims FL. What a great experience.
  • I stayed in five hostels. What a great bargain for a bike tourist. Richmond’s was the best. Miami Beach was pretty good too. (Both are part of Hostels International.) Much like motels the vibe in each hostel was different. I was disappointed that the hostel in Saint Augustine was full. I skipped the one in Fort Lauderdale after reading some very negative reviews online.
  • I didn’t camp out nearly as much as planned. The tropical depression and hurricane Irma made Florida a camping no go. I could have camped in South Bay FL on the next to last day but I chose a motel so I could catch the Nats game on TV.
  • Staying with friends old and new was a big highlight. Wendy and Brian, Jackie and Ed, and Renee were fantastic hosts and cooks. (Props to Renee’s daughter Julia for her breakfast wizardry.)
  • Speaking of Renee, I had not seen her for 39 years. I remember her as a laconic girl from northern Maine. After decades of living in Florida she can talk the antlers off a bull moose. And she knows where to go for excellent fried chicken and waffles. (Yeah, I know it sounds disgusting, but I’d have eaten moose antlers that night.)
  • I booked three nights at the hostel in Key West only to learn that the ferry I was going to take didn’t run on the fourth day. So left a day earlier than planned. This gave me three days to cross Florida. Doing it in two days as I originally planned would have been a death march.
  • Meeting up with Melissa and her husband in Key West was pure serendipity. We ate and drank way too much.
  • In addition to the folks mentioned above, there are some people back home that deserve some mention:
    • Andrea from Friday Coffee Club who advised me to get a silk sleeping bag liner and to try for overnight accommodations. Both worked out very well.
    • Amanda Martinez from my old office for scouting out locations for dinner and drinks during recent trips to Key West and (I think) Charleston. I am especially indebted for the grilled cheese idea in Key West.
    • Mrs. Rootchopper and daughter Lily for getting Lily off to school in London after I left. Truth be told, they had this totally covered without me.
    • Mike Ross for scaring the crap out of me about Florida drivers. I think cycling conditions in South Carolina were far worse but his warnings spurred me to buy a mirror. Indispensable.
    • Amtrak for actually offering decent bike transport for a low price ($20). No disassembly required.
    • All the people who read my blog posts, and followed me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Your comments and “likes” kept my spirits up and gave me a laugh, often when I needed one badly.

No Way So Hey – Day 33

The day was taken up by a long train ride. I wondered why the train takes about 25 hours to go from Ft. Lauderdale to DC. The reason is that instead of going straight up the coast, it cross crosses Florida. I should have packed some food for the trip. I subsisted on Cafe Car food, mostly hot dogs.

I managed to get about 4 hours of sleep. I could have gotten more but for the chatterboxes sitting in the row behind me.

When I got to DC it was a simple matter to take my bike from the conductor in the baggage car. My checked bag contained my tent, sleeping pad, clothes, bike shoes, and one big pannier. One of my small panniers was nested in the other big pannier as a carry on. I also carried on the second small pannier and my handlebar bag.

My front tire had a slow leak since Key West. It was quite soft when I was all loaded up so I took the bike to the Bike Station run by Bike and Roll just outside Union Station. They let me fill up the tire with air and a water bottle with water. And away I rolled.

My sore ribs were giving me a hard time. Every bump caused a jolt to my chest. I stopped to take a picture a few miles from home and the pain almost kept me from dismounting. I am considerably thinner than when I started this tour a month ago.

Image may contain: 1 person, sky, outdoor and nature

Riding the bike on familiar ground, proved two things to me. First, this bike was a tank, And, second, I am a MUCH stronger bike rider than when I started.

After a final 15 1/2 miles I made it home. For the entire tour, door-to-door mileage was 2,127.5 miles.

No Way So Hey – Day 32

I’m sitting in the railway station. Got a ticket for my destination….

Last night I stayed up late to watch my Nats defeat the Cubs in the baseball playoffs. They were behind by one run in the top of the ninth when the cable channel went dark.  NOOOO!!!!!

The Nats lost. At least I didn’t have to endure watching the final three outs.  I had fun watching baseball this year. I attended about a dozen games. April can’t gone soon enough.

This morning I rode to the Amtrak station from my hotel during a break on the rain. The road leading to the train was flooded, a fitting coda to my days here in Florida. The Mule is going to get beaucoup maintenance when it gets home. The cables and bolts and nuts are rusted. The chain has been exposed to blowing sand for two weeks. The Mule just has to make it from Union Station to my house and this trip will be finito.

To celebrate the end of the tour I drank my emergency water bottle. I carried it from the start in a front pannier. I’ll probably eat the last energy bar too. 

I’ve never ridden a long distance train before. It’s supposed to arrive before 3 pm tomorrow. I’m in no hurry. 

The local intrastate trains have roll on bike cars. Like in Stockholm and Sydney. Florida, there’s hope for you yet. 

My cheapo bike gloves are soggy and torn. A good sign of along bike tour is when you gloves die a hero. Like a broken bat that provides a game winning hit.

It feels strange to be speeding past the landscape that I covered at 10 – 12 miles per hour. 

No Way So Hey – Day 31

Well the dumpy motel choice could not have been better. My Nats beat Chicago. When the much under appreciated Michael A. Taylor clubbed a grand slam into a stiff wind I yelled and jumped straight into the air. Do the Cubs raise a white L flag when they lose?

Tonight’s game is the deciderer. No hostel for me. I’m staying in a La Quinta five miles from the Amtrak station in Ft Lauderdale. 

So today was my last day of touring. The weather forecast last night called for thunderstorms. Oh joy. My route would take me straight through the Everglades with no available services or shelter for 45 miles. 

I had a sammich, an apple, and a spare bottle of water. I was on the road at dawn. 

There were storm clouds in the distance but no rain on me. I boogied. I was cruising at 16 miles per hour. The Mule was bringing it today. I suspected a tailwind – which was not in the forecast – and that’s what I got. 

For the first half of the jaunt, I rode past Domino sugar cane fields. The four lanehighway  would occasionally expand to eight lanes to accommodate cane harvesting trucks. This gave me a lane of my own for miles. 

When the cane gave way to swamp I was back to a paved shoulder. You know you’ve been in Florida too long when tractor trailers blasting by you at 60 miles per hour don’t bother you at all. Of course, I had my eye on the beasts through my trusty mirror. (Best purchase ever!)

It rained on and off but I welcomed the cooling effect. I could have done without the road spray from the trucks though.

I was riding on a road referred to as Alligator Alley. The alligators were all wearing invisibility cloaks until one of them met the wrong side of a truck and ended up dead on my paved shoulder. I did not stop to take a photo. Even alligators deserve dignity on death. Also I didn’t want to waste one second of my tailwind.

I did get to see one of those Everglades propeller boats. Those things make a serious amount of noise. 

When the 45 miles were up I was jubilant. I had eaten all the food and drank only half the water so I celebrated with a Gatorade and some cookies at a 7-11. As I was snarfing, the skies opened up. Wet cookies.

The last 17 miles were a straight line toward the Fort Lauderdale airport. My iguana friends came back. I also saw some colorful geese that were really pissed off at a man riding a horse along the irrigation canal to my right. 

My maps routed me to the south but the Amtrak station is to the north so I turned on the Google and searched for hotels that would allow me to ride to Amtrak in some semblance of peace in the morning. The winner was a La Quinta about five miles west of the station and beyond all but one of the nasty intersections on the way there.

Did I mention that the most common billboard advertisement is for personal injury lawyers? This is because Floridians drive like they have spent way too much time in the sun. I dropped more f bombs today than anytime in the last six months. 

I walked to the grocery store up the street to get late lunch and dinner. I tried to cross the street but a stop light runner and a U-turner both nearly took me out. I just stopped and waved for them to go. Everything in this area I am staying in is designed for cars. Let them kill each other. It’s just thinning the herd.

I managed to survive the trip and came upon an iguana of a certain age.

So with 62.5 more miles in the books, I have only 5 miles left in Florida. If all goes well, I’ll ride to the station, give Amtrak The Mule, check a bag full of stuff, and spend 30+ hours on a train reading and sleeping. I plan on riding home from Union Station. It’s not over til The Mule’s in the shed and I’m in my own bed.

My total mileage so far is 2,168.

Go Nats!


No Way So Hey – Day 30

I woke up feeling achy so I had Advil on my Cheerios. Getting on The Mule was painful. I have an ugly bruise on the side of my torso under my right arm. Deep breaths hurt a little. Good thing it’s not hilly around here,

The day was miles and miles of highway riding through the agricultural area of south Florida. The roads had a paved but rough shoulder. And the wind blew steadily in my face all day. Double digit speed was not gonna happen today. 

Cattle ranches in Florida seem odd. The cattle are thinner than up north yet they have hundreds of acres to graze on. With the wide open empty spaces and occasional palm tree in the distance you’d swear you were in South America somewhere. 

I reached Moore Haven by 11. After 25 miles I could have taken a break and ate something. Instead I pedaled. The next 15 miles would be on a bike trail atop a levee overlooking Lake Ocheekobee. Big fun coming up. 

Until I encountered the closed gate at the trailhead. The levee and trail were being repaired. Curse you Irma.

So it was back to the highway with the heat and the headwinds and the narrow bumpy shoulder. After about five miles I was hurting. The temperature was in the low 90s and the humidity was tolerable. My comfort level increased whenever a cloud blocked the sun. Sugar cain was the crop now. Many fields were being prepared for a new crop. The endless irrigation canals gave me done dark blue water to look at between trucks. 

I arrived at Clewiston parched and tired. I pulled into a Wendy’s and ate and drank and ate and drank. The air conditioning felt great, too. 

45 minutes later I was back on the road. I looked at the levee and imagined the view. 

You’d think that a tractor trailer passing close by would be a bad thing. For me it was something to look forward to. The air wake would give me a shove and increase my speed a bit until the headwind reasserted itself. 

There was nothing to do but grind it out. So I did. 

I chose to pass up a county campground for a dumpy motel in South Bay where I am watching the Nationals play the Cubs in a playoff game. 

After the game there is five dining to be had at the gas station across the road. 

Another 57.5 miles today brings the trip to 2,105.5.

Tomorrow it’s alligator alley to a hotel near the train station in Ft Lauderdale.

No Way So Hey – Freefalling

I had this great idea. Since my motel room was really an efficiency apartment, I decided to go to the grocery store for dinner and breakfast. On the way I stopped at McDonalds because 50 miles of biking had left me starving. Late lunch. 

The grocery store was one of those bargain places. Surprisingly the first thing I saw was s ready-made salad display. Chicken Caesar salad for me.

Next up was Cherrios and milk since I found a bowl in the kitchen and I brought a spoon. And then some bananas.

Finally beer and chips for the baseball game. The beer came in pints in a four pack for $3 and the chips were in a big bag for only $1. Batter up!

I rode back to the motel with my rear pannier full of the heavy stuff and the light stuff hanging in a plastic back on my handlebar. There’s a step to get to a small porch leading to the door of my room. I pushed The Mule up to the porch, fiddled in my pocket for the key, opened the door, and promptly tumbled backwards off the porch. The bike landed on top of me as I hit the pavement on my back. I am seriously lucky that my back didn’t fall across the parking curb. 

Still there was blood from where my right elbow hit, blood on the back of my left hand, and a pain in my upper right rib cage either from hitting a lawn light or getting speared by the handlebar.

There’s only one thing to say in circumstances like this: Fuck me! I know that even unloaded The Mule is hard to maneuver. I attribute my poor judgement to fatigue. My balance is probably genetic. (“If only he had done yoga like we told him to.” STFU!!!!)

So I medicated with Cheerios and chips and salad and Rolling Rock. And turned on the game. 

It was rained out. 

Fuck me.

I will now end the night reading the book I’ve been carrying for a week. It’s Stephen King’s Misery

No Way So Hey – Day 29

My hotel room was super comfy. I didn’t get to my room until after 10 pm so comfy mattered. 

The free hotel breakfast also matters when you are fixin’ to eat everything in sight, which I did. Next up was a trip to the WalMart next door for the never ending search for a duffle bag to consolidate my stuff for Amtrak. I almost gave up when an employee out of central casting walked me over to the baggage display and pulls what looked like a small bag off the top shelf, unlike all the other long bags this one was displayed short side out. It was perfect! I think it will hold my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and more. For riding purposes I put my tent and pad in it and bungled it down on my rack. 

The ride out of Fort Myers involved lots of bike trails, which were not much more than  extra wide sidewalks. I was riding into a headwind as it was but the sidewalk thing was really slowing me down. After a stop to guzzle some Gatorade, I decided to just ride in the road. You’d think that with three lanes to use, drivers could figure out how to pass me, Not in Florida. 

One lovely pick up driver laid on his horn for a good ten seconds. He was in a hurry to catch the next red light. 

In a town called Lehigh Acres I turned onto back roads soon I was in the country mooing at cows and admiring orange groves.

 It wasn’t until I was 25 miles away from the coast that I started seeing damage from hurricane Irma. All the canopies above gas pumps seemed to be missing chunks of their structure.

After 50 miles I made it to the town of LaBelle and decided to call it a day. The next town is 25 miles away. I’m only 120 miles from Ft Lauderdale. 

I booked a room in a motel that is actually a small apartment. I have a back porch over looking the Caloochahatchie River. Maybe I’ll see some gators. 

I’ll probably add a couple miles to my 50.5 mile trip total as I search the environs for chow. That means by the time I lay me down to sleep I’ll have covered 2,048 miles.

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.