Libations must be made to whatever god or goddess I’ve offended. More on that in a bit.
The theme for this weekend seems to be revisiting the past in odd emblematic ways. Last night I met an interesting blonde school teacher whom I’ll dub the Straight Shooter. We had donuts and Vietnamese food while talking about education and the law – a Manchester evening if ever there was one.
Today I decided to go for a longish ride. I walked out my door and saw the quasi-stray rooster of my neighborhood scuffing at the ground in front of a silver Honda Civic and crowing at the overhead train. That’d take too long to explain, but it’s a confusing personal omen.
The ride started well. I seemed to have good legs so I just went south. Then south some more. I had planned on stopping at bike shops for a few odds and ends and directions, but they were all closed (early Sunday). I saw some cool things on my meanderings, including a kind of Latino trading post/farmers market where I gorged on mangos and took a few bananas for the next part of the ride. I discovered a great new bakery, and found some stores I need to return to for apartment outfitting. I think I rode by every strip club in FL, or there are just a lot of them on and about US1. They all have incredibly bad names and they’re all painted pink. Get it? Pink.
In any event I found myself pretty far south, looking at the end of Miami and the beginning of the 20 mile US 1 highway stretch down to the Keys. I’ve never seen the Keys, so I figured, why not? I was told later there’s some kind of bike path, which I’ll look for next time out.
I’d not recommend the US1 route (for the final bit of FL between Miami and the Keys) to anyone. US1 is narrow shouldered, broken shouldered, and under construction, which means there’s all kinds of debris in what little bit of the road you can claim. Apart from the debris, there are those elevated shoulder reflectors (each about the size of a cigarette carton) which provide an extra obstacle to navigate while 50+mph traffic is at your elbow. Actually, the road detritus was more of an issue than the car proximity. The parts of the road that are under construction are kind of cool – in some areas there’s a new roadway, shut off to cars, which I had all to myself. In fact, I actually saw only 4 other bicyclists the entire day – 2 headed north on 1 in a more built up area, and 2 headed north on the deserted bit.
Even though the road was bad, the drivers were fine. I actually got a handful of people yelling encouragement to me as I rode (traffic got thick at points so people were pacing me or just pulling slightly ahead). That’s pretty cool. I kept it above 20 for long stretches on that bit.
I feel like I’m getting the hang of FL riding. I’m certainly getting more sensitive to the *very* slight changes in elevation on the apparently flat terrain. I’m not burning myself out too fast anymore, and I feel very solid on the roads. The wind can still be a killer though, and it’s nearly always humid as hell. I decided to use a seatpost-rack and bag (not panniers) instead of the camelback I usually use. The difference was amazing. I stayed so much cooler on the ride. I don’t care how dorky it looks – I gotta have my stuff.
Even with the increased cooling and the better pacing, I got very hot at one point on the flat/swamp stretch. I pulled off into a marina and found some shade while I looked at the map. At this point, due to the chalky white dust on the shoulder and a few puddles, I was looking pretty well travelled. As in, like I’d been off-roading with a road bike. When I looked up from the map, a 7 year old girl, astride her Sting-ray, had stopped in the middle of the street and was looking at me kind of quizzically. “Hello,” I said, “Do you know if there’s a gas station or somewhere I can get a Gatorade around here?” Turns out the next gas station was about 6 miles on, in Key Largo. I smiled and said, “Awesome, thank you,” because I knew I had more than enough physical/mental/liquid reserves to make it there and restock. The girl furrowed her brow at me and observed, “You’re very serious about this you know.” I said I tried, and off she rode after her brother.
All through the trip I had trouble finding running water, and at points (such as the marina break) I desperately wanted someone with a hose to take care of all the salt that had accumulated on me and my gear. Usually I pass someone watering their flowers and ask for a quick soak down; nearly everyone whom I’ve asked has humored me in this – there’s just something about spraying a human with a hose than no one can resist. No luck today though.
At one point I saw rain over the water – the sky here is *amazing,* you can just watch the weather build and move toward or away from you. I said many a silent prayer for rain. It was answered. I got my downpour and then some, which was good because in addition to cooling me off, it cleaned some of the sand and salt off both myself and the Little Red Rocket.
After having tooled around Key Largo for a bit, I’d considered just pushing on to Key West and riding back up on Monday (or taking a bus or something if my legs were toast). That would have eaten my weekend though, plus it was labor day, so who knew if I could find a place to crash easily? So I turned around, figuring I’d still have a nice long ride on the weekend and would have given myself the chance to take care of a few domestic things. It had been, at that point, omens aside, a pretty damn good day.
On the way back north, at mile (personal trip mile) 78, I hit a stone. The constant jarring had lessened the pressure in the tires and I ended up snakebiting the tube. (The softer tire gives before the stone, which pinches the tube between itself and the rim of the wheel. The rim is shaped like an upside-down “U,” and the points of that U end up cutting the tube in two parallel spots – it looks like a snake bit it.
Changing the tube was a disaster. There was no shade and the levers that I had just weren’t up to the job of dealing with the Kevlar tires I’m running on LRR. I may well have been using plastic take out spoons. (I have no idea why these tires are so over-designed. I blew out a few tubes on my old 27inch wheels, but changing them was always only a matter of minutes. And needless to say I have NEVER lost a tire while riding.) When I finally got the replacement tube on, it turned out that I either had a defective tube, or I must have pinched it while installing. So, with much cursing, I patched the first tube, changed the tire yet again, and pumped up the new rig, laboriously, with my ridiculous racing pump.
I had been there for 40 minutes. 40 minutes spent on the side of a road in a swamp doing something that should take you five minutes makes that subjectively like 8 years or something. At this point, a nice couple in an SUV pull over to ask if I’m OK. They really were concerned and interested and made sure I was OK before driving on. (Perhaps I looked a little sun-addled?) Needless to say, they look *exactly* like a couple I know, right down to the personal accessories.
Once I’d finished reloaded the bike, I started riding again. Two minutes later – blam. Another stone, another snakebite.
At this point I call it quits. Some greater force *clearly* does not want me riding the last leg of this trip, although what they’re trying to tell me, I’m pretty much lost on.
I start hitching with the bike, figuring no one will stop. Of course, the second truck I thumb pulls over. We throw the bike in back and, amid a 30 min diatribe about what’s wrong with the country (namely the poor asking for handouts) he drops me off at a metro-stop, from whence I ride home. Political views aside, that guy is my hero of the day.
And now, grumpy, endorphin-less, and stinky, I’m home with a bike to clean and a flat to fix (hopefully for the last time).
Although I did find good things, meet some interesting people, had a good ride (up from last time) and continued to perfect my biker-tan.
El Gato Perfecto is also happy to see me – we’ve been gardening together as I attempt to create yet another small-container garden on my balcony. Sage, Thyme, Cuban Basil, Catnip, Mint, Cilantro, and Chili Peppers. I’ll let y’all know how they do. I'm thinking tomatoes must be added.
Speaking of basil, I think it's time to have a snack, do the bills, read some poetry, open a bottle of red and get fluthered.
If I don't post before then, Happy Labor Day everyone!