Major Key Alert
We payed way too much for a place to sleep, close to a marina. The doors and windows stayed open all night to listen to the night's storm and feel the breeze come through our room. I don't really remember any of it, as once presented with a mattress I passed out. Again, sunrise comes. There's not much time before we need to be at the marina for the next part of our adventure. Our bikes are leaned up against the kitchenette, and we pull out beat-up breakfast goods and sit on the ground to start the day with a meal. DJ Khaled would be so disappointed in how little advantage we're taking of this luxury motel accommodation. We played ourselves.
The whole reason we've come to Marco Island is to catch a ride on the Key West Express. It's a five-hour ferry ride that takes us to, you guessed it, Key West. It also gives us the opportunity to go far out into the Gulf of Mexico, away from the mainland. The boat leaves at 8:30, but we're told to show up at least forty five minutes early so they can handle loading our bikes.
The boat fills up with about a hundred people. They're having mimosas and eating pre-packaged breakfasts in the large, air-conditioned cabin of the boat. TVs inside play the morning news. We're out on the deck, reading our books now bent and dirty from laying around campsites and shuffling around in bags. We look like stowaways covered in mosquito bites compared to everyone else in their sunday finest, and relish the juxtaposition.
Out of Barfield Bay and into the gulf, we pick up considerable speed. A crew member makes an announcement telling folks to hang onto their hats. "We lose a hat almost every trip." The wind is absolutely howling at this speed, and you struggle to walk against it to get across the deck, so everyone moves inside. Naturally I stay outside, tucked out of the wind, to watch the show happening out on the water.
The turqouise water surrounding Key West, an effect of the sun reflecting off the white sand below, is stunning. Announcements are made for what time folks need to be back to catch a ride to the mainland, and we grab our bikes to wander in search of a cafe with wifi to plan out the rest of our time.
Key West Is Way Too Chill
Even For The Chillest Tour Ever.
"WE DON'T KNOW YOU AND YOU SMELL AWFUL
BUT YEAH SURE YOU CAN TAKE OUR PICTURE"
Key West goes by in a blip. The whole Spring Break factor has reared its ugly head down here, and the island is swarming with fellow tourists. The food and the hemmingway are enjoyable, but after a little exploring we give up on the island and head for more remote environs. The success of the Florida Keys relies heavily on the Overseas Highway- part of US Route 1. The only reason I felt comfortable doing a bike tour through the Keys is that this highway is described as having a bike path that runs alongside it: The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.
For the most part it's just an extra-wide sidewalk as we leave Key West and roll through Sugarloaf Key. We get comfy with the notion that there's basically a bike path for the next 100 miles, and right around that point we come to our first major bridge crossing to the next key. A gate, that has us blocked from a seemingly fine pedestrian bridge, pushes us back onto the highway.
Our 100-mile bike trail is really a series of occasional bike paths on some keys, highway shoulders, and every bridge is a gamble. Some might be shoulder, others have a pedestrian bridge, and largely it seems based on how many people want to go fishing on any given key. While a little disappointing, at least there aren't rumble strips- also, we're riding our bikes through tropical islands in March.
It's important to keep this all relative.
Ultra Slowmance Reemerges
In the middle of a grueling climb over yet another bridge, she spots a rare shorebird and consults the florida wildlife book left easily accessed in her front basket without breaking pace in her climb. The only casualty is her floral print shirt.
But never fear, sunscreen is applied immediately.
The chlorine-filled pool actually sounds like a great way to clean our clothes, so we leave our campsite unattended to go for a swim. Coming back, we find visitors who've helped themselves to some of our more accessible food.
OH MY GOD KEY DEER
They are tiny, even as adults, but unfortunately they're so used to us dumb humans leaving food out that the ones living in the woods surrounding this campground are totally dependent. They're docile, and have absolutely no qualms with walking right up to us to smell around for food. Since they ate all our broccoli, we're not excited at all for their unrelenting presence.
Yeah, we feel terrible that they're so conditioned by people that they depend on our laziness. But that was our broccoli. We wanted to eat that broccoli. The deer didn't even ask first. These adorable, gentle, little deer are complete jerks. And so they hover a few feet away, frozen in place whenever we shine our headlamps their direction.
Eventually the deer figure out that they ain't getting shit from us, and head in search of another unattended campsite. Though there's at least twelve other people staying within a twenty foot radius of us, it's surprisingly quiet. The campground has no electricity, no buzzing lights overhead, and through my mosquito net I can see the moon shining above on a crystal clear night.