Monday, June 22, 2009

AK '09 - Day 2

Since I didn't get in until late last night, I didn't get a very early start this morning. But since I wasn't planning on a long day I wasn't worried. WRONG.... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I walked out of the room around 8am to go to breakfast I very quickly realized I was in Florida. It was already in the mid 80's and humidity was high. It was bad enough to instantly fog up my glasses. Breakfast sucked, no fruit, only cold cereal, donuts, bread and waffles. No water even. I went with a waffle.

By 8:45 I had packed the bike, geared up and was ready to go. Just loading the bike caused me to soak my shirt in sweat. It was going to be a long day. I rode next door to the Race Trac to gas up but they don't take Amex so I skipped getting gas and just went over to the air pump to add a little pressure to the tires. The monitoring system had told me I was running 3 to 4 pounds low once the tires heated up. Since I'd be running interstate until I got out of Florida I figured I'd up the air pressures and get a little extra mileage out of the tires. When I went to start the bike again my Zumo locked up so I had to shut off the bike, dig out my tool kit and find the 2mm allen bit to remove the battery. Instead of putting the tool up I just tossed it in my tank bag. I don't think there is anything else on the bike that uses a 2mm allen screw.

At 8:55 the bike was once again in forward motion and I was heading south on I-275. There's a neat toll bridge to cross the Bay and it only cost a dollar. Tomorrow evening I'll upload the pics and see what turned out and what didnt'. I continued down I-75 toward Naples stopping for gas along the way. I met a guy at the station who was interested in the bike. He thought it was cool that I was on the road for 5 weeks and really wanted a bike of his own. I told him to just do it and make sure he took a safety class. He had to get to work and I needed to get on the road so we wrapped up the conversation. It's amazing the folks you meet when you are standing next to a motorcycle.

When I got to Naples I cut down to Hwy 41 to avoid the toll portion of I-75 and to see a little more of Southern Florida. That was good because it led me through Big Cypress National Reserve where I stopped for a passport stamp and to watch a 15 minute video in the cool A/C. I even saw a few aligators while I was there.

After leaving the reserve I found the Miccosukee Indian tribe, which interested me as they are sponsors in Nascar but I never knew where their resort/casino was. Now I know.

As I got close to Homestead I made a serious routing flaw. I turned south on a road of my choosing instead of the suggested route Garmin's Map Source had suggested during my planning stage days earlier. I had made the choice because it looked like  a more direct route and a way to avoid south Miami and part of the toll road. What it turned out to be was complete and total HELL!!! It was residential type streets with limited stop signs and 35mph speed limits and lots of local traffic. OMG! I had 30 miles of that to endure. And where the heck do these people find $300,000 to buy 5 acres of land? Not a house, just the land.

After 2 hours of traveling since leaving the Big Cypress Reserve, I pull into the visitor center of the Everglades National Park. It was 3:15 local time so I knew I was running behind if I was going to make Key West in time to be at a bar for the sunset. Not wanting to rush through the park as some of my fellow riding buddies acuse me of, I took time to check out the displays in the visitor center and watch the movie. Then I decided to ride into the park a ways and look around. Since it was one way in and then back out I was only going to go in part ways but after 15 minutes I lost my mind and decided to go the full 32 miles to see the Florida Bay at the Flamingo visitor center. Once I arrived, I was disappointed to see it wasn't really anything special other than a run down visitor center and boat launch. The really frustrating thing was the flying insects that converged on me and proceeded to chew on me as if I was their last supper. After walking over to the bay and looking at the water I hot footed it over to the bike. The bugs were especially bad at the bike so I tossed on my jacket, threw on my helmet and pulled away from the parking spot. When I got a few hundred yards away I put gloves on, strapped on my helmet, zipped up my jacket and prepared myself for the ride back out of the park.

It was 5pm when I fled from the bay and headed toward Key West. I knew I had at least 40 minutes of speed restriction in the park and then a little more until I got to Hwy 1. But I thought it would be smooth sailing once I headed south. The Zumo said I had 126 miles to go from the bay, 76 if I could have flown across water. No problem 2 hours and I'd be there. 2 and a half if I stopped for fuel and a break. Even the Zumo was optemistic.

On any normal road that would have been true. But not on Hwy 1. The top speed is 55mph and at least 1/2 of it is 45mph or slower. Some of the Keys even drop the speed to 30mph. And there is enough enforcement along the road to make me believe 5 over is about as much as one wants to push it. I finally rolled into the Comfort Inn of Key West at 8:15. Yep, that was 3 hours and 15 minutes of hell. The only saving grace was the temperature had dropped to the upper 80's so it wasn't a complete scorcher. And as for the sunset, I saw it from a bridge a few miles outside of Key West. Not bad, but there was no drink in my hand. Maybe next time.

I have a theory... it's just a theory though. There must be extremely high levels of marijuana usage down here in the Keys so to make it less noticeable the officials have lowered speed limits so they are the natural speeds of stoned drivers. That's the only reasonable explanation for some of the limits I saw today. At one point I really wanted to trade my GS in for a trike, it was difficult to go any slower. Especially when the fool in front of me was going UNDER the speed limit by 5mph or more and there was a solid double line despite the fact that I could clearly see down the long straight road for more than a mile.

Ok, so maybe my theory has a few flaws. But it makes me feel better about the aspect of leaving tomorrow via the same route. I have cut my mileage down tomorrow by 200 miles and will be staying in Richmond Hills, Georgia instead of Greenville, South Carolina. I'm also setting my alarm in the morning to wake up a little earlier so it will be a little cooler while I make the 3 hour journey back up Hwy 1 to the main land. Oh gosh, just thinking about that is depressing me. Where's my 'medicine'?

With all my whining about speed limits and such, I like what I've seen today and would like to see more. I think the better time to come over here would be in the January/February time frame. Southern Florida is in a drought at that point and the Everglades' wildlife is supposed to be really interesting. And temperatures and humidity will be lower as well. So, maybe I'll plan a return trip just to see southern Florida but it'll be in the winter time. I still like the idea of getting to Tampa on day 1, and then taking 2 days to get to Key West so you can see the Everglades along the way. 2 days in Key West to site see and then 2 or 3 days to get home. So 7 to 9 days would do it. Leave on a Saturday morning, return the following Sunday. A great week long winter get away. Probably the worst weather you'd face will be along I-10 going and coming.

It's almost midnight here so I'd better wrap up day 2. It's been another long day. I'm looking forward to catching the guys in Canada so my daily mileage will drop. But I'm having fun doing the solo thing.

Oh, and I learned an important lesson. Using sites like Expedia you have to book your room at least the night before to save any money. I'm staying in a room that cost me $80 by booking this morning but last night it was listing for $49. Needless to say, I have my room booked for tomorrow night and it's less than $45 with all the fees.

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