Day 5: Fort Lauderdale, FL to Jonathan Dickinson State Park - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

April 17, 2011

Day 5: Fort Lauderdale, FL to Jonathan Dickinson State Park

I turn off the light in the laundry room, grab hold the fully loaded bike, and place my thumb and pointer finger on the lock. I'm nervous. I saw the alarm control panel on my way out of the bathroom earlier and tried to figure out if the green light meant the system was on or off. I don't think it's on, but if I'm wrong the entire house will soon be wide awake because of the crazy guy on a bike. It's 6:45 in the morning and I'm trying to beat the sun.

I flick the lock to the right.


I decide that if the alarm goes off I'm going to do the immature thing and haul ass out of there. I just can't deal with the looks of frustration, disappointment, and anger that I know will be coming.

I take a deep breath and push the door open.

Not a sound.

And just like that I'm gone into the dark morning.

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After six miles I join up with the A1A, just like Tony told me I should. Immediately it's better than yesterday's ride, with only a few cars, always a wide shoulder or bike lane, and smaller condos that let me see more of the beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. The sun's just starting to poke its head over the horizon off to my right and the skies are clear. It's a great day to be riding a bike across America.

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I've seen maybe 20 road bikers since leaving Key West four days ago. This morning I see hundreds. Mostly they ride alone or in small groups, but several times a peloton with 30 or more flies past, chains squeaking, with serious faces, in a blur of brightly colored spandex. The big guy in the back always looks ready for the ride to be over.

I'm riding past long lines of multi-million dollar homes just past Pompano Beach when I look up at the biker riding the opposite direction. Just as I'm about to turn back to the road he calls out to me. We both slow down, and he crosses over to my side of the road. His name is Scott Little and he tells me that he's read my journal. My mind is blown instantly. Scott lives in the area and just happens to have passed me near the end of his morning ride. He gives me some advice about the roads ahead. He also asks me about how I'm dealing with the sun and the bugs, which he knows have been problems because he's read about the first few days of the trip. It's a bit like the Truman Show; he already knows the plot, the characters, and the back story, without me having to explain any of it. Before he heads south and I push on north, he gives me some camping suggestions for the next few days and warns me about the wildlife at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, where I plan to camp tonight.

"Watch out for those raccoons," he says. "They can carry off an SUV."

Crazy guy.
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Ten minutes later a biker rides past and asks me where I'm going. I tell him and immediately get a big smile. He asks how long I think it'll take. I hold up four fingers. This gets an even bigger smile, a jealous nod of approval, and wishes of good luck and a safe ride.

The support and words of encouragement lift my spirits and make my legs light. With the sun still low in the morning sky and a small breeze at my back, I fly on through Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and Manalapan, and then past the oceanfront estates along A1A in South Palm Beach before cutting back and joining the mainland at Palm Beach. I cruise slowly along the waterfront as one private jet after another heads down final approach to the airport, ready to pick up their Fortune 500 company CEO passengers and bring them back to New York or Los Angeles for the coming week. By now I'm numb not only to the Gulfstreams and Learjets, but also the huge homes, the megayachts, and the supercars. There are so many of all of them around this part of Florida that nothing seems novel anymore.

How do you sell a giant house? With a tiny sign.
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Only two robots on bicycles can ride side-by-side in Florida.
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I'm eating out front of a restaurant on Singer Island that calls itself America's smallest pizza place when a commercial advertising cut-rate plastic surgery comes blaring out of the speakers bolted to the wall behind me. They call themselves the largest cosmetic surgery facility in Florida.

"We now have special offers just for 97.9 FM listeners!" it calls out.

"Now you can get a tummy tuck for just $1,899! Chin implants for $1,999! Breast implants for $2,499! Nose restructuring for $3,499! Vaginal rejuvenation for $4,799!"

They also do laser hair removal, Botox, thigh lifts, liposuction, and nose jobs, now available for 20 percent off. South Florida is crazy.

Near Juno Beach.
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I don't see much character in the places I ride today, except when my route takes me through poor neighborhoods. Otherwise, every city and town looks clean and inoffensive, blending seamlessly into those that surround it. The area is almost entirely free of quirks and creativity. But when I reach Jupiter I come across an exception. Located just off Highway 1, wedged up against an overpass for an adjacent highway, sits the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum.

The building used to be a bank. You can tell because the canopy and three drive-through stalls are still in place along the western wall. Although their website says the museum closes at 5:00 on Sunday, the sign out front reads 4:00. It's 3:57. I'm beyond disappointed, but walk inside anyway and ask the white-haired woman behind the front desk if it's ok for me to look around. Normally I wouldn't be able to, but this afternoon their Fundamentals of Acting class is just about to start. She sweetly says I'm welcome to look through things as the seven or eight people participating in the class start to drop in.

The place doesn't disappoint. It's a bizarre collection of stuff: magazines with Burt Reynolds on the cover, People's Choice awards, a certificate of recognition from the Foreign Press Association, and a lifetime achievement award from the Friar's Club. I see chairs taken from the set of the movie Smokey and the Bandit and the television show Evening Shade. Wedged in one of the corners, near a collection of 30 or 40 vintage pistols and a stagecoach with a large "BR" painted on the front, sits the canoe used in the movie Deliverance. All of Burt's honorary awards are here, like the key to the city of West Palm Beach and a special agent badge from the Sheriff's Office of the Parish of Jefferson in Louisiana. Movie posters and pictures line the walls. Some are autographed photos of Burt standing next to famous people like Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, and Mike Ditka. Others are signed pictures of sports stars that don't have any connection to him at all, except for the fact that the person autographed the picture with Burt's name on it. I also learn that, for an undisclosed price, you and a few hundred others can enjoy a night of dinner, storytelling and general awesomeness with the legend himself. This may be the most ridiculous museum in America.

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I ride five miles up the road and set up camp at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. It's a wide-open, unappealing space lined with roads, camp sites that are all big enough to fit huge motorhomes, and three sets of bathrooms painted bright white and evenly spaced between one another.

An intimate moment with my maps.
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But let the kids run wild.
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I'm the only tent camper on this overcast, windy spring night. I head to bed early, waiting for the thunderstorms rolling this way to start dumping rain.

Today's ride: 73 miles (117 km)
Total: 296 miles (476 km)

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