Wait, what?! We're going to the Cuba??!! - Garfield and Tango Travel the Long and Winding Road - CycleBlaze

February 20, 2022

Wait, what?! We're going to the Cuba??!!

Keys ride #2

I think the wind must blow all the time down here. It started late last night, and I was rudely awakened with lots of banging when Don had to get up and take down our big awning. This morning I was discouraged to see that it was still with us. 

That didn't bode well for a long bike ride. Plus Don's not too keen about riding with headwinds which we would surely have for part of the ride. So I was surprised when he told me to get ready as he was willing to give it a go.

Today our goal was Key West which was about 20 miles away. Heading south along Highway 1, the wind was at our backs and we were zipping along at 14-17 mph. Pretty fast for us! 

It was a nice sunny day and I enjoyed looking at the pretty blue green ocean water. Once in a while there would be an egret or pelican, but not much else. Since it was early and a Sunday, traffic was moderate and we had a good smooth bike lane on which to ride. But we still both wore earplugs today to help with the noise. 

The miles and Keys ticked by quickly as we were pushed by the wind, and by 10 we had arrived at Key West - home of Hemmingway, Jimmy Buffet and Margaritaville. 

Since the traffic had really picked up now, Don took us into the residential neighborhoods to quieter roads. We found lots of bike lanes and routes that jogged us around. The homes were all different - many humble bungalows while quite a few newer ones that had been built in a Caribbean style - 2 stories with a fancy railing around the second floor balcony. Bright tropical colors were everywhere - orange, turquoise and yellow seemed popular.

As soon as we had gotten on the island, we could hear the crowing of the famous Key West roosters. Chickens were literally everywhere - in people's yards, on the streets, even on the deck of one restaurant looking for a handout.

These birds were descended from jungle fowl of the Caribbean, including Cuba. The settlers of Key West brought the birds with them and originally kept them in coups or secured in their yards. Over time, birds escaped onto the key. Many roosters used in cock-fighting were also released when that practice became illegal.

Thriving and multiplying for decades, the birds are now a problem but protected from killing. People even put food out for them. The city started a program last year where residents can humanely trap nuisance fowl and bring them to a wildlife rehab center. Here they're cared for and later put up for adoption by farms on mainland Florida. Anyone want a chicken??!

We had selected 3 sightseeing stops today but didn't know exactly which roads to take so we just aimed for the ocean which we knew we'd get to at some point. Finally we came to a beach where we stopped and I could get out the map to get our bearing. Our first stop was the buoy monument at the Southernmost point and we saw how to get there. 

Arriving at the monument, we saw a block long line of people waiting to have their pictures taken with the buoy. I had hoped for a shot of us with Garfield in front of the famous monument, but neither of us was willing to wait in a long line. So I just took a quick picture from the road and we continued to the next stop - Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. 

It didn't cost much to enter - $5.00 for both (even though we were on the same bike!) and we rode over to the fort to take a look. I stayed with the bike since they weren't allowed past the gate to the fort and Don walked around. 

The fort was an interesting spot to visit. It was built in 1845 and was active until 1947, serving as the southern most military facility in the U.S. During WWII, the smaller Civil War cannons were removed and larger, longer range guns were installed. Only a portion of the original fort remains.

From here we continued to our last stop - the historic Key West Cemetery. This is another interesting spot to see if you get down here with lots of unique monuments and crypts. We're always suckers for an old cemetery!

We didn't spend much time in the cemetery as we still had 20 plus miles to ride - into a headwind. So we just took a quick look around and began heading north again. 

The past part of our ride in Key West was a nightmare as somehow we'd gotten on now crazy busy Highway 1. Even though there were sharrows on the road, Don didn't feel safe taking us out there with all of the heavy fast traffic since there wasn't any shoulder.

So he decided to ride on the sidewalk which is something we hardly ever do. It's just not safe with all of the many retail driveways and pedestrians. Drivers coming out of parking lots typically don't look well enough to spot us coming up quickly. 

It was also rough riding with lots of little ups and downs as we rode over the handicapped ramps. Not good! I saw that on the other side of the road was a better bike route that was next to the harbor but there was no way we could safely cross to get over there. 

This nonsense last for a couple of miles until we finally reached Highway 1 going north off the key. We both sighed in relief and relaxed as we now had a bike trail to ride next to the road. 

The wind had gotten stronger while we had been on Key West but we still were moving along pretty well - about 10 mph. The trail was cracked and a bit bumpy in spots but we appreciated the dedicated bridges when we crossed from one key to the next. 

When the state built the new Highway 1, they kept most of the old bridges to use for pedestrians, cyclists and fishermen (watch out for fishing hooks causing flat tires!). I saw that they were all dated 1943 and with the exception of one that was crumbling away, were still quite usable. Not bad for nearly 80 years of exposure to sun and the occasional hurricane!

Along with the wind, we now had heavy noisy traffic once again. Locals say that's the way it always is down here, especially at this time of year.

Don was like a horse headed for the barn and kept ramping up the cadence so my legs got very tired. He was sure on a mission! I finally had to force him to stop and allow me to get off to stretch and take a short break which helped the tight muscles.

When we reached the turn for the KOA, he asked me if I would be willing to ride a couple more miles so we could officially get to 50 miles. I was surprised, but my legs were still moving so I agreed. He wanted to explore a road our neighbors had told us about that ran in front of the campground. 

The road had no traffic and was paved until we got past the rest of the houses. At that point it turned into an old crumbling rough, gravel mess. I wasn't sure Garfield could navigate this surface with his 700 cc wheels but we didn't fall down and by taking it slow, we made it.

This apparently was part of the old Overseas Highway which was built to link the keys together. We took it for a couple of miles to a point where there used to be a bridge, now long gone. Then we turned around and went back to the campground, happy that we had gotten 51 miles in on this challenging day! Not bad for us "old folks"! 

Back home, we relaxed for a bit and then cleaned up as we were eating out tonight. Our neighbors had recommended the restaurant across the highway from the KOA and we were interested in trying some of the local fresh fish. Neither of our fish lovers (Don hates it, I'll eat some salmon if it's cooked right) so it's never on our usual menu.

The place was busy and we had to wait an hour for a table but it was worth it as our dinners were great! I had pan-seared mahi mahi while Don had plantain crusted grouper. He even said that he liked it and would eat it again! Both fish were quite mild tasting which helped. Along with a couple tropical mixed drinks to accompany our meal, we had an enjoyable evening out. 

But both of us were too full to order the key lime pie. Maybe tomorrow as we're thinking of eating here again and trying something else on the menu.

Good morning, but check out that palm tree!
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The end of the road.
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Neat bicycle sculpture at this bike shop.
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We liked this interesting mosaic on the side of one home.
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Yikes, first we had alligators, but now crocs??!!
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This shop was making/selling key lime cigars - very strange. I wondered what they tasted like.
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At the Southernmost monument this long line of people waiting for pictures turned us off, so we just headed down the road. I did like the knitted trunk cover on this tree.
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And here it is, but not me in the picture. Oh well, we have one with the Screamer from our past tour.
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This the Bishop Albert Kee statue. Erected in 2015, it celebrates the like of Kee, a preacher, businessman and Key West's ambassador of goodwill.
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This rooster was in the middle of the road, not a care in the world!
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Fort Zachary Taylor.
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More from Fort Zachary Taylor.
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And another one.
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And one more.
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This sailor statue was a monument to victims of the USS Maine.
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Lots of above ground crypts in the cemetery.
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A fancy looking rooster and it's harem strutting through the cemetery.
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Today's ride: 51 miles (82 km)
Total: 595 miles (958 km)

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Scott AndersonWow, super ride! And a very interesting post. I’ve never heard that about the free range chickens before.
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonWow! Congratulations on doing such a long ride with strong winds. I hate head winds but I can’t wait to get on my bike again. I’m still recovering from my nasal surgery and we have several days of temperatures in the mid 30s.
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2 months ago
marilyn swettTo Scott AndersonYeah - you could probably get a rehabbed one for yourself.
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2 months ago
marilyn swettTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachel. It was good to know these legs are still capable of riding those longer distances. But I told Don we're getting spoiled with all of this flat riding we've been doing in south Florida. As we continue to move north toward Maine, we've going to be riding it much hillier terrain. But hopefully not as windy as in the Keys!
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2 months ago