Before hoisting one barely flexible leg over the bike for a final day of cycling — 48 miles to Key West — the first mission was to sample fresh coconut from a nearby palm. We scanned the premises for security cameras and finding none rearranged the hotel furniture along the beach under the palm to assist with the climb. Then we found a long stick and sent our tallest team-mate up only to discover that coconuts do not fall easily when prodded. Just like that, our breaking-bad moment was over, we scurried off the beach in case security was on and decided we’d sample fresh coconut — from a restaurant.
The ECG photo team arrived in a Hummer and out popped 4 military grade photographers — possibly ex-Navy Seals — dressed in GI Joe camouflage, equipped with drones, packing large cameras and large muscles to hold onto those large cameras — to capture the final day of this bicycle journey down the east coast. Let’s just say what goes on the road, stays on the road but it was an extended departure leaving the isle of Marathon to be sure photo ops INCLUDED the photographers.
By 9ish we rolled out of Marathon for 1 more mile of land until we reached the 7 Mile Bridge. As one can imagine — the bridge lasts for 7 miles, and not wanting to ride close to the edges, our group of riders needed to share a portion of the lane with the cars. Most of the drivers were friendly and supportive, greeting us with cheers and didn’t mind the fact that their travels were slightly slowed, but there is always one who needs more attention. One who’s horn was stuck in the on-position for miles – bless his heart — likely he was late getting to the shooting range.
With the long bridge in our rear-view, we cycled along the shoulder of Route 1 south and hopped onto the Heritage Trail whenever available for more carefree riding. Some of the terrain was flooded and it could not be more obvious that sea levels were rising, someday, sadly overtaking these chain of islands.
The crosswinds turned to headwinds and we arrived at Mile Marker 15 — Baby’s Coffee for a break. Coffees, smoothies, key lime pie on a stick, Cuban bagels and so many foods to choose from. Our group lingered a while at this stop, watching the feral roosters wander around our bicycles, and keeping the ride alive just a tad longer. We were reaching the end of a journey that began 9 years ago for many, riding the East Coast a week at a time and no one was in a hurry to bring this chapter to an end.
Joining us today on bicycle was a special guest Bill O’Neil — a greenway pioneer now in his mid-80’s – and we cycled together through headwinds arriving at the southernmost point of the US. Greeted by cheers from tourists and Key West residents, we hugged, posed for pictures — both with our mates and those whom we’d just met. The fine celebration continued through the evening and I couldn’t help but to reflect — what a privilege it has been to ride with you all.
Peace, Love, Out,
Read more: Exploring by Bike
The Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31236499
Distance: 48 miles
Start to Finish: Marathon to Key West
Why Ride? To raise awareness and funding for the East Coast Greenway from Maine to Key West