Thursday, January 21, 2010

To the Most Southern Tip in the Continental U.S.A. - Key West, Florida

We made it to the tip of the U.S., Key West. It was strange to look over the water and know that Cuba was just 90 miles away. Because touching the four corners of the U.S. is a goal of ours we felt inclined to dip our tires into the ocean. While we were there we enjoyed walking around and hearing the music, both in establishments and also on the streets. Key West is very artsy and many of the artists set up their stands on the harbor. One night we had a clear sky so we took in the sunset. What a magnificant sight that was! We also ran into some very friendly locals. The sailboat pictured is a schooner. This schooner has sailed around the world. We were offered a complimentary sailboat ride but unfortunately the afternoon sail was cancelled and our schedule didn't allow us to go on the sunset sail. I guess we'll have to go back to Key West.

Our Trip Through the Keys of Florida

Our trip from Key Largo, through the Keys to Key West was an adventure. We were very fortunate to have friends from Sweden come to join us for this leg. (We actually met Ralph and Louise 2.5 years ago. They camped next to us at a campground in Germany.) They were our support from Key Largo to Marathon. It was a luxury to not have to haul our gear. We had a fabulous time with them and even learned their Swedish "toasting" song.

If you know anything about the Keys, you know its 100 miles from one end to the other and it consists of a string of islands connected by many, many bridges. Ralph and Louise had to leave us so we had to haul our gear for the last 50 miles. The weather was cold with 20mph crosswinds. As we tried to ride across these very exposed bridges (one of them was 7 miles long) the wind would get a hold of our bikes and whip us back and forth. We literally had to lean at a 45 degree angle into the wind. I (Jacky) had to get off and walk across 2 of the bridges because the strong winds were blowing me into the traffic. I was very relieved to finally ride into Key West. I was also very happy to make it in time to watch the Green Bay Packer game, even though I had to wear my winter clothes indoor to watch it. Key West is suppose to be warm so no hotel room has heat. The inside of our room was 52 degrees. It made us think of home.

Cycling the Altantic Coast from Orlando to Miami

On our way to Miami we were side tracked by the sound of music. The country tunes were coming from a little band playing in the courtyard of a resort. It made for a nice relaxing break.

Along our route we cycled along the ocean and saw many beautiful sights, as well as unique ones. How often do you see a "Crocodile Crossing" sign?

All through Florida we have experienced outstanding hospitality. We have stayed with other fellow bicyclists through the "warm showers" organization. It was great to get a warm meal and fun to share stories. But, one unique event occurred when we were sitting on a curb making our sandwich for lunch. A truck pulled up with a woman and man in it. The woman said, "I don't mean to offend you but, would you guys like a shower or a warm bed to sleep in?" Normally we would have snatched that one up as the Florida temps were reaching record lows. However, we already had arrangements made for that evening. Then she gave me her business card and proceeded to say, "if you need anything now or in the future, please call us." Now that is refreshing. It made me ask myself, "would I do that for a stranger?"

Orlando - Champs Bowl game and Sea World with the Putnams

We had planned on meeting the Putnams in Orlando on Dec. 29th. Coincidently, the UW-Madison Badger football team was going to be playing Miami in the Champs Bowl on that same day! What luck. That is my (Jacky)alamater. When we pedalled into Orlando we immediately went to the Citrus Bowl Stadium to check out the tailgating and activity. Fans were grilling, tossing the football and having a great time. It didn't take us but a minute to join in on the fun. It was so nice to talk to people from "home" and get riled up by the UW-Madison band. The night was topped off with a Wisconsin win.

The next day we spent that day at Sea World with the Putnams. We saw many shows and even went on the Mantra ride. This exhilirating ride, that kept me upside down for much of it, was so frightening that I couldn't even scream. I just shut my eyes and held on. But, the best part of Sea World was spending time with Dale and his kids.

Holiday Season in Florida.

We spent Christmas in Tallahassee, Florida. It was a quiet time for us but we made it special by attending Christmas service and having shrimp cocktail with cheese and crackers topped off with beer and wine. Simple things made it special for us. After taking Christmas Day off we had to high tail it towards Orlando to meet our friends (the Putnams) on Dec. 29th. But first, we had to celebrate New Years Eve. We found a small town with a VFW that let us join in on their fun. Music was sung, toasts were said and friendships were made. 2010 started off on a good note.