Total so far this tour: 562.3
Jack and I both slept late this morning. With a short ride day planned, we continued to enjoy this great Long Key SP campsite well into mid-morning.
We hit the road by 9AM, but almost immediately stopped south of Long Key to check out some fishermen on the bridge. They were a group of 6 Latinos and were actively pulling yellowtail snappers, grunts, and porkfish one by one. When I looked down I learned why. There on a rope in the water was a whole chicken! I caught sight of a nice sea turtle nosing around too.
Fifteen miles with numerous stops finally led us to the Island Fish Company and Tiki Bar in Marathon Shores. A touristy tiki bar overlooking the marina, but the menu indicated an ability to do brunch. Jack ordered up a veggie burger. For me, the blackened mahi served over rice and beans with tomatoes turned out heavenly.
The place had one of those vending machines for fish food, and while we waited for food we provided the local fishes theirs. There were thousands of fingerlings, but also some pretty reef fish, e.g. parrotfish, sergeant majors, porkfish.
The prospect of more camping tonight took us across the street to a Publix for provisions. After shopping we ran into an extremely nice lady named Jeanette, interested in our touring. When she learned of our plan to stay at the Bahia Honda SP tonight, she even said she might come over there to find us.
Anyone who knows the area knows the next step south of Marathon is to cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge. When built it was one of the longest bridges in the world. Today, the bridge is actually 2 bridges, one older and one newer parallel to each other. The older one connects to Pigeon Key and is closed to car traffic, but serves as a walking and fishing pier. The bike path actually leads a cyclist to take the old bridge, but don’t do it because you won’t get across.
We ceremoniously started our pedal, stopping often to soak in our surroundings. Pigeon Key seems to be a tourist destination. A little bit south of there is the famous site where one of the climatic scenes from True Lies was filmed. Despite the early afternoon heat I was really loving this portion of the ride.
With only a few more miles to camp, we stopped at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Little Duck Key to soak up an hour or two. There were little thatched roof structures (called “chickee huts”) where Jack took a mid-day siesta to stretch out a spasming back. Also there was some kind of memorial to an old wooden fishing panga – not sure what the story is there. Hot hanging around here, but there was no use arriving at camp so early.
Only 3 more miles to Bahia Honda State Park, but we stopped one final time at a Chevron, laughing that we needed a break. Seems like we’ve taken a break all day. A convenient spot for liquid provisions, canned tea, chocolate milk, iced coffee.
I’d selected our campsite months ago online, but had hoped we’d be able to get a waterside one when we showed up. No such luck. The place was full, so we took our spot nestled in a small clearing in the woods, hot and stagnant. Once the tents were up I took off on a tour around the beautiful park on my bike, then back for dinner.
And then, there was Jeanette! Sure enough, she’d found us by asking the park rangers where “those two cyclists” were. She came armed with snacks and cheese and wine, so the three of us rode off in her car to watch the sunset. Jeanette knew exactly where to go and led us to the remains of the old Bahia Honda Bridge, now closed and missing segments. Pedestrians can walk quite a way out, looking directly west, for a fantastic elevated vantage on the sunset. That’s just what we did, enjoying every second.
From there we retired to Sandspur Beach with a blanket. The wine and stories flowed well into the middle evening, for a couple hours at least. The twilight breezes and quiet waves were truly enchanting.
As we sat I was feeling tickles on my hands, especially whenever I moved them. I flipped on my smartphone flashlight and damn! I couldn’t believe how many little bugs were crawling around. They didn’t seem to be biting, but we’re talking millions of white bugs about the size of a pinhead just on our one blanket, hopping about like tiny popcorn. [They’re actually called beach fleas – they feed on rotting seaweed and such.] I think just the idea of all these bugs served to wrap up our evening, and Jeanette soon gave her goodbyes.
So what did we learn about Jeanette? She is a very kind soul. Looking after an ill husband, which burdened her, she was especially grateful for some carefree hours with us. She lives in the midwest, but owns a place here in the lower Keys. Jack and I were most happy to have made friends with her.