Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach

March 23, 2011

Today Dani and I woke after a much needed restful night's sleep at our hotel in Fort Lauderdale. We ate at the meager free breakfast at the hotel, and decided we needed a bit more. We spied a doughnut shop right down the street and decided to partake.

Once we packed all of our gear and checked out, we hit the street carrying all of our panniers and handlebar bags to find the nearest bus stop. We needed a bus because, over a week ago we had our bikes shipped to a bike shop in Fort Lauderdale. We knew the the address, now we just had to figure out how to get there. Luckily the bus stop wasn't too far away from our hotel, but after months of near isolation living in rural Montana, navigating a huge metropolitan area seemed pretty overwhelming. We found a nice bus driver that took extra time out of his day to help us figure out our route. Taking the bus was a great choice. Fort Lauderdale was much bigger and more sprawling than we had expected, and carrying our bags to the bike shop on foot would have been almost impossible.

After riding two different bus lines we got off at a shopping plaza and found Bicycle Evolution, the bike shop we shipped our bikes too. We went in and met the owner who had already laid the boxes out for us. We had a big job of assembling two bikes and a BOB trailer, so we tore the boxes open. After tearing through some of the packing materials I lifted my handlebars off of the top tube (they have to be removed and placed there for transit) and was a little shocked to find a rather large dent in my frame. I wasn't sure what to do, but luckily the owner of the bike shop, Matt, had a few pointers. I called the shipping company and notified them, and snapped a bunch of pictures. It sounds likely that they will replace the frame because we had the packages insured. Luckily, this bike is made out of pretty durable steel, and I don't think the dent will cause the frame to fail during our tour, but we will just have to keep our fingers crossed.

The dented frame set us back a little, and the heat and humidity of the area was a little shocking to our systems. After a few hours, we had the bikes and trailer fully assembled and ready to go. It was already past lunch time at this point, and we were already sweaty and hungry from putting everything together. Luckily there is a Subway next to the bike shop; we laughed as decided that we had to have gotten the rough stuff out of the way after a blizzard and a damaged frame.

Once we were filled with food and water, we hit the streets of Fort Lauderdale. Our route led us around the airport and then to the south. For some reason, my navigation abilities were absent today, because I swear I got us lost at about every turn. We asked a couple of guys for directions, but they didn't speak English, and we don't really hablamos Espanol very well. I was getting frustrated, probably in large part due to the fact that my body, being acclimated to winter temperatures, was absolutely melting in the Florida heat. Don't get me wrong, it feels great, but I was sweating faster than I could drink water.

After riding in circles and becoming much more acquainted with the Fort Lauderdale airport than I desired, we finally figured out where we were, and where to go. We basically headed south for Miami on US highway 1. At first, traffic was not bad, and the shoulder was decent. The closer we got to Miami beach, the worse the traffic got. At some point, fast food ice cream and french fries was in order, and a welcome break. As we continued on, traffic picked up as rush hour neared. Our shoulder disappeared, save for sections of bike lane 60 feet long followed by nothing, no shoulder or even sidewalk. Riding was starting to become very hectic. We had no choice but to ride in the middle of the right hand lane. If we tried pulling any further to the right, cars would become more brash and try to over take us. If we rode further left toward the center of the right hand land, or even further left, drivers were less likely to pass dangerously, but this caused a huge backlog of angry drivers behind us. If only they realized that we had no other place to ride safely. Sometimes being on a bike in heavy traffic makes me feel like a psychologist. I can sense how drivers will react to our position on the road. If we are to close to the shoulder, they see us as insignificant and something to be overtaken. If we ride far enough out in the road that drivers cannot pass without actually going around (like passing a car) the situation becomes safer for us, unless someone decides to just try and run us over. Well, unfortunately, southern Florida is apparently full of rich people with fancy cars and bloated egos. Some guy swerved toward us for no reason and then kept getting closer to us to try and run us off the road. He passed with less the 18 inches between his car and our bikes. I cam completely unglued. His window was down, and he was gesticulating at me, but I sure gave him an earful. I have never screamed so many expletives at once in my whole life. I screamed for him to pull over, but it is probably a good thing that he didn't. My first reaction would have been to hit him as hard as I could squarely in the face; adrenaline can make you temporarily stupid. But, when you see someone come so close to hurting someone you love, it can literally drive you to insanity, at least momentarily. Apparently our bikes in the road really challenged his lifestyle. See Psychology.

After this run in, we had to take a breather and wait for the adrenaline to boil out of our blood. We were both so freaked out we could hardly even ride on the road anymore. The sidewalks were bad, and illegal for bicycles, but we rode them anyway. We ended up running late, and pulled into South Beach after dark. We are supposed to stay with a Warmshowers host, so hopefully our day ends on a high note.


This is the dent in the top tube of my frame, not cool

Dani at the very start of our bike ride
White Ibis in the hotel pool

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