Saturday, March 26, 2011

Key Largo, Montego, Baby Why don't we go to Key Largo...

Everglades to Key Largo and John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park
50 miles

This morning we awoke to a blanket of fog covering the campground. We ate breakfast and put away camp in a timely fashion and left the campground by 9. We didn't get quite enough to eat, or rather, burned up the energy from our oatmeal breakfast and decided to stop at the best of the undesirable fast food spots in Homestead Florida and had breakfast at Denny's. We were not expecting much and we were pleasantly surprised when we got our food. We noticed that everyone is obsessed with bacon and you can see the “bacon pyramid” below as evidence. With more fuel in our bellies, we rode on down the road.

The traffic here is pretty disturbing. Many drivers (at least half) pass way too closely and nearly everyone is driving too fast. Some people are just jerks and pass way too close and way too fast. A note to drivers out there (I'm sure you all are): please pass cyclists in the other lane of traffic, just as you would another car. There is no reason to pass us so closely, especially when no cars are coming in the other direction.

There wasn't much out there for development between Homestead and Key Largo. Most of the scenery was dominated by sawgrass expanses and hardwood hammocks. Today was really hot and the vegetation provided absolutely no shade. Greg and I were feeling the heat, but it seems that Greg is the one who is better at regulating body heat. Oddly enough I barely sweat, apparently even when it is 85 degrees and 100% humidity. I got pretty hot and had to stop and cool down several times today and with a persisting headache, felt like I was on the verge of heat exhaustion. We stopped at the very first gas station on the outskirts of key Largo. We treated ourselves to ice cream and filled our water bottles in the well air-conditioned building. Before long we were on a proper bike path (a great relief) and pulled up to our home for the next two nights; John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park. We were very excited to get here and do some snorkeling and swimming in the ocean. Our first stop was the visitor center and the concession building. We asked around and discovered that in order to see the coral reef, we would have to take a boat ride about 30 minutes out from shore. Thankfully, we arrived just in time to book a spot on the morning boat trip out to the reef. We are thrilled about snorkeling tomorrow! Before we went out to eat we decided we had to go swimming. We have been riding along the coast most of our trip and we have scarcely even seen the ocean, much less gone swimming. The beach where we took our first dip was on a sheltered cove surrounded by mangrove forest and instead of a sandy beach, (which don't really exist in the Florida Keys) the shore was comprised of ancient coral. The water was warm and very comfortable and we played like little kids.

Then it was time for dinner! We rode up and down the bike path several miles before deciding on an unassuming restaurant right across the street from the park. The Marlin Restaurant had a car wash outside (a canvas tent with a garden hose and pressure washer) and advertised itself as both “seafood” and “Cuban.” We started out by ordering a pitcher of sangria. Greg also ordered a salad (which ended up being huge!) because he wanted to make sure he got enough to eat. When the entrees came, we knew we would leave full, and that maybe we wouldn't be able to finish the meal. That says a lot when it comes to the two of us. The portions were enormous! We both ordered Cuban dishes, in the spirit of trying new cuisine. Greg had pepper chicken and I had Cuban style breaded steak. My piece of steak was about the size of a flattened football. Our side dishes included yucca, fried plantain, and Cuban style rice and beans. The food was fantastic and very flavorful but not spicy. We were absolutely stuffed to the gills when we left the Marlin. A hearty meal and our favorite drink to end a long hot day of riding.


Everglades Sawgrass prairie during the dry season

Where the elevation gets a little higher, pine trees emerge from the grass.

Straight and flat roads. See how humid it is?

This should be called the cyclists food pyramid

Cuban food!

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