Thursday, March 24, 2011

Miami Beach to Florida City, Our First Taste of Florida

50 miles
I want to start off by saying that we had an excellent time with our new friend and warmshowers host Blake. Blake is from Washington state and spends his summers commercial salmon fishing in Alaska and working in South Beach Florida in the winters. He had many great stories and shares a love of riding bikes, among many other awesome interests. Last winter Blake rode most of the way from Seattle to San Francisco, so we could relate to many of his experiences touring. He was an amazing host and we had a great time exploring South Beach with him. We ate at an awesome burrito shop (T-Rex) and saw the downtown area together. Many thanks again to Blake.

We left Blake's house right around 8:30 and started out riding into Miami by crossing the Venetian Causeway. It was a beautiful, warm, and sunny morning and we couldn't have asked for better. The riding was challenging because of the many cars and stop and go traffic. It was busy, but it actually felt pretty safe, like the drivers were familiar with bikes and knew how to pass us. It makes a world of difference when drivers give you respect on the road. We were glad to have had an early start because this city riding took longer than expected and it was after 11 before we started to leave Miami traffic. We followed a great bike path for about 15 miles through neighborhoods and the hardwood hammocks of the Miami area. Later in the day we found ourselves out in the boonies, riding alongside stagnant irrigation (or drainage) ditches filled with fish, turtles, and not surprisingly, lots of trash. This area was lined the entire way by palm tree farms. We presume these farms grow a great variety of palm trees for landscaping in the communities of south Florida.

Along the way we saw many birds, even in just the first two days with little time to look for them. The list now includes white ibis, parrots (not sure of species, but they were large green parrots with long tails, and smaller than macaws), common mynah, blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker, eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, possibly a glimpse of an indigo bunting (it was flying so fast!), great blue heron, cattle egret, turkey vulture, brown pelican, cormorant, many gull species, a tern (which I didn't see long enough to ID) and more. Birders, look at the photo below to help me ID this hawk.

We were getting pretty hot and tired and seemed to be too far from a city when we noticed a sign for a grille overlooking a bay at a park. We were dreading that it may be too expensive, but it turned out to be reasonable. We had a delicious lunch overlooking the bay, watching people fishing and birds perching near the water. I had grilled dolphin (no, not the mammal, dolphin is another name for mahi mahi) fish tacos and Greg had a bacon burger. We filled our bottles with ice water, and with renewed spirit, we were on our way.

We also had a hilarious encounter with an iguana on the road today, I spotted this massive iguana on the roadside and had to stop and investigate. After taking some photos, I tried to encourage him to leave the roadside so he would not be hit by a car, but he wouldn't have it. I nudged him with my bike tire, but with no luck, not even so much as a sideways stare. Nothing seemed to work to move this guy out of harm's way. So I grabbed the flagpole off the BOB trailer and nudged him some more. Nothing. Then, all of a sudden, he was off like there was no tomorrow! He lifted himself on all fours and went streaking across the shoulder of the road in the most hilarious run that only a reptile could produce. For the grand finale, we heard a huge SPLASH! As he launched into the canal. We rode away from that laughing hysterically.

As we rode into Florida City we had the intent on riding to Everglades National Park. However, after speaking to the docent at the visitor information center, we decided it was too far and that we had no reason to rush it. Instead we decided on staying in a nice little hostel in Florida City where we could pitch our tent and get a good start in the morning, along with a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we will explore the Everglades.
Lincoln Street in South Beach, in the morning when the people out partying have gone home

Miami Skyline

Greg posing on the Venetian Causeway

Hardwood Hammock area park

Our beautiful bike path

Hawk... anyone know it?

Palm Tree Farms

Iguana we encountered

Greg and Blake last night


Greg blogging at the hostel

night time at the hostel

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