Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wild Florida to the Jungle of Miami

Monument Lake Campground, Big Cypress to Miami Springs, Miami
65 Miles

Today was quite a day for the team. It started out great with the two of us getting out of camp at a decent time and pointed our bikes east. We even got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise.

We had just one stop to make in Big Cypress before we left for good. Greg and I are earning our second Junior Ranger Badges of the trip at Big Cypress. Right before we reached the visitor center we spotted a large and colorful snake on the side of the road. All I know is that I saw red and black, and that coral snakes also have those colors. Greg got a better look at it and when we got to the visitor center he positively identified the snake as a king snake, not a coral snake. But not to worry, even if it had been a coral snake, one person told us that you “practically have to beg them to bite you.” So we aren't too worried about this docile, but extremely venomous snake. By the way, where we are right now in Florida there are at least six venomous snakes, three species of rattlesnakes (pygmy, eastern diamondback, and one other) water moccasin, coral snake and cottonmouth.

After we got our badges we walked around the visitor center and talked to the rangers. Big Cypress is one amazing place. It is the core habitat of the rare Florida panther (which is a subspecies of mountain lion, felis concolor). The panthers here mostly feed on small mammals and particularly enjoy eating feral pigs. They are basically on the brink of extinction and have suffered greatly from inbreeding because of how few of these animals are left. Habitat destruction in the leading cause of the decline of this species.

The mediocre shoulder continued on today and at some points on bridges, completely disappeared. The most exciting part of the ride before we got to Miami was going through about three miles of construction where there was no shoulder. A big state owned truck followed us as we pedaling around 18 mph the whole distance. We ended up creating a line of traffic, but it was the only way we could get through this section. Thankfully that patient state vehicle followed us. Along our route today we came across many sings simply indicating “Indian Village,” which were areas with several houses and occupied by members of the Miccosukkee or Seminole Tribes (both live here.) We rode into Shark Valley at Everglades only long enough to fill our water bottles. We had just too much riding ahead of us today to stop and see the sights here. Our plan was to ride into Miami so that we could be closer to our cabin booked in North Miami the next day. Winds were in our favor and we flew down the road averaging more than 15 mph.

We reached the first street intersecting the Tamiami Trail around 2:30 and pulled up to the stop sign. We saw huge dark storm clouds gathering and all of a sudden heard a high voltage zap. Greg thinks it sounded like a thousand “screaming chicken” fireworks. We thought it was fireworks at first when we looked above us about 100 yards away and saw huge blue sparks arcing down from the power line. We immediately bee lined it for the gas station ahead and got ourselves inside. The gas station subsequently lost power on and off while the storm passed. Further north this storm brewed tornadoes. We have been missing terrible weather by minutes and miles. Now Key West is getting hammered by storms.

When the storm cleared we kept on going and came upon the most challenging part of our ride. We had to navigate through west Miami and past the airport to get to our hotel. Camping tonight was unfortunately out of the question as there are no campgrounds that could get us as close as we need to be to stay on track. The traffic in Miami was awful and we ended up sticking to sidewalks as much as we could. Sidewalks are no easy place to ride when busy traffic surrounds you from every direction. We had to be at 100% and aware of all directions traffic may come into contact with us. It took a lot on energy mentally and physically but we eventually made it to the hotel around 6:30PM. Many people here are not accustomed to seeing bicycles on the road and that is a recipe for an accident, so we rode with utmost care. I was amazed by our repeated conversations with local people when they were dumbfounded that we rode our bikes through the state where we did and that we have made it safely. One fellow cyclist we met today said, “I wish I could have told you before you left home not to ride your bikes down here.”

We were unbelievably relieved to get to our hotel, get off our bikes, and calm down. Riding through this busy city traffic has been stressful for both of us and we aren't looking forward to riding through more of this tomorrow. Now we will work on planning our route for tomorrow through Miami and ultimately to Oleta River State Park.


Sunrise at Monument Lake Campground, Big Cypress National Park

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Napping gator at the Big Cypress VC

Gators catching some rays

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