We spent the very last days of February in Florida. We stayed a couple of nights in Miami, and then joined a Sojourn bicycle trip, our first tour with them.
The adventure started with a bus ride to the Everglades Alligator Farm and then the classic air-boat tour. I had watched some of these contraptions in a movie when I was very young, and afterwards assumed that life would eventuallly offer a ride in one. For me, that sense of closure was worth more than the spray and the G-forces. We got to see some wildlife, plus a very large number of captive ‘gators. After lunch, there was a 14 mile ride at the National Park’s Royal Palm Visitor Center, then a transfer to the Playa Largo Resort and Spa, our home for two nights.
The second day began with a choice of three ways to enjoy the water and the mangroves at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park — snorkeling, a glass bottom boat, or kayaks, which we chose out of habit. It was windy, but our course was pretty well protected. Afterwards there was an optional 7-mile ride to the hotel.
The rest of the tour consisted mostly of pedaling along or near the Overseas Highway to Key West. This is a beautiful trip — it turns out that the shallow water here can be as pretty as any we’ve seen in the tropics. The physical route, unfortunately, has suffered a lot of storm damage in recent years. Lack of repair (or in some places disruption caused by the repair process itself) sometimes required repeated highway crossing, or riding against traffic, or even guessing about the intended route. It’s going to be really nice when they get this fixed.
The place we stayed in the middle of the Keys, at Marathon, was the Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort, a collection of stately old-fashioned white wooden structures (and a fabulous restaurant). From there it can be a good day’s work to get to Key West — but we got a lift across the famous 7-Mile Bridge, to avoid the traffic. There are 42 bridges in all along this route.
The ride ended at Margaritaville, where we spent the next four nights. As often seems to happen, they decided to give us an even bigger room than the one we asked for — a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen and a big living room between the two big bedrooms-with-baths. This added up to three big balconies looking out over the slips where the tour boats and cruise ships dock. That’s our view below, toward the aptly-named Sunset Key.
It was raining as we arrived on our bikes, but after that the weather was gorgeous. We had plenty of chances to walk around, not just to some tourist landmarks, but to some food joints we had ferreted out in advance — a creperie, a health-food store, markets large and small to stock our kitchen. Some really good ice cream, too.