We suck at bikepacking – Biking to Key West EP1

We suck at bikepacking – Biking to Key West EP1


We suck at bikepacking – Cycling to Key West
EP1 This, is mile marker 0 off route US-1. It
symbolizes the Southernmost point in the continental US, but clearly the house behind it is further
South. To me, the real reason to visit mile marker 0 is to drive through the Florida Keys.
From downtown Miami, it’s an epic 3 hour drive, starting with skyscrapers and ending
in 7 mile long bridges through the Caribbean—or the Gulf of Mexico depending on which car
window you’re looking out of. The final stop is Key West, and it’s worth
the trip. If you like coconut trees, flip flops, and stiff drinks, you may find no better
place. Of course, relaxation was the last thing on my mind when I agreed to pedal to
Key West from my house in Fort Lauderdale. I’m pretty sure it was Alex’s crazy idea,
and who could blame him? The poor guy has been off his mountain bike since November,
when he dislocated his shoulder. A road bike adventure through the flattest state in the
nation would be a piece of cake. So we threw caution to the wind, did absolutely
no research, and retrofitted our road bikes with racks and luggage. Alex had a lot of
camping experience, and I went through a road biking phase a few years back. I was no stranger
to high mileage. 200 miles in 3 days would be easy. So the goal for day one would be
a campsite 90 miles away in Key Largo. As we set out from my house in high spirits,
we had no idea how humbling of an experience this ride would be. Alex and I fell short
of Key Largo by over 40 miles on day one. Allow me to summarize why that was the case. Reason 1: Roady miles and bike packing miles
are not the same. When you ride for training of for the sake of riding you choose your
favorite route. We were forced to ride through Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hallandale, all
of Miami, and Homestead, encountering ridiculous amounts of stop lights, traffic, glass, and
general treachery. City miles are slow and frustrating. We were moving at a snails pace,
which leads into… Reason number 2: The worst route ever. I
used Google maps to plan a route and tapped the little bicycle icon. This is great for
finding the closest bikeway, but terrible for finding directions. Rather than have you
ride for a mile on a less than ideal road, Google would rather you get on a ferry. Sometimes
it would want us to take a bikeway for a few miles, make a u turn, and backtrack a mile
to get on another bikeway—this instead of just hopping over one median. For the record
I now know the best route, but I can’t go back in time to Wednesday afternoon, which
brings us to… Reason number 3: A late start. We did some
preparation in the morning and moseyed on down to the coffee shop. We didn’t start
pedaling until around 11, since we wanted to wait until rush hour was over. I don’t
know why it didn’t click that we’d be in South Miami during the second rush hour.
Since my calculations were based on roady miles, I figured we’d be in the keys by
then, but I didn’t account for all the stops, craploads of extra weight, and…. Reason number 4: Mechanical problems. For
the record I did one thing right, and that was buy two really good brand new tires, and
a reasonably sturdy rack with panniers. Alexander’s bike was f*cked. His tires were really old,
and his rack consisted of 9 bungie cords and some backpacks. The only thing on his bike
that worked consistently was the horn. Alex kept getting flats on his rear tire, and it
took forever to take on and off the bike due to the rear rack. Between stops to fix the
rack, multiple flats, and a detour to restock our supplies, we burnt through 2 hours of
daylight, which brings me to… Reason number 5: Bad luck, which I admit is
sort of a cop out for bad planning. Google Maps led us to a really jagged and rough fire
road, which was out of the question considering Alex’s tire issues. So we tried to find
a way around it and found ourselves trapped. I was going to do it, but Alex was actually
the voice of reason. He might have saved both of our lives. During the day, maybe. At night,
it was sketchy. So, 40 miles from Key Largo we decided to
throw in the towel. Luckily, motels in Homestead are about the same price as tent sites in
the keys. We were pretty bummed out, and admittedly doubtful that we would get to Key West on
time. Both of us were on a time constraint, and the next day was looking grimmer and grimmer
by the minute. After 50 miles of arduous urban
pedaling, we needed something to boost our spirits. Our goal for the following day would be to
make it to Key Largo and keep pushing all the way to Marathon by the end of the day.
That was a lofty 80 mile goal for day two. Would we make it? Find out in the next video.
Thanks for riding with me today and I’ll see you next time.