As this two-wheeled assault on Florida draws to a close, the bottom line currently stands at 11 full riding days, 720 miles (1150kms) covered, at an average of 65 miles (105kms) per day. Before landing in Miami, I had decided this would be a moderate intensity ride, just hard enough to keep my interest, but nothing too challenging. The reality has been somewhat different, though not entirely unexpected. Flat terrain anywhere in the world will have spells of relentless wind, and Florida provided some of that in abundance, and not always to my advantage.
The weather patterns of the north provided ideal temperatures during the day, but close to freezing at night. The south, on the contrary, was hot and humid during the day, and warm enough at night to dispense with the sleeping bag.
If your cycling dream is to ride across landscapes unsullied by human presence and traffic, Florida is definitely not for you. You will become skilled at the art of urban cycling, perforce (or give up in the attempt). In fact, I have become such an adept user of sidewalks, residents of my home community better beware…..you may see me whizzing down the High St pavement (“sidewalk” to Americans) and you may have to gently remind me that this is not the USA!
As a cycle-camper, you will find the infrastructure for tent-camping less than ideal. The market is entirely oriented towards the retired ‘snowbird’, in other words, the annual surge of refugees from the northern weather war zone, who come with their million dollar motorhomes and enormous RVs (recreational vehicles) that require the space and amenities that a house-on-wheels needs.
So there’s little room for, and profit in, the humble ‘tenter’ like me.
Where there is space, you will be charged exactly the same rate as your three-bedroomed/two bathroomed neighbour. What can be more disconcerting is that you don’t meet other ‘birds of the same feather’ (ie. other cycle campers like yourself) to share tales of the road with, and even link up with for an hour/day or two along the road.
From another perspective, riding over 700 miles in Florida has given me a unique insight into life in this southern state. It has, in fact, been a bombardment of the senses: the unique fragrance of orange blossom and the saltiness of the air along the Keys;
the tremendous visual impact of the huge sea and landscapes; the star-domed skies from the darkness of un-illuminated campgrounds; not to mention the warmth and friendliness of the American people. If you judge a nation by any single factor, it should be the common touch of the person in the street that counts. Americans are exceptional in their ability to proffer the welcoming hand.
Would I come back to Florida with the bike? Probably not. I say that primarily because I seldom go back to any old hunting grounds, always looking for the new territory to explore, and fresh challenges to embrace.
These last two weeks, Florida has provided me with an intriguing new cycling environment to put in some serious winter mileage. And for that reason I will fly out from Miami feeling well satisfied…..a job well done, and time well spent.
And to finish the job, a wheel (and the feet) had to be dipped into the Atlantic……..