Saturday, December 5, 2015

2015 Escape to the Keys: We Did It Our Way

Friday was the first day of the 2015 Escape to the Keys ride. There was a ginormous rain system over South Florida. It was raining torrentially. Flood alerts had been issued. About 250 cyclists were set to ride from Homestead to Hawks Cay Resort in the Middle Keys, day one of a two day ride to Key West.

The weather gods were being cruel.

Al and I planned to ride unless an ark was moored next to the luggage truck at the ride's start in Homestead. But weather radar made us reconsider this rash approach to an 80 mile pedal. We packed the bikes on the car, threw our duffel into the backseat, and drove to Hawks Cay. We'd do a bike ride from Hawks Cay Resort if the weather permitted. (It didn't.)

Instead of riding our bikes, we did stuff we could do without getting too wet. We checked out the resort. We watched the resort's dolphins. We had a lunch at the buffet set up for Escape to Key West riders. (There were libations. There was music.) We met some new people. We chatted with some people we knew from Miami. We watched some riders arrive at the resort on bicycles. (They were tired and soaked but looking pretty happy with themselves.) Finally, we left the resort and headed into Marathon. A little shopping. Some munching. Then back to the resort for an early evening coffee. It was around that time that we simultaneously realized something: the spirit to ride to Key West had deserted us.

The Keys are a special, magical place for us, and riding our bikes in the Keys is usually wonderful. But the mood had left us, and we needed to make a decision. Ride for the sake of riding. Or do something else.

We talked it over. In an hour we had a plan. When we go to Key West we are normally riding our bikes. That means we don't have much of a chance to do real tourist stuff like walking Duval Street, browsing in stores, or hanging out in cafes. Why not do that? After all, we had pleasant lodging paid for and waiting for us in Key West.

Saturday actually turned out to be a nice day for cycling. The Escape to the Keys riders headed to Key West on their bicycles. We, on the other hand, packed our bikes on our car and drove past them and on into Key West. Once in Key West, we walked the town. We were sipping espresso at a bakery/cafe on Duval when the Escape to the Keys riders pedaled past on their way to the end of ride party. Later we waved to a group of riders (the West Side Sunset Bandits) who were pedaling towards the Southernmost Point as we were perusing souvenirs. We even bumped into Ruben Fuentes and Greg Neville on our walk back to our motel.

We'd spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon being a couple of regular tourists. It was brilliant.