It had been 3 weeks since I’d last ridden. 18 days in Orlando was followed by a couple in Tampa and it had flown by. Orlando had seen me re-unite with both Alix and teaching. It’d been my longest break since I’d flown to the US back in April, and, while there was the temptation to stay longer, things aligned in such a way that I found myself back at Alix’s mum’s place in Tampa and working out where the road would take me next.
After I’m done with the US, I’m going down to Mexico, but I don’t know the logistics beyond that I’ll be heading down the Pacific Coast to get there. That being on the other side of the country I need to somehow get back over there, and I’m still weighing up the options in my head. With my visa not expiring until mid-April I’m not in a rush and so decided to procrastinate a little by heading down the Gulf Coast to the Everglades and the Keys. My plan is to take a very relaxed approach with plenty of short days and minimal amounts of hard pedalling, sweat and other signs of exertion.
There was something oddly circular about getting back on the bike. I had flashbacks to May when C & I headed out of the door a little later than ideal on a memorable first day. Alix’s mum, Nellie, again saw me off, but this time, after a little wiggle, I got back in the groove and felt none of the nerves or concerns that I set off with last time.
Getting down to Bradenton was very simple. I simply had to get on to US-41 and then go straight. US-41, also known as the Tamiami Trail, is a road that I’m going to be getting very familiar with. Tamiami is a concatenation of Tampa and Miami and I’ll be on or near it for the next 300 or so miles. It made for ride that wasn’t particularly scenic or interesting as it passed a copious amount of strip malls and near to suburbia. The thing that sticks in my mind is the Mediterranean Flatbread that Publix had for people to try. It was quite delicious, outside of the need to make it more Floridian. That was achieved by putting Key Lime yoghurt on top. I know that something like that might normally be served with sour cream and that would have worked, but the sweetness and flourescent greenness of the yoghurt really did not work.
When I arrived in Bradenton, I was able to get off US-41 and found my way onto some smaller roads taking me through residential areas. It was pleasant to be going through the tree-lined streets. A car came next to me with it’s window wound down and the driver wanted to talk to me so I pulled over. He introduced himself as John and we spoke for a short time about what I’m doing. He enjoys riding his bike too and is interesting in cycle touring in the future. We exchanged contact details and I look forward to staying in touch as it’s always nice to share whatever knowledge I may have gained on this trip.
A few minutes later, I made it to my first Warmshowers host in a good while – Alice & Tom. It was fun to be doing it again as it’s such a fun way to meet people. They had been on Warmshowers for a while, but I was the first person who had come through. I guess the Gulf Coast isn’t such a popular route as most people heading south in Florida go down the Atlantic on A1A. I was glad to meet them and was treated to a presentation that they have developed about their adventure on the TransAm. It’s so fun to hear about the amazing kindness and experiences that other cyclists have received.