Even though it had been a windy night, I’d been able to stake my tent doors down, and the 30mph winds had barely caused a rustle. It meant I’d got a good sleep and woke up energised and ready for the 30ish miles to get me to Key West, the southernmost point of the Continental US.
Riding the rest of the way down the Keys was pretty similar to how it had been up to Big Pine. An intermittent bike path and shoulders of varying quality. Some of the bridges had separate bridges that you could ride across, and others were like 7 Mile Bridge in that they seemed to be possible to cross until you got part way across and realised it was just for people to fish from. The consistent inconsistencies frustrated me enough that I barely paid attention when there was promise of a bike path.
The wind was still quite strong, although thankfully from the side most of the time, and it combined with the overcast skies to make it actually feel slightly chilly on the bike for the first time in a while. Apparently it was down in the low 50s, which is pretty cold, since the all-time record for Key West is 41. That record makes Key West the only city in the continental US to have never experienced frost.
After a few podcasts, I made it across the final of the 42 bridges between the mainland and Key West. It was still overcast, but a break in McDonald’s to catch up on e-mails sorted that out and by the time I was done there the sun had come out and it wasn’t cold any more.
I followed the bike path along the Gulf coast and was happy to be riding again. There were quite a few cyclists riding round, large homeless population and pleasant climate contribute to that, but one of them caught my eye. He was in a yellow jacket and had rear panniers. I caught up with him and found myself riding the next couple of miles with him. He had been on the road a little longer than me, since April 22nd, and had ridden from Portland, OR to Portland, ME then hiked down the AT to Georgia, then hiked down to the start of the Keys where he picked up a bike and was riding down to Key West. After he’s done in the Keys he’s going to ride across the Southern Tier route to San Diego and then hike the PCT. He was enjoying his time down in the Keys and using it as a relaxing week or so and was staying at a local campground. I asked him how much it charged and was aghast to hear that it was $60+tax a night ($75 to be closer to the water). Those kind of rates are just crazy and makes me so glad to either find people on Warmshowers, Couchsurfing or by meeting randomly to help me out.
My host in Key West would be a member of Couchsurfing called Sandy. He’s in his 50s and has been a CS host for a while. He had a few other people staying with him, but it just made for a warm and open house. I was treated to a great time, spectacular food and inspiring stories from some positive characters.