In fact, I did not actually even rent a bike. It turns out that there was way too much back-and-forthing planned for that (little did I know). We went to the Everglades. We went to Flamingo, at the very southernmost tip of mainland Florida (we wanted to hit the keys, but didn't get around to it, because driving to Flamingo took like three times as long as it was supposed to), on the other side of the Everglades. We drove allllll the way around Lake Okeechobee. We went to Miami and hung out there. And I spent a wonderful, delightful, blissful day on the beach (by which I mean 'swimming in the Atlantic for hours on end while my poor roomie, who was on medical restriction, looked on longingly').
Amazingly, I did survive an ENTIRE WEEK without sitting on the saddle of a bicycle. To top it off, I didn't even ride in this morning — I absolutely love flying, but it always makes me feel crappy. Especially when my flight is stuck in Atlanta for a bazillion hours because they're apparently driving, rather than flying, the plane in from Tennessee. Especially, especially when there are four other flights going to Louisville from Atlanta in the same time period, ALL OF WHICH ARE DEPARTING ON TIME! ._.
However, since that was the worst portion of my vacation, I really can't complain. And, in fact, the airport in Atlanta is a good one to be stuck in, if you must be stuck in an airport. It has comfy waiting areas and real restaurants (with normal-life prices). We did TGI Friday's. I recommend their Carribean chicken salad, even if you're not in Florida. Historically, I have not been a big fan of TGIF outside of their 'endless lunch' (it's hard to screw up soup, salad, and breadsticks, and their chili is quite tasty), so enjoying an actual meal there was really surprising.
The bestest-best part of my vacation, of course, was swimming in the ocean. I come from a sea-faring, salt-water-loving, cottage-on-the-Sound-having family, so an abiding love of marine swimming is bred in my bones. Swimming in the Atlantic feels like going home ... though, in this case, home was bizarrely warm and full of many small fish who wanted to eat my ankles. Fortunately, as a cyclist, I have very strong ankles, so the fish were unsuccessful.
The second-best part was seeing a bazillion palm trees, and still never losing the urge to say, "OMG A PALM TREE!"
The third-best part was ... um, well, everything else. I really enjoyed the unique plant and animal life — particularly all the unusual birds (I'm sure Floridians don't find them unusual). I saw:
- About a zillion palm trees of various types.
- 12ish anhingas.
- 20ish ibises (not the bicycle kind)
- One free-ranging alligator (in the Everglades)
- More snowy egrets than I could count
- One great blue heron (those guys are everywhere!)
- Some storks
- Some cranes
- Some other 'mystery wading birds'
- A bunch of Roseate Spoonbills!!!!
- Around 15 to 20 ospreys (my favorite raptors!), two of which were carrying fish
- A lot of mystery fish, including the two being carried off by ospreys
- Dozens of anoles (yeay!)
- More mangroves than you can shake a stick at
- Tons of black vultures
- Lots of other things I'm sure I'm forgetting
I also saw exactly three road bikes, two of which were ridden by folks in lycra. Most of the bikes I saw were mountain bikes and hybrids, salmoning along on the sidewalk. I also encountered one mountain bike salmoning along in the bike lane, which was a little disconcerting.
I noticed that South Florida has tons of bike lanes, but they get little use. This is probably because the otherwise-friendly people of South Florida drive like maniacs, and the bike lanes in question are pretty narrow. To complicate matters, a good many in-town roads carry 45 MPH speed limits — which might be enough to scare any newish cyclist off the roads by itself, but aggressive driving tactics are also the norm.
Every single time I took the car out (which was every time the car went out, because my traveling companion also was not allowed to drive during the span of the trip for medical reasons), someone with a desperate need to get to Publix or Flanigan's would try driving up my tailpipe, become exceedingly perturbed by my 'slowness' (at the speed limit of 45 MPH, or just over), and make a big show of blowing by me (generally speaking, I would sidle up behind them at the next red light). Roughly 50% of the time, they passed on the right. It didn't really bother me, because I grew up in Connecticut, which sits geographically between New Jersey and Boston, and thus sees more than its share of completely insane drivers — but I couldn't help but think it would take some real brass tacks for a bike newbie to get out there.
All told, I drove 724 miles, which I'm pretty sure is more than the sum total of all the driving I've done in the rest of my life. Okay, so that's not quite true, but I will say it's probably close to as much as I've ever driven in any one year. Some of those miles resulted from my unfailing conviction that you can always get from point A to point B easily if you have a good sense of direction. This is not so true when the roads tend to suddenly end in canals, forcing you to double back and find another route.
Most of them, however, came of our trip to Flamingo and our epic Drive Around Lake Okeechobee, which started out as a Drive To Lake Okeechobee To Visit The Scenic Trail, which was washed out (perhaps literally) when the heavens opened up, and then continued opening up, and then opened up some more. While obsessing about palm trees, I totally missed a turn-off, and we decided that doubling back was the coward's way out, and continued on around the lake. It was actually a really nice drive, and I intend to go back in the not-too-distant future with my road bike and ride the scenic trail and (where said trail is unavailable) the roads around the lake. And not be killed by aggressive drivers.
Edit: It may be worth noting that I did not see a single fixed-gear bike in Florida.
I did, however, see a fellow in the airport sporting a t-shirt with a picture of a fixie.
He, however, was on his way home to Winnipeg.
Winnipeg...ians — care to fill me in on the status of the fixed-gear bicycle in your fair city-in-the-North?