March 14, 1999
Off to Florida I go, to begin my journey...
|I stayed in a hotel last night near the
airport in preparation for my early flight. I slept maybe 4 hours and got up at 5:15am.
Along with me, I had one carry-on bag and 2 oversize boxes. They accepted my boxes without
charging me the extra $50. Wooo Hooo! I'll have to treat myself to something nice with the
money I just saved :)
My flight was delayed for about 2 hours due to mechanical problems, which is fine, because I had a 2.5-hour layover scheduled in Miami. Finally we were able to board the plane, where I had a window seat; and to my right were Bobbie and Bob, headed off on a vacation. They have a time-share condo on St. Martin Island. We talked about a lot of different things. Mostly Bobbie was asking about my upcoming adventure. I tried to discuss it without seeming nervous, but I was a little.
We deplaned in Miami at 12:10pm and I had to run through the airport in my bike shoes! My next flight was scheduled to leave at 12:30 and I had to be waaaaaay on the other side of the airport. When I finally arrived, out of breath, I found out the flight was delayed, and I had to wait an hour.
The plane touched down at Key West where I was greeted with 80-degree temperatures. My 2 boxes arrived intact and I scooted them, one at a time, out front. I opened the boxes and spread the contents out on the bench in front. This drew a lot attention, as people were staring. One guy stopped to talk as I was assembling my bike. He introduced himself as "Irwin" and said that he biked to Key West from D.C.
I finished assembling my bike and threw all my gear in the trailer. I cut the boxes into small pieces and threw them away into several small trashcans along with my duffel bag I used for carry-on. Irwin gave me directions to the campground and I was on my way.
Along the way I met an unusual character. He was biking alone and he asked where I was headed. Then he was kind enough to lead me to Boyd's Campground. He told me that I shouldn't stay there, but instead, join him and him friends under the bridge where they stay up and party all night. Apparently, there is a small group that lives there. I thanked him and said I was going to check out the campground. He proceeded to inform me that the campground is too expensive because they have a pool, big screen TV, showers and a beach area. I said I'll check out this campground anyway, and I headed across the street after thanking him.
I went inside the office and reserved a campsite for $36 + tax. The girl was very helpful, gave me a street map, and told me of the "must sees and do's". I went outside and that guy was out there waiting by my bike. "Well, what are you going to do?" he asked me. I informed him that I planned on staying here; then I tactfully departed his company.
Now I don't like to prejudge people but he did look like a drug addicted, homeless street person. He was very thin and had "C"-sized breasts! (Gynecomastia or implants?) Plus the fact that he lives under a bridge didn't help either.
I set up camp and rushed to go spend the afternoon downtown. I rode to Mallory Square and watched the street performers and awaited the "sunset celebration", an every night ritual (365 days a year). Duvall Street appears to be much like Bourbon Street, New Orleans and 7th Ave., Ybor City, Tampa, and Deep Ellum, Dallas - another one of those party streets where you can party all night and encounter every type of person imaginable. It was so tempting for me to stay and have a drink, but I wanted to get an early start. As the sun dipped out of sight, it began to get darker; so I decided to ride back to the campground. As I rode toward "the bridge" I could see under part of it form the angle I was approaching it. On the other side I could barely make out the outlines of people and bright red "cherries" from the end of cigarettes, or whatever else they were smoking. Riding over "the bridge" I could hear the people below. I kept hoping that the guy I'd met earlier wouldn't appear.
I made it back to my tent but found it difficult to sleep. I was pretty tired from lack of sleep, but there were too many noisy Spring Breakers. So I put in my earplugs and soon drifted off.