March 19, 1999
My first century ride wooooooo hoooooooo!!
Well probably the slowest century on record, but I did it :)
I made my self get up at 5am and quickly got everything together. No one was in the office to turn in my key, so I slid it under the glass window. Then I hit the road at 5:45 am, and for 1.5 miles north of Homestead there was no shoulder. It was still dark so I rode with my flashing taillight and my headlight both on. There was a lot of traffic on the road as I kept my bike on the white line. It was pretty scary so I started to turn right at an intersection and head back to 1. But a nice, wide, shoulder appeared ahead, so I continued north through Redland, Florida and watched the sunrise. Redland is an agricultural community and from what I saw, they must have forgot to put "neck" in the middle of the name. Hee Hee
It was a nice morning ride until after the first 20 miles, when the shoulder completely disappeared at the intersection of 41 Tamiami Trail and 997. But I decide I've come to far to turn back. According to the map I was about halfway to Highway 27. For about 2 or 3 miles I attempted to ride the white line. But there was too much traffic. One guy in a semi decided not to get over and there were not any other cars coming. He got within inches of me, and then laid on his horn when he was right beside me! If I stay here I'll surely die!! So after that, and several other close calls, I headed for the grass. I stopped and put my headphones on then rode about ten feet from the road. It was a slow ride but I was happy.... There is something about music that can really change a person's attitude. I just rode at an easy pace and listened to my tapes. The first song on my tape was Matchbox 20 they sang "I'll bet all my friends would be stunned" and I thought yeah they sure might be with what I'm attempting here . If I live to tell about it! Then another line they had was, "I wish the real world would stop hassling me" and I thought yeah I wish it would, the real world being all those idiots in the big trucks and in the cars running me off the road. I'm sure many are late for work or late for appointments, speeding and getting mad at anything that slows them down as they lead those stressfull lives flying down the road.
It was only fifteen miles of riding in the grass when I arrived at Highway 27. I had already stopped several times to stretch. After a few miles up 27, I pulled off in the grass and took a fifteen-minute nap. That was until someone honked and yelled something. I've had a few people honk and yell at me but I can never make out what they're saying as they speed by. I would have to think that they are only giving me words of encouragement :)
Highway 27 has nice wide shoulders but is quite boring. Unlike the Keys, where I was always passing others biking, jogging, or walking their dogs. It was nice to have people say hello, and to say hello to as I rode by. So I decided to use my walkman at a low volume, and this is the first time I heard the "Sunscreen" song. What a good song! And the sunscreen part really applied to me HEE HEE.... But I really enjoyed listening to the advice about life. I will definitely have to buy this for the times I may feel a bit down :)
While approaching the exit ramp for I75, I checked the line of cars behind me and none were signaling to exit, so I continued straight and then I heard the loud horn of a Semi and the EERRRRRR of his brakes!!! As he was headed at me, I pedaled as fast as my legs would move me. Whew! That was close! Damn why didn't he signal!! I guess I should stop and wait until there are no cars on the road prior to passing in front of an exit ramp!! Oh well... I'll just be very careful in the future... lesson learned.
I continue north and then stopped again to take a quick nap. The temp was 87 degrees but felt so much hotter riding over the asphalt and with my bad sunburn. By this time I've developed blisters on both arms and my right hand is really swollen as well as my right cheek. The burn is worse on the right side of my body because of the position of the sun while I'm riding. I didn't use any sunscreen on my first day out when I got the really bad burn. Since then I've been using spf50 but I haven't taken the time to re-apply it during the day. Which is what I really need to get in the habit of doing.
Well I tried to nap but cars kept stopping to see if I was OK. One guy stopped with NC plates and it ends up his wife is from where I live... what a coincidence. So I gave up on the nap idea and rode the additional 30 miles to Belle Glade. I stopped and bought 2 PowerAde's then got a bean burrito at Taco Bell. The cashier gave me directions to the only campground.
I rode through the worst areas I've ever seen in my life, a very impoverished black community. I kept thinking that I was in the bad area of town and this will end soon. I turned to go down another street and things just seem to get worse and worse and never ending. Many of the business are closed down and buildings condemned. People everywhere, on the streets and the sidewalks. Very crowded with people all around and guys hanging out with no shoes or shirts on. It was like the world was in slow motion as I rode. Everyone just hung out and moved slow and I could feel the weight of their stares. The people looked dirty, the buildings looked dirty, the road looked dirty. They all just blended together into a dull gray in this very depressed area. I felt as if I somehow entered into a third world country. Not only am I on a very noticeable bicycle with a trailer, but with me being the only white boy around and wearing such a brightly colored bike shirt, I really stuck out and I'm sure looked very odd to everyone.
The streets reeked of drugs, hatred and violence. It made me nervous riding through there. Especially when people started yelling at me. Then one black guy on a bike heads across the street straight at me. He was trying to intimidate me, but I just kept clippin' away and didn't pay him any attention. I was also glad to have that giant can of bear mace strapped in its holder on my bike! But it wouldn't help against a gun. The only way I would've felt safe riding through here would've been inside a big tank!! ... Even in the middle of the day.
After riding a few miles through this I was skeptical about the campground I was going to. But I eventually got there and it was a nice place. It's on Lake Okeechobee and has bathhouses, payphones, and washers & dryers. I set up my tent and watched a beautiful sunset. Afterwards, I made a couple of phone calls and took a shower. And geez, is my butt sore!!! It feels like I crapped out a watermelon!! And, it must have been covered in barbed wire!!! Ouch!!! It really hurts, I had to check to make sure I wasn't bleeding, it was that sore and raw. Guess I'll have to check into that Chaf-Ez stuff. Not sure if I'll ride much tomorrow 'cause my butt is sore, my legs are sore, and my knees are still bothering me.
I went to sleep thinking how glad I was surviving today!!