Sunday, April 24, 2016

Blood-sucking Insects and Aching Knees

Key Largo to Zephyrhills (Miles 76-401)

I leave the blue waters behind and cycle through Miami. The buildings are pastel-colored, yards immaculate, and the sidewalks are cycle-friendly. I wish the wind felt the same way. Today it blasts against the front of my body, 25 MPH gusts, and I work hard for my 67 miles. With dark approaching, I veer into the woods on a spit of land off Highway 27 and pitch my tent. I kill the mosquitoes that flew inside while I was depositing my gear, gingerly lie on my right side. My left knee aches, so I change sides, which doesn't help. I lie on my back, still no help. The sun sits two fingers over the horizon, a fiery ball, and the heat builds inside the netting. I have a choice of waiting out the temps or going outside and engaging billions of blood-sucking insects in hand-to-snout combat. Not wanting to drown myself in Deet, a nasty chemical I carry but don't like to use, I remain inside and sweat myself to sleep.
Blood-sucking Heaven

Cooling Off

*

Sod farms and sugarcane fields take over the landscape for the next few days. My knee still hurts, the mosquitoes are still ferocious, and the temps are still hot. I want out of Florida, wish I could wave a magic bike-wand and spirit myself to the dry lands up in Georgia. My diet of Ramen Noodles, Mac-n-cheese, cheese grits, honey buns, and a piece of fruit a day is starting to bore me, so I drop into the Wauchula Walmart and buy Oreo cookies and a pint of ice cream. I eat the ice cream outside the store, cycle for a few miles and make camp, where I eat half the cookies and a double meal of pork-flavored Ramen Noodles. The calories don't concern me, I'll burn them off tomorrow. . . .
Sugar Cane

I spend the night unable to sleep—irregular pulse, breathing issues, indigestion, amped on a sugar-high—and the next morning I almost pass out when I crawl outside my tent and come erect in the gray light. Unable to ride, I crawl woozily back inside and that's where I stay for the next 24 hours. Sleep comes in fits and starts, and I feel a little better in the late afternoon. I eat the remainder of my cookies as night falls, careen off into a deep sleep, and don't wake until morning.

The after-affect stays with me—haze of a lingering hangover—but I'm able to cycle and I spend the day pedaling up Highway 17, which has a wide enough shoulder to make me feel comfortable. I turn onto Highway 60, eat three McDonald cheeseburgers for supper, and camp in the afternoon heat. Battle the mosquitoes one more time.

The next day I stop at a jump school and talk to a guy who has 35 jumps, watch a few jumpers land in the small field. That green rectangle must look like a blade of grass at 5,000 feet, and I can't imagine jumping from a plane, hurtling downward, and waiting (hoping?) for my chute to open. Actually I can, and if I had the funds to spare I'd sign up for the jump school in a heartbeat. Parachuting looks like so much fun!
Jump School

I ride into Zephryhills and eat Sunday lunch at the town park, watch a guy drag around a pit bull on a choke chain. The dog is hacking and chasing ducks, wreaking havoc wherever it goes. I blame the owner and don't know why some people seem to have no clue how to conduct themselves in public.
A Million Year Old Bike
My own bike beckons and I glare at it suspiciously, wonder if it will get me to the next bike shop up the road. The hub body is wobbling, which makes my cassette wobble, which makes my mind wobble when I think about all the wobbling. I hope it (the wheel) doesn't wobble off between here and the bike doctor.

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