Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tips for Cycling the Keys

Where to stay?

If you have the funds to stay in campgrounds or motels, call months in advance and make reservations. Plan on forking out $40.00 to $50.00 per night to stay in a campground, $100.00 and up to stay in a motel. If you're like me—out for a long trip—and can't afford to pay to spend the night somewhere, consider stealth camping as an option. Wooded areas along US 1 offer concealment in Key Largo, Marathon, Big Pine, and Big Coppitt, and that's where I stayed during my journey down, then again on my way back up.

Is it safe cycling?

The route is a mix of sidewalks, shoulders, fishing piers, and bike paths, and I felt safe with the exception of some of the bridges. While these bridges had wide shoulders, they also had low parapets, the tops of which were below my center of gravity. The potential for going over the side forced me to the left, away from the parapets and toward the roadways, in effect narrowing the shoulder by half. Keys' traffic can be fierce, and cycling so close to the roadway without the option of veering to the right was more than a little unnerving.

Where to get water?

Most of the convenience stores have no knobs on their outside spigots, so get your water at the drinking fountains in the city parks or buy gallon jugs from the grocery stores.
Bob is made of sponges. (Keys' humor)

When to go? 

To avoid the heat, cycle this route in the winter months if possible.

If I need repairs, can you recommend a bike shop? 

There are a number of bike shops, but I only stopped at two. The owner of Big Pine Bicycle Center is a great guy, and he will go out of his way to help you. All Keys Cycles in Key Largo is another standout shop.

Did you find anywhere to shower?

I paid $2.50 to enter John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, swam at their beach, then rinsed off under one of their outdoor showers. The gift shop has WIFI, an unexpected bonus.

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