Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 33.5 miles
Average speed / 平均速度: 6.9 mph
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 4h 51m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 736 miles (plus 266 miles)
Ascent / 上り: negligible
Descent / 下り: negligible
Easterly winds of fifteen to twenty miles and hour. I was happy about that forecast yesterday. Tailwinds for Rob, I thought. I mean, I’m traveling west, right? Wrong. To get to where I can start going west, I need to skate up US Highway 1 through the Florida Keys, which goes east. Right into the wind. Not the most inspiring weather conditions. Flat and windy.
Good news was awaiting me after a mostly sleepless night on a hard concrete slab however. Check this out:
Kyle from the Florida Keynoter newspaper interviewed me on Wednesday before I left Key West, and my story was published on the front page of the paper on Saturday! As a result:
- $2 received for Lowe Syndrome from a random stranger outside a convenience store
- $10 received for Lowe Syndrome from a driver who stopped as I was skating along US1 highway
- invited to lunch at a Scout Camp on West Summerland Key
- invited to dinner at Castaway Restaurant in Marathon
- place to stay in Marathon and Key Largo
So let’s start at the beginning. I spent most of the morning once again battling against the headwind coming straight ahead of me out of the east. It was somewhere on Big Pine Key where I met Janet, a leader of the Boy Scout Troop 573 from Big Pine Key. She saw me skating past the convenience store she was in, and she rushed out, calling for me to stop. Janet is about 150cm tall, and full of energy. The energetic Mum type. Gushing friendliness and concern.
“I saw you in the paper this morning!” she spouted.
A lanky guy on a bike, who was happened to be passing just as Janet was introducing herself interrupted. “You’re the guy skating from Key West to California?! Good luck to you man,” he said, shaking my hand.
Janet continued, saying that she had read the article in the Keynoter and had hoped to meet me along the road, to invite me to come and meet her scout troop. The troop was spending the weekend camping on West Summerland Key, just seven miles up the road. We arranged for me to stop by for lunch.
I continued into the wind, and arrived at the Camp Sawyer Scout Camp at around 12:30pm. Security was tight. A 2 meter high automatic gate blocked access to the driveway, with high wire fences on each side. Signs warning against unauthorised entrance adorned the fence every few meters. A sign on the gate advised guests to call the camp manager for access. I had no cell phone on me, so I waved to try to get someone’s attention - to no avail.
In the end I found a small opening in the fence and sneaked in. No one seemed concerned at the intruder. There were a few scout troops using the camp ground, and after asking around, I found Janet and Greg and the scout troop. All the usual quesitons ensued – how many miles a day, where did you start, how many wheels do you go through…
Codie, a fair hair youth of about fourteen or fifteen made me a Codie Special Taco for lunch. Beans, minced beef, lettuce, cheese and sour cream. Delicious. Greg, a slightly balding, middle aged but clearly active and fit man, was baking ‘French Bread Pizzas’ in a dutch oven over coals in the fire pit. These too were delicious.
After lunch I showed the scouts the contents of my backpack. The most interesting item, it seems, was the Redbull Can Stove (see Scott’s Pepsi Can Stove for where I got the idea from). This lightweight stove runs on alcohol, and would be a worthy project for a group of scouts.
(With Scouts John, Codie, Zak, Aaron, and Daniel)
So a real big thank you to Scout Troop 573 from Big Pine, in the Florida Keys. Fantastic food, great guys. In particular thanks to leaders Janet, Greg, Donna, and Tom. Janet was very generous and even supplied some funds for my travel expenses – these I think will go towards a cell phone for the time I am in the US. It will make communications with media, sponsors, and other groups much easier.
Janet, apparently a bit of a networking genius, sneakily contacted some friends in the towns of Marathon and Key Largo, while I was talking with the boys. She arranged for me to meet Janis Short, and John and Arlene Mirabella from Castaway Restaurant in Marathon later in the evening. She also called some friends, Amy and Jack from Key Largo, and arranged for me to stay with them later on in the week when I traveled through that part of the Keys.
Between West Summerland Key and Marathon, there was one rather daunting challenge. The Seven Mile bridge. This bridge is, you guessed it, seven miles long, and joins Little Duck Key and the town of Marathon. It was hell. No trees to block the strong easterly wind, and the bridge has a hump in the middle. Height = wind. Not pretty at all.
Now, the fact that there is a big lump in the middle of this bridge would be a great thing, had it not been such a strong headwind. I had to push down the bridge, despite the grade being quite steep.
The traffic was heavy, the shoulder was covered in small stones and general road debris. Tough work.
I was glad to arrive in Marathon, and make my way to Castaway Restaurant and Sushi Bar. Here I met Bob and his friends from Sebring, in central Florida. They were a great help for my planning a route through Florida. “Sure, Alligator Alley is cool, but once you’re on the west coast of Florida, you’ll be in the urban sprawl,” they advised. The best bet, they said, was to head up highway 27 through the middle of Florida. Less cars, more open country. Perfect, I said. Looks like I’ll be heading up that way.
At 7pm I met with John, Arlene, and Janis. John has a great restaurant there at the Castaway Restaurant and Sushi Bar – excellent sushi, and it’s a bustling place.
John is having some major re-construction work done on the place, and it is sure to be an even better place to eat at once it’s all finished.
John kindly provided my meal for the evening. I tried the Spicy Tuna Sandwich - a tuna mix sandwiched between nori and rice on the outside. Delicious. I stayed the night in the Castaway Cottage, a small apartment next to the restaurant. I was able to do some clothes washing, and had a great night’s sleep. A massive thank you to John, Arlene and Janis, and the few locals I met at the bar. It was great to get a better understanding of what the Florida Keys are all about, and about possible future routes through Florida.