Day 1 (or day 0, since I won't be starting the trip 'til tomorrow. I did ride back to
the ocean and around the RV park a couple of times. Total of 2.5 miles.)
Paul drove me from Miami to Ft. Myers Beach, and I'm camped out at the San Juan RV
Resort & Islands. The price is pretty steep - $26 per night - but it's just for one
night and I'll do something much cheaper tomorrow.
My gear weighs a good deal more than I expected: 104 lbs. That's partly because I
brought a whole pannier full of books, partly because I brought a computer, partly
because of the solar cells, and mostly because I brought a lot of stuff I don't need.
I must have three tools for every job, "just in case."
While Paul and I were driving across the Everglades, I figured out a good way to
decide what to pack. For every item you would like to take, ask yourself how you
could do without it. If you have an answer, leave it behind. If you can't figure
how you would do without it, ask yourself if you need it. If the answer is yes,
bring it. Otherwise, leave it behind.
For example, I have a candle lantern, a 2-AA cell flashlight, and a gizmo I built
with an LED and some parts from Radio Shack. The gizmo is probably all I'll ever
need. It runs for 30 hours off of 2 AA bateries and it puts out lots of light. Its
only drawback is that it produces orange light in a very narrow beam, so blue objects
look black and the light has to be pointed directly at what you want to see. I think
I can live with those limitations, so I'll probably send the candle lantern and
flashlight back home.
The candle lantern has a low-tech appeal, but it produces some heat. That's not
a good thing when the outside temperature is 90 degrees.
I thought of something else when I was leaving Paul's place: you look at a place
differently when you know you may never see it again or not for a long time. That
is part of what makes a trip like this so special: it helps me look at things in new
Campsite - $26
Coke .60 (I meant to get an A&W. The machine was out and coin return didn't.)
Dinner 8.95 (I bought Paul's and my dinner at Arby's. The least I could do.)
Images for the day:
Sunset from the San Juan bridge
Dipping the rear wheel of my bike in the ocean
No-see-ums coming in for the kill
Lots of people riding bikes in Ft. Myers Beach
Dunkin Donuts around the corner (Breakfast anyone? :-)
Ducks walking through the RV park, being fed by the British neighbors' toddler
Things I left behind:
Extra tooth brush protectors. They come in a package of 3, but you can only use 1.
AA battery packaging. It's easier and more compact to put them in a Ziploc.
Day 5...after 4 days on the bike and one day at Disney
Day 1 was hell. This was my first day with the full load on the bike, and it's a
lot more difficult to manage than I expected. There is a low-speed shimmy in the
front, possibly caused by a wheel out of true or a tire out of round. I figured I
would get used to the weight in time, so I plodded along. I started at about 10:00
and I hit Fort Myers at lunch time, so I ate at McDonald's. Plus I stopped at
Publix for bananas and granola bars - energy food for the road.
The road was flat. Which is good, because I think I would have quit right then if
there were any hills. The temperature was in the 90's and I ran out of water. I
passed up an opportunity to refill my water bottles, and the next facilities were
15 miles away. I had to stop, because by the 40th mile I had all I could take.
Fortunately, there was a gas station/convenience store with a nice covered porch
and picnic table where I could die in peace. Then it started raining...
I sat there for a while trying to pump water back into my body and wait out the rain,
and I met a really nice guy with one of those 4-wheeled motorcycles. I never got his
name, so I'll call him Bob. Bob was also waiting out the rain, but the rain didn't
seem to be stopping. He used to ride bikes some, but now he just rides motorbikes
in the undeveloped area of south Florida.
Bob was going back to Fort Myers that night, but he suggested a nice deserted area
where I could set up a tent for free. I was happy to take him up on the idea because
I was worried about the cost of the trip - especially after a $26 night in Fort Myers
Beach. His "half a mile" down the road turned out to be a whole mile down a dirt road
that kept me to 10 mph. Then we left the dirt road and the path turned to sand. You
can't ride a skinny-tired bike in sand, and it's a hellacious task to push a 140 pound
bike on a sandy path. I was already tired from the day's riding, and pushing the
bike almost did me in permanently.
Bob said the campsite was "only another quarter mile," but I opted for the first
clear spot we passed. I said my "thanks" and Bob headed home. I noticed how
easily Bob travelled on the sand and I briefly considered fitting my bike with
6 inch wide V-tread tires. Naaah... I couldn't bend the frame that far.
The rain reduced to a sprinkle and eventually stopped as I set up camp. I was
feeling good enough that I fired up my little Sierra wood-burning stove. I found
a nice mostly-dry branch, sawed it into 4 inch pieces, and stoked the fire. The
twigs burned fast and hot to boil some water for rice, but they burned out too
quickly. Then I threw on the thicker pieces, but they took a long time to get
going to bring the water back to boiling. I guess I'll get the hang of this thing
after a few meals. (BTW, plain rice with a little oil and some nutritional yeast
is almost impossible to gag down. Try some more seasoning.)
Bedtime, and the rain started back up. I quickly put everything back under the
tent and got ready for bed. I had trouble sleeping because my body was so keyed
up. Then I woke twice in the night needing to urinate very badly, and each time
it took me an hour to get back to sleep. Once I tried to use a makeshift chamber
pot and it overflowed. Try not to let that happen in the tent again.
Fort Myers Beach
North Fort Myers
Images for the day:
Cattle egrets. I was surprised to see cows in Florida, and just as surprised to
see beautiful white birds hanging around the cows.
Exhaustion. Never, ever pass up an opportunity to fill water bottles.
An idiot who passed me in a car and turned around to come back and spit at me. I
give him no marks for intelligence, because he didn't come close.
What I left behind:
Extra matches. I had bought a package of 10 boxes, so I left the extras. It's easier
to use a lighter, anyway.
Extra water bottle caps. I only need one, and I have one on each bottle.
Extra undersized tubes. Left over from my old 28mm tires.
Extra chain lube. It was a gift, so I didn't want to leave it... I have WL.
I started very slowly. The weather was clear and sunny, so I spread out everything
to dry. I cleaned my pot with some sand and rinsed it in a nearby stream. Note:
don't eat from the pot again till it has seen boiling water.
I tried my hand at truing the wheels on the bike. They weren't significantly out
of true, but it felt good to be able to do it myself. It is very nice to be able
to do my own bike repairs and maintenance. BTW, sand was everywhere. Wet sand
sticks to the wheels, is carried up, and then falls on everything.
With the way I felt I didn't move very quickly, so I got started on the bike around
11:30. I pushed the bike back to the dirt road (ugh!) and rode back to the service
station on a paved road that mostly paralleled the dirt road. Wish I had seen that
last night. Then I took an hour for brunch and started on the road at 12:30. This
is a bad trend.
Today's ride was slightly better than yesterday's, because I drank enough water. I
drank a quart every hour. Plus I stopped every 30 minutes to drink and rest my butt.
This leather saddle is taking more breaking in than I had hoped.
The terrain became very gently rolling dips and rises. And the land turned into
orange groves and cattle pasture. I never realized so much land in Florida was
devoted to beef.
At one of my regular breaks (in the shade, of course), a boy came from a nearby house
to see what was wrong. We talked about bikes for a while, and I asked if I could fill
my water bottle (one down, one to go). He offered to fill it for me (?) and went
inside. He came back with a bottle full of refridgerator-cold water! Many thanks!.
Lunch was at a Taco Bell, which was a welcome relief from the heat.
Due to the heat, I only travelled about 40 miles today. I was happly to pay $16.50
for the Peace River Campground. This is a very nice campground with a wilderness
camping area. I paid for a wilderness spot (cheaper), but the owner let me camp
in a regular spot (nearer to the facilities).
Once again I had trouble sleeping because my body was too hot. It rained off and
on during the night.
Arcadia (close to it)
Images of the day (days 2 and 3 run together in my memory)
No Trespassing signs everywhere.
Fences for cattle.
A hawk nesting on top of a power pole.
Oranges by the side of the road. They fall of of trucks.
Laundry detergent. Use dish soap instead.
Day 3 - rain
It was raining when I woke up, but it stopped for a while. So I went to get a shower
and do laundry. I met a very nice English couple - Chris and Pete - who had recently
come from a bike trip in South America. They were homesick after 18 months on the road,
so they were headed to Orlando for a flight home.
The rain started back up with a vengeance while I was doing laundry. It didn't stop
until after noon, so I packed up camp in the rain. I carried an extra pound or so
of water with the tent. At least the rain kept the temperature down, so the riding
went well. I was on the road around 11:10 - a slight improvement.
The ride went very nicely to Wauchula. There I met a crossing guard who told me I
had "very nice legs." She told me twice: coming and going. She also gave me directions
to the post office and a Burger King, where I dropped off mail, made phone calls, and
I felt so good because of the low temperatures that I covered 65 miles today. This was
a surprise to me, but I felt so good I figured I would make up for lost time. I rode
in to the Camp'n'Aire at about 8:00 p.m. and was pleasantly surprised to find that a
tent site was only $10 for the night. I set up my tent on a slab and turned in early.
Fort Meade (outside)
Owls. Two of them. I never saw live owls before, especially in the middle of the day.
Vultures picking at a road kill.
Cows that ignored passing trucks, but stared at me or ran away.
Cargill Chemical Company raping the land.
Some very nice folks at a vegetable/fruit stand near the campground.
An unfriendly campground that wouldn't accept people with tents.
High temp of around 75F.
Day 4 - into Kissimee
This morning I took advantage of the sun to dry out everything that had gotten wet
in the previous day's rain. It felt really good to be dry after the previous day.
In Lake Wales I met a German bicycle tourist, named Max, who was also headed north
on the Florida to Maine route. Max is retired and "covers 20 to 100 miles in a day,
depending how I feel." Max was also carrying a heavy load: about 40 kilos. I don't
know if that included his bike, though. Max started much earlier than I did, so he
was looking for a hotel for the night as I was getting started for the day!
Today I discovered the hilly country of central Florida. The hills aren't very big -
only 200 feet or so at the highest point - but they sure made me regret my overloaded
My seat bones have been getting more and more sore as the days wear on. I take frequent
breaks to rest my butt and drink water, but I need a day or two off the bike.
It's interesting to note what is left on the sides of the road in different places. For
the past few days I have found many oranges that fell off the trucks onto the sides of
the road. Today I saw some fall right in front of me, so I picked up a couple. These
are definitely juice oranges, with skin so tough you would need a knife to peel them.
As the day wore on, the oranges gave way to beer bottles. Especially outside Haines
City and Davenport. My impression of Davenport wasn't very good, because I believe
heavy drinking is a sign of general unhappiness. That was one unhappy town. I'm
glad I wasn't biking there on a Friday night, because some of those bottles could have
been aimed at me.
At last night's campground I had found a coupon booklet that would get me a hotel
near Disney for only $23 a night. I kept on going for about 50 miles in the hope of
getting a good night's sleep. I dragged into the Econo Lodge at about 7:00 only to
discover it was the wrong one. The price here was $40 a night, and I had to ride for
7 miles on 192 to get to the right hotel. US 192 is the main road that runs outside
of the Disney complex, so it is one of the busiest and most built up roads in the
area. It is also under repair or badly in need of repair for most of the length on
which I rode. Part of it has no shoulder or concrete barriers blocking at the edge,
so I was riding in the lane with cars doing 55-70 mph. Several times I thought "If
it's going to happen, it's going to be now. Better make peace with God."
My nerves were pretty frazzled by the time I made it to the hotel. But I got a nice
room at a nice price. It's almost cheaper than camping. Also, I talked to a guy who
works for a timeshare resort, and he signed me up for a real deal on Disney tickets.
All I have to do is hear a 90 minute sales pitch about the resort, and I get a free
Disney ticket and a second one for $6 off the regular price. Sounds like a great
deal to me! I told him my situation, but he said it's OK. He used to be a bike
racer in New York state, so we talked bikes for quite a while before I pulled away
to my room and dinner.
I realized that most of my life has been spent in learning and knowing, while this
trip is about doing and experiencing. I guess I "knew" that before, but I didn't
understand it until today. These are totally orthogonal ways of living.
Haines City (outside)
Beer bottles strewn along the road outside Haines City and Davenport.
Dead owl by the road.
Oranges falling of a truck as it left an orchard.
Bright lights and glitter along US 192.
Day 5 - Magic Kingdom
I started the day with a free breakfast and a time-share presentation. The place is
very nice, but it's easy to resist buying if you don't have an income :-). They
dropped me off at Disney's door, so it was a great deal for me.
Whatever anyone might say, it really is the Magic Kingdom. No one does it like
Disney. I think I could spend all week in the Magic Kingdom, riding everything over
and over and over. I stayed until the park closed, loving every minute of it.
One think I particularly like is that there is enough space. There are nooks and
crannies where you can get off the main drag and escape the crowds for a few minutes.
Plus everything is done incredibly well. I never realized it was possible to go up
in Cinderella's castle, but today I asked and found there is a restaurant up there.
They allow people to go up and look around, so I did. It really looks like a royal
I bought T-shirts for my niece and nephew, but I didn't feel compelled to get anything
for myself - except food, of course!
Lots of foreign accents. I think there were more foreign visitors than Americans.
Mickey's first movie.
Saw the "Small World" show for the first time.
Day 6 - Epcot
Today I arrived at Epcot before it opened, so I wouldn't miss anything. Epcot doesn't
have the magic of the Magic Kingdom, but it's still special. It seemed harder to find
my way around, but in general it was great.
I think the MK is for pure enjoyment, but Epcot is more for learning. The Future
World is especially oriented toward learning, so I tired of it pretty quickly. I
moved on to the World Showcase where I experienced a bit of what it is like to be
in several different countries.
Until today I had been thinking that I would be happy to spend all my savings in the
US part of my trip, but now I am more committed to doing the around-the-world part of
the trip. After experiencing some of the countries I hope to visit, I want even more
to go there and see them in the first person.
I stayed for the Festival of Lights at the end of the day, and I saw nearly everything
I wanted to see. I stopped one last time to see if there was anything worth buying
at the gift shop, but I decide I could do without more things to carry on the bike.
After coming back to the hotel, I visited the store next door where they had a Nikon
Lite Touch Zoom for $200. I talked them down to $180, which is a pretty good price.
I haven't been using my camera because it is so difficult to set up for a picture; it's
in two ziploc bags for rain protection. Time to send it home
Pretty women at all the exhibits, especially Norway, France, Germany, Great Britain,
The Norwegians let me to the front of the line after I talked to them about visiting
Norway next year.
People searching for pearls in the Japanese exhibit.
Street players at the Great Britain exhibit.
Bagpiper at the Canada exhibit.
Nice practice swords at the China exhibit.
Recommendations to visit Provence and Normandy.
Day 7 - Rest
Today is my day to do nothing. I'm deciding what to send home and planning where I
will be each day for the next few weeks. Plus I'm getting caught up on this journal.
Talk about a bum! I didn't do anything today except watch TV and look at maps. I
finally saw Richie Rich and Batman Forever, so it wasn't a total loss.
Changes last made on: Wed May 29 06:33:10 1996