This was a great way to end the ride, past Islamorada the Keys open up and become much more like you imagine them to be when you see them on the map, a single road stretching out into the sea with frequent stops at tiki bars and marina restaurants. And then it was into Key West down to Mile 0 and the trip is done!
The distance worked out at just over 2400 miles in the end. Counter-intuitively, cutting inland to avoid the flooding actually cut the ride by around 100 miles. I travelled through 13 states altogether.
The morning was spent traveling through the urban sprawl south of Miami, mainly on the M-path, then a blast down the highway and onto the Keys. This first section of the keys is pretty anti-climactic as it's actually mostly just a bike path next to a 4 or 2 lane highway with motels, fishing shops and gas stations on either side and only occasional glimpses of the sea.
Drinks were at the Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar where I chatted to a Democrat political campaigner about the upcoming mid-terms, biometrics and the implementation of ID cards in Indonesia.
The coastal ride as you get nearer to Miami is actually quite nice generally, less scuzzy strip malls and more pleasant coastal communities. Some strong winds as the far edges of the hurricane moving in from the Caribbean were felt.
The evening was spent in the bar at the W South Beach discussing the use of blockchain to facilitate interactions between growers, distributors, and retailers in the marijuana industry in California, legal careers in New York and life in Orange County.
Much of this part of the Florida coast is frankly pretty scuzzy, mostly endless strip malls with occasional diversions into marinas and more pleasant coastal communities to relieve the tedium.
Drinks were in the Dive Bar where talk was of coming to the US from St. Vincent , working in the port for 30 years, getting laid off and becoming a musician. And developments in the St Vincent marijuana industry.
A mix of nice coastal roads and more built up areas (e.g. Daytona Beach) today. Cocoa Beach itself is a touristy area where people wait to board cruise ships or visit Cape Canaveral. The evening was spent in Coconuts on the Beach where I discussed motor racing, Key West and Miami with a former Indy driver.
I crossed into the last state, Florida, early in the morning and after Jacksonville cut straight down to the coast, keen to finally have some real coastal riding by the sea. You can see how the geography has influenced the lifestyle here. Rather than the swampy inlets of the Georgia coast there are miles of sandy beaches lined, on this part of the coast, with miles of beachfront homes.
The route took me through St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, and on down the coast to Flagler's Beach where the evening was spent at Finn's Beachside Pub on the rooftop overlooking the sea, discussing boat building, American television and political correctness.
Apologies for the deterioration in quality of the photos recently, I cracked my phone across the camera lens......
I started late, knowing that I had a simple, flat ride ahead of me. Three reroutes later, including a major detour because of a bridge closed by the police because of an accident, and I was regretting the late start.
In between I had rolled down flat roads through Georgia and visited what is apparently the smallest church in America.
The evening was spent in Kingsland which is essentially a stopover for people traveling down the coast with a few motels and a couple of chain bars. All in all, not the greatest day of the trip.
Although I am finally back on the coast you don't get a strong sense of being on the coast here as, much as in parts of Maine, the coastline is studded with inlets and the 'coastal' road runs across the top of the inlets so you rarely catch sight of the sea, just the occasional bridge across a swampy inlet.
On a quiet early week evening in Savannah I chatted with a couple who spent a large chunk of their working lives working on the space shuttle program.
The final leg of the trip inland to avoid the flooding brought me back to the coast at Charleston. Another straightforward ride through cotton fields and small towns with a stop for lunch spent listening to gospel music at a community soul food place run by a local church.
Charleston was splendid once I figured out that all the interesting stuff happens a bit north of the historic district. A Sunday evening of fine cocktails, music and conversation covering everything from Instagram retailing to Kentucky horse breeding was spent at The Cocktail Club.
A straightforward ride on easy roads through cotton fields with a spot of light gravel here and there. Stopped for lunch at Gene's Restaurant in the small town of Chester where the people were friendly and the main businesses seemed to be the cafe and the bail bond shop.
In Columbia, drinks were at Pearlz Oyster Bar where talk was of working in automotive repair and dreams of opening a restaurant.