Tuesday, May 07, 2013

So I RoDe My BikE to ThE EveRGLaDes PaRt 5: SaSqUaTch ReSeArCh CenTer to MiAMi

There was no sleep to be had in that Hammock.  The skeeters were relentless.  They didn't care that they couldn't bite me they kept trying all night long.  It didn't matter that I had a 120 mile day, I still couldn't get much sleep.  All I heard, all night long was the sound of a mosquito flying too close to my ear.

I was happy when the sun came up.. I could stop pretending to sleep and get on the road.   I packed up fast. Went in the bathroom and grabbed my phone and extra battery that I had rigged up high near a plug that was 10 feet of the ground for the night.

Went to the front, where they had a little store.  The store in the research center was a typical tourist trap that you would find in any town in a any place everywhere that is close to something powerful, in this case the Everglades.  Little indian toys and flutes and alligators,etc, etc.  BUT, they also had cold goodies, so I topped off with water, Grabbed some goodies and had me a conversation with the famous Sasquatch hunter himself.

I asked him about Loop Road.

See Loop road was a principal feature of this route.  It basically takes you thru the heart of the Everglades national park AND the heart of the mIccosukee indian reservation.  AND you can do it, by foot or by bike or by car even.

BUt this loop road, if you do some sleuthing, is famous for having Alligators on the road just sunning themselves.  And in a car, no big deal, but on a bike, I admit I had my concerns.  So I asked him, would I see gators on Loop Road.

He said, I would.  And if they were in the road, to stay on the bike and just roll thru, they ll get out of the way, I am too tall for them to want to mess with me.

I thanked him for the information.

I was about to leave, after having my breakfast, two sandwiches and chips.  I got on the bike and he told me about something I need to take advantage off if I am venturing the length of loop road.  He told me that when I am hot, and I start to overheat, to find the section of road, where a bridge goes over clear water that flows north.  He then tells me about how the water is crystal clear, see Everglades water is clear, its not murky, and that when I find this spot, its a real honor to myself to jump in and bathe in the waters and then get out quickly.  He told me to make sure to not be seen since this is Miccosukee land, its not proper for me to swim in their waters.

I took this info to heart and honestly it sounded like a good Idea to me, I had spent the past couple of days riding in record heat, I was willing to sneak a dip in refreshing water.

It seemed like no time at all I was at the mouth of Loop road.  From my research I know there was  an indian village across the street from the opening, so I pedaled in, expecting gift shops and such.  But instead, I found homes, modern ones, in a circle formation, with a bunch of traditional Native palmetto and wood pavilions which do an amazing job of absorbing the heat.  When you get under on the temps drop 10 degrees easily.

As I pedaled through I could find no one, but then as I was about to leave I saw a twenty something miccosukee listening to his iphone walking around.  I asked him where I could find water, and where could I buy a cold drink.  He takes me over to a hose and then ask me to wait there.  When he comes back he gifts me a cold coke and tells me there is no charge.  Amazing, the kindness of folks while I am traveling never ceases to amaze me.

I started my way down loop road.   Saw some park pavilions and some bathrooms and potential places for future route travelers to camp.  I passed a sign encouraging me to turn around and then made my way down the pot hole ridden limestone road.  There were a few cars while I traveled it, going in either direction, in some cases I could easily keep pace with them.

At some point I stopped to adjust something on the bike and heard a growling sound coming from the swamp about 6 feet to my left, that got me moving quickly.  I kept looking for the spot that the sasquatch hunter had described, but there were literally 40 something spots matching that description.  And as the limestone, gave way to tarmac, I found a good spot and decided to take my dip.

I emptied my shirt pockets.  In the blistering heat there was no need to remove my shoes, no need to take off a shirt, that gave me more layers to keep the cool water closer to my skin longer.  As I get next to the rocky edge prepared to jump in, I look left and then look right, and to the right about 40 feet away there is a gator. To stubborn to turn around, I decide a quick dip is still gonna happen and I jump in and get out, all in a swift motion, getting wet from head to toe and the gator didn't even move.

I kept pedaling, thinking I should of filtered water, cause I was almost out.  Keep pedaling feeling a lil baked by the weather.  Keep pedaling, just feeling so much, at the same time, admiring and studying the native architecture.  They all had BIG houses, with similar lay outs, with several expensive cars out front and all the houses were built on big 40 foot tall mounds, assuming they are prepared for when the swamp surges.

I finally reach my final destination where loop road reunites with the Tamiami and I let out a little celebration, cause I had just rode from Orlando Florida to the Everglades using mostly dirt the entire way!!! The celebration was short as I had serious things to tend too.  Like water and food.  I checked google maps and there was nothing for 10 miles or more.  To my right I saw what appeared to be an artisan well.  The water smelled like sulfur and I didn't know if it was clean, but I topped off anyway and soaked my head.

I rode a lil bit found some construction workers and asked them if they knew where the next store was.  They said about five miles down the road.  Well a mile down the road I spotted a place roadside.  Went it and sure enough, it was a deli/headshop/beer store/barb cue joint/ convenience store.  I bought several bags of chips, cans of sodas and sandwiches and asked her if it was ok if I ate outside.  She one upped me and told me to go out on the deck and to relax as long as I needed.

The deck was about 120 feet long.  Decked out for season related activities with chairs and tiki bars.  The design was native in origin, meaning the roof was all palmetto so again, under this pavilion the temps were very cool.  After stuffing my belly, I laid down and took a delicious nap.  Eventually waiting a few hours before heading up the road.

As I went up the road, I rode right into the heart of the reservation where all supplies and tourist related things were available.  I could see a storm forming on the horizon and feel he cool breeze so I had stopped at a swamp air boat ride place and asked them if I could wait out the storm there.

They said yes without hesitation and I drank and ate more. The lady talked to me for a bit, seems here dad, who doesn't speak english and only speaks his native tongue was curious about me.  When I told her I had ridden from Orlando, thru all the preserves and wild areas including big cypress and the miccosukee nation, she told me he said I was crazy.

I got a hold of my host for the night and they came and picked me up, saying the road ahead was too treacherous with construction for riding.

As I sat in the car, I looked ahead and sure indeed it would have been treacherous.  BUT, I also noticed that there was dirt across the street along the canal, noting that I could indeed make this portion of the cross florida mountain bike route a little longer and get people a little closer to civilization before finishing their day.

At my host home, I cleaned clothes, cleaned my filthy bike and took a much needed shower.  After eating I passed out, sleeping deeper then I had slept any other time on this trip.