Day 33: Cutler Bay — Key Largo (40.1 miles)

I’ve been looking forward to the seven mile bridge after Marathon as the biggest and most exciting (in both good and bad ways) challenge of this trip. It’s just a bridge for US 1, hopefully a shoulder, and nowhere to go but forward. I overlooked the stretch of US 1 between the city of Homestead and Key Largo: 20 miles long without anything to do except go forward. That was certainly a challenge.

The day began back on the bike trail up until Homestead. It was overcast and smooth sailing, minus some fallen nuts and branches. As the end of the trail approached, I thought “lord, it’d be nice to start the next leg with a tailwind.” And the Good Lord heard me, and it rained for five minutes followed by a mild headwind.

Frustrated, I merged onto the freeway shoulder and locked myself into nothing but the repetitive motions of my legs and the thoughts in my head for the next twenty miles. A couple people honked (encouragingly, I think) during the stretch. The monotony made it feel longer than it was. A sign which read “Crocodile crossing next 6 miles” set up probably the most terrifying minutes of my life — what would I even do? — and thankfully none of them did.

There was of course a visitor center immediately after crossing a bridge onto the island, and I stopped for a water break. Then it was a breezy seven mile skate into the heart of the island. And then, a first: no less than 500 feet from my destination, I was hit by a car. I think I’m 100% okay. It was off the main road at an intersection, I had the right of way (though I guess I could’ve been more cautious) and a pickup truck stopped at the stop sign started out, right into me. The hood hit me in the right arm and knocked me on my back (landed on my pack, so lucky), and the front passenger wheel looks like it rolled over my board, with no real damage. The guy got out, apologized and gave me his card. He works for a hotel company in Miami. I said maybe I’d contact him the next time I come through, and he said he could find me a job.

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