Miami-Key West -Miami - anyone familiar with this route

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by teigeman, Oct 8, 2006.

  1. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    Anyone here have experience biking on the OverSeas Highway from Key Largo to Key West? I am putting together a multiday adventure tour of this route and need information, resources, pictures, opinions, etc.

    Here's the rough sketch:

    Fly to Miami, pick up and load bikes and gear
    first night at Everglades Hostel in Florida City (35 miles-ish)
    Hit the OHighway to Marathon for second night, either hotel or camping depending on weather. (55 miles-ish)
    Day three is Marathon to Key West (55 miles-ish)
    Hang out in Key West for at least two full days (park and snorkel, drink, eat, whatever for two days)
    Head back to Miami, probably retracing steps in terms of lodging but varying the side trips for snorkeling and dining purposes.

    What do you think? ideas, warnings, reality checks all encouraged.

    tg
     
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  2. Velotour

    Velotour New Member

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    It is an easy route. You may hit some winds out there. I have used that route four times on a bicycle. There is a bike path on the west side of Highway One. It might not be marked all that well. I suggest getting on it as soon as you see it or where it starts. It runs along the water and is invisible from the road in many parts because between it and the road are trees and bushes and mangroves. The seven mile bridge is where you might get some winds, but not necessarily. It is there that you are over the ocean with nothing to block the winds, so whatever happens to be blowing that day is what you get. Designated camp sites are in state campgrounds. The last time I was there the RV parks charged the same for a tent that they charged for an RV. The motel rents may be quite high, especially in the winter tourist season. I believe you can get a shower at a state campground for $5.00 but I am not too sure about that. It is all about money in the Keys. They have their hands in your pockets for every little things in the Keys.

    It is a good ride. It is flat expept for some bridges perhaps.

    The road from the mainland to Key Largo has a nice wide biking lane but it is lined with cat-eye reflectors so closely spaced that one must keep his attention riveted to the road directly in front of the wheel to avoid hitting them. Or, you have to cycle out in the motor lane and keep moving back onto the reflectors every time a vehicle comes along, which is a pain in the neck. See the nests on top of the poles. I believe thay are Osprey nests.

    Coming south out of Miami there is a bike path under the raised metrorail / trirail track. It is very curvy in places but it keeps you out of the traffic. The path goes on for quite some distance.

    See the old sign for the Last Chance Bar. There is pretty much nothing in the way of services between there and Key Largo.
     
  3. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    Good stuff, this is the kind of information I was hoping to get. If you don't mind I'll ask a few follow ups, cause I don't know JACK about the Keys or even south Floriday for that matter - except that it gets hot and humid and stays that way pretty much all summer long.

    Regarding the bike path, I think they are calling that the Overseas Heritage Trail these days, and it seems that it is really nice in the parts of the main highway that they have it - but that it might take about three times as long to cycle the route on it because of it being hard to follow in many places. What is your experience here? Was the trail really easy to see and follow?

    Also, what about just staying on the main highway the whole way out to Key West (as opposed to using the bike path)? My intentions are to haul ass from place to place and to try to make the crossing from Miami to Key West in two days, and to spend my time on the beaches, snorkeling and just taking it easy for a while. So, while the trip is about touring and riding, it's really a beach/bar/bum/snorkeling/photography/eating/hanging out type of trip, disguised as a bike trip - if that makes any sense at all...

    With regards the parks and camping - considering that I'll be trying to break up the 130 miles from Miami Airport to Key West into two days of riding, do you have any suggestions on where I should plan to spend the one (or two) nights that I may spend on the way out and back to Key West? I am finding a distinct lack of information about camping facilities on this route.

    Thanks! I appreciate your help on this!

    tg


     
  4. Velotour

    Velotour New Member

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    Once you are on the bike path it is the easiest trail in the world to follow, and yes you can follow Highway One all the way to Key West. Whether or not you can span the 130 miles in two days of cycling depends on the weather, i.e., wind and rain. Sometimes the wind really kicks up out there, and forty miles may be about all you can expect, perhaps even fewer miles than that. Following the highway may put you straight into the wind, whereas following the trail may block some of that wind because of all the dense stands of mangroves and other bushes and trees that are very close to your left and right. But then again, if you have a nice following wind you will want to stay out in it which might mean avoiding the wind-sheltering trail.That is something that nobody can advise you on; you will have to deal with local conditions there as they happen. Don't worry about missing the trail head. Once you are in the Keys just keep asking the locals as you go along. If that fails, ask the police along the way. They should be able to tell you where the trail ends and starts.

    I do not know about the trail taking three times as long as the roadway. I have never heard that before. It is simply a basically straight paved smooth trail. Maybe you can get higher speeds on the highway. It depends on the wind. It is not absolutely a straight angle but it is certainly is not overly toutuous.

    If you have the money and can afford it there are plenty of motels along the way. You can camp in state parks, but that may be inconvenient if you are looking to achieve a certain minimum mileage each day. I camped in the woods and showered in a state park. You can also use the showers on the beach, but be careful about that. There is a youth hostel in Key West, or there was one the last time I was there. Its price was low but it always seemed to be filled to capacity. Some RV parks may let you set up a tent but this being the shoulder of the season, expect to pay a premium price. The only real designated camp grounds I know of are in state parks.
     
  5. cyclepromo

    cyclepromo New Member

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    teigeman

    If you ends up doing the ride could you post a follow up story. I'd be interested in the same route and wondering about the total cost once you're out on the road.

    Thanks and good luck.
     
  6. unicos

    unicos New Member

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    The traffic will be the worst thing. I wouldn't recommend doing any riding on the weekends. There are a lot of long narrow areas and the cars are bad enough to each other much less to a cyclist. Other than that all the other posts sound good. Bubbas Pampered Peddlers has an annual Miami to KW and back ride. You may want to look over the site http://www.bubbaspamperedpedalers.com/ and see if you can find any hints there.
     
  7. fixedinseattle

    fixedinseattle New Member

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    i grew up in key west, and always thought u.s. 1 was undoable, since it's two lane traffic going 45+... but it sounds like people do it all the time, so maybe i'll give it a shot one day too - traffic aside, it's gotta be one of the best rides in the world!!

    be sure to stop at bahia honda beach, i think it's around mile-marker 37 or so..
     
  8. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/state/keystrail/default.htm
    Parts of the existing trail is good, and part not.
    Camping isn't easy to find, but you can find it.
    As other poster(s) mention, wind is the key factor to speed.
    Let us know what you learn and suggest things to do and things to avoid.
     
  9. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    Cool! Will-do. This trip is now looking like Memorial Day weekend 2007. This might be the worst possible time to do this? Traffic doesn't bother me at all, I have to ride in it all the time here in Memphis - but this will be three consecutive days of Memorial Day Weekend driving on tight roads and bridges.

    Hmmm.. I have visions of sunburned drunks pelting me with beer cans, yelling at me to get out of the road.

    What's the weather like in late May?

    tg

     
  10. Mike Jacobs

    Mike Jacobs New Member

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    We live in Lauderdale by the Sea and have driven the route probably 50x. I have not biked it although the MS-150 is doing the north leg (just north of Fla City to John Pennecamp State Park) in April and I'll be with them.

    Traffic is going to be a bear. Crazy bad, especially since they won't be finished with the roadwork by then. Drivers are FAST, impatient and often overtired by that point. And Memorial Day weekend there are a LOT of them. The only thing that may save you is that there could be so much traffic they can't speed (but watch it, they pass on the left OR right). Don't expect to ride at night, dusk or dawn for your own safety. Check with AAA or the Keys tourism authority to figure out which route - there are two - will be best for a bike and where the construction will be.

    This is just past our "shoulder season" and it is going to start getting very hot & humid about then. Mosquitos and no-see-ums will be alive and hungry (bring a tent with a no-see-um mesh, not just any mesh... check REI). I've grown to enjoy the Keys weather at that time, but when I first moved here from California I had a LOT of adjusting to do. I do, however, still have faded no-see-um scars on my ankles from 2005. It may be nice and balmy, or scorching. Wind is a toss-up but the last two years have been OK at that time.

    I'm not a big fan of the lower Keys; it is a long ride and drinking is the major sport (shopping is a very distant second though the women seem to enjoy it). The food isn't worth the trip, either, compared to some of the finds in the north. We do Key West once every 5 years, and only then when a visitor insists. I enjoy the small-town atmosphere for a few hours, but I don't know that I'd want to RIDE to it and back.

    I would STOP at Pennecamp campground for a basecamp and, if I wanted to do Key West (I would if I had never done it before) I'd take the bus or a shuttle. Stay a night. The water-bus may stop at Pennecamp and it if does the trip would be well worth it - great vistas and sealife along the way.

    Scuba and snorkeling are the main sports in the Pennecamp area though they have a big fishing fleet nearby and if you make arrangements some will pick you up. Be sure to make scuba or snorkel reservations in advance, and don't worry because all the operators are pretty good. We call the boats "cattle boats" because they can be crowded, but the area has the best snorkeling in the US - better than Key West. Scuba is even better and they rent everything. I don't recall any shore diving.

    Restaurants and bars in the vicinity are pretty good, at least as good as the lower Keys and more "local" give or take.

    You are going to have a *GREAT* time, but it will be an adventure for sure. The traffic scares me even with the MS-150 pack, and the sun will be your worst enemy. So, I hope you can take some time off the bike to get to know some of the locals and find some of the restaurants in the area that are far better than they appear - there are a lot of dropouts in the Keys who do some world class cooking. The Tiki-bars are the greatest, especially if its a live mic.

    Just consider skipping the KW ride and taking the shuttle or bus down for a couple of days instead.
     
  11. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    Okay, we trashed the Memorial Day weekend idea after a traffic reality check - too many people said it would be suicide, so we heeded their warnings and rescheduled. Now, the dates are May 10th - 16th - and we'll be flying into Key West and doing the route as an out-and-back to Key Largo over four days.

    Local bike shops vary in their endorsement of the ride, with some saying they 'do that ride all the time' and others telling grim tales of multiple flats and narrow shoulders - all are unanimous in not attempting it unless you are comfortable with traffic (I am) and an experienced road rider/tourer (I am). So, we're gonna do it.

    Expenses are already getting out of hand, though. The flight into Key West is about $450, bike rentals are about $160 a week, campgrounds and hostels are about $30 a night (x four = $120) so we've dropped over 7 bills before we ever touch ground. Not exactly a budget trip.

    Also, be advised! Bike rentals for anything other than clunky beach cruiser type bikes are VERY hard to find in Key West - and in the Keys in general. The shops there cater to the needs of their clientele, and those needs most definitely do not call for 'real' bikes or touring gear. That said, we found ONE guy with TWO suitable bikes, and that is it. And they're $160 a week, which is just about double what I paid for a suitable hybrid-style touring rig on a recent 9 day tour of Cape Cod. Supply and demand, people. By my next trip, I'll have my own touring rig, and I'll just ship it to the local bike shop for assembly - the cost will be similar to renting, and I'll have the comfort of my own bike. Anyway, if you are considering a tour of the Keys, consider shipping your own bike - it took me almost a week to track down and reserve suitable bikes for this trip!

    I'll keep you guys posted as the trip comes together, and afterwards I'll post a full report in the hopes of sharing 411 for people who might want to do this. There is almost NO information about this route online at present.


     
  12. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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  13. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    Yep, I checked that out, called them, printed the map and am using it to plan (loosely) where we'll be. Seems that they have a 'real' map coming out, but they don't know when.

    Thanks! I am super-stoked for this trip, and as usual I have already ordered maps for a couple of other tours I am looking at.

    It's gonna be fun!

    tg
     
  14. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    UPDATE: Leaving in two days!

    Bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker and after several rides, shipped it to the fine staff at Island Bicycles in Key West. They received all my gear, too, and are holding it until my arrival. The route will be Key West - Key Largo - Key West as an out and back, and we actually found flights with a roundtrip price tag (from Memphis) of $250! Not bad. Anyhow, we'll camp at Bahia Honda, Pennekamp, and Bahia Honda again, (nights 2, 3, and 4) and spend three nights (nights 1, 5 and 6) in a hotel in Key West. That breaks it into about four days on the bike averaging 50 miles per day (easy!) and three nights eating killer seafood and enjoying the islands.

    Should be incredible. I'll post again upon my return, and share some (hopefully) useful information. I have heard from dozens of people that, despite the traffic and the uh... 'unique' roadbed, it is one of the best bike rides in the Eastern U.S.

    we'll see, I am ready!

    tg


     
  15. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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  16. Mike Jacobs

    Mike Jacobs New Member

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    Oooo-Yeahhhh! That's "They Keys" we know and love all right. Love the album, thanks for posting. You did great. Makes me want to do the ride from the south-up too. I could technically just ride home to Lauderdale by the Sea.
     
  17. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    Thanks, Mike. Glad you liked the album! It was a great trip, and thanks for the 411 on Pennekamp. We ate at a restaurant right outside the park entrance called The Fish House - don't know if you are familiar with it or not, but on your next trip, check it out if you can.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Official Trip Report.... Now hear this!<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    I am unable to tell how clear our itinerary was through looking at the pictures in the link in the previous post, so I am posting details here as a reference for anyone who may entertain a similar trip. Basically, the trip went:

    Thursday: Arrive Key West about 3 p.m., pick up bikes, eat, beers, snooze
    Friday: Key West to Bahia Honda State Park, on Bahia Honda Key, which is only 37 miles, we managed to log 52 miles total that day with running errands in KW that morning and some side trips in the afternoon
    Saturday: Bahia Honda to Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, 63 miles, we logged 72 total that day
    Sunday: Pennekamp back to Bahia Honda, about 70 miles total
    Monday: Bahia Honda back to Key West, about 46 miles that day, total (including our extended bar-hopping 'victory lap' down Duval Street)
    Tuesday: Riding around in Key West, about 6 miles total, souvenier hunting, people watching and eating.
    Wednesday: Pack and ship gear and bikes, lunch on Duval St., Airport, Home by 9:00

    The bros at Island Bicycles in Key West were great, a very laid back bunch who does a great job. They keep the vibe chilly and the reggae going. They agreed to receive our bikes and gear four days before we got there, built up our bikes, stored our shipping cases for us while we toured, let us use some of their tools to break ourselves down and pack our bikes, for $50 each - which I thought was a fair deal - heck, the even served us up some killer chilled energy drinks while we worked! Contact Behr Goulet or Greg at Island Bikes in Key West. Eaton Bikes is also a good choice for local support, they hooked us up with a spare crank arm for my buddy's bike for $14 - I didn't even know they MADE $14 crank-arms...

    Besides some sections of temporary road construction in Key Largo (some pretty extended sections, maybe 10 miles or more) with no shoulder at all, the roads are darn near ideal, with relatively wide shoulders, especially on the bridges. The smallest shoulder we dealt with was over two feet, largest was about 10 feet, with the average being probably 4 feet of shoulder, and all relatively smooth.

    Due to my general distaste for spending a ton on hotel rooms, especially when I will never be in them, we took a chance on the "SeaShell Motel" in Key West for our lodging the first night in town and the two nights after the tour. $100 a night is as cheap as it gets in Key West (really... the next step up was like $180, then $260!!). The SeaShell is run by the International Youth Hostel group, and the Hostel is next door to the motel. Hostel beds are about $30 a night, so with two of us traveling together, it only costs us $20 extra per night to spring for the motel room. Having our own shower, our own air conditioning, and other normal hotel amenities like a TV and Fridge in the room, were definitely worth it. Reservations are kinda strange though, you have to FAX them your reservation request. I didn't even know they still MADE fax machines... ;-)

    By far, the best place to have a cold beer in Key West is Pepe's. It is a very small unassuming restaurant on Caroline Street (I think) - $1 draft Yuengling beers on tap, all day every day. Wow. In the land of $5 Bud Lights, Pepe's was a refreshing local bar. The food (and breakfasts!) are sinful, I sampled some freshly baked coconut-pinapple bread with homemade butter with my eggs... and now I can't stop thinking about it.

    We stuck to locals-type joints for most of our meals, asking along the way at bike shops where the 'real mccoy' breakfasts were, and were blown away by how many great spots there were all along the Keys.

    I can't say enough about it - obviously I am still on the post-tour-high - and I'd do it again next week if I could. I rank the Florida Keys as a great ride, and a great place to tour. The scenery, and the water are simply mind-blowing. Traffic was not that bad while we were there (mid-May), but I would only suggest the trip if you are comfortable with cars whizzing by your left-side handlebar from time to time. The wide shoulders make a lot of difference. Drivers were, contrary to may warnings, very civilized. We had only one jackass (or maybe a jackass-ette?) in a red Beemer give us the horn and middle-finger salute, which we graciously returned (look-ma-no-hands-style) with a smile.

    Plans are shaping up for late 2007 tour somewhere else, sometime this Fall. I'm getting a group together to do a section-ride of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi and Tennessee - maybe 300 miles over 4-5 days. The whole Trace Parkway is only 445 miles in length and runs from Natchez, MS. (on the MS. River) to Nashville, TN., but I can't find a way to fit that into a long weekend without needing medical assistance afterwards! :)

    2008 tours under consideration are: Outer Banks of North Carolina, from Cedar Island to Kitty Hawk and back - or Corpus Christi/Padre Island, TX. and back (not South Padre) - or Portand, ME. to Rockland, ME. and back, via Boothbay Harbor. Surprisingly, all three destinations fit my criteria of a $300 r/t plane fare from Memphis, good bike shops, and great oceanfront camping. Dang, I can't wait.




     
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