Day 7 – Jupiter to Vero Beach, FL

Last night was probably the worst I’ve slept yet. My thin sleeping pad and the rocky campsite are to blame. I cannot sleep on my back in one position all night. Once that becomes a thing, I’ve died. I like to sleep on my side or stomach and this pad, while lightweight and packs on my bike great, was not my best purchase. It’s called the Therm-a-rest lite Sol Sleeping Pad. I can only recommend it if you sleep on your back.

A look inside my spacious tent

Got up out of the tent early, ate, pooped, and packed and set off on a sprint to Vero. It was a race against the clock as I was trying to make it to Rio Coco Cafe in downtown Vero before they close at 2pm.

Every time I get to my campsite, one of the first things I do after setting up is take a shower and wash today’s outfit in either the shower or bathroom sink. Then I create a clothes line with my bungee cords, and hang them up to dry.

Last night, however, it didn’t rain, but everything was just as wet as when I had washed them. So today I had my undies and socks tied to my front rack, and the rest hanging off the back to let dry while I zoomed off to Vero.

Riding out of Jonathan Dickinson State Park with my laundry hanging off the back

Rio Coco is a super cool coffee shop and cafe because they import, roast and sell coffee beans and coffee drinks, but the profit goes to project Ezra which is to sponsor kids in a primary school that they helped start in Nicaragua in 1986 that began as part of a missions trip.

My sister, Ali, and brother-in-law, David, have worked at this shop a couple times as well as their cafe in Honduras (which I visited a couple years back as well). Ali gave me a gift card to the cafe last night and said, “go crazy, it’s got $100 on it!”.

At the Rio Cafe in downtown Vero

Needless to say I made it and ordered almost $50 worth of goodies.

Tonight, I am staying with a couple, Allie and Paul, who are friends with Ali and David. So a free stay and a bed tonight! Also, they said they are inviting people over for game night so it should be a good stay!

Stats:

  • 55.59 miles
  • 5 hours 20 mintues

Accommodation:

  • Jonathan Dickinson State Park
  • Free friend’s house!

Breweries:

Day 5 – Miami Beach to Boca Raton, FL

This was the first night that I slept like a baby. It probably had to do with the fact that, while all my other hostel dorm mates were out partying, I froze our room. I could hear some of them playing with the AC unit once they came back hours later, but it was too late. It was cold in that room and I loved it.

Filled up on a free breakfast at the hostel and left just after 9am. I rode along the beach path where I got all sorts of funny looks from beach goers, runners, and other cyclists.

I got caught twice on this path. First, the path ended and construction started and I found myself dragging my bike through the sand for about 300 yards. Doesn’t sound that terrible but my bike weighed a whole lot more when it doesn’t roll correctly.

After I got through the sand, I hit a wall of rain. This was only 7 miles into my day. At this point there were only private, locked pathways on my left and the beach on my right. I raced forward while getting slapped in the face by large rain drops for the next place to take cover. Didn’t feel like getting anymore soaked than I was so I just hung out there for about 45 minutes and waited until it mostly cleared.

The rest of the day just felt really long. I went off the trail in search for a brewery and found 3 Sons Brewing. I thought that was funny because I love 3 daughters brewing in St Petersburg. They did not disappoint either. Some very tasty sours and IPAs were gulped down. At this brewery, I met a couple that had been to over 450 breweries. They are retired and just travel the states and go to breweries! My dream!

Invasive Species Brewing Co

The bartender recommended me to visit Invasive Species Brewing about 6 miles up the road. Once I got there, I put my phone on the charger and lost track of time. Once I checked it, I realized that I had just under 1.5 hours to bike 13 miles before the check in to my campsite closed.

My tent for the night

I booked it! I made it just in time, but exhausted and annoyed. Going back to how the day was long, it was both drawn out with multiple stops, but also riding right after the rain was not ideal. I had no bike path, shoulder or bike lane, so I had to choose either sharing the road with cars or constantly bumping up and down on the sidewalk.

That makes for a long and tiresome ride no matter which one you choose.

Day 6 – Boca Raton to Jupiter, FL

Set off on a beautiful day to Jonathan Dickinson State Park just north of Jupiter, FL. I hugged the coast as far north as I could and just sat back and admired the huge beautiful homes and yachts. I saw whole teams of lawn care workers for these fancy yards and realized that service for these houses is probably as much as I pay rent for my apartment or even more! Most of my ride was spent counting Bentley’s and finding my future style of a home.

Today I learned that what’s better than cold water or cold beer after a long hot bike ride is a giant chocolate milkshake. I sat so content in that Chick-fil-A for a good 20 minutes after I had finished.

Biked on another 10 miles and found myself thirsty again, but this time for beer! I ended up at Tequesta Brewing and while it was good, that milkshake was so much better.

At Jonathan Dickinson State Park, I entered and talked to the ranger about my campsite. She handed me a map and said something like point 4 miles down the road. So I head down the road, turn left and don’t see my site number. I pull out the map and realized I needed to take a right instead. After turning around, I was on the right road but just kept going and going. I realize now that the ranger had said 4 whole miles not a fraction of a mile. All I wanted so to get off the bike and take a shower!

Set up camp and a lovely couple next to me made me dinner which was delicious and better than anything I’ve made myself this trip. While cooking my own food, he brought over the plate of food for me, so I ate my terrible noodles after and now I feel fat and happy and ready for bed after the two dinners.

Meal from fellow campers!

Off to Vero Beach tomorrow!

Stats:

  • Day 5 – 43.86 miles in 4 hours 14 minutes
  • Day 6 – 60.09 miles in 5 hours 51 minutes

Accommodations:

  • Rock Hostel
  • Quiet waters park
  • Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Breweries:

What I learned biking through the Keys.

My first time being in the Florida Keys was for the start of my East Coast, Key West to Canada, bike tour. It is a beautiful place and definitely would like to go back and enjoy more of it!

While there is plenty to see and do in the 100+ miles and various different keys, biking is a great activity there. In Key West especially, you will see tons of people out on bicycles. For both avid cyclers and once a year cruisers, the keys are a great place to pedal around.

For those wanting to get some distance on their wheels, there are multiple things you want to be aware of and prepared for before setting off.

Start of my bike path (US 1) for over a hundred miles.

Plan ahead

There is a lot of different ways I could go with those two words, but what I mean by them is in terms of how many miles are you riding each day, and where are you staying. Unless you are okay with paying hundreds for hotels and resorts, you’ll want to plan ahead and make your reservation!

I am not much of a planner, for instance I booked a one way flight to Colombia just 2 weeks before leaving and a one way back from Peru for 6 weeks later with only my first hostel booked. There is something about being flexible that makes travel all the more exciting. So having to plan ahead was difficult for me.

For the Keys and this bike ride I kind of planned ahead to the best of my doing. I had planned, but not booked my campsites until a couple days before and it bit me in the butt on my third nights stay. I wasn’t able to get into the campsite in Marathon, FL at Curry Hammock State Park as they were fully booked so I had to pay $100 for a hotel room since there was not another campsite for another 30 or more miles.

Making dinner at my Camp site in Key Largo

It is also smart to plan ahead with how many miles you will be able and willing to do a day so you know around which Key to find a campsite as not all Keys have places to camp unless you are really good at stealth camping.

Bring Sunscreen!

I live in Florida, and Florida only has one season: summer. The Keys especially, most of the year is going to be sunny and warm so bring your sunscreen! I learned the hard way on day one. While I started the bike ride off with sunscreen, I quickly sweat it off and went to sleep burnt and afraid to get back in the sun the next day.

With the hot weather and the high UV indexes, you’re going to be sweating and you’re going to need to reapply possibly multiple times each day.

Along the route, there are multiple mile stretches with no shade, so keep oozing that bottle and drinking plenty of water as well.

7 mile bridge, Florida Keys

Don’t always trust the bike path

While there are some real nice bike paths so you don’t have to ride on the shoulder of the road, there are also some bumpy, torn up, and dead end paths as well. I got caught a few times on what looked like a great off the road path only to find out a half mile later it’s all torn up. While it’s usually easy to hop back onto the road, it throws off your speed and energy and can frustrate you.

There are also a handful of walking/biking bridges that are either completely closed or closed halfway. Not all can you tell from the start of the bridge. I was again caught on one bridge having to turn around and hop on the shoulder to get across the bridge.

If you are starting in Key West, you’ll have to drive over all those bridges before hand, so keep an eye on the bike paths along the way and keep tabs on which bridges are closed so you don’t have to guess wrong.

Island squirrel

Watch where you’re going

You’re going to have to ride along the shoulder of the road many times if you plan to ride through all the Keys. You’re also going to want to enjoy the scenery and take in the salty breeze. Unfortunately the chances of you getting a flat tire rise the more your head is raised looking around.

I found that I had to be aware what was on the ground in front of me more than I would have liked. The shoulder of the road is littered with nails, screws, scissors, and all sorts of objects sitting waiting for a tire to pop.

Make sure to keep you’re head on a rocker so you’re not on the side of the road in the sweltering heat trying to change a flat tire.

Also, if you’re on a bike path watch out for those island squirrels as they are super quick and will dart in front of you and lunge themselves into the brush to get away from you. Usually they are pretty good at seeing you come and you can just laugh at how quickly and ungracefully throw themselves over bushes or through fences.

Sunset in Key Largo

Take you’re time

This one doesn’t really fit the topic, but I think it’s important to mention. If you’re doing this ride for fun, the last thing you want to do is just ride, eat, and sleep. There is so much beauty along the Keys and being able to spend time off the bike relaxing will make you’re rides even better.

So at the end of the day, if you got your place of stay booked, you’re not burnt, you didn’t have to change a flat tire or turn around due to a closed bridge, and you have time and energy to relax and enjoy the area you just rode to, then that’s a great riding day in the Keys.

Let me know in the comments below if you would add anything or if you have any questions about biking through the Florida Keys!