Picking up our road Glide in Tampa
As I lay in bed on, Sunday morning, nursing my burnt lip, aching bones and blackened eyes, the realisation of the sheer immensity of what we had taken on hit me like a ton of bricks.
ready for the off
We were back at Steph’s house, on the Golf Course in Venice, Florida, after our dry run down to the Keys and back. Two things had become apparent to us on this run; firstly, that we were spending far far too much, our $100/day budget was being demolished on a regular basis, we were spending more than twice that on most days, but quite often even more than that!
The second worry was that we were severely overloaded and highly un-organised in our packing. Each evening we were trying to leave as much stuff on the bike so as to avoid having to re-pack each morning, but after having to search for clean underwear, getting the wash bags out, then delving deeper for one of my spare lighters after loosing yet another one somewhere on the road, then retrieving the computer, cables and plugs, all the luggage would be strewn across the floor of out temporary accommodations, ready to be re-packed in a hurry once again the next morning.
Two other factors were really not aiding us on this journey. The exchange rate was one of the ultimate evils. During our “planning” stage, the rate was a little over $2 to £1, now we were on an all time low of $1.4 to £1, meaning everything was about 35% more expensive, and because of the time of year we had chosen, the days were short. Sunset was at 5.30pm, we were rarely out the hotel/motel/holiday inn before 11, add in a a lunch stop along the way and a couple of gas fills, and we were on the road for about 3 hours a day.
Nevertheless, we had already covered over 1,000 miles, even though we were now back where we started! And that’s not counting the up and down through Florida we had done during our search for the bike which would be our companion through the Americas, which saw us covering the Northern half of Florida several times.
We had stayed in 5* resorts in Orlando, budget hotels, Motels, Holiday Inns, flea pits and even a stationary motor home in Key Largo, which, although looking extremely cool , and in an idyllic location right on the shore, gave us our most sleepless nights due to the world’s loudest bin men emptying the skips from the neighbouring restaurant at 5am fro half an hour, followed by the grounds man using what sounded like a Harley powered leaf blower at 8am before the sun came bursting through our net curtains at around 9.
Miami had been our most expensive stop, with Jacquie falling for the charms of an talented Israeli jeans salesman in South beach and succumbing to a couple of new pairs of leopard skin- pocketed jeans, and us both being stung for an expensive and internally unappealing art deco hotel (The Parisienne), before finding a much more “rock star” style hotel slightly further away from South Beach called the Circa 39, built, surprisingly enough, circa 1939 by the Hudson property company.
We took a fantastic airboat tour through the Everglades, and had a couple of close encounters with marsh-mellow friendly alligators on our way down to Miami,. After our brief but expensive sojourn in South Beach, we headed south for Key West, stopping off at “Where is Robert” famed for its delicious milkshakes, before continuing over the many bridges that led down to Key West.
The sun shone brightly and the ride, with water on either side of us over 7 Mile Bridge, past the Honda National Park and beyond was glorious, up until the final approach to Key West where the traffic slowed to a painful 35mph, and we got stuck behind a UPS van as the sun went down and the view tipped away into darkness, with nothing but the rear doors and the red lights of the UPS van to lead us into the Southernmost landmass of continental USA.
We arrived in Key West utterly exhausted, wanting nothing but to lie in a hot bath and soak away the long ride of the day. We pulled up to the guest house that we had booked from Venice, and sat and listened to the owner about all the wonderfully quirky goings on that Key West is known for, from the re-enactment of the “war” when the mayor of Key West declared Key West an independent state from the rest of America, before surrendering the very next day and then demanding millions of dollars of aid from the US government, to the annual Key West “drag races” where the man would dress as women and race over obstacle courses to the bed races and more, before recommending almost every bar, restaurant and club on the island….we finally got sent off to our cottage, the beautiful, pink “Olivia by Duval” where we took a depressingly weak shower before walking along Duval, watching a “Sexy Bull-Riding” competition in a Western Bar , chatting to an extremely over made up Drag Queen performing in Cabaret in 801, and then heading off (early)to bed.
The following day we sampled the beaches of Key West before heading off to do the local (ie extremely Touristy) thing of watching the sunset at Mallory Square. This was very much like Covent Garden by the sea, with jugglers juggling, painters painting, and buskers busking, while the tourists watched the sunset-needless to say with 5 minutes before the sun set , the clouds appeared an provided us with a rather dismal , and crowded , sunset.
We walked back up Duval, tried to find (without success) a reasonably priced eatery, and then headed back to our quaint, but rather chilly cottage for another early night.
our cottage in Key West
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