We made it to the Gulf Coast in time for sunset. It has been an action packed day. We actually bicycled today. Our first time for 2018. I know that that is pathetic, but it is what it is. We traversed the Florida peninsula, while skimming the top of the Everglades. We ducked down into the park at Shark Valley. The park was open on day two of the government shutdown, but there were no park service employees to be seen. Fortunately, the concessionaire there was up and running. Their store was open and more importantly, their bathrooms were open too. The tram ride was running and they were renting bicycles. We rent two and then it was off to the races. We set a blistering pace on our fat tired, coaster braked beach cruisers. It took us an hour to ride the first mile. Let’s just say that it was a target rich environment. We made the next six in two hours, but we set such a blistering pace that we did the last eight in 45 minutes. That last part may not sound like much, but we had a headwind and it was uphill too. Younger riders complemented us on our passing speed. It was 81 ºF when we finished.
We communed with nature. The government shutdown, didn’t slow us down a bit. In fact, it probably helped to keep the crowds away. There were the two minor inconveniences of having most of the bathrooms locked and not having a brochure, but we overcame both of these challenges. We saw lots of birds, including many species that we had not seen before, but like most of the other tourists we were fascinated by the alligators. At least the pictured one was moving, the rest could have been stuffed as far as I could tell. We entered the park from Homestead and traveled the main road all the way to the sea at Flamingo. We stopped at most of the turnouts, did many of the short hikes that were available and left the park after sundown. It was glorious!
Like the sun did last month, during winter solstice, we turned north again, but not without some leisurely lingering in Key West. First up was breakfast at Pepe’s, an establishment since 1909. Then we hit the old custom-house, the local history and art museum. It is there that I saw the above watercolor. A WPA art work, it humorously captures some of the issues with family road life.
After leaving Key West, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park. Like many of the south Florida state parks, this one was open, but with reduced facilities, due to storm damage from Hurricane Irma. We made it to Florida City, which is just south of Homestead and is west of Miami. We had been fretting the threatened government shutdown, because in the past, these shutdowns close all of the national parks, but for this one that will not happen. Bring on the gators!