Today we learned for sure that just because the riding is flat, it does NOT mean it's easy! We rode through lots of agricultural areas and that was great! We saw nurseries, hundreds of acres of field crops, like peppers, squash, and eggplant, orange groves, palm tree farms and so on.
We started out riding on quiet, residential streets that led into farmland where the road became dirt road with lots of holes. Jim must have felt right at home, plus his bike has suspension, so he took right off and left me in his dust.
Getting ready to ride
And off he goes down a dirt road!
When we got back out to a paved road, he was so far ahead of me, it took me the better part of 10 minutes to catch up to him!
However, we had to turn off of the paved road again onto another dirt road but the intersection had a huge mud puddle at it. Cocky Jim went right through the middle of it instead of skirting the edge. He ALMOST made it through, but with about 2 feet to go he hit a hidden hole and went over, landing flat in the muddy puddle!
Shortly thereafter was our first water stop, but Jim said he'd already had one!
From there we turned onto a canal path, the first of several. And these canal paths make our canal path at home look like a freshly paved, smooth as glass road! First we encountered stone like this.
And mixed in was coral bedrock like this
VERY brain-rattling for about 15 miles! We did see an alligator in the canal, which was pretty cool, but he dove under before I could get a picture of him.
We left the canal side and got to ride on regular pavement again for a bit to go to Everglades National Park, where we had lunch.
It was really good to sit and let our brains settle again for a bit. And on the way down the road to the park, there was a panther crossing sign! I didn't get a picture of it but took a picture of this statue in the park to remember it by.
After lunch we headed back to the canal. The sun was shining all day, most of the ride had no shade, and the temperature had soared to 82°! We had more of the rough canal path we had experienced before and then it turned into this!
I didn't catch it in this picture, but not only was it deep, thick, big rocks, but it was strewn with glass, and trash, and shotgun shell casings! We got off our bikes and walked a bit. Jim was getting really beaten by all of this! I thought for sure I had really killed him this time!
We found a tree with a little shade and rested for a bit next to some farm fields. Then we headed off down the edge of the farm lane as that was easier riding than the canal stones.
We figured we had already ridden about 20 miles on the rocks and such and then there was probably another 8 or 10 miles in the thick grass! By the time we reached the afternoon water stop, everyone was beat! Now the actual official route was to take us another 2 miles on grass along the canal and then back onto roads, but many of us opted to hop on roads for the rest of the ride instead. (Some people had even opted out of the whole rest of the ride following lunch!). We had a much smoother ride on the road but the sun was still beating on us so we had to stop frequently to rest.
The good news is that our new alternate route took us by an incredible fruit stand, called "Robert is Here!" They are famous for all the fruit they sell, but most importantly for us, also for their fresh fruit milkshakes!
I had peaches and cream
And Jim had key lime, which is the flavor they are most famous for.
From there it was just a short distance back to camp, a long, cold shower, and good friends to commiserate with! Tonight's dinner was a great buffet at a restaurant next to the campground.
Tomorrow will be our last day of the cycling tour and only about 18 miles, which will be a piece of cake after today's 40 hard miles!