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  1. #1
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Florida Keys and Everglades Trip Planning

    Looking for a bit of local knowledge from anyone who has toured the Keys and Everglades. Planning a 4-day trip in a couple weeks starting in Naples, FL, with some flexibility. The only paid reservation I have is at John Pennekamp SP in Key Largo for the mid-point of the trip. Curry Hammock SP in Marathon said they take ride-in cyclists without a paid reservation, which is great. And Midway Campground in the Everglades appears to have plenty of room and is not expected to be full.

    I'm thinking that my route will depend somewhat on any significant wind that would either hurt or help. I'm looking at the following 3 route options:

    1. clockwise loop: Naples-Midway Campground NP-Pennekamp SP-Curry Hammock SP-Key West-ferry to Ft. Myers-Naples
    2. reverse counter-clockwise loop, or
    3. out and back: Naples-Ft. Myers-ferry to Key West-Curry Hammock SP-Pennekamp SP-Curry Hammock SP-Key West-ferry to Ft. Myers-Naples

    Here are my questions:

    The out and back route would be entirely in the Keys, which would be nice, but I also hear the Everglades are interesting to ride through. Any opinions?

    Would you use 700x28 or 700x40 tires based on the condition of the roads and paths?

    Is there anything specific I should plan to do or see, other than the typical well-known tourist stuff? (thinking "hidden gems")

    Would you bother bringing a sleeping bag, or just a silk liner/clothes to stay warm, assuming the temperatures are in the normal seasonal range? I will have a tent. This is my first attempt at sort of UL touring, so leaving the sleeping bag behind would free up lots of space.

    Appreciate any other thoughts or suggestions you have.

  2. #2
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    Zip up your tent, re, alligators and snakes.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    I have been in the Everglades many times during the year and in December it can be balmy, but it can be very very cold, so I'd watch your weather and bring the appropriate bag. You can always unzip if you get warm. January and February can be downright cold (much due to the high humidity that remains even after a cold front moves through).

    As far as the Tamiami Trail it is essentially a straight line of about 100 miles from Naples to "civilization" west of Miami with not much at all in between. Let me repeat that - NOT MUCH AT ALL IN BETWEEN! There is not a significant amount of room to ride, but not too bad (about 3 feet outside the line). The traffic can be light, but very fast. I like it best early in the morning, as there seems to be more animal (reptile?) activity then, and traffic is lighter. Weekdays are best for lighter traffic. Because the motorists are not expecting cyclist and because they are also not experiencing much (maybe two slight turns in 100 miles) they can be in a trance - so bright clothing is a must in my opinion.

    I like 40s (tires) for many conditions, but generally speaking the roads are smooth (including the Keys). I would actually use a 35 over 28s or 40s though. If you want to do some dirt road riding (hard packed) message me and I'll give you the details of the route through part of the EGs.

    Depending on your milage and direction, the Collier-Seminole SP is nice, wooded, and not too far from Naples. Look to get reservations though, as Christmas vacation time can be busy.

    When are you going?

    And yes to planning around the wind. There are no wind blocks in the EGs, and most of the Keys.

    I'd make sure to stop at Clyde Butcher's gallery (Big Cypress Gallery). Worth a trip from hundreds of miles away, so if you are riding right in front - for sure!
    Last edited by Ridefreemc; 12-04-15 at 02:15 PM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Teamdarb's Avatar
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    Hey, I'm a DC native too. I'm currently down here in Melbourne since January. I've ridden the loop numerous times over years of touring. My preference for this time of year is to take the ferry and ride North. But I also prefer to detour to Flamingo. The wind this year has been going in terrible directions. Usually it's blowing out of the south. This week and last is been coming from the northeast. This is causing some crazy storms between noon and 2pm, also from 1am to about 3am. If you wanna go light, it's balmy and warm through to February. I say shower curtain, netting, silk sheet or hammock. The bugs aren't so bad with these 20 mile wind blowing about. When will you be heading down? I'd be up to show you some detours. I prefer wide tires, especially with the drifty sand that's gets blown around onto the roads.

  5. #5
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    I'll be riding from 12/20 to 12/23. I managed to fit the 2 person tent and sleeping bag in the front drybag using Sea to Summit compression bags. The weather forecast will be my guide as to the route and the necessity for a sleeping bag. Here is my version of UL touring. Everything fits on the bike without using a backpack. Funny you mention alligators, because Midway Campground apparently has two resident alligators in the lake next to the sites, but they're not supposed to be dangerous.


  6. #6
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Nice setup. I like how the rear fender stays allow you to avoid the disk brake. No need for weird bends to get around them.

    That time of the year should give you some nice weather, often dry for long periods of time. As you say, watch the fronts that come through for wind and temperatures. Unusual to get too cold that time of year though. There will be a pretty full camp at Collier-Seminole that time of year, but you can still make reservations (although often the website will show full, but there are sites available when you show up).

    Not sure which way you want to go when you get in the Keys, but Card Sound Road is a less travelled road vs, US1. It is more miles, but a nicer ride too. I've never done the ferry/cat trip back to Naples, but a close friend has and liked it. Great way to do a one way bike trip. Another trick I use (it was to do a kayak paddle from Goodland to Everglades City) is getting the airport limo to pick me up at EC and drop me off in Goodland where I left my kayaks. You might use it to get out of Naples and get a head start. Depends on how much room they have in the vehicle of course.

    BTW - All alligators are dangerous. Some of the worst ones are the ones that are not afraid of humans (because they have been habituated to being fed by humans). I had a very close call with one while boating/camping in the EGs. Could have lost a body part had a few things gone just a little different. I'm not saying they come and raid your tent, but just that they cannot be trusted.
    Last edited by Ridefreemc; 12-06-15 at 02:57 AM.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    Nice setup. I like how the rear fender stays allow you to avoid the disk brake. No need for weird bends to get around them.

    That time of the year should give you some nice weather, often dry for long periods of time. As you say, watch the fronts that come through for wind and temperatures. Unusual to get too cold that time of year though. There will be a pretty full camp at Collier-Seminole that time of year, but you can still make reservations (although often the website will show full, but there are sites available when you show up).

    Not sure which way you want to go when you get in the Keys, but Card Sound Road is a less travelled road vs, US1. It is more miles, but a nicer ride too. I've never done the ferry/cat trip back to Naples, but a close friend has and liked it. Great way to do a one way bike trip. Another trick I use (it was to do a kayak paddle from Goodland to Everglades City) is getting the airport limo to pick me up at EC and drop me off in Goodland where I left my kayaks. You might use it to get out of Naples and get a head start. Depends on how much room they have in the vehicle of course.

    BTW - All alligators are dangerous. Some of the worst ones are the ones that are not afraid of humans (because they have been habituated to being fed by humans). I had a very close call with one while boating/camping in the EGs. Could have lost a body part had a few things gone just a little different. I'm not saying they come and raid your tent, but just that they cannot be trusted.
    Collier Seminole looks nice, but is too close to Naples for the time I have. No doubt all alligators are dangerous, and I wouldn't set up camp near them, but as long as they don't venture out of the water, it shouldn't be a problem. Believe me, if I stay there, I will set up my tent as far away as possible. Definitely plan to ride Card Sound Road if the legs will allow for the extra miles.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    Collier Seminole looks nice, but is too close to Naples for the time I have. No doubt all alligators are dangerous, and I wouldn't set up camp near them, but as long as they don't venture out of the water, it shouldn't be a problem. Believe me, if I stay there, I will set up my tent as far away as possible. Definitely plan to ride Card Sound Road if the legs will allow for the extra miles.
    I figured that C-S camp would be about 30 miles from Naples, and too close.

    Enjoy, and let me know if I can offer any more help. It will be a nice ride. The color of the water in the Keys is amazing.
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  9. #9
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    The road out to Key West was full of jetsam (broken glass and such) and I ended up having several flats on my 700x32c tires which were "old formula" Supremes. I'll be sure to go with tough tires if I was to do it again.

    bikegpx.us for free touring map routes & gpx files

  10. #10
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    I'm not a sensationalist, but:

    Suspected Burglar Killed By Alligator While Hiding From Police In A Pond

    So no hiding in ponds while on the tour!
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  11. #11
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    I'm not a sensationalist, but:

    Suspected Burglar Killed By Alligator While Hiding From Police In A Pond

    So no hiding in ponds while on the tour!
    Definitely leaning toward the out and back route (Key West to Key Largo and back), avoiding the Everglades completely. Not because of the alligators, but the endless straight highway running through what really amounts to a large swamp. Of course, there is interesting wildlife and stuff, but two days in the Keys versus two days in the Everglades almost seems like a no brainer.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    Definitely leaning toward the out and back route (Key West to Key Largo and back), avoiding the Everglades completely. Not because of the alligators, but the endless straight highway running through what really amounts to a large swamp. Of course, there is interesting wildlife and stuff, but two days in the Keys versus two days in the Everglades almost seems like a no brainer.
    I would agree with you on the Everglades. The Everglades are awesome, but in my opinion not where US41 travels. I spend my time between Goodland and Flamingo, but by boat - not bike. I still like the offroad section I was alluding to, but that is only 26 miles of the 100 or so across. Also, it is a lot more than 100 to get from Naples to the start of the Keys (maybe 140??) and the trip south through to Homestead ain't the greatest either.

    Now you are getting me excited about getting back to the Keys!

    Make sure you stop at:

    Mrs. Mac's Kitchen | American Seafood Restaurant | Key Largo, FL 33037

    You will not regret it (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). There is a cool place to stay just north of that if you need lodging for reasonable price (I negotiated $68 a few years ago during Thanksgiving time):

    baycovemotel.com

    Where I go to get away:

    On the move!
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  13. #13
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    Food! That's all I'm going to be thinking about now.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    Food! That's all I'm going to be thinking about now.
    Family owned and run. Great local food. Make sure you bring a big appetite (ha, not hard to do while touring) and look for the Key Lime shake. BTW - the motel I mentioned gave me a voucher for one! The motel has separate bungalows and a cool outdoor area (under a huge Chikee) for hanging out (and you can walk to Mac's). There is a campground a little further north, but mostly RV's - maybe tents?
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  15. #15
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    Family owned and run. Great local food. Make sure you bring a big appetite (ha, not hard to do while touring) and look for the Key Lime shake. BTW - the motel I mentioned gave me a voucher for one! The motel has separate bungalows and a cool outdoor area (under a huge Chikee) for hanging out (and you can walk to Mac's). There is a campground a little further north, but mostly RV's - maybe tents?
    I have a reservation at John Pennekamp SP in Key Largo, so I'll probably be camping with the RVs. I expect to get some strange stares and questions about my survival skills, carrying so little. I just hope the other "campers" are reasonably quiet, but if not, ear plugs will do the trick.

  16. #16
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    Just finished the book "Miles from nowhere" where the author talks about how bad the people treated bicyclist in Florida back in the 70s. I'm just wondering if things have changed?

  17. #17
    Senior Member Teamdarb's Avatar
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    Tent and sleeping bag are separated, right?

  18. #18
    Bicyclerider4life
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    When in the Keys, use the bike path, when it exists. Be aware that it changes from ocean side to bay side a few times, and in some locations, Marathon, for instance, it uses the sidewalk.
    Where the path does not exist yet, and you have to ride on US1, forget the "ride with traffic" mentality. Ride against traffic. It is MUCH easier to avoid the blind speeding morons that you can see ahead of you than the blind speeding morons coming up BEHIND you. Do NOT ride in the travel lanes across the bridges unless there is no other option (the 7 mile bridge, for example, has no other option) When using the pedestrian "path" across the bridges, watch for discarded fishing hooks/lures, occupied tents, fisherpersons (especially when they are casting) and so on.
    I lived near mile marker 66, in Long Key. I've ridden my bike from the Florida City Walmart (roughly MM 129) to MM 0 in Key West several times. Trust me. Use the bike paths when you can, and ride against traffic. It is much safer that way.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bicyclridr4life View Post
    When in the Keys, use the bike path, when it exists. Be aware that it changes from ocean side to bay side a few times, and in some locations, Marathon, for instance, it uses the sidewalk.
    Where the path does not exist yet, and you have to ride on US1, forget the "ride with traffic" mentality. Ride against traffic. It is MUCH easier to avoid the blind speeding morons that you can see ahead of you than the blind speeding morons coming up BEHIND you. Do NOT ride in the travel lanes across the bridges unless there is no other option (the 7 mile bridge, for example, has no other option) When using the pedestrian "path" across the bridges, watch for discarded fishing hooks/lures, occupied tents, fisherpersons (especially when they are casting) and so on.
    I lived near mile marker 66, in Long Key. I've ridden my bike from the Florida City Walmart (roughly MM 129) to MM 0 in Key West several times. Trust me. Use the bike paths when you can, and ride against traffic. It is much safer that way.
    All good advice but I have to say a big no on riding against traffic. Not only illegal, but very dangerous. Oncoming traffic has significantly less time to see you and if you are hit add your speed to the speed of the auto (plus the fact that you are decelerating on impact rather than accelerating with traffic). All this is for another sub forum though - sorry.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    All good advice but I have to say a big no on riding against traffic. Not only illegal, but very dangerous. Oncoming traffic has significantly less time to see you and if you are hit add your speed to the speed of the auto (plus the fact that you are decelerating on impact rather than accelerating with traffic). All this is for another sub forum though - sorry.
    I'm with you on that. I never ride against traffic. Also, the wind from passing cars helps, rather hurts. Just checked the forecast, and it looks like 20-30 mph headwinds for the first day. Glad I have a somewhat aero set up, but that's going to be tough, especially on the bridges.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    I'm with you on that. I never ride against traffic. Also, the wind from passing cars helps, rather hurts. Just checked the forecast, and it looks like 20-30 mph headwinds for the first day. Glad I have a somewhat aero set up, but that's going to be tough, especially on the bridges.
    I figured you knew better, but the other poster....

    Can't tell you how many times i have had strong winds in the Keys, probable 9 out of 10 times (going there since the early 70s). I actually turned around (was on my BMW) on trip after a gust shifted me from one lane to the next in Miami. Decided that the 7 mike bridge wasn't the place for me on that big motorcycle. At least with a bike you can walk if you must. However, that 7 Mile Bridge is such a beautiful trip it is hard to pass up.

    BTW - another place we used to camp is the Fiesta Key KOA. Cool marina and nice place. Its been a long time since I camped there, but I stopped in a few years ago and it was clean and nice.

    Also, go to Sailflow for the best wind forecasts.Map Results | Wind, Forecast, Radar, Weather & More | SailFlow Play with the site and you'll find some really good charts (they are not apparent).
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    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Had a great 4-day trip in the Keys last week. Thanks to all who chimed in with helpful suggestions. There were a few challenges, including 4 flat tires (all rear from bits of wire), some short downpours (including one in the middle of a bridge while fixing a flat), and strong headwinds for the first two days.

    Rode from Naples to Ft. Myers to catch the 8:30 ferry to Key West, and ended up at Bahia Honda SP at Mile 37 on Day 1, after confirming in the morning that space was available, and knowing my originally intended goal of Curry Hammock SP at Mile 56 was out of reach with the limited daylight and strong easterly winds. Day 2 took me to John Pennekamp SP at Mile 103 with more strong headwinds. Day 3 was a downwind run back to Curry Hammock SP at Mile 56, then to Key West and back to the ferry for the final day.

    Here are some photos.

    Ferry to Key West moving at 40 mph. Bike and gear got a little salty.


    The old bridge at Bahia Honda SP. Had a really nice campsite in the trees next to the beach.


    On top of the dreaded Seven Mile Bridge. Winds were blowing at 25-30 mph, making for a slow crossing.


    Made it to John Pennekamp SP, which was a little buggy and filled with enormous RVs.


    More to follow.

  23. #23
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    Late to the discussion, but I did the ride down to the Keys twice when I first got into touring a number of years ago.Thanks for the photos...

  24. #24
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    A few more photos heading back to Key West:

    The Long Key bridge. Nice rest stop, just before getting a flat and then a downpour. The old bridge was converted into a fishing/pedestrian/bike bridge.




    The huge RV site at Curry Hammock SP. Really nice spot, but you could easily fit ten tents in the space.




    The beach at Curry Hammock. Aside from the copious amounts of seaweed, which is left there intentionally, it is perfect, even with a grassy area.



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    Just curious why you took the ferry out of Ft. Myers, opposed to the ferry out of Marco Island to get to Key West?

    Appears Marco is closer to Naples than Ft. Myers.

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