Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"The Agony and the Ecstasy" - Everglades Bike Trip

Dianne here -- Nobody can say I'm not a good sport! I'll let Roger describe our day bicycling in the Everglades.

Roger here.... I don't know how I did it, but I convinced Dianne to ride 15 miles on rented bicycles, weaving between scores of alligators, along the Shark Valley bike path at the Everglades National Park. We could have taken a tram, but I think that Dianne sensed that I really wanted to do the bicycle thing. (She must have wanted to as well or she would never have agreed to do it). Our first, and last, bicycle outing (except for a very short one with our friends Chuck and Cindy) was on our honeymoon on Martha's Vineyard. That particular trip lasted about twenty minutes: too much wind, too hard to pedal, fear of falling off the bike, wouldn't you really rather do something else?! Dianne was great on this trip, only one whine per mile (15 total) with only one mishap near the start when she forgot to brake and ran into another biker, fell off the bike, and scraped her knee (see photo).

But not enough to turn back! I was actually very proud of her. That was the agony part.

The ecstasy part hit us on several different levels. The day was perfect, mid 70's. No mosquitoes. The paved trail was perfectly flat. The wind was at our back for at least half the three-hour trip (Dianne may disagree). Dianne was having such a good time, despite the bicycle phobia, that she insisted on stopping to take a picture of alligator poop.

The wildlife was magnificent.....

I could not believe the variety and the quantity of animals. The alligator/bird/turtle views were nearly constant. (short note from Dianne: We looked up the turtle when we got home. It appears to be a common cooter.

All I know is it was BIG (12") and walked right across the road in front of us.) We added several birds to our list that we had never seen before including black vultures (they hopped/skipped in front of us for quite a while)

and a Louisiana Heron.

We continually saw: egrets, great white egrets, wood storks, limpkins, anhingas, great blue herons, little blue herons, etc., etc., etc.

Now about the alligators.... Wow! they were amazing. I would estimate that we saw one at least every 50 yards - literally scores of them. They came in all sizes: babies, small, medium, and huge (8-10 feet). They were sunning themselves right next to the bike path, and sometimes ON THE BIKE PATH. They typically did not move, with a couple of exceptions including the one that growled when Dianne rode by. Some were asleep. Many had their eyes opened. At the beginning of the trip we were a little nervous about riding right by them (at least I was). I know that they run very fast for short distances. After a while, because they did not move and because we had ridden by so many, I was less concerned. It must not have been feeding time. We have a couple of pictures that show them en-mass. My favorite is the one right next to the bicycle rack (at the observation tower) where six of them were lounging next to the bicycles.

At the Observation Tower, half way through the trip, Dianne took a picture of the path that we had been traveling on - a feeling of accomplishment. (Another short note from Dianne: The people in this photo just got off a tram. For the most part there was NO ONE for miles in any direction during our entire bike ride. It was an eerie feeling, but a fun experience nonetheless.)

The final part of the ecstasy took place when we turned in the bikes. The lady who rented us the bicycles heaped on the praise for Dianne. She even followed us into the gift shop and strongly suggested that Dianne purchase a commemorative t-shirt, which she did.

Her final comment to Dianne was, "You'll be sore tomorrow and maybe sorer the next day. Is there a sauna where you are staying?" Unfortunately, there is not, but we do have a couple 3000 pound outdoor lounge chairs.

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