2004-02-09

South - Day 34


With the Seven Mile Bridge coming up immediately, I awoke early and departed at 3:15 a.m. Back on dry land at 8:45 a.m., the day was turning into a scorcher. US-1 took me over many bridges, through remote areas, and past trailer campgrounds. Brutally hot by 9:40 a.m., I doused my head and clothing at every opportunity, occasionally drawing stares. The cooling effect lasted for about 45 minutes. Passing the last available campground at 2 p.m. with 20 miles to go, I went for broke. The landscape and life around me streamed by in slow motion at 3 miles per hour. By 4 p.m. I was taking US-1 around the US Navy base on the nasty outskirts of Key West and at 5:50 p.m. I was still negotiating fast thruway traffic. Reaching the island proper, I improvised a southern route through residential districts along Flagler Avenue. A woman tourist agreed to take my victory photo. At 8:10 p.m. I posed at the Southernmost Point, then scrambled over the rocks to touch the water.

At day’s end, my t-shirt and socks stiffened like waxy cardboard from dried sweat. My thighs developed a rash from friction with my shorts. Minutes before finishing I chanced upon a youth hostel and signed up for the night. Against all odds, I had found a place. Maybe the angels were looking after me...

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2004-02-07

Celebrity


Towards the end of my road walk in Florida, a resort on Long Key in the town of Layton offered the only convenient option for lodging. Having already stayed in places with broken bathrooms, unwashed sheets, and dirty walls, I simply wanted a secure landing place from which I could depart before dawn. Okay, this time I would pay double the cost of a trucker’s motel.

Across the bridge to Long Key, the vegetation in remote, outlying areas blocked the wind. The heat verged on oppressive. My path carried me over the disturbing charred spot of a recent car wreck. Roadside scenes such as this were difficult to ignore when traveling at 3 miles per hour on foot.

Eventually I arrived in Layton, consisting mainly of a fire and police station, where a town dinner was being planned. I reported to the cooks that I had placed a lost license plate beside a police cruiser. The cooks told me to keep my trophy and come back for dinner, too.

So I checked in at the resort and headed for the hot tub. Then I resupplied at the convenience store, socialized at the town party, and broke away to turn in early. Despite feeling groggy, I decided to relax in the hot tub one more time. Gale force winds blew off the water, but the hot tub made any discomfort vanish.

The young man sharing the tub had just driven with his wife and another couple from Michigan, chased by a big snowstorm. Incredulous about my walk, he began praising me enthusiastically. Somehow in his mind, his adventure had been rewarded by meeting me.

Thinking out loud, as if he were planning to tell friends about this chance event, he recited the outline of my story. “I know I talk a lot,” he said. Then he recounted the whole story all over again, adding how impressed he was. After my fifteen minutes of fame concluded, I excused myself and retired to bed.

Shortly afterward, there was a knock at the door. I put my clothes on and answered the door. Evidently the young man had observed which room I retired to, because he brought his wife to meet me. They made a very attractive couple.

“Honey,” he said, “This man walked ALL the WAY to FLORIDA!” As we shook hands, his wife said, “I know he talks a lot. It’s very nice to meet you.” Somehow, she seemed genuinely glad to meet me. As I closed the door, I too felt his sense of elation, for just a moment.

Later, when a noisy car passed me on the road, with arms waving out the windows, I figured it was them. After being mistaken for a criminal, I didn’t much mind their celebration.

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2004-02-03

South - Day 28


Limping past docks with boats alongside bobbing quietly in the darkness, I approached Pompano Beach at dawn and walked on the sand. Along Fort Lauderdale Beach, the teeming public numbered over a thousand. The road then veered inland, crossing an enormous drawbridge. US-1 became an 8-lane divided highway out in the open by the airport. After cooling off under a bridge abutment, I circled an accident scene, where a friendly policeman recommended the shore route around Miami. A mile later I turned left in Dania on his advice and returned to Route A1A. The Hollywood resort area had a kaleidescope of beach umbrellas and thousands of bathers. The road narrowed dangerously in Hallandale Beach where I scooted underneath bushes and between driveways. Then city streets and beaches for a few more miles.

My injured ankle might not take me far, but after several miles of shuffling I could walk almost normally.
In Fort Lauderdale Beach, a dalmation dog wore a red bandana around the neck and sunglasses rakishly perched on the nose. Shortly afterwards, a flock of multi-colored parrots flew into the tree above me.
Joel the Concierge in Sunny Isles got me a room farther ahead. At Days Inn, the lady at the desk told me to take the elevator to my room. That round-trip ride was my only mechanical transportation for 34 days.


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