“Mountain” Biking

I love to ride my mountain bike on the trails. Most people would call this “mountain biking;” however, we don’t have mountains in thomson, Georgia. We’ve driven to the foothills to ride on the trails, but that’s still not the same as “mountain biking” like I know people enjoy in places like Colorado. It’s not scary or completely dangerous (unless you are a part of OUR family).

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Dirty Boy riding at Watson Mill Bridge State Park

We had plans to ride a local section of the Bartram Trail with our friend, Bearded Mary. I was so excited last night that I didn’t get to sleep until around two am. I haven’t been “mountain biking” since September. On our last ride, we went with a few of my coworkers… one a passionate biker. We were riding at the Augusta Canal (read: completely flat flat flat). It was a gorgeous morning – perfect day for a ride. Bad things always happen on “perfect” days. Just saying. Not even five minutes into our incredibly flat ride on this beautifully gorgeous morning, Dirty Boy hit a wash out on the trail, lost his front tire (as in it came OFF the bike), and skidded long the trail. He lost a chunk of meat about the size of a half dollar from his arm, but he was calm enough to ride back to the car… after we replaced his tire. Want to see the wound?

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Dirty Boy’s War Wound

We spent three hours in the emergency room – in our chamois diaper bike shorts – while his arm was cleaned and stitched. Mr. Dirty enjoyed hanging out in the emergency room a little too much.

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Emergency Room Entertainment

Dirty Boy made friends with the staff; he knew he would see them again sooner rather than later.

Woo! I got way off track. Before I tell you about today’s ride, I have to tell you that the kid gets it honestly. When we first started “mountain biking”, I crashed my bike & dislocated my shoulder. On that particular trip, it was just me and the boy. It was a painful ride back to the trailhead. I’ve had some rather spectacular crashes – one of which ripped my shorts from my body!! Thankfully, the Lovely Lisa was the only one around to experience THAT particular horror.

Back to today. Our plan was to enter the Bartram Trail at Petersburgh Campground, ride a few miles, and turn around. This would be the first trail ride for Bearded Mary, and we didn’t want to over do it. Not to mention that I haven’t been mountain biking since September! The weather this morning was perfect for riding (dum dum dum dum). We’ve had some really crappy weather lately,unless you love constant rain. The only benefit I see is that a certain band dude we know will no longer complain about the water level at the lake (We like the band dude, really, we do) and MUDDY TRAILS.

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After crossing Cliatt Creek at Mistletoe State Park

Muddy trails are the whole reason I love trail riding!! There is something totally cool about riding through a puddle on your bike. I grew up on a dirt road. We would take turns riding through the puddles. I love the feel of the mud flying up all over your legs. It’s priceless.

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Mrs. Dirty after riding Bartram Trail

This morning, there was spectacular amounts of mud on the trail. I was amused to watch Bearded Mary ride around the puddles. Who does that?! It’s probably not clear from the name, but Bearded Mary is not your typical Mary. He’s way too hairy to be typical.

 

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Dirty Boy & Bearded Mary on Bartram Trail

 

I had to explain that the objective was to get dirty. If you’re clean at the end, you did it wrong!

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Sweet Melissa & George – my favorite modes of transportation

Sweet Melissa (my trusty steed… a Scott Contessa mountain bike… who I adore!) & I barreled through more puddles than I imagined in only a few miles. It was awesome riding!! Until this happened:

That’s the view from Dirty Boy’s GoPro camera as he went down on a relatively flat (again with the flat) stretch of Trail. For the record: he is scary good when riding on the crazy steep trails… it’s the flat spots that trip him up.

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Dirty Boy Post-Crash

Actually, today it was a branch about as big around as my thumb; it stuck in his spoke and brought him down. He tweaked his knee pretty good – there was even blood shed. Luckily, my genius self brought a first aid kit. Could you imagine being dumb enough to leave that at home?!

We did have to end our trip sooner than we planned, but that meant I got to go back through the same puddles!! Guess what I hear right now? More rain falling on my tin roof (yes, it’s really a tin roof)!! Looks like we will be back on the trail on Thursday to get even dirtier!

“The best memories end with the dirtiest clothes.” – anonymous

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Getting Dirty in the Florida Keys

Last night, we left Georgia bound for a place that makes me soul feel at rest. The Florida Keys. I grew up in Florida so I’m no stranger to fabulous beaches. I spent a year living within walking distance of Kalathas Beach in Crete, Greece.

Kalathas Beach, Crete, Greece

I I feel alive & reinvigorated on a crisp mountain morning, but I feel a sense of being at home when I’m on a beach.

Caluso Beach, Bahia Honda State Park

Caluso Beach, Bahia Honda State Park

The Florida Keys are different from any other beach or coastal community I have ever been to. Almost everyone has heard that time practically stands still in the Keys. Stress? Not in Monroe County. It could all be one huge, glorious act;however, I’ve never seen anyone who lives here act stressed. They seem to be the happiest, easy going folks EVER. And why wouldn’t they be?!

Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park

This is our second trip to the Keys. We stay Bahia Honda State Park – where we sleep in tents. Our first trip, we stayed in the Bayside campground…. no electricity…. in July. Never again. It was hotter than Hades!

Last August, I reserved our site in the Sandspur campground. Electricity!! You will never appreciate the luxury of a simple fan to circulate air in your tent  until you’ve spent a week in Florida without it!  (I’m actually writing this on my fully charged Kindle Fire on my inflated queen size air mattress with a lovely man-made breeze blowing in my hair. It’s a beautiful thing.) Morning report: excellent sleeping. Bonus points!!

My morning view

I don’t think what we are doing is true camping. This? This is glamping! It’s way too comfortable to be true camping. We even have a table cloth on our table!!

Key Largo Sunrise

Key Largo Sunrise

Anyhow, we left Saturday evening and drove (with Frodo & the Hiking Ninja in our car and the Dirty Diva & her boyfriend following in her car) through the night to get here Sunday morning. We were blessed with a stunning sunrise over Key Largo. It was a lovely welcome “home.”

Our only stressful part of the drive – other than the I95 parking lot through Jacksonville – was my new bike rack. For Mother’s Day, Mr. Dirty and the kids bought me a Yakima Doubledown Ace 4 bike rack for my Subaru, George. It’s one incredible bike rack!! The problem? It rode so low that it appeared to be falling off the car. Initially, Mr. Dirty thought I had incorrectly installed it. A perusal on the internet (what did I ever do without a smart phone?!) and a YouTube video later, and we learned that I did it right. It wasn’t until I found a Subaru forum (yes, they have those…. they have an internet forum to talk about just about anything you could dream of) that I learned you needed a Class II hitch to transport any more than two bikes. I have a Class I. Guess who will be getting a new hitch for their car??

When most people think about the Keys, they think about Key West. With over 660,000 people arriving via cruise ships per year and Jimmy Buffett ‘s Margaritaville, it’s understandable. We spend just a few hours in Key West, and that’s plenty.  There is so much more to do! On a previous trip, we took an eco-kayak tour & snorkled the Looe Key Reef. This year? We’re going to have all sorts of fun!!

(Now that we’re home & the fun is over, I can fill you in on all of the awesomeness that we found in the Keys!)

Pigeon Key
Pigeon Key is located at the mid-point of the 7 Mile Bridge. During the building of the Overseas Highway, Pigeon Key was a camp for the construction crew. Later, it housed the bridge tender and his family. Now, the island is home to a museum that pays tribute to Henry Flagler’s Overseas Highway and the families who sacrificed for the OH. I know, I know… who wants to go to a stinking museum on vacation?! Who cares about the museum?! Not me. But the island (and getting there) is amazing! We rode our bikes across the Old 7 Mile Bridge; it’s only 2 miles to Pigeon Key.

Old 7 Mile Bridge
Old 7 Mile Bridge
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Osprey

The tide was out as we rode the Old 7 so we saw loggerheads and needlefish swimming in the shallows. There is a gorgeous osprey who lives on the bridge; he looked so regal looking over his kingdom.

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Dock at Pigeon Key

On the gulf side of Pigeon Key is a boat dock and small beach where we enjoyed fine cuisine (pb&j from my backpack) and snorkeling. Snorkeling under the dock was pretty awesome. We swam with tons of fish – most notably toothy baracudas and colorfully quilted parrot fish.

Kayaking at Curry Hammock State ParkCurry Hammock State Park is located on Marathon Key (I believe) and has kayak rentals at a reasonable rate ($21 per 2 hours for double kayaks).  CHSP has a small “trail” that you can kayak which takes you through a mangrove (these are trees & not to be confused with the mango which is yummy when ripe) tunnel. Having only skirted the mangroves on our last trip, we were rather excited to go through the tunnel! We were warned the mosquitoes were bad through there there but only the sweet one (Hiking Ninja) from our crew had problems with being tasty. It was pretty surreal paddling through the tunnel:  we weren’t that far from civilization, but it felt like another planet.

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Kayaking the Mangrove Tunnel

Kayaking the Mangrove Tunnel

After the tunnel, we found a small beach that was a breading ground for horseshoe crabs and a sand bar that was teeming with life. It was amazing!
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Turtle Hospital on Marathon – This is the Dirty Diva’s favorite part of the trip. She loves turtles – especially sea turtles.
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The Turtle Hospital takes sick and injured turtles in from all over the US. On our first visit in 2011, we were able to observe a loggerhead by the name of George having tumors surgically removed. On this visit, we were reintroduced to George as Georgette.

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Georgette

Apparently, turtles don’t advertise their gender until they’re adolescents. Ahem. The hospital does amazing things for these turtles & is a highlight of our trip!

Islamorada’s Third Thursday Art Walk – On the third Thursday of every month, the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District sponsors the Third Thursday Art Walk. Local artists & musicians come out for the evening to show off their best work… which was incredible. The best part was meeting the local artists and hearing their stories (I loved talking to the retired teacher who left New York & loves that they know his name in the post office!).

Food? We did quite a bit of eating in camp (thanks to the Winn Dixie on Big Pine Key); however, our restaurant experiences were quite incredible… as always. I am not a seafood eater, but I tried the conch fritters in Key West.

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Conch Fritters on Duval Street

They were really… chewy. We enjoyed the Island Grill in Islamorada and Mangrove Mama’s  on Sugar Loaf Key (although the Island Grill was far superior to the more expensive Mangrove Mamas). Our top rated & most highly recommended eating? The No Name Pub on No Name Key.
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Always awesome. Always fun. Always delicious. The place is covered in dollar bills, one of which advertises for The Dirty Duo… just saying.
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There is so much more adventure to be found in the Florida Keys. We need more time! I’ve tried to convince Mr. Dirty to relocate, but I haven’t had much success. I think he’s scared of a little hurricane 😉