In Vero Beach I was fortunate enough to be staying with the parents of an old friend who were kind enough to take me in for a couple of nights. Jackie and Pat were very welcoming and I felt very spoilt.
The first night I arrived Jackie invited some friends over for a delicious dinner to meet me.
The east coast of Florida in general had been a far cry from West Texas and most of the rest of my trip so far but being at a dinner party for eight people really felt like another world!
The next day one of Jackie’s friends took me out kayaking and kindly showed me round the town. It was good to get out on the water in the estuary behind their home.
All too quickly it was time to ride off and eke out some more distance to my final destination in the States: Fort Lauderdale.
It’d been a very pleasant time in Vero Beach but I had to keep on going.
The day was warm and I clipped along nicely to Stuart a bit further down the coast. I was generally riding by the sea or very close to it and I was enjoying not being in a massive rush.
At a supermarket on the way I met Doug, who was drifting round the States on a bicycle doing a photography project on factory workers.
It was good to talk to another cycle tourist on the road as I’d not seen as many as I’d expected. Doug was very chilled and was camping pretty much every night as he went along at ease with his own pace.
That night I was staying with John, a warmshowers.org host and retired engineer. John is the kind of person I want to be if I ever grow up. He’d retired before 60 and kept himself in excellent shape and was now preparing to go cycle touring long term with his wife.
I also learnt some good tips from John for healthy eating which I’ll look into when I get home.
Americans have a reputation for bad diets and while I’ve seen a lot to back that up on the road I’ve also stayed with some of the most health conscious people I’ve ever met.
From Stuart I began riding down to Boca Raton which I expected to be my penultimate stop on the way to Fort Lauderdale.
The day was truly lovely, it was like riding into an English midsummer. In fact it was sunnier and hotter than most summer days in the UK.
I stopped by a beach and watched as sharks arced several feet or of water before splashing back down.
I was now riding along the long thin series of islands that parallel the coast in this area. It was a stunningly beautiful and extremely wealthy area. There were gigantic hedges obscuring huge homes which, I was informed, were occasionally inhabited by celebrities or the super rich.
After riding for a little longer and catching some sun unexpectedly, I reached Boca Raton. I headed straight to the home of Vance and Tommie, my Warmshowers.org hosts.
I had originally planned on staying one night and heading down towards Fort Lauderdale the next day and figuring out how to get my bicycle sorted for the plane, on the wing as it were.
Vance and Tommie, hearing this, offered to let me stay until the day I flew, when they would drive me to the airport with my bike.
This was incredibly generous and really saved me a huge amount of trouble. They even helped me get my bike boxed up and to find a large bag to put my stuff in.
The next day, Vance and Tommie’s son, Mark was kind enough to take me out on his boat to see the intercoastal waterway with his son Ben.
This was great fun and I got to see the back of some of the huge houses I’d ridden past the day before as they were facing the water.
There were some incredible properties and amazing yachts.
The wealth on display was verging on the unbelievable.
I also got to see manatees finally. This was pretty exciting as I’d tried and failed before in this endeavour. Two or three swam past us, including a baby one with scars from a boat’s prop.
Unfortunately they were gone below the water before I could catch a photo.
It was a great ride and I really enjoyed the experience.
The next day I was back in another boat as Tommie kindly drove me too the Everglades and took me for a tour through the mangroves on the water.
This was great, I’d really wanted to see the Everglades and had thought this wasn’t going to happen.
I finally got to see some proper alligators as they lurked in the roots of the trees as the boat cruised by. The guide estimated this one at over 3 metres.
There were also some incredible birds including the roseate spoonbill a very funny looking example:
The Everglades were more diverse than I’d expected with some vast grassy areas as well as what seemed to be tidal wetlands where we boated through the mangroves.
Staying with Vance and Tommie was very enjoyable and they had a fantastic array of stories concerning all manner of things. It was great to hear them talk on familiar subjects such as their time in China and on things outside my experience like living in Mississippi during the end of segregation.
In a massive coincidence it turned out that they had visited the school I went to as it had links to their family name of Wingfield.
All too soon it was time for me to leave and head off to fly from Fort Lauderdale.
It was great to leave the USA having seen some wonderful sights and with some unforgettable kindnesses as my last memories that stretched all the way through Florida.