July 18, 2016

Ride to Key West

Ride 4 the Animals

Dogtoberfest …to Key West

The 2010 Ride to Key West began at Highlander Park in Dunedin, Florida on November 13th at the 3rd Annual Dogtoberfest.  Hundreds of Dogs and their owners were in attendance as Suncoast Animal crushed the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Dogs in Costumed Attire.  After Guinness announced the exciting results the Ride4theAnimals took the stage.

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The Rocky theme was blasted throughout the park and hundreds of well wishers were there to watch the sendoff.

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After a short interview with Ann Kelly from 94.9 I hit hit the open road and headed towards Brandon.   Heading out solo was exciting and when I hit the 20 mile mark in Ybor city someone yelled out  from their car “Go Key West”  – I still don’t know who that was, but it made me pedal that much harder…and also made me smile. When I landed at my first rest stop there were hundreds of BMX bikers staying at the same hotel.  It made for great breakfast conversations. 

It was blue skies all the way to Lake Wales and SR 60 offered simply oranges,cows and farms.  No gators on this road – just beautiful Florida birds

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As I continued towards the East Coast I was blessed to meet kind and generous people along the way.  When people heard about the Ride 4 the Animals they literally handed me cash to give to the shelter.  I was moved by the generosity of strangers and it gave me great inner strength to continue the ride each day.  50 miles into day three I was a Yee Haw Junction. 

I filled my water, checked my tires and headed back on the road towards Vero Beach.  Only a few miles later with 25 more miles ahead of me, I got my first flat.  I stopped near a local working ranch, they helped me with the tire, gave me ice cold water….and showed me their brand new puppy! 

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I finally hit Vero Beach- the hotel had an outdoor hot tub and after a day like today, it was a cyclists dream!  

The next day I left Vero Beach with excitement…I knew I would be leaving the truck dominated roads and I was heading towards the beach…

As I crossed the bridges to the beach I could smell the ocean air.  I was feeling awesome and knew today was going to be a great day.  20 miles into the ride I got flat number 2.  David a longtime cyclist stopped to help me and in no time “flat” I was on my way.   It was a “snake bite” and a simple patch put me back on the road.  

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Less then two miles later….I felt the familiar blub-blub of flat number 3!  Now my patience was being tested. 

Blessed to meet another good Samaritan I got a ride to a local bike shop from Robert Smith a local who has a fondness 4 animals. 

The “Bike Shop” owners happen to be dog lovers, I spent time with shop dog Lucy while they put in fresh tubes, lined my tires and soon was back on the road in search of Stuart, Florida.  When I got to Stuart I was given a waterfront room at a discount 4 the Animals!

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 The hotel had a dog friendly restaurant – I caught a spectacular sunset, reflected on the incredible kindness from the people I met on the road and called it a night!

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The next day was another 70+ mile day filled with lots of beautiful beach riding, way too many bridges and NO flat tires!  🙂

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In Deerfield Beach I awoke to massive humidity and a morning low of 70, it was going to be a hot one today.  The ride started with more peaceful beach miles but the traffic got heavy as I headed south.  I was warned that the roads near Ft Lauderdale airport would be challenging- and it was…that stretch of road was like riding on the highway!   I arrived in Miami beach and met longtime friend Valeria who generously put me up for the night.  Valeria has a huge heart 4 animals and is a cyclist.  She hooked me up with a group of 60 cyclists for my final 2 legs of the trip. 

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The group welcomed me into the pack and I spent the next two days enjoying their company as we rode some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  Pit stops were well stocked and Matt from Cannondale was a great SAG driver – no worries with him around.   Rafael the organizer has explosive energy and was an incredible host to the group.  He throws a great party!

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Sunsets in the Keys were stunning and Rafael invited me to stay for their party.  I made some great new friends that day.

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My first hotel on the Keys was the Bayview Inn.  The owners gave me a huge discount 4 the Animals and set me up in a waterfront room.  The sunrise on the final day of the trip was tranquil.  I spent some time with the hotel kitties before I set out on my final leg and reflected on how blessed I was each and every day on the road.

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The final day on the road we were met with picture perfect weather and the group rode seamlessly across the seven mile bridge with the wind at our backs!  We all met up and regrouped at mile marker 4.  Here we met the Secretary General of the Conch Republic.  He gave us the history of this small town and swore us in as honorary members.  We paraded into town ready to celebrate!

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Finally the ARRIVAL!  The Suncoast Animal League greeted me with banners, flowers and excitement.  Fellow cyclists Pat and Kimberly didn’t want me to fall short of my goals and handed me cash for the shelter.  The kindness and generosity never ended. 

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Key West is a beautiful spot.  Home of the Hemingway house and it’s 40+ polydactyl cats, interesting buildings, crystal clear waters and great places to park your bikes.  The journey was a success!

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So when you feel you have reached then end of your road… I just take a deep breath and follow your passion…

You will find that the journey will make the destination that much sweeter. 

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                                                                                                                                                 ~ Live with Passion