SHARK VALLEY, EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
This was my third time with this ride.All have been fun and they would be hard to rank if I wanted to. I don’t.
I drove from Miami and passed a huge group ride. It also could have been a bike event but I couldn’t find an event simply by searching. I did see a photographer at the end of the street so maybe it was. My first thought was to stop and see if I could join them. But it looked to be already in progress. It was 9:30 a.m. And more importantly, I went deep yesterday and haven’t recovered.
At lunch yesterday I had avoided any cramping. And then, a slight turn the wrong way and my hamstring about killed me. I tried to stretch my leg and bend my foot backward. Back to the car before the drive to Miami I drank a Hot Shot cramp killer. It worked in that I didn’t cramp anymore yesterday. But last night, twice in my sleep I awoke with a cramp in a calf, both calves, different times. My body was not recovered. I checked my Whoop Band score this morning. It was only 34% recovered. I knew I should stick to today’s plan which was to ride two loops at Shark Valley.
Two loops would be simple to satisfy my daily mileage (30 miles). And also for Strava. I knew a loop was timed and I could set a PR by not stopping but I would dedicate the first loop to watching nature including stopping often for photographs. And the second loop would be just riding without stops.
Arriving Shark Valley the sign on the roadway announced the lot was full and to expect delays. There were scores of cars already parked outside the park but I got in line to see how long it would be. There were at least 12 cars in line and they would be admitted one car at a time for every one car that left. And since it was 10:15 a.m. the lot probably had just filled up and the early morning folks might be a while before leaving. I did a U-turn and went back out to the highway to park.
Most of those parked on the roadside had bicycles but a few were walkers. And this observation. The government is not serious about vehicle emissions. The admission for one car was $35 whereas for one individual it was $20. For the cars that parked outside the park a couple walking in would pay more ($40) by walking in that by driving in. They want you to drive your car.
I have a National Park pass for free admission so it was an easy decision for me to park on the highway then ride past the long line or parked cars. But if I had a family of four in my car I would wait in the line to pay for the vehicle rather than have to pay individually for each of us with a bike, even though I would be free.
The ranger greeted me and asked for my pass as though I looked like someone who would have a pass. Of course, I did. She said that I would have a great tailwind going out and a pretty stiff headwind coming back. She was right.
I headed out of the visitor center on the straight road next to the water towards the observation tower. I only saw seven alligators in the seven miles out to the tower. Winter is the dry season and they are less active. So I saw less today than my other two rides but it was still satisfying.
I arrived at the tower and saw a few people looking at a big one. I realized that with it’s longer snout and pointy teeth on the outside that it was a crocodile. I would later learn that it was a female.
I counted eight alligators and one crocodile before turning to finish the loop. The second part of the loop looked uphill even though it was pancake flat.It was a struggle into the wind. Most people I saw who thought it would be fun to rend a bike realized that it isn’t fun riding into the wind. Most were walking.
When I reached the visitor center I had to decide whether to ride another loop, as planned, I met a couple on mountain bikes and they asked me which way to go. I told them the wind was brutal coming back and that I thought there might be a little protection riding clockwise vs. counterclockwise.
It was then I decided I would ride the loop again but reverse my direction. I decided a PR on a loop was dumb. Strava is just for social media and I should do what I wanted to do. So I reversed direction. While I would still be nose into the wind the last seven miles, at least it would be along alligator alley and not just in the desolate grasses.
I soon caught the couple and then caught the site-seeing tram. Once the tram stopped and let me pass I never saw it again. I guess the driver didn’t like me drafting. Hehe.
I tried not to double count alligators. Many were in the same spots one hour later. I would say that I saw 14 today. And two crocodiles. On the way back I stopped to tell three girls to look for the two alligators on the side of the road about one mile further and after that they would see a juvenile crocodile and not long after that the adult female. They were pretty excited.
It was a good day. No Strava records, well, maybe one. But that was organically because I had no segments marked.