Howdie Pardners

17/11/16. The lack of news since the last day of the cruise is entirely due to the fact that we have been having a great time chatting with our WarmShowers hosts (Dave & Leo and Tommie & Vance) that there has not been a moment to put finger to touchscreen to let you know what we have been up to. Sorry, but we have been enjoying ourselves!

After the visit to the resort in Haiti we spent the last full day at sea before we reached Fort Lauderdale early on Monday morning playing bridge, packing and reconstructing the bikes before having a final dinner with Anne and Will from Kent who were our table “partners”.

Disembarkation took longer than scheduled but this was not an issue for us as we only had a short (20 km) ride to Dave & Leo’s house in Hollywood (the Florida version, not California!) and they were not due home from work until 5.30 or 6.00. We found our way there in a relatively straightforward manner (despite a diversion to North 38th Street when we were supposed to be going to North 38th Avenue! Luckily they aren’t too far apart.)

The weather in Florida was a few degrees cooler than the Caribbean islands (25-27° rather than 30-35°) and less humid but the sun was still shining strongly. So we were pleased to take shelter in a Starbucks near Dave & Leo’s for most of the afternoon.

Tuesday was a relaxing day getting the “feel” of the States again and we managed to speak with all three children in UK, Bahrain and New Zealand which was lovely. It was particularly good to talk to our daughter Eleri who has reached Auckland in her walk of the length of New Zealand north to south.  That’s 600 km done and just another 2,400 or so to go! She is doing this on her own although she has joined up with a couple of people for stretches so far and expects to do so in the future. We had heard about the earthquake and tsunami warning while we were on the boat but knew that she was a long way from this. It was still good to know for sure that she was safe.

Our plan is to head north up the Atlantic coast as far as St Augustine (just south of Jacksonville) where we will “turn left” for Houston. We set off on Wednesday morning initially heading for the coast (we were a few miles inland) and surprised ourselves by going past the gates to cruise terminal. (It really shouldn’t have been a surprise as, on reflection, it was blindingly obvious from the map!)

Although pancake flat, other than for a bridge or two, a blustery headwind, which increased in strength as the day went on, slowed our progress. This part of Florida is heavily built up with one town running into the next and, with the road we were following having condominiums and houses on our right hand side for most of the way, we only caught the occasional glimpse of the sea and beach. When we did see them, they looked rather smart with many people basking in the mid November sunshine getting an even deeper tan but in the main the ride was not particularly inspiring (but a whole lot better than cycling through Japanese cities).

We reached our next Warmshowers hosts, Tommie and Vance, in Boca Raton around 4.30 but there was no reply when we pressed the doorbell.  Although we didn’t know it at the time, this was because it was not working and so we sat on a couple of conveniently placed garden chairs to wait.

It was not too long before a car pulled onto the drive and a lady, Tommie, got out looking at us curiously. She asked if we were from Warmshowers and it was clear that she was not expecting us. We had got in touch with them a month or more ago but they hadn’t noted our visit in the diary and we hadn’t been in touch to confirm nearer the date!

No matter. Being the lovely people they are, Tommie and Vance immediately made us feel welcome and we had a great evening and breakfast next day swapping “war stories” of travelling in general and cycling in particular. There was also a discussion where we offered each other sympathy for the parlous state of the politics of both our countries!

The conversation over breakfast was so enjoyable that we didn’t notice the time until gone 10 o’clock so it was 10.30 before we were back on the road. Retracing our wheeltracks back to the coast (only a mile away) we made good progress initially as the wind was very gentle. However, as the day went on it got stronger and (of course) it was generally in our faces as it was coming from the north east.

Although it was again heavily built up the view was much more pleasant with water on both sides as we rode along a strip of land between the intracoastal waterway and the ocean. There were some enormous houses, some of which were overly ornate for our taste with many columns and fancy “bits” but others were very tasteful and would be very pleasant to live in – if you have many millions of dollars just lying around! There was also any number of extremely expensive looking boats around. Some looked to be almost in the Philip Green or Roman Abramovich price bracket.

By mid afternoon it was clear that making our intended destination (a campsite) was going to be too much of an effort, particularly for Christine (who cycled about 100 metres to test her mended bike when we were back in the UK for 6 weeks while Stephen rode almost 1,000 km!), so we took a room in a motel in North Palm Beach and Christine was sound asleep by 8 o’clock.

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