Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day Ninety-six, 090604 - Marathon, FL

Day Ninety-six, Date Thursday, June 4, 2009
Time in Saddle: 2:51
Distance for the Day: 28.16 miles From Cudjo Key To Marathon
Accumulated Trip Distance: 4547.03
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 5’/15’, Highest: 47’ Accumulated: 171’
Speeds: Avg: 9.8 mph, Max: 20.0 mph
Weather: 76°
Expenditures: $73
Got up at 6am and broke camp in the pretty darn warm morning air. The weather was the same as yesterday: partly cloudy with lots of towering cumulus clouds all around. I was a little more prepared for the mosquitoes, today, and only one got me, but I got him, back (heh, heh!) I took off up Hwy 1 at 6:47am for a few miles, got a choco drink and dansih at a mini mart, and looked for dive tour operations, until I found one in Monroe County called Innerspace, that looked like it was open. I pulled in, found out they were going to go out within a half-hour, and it was $45 a person for a 2-hour dive time. Sign me up! There were three other people going out on this run: Steve, and his wife and daughter, (ye gads – I forgot the wife’s name, already, but the daughter’s name was Haley – if you read this, please let me know the wife’s name, and I’ll put it in). They supplied our snorkeling equipment, I bought a pair of swim trunks right there ($16), and we took off in a fast boat out several miles to the Looe Key, one of the best keys for diving! I really lucked-out on this: I found the earliest-starting operation, their price was quite reasonable (the ones in Key West were saying $55), and based on a description from Steve of another dive operation he’d been on in Key West, this one was much more professionally run (the boat left the dock on time, the engine started right away, the boat was already fueled and ready to go, there was no loud music on during the operations briefing, and there were no contentious arguments amongst the divers and operators). The boat operator, Chris, was very friendly and knowledgeable about the flora, fauna, diving, and boating in general, and the guy at the front desk, Loren, was the same – top notch, and they’ve got my hearty endorsement for anyone else who wants to have a great time swimming with the fishies! I dove sometimes 30’ deep, and saw many different kinds of live coral, schools of deep purple-blue fish, fish of all colors and sizes, clouds of ping-pong ball sized Moon Jellies (they didn’t sting) that did the “marquee moving light effect” along their bodies, schools of yellow and black striped Sergeant Majors, a local 200 lb. Grouper named “Nick,” big tarpons, barracuda, and even a 6’ long (reef?) shark. Too cool! I also chummed the waters with my choco drink and Danish – the fish loved it, weird little things. Fortunately, I’m quite used to tossing my danishes (all that airsickness from hang gliding), so while still somewhat unpleasant, it was no big deal. Steve and his daughter went out several times, as well, but the wife (??) had a bad experience trying to snorkel once, and was happy to watch from above. After our two hours, we headed back in, showered off the salt water, chatted a bit about my trip, and I took Chris and Loren’s picture in front of their shop. I then went off and ran into the local library, realized I’d forgotten my swim trunks back at the shop, went back to get them, and then went back to the library to do some blogging. I also had a sandwich and soda from the shopping center ($7). I blogged and uploaded the updates until 5:45pm, left to get drink and fruit ($5), and then continued on up the road as far as I could in the few hours of daylight left to me. I got as far as the town of Marathon, where I found a nice little Methodist Church (N24 42.681’ W81 5.812’). I tried knocking the doors to get permission, but despite there being a car in the parking lot, no one answered, so I set up on the back porch, and settled in at about 8:30pm for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen. I was listening to my iPod for an hour, when three cars pulled up at about 9:30pm, and some young, clean-cut looking teenagers began unloading band equipment. They didn’t mind my being there, so no problems, there, but this was their practice night, so for the next couple of hours, my iPod had to contend with loud guitar practice. They left about midnight; I began to notice lightning flashes in the sky (wuh-oh), but no thunder, yet, so I went to sleep, hoping the storm wasn’t necessarily coming this way (hah!). Then, at about 2am, I began to hear the thunder, and could see almost constant lightning flashes. Then the storm arrived, with a couple of instant and deafening flash/boom lightning strikes, torrential rain, wind, the works. I dragged my tent and trike to a more protected location on the porch, put the tent fly on to keep out moisture (despite the warmth of the air), and waited for the storm to pass over, which it did in about 30 minutes. After that, I got back to sleep (whew!)

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