The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
There was a snake in the elevator of Tim's mom's condo building a few days ago. It was a small snake, but still. Welcome to Florida.
So yes, we're in Florida now, and at first, I didn't expect a motorcycle trip here in the heat of the summer to be a very good idea. And to be completely honest, I was kind of dreading it.
Tim and I have ridden through hot weather before - the type where you're already sweating through your underwear by the time you get on the bike. Nicaragua, Botswana, Death Valley - they all have their different types of heat, but each one can be equally unbearable. My waterproof boots quickly became like sauna chambers around each foot, my legs got scorched from the heat of the bike's engine radiating against them, and with the helmet on, I could feel my breath steaming against my face, seeming like it's suffocating me.
So in general, motorcycle riding and extreme heat don't go together very well. And even though all of that has been true as we rode through Florida, this trip has surprised us and brought smiles to our faces around every turn in surprising and incredible ways.
The first strange and crazy event that happened to us I mentioned in the last post - when we met "Joe the Truck Driver" at a random Wendy's in Georgia, and realized that he had also met Leo. Leo is our Cuban/American friend from Miami who we travelled with in Africa and lived with for nearly half a year in Uganda as the pandemic started. But Joe the Truck Driver randomly met Leo in Washington D.C. when Leo flew his bike back to the US, which seems just like the most mind-boggling coincidence I'd ever heard of.
But then the second weird thing that happened to us was when Joe said, "Here's what you're going to do. You're going to go to Miami, and then you're going to go to the Bahamas." When he said this, all I could think of was that he has no idea what he's talking about. Fine, yes, the Bahamas are close to Miami, I get it. But we were on a motorcycle on a road trip to Florida to see family, and just hopping over to distant islands isn't the easiest thing to do on a motorcycle. We didn't even bring our passports because well, we were going to Florida.
But Joe was insistent that we were going to the Bahamas. "Seriously, I'm tellin' ya. That's what you're gonna do."
Tim replied, "Ok, well, we'll see," and then gave me a crazy-eye glare that Joe didn't notice.
So we continued our way down to Sarasota, Florida where Tim's mother lives, and reveled in the glory of air-conditioning. And then in true Florida fashion, we immediately hit the beach, and I was surprised to find that almost no one else was there! The bathtub-warm crystal waters, along with the fine, powder-like white sand that looked like flour... I was beginning to think that this place was perfect. Until I got some water in my throat, or at least I thought it was water.
I kept coughing, and coughing. Then I started to think, "Oh no, what if I got COVID?" Florida has become a hot-spot for the Delta strain... but it wasn't that either. I later found out that it was the red tide - a poisonous algae bloom that's a natural occurrence but is exacerbated by human development, pollution, and toxins that we leach into the oceans. Red tide kills marine life, but also can be toxic to people, some of the symptoms of which include respiratory problems.
Luckily, we had only been exposed to a very little bit, and unlike the dead fish, I'll be fine. But the experience made me realize just how fragile the ecosystem is here, and how important the ocean waters are to the people who call this region home.
But I also discovered that riding through Florida on a motorcycle during the summer, and therefore the rainy season, actually isn't as bad as I had feared. We visited a fellow motorcycle-riding friend, Mike, who runs Road Dog Publications and lives in central Florida, and went on a glorious ride with him and his wife through the local twisting roads. And I learned that I shouldn't fear the rain here. Because every once in a while we'd ride through one of those appears-out-of-nowhere tropical rain storms and we got immediately cooled off in the shower. I'll tell you, it's a lot better than riding through Death Valley!
A satellite image of the rainstorms here looks like Florida is wearing a polka-dot dress - each storm is a tiny blip of a cloud that just brews and fades aways without any rhyme or reason to it. And when you're going fast on the bike, you can easily just ride through a storm in less than 10 minutes, and then boom, you're back in the sun on the other side, and have the hot wind to blow-dry you off. No need for putting on rain-gear, it's kind of perfect.
But it's not always so nice. Here in Sarasota, we made the mistake of riding through a rain storm to visit another set of friends who live here. And like all the other storms, we just thought we'd ride through this one too, but this was different. I noticed that the clouds looked particularly menacing, the thunder seemed to rock the earth more than usual, and the lightning was unnervingly frequent. But seeing as we were only going a half-hour away, I didn't think it'd be necessary to put on rain gear.
I thought wrong. Because this was the Mother Of All Storms.
As the wind picked up, and palm leaves were being ripped off the trees and flung across the streets, and the rain started to slash down against us, I started to think, "Is this a hurricane that no one told us about?" The bike was being batted around by the wind like we were in Argentina again, and my jacket immediately soaked through. Then my pants drenched, and then my boots started to fill up with water.
Tim rode through the wrath of the gods like a pro, and by the time we reached our destination, I had to dump out a quart's worth of water from each boot. And of course, the storm immediately let up.
I shook my head at Tim, and shouted, "This was very poor decision-making on our part!"
"Yup!" he agreed. Tim got off the bike, and made puddles everywhere as he dripped over the floor of our friend's garage.
But besides that one particular storm, and the red tide at the beach, we had been quite lucky, and the luck wasn't done yet. First, we were visited by our good friend Leo, the very same motorcycle traveler whom we had spent time with in Africa. It was wonderful catching up across continents, and bouncing back and forth ideas about overlanding and which roads were the best to take. Since Leo was from Miami, he knew the region and its roads well.
I told him that I was particularly interested in riding to Key West, which is at Mile 0 of US Route 1, and is the southern-most point of the continental United States. Not only is that a cool milestone in and of itself, getting to Key West crosses lots of gorgeous islands and bridges, including Seven-Mile Bridge, which gives the illusion that you're just riding over the ocean in all directions.
Leo agreed that it was a great ride, and recommended that we stay with him and his family in Miami as a jumping-off point. We couldn't have been more grateful for the invite... until we had something to be even more grateful about.
"Have you ever thought about going to the Bahamas?" Leo asked us nonchalantly.
Tim and I had to laugh. "I didn't think that was going to be practical for us," Tim replied.
But as fate would have it, Leo's family had access to a small six-seater propeller plane, and his dad could fly it. And apparently, a little group of Bahamian islands called Bimini was only a twenty minute flight away from Miami . Leo said, "You want to go? You know, we could stay overnight, or just for lunch. It's up to you."
My jaw dropped. I turned to Tim and we just stared at each other wide-eyed. I muttered, "I suppose we could have our passports overnighted here." And then we both smiled.
To Be Continued...
Our adventures here in Florida continue in next week's blog post, so stay tuned!!!
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