Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'll Cross That Bridge When I Come To It

After my writing my last entry, I paid for my meal, then found a payphone to mail off the adventures. Then started walking. And walking. And, I was amused to see, making better time than many people traveling in cars. They were backed up as far as the eye could see.

Turns out, there was an accident somewhere south of there causing the backup. Had I arrived into town a bit earlier, I'd have seen it--maybe even have been a part of it!

As I walked past the cars, seven--count 'em--SEVEN of them rolled down their windows asking what was going on up ahead. "I don't know! Whatever it is, it's beyond where I just walked from!" That's how I found out it was an accident, in fact, one of those seven told me that's what they heard on the radio, but they wanted to know how much further away it was.

After a large lunch and a couple of refills on my soda, I realized I had a potentially serious problem. The highway was lined with chain linked fences to protect the key deer--an endangered special--from throwing themselves under the wheels of passing motorists. It also meant I could not get behind any bushes to pee. And even worse, the parking lot known as Highway 1 provided quite an extensive audience. At least if they were driving at high velocities, I might have been able to pass myself off as a blur...

But I got lucky. There's a small bridge under which key deer are allowed to pass, and the chain link fence stays low to the ground as the bridge rises. I hid out on the side of the bridge and did my thing in peace. I wondered how many others had to resort to the same thing?

Eventually I walked past the backed-up cars, or maybe they finally cleared the road of debris. Whatever, but once again, cars whizzed by at high velocities, and no one stopped to talk anymore.

Darkness decended, and I started to think about where I would spend the night. Mainly, I had two choices--before the Seven Mile Bridge, or after. If I made it to the start of the bridge, I'd have hiked 28 miles--a record I never reached even in peak phyiscal condition on the Appalachian Trail. I hurt, my feet hurt, but they seemed surprisingly robust given the pounding I've given them.

Once I started on the Seven Mile Bridge, however, I would not be able to stop for seven miles. Now 28 miles is impressive, but 35 miles seemed absurd. But I felt like I *could* do it, and how cool would that be?

I decided not to, however, for two reasons. One, I've heard the views from the bridge are astouding, and I'd miss a lot of that if I did it in the dark. Second, it looked like it might rain at any moment, and walking seven miles across a bridge in the dark when the roads are wet seemed like a dangerous thing to do.

So I decided to find a good place to camp between MM 37 and MM 40--the first good place I could find.

Crossing the bridge just before MM 37--an impressively long bridge in its own right--was exhilerating. But what fascinated me most were dots of light in the water that faded in and out. I have no idea what they were, but they were interesting to watch. I'd heard people could see jellyfish and other marine creatures in the water in the daylight, but what was this bizzare thing I was seeing at night? It didn't seem like phosporesence that I'd heard about before. They looked like pin points of lights, like the stars in the sky, except it was cloudy so I knew it wasn't a reflection. And they faded in and out, in a ghostly sort of way.

I was very happy I decided to do some of my hiking at night--I'd never have seen this sight in the daylight.

Near MM37, almost immediately after the bridge ended, I camped in a small ditch next to a short chain link fence. I risked being flooded out in the ditch if it decided to rain, but it was still extremely windy--I'd guess 50 mph or more on the exposed bridge--and the ditch provided protection from the wind.

I also liked the chain link fence on one side--at least I knew no alligators could get me from THAT direction! It also seemed unlikely they attack from the road on the other side as well. I was well protected from large wildlife.

The night was brutally cold, and the wind howled all night. I put on all my layers, and crawled immediately into my sleeping bag. The day was over.

Day 3: I woke up early--both to get warm by hiking, and because I feared cops might roust me out if I lingered too long now that daylight exposed my hiding place. And, I had a bridge to cross! A big one!

I examined the little toe of my right foot--it was feeling particularly sore and I saw the reason. Blister. A big, ugly blister. I pulled out my mini first aid kit and found a safety pin, poking it into the blister. A geyser of liquid exploded from where I lanced it. I named it France, since the blister surrended so easily to the proverbial sword.

I patched up the blister, put on my shoes and pack, and started hobbling along. The famed hiker hobble is with me now, and it worst early in the morning when you just wake up and your feet think they have the day off.

At the Seven Mile Bridge, I ducked off into the woods to pee. I didn't *need* to go, but I knew I would have no private place to do so for the next seven miles. I also cut back the amount of water I was drinking--better safe than sorry!

For the next two or three hours, I walked across. I tried looking for jellyfish in the water, but the water was too murky. (Probably that wind again, which was still going strong!) The views were great, though, and I took several pictures along the way, including one of myself next to the MM 43 sign (the one closest to the center of the bridge).

At least two people took pictures of ME as they drove past, and two others using video cameras on their drive across will have a cameo of myself. I often waved to cars going in the opposite direction, and most of them waved back.

I enjoyed waving to the families the most. I imagined what the conversation in their car was going like.

"Hey, daddy, why is that guy on the bridge?"

"He's crossing it, son."

"But why, dad? Doesn't he have a car?"

I like to think I inspired others to walk across the bridge.

There's no pedestrian walkway or anything on this bridge. Just one lane of traffic in each direction, plus an 8-foot wide breakdown lane on each side of the road. I walked down the breakdown lane.

Near the top of the bridge, where tall boats to under, I wondered if anyone thought I was a suicide jumper. Why else would anyone be out there?

If they thought this, however, nobody stopped to talk me down, including a sherrif I waved to as he drove past.

After seven miles, I finally reached the other side and the town of Marathon, where I am now. =)

14 comments:

shoafsters said...

I love your stories GT! I will be a faithful reader. Write often:) And be safe out there.
Shoafsters

Anonymous said...

This is so entertaining! it's better than a TV show!
Sweet n Sassy

Anonymous said...

wow! now if we could just get a live cam on you!?
Plgrims in This Land
oh the glowing things in the water sound real cool. hmmm. Sure you weren't just dehydrated? tee hee
Pilgrims in This Land

bzmom said...

Hey, you could be our own reality show!!

RDB of Team MTpt101 said...

Your a GREAT story teller GT:)

Glad you were able to avert the "potentially serious problem";) That's where guy's have a definate advantage over us women out on the trials.

It sounds like an interesting part of the country.

Looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

Trish:)

Connfederate said...

Hey Now, GT!

I am enjoying following this little trek of yours, a GT's trail journal without the formality of Trail Journals or Whiteblaze. I guess you don't need the usual caveat to "hike your own hike".

What's next? Perchance the "International AT" in a few years? :D

Be well,
Connfederate

Anonymous said...

If you take a day off of blogging I'll be in serious withdrawal. I do enjoy tucking the kids in bed and snuggling down for a good read. Keep it up.

-just4bees

Anonymous said...

Ryan,
Your blog is AWESOME! I feel like all of us are on this trek with you!!
Please take care of yourself.

~resQlou of AQ

tricia said...

Hi there GT! Do you feel more like Jimmy Buffet or Ernest Hemmingway? I grew up in the Keys, so I am really enjoying this: ) Any minute now, you will be passing through Islamorada, where a church bus would take my sister and I on Sunday mornings. Then before you know it you will be in Key Largo where I lived and went to elementary school. I spent many childhood days at John Pennekamp State Park. I can still smell the salt and see the mangroves reaching into the water. I was always more scared of barracudas and Portugese Men o'war while in the keys, but as soon as we got towards Homestead, my alligator fears stepped right in. WIll you be taking Card Sound road? There is an amazing bridge on it. But I imagine it is much further out of the way.
Be SAFE!! I have an Uncle down there still. If you need anything let me know: )

't' of dtandfambly

Anonymous said...

We agree 100% with everything everyone has said.. This is so very interesting and your feelings are expressed so well, that my "toe" feels it needs a band aide.. haha
This is like a book you can't put down, a movie you can't wait to see the ending, waiting on the punch line to a joke, etc..
Be safe out there, take care & keep on Blogging, Please!!
"Nanni" of NanniPapawTo4
Feverishly looking up the "Seven Mile Bridge"... I'm learning as you lead me... Love it!!

midlandtrailblazer said...

Marathon? seems aptly named.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the modern Seven Mile Bridge, with breakdown lanes! Back around 1980, my wife and I rode bicycles to Key West and back, crossing the original Seven Mile Bridge -- which was originally a railroad trestle. To make an automobile bridge out of it, they had merely lifted up the rails and mounted them on uprights down the sides, so the guard rails were literally rails. Two lanes, each of which was perhaps eight feet wide. No breakdown lanes.

On the way down, we made a lot of drivers unhappy. We didn't travel that much slower than the cars, actually, but they pretty much couldn't pass us for seven miles. And we couldn't get out of their way if we wanted to.

On the way back, though, we crossed the Seven Mile Bridge at 11:00 at night. That was great! Didn't get passed by a single car the whole way -- nobody had any reason to drive anywhere in the Keys at that hour. And we heard screaming from someone in a boat, apparently stranded with a dead engine. When we got into Marathon, we contacted the Coast Guard station there and they went out and rescued the guy.

We were staying in motels. Never much for the camping under the stars thing.

-- Kirbert

Esmerelda said...

Well, this is just so dang entertaining! I'm glad you're walking so far.. it'll extend the adventure for all of us reading!

It's like watching the Amazing Race. Only without the airports, money, language problems, bickering, uh, never mind. It's more like the Amazing Tortuga.

Esmerelda

BasketCase said...

Wow! I agree, on the live cam...wonder if we can get you on Google Satellite - LOL!!

Good luck & be safe! Keep sending those stories, we'll be checking in regularly!

BasketCase