Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Long March: Part I

It didn't rain overnight, but I got up well before sunrise to take down camp and get a move-on. For one, the last weather report I heard did predict rain for the day, and I wanted to do as many miles as I could before that started. Second, I was anxious to reach Florida City and get myself into a hotel for a soft bed, shower, and a safe haven from rain. And third, I wanted to get as much walking in before the day really heated up.

The views were amazing, overlooking Crocodile Lake. Just before I left, I walked up to the edge and watched half a dozen fish launch themselves into the air in less than a minute. No crocs in sight, though. Stupid fish were making all that noise, and probably fed the crocs as well. It never occurred to me that they would eat fish. Looks like the fishing was good in that lake!

The march began. I had about 17 miles to do to make it into town--a full day's hike, but this time I wanted to finish well before dark.

The first five miles went quickly, passing by scenic lakes, rivers, and then over a large, narrow bride to the mainland. There's no shoulder for pedestrians to walk on, and hugged the side rail for dear life as I passed over.

On the far side, there's a toll booth, but only for cars. I could walk through for free, though the guy at the kiosk asked where I was headed and where I came from, impressed with my intended destination. When a car pulled up to pay the toll, I took the opportunity to continue on.

The next car driving past me slowed down, and a guy leaned out the window.

"Need a ride?"

"Where you going?" I asked. Not that I wanted a ride, but curious where I could get a ride to.

"Walking to Georgia is crazy!" he replied.

I laughed. Obviously, the guy at the toll booth is spreading my story.

I stopped at the docks of downtown Card Sound, which so far as I could tell consisted of a dock, a bar called Alabama Jacks, and the toll booths. Alabama Jacks was closed, no surprise there, and I sat on the docks eating snacks for breakfast.

A man walked towards me, asking where I was headed. I wondered if this was a trick question, and if he already knew the answer from the guy in the toll booth, but he turned out to be the dock master (a term I never even heard of!)

When he found out I make websites for a living, he wanted advice for making his own about 'docking disasters.' It seems people get drunk off their asses and get themselves into all sorts of trouble, including driving vehicles into the river and flipping over boats. He wants to film all the disasters and put them on the web. =)

Clouds started rolling in, ugly ones, and the dock master commented, "It's gonna rain on you."

"Yeah, I know," I agreed. "I better get going, Mr.... Dock Master."


"Mr. Charlie."

A short while later, I found another dollar bill on the ground. Woo-who!

The road curved, then followed a straight line as far as the eye could see. There wasn't much for a shoulder to walk on, and the traffic was heavy so I was forced onto the non-existant shoulder which wasn't easy to walk on.

The mile markers had restarted from 1 when I turned at the intersection the night before, but they stopped after mile 5 just after the bridge, and the lack of visible progress bothered me. Not to mention that as the sun got higher, I lost my shade and the temperaature rose.

After another hour of walking, I stopped to refill my Platepus and water bottles from a gallon of water I bought at Winn-Dixie the night before, happy to finally be drinking it instead of carrying an extra gallon of water for 30 miles.

When a large truck drove by in my direction, I started counting seconds until I lost track of it after a minute or so. Assuming it was going the speed limit or a little faster, it would be about a mile away, and I fooled myself into thinking the road curved out of view a mile ahead. Except a half hour went by, and the next car I timed was also a mile away.

The damn road had no end, and the sun was merciless.

I focused on a tower far ahead, using it to mark my progress, but it never seemed to get closer. I started looking for other closer targets to mark my progess. A speed limit sign, a dirt road intersecting the main road, and even larger pieces of trash on the side of the road.

Eventually, even the antenna tower seemed to get miniscually larger, but I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or not.

Several snakes slithered into the bushes along the way, but I wasn't able to identify them.

Clouds came out once again, a welcome relief from the heat of the sun, but toyed with me the rest of the afternoon, coming and going.

Finally, I reached the tower, after about two hour of walking, probably about six miles from the last turn in the road. About halfway to Florida City from where I spent the night.

Ugh. This road seemed to go on forever.

Then I found a third dollar bill, which perked me up a bit. =) Nothing like free money to cheer me up, but I started wondering where all this money was coming from. Each bill was found miles away from the previous one, and I wondered how many others I've walked past not even seeing it. I have a hard time believing that I found three out of three bills on a 20-mile stretch of road.

With an estimated four miles into town, a car pulled to a stop along the shoulder of the road ahead of me, and I could see the driver throwing things into the back seat, clearing room in the front seat. She was going to offer me a ride!

When I reached the passenger side door, I opened it up and joked, "Are you lost? Do you need directions?"

It's hard to get lost on the only paved road in miles in any direction.

"Do you need a lift? I can take you into Homestead."

I shook my head, sadly, I might add, and told the woman I was walking from Key West to Georgia, and I couldn't skip this small section. Oh, I wanted to, but I couldn't.

Her eyes opened wide, shock setting in, then she recovered asking if she could get me a drink.

I assumed she planned to drive into town to get me a drink and bring it back, which seemed like such a wonderfully nice gesture, but I didn't want to inconvience her unneccesarily that much and declined, reminding her I'd be in town soon enough.

We waved goodbye, and I couldn't help but admire this kind woman, even if I did refuse all her offers.

I saw another sign up ahead, glad for something new to read. Some trees grew near it, however, blocking the words until I got closer.

First letter was... an M. Miami! A sign for Miami! No, second letter is an O. Monroe County? At the bottom of the sign, a 2 showed up, but that didn't make sense. I was in Monroe County, it wasn't two miles away!


tricia said...

NOW is the time to start watching for alligators.
Besides, Crocodile Lake is a hoax, there are no -native- crocodiles in FL.


Anonymous said...

This is like reading a book, but all of a sudden it stops. Crap! What happens next?

Trailtracker said...

Is that toothfairy drunk again? I think that is the one dropping those dollars all over! You know---the guy in the tutu that has the money changer around his waist explaining all the rules! Ryan, you must be earning your reward miles!

Keep up the awesome job!

Anonymous said...


There are American Crocodiles in South Florida (http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/crocodile.php). There are also small numbers of non-native spectacled caiman. But the crocs are on the west side of the state in the gulf area of the everglades. Ryan's not likely to encounter one because of their very, very small numbers.

Happy hiking, Ryan! :o)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,
Shoot, if I lived near and traveled that road on a regular basis I would stop and leave you a dollar bill weighted down with a rock and a note to cheer you up. Also with mileage posted, to the next dollar or landmark. hee hee, just for kicks, mind you. Like the Burma Shave signs.
Be safe,
Okie Dog/Cheryll

Anonymous said...

Wow, if you keep finding money it might pay for your trip =)
It's been great following your daily trek. What an amazing adventure!
Good luck and stay dry.

Anonymous said...

I bet that's part of D.B. Cooper's stash. Lucky!!

I'm so glad you're almost to a hotel.. I'm freaking exhausted! A foofy bed, shower, no animal sounds or shiny eyes in the night. Hopefully.

This really makes me want to walk somewhere, Ryan. What an adventure.

Esmerelda, who likes finding dollar bills

Debbie St.Amand said...

Man, I hate a cliffhanger! What'd the sign say????


Anonymous said...

actually, there are crocs in the keys...
American crocodiles are fairly wide-spread throughout the tropics, however, in the U.S. crocodiles are only found in south Florida and the Keys.
Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 to protect critical breeding and nesting habitat for the endangered American crocodile and other wildlife. The refuge is located in north Key Largo

this is from a site on FL State Parks

You have the best story Ryan...and DebBee is right...what a cliffhanger!


Anonymous said...

Ryan - you're stories are wonderful! You definately need to publish it :)

Happy Hiking! We are thinking of you!

Team Springamajack

Anonymous said...

ok, there must be a way for you to get the story out when you get farther along in your hike and out of touch............we surely can't be expected to wait weeks to hear the rest of the story......... that would be a very long commercial to wait for.

more trail magic........

stay safe,

midlandtrailblazer said...

lack of proper signage on roads is a pet peeve of mine -- growing up my Dad worked for the WV Dept. of Highways, and we learned to notice and read EVERY sign, know and use route numbers, etc. PA drives me nuts! good luck, hope you get to that motel soon :)

Anonymous said...

Another cliffhanger! Damn that Ryan!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the first letter is an H, H-O-, Homestead?

tricia said...

YIkes! I stand corrected: ) I never realized there were crocs in the Keys. Probably a good thing since I already had so many childhood fears...bridges, barracudas, jellyfish, racoons....It's really amazing I love the wild as much as I do now!
Be safe Ryan!

Krafty Kat said...

Geez, if I had know there was so much money in this type of thing, I might have tried it:) And I suggest avoided all of Clayton county Georgia if you're counting on signs to show you the way. Not that I was lost there last night trying to find a pretty major highway.

Here's hoping for another croc and gator free day!


Anonymous said...


I'm enjoying this wonderful account of your experiences. I know there are a lot of tolls in Florida and maybe the attendants drop them from time to time and the wind carries they away. Just a thought. Also, I've been thinking about the statement you made about the humans being the most dangerous creatures you've encountered so far. Please be very careful. A girl hiking in Georgia was murdered recently. It appears the murderer took her credit/debit cards and tried to use them. Stay safe!


Anonymous said...

Yes there is Native Crocs in Miami, and Croc lake is not a hoax. However its not a lake more like a bay. Either way, yes start to think about Gators. Its, Priceless, met you today on Krome. Good luck and i'll find you tommorrow.

Anonymous said...

You need to keep a running tally of how much dollars and cents you find on your hike. Thanks for the updates, keep them coming.