Day 2: 70 miles from Melbourne to Jensen Beach

Ponce de Leon, Navy SEALS and a search for pelicans.

Nearly 50 miles into today’s ride, we stopped at the Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce. I learned a few things. Obviously these guys are very fit and far braver than me. But they also have a lot of cool gadgets; jet-propelled boots to go even faster under water, for one. And they never leave someone behind.

That was us today, traveling in a pack of six and not leaving anyone (very far) behind as we headed further south on the East Coast Greenway lathered in sun block and aided by a lovely tail wind. One of our first stops was this Ponce de Leon statue to mark where he came ashore in 1513 and called this land La Florida. You may remember him as the guy looking for the Fountain of Youth. Too bad he didn’t know about cycling; that’s the real magic elixir.

Not long after we pulled into Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in search of pelicans. We didn’t want to detour too far, thinking we’ve got 70 miles to ride and a museum to visit, so we (probably wrongly) skipped searching out the observation tower. Instead we followed a sandy road where we could peek at the water but didn’t open up into a wide view. Darn — I would love to see a pelican, especially a pelican in action.

But I did learn in another park that if you want to help sea turtles, watch the plastic. This says it better than I could.

While the day’s route was mostly on Florida A1A, running along that narrow, narrow strip of land between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, we had both bike lanes and sidepaths to choose from. We used both, probably favoring sidepaths more until they narrowed down to sidewalks. Do you call that a trail without a name? I’ll let you decide.

I was impressed with how many parks we passed, whether state or county (especially in St. Lucie County). And there were many great views of water, my favorite being from the causeway over Sebastian Inlet and the egrets (think white herons) atop poles. Sorry, just not a good place to stop for photos with cyclists behind me on a narrow bike lane.

But sadly if there was undeveloped land and it wasn’t a park, there probably was a “for sale” sign in front. I couldn’t help but think about what the mayor of Melbourne Beach told us Saturday night. Rising water levels are creating flood problems for Florida, yes, but it’s more the river (read: intracoastal waterway) and not the ocean right now. That’s because that’s where water drains, even from the center of the state. And the water level has risen 8 inches (8 inches!) in a decade.

What else is this stretch of coastal Florida like? Melbourne Beach is just 3,000 people and a lot of single-family homes (you can’t build higher than 28 feet there). Then there’s Vero Beach — 17,000 people and based on what we saw, one fancy gated community after another. Further south, high-rises along the coast, trying to deliver a water view to everyone. And yay St. Lucie County for having the first East Coast Greenway signs we’ve seen on this trip.

Some other Florida sights: love the bike sign, check out what the road kill is down here, and a sense of the treasure that lies offshore.

And how do you start a 70-mile bike ride? Exercising by the pool, of course. Work that core!

If you’d like another take on the day’s adventures, read this from a fellow blogger-rider.

Daybreak from our hotel in Melbourne

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

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