On this trip I am presenting a paper at the Fourth IEEE Workshop on Metropolitan Networks being held at the South Seas Plantation on Captiva Island, just north of Sanibel Island, and about 140 miles south of Tampa on Florida's gulf coast.
This morning started out very early. I decided that I did not like my slides for my presentation at the Workshop, so I went into school at 3:30am to make some more.
This morning really started last night - on my way home from school. I was late leaving school - about 7:00pm after trying to put together my presentation slides. As I was going through St. Henri, I noticed that my back wheel was making obscene noises. On the way up towards Westmount, up under the viaduct on Glen, I stopped and found my nemesis, another broken spoke in the back wheel. This is normally just annoying rather than disastrous. I continued up to the Glen/Lansdowne/St. Catherine corner, but the rubbing was so great I had to get off and walk. At the top of the hill, I decided to take off the wheel and examine it more closely. The dangling spoke was there ... the only one, but in addition, the axle was broken ... two pieces ... no wonder the wheel was having trouble running straight, even without weight. I put it back together, sort of, and continued scraping along. At about 8:05, I reached McWhinnies Bicycle Store ... it was closed ... winter hours. It took me almost another 1/2 hour to walk home. Now I was a little worried. It was 8:30, everything closed down tight at 9pm. El Pedalo was also closed, but Peel Cycle was still open. I bought a new back wheel. In the past week I have replaced, in addition to the wheel, the rear free wheel (gears), the front crank and gears, and the chain. The rear derailleur was changed last summer just after I came home from Lyon. There is not too much old left back there now ... hopefully the spokes will not start popping.
The ride into the airport was dry, overcast, absolutely still, and quite pleasant. A minor glitch while getting my bike ready ... I had never removed the pedals from the new crank. A curious Delta agent was giving me moral support as I struggled. I was flying American. Finally they gave way. This time I removed both the seat and front wheel - to push the bike all the way in the box. It gets put on three different airplanes.
Montreal to Chicago was mostly overcast. We took off due east towards Pointe Claire ... and I had a super view of the St. Lawrence, Ile Perrot, the islands and bridges. It is hard to believe that the small canal north of the river towards Valleyfield was ever used. The seaway section appears to be wider than the actual river ... unless I missed the Beauharnois dam.
The connection in Chicago to Raleigh/Durham was only 30 minutes. I watched my bike loaded.
The flight from Chicago to Raleigh was reasonably full ... and the country rather rugged. I just saw the PBS series on the civil war, and it is hard to believe that armies were forced through some of this country.
I just witnessed history in the Raleigh/Durham airport... or so I was told. It was fun and charming. Rosie Parks, in a wheelchair was greeted by a gaggle of kindergarten, or younger kids, singing about her standing up for them by not moving to the back of the bus. One little kid was more worried about his mother leaving than making history. She urged him to go up to Rosie so she could take a picture - of history?
My bike has just been loaded onto the plane to Fort Myers. This flight is overbooked ... however they have not reached my resistance level ... they are only at $400.00. I hope this does not mean that the town is full. I don't have a hotel. The offered alternative is a flight that arrives in Sarasota at 7:30pm ... and bus to Fort Myers. I am now sitting on the aisle, waiting to go. We are scheduled to arrive at about 5:30. It should be almost dark.
Raleigh/Durham has approximately 25 flights leaving in the afternoon ... of which 12 leave between 3:30 and 3:37. They must want queues of planes to make believe that they are a big airport. They were successful; we had to wait our turn.
Both my bike and bag arrived intact at the ``Southwest Florida Regional Airport'' also known as Fort Myers. It was light, and I thought, a considerable time from sunset. I was wrong ... by the time I put the bike back together, it was dark - but it was pleasantly warm. As I was working, I was greeted by ``native'' who gave me directions into town ... I was to turn at the Holiday Inn, and there was a Ramada Inn up the road. He said I had about 17 to 20 miles to ride in the dark, and that nothing, in the way of motels existed in between. Nothing did exist, but it was really only 17km rather than miles. I opted to go a little way up the road, and stopped at the Ramada Inn ... right across from the street from Publix, Walgreens, and the Office Depot. I provisioned in Publix, and discovered that unlike California, the markets are not open 24h ... oh well, minor inconvenience in the morning.
I woke up this morning to a Palmetto bug (also known in other climes as an American Cockroach) scurrying across the bathroom floor.
Fort Myers was a US fort during the Seminole wars, was abandoned, and then reoccupied during the ``War between the States'' as it is called here. At the moment, the old Fort Myers is a vacant lot. The off centre of town is without charm while the centre, all 4 blocks, has a slightly depressed air.
I continued my exploration via McGregor St. and found a shopping center taken over by a multi-church and charitable groups bazaar. The merchandise certainly held more interest than the Woolworths nearby.
After a slight detour off McGregor to check out of the Ramada Hotel, I returned to continue down McGregor to Sanibel Island, on my way to Captiva. A new construction sight for ``Florida style homes'' consisted of dismembered palms and mangled gray clay. Any scar in the land here suggests a fatality.
I reached the Sanibel causeway toll booth, just as a pair of bicyclists had been turned back. I tried, to no avail, to convince the toll booth guard that I was merely a low powered motorcycle. I was turned away. Apparently the approved procedure is to hitch a ride with a pickup or such. So I tried. After refusing some infeasible offers in ordinary cars, a pickup, with 3 kids, two in the back became my transport vehicle. I waited only 10 min. I think that this was in fact faster than riding. I was let off at the Sanibel end - and stopped to have lunch - with flocks of small black billed Laughing gulls, brown pelicans, and a young lady who ``shared'' a pamphlet on the end of the universe - a study of the book of Revelation. The ironwood cones are as irritating here as they are in Hawaii. All the ``pines'' here seem to be ironwood, although here they seem to refer to them as ``Australian Pines'', and they sell ironwood pelicans in the souvenir shops.
I didn't have any reservations here, but expected, that since Sanibel was probably going to be beach to beach tourist, and it was off season, that there would be no difficulties. I asked in Jerry's grocery store ... much larger than the name implies, if there were any reasonable motels on the island. After the usual native ignorance of such matters, a boy piling cucumbers said, ``Oh, you mean under $1000.00/week ... possibly the Ramada Inn on Middle Gulf.'' I had just passed it, while exploring the bike paths that crisscross the island. It looked as if it wished it were one of the $1000 plus types. The ``Sanibel/Captiva Shoppers Guide'' only had one accommodation listing and it was full. After finally finding a pay telephone with an extant telephone book, the Shalimar and West Wind ``cosy'' motels answered their phones. The West Wind was willing to give me a 10% bicycle discount in lieu of not being an AAA member. I opted for the Shalimar, cosy, on the beach, and less expensive, and the first one I got to. It has a nice touch ... fully screened in porch. This means that I can get air without fear of mosquito born encephalitis or legionnaires disease. It is not tight enough to stop the ``no-see-ums'' though. I just killed one and left bloody reminder on the sheet.
In fact, I think that I have been attacked. I seem to have a couple of hundred bites, 60 to 70 on each arm and a mere 50 on each foot.
Just after sunrise, about 6:30, I was down on the beach, with about half the rest of the neighbourhood tourists - just wandering and shelling. It is now 7:15, the sun is high, and the gulls, pelicans, and porpoises, and people seem to have gone. Both this morning, and while eating lunch I was fascinated by a gull sized diving fisher that would drop straight down from about 10 feet above the water, hitting head first. This was done under complete control. I saw one pull out once about halfway down.
I am now off to explore the interior, on my way up to the ``South Seas Plantation Resort?'' on Captiva. I don't have to worry about being over strained on the hills. This area of Florida makes Holland appear mountainous. The high point of the island is 9 feet above sea level.
This is certainly a, perhaps the, highlight of Sanibel. It is five miles of great egrets, snowy egrets, brown pelicans, belted kingfishers, anahingas, roseate spoonbills, turkey vultures, and Art Kelinga, a wildlife volunteer, who accepted the order that Sanibel was his place to retire. He delighted in pointing out, and discovering the birds. Like almost everyone I met, he said that he was new to the job and that he was still trying to sort out all the birds. He had his telescope trained on an osprey, but it had gone when I tried to look. The brown pelicans are big, but they look biggest when they are floating on the water. There were a number of large dark brown ibis like birds. Perhaps they were juveniles of some species. They did not make it into my refuge guide nor into the bird guides I came across on the way. The visit to the refuge confirmed that I had shared my initial lunch on Sanibel with Laughing Gulls. The curious diving birds appear to be ``common'' terns. Common they are not.
Art suggested that the South Seas Plantation people had mellowed somewhat in the past few years but that I would probably be the first one to come to a conference on a bicycle Although I didn't rush, I arrived at the South Seas Plantation at about 12:30. My room was not yet ready so I went to the other end of the resort, 2 miles up to the tip of the island. I ate my picnic lunch near the ``Pirates Cove Game and Fitness Center'' and watched, from about 8 feet, a snowy egret spear grubs, and the occasional mouth overflowing clam.
When I got back, my room, or rather apartment, was ready. This is one of the $1000+/week resorts. It does mean that I can actually have breakfast and coffee when I normally get up. Just after breakfast, barely after sunrise, I sat on the balcony watching the little red-bellied woodpeckers bang away at the palms. One morning I was delighted with a couple of the big and rather spectacular pileated woodpeckers. They are the ones with the big red crest on their head. Early morning seems to be the time for birds. A short while after sunrise they disappear ... and they don't return until the next morning.
Captiva to Fort Myers:
I left the South Seas Plantation at about 1:30, after all had finished. I thought it would be interesting to go backwards through the wildlife refuge. I hadn't counted on an officious old lady ranger, who was incredibly upset that I was going the wrong direction. I offered to walk, but this was also not considered acceptable. The wildlife refuge lost a dollar. I was going to deposit my fee as I left the other end but the level of the offense, in the eyes of the lady was such that I turned around and left. Its too bad. I passed a turkey vulture flopping by the side of the road and a red shouldered hawk, 10 feet away in a tree, who astounded the assembled audience by dropping off his branch to grab a green gecko, or was it a frog, and then retire to a second branch.
I stopped to have lunch just at the beginning of the causeway, to stare at the pelicans, laughing gulls and terns, and one great blue heron that stopped, for about 10 minutes, and stood majestically at the end of the pier. This time I was paying better attention and saw a tern successfully spear a fish on their dive. The pelicans, mostly brown, were also fishing, but with much less class than the terns. They would flop and shove their beak under water, and immediately be surrounded by a hoard of gulls looking for a free handout. The gulls never tried that with the terns.
Lunch was late and over by about 3:30. I then moved to the entrance of the causeway to hitch a ride. It took about 5min before a pickup and a local Fort Myers construction worker stopped to give me a ride. He commented on the excessive heat records that they had had in the past month and how nice it was now. I had to agree. He let me off just as he turned into his house on McGregor, well on my way to Fort Myers.
Today I went only 45km. Tomorrow it should be another 20 to the airport. At least I know where I am going.
I got early, before dawn, and ran out of coffee. The Comfort Inn had a 190 degree flash heater for coffee in the room, but it produced only lukewarm water. Out I went, still dark, looking for breakfast. It was still too early for McDonald's so I settled on a mediocre eggs, bacon and hash browns, and horrible coffee at Perkins Restaurant. The restaurant was moderately crowded ... obviously the only game, besides Dunkin Donuts, in this part of town. After breakfast I found a 7/11, bought some semi-decent Folgers coffee and went back to my room to organize and make some decent(?) coffee ... with my own coffee maker.
I wanted to visit a grocery store to buy some wine for my duty-free allowance, but it was too early when I left ... only 7:40. I thought that I could find one on the way, after the magic 8:00am opening. I was wrong. I passed only two convenience stores before I reached the bend in the road that headed for the airport. My map showed the existence of ``Gateway'' and the ``Gateway Plaza'' just about 2 miles north of the airport. This seemed like the best bet and I had the time.
The excursion started out well ... passing snowy and cattle egrets, white ibises, and for me, a new bird, the wood stork. This is a large white stork, with a large black trailing edge on its wings and a rather ugly naked head and neck ... much like a vulture but more neck exposed. When I passed the Gateway industrial park, nicely landscaped, but totally empty, I was getting suspicious. Then up Gateway Blvd., just opposite the golf course I saw a sign for the future home of a Chevron station and convenience store. Just south of the Gateway plaza was sign for another future home, this time a supermarket. The Gateway plaza did exist though, consisting only of a bank. I guess in this kind of a development, money is more important than food. A Gateway lady who was measuring the road confirmed that the nearest food stores were the two convenience stores that I had passed 4 miles earlier. When I suggested that Gateway was not quite real, she said it's ``almost'' real. What they have is very nice, but it is only houses and no services. One presumes that the services will come.
This time it was straight back to the airport. My 20km trip had become 34km. But I still arrived with 2 hours to spare.
Southwest Florida Regional Airport to Dorval.
The trip home was almost appropriately uneventful. I watched my bike and hockey bag loaded in Fort Myers, and Raleigh/Durham, but saw only my bag loaded in Chicago. I inquired of the stewardess, who checked with the captain and ground crew about my bike. As far as they knew, it was loaded, and short of checking in all of the baggage compartments they had no way of being absolutely certain. Although the stewardess offered to do this, I felt that to indulge in such antisocial behaviour, just as the plane, already late, was leaving the gate, would not be appreciated.
The bike did indeed make it to Dorval ... not totally intact though. I am not certain how they managed it, but they snapped off one of my cantilevered rear brakes. The bike was in its box ... and there was a hole where the brake used to be. Fixing it will require that a new base be welded to the frame. This would be a rather difficult repair in the field.