In order to use RunSignup, your browser must accept cookies. Otherwise, you will not be able to register for races or use other functionality of the website. However, your browser doesn't appear to allow cookies by default.
If you still see this message after clicking the link, then your browser settings are likely set to not allow cookies. Please try enabling cookies. You can find instructions at https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-enable-cookies/auto.
Florida 1000K Virtual Challenge: Day 1
As the sun breaks the horizon at 6:23 am., we are facing southeast overlooking the narrow beach at the Atlantic Beach Camping Area in Fort Clinch State Park, the northernmost beach in Florida,
We stand at attention as we imagine our good friend, Baritone Opera Singer Christopher Holloway performing our National Anthem with all the gusto he can muster, his strong voice filling the still, cool morning air.
We are barefoot, as the first few miles of this epic adventure are, appropriately, run on the hard-packed sand at low tide.
We offer one another virtual high fives as we maintain social distancing brought on by the COVID-19 virus, pivot to our left, set our watches, and take our very first steps on the first edition of our 5-month, 1000K Florida Virtual Challenge, along the East Coast to Key West.
Animated conversation flows as we are so excited to be underway. We are heading towards the northwest. On our left is one of Florida’s most pristine parks and on our right, across from the mouth of the St. Mary’s River is the state of Georgia.
Directly ahead of us, history meets nature as the park’s namesake, Ft. Clinch, comes into view larger and larger as we click off the steps.
According to the park’s website, “A row of cannons staring across the St. Mary’s River into Georgia are silent testimony to the strategic importance of Fort Clinch during the Civil War. The historic fort is only one aspect of this diverse 1,400-acre park. Maritime hammocks with massive arching live oaks provide a striking backdrop for hiking, biking, and running on the park’s many trails.”
Our sandy route continues past the fort and turns south just before Mile 2 and eventually onto the paved boat ramp, at the northernmost extension of Pogy Place. Time to slip on our running shoes, but this is Florida, so you can count us running barefoot again on this beachfront journey.
We follow Pogy Place across Egans Creek onto Fernandina Beach, and for the first time, we have left the quiet comfort of Ft. Clinch State Park.
Fernandina Beach is the northernmost city on Florida's Atlantic coast, and is one of the principal municipalities comprising Greater Jacksonville. The area was first inhabited by the Timucuan Indian tribe. It is the only municipality in the United States that has flown eight different national flags in its history, including Spain (twice), France, Great Britain, Mexico, the Confederate States of America, and, of course, the United States of America.
Our route today takes us through residential areas on a quiet, 2-lane road on the outskirts of the State Park and onto Atlantic Avenue eastbound, passing the Amelia Island Lighthouse along the way. This is also known as State Road A1A, part of Florida’s highway system, which ends in Key West, 614 miles away.
We have logged just under 6 miles on our first day as we navigated around the peninsula. We are now near the southern gates of Ft. Clinch State Park - and for an adventure, we head back in to explore the Fort, search for some shark’s teeth and later, relax on this beautiful beach.
AN EXCELLENT FIRST DAY!
....The continuation of this running log is written by John Pitzel, our 4th finisher of the 1000K. John decided to run the 1000K again, and "document" his travels. Thank you, John, for your colorful commentary...
Miles 0 – 14
After rounding out of Fort Clinch State Park, we drop down on N 14th street, and take a left on Route 200, and at the Atlantic Ocean, we get on the famous A1A, our home for the next 600 miles or so. One important tip: keep the ocean to your left. It's mainly a collection of houses, occasionally punctuated by beach access points. At the corner of A1A and 108, there's Sliders Seafood Grill – the baked lobster and crab dip looks wonderful, but I think the Key Lime pie would be a winner as well. There's also a great breakfast menu, but alas – no donuts.
Further South, we actually diverge from A1A for a bit, adding to our stay on Amelia Island by taking a short hop on the Amelia Island Parkway, passing on the landward side of The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island (rooms at about $899 a night), and the cutting towards the ocean on Scott Road, making another right, and heading along Village Way road, past Erin Stackhouse Photography, and the Sailmaker Resort before taking another slight jog inland on Burney Road and rejoining A1A.
Amelia Island is longer than I realized. The important part of this trip is to not overdo it. There's a lot of time left, and more importantly, a lot more to find out about on this trip.
Miles 14 – 24
We've left Amelia Island behind, passing The Amelia Island Club at Long Point on the right. I was terribly excited to see the sign for the Kelly Seahorse Ranch but it turns out it's not what I was hoping for. I guess those Superfriends shows on Saturday morning were wrong about Aquaman after all. The long, slow slog up the bridge over the Nassau River results in a wonderful view out to the left, with Bird Island framed by the sea all around.
The bridge leads to Big and Little Talbot Islands, housing mainly parks and beaches. It's peaceful and quiet for the most part. I've made it just past the Little Talbot Island Campgrounds, and I'm stopping to write this in the scrub along A1A. Until tomorrow, fellow runners!
Miles 24 – 39
This day saw quite a change in the scenery. I left Little Talbot Island, and crossed the Fort George River near Alimacani Park, crossed the Saint John River near Singleton's Seafood Shack, skirted the Naval Air Station Mayport (the third largest naval surface fleet concentration area in the US), crossed the Intracoastal Waterway, through Mayport itself, and then a quick job seawards on Atlantic Boulevard. Right at the Flying Iguana Taqueria and Tequila Bar onto First Street, and we are now heading through Jacksonville. Condos abound, and there are a lot of beach type shops as well.
I stopped to look in at the Rip Curl Surf Shop , but they don't have any replacement <shoe type endorsement space available here>, so I press onwards until I spy – The Ugly Cupcake . It's just a block off the route, but these days, I'm always hungry. Looking at the menu, I'm going to call an audible and try the original bruffin (canadian bacon, cheddar, tomato on house bread with one egg, over medium). I only make it a couple more blocks, to 8th Avenue and First street, before stopping at the Sandpiper Condominiums. Until next time, fellow runners!
Miles 39 – 53
Wow! Jacksonville is the largest city in terms of area in the United States, and nothing reinforces that fact like crossing it on foot. Condominiums line First Street, with the people just waking up and starting their day as I continue southward. A little jog, following the starfish markers, onto Ocean Drive, then back out to First, but always moving south. Another quick jog on 25th Avenue, then back on Ocean to 37th Avenue, and then over to Duval (a harbinger of times to come down in Key West, I'm sure).
Duval angles into Pointe Verde, and I follow Pointe Verde, just a block or two off the beach. The most noticeable thing is the Sawgrass complex, with a Beach Club (and the TPC Golf Course further inland. Further south, and perhaps the opposite of the Country Club, is Mickler's Landing, a “low-key beach for surfing and sunbathing”. I make it a little further south, stopping near the Guana River Wildlife Management area. The noises coming from across the river are... interesting, to say the least. Until next time, fellow runners!
Miles 53 – 65
This stretch is a straight shot down A1A, running along the thin strip of land between the Atlantic and the Guana River. I'm alone with my thoughts for the most part, with scrub and low brush on the left, and a row of beach houses on the right. Towards the end of the stretch, I reach Vilano Beach, on the outskirts of the oldest European settlement in North America – Saint Augustine. A1A takes a right and we prepare to cross the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge. The bridge is named in honor of the St. Augustine and North Beach civic leaders, Francis E. and Mary Borum Usina.
Just as the bridge spans the North River to connect the St. Augustine mainland with Vilano and North Beach, so too the Usinas were strong links between the communities. For half a century Captain Usina skippered the sightseeing vessel, Victory II, on Matanzas Bay; with his wife Mary he pioneered in development and improvement of North Beach as St. Augustine expanded to include that area. However, the nearby Publix may have donuts, and that's worth checking out. Until next time, fellow runners!
Miles 65 – 78
This part is through St. Augustine. After a few Publix donuts (see the comment for some guidelines on choosing a donut spot), it's across the Usina Bridge and down the Vilano Causeway, around the Fountain of Youth (watch out for the kids!), a slight jog to the right, and then left on Business 1/A1A through town.
Just past the St. Augustine Civic Center, there's a slight right onto St. George Street, going past the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, the Spanish Bakery and Cafe, the Panama Hat Company of St. Augustine – a Vented Seagrass Fedora would look awesome in a finish line picture, wouldn't it? At the corner of Treasury and St. George, Kilwin's Chocolates (old-fashioned confectionery chain selling chocolates, ice cream, handmade sweets), and so many other neat places to stop and browse. But browsing is for another day, this is running time!
Right on Cathedral Place, by Ponce De Leon Circle. And the across the Bridge of Lions (spoiler alert: no real lions), and then down Anastasia Boulevard. Be careful and follow the starfish markers carefully – there's a wicked zig zag right in front of O'Steens and the Pub on Anastasia (I'm sure it's just a coincidence). Follow the A1A curve and there is another loop around Leonardi's Nursery (gotta get to that 1000 K somehow) before we get to the intersection of 312 and A1A and take a left on A1A Beach Boulevard, which takes us, yes, out to the shore once again. This is prime hotel and condo territory, so play the license plate game and see how many states you can spot. The day's journey ends just past the St. John's County Fire Rescue Station #6. Until next time, fellow runners!
Miles 78 – 90
Leaving the Fire Rescue station, we rejoin our friend A1A and more past more condos, refreshed by the salt air and breeze. To the left, the Atlantic Ocean, as usual. To the right, the Matanzas River. The land narrows the further south you go, until just after the Commander's Shellfish Camp there is room for only one set of condos and the road. A little further down the road, there is the Fort Matanzas National Monument. Fort Matanzas National Monument was designated a United States National Monument on October 15, 1924. The monument consists of a 1740 Spanish fort called Fort Matanzas, and about 100 acres of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River on the northern Atlantic coast of Florida. It is operated by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in the city of St. Augustine.
Crossing the Matanzas Inlet, you journey over several smaller islets and eventually come to Marineland Dolphin Adventure and the Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience. Marineland offers a variety of experiences, including swimming with dolphins (and an alternate means of transportation does seem good about now), and the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience is a full-time University of Florida research center for biomedical research and biotechnology. This is an area where I could happily spend a five or six day vacation – perhaps when this race is over. AS it is, I spend a little too much time here, and end up just past the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Until next time, fellow runners!
Miles 90 – 114
Leaving Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, the faithful A1A leads us past Palm Coast and then S curves closer to the coast, with the Fox Cut serving as the western boundary on this narrow strait of land we find ourselves on, often within sight of the rolling Atlantic surf. Past Varn Park, the Flagler Beach House (it may be for rent -check their ad on facebook). Some fellow runners are taking advantage of the additional shade by running on the Flagler Beach to Marineland Trail, a 21 mile long paved pathway that is located along the coast of Northern Florida. The trail extends from the community of Marineland, goes past Palm Coast and continues to a point about 7 miles south of the community of Flagler Beach. The south end of the trail is about 63 miles northeast from the center of Orlando.
However you chose to hoof it, the beach homes alternate with scrub and brush,with A1A moving even closer to the water right around the Si Como No Inn . From the website: Si Como No is a small intimate, unique resort that will give you a deep sense of privacy and tranquility as we only have 9 room. We offer the perfect environment to read rest, and so some water sports, grill out or just enjoy hanging around in a hammock doing nothing! We hope that you enjoy our wonderfully natural environment and we look forward to making your vacation more than you expected.
Further down the road, the sign for Beach Belly Bob's Sandwich Shop catches my eye – try the Hurricane Matthew and let me know what you think of it. Fortified by the hurricane, we move through the Gamble Rogers Memorial Recreation area at Flagler Beach. James Gamble Rogers III (January 31, 1937 – October 10, 1991) was a folk artist musician and storyteller known for the recurring theme in his songs and stories about characters and places in a fictional Florida county. He died a heroic death and was honored by his native state.
After many more miles of scrub, the trail ends, and so does our journey, at Riverbreeze Boulevard and A1A, in the lee of the Van Lee Condominiums. Until next time, fellow runners!
Miles 114 – 119
Just a quick 6 miles / 10 K down this coast in this installment. A1A moves just a bit further east at Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach, so that on the left is just beach, with hotels, condos and the like on the right. This continues for a little while, until we move a little further inland in Daytona Beach, past Steve's Famous Diner. Steve's is an American success story. Steve Mavronas was born in 1942 in Greece and came to America in 1967 with $15 in his pocket and with a dream to open his own restaurant. After opening several restaurants in the New Jersey area, Steve decided to make the move to Florida. In 1986, the first Steve's Famous Diner was opened in the Daytona Beach area. In 2007, Steve Mavronas passed away, but his dream/legacy lives on through his children.
The course then moves back out to the shorefront at Seaview Avenue. All the main hotels are here – La Quinta (Spanish for “next to the Denny's”), Hampton Inn, the Hard Rock Daytona Beach, and the Best Western, where today's miles end. At this point, you are about 20% of the way through the long path down the east coast.
Miles 119 – 132
Resuming our trip, we are heading into one of America's premiere motor sport cities – Daytona Beach. Made famous by the hard packed beach sands that allowed racing (in certain areas), racing took place along the coast until 1959, when the Daytona International Speedway was built a bit further inland. We leave the coast at Route 600, taking a right and heading inland on International Speedway Boulevard, over the Halifax River.
Bethune-Cookman University is on the right, a private, historically black university. Up ahead is the International Speedway, and the starfish insignia lead us right into the speedway complex and - holy cow! We're heading onto the track itself! We enter the track right by the NASCAR Racing Experience and Richard Petty Driving Experience, where we make one of the slowest laps ever (but one of the fastest human powered ones). AS we finish our lap around the two and a half mile oval, we exit the race course and make a second, larger lap around the complex itself.
We end up on the campus of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the only accredited aviation-oriented university in the world. As you would expect, a large number of astronauts are among it's graduates. We end today's leg at the intersection of Richard Petty Boulevard and S Clyde Morris Boulevard
Miles 132 – 143
The first part of this leg is returning to the hard packed sands of Daytona Beach, going back across the Halifax River and taking a right on the shore. This time, be careful to watch for people running out from the cars parked along the beach! The Landshark Bar is to our right (boy, doesn't a slice of Key Lime pie seem like a good idea right about now?).
This sand is ideal for running on, hard yet forgiving. Easy on the knees as well. All too soon, the starfish call for us to make a right on Silver Beach avenue, and then another right back on to our old pal, A1A. Passing by Phantom Fireworks of Daytona, I think about picking up a few packs of sparklers for twilight running, but what color? A few blocks further down, and the aromatic scent of cigar smoke can be picked up, emanating from Don KiKi Cigars Superstore.
Further south, more resorts and hotels pop up, each with swarms of new arrivals and departures – the Sunrise Inn, Nautilus Inn, Beach House Inn, Holiday Inn, Sierra Suites, Oceanside Inn, the Flamingo Inn – present the memories of generations of tourists on the beach, with thousands of stories in each (figuratively, not literally). The morning sun plays hide and seek with the street, but I have <sunglass product blurb available; inquire for rates> to help me see down the Avenue. The hotels peter out around Cow Lick's Ice Cream (butterscotch sundae, please), and condominiums take over the space between A1A and the shore.
The hustle and bustle of hotels is replaced by the slightly calmer pace of the condominium inhabitants. At the Pirate's Island Adventure Golf course, the course take another right, and recrosses the Halifax River for the third time via the Dunlawton Bridge, or the Port Orange Causeway The bridge carries approximately 29,000 vehicles per day (and a few hundred fellow runners) across four lanes of State Road A1A and Dunlawton Avenue. Today's leg stops just past Donald's Bait and Tackle, and we are just about through Daytona Beach.
Miles 143 – 157
We finish the trip across the Halifax River today, and take a left on A1A (aka US 1) and head through Port Orange. Almost immediately, we run into a problem – cute cats. On the left is Kravchenko Siberians, and we could easily lose hours staring at the felines.
However, the Keys are calling us, and we resume our southward trek. South we go, past Roundhouse South Electric Trains, C's Waffles, and Flaunt Electric Bicycles in Port Orange, crossing Rose Bay and heading into undeveloped coastal area. Hotels and businesses give way to trees and tropical foliage, and we get to the real meat of the meal of running – being a part of nature and taking in the natural world all around you, with nothing but the sound of your footfalls to mark your progress.
Spruce Creek Park, Divito Park, and the Spruce Creek Preserve space out Port Orange from the town of New Smyrna, our next town, and we pass by the airport, with a DC- 7 out front. Then on the right, it's a pair of related restaurants, Mom's Home Cooking and Pappas Drive In and Family Restaurant. The next few miles are spent trying to figure out the exact dynamics between those two, and who provides the meals at home.
Just past the Brannon Center, at Riverside Park, there's a right and two lefts to get up on the Causeway across the Indian River in New Smyra Beach. There's a curve to the right, and the ocean reappears in our senses, as Atlantic Avenue takes over for A1A. Condominiums begin to appear again, and we end at the corner of 30th Ave and S Atlantic, just past Izzy's Island Tacos and Ice Cream.
Miles 157 – 167
Continuing down the coast, Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church is on the right, with C's Waffles Beachside just a few blocks further south. The eclectic mix on the right is an interesting counterpoint to the condos on the left, which serve as a wind and sun break. One of these condo developments is Errol by the Sea, which offers oceanfront vacation rentals from $142 per night for a two bedroom, two bath unit that sleeps up to six. For the most part, the condos continue as the land narrows, and eventually houses take over as the mighty A1A becomes its sleep alter ego S Atlantic Avenue once again and finds its way to the shore again, allowing us just to glance to the left and see ocean.
A quick jog inland on Kingfish Avenue puts the course on Turtlemound Road, the Pompano Avenue takes us out to S Atlantic again, then Trout back out to Turtlemound, as the land narrows even further. There's a slight commotion up ahead – we are at the Fee Booth for the Apollo Beach access, and it seems no one has any cash in their running shorts! A quick call to the RD, and the issues is resolved – the fee is included in the registration, but someone didn't get the memo, and we are on our way again. We come upon the Apollo Beach Visitor Center and Canaveral National Seashore on this narrow spit of land, and are on the low, scrub covered barrier island when we stop today's travel.
Miles 167 - 176
This nine mile stretch is coastal seashore, with the rolling surf to the left ,and scrub and low lying islets to the right. It's deep in the Canaveral National Seashore and is quite literally a natural oasis from all of the concrete jungles we have been moving through to this point. This 25 miles of pristine Atlantic Ocean beach, dunes and Mosquito Lagoon is the longest expanse of undeveloped land along the East Coast of Florida and as a federally protected area will remain primarily as it is today.
Mile 176 – 186
Another ten miles in the Canaveral National Seashore. The great part is that the sea breeze is keeping the bugs down, as it's just us runners on the Klondike Beach Trail, a thirteen mile trail along the beach (if you can get by the nude beaches at Apollo and Playalinda). It's also a very different running surface, as it's beach sand, so the going is a little bit tougher in this stretch. It's balanced by the fact that we don't have to watch out for cars on this part. Towards the end of this leg, near Max Hoeck Back Creek and 402, man-made structures appear in the distance. The next legs are going to be interesting....
Miles 186 – 202
Klondike Beach Trail gives way to Playalinda Beach Road, which meets up with State Route 402 (aka Max Brewer Memorial highway), and as we move south, we encounter one of the highlights of the race – NASA's Launch Complex 39, the most famous rocket launch site in history. On our left, we first encounter pad 39B, used for the Apollo- Soyuz missions, and further down, Pad 39A, site of all of the Apollo moon mission launches. (Kudos to the RD and team for getting us access!). Please be careful looking up at the launch facilities, as we don't want to trip over anything as we run on by. Pad 39A is now under contract to SpaceX for their launches. A little further down CCAFS Space Launch Complex 41, home to the United Launch Alliance's rockets, so there may be a chance of seeing a rocket launch if you time it right. This is one of the highlights of our journey so far, as man's most advanced (and fastest) form of transportation hosts it's oldest and most reliable.
Just past Complex 41, on the right, is the Astronaut Beach House, which is used as a conference center and a place for astronauts and their families to gather before launches. Then is complex 40, and the course cuts inland, so the inactive launch pad 37 will be on your left, with water on the right. (Don't get used to it, because it won't last). We then enter Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and take a right on NASA Parkway East over the Banana River, and we end this leg on the western bank of the river.
Miles 202 – 212
Crossing Static Test Road, we push on further into the Space Center, taking Nasa Parkway past the Headquarters Building (with a lot of people inside no doubt wishing they could changes places with us), past Kennedy Parkway, the badging office, the Visitor Complex (with the shuttle Atlantis ) before taking a left hand turn onto Space Commerce Way, and passing the fourth launch company at KSC, Blue Origin, before looping back onto the Kennedy Center Parkway. After a short distance, we take a left onto Tel 4 Road, and end at the intersection of Tel 4 Road and East Crisafulli Road. It's a pretty stretch, removed from people and full of wildlife (when there isn't a launch).
Stand in awe of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, a NASA icon at Kennedy Space Center. Then learn about the Hubble Telescope or grab a bite at the Orbit Cafe.
Miles 212 – 224
This starts with a straight shot east on East Crisafulli until it intersects with Audobon Road, then we take a right and head south. There's a tracking station of some kind at the corner, and there's even a “good luck runners” made from teal and orange cups in the fence surrounding the installation. Hey! We're famous!
Audobon road takes us close to shore again, but with no beach it's a more canal like feeling.We move past the KSC Campground, and turn right on East Hall Road and head toward the town of Merritt Island, taking a left on North Courtney Parkway, at the Circle K, and head South, past the Moose lodge on the left, the Speedway convenience store on the right, and the Causeway Diner (Comfy joint since 2006 with American, Greek & Italian dishes, all-day breakfast & housemade dessert) and then over the Canaveral Barge Canal, before taking a right and rejoining our old buddy A1A, now heading east again.
We're approaching Banana River again, and stop for the day at the western Rocket launch viewing area. The view to the north is totally clear, with a perfect line of sight towards the Space Center and launch pads. But – there's something to the right, about to the north-northeast. We'll have to see what it out there next time.
Miles 224 – 230
This brief leg starts on the Martin Andersen Beachline Expressway, and as we move east, we see cruise ships – lots of them! North is the Port Canaveral area, home to Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. A1A turns south as we pass the cruise area, and we pass the Twistee Treat Ice Cream Stand (Dessert chain serving soft serve ice cream, malts & more from a stand shaped like an ice cream cone.) Just south of Port Canaveral, we enter the town of Cocoa Beach, and pass the Ron Jon Surf Shop and even Fawlty Towers, as we end at the Cocoa Beach Harley Davidson.
Miles 230 – 243
This leg takes us through Cocoa Beach, with the Banana River to the west, and the Atlantic on the east. Past the Publix, our <shoe placement available> slapping against A1A, our feet find their rhythm and we move southwards. Past the International Palms Hotel and Conference Center on our left, then the Anacapri Pizzeria a little further down on the right – the Anacapri Special looks mighty good! A little further, also on the right, is the statue of Kelly Slater, 11 time world surfer champion . As a matter of fact, a few minutes later we pass Kelly Slater Way, which, fittingly enough, provides beach access off of A1A.
This part of town is a mixture of small businesses and homes, as this is an area that has developed organically from a Naval base in the 1940s. The variety keeps it from being boring. We pass the Robert P Murkshe Memorial Park, named after the former mayor (getting some use on this sunny day), and then The Fat Snook (Intimate, casual-elegant New American eatery featuring local & organic ingredients & boutique wines), and the land narrows even more as we move past Patrick Air Force Base. Crossing State Route 404, we leave Cocoa Beach behind and move on to Satellite Beach, and the condos return on the left. We end this leg at Sunrise and A1A, right around Grotty Beach Park.
Miles 243 – 249
This set of miles is quite a change from the last stretch. Out of the wilderness and back into the concrete jungle of southern Florida, the hotels and beach houses are interspersed with interesting local shops and chains. At the corner of Oine Tree and A1A is the Hula Moon Tiki Grill , “Hula Moon is a modern take on the American tiki bars of the 1950’s and 60’s. Our cuisine is a blend of Polynesian and modern American pub food which includes poke bowls, tacos, sandwiches and seafood.” They don't open until 11 am, so timing is going to be the key to getting in. A little further down, on the right hand site we come to Canova Beach Park, a dog friendly beach with showers, and then, just beyond that, Lou's Blues Bar and Grill, which is high on the places to double back to when I'm done. I mean, live music every night, food, drinks, and a patio overlooking the Atlantic? Pull out my little notebook (a la Steve Rodgers) and make a note of it!
A few more miles south, and the route jumps off A1A and goes through James H Nance Park and the down along Melbourne Beach (you may even see some sea turtles), before rejoining A1A. With this leg ends at Deland And A1A.
Miles 249 – 255
A1A angles away from the beach, and we take a right on Ocean Avenue, past the Surfguys Surf schooll , and then right to get back on A1A, past Sand on the Beach oyster bar and smoke house - the seafood omelet looks delicious!
We're in Melbourne Beach now, and the condos eventually are replaced by green space, as the Spessard Holland Golf course appears on our left, so we get a nice crossbreeze. All too soon, it's back to condos and trailers, as we keep moving south. As the island narrows, the buildings fade away, and nature reasserts itself. Just past the Publix, we trot past the Coconut Point Sanctuary, and then the Ponce De Leon Landing site, and then the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (a natural preserve for sea turtle viewing, where this leg ends.
Miles 255 – 271
Another scenery change, and back to the condos and hotels of the shorefront on this leg. Melbourne Beach has a lot of places to stay and live, which is no wonder given the climate – every day is almost perfect for running. There's a good balance of development and wildlife, such as Brevard County's Maritime Hammock Sanctuary – “This 150-acre sanctuary features a hiking trail with 2 bridges, boardwalk over wetland areas, and an observation deck over a marsh pond. Visitors experience a variety of protected barrier island habitats: coastal strand, maritime hammock, and mangrove forests. A portion of this sanctuary was once the site of an exotic plant nursery.”
The subdivisions roll by - Mark's Landing, Floridana Beach, Candlewood Pines, Woodland Estates, Sunnyland Beach, and the massive Aquarina complex – provide a backdrop to our footsteps, the Atlantic Ocean on the left, the Indian River on the right. Something to look at on the way as well is further down the road is the Vanilla Ice Project house, which, in some might say in true Florida fashion, is the combining of two unique items into an equally interesting result (Kids, ask your parents about Vanilla Ice and see how they squirm).
The houses are larger, and spaced further apart at this point, and businesses are further apart as well. Eventually we happen upon Surfside Grill and Adventures, part reception hall, part fishing hole, part restaurant. Surfside can really support anything you want to do in the area (except run long distances. We're on our own for this).
These parts of the barrier islands are mostly nature preserves at this point, as we cross the Sebastian Inlet and head towards the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. Along the way is the McLarty Treasure Museum, showing a variety of items salvaged from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck. We end at the Treasure Shores beach access point, and get ready for the next leg of our adventure.
Miles 271 – 287
The first part of this leg is passing by two large resort developments on the left – Windsor Properties and Orchid Island, complete with golf courses, before entering Vero Beach. (Vero Beach was the long time spring training home of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, for the baseball fans among us.) The subdivsion/ golf course set-up continues as we make our way south on this leg, with occasional breaks for a small group of shops and restaurants, like Johnny D's - perhaps get a wrap to go? We end this stretch at the corner of Seagrape and A1A, and hope for more variety in the coming days.
Miles 287 – 298
The checkerboard of development and undeveloped areas continue as we roll southwards, punctuated by condominiums as well as we pass the Head Cove and the alliterative subdivisions of Seminole Shores and Ocean Oaks before passing through the Round Island Beach Park/Riverside Park area and entering a long, undeveloped stretch of wilderness, before encountering the Ocean Harbor Condo area and then back to wilderness with the Queens Island Preserve. As we enter Fort Piece, the National Navy SEAL museum pops up on the left, and shortly afterwards the course takes a sharp right hand turn and we run across the causeway into Fort Pierce proper, then a left on Old Dixie Highway, through town, past the Captain's Galley - breakfast is served all day, so there's always time for the Granny's Griddle omelet! Especially before tackling yet another bridge on Seaway Drive.
Miles 298 – 307
Coming down off the Seaway Drive bridge, we move through the Museum Pointe Park area, which includes an aquarium as an attraction. The road gently curves through the island, with more beachfront homes, yacht docks, and supporting businesses. We make a left at Fort Pierce Jetty Park, passing Lipshitz and Dimagglo South Beach Market on the right, and beaches to our left. The houses and condos continue as we pass Kimberly Bergalis Park, and take a slight detour towards the center of the island, and another stint of wilderness, coming to the Bear Point Sanctuary, the location of the last recorded Native American Black Bear hunt. Past the sanctuary, the countryside is undisturbed, as it it part of the Vitolo Family Preserve, a wetland preserve of 64 acres (almost 26 hectares). We end alongside A1A and Watersong Way, a small development on the Atlantic side of the isthmus.
Miles 307 – 314
Moving further south, we pass Little Mud Creek and the boat ramp. The island is very narrow here, and you can turn your head to the left and right and see water on both sides. Crossing Blind Creek, we come upon the Florida Power and Light St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant, and then the Sand Dollar Shores Condos further down on the right, next to the Ocean Bay Nature Area. After this, the road shifts to the right side of the land as it narrows even further, with room for one house on the seaside. Soon afterwards, the land broadens and we come upon the Island Dunes Country Club and then the Jane Murray Brooks Park, named in honor of a local conservationist. A little further down A1A, opposite the Islandia Condominium towers, near the tennis courts, there is a golden starfish marker on the course, as opposed to the usual pink ones. This is the halfway point on the 1000K journey. Congratulations!
Miles 314 – 327
We continue, condos to the left, and wilderness to the right, down A1A, and enter the town of Jensen Beach. On the right is Ironhorse Scooters, which may or may not be a bad idea, but a little further down is Strawberry's Deli and Ice Cream, which is very definitely a good idea. Further down, at the roundabout, is the Sand Dune Cafe which offers a good looking breakfast or lunch, so time your miles carefully! As we leave Jensen Beach and enter the town of Stuart, Joe's River Park is off to the left – a nice picnic spot. I don't know who Joe is, but later on we find Joe's Point Road, that leads (inevitably, one suspects) to Joe's Point. Further down, A1A makes a gentle curve westward, and we cross the Earnest Lyons Bridge and then the Evans Cary Bridge through Stuart, and make a left on Florida 714, past Witham Field, in honor of enlisted Naval Aviation Pilot First Class (AP1) Paul "Homer" Witham, who was the first Naval Aviator from the City of Stuart to die in World War II. There's an air show at Witham Field every November, so you can stop and buy tickets on your journey, if you're so inclined.
Just past the airfield, we rejoin A1A and keep moving south, ending this leg at the corner of A1A and SE Delmar, right next to Carniceria la Tamaulipas #2.
Miles 327 – 338
This stretch starts with more eating choices (after so many miles, who isn't thinking of their next meal to fuel this effort?), with Brooklyn Joe's Pizza literally across the street from the Taco Truck of Stuart, followed shortly by Importico's Bakery Cafe and the Dixie Grill. With a macaroon in one hand and a carnita quesadilla in the other, we pass the entryway to the Yacht and Country Club subdivision on the right – quite ornate and fancy! Further down, we dispose of our napkins at the Manatee Park in Port Salerno, and keep moving southeast along A1A. Golf courses border both sides of the road, giving way to densely packed housing and RV parks. We take a left on SE Bridge Road, and go over the recursive Bridge Road Bridge, then a right on Beach Road, past the Jupiter Island Town Hall. The town of Jupiter Island has the highest per capita income of any place in the United States. The median income for a household in the town was $199,167, and the median income for a family was over $250,000 As you might expect, the water stops and snacks are awesome! We end up between Grenville Road and Barrow Place.
Miles 338 – 354
We roll on through the estates of Jupiter Island, down tree-lined state route 707 for a good part of today's effort. The houses are spectacular, and offer a different kind of distraction from my feet, cushioned as they are in <brand TBD, depending on endorsement gig>. The road eventually wanders eastward, and soon we can see the Atlantic Ocean for a while before moving to the center of the island . Eventually the magnificent houses give way to wilderness, and we come upon the Blowing Rocks Preserve, a part of the Nature Conservancy. It's absolutely beautiful.
Further south, the condos resume, and Cato's Bridge takes us back to the mainland, and a left on A1A and over the Loxahatchee River into Jupiter, Florida. Stay left on A1A, not US Route 1! At the intersection of A1A and 706 is the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival. “To run or not to run, that is the question,” and we all know the answer! A1A also moves to parallel the Atlantic beach front, with houses to the right. Jupiter gives way to Juno Beach, and we stop outside Captain Charlie's Reef Grill.
Miles 354 – 366
A1A rejoins US Route 1 at the Seminole Golf Club, and we pick them up and put them down through North Palm Beach, passing 3 Natives, a healthy lifestyle cafe. At this point be careful, as the course does a loop between Ridge and Juno Roads – follow the starfish markers carefully!
We continue on A1A south and make a right on Jack Nicklaus Drive (actually A1A), and head east, past the Lost Tree Foundation, and through another neighborhood of upscale homes. Soon the houses end and we run on, water to the right, and trees and park to the left. It's the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, preserving the natural heritage of subtropical coastal habitat that once covered southeast Florida.We pass Munyon Island, and follow the shoreline, and condos appear on the Atlantic side as we enter Rivera Beach. A1A becomes Blue Heron Boulevard, and we cross two more bridges, past Phil Foster Park (home of the underwater snorkel trail), back on to the mainland and a left on Broadway Avenue. We continue south, past Sea Shell City, and through the port of Palm Beach, as we share the area with shipping containers, storage tanks, and the silhouettes of cruise ships to the left. We then take a left of 56th street, and right on North Flagler, past Brian H. Chappell and Osprey parks, past the yachts on the left, and stay on North Flagler as it curves through another residential area and into West Palm Beach.
Just past Currie Park and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Landmark Memorial, we wind up running along the water, and have a great opportunity to enjoy the wind coming off the water, and see the boats in the bay. It's a beautiful day for running (but then again, isn't every day great once you get started?). Just past the Palm Beach Yacht Club and Marina we stop, preparing for yet another bridge crossing.
Miles 366 – 377
The journey starts with a trip across the Flagler Memorial Bridge, the second of its name. The bridge is named for Henry M. Flagler, who invested in building a rail line from Jacksonville to Miami and on to Key West. He built hotels to house his passengers, including The Breakers in Palm Beach, which is coming up soon. Once on the eastern side of the bridge, the course takes a right on County Road and through the Breakers property. The story about the property is fascinating – check out https://www.thebreakers.com/about-breakers/ for a brief history of this opulent hotel. We only see the hotel in the distance to the left, however, as we are on A1A, which bisects the golf course. We leave the Breakers and take a left on Barton Avenue, then a right on Ocean Boulevard, with a sparsely -populated beach to the left, and dwellings to the right. Further down, we pass Mar-A-Largo.
Recent history aside, this estate has a fascinating history. Mar-a-Lago is Spanish for "Sea-to-Lake", referring to the fact that the resort extends the entire width of Palm Beach, from the Atlantic Ocean to what is now the Intracoastal Waterway, but previously was known as Lake Worth. Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post Cereals business, paid for the house to be built with her husband Edward F. Hutton. (yes, the broker). She spent US $7 million (equivalent to $103 million in 2019), and construction was started in 1924 and finished in 1927. The house has 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, a 29-foot-long (8.8 m) pietra dura marble top dining table, 12 fireplaces, and three bomb shelters. Mar-a-Lago was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980.
We continue south, and the estates get smaller as we go, with the land narrowing so there is only room for the road and one row of residences. We pass the Sloan's Curve Tennis Club, with a few players dressed in their whites hitting balls back and forth, and the Ibis island off to the left, then the Palm Beach Par 3 Golf course – a lot of options to relax, if you aren't running a race the length of Florida! The island begins to widen, and the condos and hotels reappear. We end this leg at Evans Lane and South Ocean Boulevard, just past the Breakers.
Miles 377 – 389
We follow A1A further south, hugging the western side of the island, and move past even more stately homes. As we move south, off to the east, in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is the Lofthus Underwater Archaeological Preserve, a fascinating stop for later on.
A1A then crosses the Boynton Inlet, and we're in Palm Beach county! The houses are a little smaller, and there are more condominiums, but it's still spectacular! We pass the Ocean Ridge Park and then the Ocean Ridge Natural Area, and then a couple of golf courses, and Gulfstream Manor vacation homes, and then the spectacular Gulf Stream Golf Club. From their website: “Gulf Stream Golf Club is a private invitation only golf club established in 1924 by a group of Palm Beach residents, all of whom were close friends and dedicated to the game of golf and its traditions. It was under the direction of this visionary group, with a zeal for the game of golf, that Gulf Stream was quietly organized, a magnificent golf course designed and built by Donald Ross and a beautiful Addison Mizner clubhouse erected.” The distance through the course is a magnificent view and experience.
All too soon we are through the course and onto the shore of Delray Public Beach There's another shipwreck offshore as well, the SS Inchulva, that you can also can dive at. These shipwrecks are a silent reminder to the power and fury of nature. We pass from Delray Beach to Highland Beach, and end today's leg between the Penthouse Highlands and Highland Beach Condos.
Miles 389 – 394
This part of the trek starts with condos, and gradually gives way to a mix of condos and single family homes. Just past the Boca Highland Beach Club and Marina, the human habitation thins out, and as we pass the Spanish River Boulevard we're back in the tropical green of south Florida, with the Spanish River Park on our right, then the Yacht and Racquet Club of Boca Raton coming up just south, sandwiched between the Spanish River park and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center (mmmm, gumbo). Then we're back in the residential area, passing a number of housing developments until we stop on the shores of Lake Boca Raton, near the Chalfonte Condomuniums.
Miles 394 – 406
As we start this leg, it's condos, condos, condos. We cross the Boca Raton Inlet on A1A, and are further off the beach, shaded by the buildings to our left, with occasional glimpses of ocean through the gaps. We do a quick zig zag onto NE Second street to get to NE 21st avenue in Deerfield Beach – please make the turn (marked with starfish traffic cones), and don't wander out onto the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier – it's 976 feet of detour, plus 976 feet to get back, and at this point in the journey I'm more of a straight line person myself.
We're next to the beach now, and it's a broad expanse of sugar-white sand, punctuated with teal umbrellas, framed by palm trees – a postcard come to life. We swing west and get on South Ocean Way, which curves back to the beach for a little while longer, until we hop on A1A at 10th street. The condos thin out again, and there are vacant areas, then the houses begin to appear as we enter Hillsboro Beach, and the island narrows again. Now there's water on the right, together with docks and large boats.
We leave Hillsboro by passing over the Hillsboro Inlet Bridge, and are welcomed into the town of Pompano Beach by the sight of Ruby's By the Sea (two sizes of Stromboli!), just as the course cuts onto Bay Drive and follows it in a big, sweeping series of curves. (Psst: don't stick to the kerb, run a straight line - we've got the entire lane to work with). Stay straight on Dow Street, then left on A1A again. It's back to condos again.
At the Bermuda House, take the left onto Pompano Beach Drive and marvel at the even broader beach to the left. Pompano Beach Drive turns into Briney Avenue, and follow that until a right on SE Eighth Street (just follow the starfish stencils, it'll be fine), and another right on A1A for a good long stretch, until a left on Washingtonia and a right on El Mar. Eventually we come upon Mulligan's Beach House, and in a nice touch, the aid station here has finger sized portions of Mulligan's Stuffed French Toast for us as we trot by. El Mar Drive ends, and so does today's leg,on A1A and Imperial Lane.
Miles 406 – 413
Welcome to Fort Lauderdale! The seat of Broward county, it's part of the Miami metropolitan area, so traffic is going to be heavy. The town is named after Major William Lauderdale, who built a series of forts in the area as a part of the Second Seminole War (1835 – 1842), but construction of the city itself did not start until 1893. The city was only incorporated in 1911.
We take A1A through town, past a lot of large condominiums and hotels until veering close to the beach past NE 19th street. A little further south, and we are bracketed with the beach on the left and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park on the right. Birch was a Chicago attorney who purchased a large amount of beachfront land in the 1890s to serve as an escape from Chicago. Upon his death in 1946, he donated the land to the state for the creation of the park that bears his name. The southern end of the park is bounded by Sunrise Boulevard, and is marked by a brief set of businesses, including McSorley's Beach Pub, before another lush expanse of green – the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. After this A1A (now under the nom de highway of Seabreeze Boulevard) curls away from the beach and into town. The course take a right on East Las Olas Boulevard, and we head west on 842, across a number of bridges, and into a tricky loop around a couple of downtown blocks before heading south on US 1 across the New River and ending at the intersection of US 1 and Southeast 6th street.
Congratulations! This is two thirds of the way through the course!
Miles 413 – 424
I took advantage of the stop to change my shoes from <sponsor placement available> to a new, different pair of <additional product placement available>, and I can really tell the difference! (Remember, check the wear on your shoes and replace them on a regular basis.)
US 1 Is also known as Federal Highway, and we are moving at a good clip. We pass Andy's Live Fire Grill and Bar, and the tasty aroma of the short rib stroganoff catches my nose. Mmmm.
We cross Marina Boulevard, and the road gently curves eastwards, as we skirt the eastern end of the Fort Lauderdale Airport, and follow A1A into a sharp left and head towards the coast, going past West Lake, crossing the Stranahan River, and then looping under the road, then a sharp left and quick right on to Surf road and we're moving south next to the beach once again and we're in Hollywood. Hollywood, Florida, that is. The next few miles are beach to the left and condos, shops and restaurants to the right. Just past Grumpy Gary's, take a right on Harrison Street, and a left on A1A, and the Stranahan River is on our right. We end on A1A, between Quadomain III and 12 Pillars condos.
Miles 424 – 438
We start in the early morning passing the tennis courts on A1A, heading south past even more giant condos, crossing Hallandale Beach Boulevard where A1A dons the name of Ocean Boulevard (though the only way to see the Ocean is through the gaps in the buildings to our right). We cross County Line Road, and the landscape changes to single family dwellings. Welcome to Miami! The houses continue until the intersection with William Lehman Causeway, where there are some larger buildings, hotels and the like. Further down we pass Timo's (“urbane, earth-toned space with warm vibe offering a seasonal Mediterranean menu and thin crust pizzas”), and the smells are wonderful!
Past Town Center Park and 170th street (the streets will decrease we we move south, which is something to amuse yourself as you run), and even more condo towers. On the right, Atlantic, Poinciana, and Kings Point Drive lead to small, artificial islets with houses and condos on them. Just past those three streets, avert your eyes, as it's the Haulover Naturist Beach. A1A is bordered by nature (and naturists) on both sides at this juncture, with Haulover Beach and Haulover Park taking up the space from shore to shore. The area includes a skatepark and dog park, completely filling up the southern tip of the island.
We cross a bridge and are in Bal Harbor, the land of the oceanside high rise. We cut eastwards on 96th street, and then right on Atlantic Way, bordering the beachfront, and keep on moving south. Past the Four Seasons, the Surf House, Mirage, Rimini Beach, and Champlain Towers until we reach the North Beach Oceanside Park. A little out and back around 79th street, and then past Altos Del Mar Park, some beach volleyball courts, and another stretch of condos. Eventually the road ends, and we're running on grass at the top of the dunes, beach to the left, and dwellings to the right. At the Galeria Condos, we actually go down and run on the beach itself, alongside the surf, and eventually pass the Fountainbleau Hotel. It's an iconic hotel, and has been in a number of TV shows and movies. On March 26, 1960 Sinatra videotaped an ABC television special at the hotel (The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis) as part of his regular Timex-sponsored series to welcome back Elvis Presley following his two-year military service in West Germany. The hotel was the setting for Jerry Lewis's 1960 comedy film, The Bellboy.
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach is featured in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger, most notably in the sweeping aerial shot that follows the opening credits and accompanies composer John Barry's big-band track "Into Miami". The Fontainebleau is one of the main settings for the 1988 comedy sequel Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, with the film's characters staying there during the movie and many of the film's scenes filmed there.
We end opposite the swimming pool at 26th street, as it's a perfect place to cool our feet after today's miles.
Miles 438 – 449
We start off with beaches – three of them to be exact – Miami Beach, Ocean Beach, and South Beach. The course is on the beaches themselves, slogging through the sand at the top of the beach, below the grassy dunes and above the sunbathers and water. It's cute, seeing the sand sculptures of starfish serving as course markers. Finally we hit the end of the beach at South Pointe Park Pier and turn right, following the coastline of the ship channel, past Smith and Wollensky, then the South Pointe lighthouse, and past the yacht moorings until we reach the MacArthur Causeway, where we turn left and hoof it across until we reach Star Island.
The course takes us on a lap through the Star Island Neighborhood, quite a feat, as it's a pretty exclusive area, with such stars as Shaquille O'Neal, Sean Combs, Rosie O'Donnell, and Don Johnson having owned homes there (kids, ask your parents who some of these people are).
Back on the causeway, we head west, past all of the cruise ships docked across to our left, and take the 13th street exit, then a sharp left and we go around the art, museum and park complex and then the American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat, before cutting across to Bayfront Park and following the Miami Riverwalk along the shore, then across the Miami River on a set of inflatable starfish before taking Brickell Key Drive to Briskell Bay Drive through downtown Miami, then joining Brickell Avenue. Brickell is a dense, high-rise residential neighborhood with many upscale, luxury condominium and apartment towers. We end at Briskell Bay Drive and Southeast 11th street.
Miles 449 – 461
We pick up again on Briskell Bay Drive, and follow it through the man made canyons of downtown Miami, as it curves around the waterfront and up 15th Street, and then left on Brickell Avenue. At the Rickenbacker Causeway, there's a quick jog to the right, and the course moves to South Miami Avenue, with a quick detour via private dive to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Previously known as Villa Vizcaya, it is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune, on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida.
The early 20th century Vizcaya estate also includes: extensive Italian Renaissance gardens; native woodland landscape; and a historic village outbuildings compound. The landscape and architecture were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architecture style, with Baroque elements (from Wikipedia).
Right after the estate, we take a left on Halissee Street, then a right on the waterfront path, then another right and meeting up with West Fairview street then left on South Bayshore Drive for a good long while, until we come upon Pan American Drive, and head around Miami City Hall. The building is all done up in bunting celebrating our race, which is a nice touch. The course follows the marina's shoreline, looping around Kenneth Myers Bayside Park following McFarlane Road, curving inland at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. We turn off McFarlane onto Main Highway, running past Chug's. Main Highway is very different from a the other parts of the Miami route, tree lined and through an older part of the city. Main dead ends into Douglas, and we turn left and follow Douglas to Morningside, turn right for a few hundred yards, and then left on Ingraham Highway to SW 42ndstreet, around the traffic circle, exiting on Old Cutler Road and into Coral Gables, where we end this leg just south of 120th street on Old cutler Road.
Miles 461 – 470
Let's call this stretch “Old Cutler”, as just about all of these miles are on this road. This is a mostly residential section of Miami, with nice houses and full, leafy trees along a good portion of the route. It's houses, trees and lawns from 120th down to 157th Street, all the way to SW 199th Street. Just off the route on 167th Street is Pig Floyd's BBQ , and it's the aroma that pulls us over – I mean, the brisket!
We enter the town of Cutler Bay just past 199th Street. While the course seems straightforward, pay particular attention to the course starfish down around this location. There's a loop around the traffic circle at 87th Avenue that sends you back north to 85th Avenue. Good thing there's a complete aid station there to help us figure things out. (Also, hello Gummi Bears!). Soon after that, we pass the Andante Bicycle Shop and begin thinking about trying a triathlon after this is over. Just past the bicycle shop is the Sandbar Sports Grill, and thoughts of swimming, running and bicycling are replaced by drooling over the carnivore pizza. Crossing 216th street, the houses are now closer together, and there are fewer trees to provide shade. The course takes a left on SW 224 Street, and we stop at Pied-Billed Grebe Lake.
CONGRATULATIONS! You are now three fourths of the way through the 1000 kilometer challenge.
Miles 470- 476
Heading East on Southwest 224th Street, we pass by the Cutler Wetlands Preserve, as the road turns right and becomes SW 97th Avenue and continues south. We cross Black Creek Canal and weave our way through farmland, following Coconut Palm Drive, SW 102ndAvenue, SW 261stStreet, SW 107th Avenue (which becomes S Allapattah Road as we cross SW 280th Street). We end on 107th, near the northeast corner of Homestead Air Reserve Base. This is a very rural and agricultural stretch of the course, quite a change from the concrete canyons of the past few days.
Miles 476 – 481
From the corner near the airbase, we continue south, zig zagging our way through the large blocks of the rural Florida countryside. A right on SW 304th street, past tree farms, a left on SW 117th in front of the Homestead Training Center, and a long stretch south, past the Biscayne Florida Gateway and the Waste Management Delta Recycling Center (may the wind be ever in your favor!), and a right on SW 336th street, heading west. The undeveloped and crop land is on both sides of the road, but there's a seemingly familiar structure appearing off to the left in the distance. I've seen that before, but what is it? Find out next time. We stop at 336th and 132nd, and stare.
Miles 481 -493
Someone please check the map. Have we doubled back on the course? We're in a large parking lot in front of a race track. We passed the famous Daytona Speedway many miles ago, and this time we are at the Homestead – Miami Speedway. Wikipedia relates “The track reflects the art deco district of nearby Miami Beach with its liberal use of colors such as aqua, purple and silver. Though the track itself has been considered to be aesthetically pleasing from the outset, initially the racing at Homestead was not considered very good. The track opened as a four-turn, rectangular-oval, based on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's layout, coincidental considering that circuit and Miami Beach were developed by Carl G. Fisher.”
Regardless, no online entry can prepare you for the majestic site of the grandstand, and even less for a turn round the banked oval track (even if it is on foot). After a second run down the home straightaway, we exit the race course on to Tallahassee Road (aka SW 139thCourt), left of Palm Drive / SW 344th street, and a right to get us heading south on SW 137th Avenue, through the agricultural acreage of South Florida once again. After a good long run, the road gently curves to the east and merges with Card Sound Road, heading south-south east, and we stop shortly past the merge.
Miles 493 – 503
Card Sound Road takes us down to Alabama Jack's, “a lively waterside spot for seafood, renowned for its conch fritters, live music,and breezy atmosphere.” Frankly, you had me at 'lively', but the rest isn't bad either!
A bag of fritters in my hand later, the route crosses Little Card Sound, and we're on the Keys, and off the mainland United States for the rest of the course. Card Sound dead ends into State Route 905, and we turn right, in front of the Key Largo Hammock State Botanical Site, which takes up a large part of Key Largo. This leg ends near the home of Sea Critters, Incorporated, “Consistently producing QUALITY Live Brine Shrimp year round since 1982”, a supplier to the tropical fish industry. You can also get seahorses and tropical fish, though you might want to think twice about holding a bag of live fish while you run.
Miles 503 – 508
Reluctantly departing Sea Critters, we head down 905, past the Key Largo Transfer Station and the Waterside Key Largo Vacation Home, which looks like a great place to stay indeed. Just a couple more miles down the road is the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and also the Crocodile Lake Community Butterfly Garden. Two sides of nature, next to each other in one of the most scenic spots on earth. What could be better?
Miles 508 – 515
Today's leg includes a trip through Key Largo, famed in movie and song. “Key Largo” was a 1948 movie, and was the fourth pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and also starred Edward G Robinson and Lionel Barrymore (Drew Barrymore's great-uncle). “Key Largo” is also the title of a 1982 song by Bertie Higgins that referenced the movie, and reached as #8 on the Hot 100 Chart.
The town of Key Largo is unaffected by the multi-media success and clumps around US 1 on the island of …. wait for it.... Key Largo.
There's a Marriott Resort, and a number of nice eateries, including the Lazy Lobster, which offers to cook the catch of an angler for just $16.99 per person, and Hobo's Cafe, which features New England Clam Chowder!
We end this leg opposite the McDonald's (I wonder if they offer a lobster shake?)
Miles 515 – 523
Just a litle ways into this stretch is a Publix supermarket, then Friendship Park, which has an aid station set up for us. This stretch of US 1 is known as the Overseas Highway, and it's full of things needed for a trip to the Keys – pizza (Tower of Pizza) , chocolate and ice cream (Key Largo Chocolates and Ice Cream), but, most importantly, seafood from the Key Largo Conch House. There's an ever-present sea air and sunshine to make the trip pass a little faster. Just past the Key Largo Lighthouse is the Key Largo Ranger Station, part of the Everglades National Park system, and then it's back to human residences and businesses. Further down on the right is the Playa Largo Resort and Spa, part of the Autograph Collection of Hotels, and next to that the Bahai Bay Resort. These are definitely on the list of places to stay when I'm not running around. The next stretch is resorts on the right, and wilderness on the left, and we reach the Key Lime Cafe, a highly rated cafe with great burgers and Key Lime Pie. We end this stretch at the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, home to over 90 non-releasable birds from over 40 species.
Miles 523 – 528
Departing from the bird sanctuary with the early morning calls ringing in our ears, we follow A1A south, through the town of Tavernier, taking a quick right turn on to Sterling Road at Chad's Deli and Bakery, past the Coconut Palm Inn, and a sharp left, and then a right at Calypso's on Tavernier Street and then out to the Overseas Highway, across Tavernier Creek, and then on to State Highway 4a. We end in the Tom Thumb parking lot at the corner of State Highway 4a and Aregood Lane.
Miles 528- 533
Just past the Tom Thumb, we pass the Marker 88 Restaurant, which features a Lobster Basil Pesto Pizza, and a Mango and Strawberry Cobbler, which is now on the list of “places to come back to and try their food” (which is quite a long list, truth be told). The Overseas Highway passes through Islandorada. Islandorada is a village of six islands, and is known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World”, hosting the largest fishing fleet per square mile in the world. Further down on one of the islands, Windley Key, is the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, which is the site of the quarry that was used to mine the stone to build Henry Flagler's Overseas railroad over 100 years ago. Just past the State Park, we rejoin US 1 from State Route 4A, and end our leg just over the bridge across Whale Harbor Channel.
Miles 533 – 542
Just over the bridge is Wahoo's Bar and Grill, where you can bring your catch to have it cooked, and next door is the Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet, so you can get fueled up two different ways for the island hopping ahead. The course diverts onto the Old Highway just a little further down, and we pass by a number of seafront estates, rental homes, and condos. The course does one last trick further down, as it makes a block – right on North Ocean, back north on Overseas Highway, a quick down and back the ally between Latitude 25 and Osprey Bay Village, a right on Deleon, and then back on the Old Highway and head south. All that circling has a dizzying effect, so a stop at Islamorada Brewery and Distillery seems to be in order to administer some counteractions.
Further south, the course passes the Hurricane Memorial, erected to honor the lives lost in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, and rejoins the Overseas Highway/ US 1 just past Blue Marlin Jewelry. As we move down the road, the houses thin out and the sport fishing charter companies begin to predominate (mainly on the right hand side) as we reach the end of the island. The next stretch of the course is a hopscotch highway of bridges and fill until we reach Upper Matecumbe Island, and we stop opposite sport fisher captain, Bob Baker's place.
Miles 542 – 551
The homes, resorts, and condos line the road as we head south from Captain Baker's place on the Overseas Highway, passing Sea Oats Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key, and coming upon the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base of the Boy Scouts of America, home to a number of sea-based programs for Scouts (hence the name). After Anne's Beach, the key hopping begins, as we go over Channel Two to Craig's Key, and take the Channel Five Bridge to Fiesta Key, then a gentle highway curve leads to the town of Layton, on Long Key, home of the Florida Boy Bar and Grill - tell Scott, the owner (scott@theFLboy.com) we're pulling for him! I mean, Ahi Tuna Nachos.
Outside Layton, we end this leg at Long Key State Park. Looking ahead, the starfish markers show an interesting start for tomorrow....
Miles 551 – 556
This leg starts off with the route heading north, back the way we came for a few hundred yards before circling the large, inflatable starfish and heading south again on the Overseas Highway, along Long Key, then a long stretch on a bridge until we reach Conch Key and Little Conch Key, where we end this leg. This is probably the most monotonous leg. Just pounding it out on a bridge, Caribbean on one side, Gulf of Mexico on the other. It's like a treadmill with a view and a salt breeze. On the other hand, at the end, you're 90% done, so you've got that going for you.
Mile 556 – 562
This run is three keys in length – Conch, Duck, and Grassy – with even more bridges. Good thing I'm running in <shoe sponsorship still available!>. The main item of interest is the Dolphin Research Center where their mission is “through education, research and rescue, the Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans, and the environment we share with the well being of DRC's animals taking precedence”. You can also swim with the dolphins. Post- dolphin activity, relax at the Hideaway Cafe with a nice Seafood Wellington.
Miles 562 – 567
Another set of Keys on this leg – Crawl Key, Long Point Key, Little Crawl Key, Fort Deer Key and Marathon. The first part of the trip is through the Curry Hammond State Park Trail, notable for the fact that it's halfway between Key Largo and Key West, so we're half way through the last stretch of the trek (over 91% if you're being pedantic). Once through the park, we're in Marathon (a very apt name, I'm sure you'll agree), and pass by the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, where the sea life comes to you. You can see up close, feed ,and even swim with a variety of sea life, such as sharks and stingrays. If the water isn't your thing, the Marathon Air Museum is just down the road and hosts a variety of flight experiences. In the space of a mile, you can have experiences on land, in water, or in the air. Stunned by this revelation, we end this leg alongside the Florida Keys / Marathon International Airport.
Miles 567 -573
Just past the airport, we run past Stout's, another in the long line of local diners that add so much, ahem, flavor to this journey. Stout's is a breakfast/lunch place ,so this is yet another reason to not run in the dark. Stout's is just one of a whole slew of places in the Marathon, like the Wooden Spoon, Herbie's Bar and Chowder House, the Cracked Conch Cafe, the Hurricane Bar and Grill, and the Stuffed Pig, that offer something for every appetite (and at this point, I think we all have appetites). At the west end of Marathon, just past the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, we head out on Seven Mile Bridge, which is actually two bridges – one for vehicles, the other for pedestrians and bicycles. We make it partway across the first span, about halfway to Pigeon Key, on this leg. Congratulations! There are less than fifty miles left!
Miles 573 – 577
This part is entirely on the Seven Mile Bridge, and ends just past the Money Key Channel, and almost to Money Key. There's not a lot to see on a bridge, so this is about all of the narrative for this leg. Oh, we did pass Fred the Tree, so there is that.
Miles 577 – 584
From Fred the Tree, it's a monotonous succession of bridges and little islands. After Money Key, we go by Little Money Key, Little Duck Key, Missouri Key, Ohio Key, Bahia Honda Key (home of Bahai Honda State Park), and West Summerland Key, before ending this stretch on the Spanish Harbor Channel Bridge.
Miles 584 – 593
With 95% of the course completed, it’s the last little bit that is often the hardest. As we descend the Spanish Harbor Channel Bridge, on this course, it’s probably the most beautiful. A1A winds through Big Pine Key, passing Big Pine Rooster (http://bigpinerooster.com/), which is open 9 – 9, so you can get any meal on your trip southwards. After Big Pine, it’s on to Little Torch Key, Middle Torch Key, and Ramrod Key, before we finish on Summerland Key, just past Tonio;s Seafood Shack and Tiki Bar. (I don’t know about you, but I’m just about done with bridges).
Miles 584 – 593
With 95% of the course completed, it’s the last little bit that is often the hardest. As we descend the Spanish Harbor Channel Bridge, on this course, it’s probably the most beautiful. A1A winds through Big Pine Key, passing Big Pine Rooster (http://bigpinerooster.com/), which is open 9 – 9, so you can get any meal on your trip southwards. After Big Pine, it’s on to Little Torch Key, Middle Torch Key, and Ramrod Key, before we finish on Summerland Key, just past Tonio;s Seafood Shack and Tiki Bar. (I don’t know about you, but I’m just about done with bridges).
Miles 601 – 607
Through Lower Sugarloaf Key, on to Bluewater Key, passing by the RVs, arrayed in serried rows like a line of parked land whales, over small bits of land with no name to cross water which does have a name, Saddlepunch Number four Channel, Saddlepunch Number Five Channel are behind us, and we end on A1A just short of Shark Key Bridge. We're getting closer – the addresses are all Key West now.
Miles 607 – 611
We pass over Shark Key and then we're on East Rockland Key, still trudging along A1A. The right hand side of the highway is populated, the left hand side is seacoast and shallow water. We pass the Purple Porpoise Club, which has great reviews and no website, so you know it's worth checking out. A1A then gently curves to the north, as we pass by Naval Air Station Key West (,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Air_Station_Key_West) ending this leg almost past the base, opposite the Post Office.
There are ten miles left.
Miles 611 – 616
With the end is sight, the pace picks up asn the miles seem to come more quickly now. Crossing the next to last bridge (there's a little starfish sign “one more bridge”), we enter Key West proper and cross Stock Island, with the Key West Golf Club on the right. Just before the final bridge (!), we pass the Hurricane Hole (http://www.hurricaneholekeywest.com/), perfectly set up for indoor or outdoor dining. Once across the bridge, it's Key West proper. A left on A1A, and we are paralleling Cow Key Channel for a short distance before the highway follows the coastline and curves away to the right, and the Carribean is on the left. We end this next to last leg opposite Key West International Airport.
Miles 616 – FINISH LINE!
It is, as usual, a bright day here on the east coast of Florida, traveling south on A1A towards Key West. I can see the hotels rising in the distance, showing that the end of the trip is almost here. . A1A, my faithful guide for all these many miles, ends here, and I take a right on Bertha, beginning a serpentine crawl through Key West, finally entering the city proper. Atlantic Boulevard ends at Reynolds, and another right, then left on Seminole, skirting the Casa Marina Key West (a Hilton property - lowest stay with points is 90,000/night), a quick jog (like I've got that left in me at this point) right on Alberta, then left on Waddell, then right on Vernon, and another left on South street, and then, a right on Duval. (check out www.liveduvalstreet.com).
Past the Key West Butterfly Conservatory, Banana Cafe, The LaTeDa, Casablanca Key West, I pick up the place, looking for that one particular harbor - and there is it - Margaritaville Key West. That's where I'll be once I finish. But wait! Just a block further, there it is - Glazed Donuts! (www.glazeddonuts.com) A DONUT SHOP IN KEY WEST! YES!! My trip is complete with donuts at the end!. I've got to finish this last little bit and then get to eating.
Duval , left on Wall, then right and we go around fabled Mallory Square (time it to see the sunset if you can), and then back out on Whitehead for the final sprint in my trusty <shoe sponsorship still available>. It's a straight shot now, right towards the buoy that marks the southernmost point in the US and the end of an epic journey.
I place my hand on the red paint of the marker. My race is over.