MOORE HAVEN, FL -- This is my tenth one-day ride around Lake Okeechobee, but never before until about 20 minutes ago did I pedal so close to burning sugar cane crops. I heard the smacking crackle sound and gazed at the intense orange glow and smelled the sweet pungent aroma as I biked only 30 feet from the burning plants on State Road 78 about six miles from Moore Haven here in Glades County.
The inferno was the highlight of the first 38 miles of today's 120-mile counter-clockwise trek around The Bike Lake. I parked my car in a Wal-Mart in Okeechobee on the lake's northern tip and biked two miles to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, which is paved for about six miles from this Okeechobee reecreation area to Buckhead Ridge, a hamlet of trailer parks and fishing boats.
By mile eight I was out amid the scenic plains of blowing yellow grass and cows and it wasn't mile 20 that I saw another roadside attraction besides my bovine pals in Lakeport on the northwest side of The Big O.
I left at 7:20 am and a pleasant tailwind pushed me to Moore Haven here at 9:40 am. The library in this small city actually charges $1 for a guest internet pass, but I have a Florida Heartland library pass that covers several of the Big Lake area counties so I was good to go (I also have Delray Beach, Miami-Dade and Martin County library passes).
Now that I'm on US 27 heading from Moore Haven to Clewiston, home of Big Sugar, the winds are in my face and the cycling speed will drop a bit. But breezy headwinds dry off sweat and it's not too uncomfortable.
It's probably around 76 degrees and the clouds that come and go occasionally filter the sun.
I'm off to Clewiston, home of the historic Clewiston Inn, which has the most beautiful bathrooms along the route. What can I say? Sometimes you have to re-calibrate standards when you're biking through the small and economically-depressed cities of Pahokee and Moore Haven and even Clewiston.