Dave Cornthwaite Braves 1,000 Miles of Reptiles and Bad Drivers on Bike Journey to Miami

For the past month, British adventurer Dave Cornthwaite has peddled a small bike-car from Memphis to Miami. Along the way he's burned more calories than the Miami Marlins' entire roster and braved hordes of alligators, snakes, and blood-sucking mosquitoes. But the most dangerous creature he's met is one Miami knows all too well: the crazy American driver.

"I had more close calls on this trip than all the others," says Cornthwaite, who completed his sixth 1,000-mile expedition when he pulled over in Coconut Grove on Saturday. "There were so many cars whizzing by, I literally had to pull into the ditch dozens of times just to avoid cars that just weren't paying attention."

But Cornthwaite couldn't avoid every bad driver, and his adventure almost ended in disaster as soon as it began.

The London native began his extreme expeditions back in 2005, when he quit his job and long-term relationship to skateboard the length of Great Britain. Since then, he's kayaked the Murray River in Australia and paddleboarded both the Mississippi and Lake Geneva.

Peddling a 200-pound bike-car from Memphis to Miami would be its own type of challenge, however.

"I was really concerned with traffic," Cornthwaite admits. "That's why I had a support vehicle guarding me from crazy Memphis drivers."

But he was barely out of that city when a speeding, texting woman crashed her car into Cornthwaite's entourage.

"She totaled the support vehicle, then spun, then hit me, and she was still going quite fast," he says. "I had to make a quick decision. I didn't want to get back on the bike, but ultimately I did. Things happen in life, you just have to keep going."

Cornthwaite peddled his way through Mississippi and Alabama before following Florida's Gulf coast south towards Miami.

"I've seen hundreds of snakes on the road," he says. "And a lot of alligators. I loved that experience. You don't get that in the UK: an alligator swimming down the canal next to you."

As he counted down the miles to Miami, Cornthwaite met and befriended dozens of Floridians, many of whom offered him a hot shower, bite to eat, and place to stay.

But the journey also showed the Brit the darker side of America's highways.

"It was harrowing," he says. "I realized my own mortality. Sharing roads with speeding trucks and cars, you realize how fragile the human body is. You realize that roads aren't just a way to get places, they are also a place where things die."

"I saw turtles, alligators, rabbits, squirrels, bigger animals like domestic dogs and cats -- all dead on the side of the road," Cornthwaite says. "That side (of the trip) has been pretty sad."

At least his arrival in Miami was more upbeat. Cornthwaite says that when he pulled off US 1 and into Coconut Grove's David T. Kennedy Park, a wedding party across the street was singing "It's a Lovely Day."

"People here have been really friendly so far," he says. "Although I did see some news when I got here about a cannibal eating somebody's face, so there's definitely another side to Miami."

Ain't that the truth.

You can meet Cornthwaite talk about his trip and his new plan to swim 1,000 miles down the Missouri River tonight at 7 p.m. at Grand Central. The event is free. Or you can follow his adventures on Twitter or his website.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.