The Florida Keys & Key West

Florida Keys News

An Officer and a Bar Owner: Cycling the Keys

By Laura Myers

Just how did two former collegiate wrestlers a one-time cop hailing from Louisiana and a bar owner from Ohio become partners in a Keys cycling tour company?

Mark Terrill, a state agency investigator living in Islamorada, and Patrick Fitzgerald, a former bar owner living in Tavernier, founded Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours about seven years ago.

The adage of “six degrees of separation” played a role. Terrill was Coral Shores High School’s wrestling coach from 2008 to 2011 and conducted historical bike tours to raise money for his wrestling team.

A college roommate of Fitzgerald’s became Terrill’s coaching assistant in Key Largo. The mutual contact introduced the two cyclists.

“Key Largo is the gateway to the Keys and the perfect starting spot to ride 100 miles to Key West,” Terrill said. “Normally the winds are in the cyclist’s favor, riding from Key Largo to Key West. Everyone wants to end their bike ride in Key West.”

Key Largo Bike, with 60 bikes ranging from hybrids to road bikes, is located in Tavernier along Old Highway.

“I originally wanted to do this business part-time,” Terrill said. “The demand became overwhelming.”

Last fall, Terrill took a job as an investigator for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He has also been a Monroe County sheriff’s detective, money laundering joint task force officer in Miami and MS-13 gang unit police officer in Los Angeles.

“I came to the Keys in 1994 after working as an LAPD officer for five years,” Terrill said. “I wanted to raise my kids in the Keys.”

Fitzgerald, Terrill’s partner, previously owned the VIP Lounge and Old Towne Tavern bars in Columbus, Ohio.

“Now I get to go to bed early,” Fitzgerald said.

Key Largo Bike tours are popular among middle-aged cyclists, empty nesters and visitors who often ride 30 to 40 miles at home. Typically the Keys are on clients’ bucket lists.

Clients also include affinity groups seeking transformational life-changing experiences and people who’ve recovered from a major injury and want a physical challenge.

Rides such as The ReMARCable Tour de Keys raise funds for non-profits such as Key West’s MARC, assisting those with developmental disabilities. A Project Athena ride for cancer survivors includes cycling, camping, running and kayaking. First Descents offers young adult cancer survivors free outdoor adventures including a ride through the Keys.

“We’re the only company that specializes in covering the entire Keys,” Fitzgerald said.

Popular tours include the Two-Day Tour to Key West, two 100-mile journeys that include the Florida Keys and Hemingway Century rides, an Islamorada Bike Tour, Bike and Beer Tour and Taste of the Keys.

The Key Largo to Key West Century Tour includes a full support vehicle, four drink stops, a beachside lunch, extra bikes, support on bridges and transportation back to Key Largo from Key West.

“We do get those serious road bikers, those who like to do a century in one day,” Fitzgerald said.

Riding the Seven Mile Bridge is a trip highlight.

The newest tour, Taste of the Keys, includes stops at beaches, coffee shops, art galleries and microbreweries around Islamorada, followed by selected bridges and hidden trails along the way to Key West. The excursion enables cyclists to experience 100 miles of the Keys without riding the full trip.

“So if you like to cycle a little, walk a little, swim a little and enjoy life a lot, this is the perfect tour for you,” a description states.

The four-hour Bike and Beer Tour, with 24 miles of riding, includes a guide and three beers. After the third beer stop, a vehicle ride back to Tavernier is recommended.

The men also cycle, explore and organize rides in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica.

Terrill and wife Allison have been married 31 years with three grown children: Jessica, who works for Miami’s Jungle Island; Luke, stationed in England with the Air Force; and Joel, an insurance agent in Hollywood Beach, Florida.

“I forced them all to cycle and now they love it,” Terrill said.

Fitzgerald’s two teenage daughters, Hannah and Reagan, live in Pickerington, Ohio, and also enjoy cycling and cross-country running.

Giving back to the Keys is a reward.

“I enjoy helping people,” Terrill said. “I find that being a bike tour operator and a public servant have something in common.”

Typically the Keys are on cyclists’ bucket lists.

Typically the Keys are on cyclists’ bucket lists.

Terrill, second from right, came to the Keys in 1994 after working as an LAPD officer for five years.

Terrill, second from right, came to the Keys in 1994 after working as an LAPD officer for five years.

The Seven Mile Bridge connecting Marathon with the Lower Keys, is a trip highlight.

The Seven Mile Bridge connecting Marathon with the Lower Keys, is a trip highlight.

The men also cycle, explore and organize rides in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba (pictured) and Jamaica.

The men also cycle, explore and organize rides in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba (pictured) and Jamaica.

Everyone wants to end their bike ride in Key West, and of course get their picture taken at the Southernmost Point marker.

Everyone wants to end their bike ride in Key West, and of course get their picture taken at the Southernmost Point marker.

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