Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Never test the depth of a river with both feet. (Warren Buffet)

The Miami River is a working river, and it is spanned by numerous bridges. The expressways and light rail systems pass over the river on high rainbows of concrete. Everyday surface roads cross the river over low drawbridges, their center sections ready to lift so the larger boats can pass on their way to the shipyards and docks that line the river's edge for miles.

We follow the river on slow, meandering rides. There are stores with imports, seafood restaurants and markets, ship builders, ship repair shops, fishing boats, marinas, and a myriad of interesting places to explore. Parks and green spaces are there, too.

Best of all are the views of the city from the bridges. Miami as a working city, a city of grit and strength. So different from the polished glitter of the beaches and resorts.

We pedal past, enjoying the cool breeze that floats to us off the river. Up and down and over the Miami River. It never grows old.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Power Meters and the Weaker Sex

We listened to some good advice from two Everglades Bicycle Club friends when we were buying our current road bikes. They said, "Get a power meter." We did.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. Wow, now you can see what a wimp you are in numbers every time you go out for a ride. (There is that.) Power meters measure the force you use to move your bike down the road. Pro cyclists can generate jaw-dropping, huge numbers. Me? Not so huge.

The power meter, none the less, has changed my life. I'm not talking about using it to train to get stronger. I like to ride, but I loathe training. Because I ride a lot, I have decent endurance. What "training" I do for cycling consists of chasing Al. It is great fun, but I sometimes push it too hard for too long. Then kaboom!, and red warning lights flash in front of my eyes as I slide into the red zone. One thing is sure, once that happens, I pedal home slowly, the fun over for the day. Going into the red zone is a bummer.

I'd tried the heart rate monitor thing. It was nice, but it just didn't work for me. It requires a level of discipline I just do not possess. But a heart rate monitor paired with a power meter? We have a winner!

Once I had a power meter on my bike, I started gathering data. Watching the power meter and my heart rate, I figured out the power meter reading where my heart rate spiked. And I figured out the place where I could ride hard but maintain a steady, not insane, heart rate. I figured this out on long rides, fast rides, hot rides, climbs when I was dead tired, climbs when I was feeling rested and frisky, riding into a headwind, and any other situation I could think of. (You get the idea.) Once I knew my numbers, riding efficiently was much easier. I learned to shift gears more to keep the power number under control. It lets me accentuate my endurance, without going into the red zone by pushing too hard. In fact, I haven't gone into the red zone since I started doing this power meter/heart rate monitor approach.

We went to an out-of-state bicycle event where we rode up and down hills all day, day after day. On the back of our bikes was our rider ID which showed we were from Miami. At every rest stop (if Al stepped away) I'd have women asking me how someone from Miami could do hills. I told them how I was using the power meter. I explained how it let me know when to shift gears to keep my cadence high and effort even. A number of them had never heard of a power meter. Others had. One said, "My husband has one of those! Hey, I'm getting one, too!"

The power meter. Who knew it could be such a handy cycling gadget for "the weaker sex"?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wheels and Wings 2015 (Sun, Rain, and An Old Race Track)

A friend said we should head up to Punta Gorda for the Wheels and Wings ride, an annual event put on by the Peace River Riders Bicycle Club. We definitely wanted to go. What's not to love about a ride on the rural roads of Charlotte County on Florida's west coast?

We drove over to Punta Gorda. We were a little group of 5 planning to ride the metric century (62 miles) route. At packet pick-up/registration we discovered two other Everglades Bicycle Club friends. They were planning to do the 50 mile route. It turned out the first miles of both routes were the same, so we decided to ride together while we could.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. The day was warm. Lots of early morning sunshine. The route was truly rural. Pastures with cattle. Piney woods filled with palmetto. Pedal, pedal, pedal.

We came to the first full SAG stop. This was where the ride's various routes split apart. As we continued down the road, clouds began to build. And build. Soon it was fully overcast. Not long after that the first sprinkles of rain began to fall. Which actually wasn't a bad thing. It got cooler. It was rather pleasant. Pedal, pedal, pedal.

The sprinkles gradually became a light rain. Then, on a quiet rural road, we saw ahead of us the demarcation where the real rain started. Pedal, pedal, pedal, and we were into the steady rain.

About 5 miles later we saw a woman with a big umbrella. She was waving for us to slow down for a SAG stop which was set up in a covered (yay!!) picnic pavilion of a small roadside park. Shelter from the rain! We huddled there while the rain cell moved away. Then it was back on the road. The remaining rain dwindled and stopped.

The final leg took us on a long loop through wonderfully green cattle pastures studded with a smattering of shade trees, shrubs, and shallow ponds. At one point a herd of cattle with impressively large horns was grouped close to the fence line near the road, seemingly half watching us and half posing for pictures. A mile further and we were at our final treat of the day, Three Palms Speedway, an old 3/8th mile racetrack that served today as a little velodrome for our ride. We could circle it as many times as we wanted. Excellent fun.

A few more miles down the road brought us to our cars and Beef 'O' Bradys and the after ride meal. What were the riders having to eat? Why wings, of course! Wings and beer. We munched and sipped, socialized with other riders, and finally said our goodbyes.

A very nice ride indeed. Definitely a ride to recommend to friends.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Miami When It Sizzles

It is full-on summer in South Florida, all tropical heat and humidity.

Twice a week we ride south from our home near downtown Miami. Once a week north. Once a week east to to Key Biscayne. Three days a week short rides near home on our slow bikes. A couple of times a month a road trip for a change of scenery. Our basic routine is much the same all year long. Sometimes the trips away from Miami are longer. Sometimes shorter. Coastal rides are somewhat cooler. Inland Florida rides are definitely hotter.

Dust blows across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara Desert giving Miami's sky a soft, milky cast near the horizon. Hard on the sinuses, but it makes for beautiful sunsets.

There are compensations for summer's heat. Sights to savor, sensations to enjoy. The way riding in the heat makes your skin sparkle and glitter with sweat, defining muscles as they work. The luxury of sipping icy cold water. The sun shimmering on the waters of Biscayne Bay. The pleasure of feeling the sea breeze. The sensuous feel of cool air that sometimes flows out to you from the canopy of trees. The wonder of stepping into air conditioning at the end of a ride.

The summer is long and languid. We pedal and let our thoughts flow, thinking of trips to take and places and people to see.

Enjoying the shade under the bridge to Key Biscayne.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Harmony Restored

Al has his road bike back. With a new frame thanks to Trek and the folks at our local bike stop, All4Cycling.

The cat and I are deeply grateful.

He is much easier to live with now.

While he waited for the replacement for his cracked frame, he used his old mountain bike. Remember, we ride a lot. It is the hot and humid Miami summer. The old mountain bike has a plush ride, but you use a lot of energy keeping up with road bikes if you are riding a mountain bike. We scaled back the miles on our rides. We gave ourselves treats. But nothing can soothe or soften the grumpiness of a man whose favorite toy, his lovely road bike, has been taken away.

But now the road bike is back. Harmony is restored in our little world.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jupiter in June

We had a true treat this past weekend. A fun weekend of riding with friends. The focus was on fun. Not miles. Not speed. Not training. Fun. 

Juno Pier (Photo by Larry Morat)
Less than a two hour drive north up the coast from Miami is the small coastal city of Jupiter. Al and I packed our bikes on the car and headed up to Jupiter Friday afternoon. We arrived a few hours before the rest of the group. We loved the location. The hotel was right on the intercoastal waterway. And on a fabulous paved recreational trail that we'd heard about but never seen.

Everyone gathered at breakfast in the hotel's lobby Saturday morning. Outside the sky was a bright clear blue. There was a light breeze. The forecast was for a hot and humid day. Our plan was to head north to Hobe Sound, make a turn around, ride south to Ocean Reef Park, turn around and head north to Juno Pier, then continue on to our hotel. At a bit after 7:30 it was pedals up, and we were off. There were about a dozen of us.

Juno Pier
Gawking at the fish under Juno Pier.
Pedal, pedal, pedal. What a great route! Traffic was light. There was a wide bike lane. The views of the intercoastal waterway and later the beaches were superb. Was it hot? Of course. It's summer in Florida. But this route had a fair amount of canopy and shade. There were beach parks with covered shelters at the turn-around points. And a Publix grocery store for air conditioning, cold water, and a mid-ride treat. (A fellow rider shared cold cubes of crisp watermelon with everyone. Delicious.)

Pedal, pedal, pedal. We pulled into Ocean Reef Park. A group was grilling something mouthwatering in a covered picnic area. We pulled into the shade of the trees near the boardwalk to the beach and mingled and chatted in the cool shade. Then it was off down the road again.

Part of the group on Juno Pier
Pedal, pedal, pedal. We pulled up to the Juno Pier. Part of the group gathered in a shaded area near the street to sort out a mechanical. The rest of the group headed out onto the pier to enjoy the views and the ocean breeze.

The paved path (Riverwalk)
Back on our bikes, it was a short ride to Riverwalk, the paved recreational path that ran back to our hotel. We headed to our rooms and cleaned up, then met back up for a great lunch at The Dune Dog. After lunch the group scattered, some to the pool, some to the beach, some to rooms for a nap. That evening we walked down Riverwalk, crossing the intercoastal, wandering through a yacht club then on to a nearby restaurant. Good company. Good food. Good conversation.

Sunday was a easy pedal before everyone parted ways. We rode through Jupiter and Tequesta, touching the borders of adjacent cities. Midway we made a stop at the Jupiter Donut Factory (Hours: "6:00 am until sold out".) It was definitely worth the stop. Then we continued our ride through the residential areas, down the beaches, and back to our hotel.

Al and I were heading home. Others were hitting the beach and the pool.

It was a perfect summer day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saying Goodbye to the Hills

Day 6 of BRAG. The last day of BRAG. We rolled our bikes through the lobby of our hotel, turned on our bikes' lights, and pedaled off to today's route. Because it was the last day, we could ride as hard as we wanted. We planned to be among the first riders finishing today. That would give us plenty of time at BRAG HQ to clean up and change clothes, pack the car, chat some, and be among the first in line for the post-ride meal. We were really looking forward to the post-ride feast: Sprayberry's barbecue, one of our favorites (pulled pork and Brunswick stew).

We cruised down the road by ourselves, rotating pulls every 5 miles. We slowed for conversation with other riders occasionally, but then we'd resume our pace. A quarter way through the route, a group passed us. We'd talked with them on previous days. We hooked onto their train, and we were off! The road surface was "shake and bake," an old chipseal road, patched and cracked and rough. One of the guys started complaining that his hands were going numb. But that didn't slow the pace. We chased down and passed group after group. We finally parted ways with the speedy group at a rest stop. It had been great, great fun.

There were large horse farms along the route. As we passed the hillside pastures, the horses would often gather and run, seeming to dare us to race with them. But from time to time, one or two horses would come to the fence by the road, mugging and begging for treats and attention. (Unfortunately, we didn't have any appropriate treats on us, so we rode on.)

On the final leg of the ride, we really got into playing. Al loves to climb, so he would leave me behind and speed to the crest of each hill. I love descending, so I would crest each hill, pedal a bit, get aero, pass him, and whoosh downhill as fast and as far as I could manage.

Finally we pulled into BRAG HQ in Newnan. We were at the end of the ride. A short but fun day. 52.2 miles, 1854 feet of climbing. (And for our whole week of BRAG which included two lazy days? 289.1 miles, 10,909 feet of climbing.)

We got in the car and drove a few hours towards Miami. Talking most of the way about where and when we'd play in hills again.