Tuesday, February 24, 2015

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. (Woody Allen)

I adjusted my earbuds, turned on the music, and started today's bike ride. If nothing else, I have a great view while I pedal-pedal-pedal in our building's gym.

Al and I ride a lot. These days he's out riding without me. I've been told not to get on a regular bike for a bit over a month because of a broken collarbone. When I get back to riding with Al, I want to be able to keep up with him. Which means I need to be serious about regular sessions on a bike in our gym

I really do not enjoy riding a bike indoors. (Who does?) If I have to ride indoors, I need my music. This month my rules for my exercise playlist are simple: It may not include anything from "Rocky," "Star Wars," or any movie or album released prior to 1995. This week's playlist are selections from the original soundtrack of the 1998 German film "Lola Rennt" (English title, "Run, Lola, Run") by Tom Tykwer.

Today at the end of my session, I turned off the music, stood up, stretched, and looked around the gym. Despite a cool-down segment, I was still breathing hard and sweating copiously. One of my neighbors was in the gym working out with her trainer. She walked over to me. "Heard you crashed your bike. Hope you're better," she said nodding at my arm in the sling. Pointing to the gym's bikes she asked, "How often are you doing that?" "Four times a week for the next month," I replied, shaking my head and smiling as best I could.

That's the plan. (I am so counting on this working.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. (Linda Grayson)

The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve is a 560,000 acres tract located in the four corner area of Lake, Polk, Sumter, and Pasco Counties. Running through this area is the Van Fleet State Trail, a 29+ mile, 12-foot wide paved rail trail. A group of Everglades Bicycle Club members organized a weekend to the area to ride the trail. These special rides are a work in progress; they are improving each time we head out on a long group ride.

For this ride, the closest motel to the trail was the Best Western Inn and Suites in Auburndale. From the Best Western, you can ride your bike a short 2.7 miles to the trailhead of the Auburndale-Teco Trail. That trail runs just over 6.5 miles and right to the entrance of the Van Fleet State Trail.

Saturday morning was chilly. For people from Miami it was downright frigid. In Auburndale the low was 38 degrees. We decided to start at 10 a.m. by which time the temperature had soared to 45 degrees. We headed out in full Miami cold weather cycling clothing. (Leg warmers, arm warmers, base layer, jersey, jacket, under helmet cap, shoe covers, long finger gloves, in other words, the works.) It was a bright sunny day. (If you are laughing, then you are probably one of those crazy people who lives in a place where water freezes outdoors.)

We wheeled out of the motel entrance and navigated our way to the Auburndale-Teco trailhead. Then we rolled onto the trail. There were a few bicycles, mainly cruisers on this stretch of trail. A couple of people taking a morning walk with their dogs. Then we rolled up to the entrance of the Van Fleet. We already noticed the differences between the two trails. The Auburndale-Teco trail was flanked by electric pylons, a lightly traveled road, and pastures with cattle. The Van Fleet ran through a quiet wilderness.

As we pedaled down the Van Fleet we saw some serious cyclists. A few road bikes. Nice recumbents, including a hand-cranked recumbent. We had a couple of minor mechanicals. We stopped for bio breaks and snacks. A couple of the faster guys stretched their legs and disappeared into the distance. We were rolling along and having a marvelous time, taking turns doing the pulling, enjoying the view of cypress ponds and jiggling over a few little bridges which crossed creeks and sloughs.

About 6 miles from the end of the trail I had a freak accident. Erosion on one side of the path made the dirt shoulder dip 4-5 inches lower than the paved path. I was drifting back after another rider took over pulling, and my attention flicked to something in the middle of the trail for a second or two. That was the wrong time at the wrong place. My tire dipped off the pavement. I found myself using old mountain biking skills, but the soft earth, loose rocks, and skinny road bike tires did me in. My bike veered towards the curb-like edge of the pavement. I saved myself the first time my front tire struck the pavement, but I couldn't slow and unclip fast enough to hold it together when the tire bumped it a second time. I went down on my side so fast I never even lost my grip on the handlebars. I landed hard on my right shoulder.

We quickly figured out that I'd done something bad to the shoulder. Boy, was I happy to have my EBC friends there. Mercedes, Pepe, Judy, and Al stayed with me. Judy and Pepe made a sling for my arm out of their last spare tube. We started walking slowly back toward the last trailhead while the rest of the group headed back down the trail to locate help. In no time a park ranger in a truck drove slowly down the trail toward us. Our friends helped Al and me get into the truck and got our bikes into the truck bed. Then they headed down the trail to catch up with the rest of the group. The ranger drove us to the motel where we picked up our own car and headed to a nearby hospital emergency room. Xrays showed I had broken my collarbone close to the shoulder. It's never fun to break a bone, but it really helps to have people you like and trust there to help you.

It's good to ride with Everglades Bicycle Club friends. They're the best.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

No matter where you go, there you are. (Buckaroo Banzai)

Last year we rode most of our bike miles by ourselves. This year we have been riding more with other people. Sometimes in groups, sometimes just a line of three or four of us pedaling down the road. What I have learned is this: many people are unaware that what they do and say during the ride determines their perceptions of the ride.

What does that mean? It means if you yell and complain about "stupid car drivers" and your mind focuses on that, that will be how you remember and experience the ride. Ditto about complaining about the weather or your sore butt or legs. Ditto about focusing on the mood or behavior of a fellow rider.

Consider how much better a ride seems, no matter the weather or the traffic or the length of the ride, when your mind flows with the rhythm of the ride. Scanning traffic, shifting gears, monitoring speed and exertion, shifting your weight as you turn and corner. Sometimes you and your riding companions can have a conversation. Sometimes you focus on the route, and sometimes you spot things you didn't notice on other rides down the same road.

You are a mirror. Chris Robinson, singer with the Black Crowes once said, “What I had to learn was, that I’m responsible for my perception of things.”

Good point.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tour de Gumbo Limbo Pottery

A fellow Everglades Bicycle Club member recently opened Gumbo Limbo Pottery on Key Largo in the Florida Keys. It's a nice distance from Miami for a long bike ride. A group planned to do a century ride, a first century for part of the group. They wanted to keep the size of the peloton manageable. Could we tag along? (Yes, we could.)

The century group was starting from Deering Estates. Their total ride would be somewhat over a hundred miles. Like some other riders, we opted to join them a few miles farther south at Black Point Marina. Our ride would be a bit over 90 miles. We chatted briefly with friends as we unloaded our bikes from the car. The group that started at Deering Estates rolled in. In a few minutes the whole group pedaled out of Black Point Marina. There was an assortment of SAG vehicles driven by friends and spouses of riders heading south with the group. One car stood out. On its left side was a green flag emblazoned with "EBC". On its right side an orange "EBC" flag fluttered proudly. The car's driver wore a bright orange baseball hat and an orange t-shirt. She made a wonderful and creative style statement for the group!

After a brief break at Dixie Highway (US 1) in Homestead, the group headed towards Key Largo on Card Sound Road. The day was somewhat windy with the wind from the southeast. The group pedaled stalwartly along. Then we came to Card Sound Bridge. The direction of the wind made it pretty much a headwind over the bridge. Groan. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Pant, pant, pant. But we made it over the bridge, regrouping on the far side. We thankfully turned away from the wind several miles down the road. The wind was almost a tailwind. Pedal, pedal, pedal. We'd been joined by a pair of well-known (and much liked) EBC members on their green tandem for the remaining miles to Gumbo Limbo Pottery. They'd been in the Keys, and it was good to have them along for part of the ride.

A few riders were feeling frisky. To the amazement and amusement of our peloton, they made their breakaway moves and (yes, this really happened) sprinted to the Circle K. To be fair, our group was supposed to make a brief stop there. However, it was only 3 miles down the road from the Circle K to Gumbo Limbo Pottery. So the peloton waved at the speedy little sprint champions as we rolled past the Circle K and headed directly to the Pottery. (Maybe it was a little mean...but you have to admit it was maybe just a little amusing, too.)

We arrived at Gumbo Limbo Pottery. The pottery was lovely and we took our time browsing as we nibbled on a variety of snacks and cold drinks. It's definitely a place we will stop by whenever we head to Key Largo. As a ceramic token of our visit, our friend had made round medallions embossed with the date, a road bike, and the words "Tour de Gumbo Limbo". A very thoughtful memento of the ride.

Then it was pedal, pedal, pedal back to Miami. We had a tailwind (yeah!) over Card Sound Bridge on the return. The miles slipped by. As we got more tired, though, each mile seemed longer. There were big smiles when at last we had a break in Homestead. It felt pretty great to get off the bike and stretch. Then it was back on the road for the final stretch (for some) to Black Point Marina.

At Black Point there were many photos taken. For a large bunch of us, the ride was over. We waved goodbye to our friends doing their century ride when they pedaled off. They looked good. Pretty happy. Especially the bunch doing their first century.

Good job, guys. Congratulations!

EBC member Alex Pruna shares his love of photography with the club by taking photographs and videos of our rides. Here is his video of the inaugural Gumbo Limbo Pottery ride. (Thank you, Alex. You make us look so good!)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm not slow; I'm not fast. I'm half fast. (Unknown)

I was really curious if being clipped in would make me faster. It does. With no extra effort, I'm about 2-3 mph faster.

I'm still easing into being clipped in. I've learned in the past that increasing speed or distance too fast leads to unpleasant consequences. My preferred cadence is around 85-95 RPM. For the sake of discussion, let's call it 90 RPM. Our average ride is around 4 hours (240 minutes). Which means on an average ride, I do 21,600 pedal strokes.

That means I make my wonky ankles turn the pedals 21,600 times.

The first long ride I took clipped in I was having so much fun I didn't notice my wonky ankles...until I got home! Then I found myself looking really pitiful since I was limping on both feet. Lesson learned. After that I got sensible. We dropped the distance and didn't push the speed. Then we slowly increased things.

In a week or so we'll rejoin our Saturday 20+ ride group. Things are looking good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Perhaps you need to look back before you can move ahead. (Alan Brennert)

We put our bikes in the car's bike rack, threw our gear in the backseat, and drove north two hours to Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee was part of our life before Miami. It was just an hour's drive by car east of our old home, a place to go and spend time on rainy days, a fine place to ride our bikes in nice weather.

We hadn't been to the area since we moved to Miami. We've ridden around Lake Okeechobee several times. We'd do the lake loop as part of a multi-day bike tour from our last home. Sometimes we hauled the bikes the hour's drive to Okeechobee for day trips. But Al and I were urbanites now, used to the conveniences and attitudes of a big city. A return to Lake Okeechobee seemed like a good plan. How resilient were we these days?

Our first day we checked out the area. The lake is circled by an earthen dike topped by the L.O.S.T. (the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail). At the bottom of the dike is a wide navigable canal that can be crossed at 5-10 mile intervals where bridges to water control structures and such are found. The shore of the canal opposite the dike is lined with RV parks, old and dilapidated double wides (alone and in mobile home parks), and a wide variety of cabins, homes, and small businesses. Typical of rural areas, more expensive homes and ramshackle trailer parks mingled with casual ease.

We purposely stayed in a budget motel near the lake. It was clean and had a kitchenette. But its furnishings and color scheme were circa 1980, and it looked vintage Florida despite a very recent remodel of the bathroom, kitchenette, and sitting area. The motel's parking lot was filled with cars pulling boat trailers topped with bass boats, a variety of large motorcycles (mainly Harleys), and a few trucks of construction workers. We strolled through the local Bealls Outlet and the Walmart. Consignment and thrift stores were abundant. And gun and outdoor gear stores. We chatted with some locals as well as some snowbird geezers and geezerettes.

The next day we rode our bikes down the highway a few miles to a trail access at the junction of highways 441 and 78. We spent the morning riding the trail and exploring. The LOST is still one of the prettiest rides in Florida. We spotted 23 alligators, most motoring along in the waters of the canal and near the shore of the lake. There was a group of white pelicans begging at a fish cleaning table on the canal. We had to slow once because several buzzards were sunning themselves, wings spread wide, in the middle of the trail. Bugs were minimal. (Though insect repellent helps make stopping to enjoy the view more enjoyable.)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues its dike maintenance and rehabilitation work. The segment of the trail between Okeechobee and Port Mayaca is open and good riding. Spoiler: At Taylor Creek trail riders are detoured to the highway. Unfortunately the return access point just after the bridge over Taylor Creek has been closed with a high gate by new owners, forcing riders to continue on the highway  to the next access point. Worse, the distance from the return to the trail to the end of this construction-free trail segment is only 17 miles. The Corps work has closed large areas of the trail beyond that point and on the southern side of the lake. Since the loop of the lake is about 110 miles, a large portion of the LOST is tied up in construction. Bottom line: Until the Corps finishes a good deal more of it's work, most of the ride around Lake Okeechobee will need to be on the highways. (At least for road bikes.)  The highways have a paved shoulder, but many people, particularly people uncomfortable with riding close to trucks and other wide vehicles, will not be happy doing some of the highway segments.

We learned a lot on this trip. We discovered we still didn't mind "roughing it" in an older rural budget motel. We learned we still enjoyed the quirkiness of rural Florida. (The locals are pure country, but that's not a bad thing when they're friendly about it.)

Now we can move on and plan some bike travel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It really is better to be lucky than to be good. (Jeff Lindsay)

This past weekend we went to Cape Coral with a friend for the Tour de Cape. We were all just doing a metric. The Tour de Cape is a pleasant ride. Low traffic roads, a surprisingly large number of rest stops, good police support, and excellent road marking.

We weren't trying to set any personal best speed records. We set out at a pace that worked for all of us and planned to just enjoy the ride. Shortly after the start, Al struck up a conversation with a guy who was riding near us and invited him to join our little paceline. There was a bit of a headwind. It was good to have another person in the rotation.

A third of the ride in, our friend called out a mechanical. Her rear tire was flat. We'd all just cleared off the road and started taking off the wheel when a van marked "Hollywood Bicycles" pulled up behind us. A guy hopped out removed the wheel and disappeared with it into the back of the van. Moments later he reappeared, popped the repaired wheel back on the bike, waved, and drove off. "How lucky is that?" we said to one another as we continued our ride.

Two thirds of the ride in, our friend called another mechanical. It was her back wheel again. It was flat. Seconds later a woman pulled up on her bike. "Need help? I'm a bike mechanic, by the way." We couldn't believe our friend's luck. Once again her tire was fixed in record time. She gets a flat twice on one ride, and both times a bike mechanic is there to help within a minute!

I'm going to have to ride more with this friend. She's definitely lucky.