Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you're not lost, you're not much of an explorer. (John Perry Barlow)

GPS and navigation programs have made getting around a lot easier for people like me who are (ahem) navigationally challenged. I use my bike's Garmin Edge for navigation, but when I'm riding around a town or city, I find the map app on my phone infinitely more helpful. Why? Because it talks to me. "In 1000 feet, turn right onto 22nd Street." And if I wander off my course, it politely nags me back onto my route. "Make a u-turn, then turn right on 11th Street." Way, way better than the "beep" the Garmin makes as I approach a turn. So it's not unusual for me to use both the Garmin and the phone app on a city ride.

I've been exploring Miami on my bike. Now Miami and the close in communities like the Gables, the Grove, Midtown and Miami Beach are pretty easy. But as you go farther afield into the suburbs, things get more challenging.

Take my most recent ride from my home in Brickell to the wilds of West Kendall and back. Kendall and West Kendall are the true suburban wilderness for a downtown dweller like me. Looping side streets, cul-de-sacs galore, elevated freeways with few crossing points, major roads without bike lanes, strip malls randomly scattered about, and other car-centric/bicycle-unfriendly features. I did about a 50 mile ride, at least half of it doing loops on roads while the little navigation voice in my right ear was nagging me to do this and to do that so I'd get back to my designated route. All to avoid route segments I felt were too dangerous for me to ride. (And I am not an overly timid rider.) It was totally insane.

But I had a great time, and I plan to do this a lot more.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I do not burn bridges. I just loosen the bolts a little each day. (Unknown)

I don't want a divorce, just a trial separation

My clipless pedals are not working for me lately. I need a break from them. I found a pair of studded flat mountain bike pedals among our old bike gear, bagged them, and took my road bike a couple of blocks down the street to our local bike shop. The bike mechanic raised his eyebrows, obviously questioning my request. But I was not going to overshare and discuss the matter with him. In minutes I was leaving, my clipless pedals bagged, the flat pedals installed on my road bike.

The foot and ankle contain a quarter of the bones in the body (26). There are 33 joints, and about a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons. I've always had foot and ankle issues. They were complicated in middle age by arthritis. Recently I'd been having problems using clipless pedals. Pulling even a little with the pedal system was painful. I was getting ankle cramps during and after rides. In short, problems from the clipless pedals were outweighing benefits.

This weekend we went to Clermont, Florida, for the Horrible Hundred. We were doing our usual Horrible Hundred kilometers, the 70 mile route. And (cue the drum roll) it went wonderfully. No problems on the flats. No problems on the climbs. And during and after the ride, no foot or ankle pain or cramps.

I'm going to see if the "trial separation" from my clipless pedals lets my feet and ankles recover. I'll do some stretching and strengthening exercises, and I'll spend my Tuesdays out on Virginia Key and Key Biscayne practicing pedaling smooth little circles with studded flat pedals.

I like my clipless pedals. Maybe a trial separation is all that is needed. (Watch this space.)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Inaugural Florida Tour de Force Southern Leg (Coral Gables to Key Largo)

Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) member Ruben Fuentes has touted Florida Tour de Force for some time. When Ruben helped EBC bring a new Tour de Force segment, the Southern Leg, to the Miami area, we just couldn't pass it up. A police escorted group ride with a pace car, from the Denny's in Coral Gables to the Denny's on Key Largo with the trip home by charter bus. And the ride benefits the families of fallen law enforcement officers. Nice.

So the second Saturday in November found us with almost 200 other cyclists at the Denny's in Coral Gables, waiting for our pace car, a black Lamborghini no less, to lead us down the road to the Keys.

The route took us to the Miami-Homestead Speedway for a loop on the track. A nice route via Card Sound Road to Key Largo. Rest stops were at Denny's located along the way. The ride was around 67 miles, a little over a metric century. The pace car, ride leaders, and SAG vehicles contained the riders to simplify keeping the route clear of traffic and safe. Riders who had mechanical problems or fell behind got picked up by the SAG truck and transported to the next group rest stop.

What's the One Big Thing to know about this ride? OK. This ride is not about speed. It's the fun being part of a police escorted group ride. Police motorcycles, lights flashing, leapfrogging ahead to hold traffic at stop lights and intersections. While the cyclists just pedal happily along: Traffic waits for the cyclists! That, people, is worth twice the current cost of the ride.

If you missed this year's ride, don't miss the next one. I know Al and I will be there.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Three Rivers and a Submarine

St. Marys is a tiny historic Georgia coastal town just north of the Florida line. Nearby is Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. On the first Saturday of November, St. Marys has a great little bicycle event called the Three Rivers Ride.

Last year I did the ride on my own. (Al was recovering from some tricep surgery.) This year we both got to do the ride. The route is lovely and coastal rural. It stops by the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Crooked River State Park, and darts along the coastal salt marsh. Route marking is excellent. SAG vehicles roam the route attentively. Ride marshals are also on the route if needed. Rest stops are frequent and nicely stocked. And the after-ride meal is pure coastal small-town wonderful: a bountiful array of slow cookers filled with homemade chilis of every description made by bicycle club volunteers. All staged in a charming downtown riverfront park adjacent to the Cumberland Island ferry dock.

We like this ride so much we plan to do it again next year. Including another stop for even more barbecue at Willie Jewell's restaurant. The Sloppy Pig sandwich (cole slaw topped pulled pork) with a side of Brunswick stew is purely wonderful. And next year we'll take some time to catch the ferry to Cumberland Island, too.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough. (Charles Dudley Warner)

Keeping old bicycle gear is a luxury we can't afford. We live in a tiny home, a studio condominium.

When I got new bicycle travel bags this year, getting rid of our old touring bags became a priority. But it took three attempts before I finally made the old gear go away.

Many years ago we had panniers. I hated them. They were noisy, always needing adjustment, and awkward to pack. We replaced them with several sizes of rear hard-side trunk bags that we used for years. They worked well on trips, but they took up a lot of space when not in use.

It was easier to part with the old bikes than the old bike bags.

The bags held memories. Before I could part with them, I found I had to spend a little time archiving those memories. Then I was ready. We pulled the bags and racks into a pile. Some we threw away. Some we donated.

It was surprising to feel sadness and loss for something as prosaic as travel bags. But of course the sadness was simply the bittersweet feeling you get whenever you deal with change. Stuff changes. If you're lucky, little is lost and some things get better.

And besides, now we have just baggage enough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Horses and Hills: The Gainesville Cycling Festival

For years people told us about the Gainesville Cycling Festival. They called the Horse Farm Hundred their favorite ride in inland Florida. We kept making plans, plans that got scrapped because of schedule conflicts. This year we finally got there.

We were initially confused about the weekend event. People kept calling it by different names. Then we figured it out. The weekend has two events. The Sunday event (the Horse Farm Hundred) is almost 40 years old. Then about 25-30 years ago they added the Saturday event (the Santa Fe Century).

Saturday's Santa Fe Century has 103, 68, 55, 32, and 18 mile rides. There is the road ride and a gravelers event. The routes stay pretty much in Alachua County where Gainesville is located. 

Sunday's Horse Farm Hundred has 102, 57, 45, 30, 25 mile rides. These routes are in both Alachua County and Marion County to the south.

With around 350-400 riders, this is a perfect size event. (Think Goldilocks: not too big, not too small.) There's something for every type of rider. Short rides for the casual riders. Pace car led century rides for the dedicated. You have pacelines, solo riders, and small groups of two or three. Routes are well marked. GPS guidance is good. SAG support was well organized. They call the Alachua County routes "flat" but coastal cyclists would call them gently rolling hills. Marion County's Horse Farm route is definitely hilly and more challenging. The scenery along the routes is wonderful. It's almost all rural, but you also get to ride briefly through a charming old town or two.

We drove up to Gainesville and did both days. We normally ride the metric century routes at events, and that is what we aimed for in Gainesville. We go to events to enjoy the routes and the scenery, not to watch wheels. While we didn't know a soul at the ride, riders quickly formed paceline groups as readily as well-trained sled dogs. So we rode with a group for a half hour or so each day, enjoying the social mood. Then we let the groups pedal down the road while we stopped for a picture or two. Which then let us ride the rest by ourselves, enjoying the ranches, farms, woods, and, of course, the splendid horses, along the route.

This is going to be an annual road trip for us. It's a winner.

One of the many lovely horse paddocks along the route.

Creeks and a lake or two were worth a stop along the route.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Two wrongs don't make a right, but they make a good excuse. (Thomas Szasz)

I tried to keep to our regular routine. And it worked for a while. Nothing seemed to be going right. Hurricanes tearing up places I love. Sick friends. It had done a number on my mood. I was counting on the comforting routine of four days a week out pedaling my bicycle to get me out of the doldrums.

Tuesday morning we set off for our usual ride on the Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne. Al had his speed zones and intervals and what all. I do my miles, working on my pedal stroke and cadence. But with every mile my mood darkened. My mind kept focusing on my sore back and wooden legs rather than the lovely day and scenery.

Al was waiting for me on Virginia Key. I rolled up to him and just announced, "I'm not having any fun; I'm going home." And I pedaled away.

For the first mile I argued with myself to get with the program. Go back. Tell Al I was a moron. Finish the ride.

But I didn't. I kept pedaling toward the mainland. And I noticed that my mood was getting lighter! My speed going down the bridge was nearly a personal best. Yeah!

I rode home, but by a rambling route that took me past a few of my favorite pieces of public art, a couple of fountains, and (of course) the best garden in the area.

It was silly and childish to need an excuse to use my training day for a fun ramble. I should, but don't, feel guilty. (I only rode 18.5 miles for goodness sake!)

I had fun.