Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Pedaling through Miami's lush and lovely residential neighborhoods puts us in a holiday mood. Mature trees provide canopy overhead. Homes, large and small, are nestled behind hedges, walls, and dense tropical foliage, giving them both beauty and privacy in a crowded urban locale. Holiday decorations add sparkle and personality.

And then there are the peacocks. Peacocks are non-native birds that have made themselves at home in Miami. We keep count of the number we see on rides. We saw 43 on just one ride this week.

They are big birds. They roost in trees, on walls, and on roofs. Usually they walk sedately. Occasionally one will fly across a road. They tend to fly low, and we have on occasion had a peacock come close to hitting us. Peacocks are among the most beautiful birds you can find, but beauty has its price. Peacocks are noisy, and some people complain about the mess they make. Luckily, the Code of Miami-Dade County (and therefore also the City of Miami) specifically protects peacocks.

And for that we are thankful.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bonus Day In Central Florida: The Search For A Good Cup of Coffee

Miami spoils coffee lovers. Every corner cafe, every bakery, even the tiniest of coffee shops has great coffee. Strong, rich, delicious. Traveling in other areas of Florida, finding coffee like this can be challenging.

After two days in Central Florida, we were in the grips of Good Coffee Deprivation Syndrome. Every cup of coffee we tried since arriving in Clermont had been less than adequate. Today we headed out on a recovery ride with one target in mind: a good cup of coffee! So we rolled the bikes through the motel lobby, out the front doors, and pedaled off. We took the Horrible Hundred route up the North Ridge climb and picked up the South Lake Trail. The trail system is perfect for a recovery ride. We took the South Lake Trail to the West Orange Trail and pedaled through Winter Garden. It was too early to stop for coffee at this point so we continued on the trail system until we had ridden half the day's planned miles. Then we turned around and pedaled back to Winter Garden and a coffee shop that had been recommended to us. Yes! A good cup of coffee at last! Refreshed, we pedaled back to the motel.

Miles: 51.
South Lake Trail near Clermont

South Lake Trail

West Orange Trail

Bridge on the West Orange Trail

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 Horrible Hundred

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving each year we drive to Clermont in Central Florida for the Florida Freewheelers' Horrible Hundred. It is our favorite annual ride in Florida.

Normally we do rides like this by ourselves. Riding in a group is easier, but the views from a paceline are not as interesting as when you are riding by yourself. But this year a large group from the West Side Sunset Bandits team was going, and they were nice enough to extend an invitation to us to join them. The biggest part of their group was doing the hundred mile route which didn't interest us. But a small group was doing the 70 mile route, and we like that ride immensely.

We decided to follow our pattern from past years. Rather than face the mob scene of the Waterfront Park start and the fairly uninteresting warm up ride around the lake, we chose to ride our bikes from our motel and join the route after the pretty but ho-hum ride around the lake but before the first climb of the day up North Ridge. We'd stop at the top of the climb and wait for our group to ride by. Which they did, and we hopped on our bikes and pedaled on down the road.

There were six of us in our little group. One rider was only doing the 35 mile route, which meant he would ride with us for a bit over 25 miles. He was just beginning to develop his climbing skills, but his descending skills were amazing! He was a natural: fearless, a perfect tucked position, body fluidly shifting as he maneuvered down each hill to rejoin our group. We caught up with the larger hundred mile group and rode with them for a while. At the rest stop before our two groups would head in different directions, one of the guys from our small group felt confident enough to commit to the hundred mile group. So there were then four in our small group.

So on down the road the four of us pedaled. We had some minor climbs and then Sugarloaf ahead. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Finally it was up Sugarloaf, the well-earned rest stop at the top of the climb, and the short 10-ish miles to the finish. But it was in these final miles that we had our treat for the day. The route had been changed! Two mean climbs near the end had been replaced by a route that gave us an long awesome descent! Best end to a ride in the hills of Central Florida ever.

We left our friends not far from the finish to head back to our motel. As we pedaled towards the motel, we made our plans for the evening. The evening's plans whispered louder than our plans for doing a few more miles. We laughed and headed back to our room for a shower.

Miles: 66.8. Climbing: 2637 feet.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter. (James A. Garfield)

It was an entertaining week.

We pedaled with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We pedaled in pacelines and by ourselves. We pedaled city streets, suburban streets, and rural roads. We pedaled in places where we could hear birdsong and breaking waves. We pedaled in traffic, where the loud traffic noise drowned all other sounds. We pedaled in the dark, in the first light of day, and in bright midday sun.

No two days were alike.

Each day was a different mood, a different ambiance. It strengthened our belief that our enjoyment of cycling is based on the contrast between different rides. The rush of a high intensity fast ride is more interesting when you also do short, quiet rides for coffee or errands. A social group ride on one day contrasts vividly with the focused energy of a long solitary ride on another day.

Art, design, music, and life all rely on repetition and variation. Repetition creates unity and order. Variation creates interest and meaning. We have routines that get us out on our bicycles. The routines build a sense of order, unifying the flow of time, and organizing the parade of days. The different types of rides and the different places we go keep cycling interesting and a vital part of the pattern of our lives.

Man cannot live by bread alone...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Marathon, Day 2 (Is This A Catchy Post Title Or What?)

Today we wandered the back streets of Marathon before heading north past Duck Key and the Hawks Cay Resort and continuing on into Layton. That was all into the wind. Then we turned around and (wheeeeee!) pedaled back home with a tailwind. Today's ride was all about checking out the improvements to the Overseas Highway bike trail here in the Keys.

Riding your bike through the Middle and Lower Keys is fun and beautiful, but traffic on the Overseas Highway is constant and noisy. Being able to move to a bike path just 20 feet or so from the highway may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in noise and road debris. The downside of riding on a bike path is that other bikes are also on the path, some of which may be whizzing along at speeds up to (gasp!) 10 mph!

Today we enjoyed some long, long bridges built just for pedestrians and bikes.

This trip was a spur of the moment thing. We talked about it late on Friday, and we had it put together in an hour or two. We have an easy recipe for trips like this:

  • The destination is any place within 2 hours from home by car.
  • We keep things simple, easy, and inexpensive.
  • Lodging is ideally a two-star hotel or motel with high customer ratings and something that makes it a little different from the others around.
  • It has to be an efficiency because we'll be hitting the local grocery store each day for meals.
  • It has to have good Internet.

 For this trip we booked into an older motel located on an old marina-style lagoon just south of the airport in Marathon. It has simple but spacious efficiency units with large screened patios. The bed isn't a memory foam wonder, but it is comfortable. The appliances all work, and there are adequate pots and pans, dishes, glasses and cups, kitchen tools, and silverware. It is decorated in mismatched vintage pieces from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, all painted white or cream. Towels are scratchy but adequate. Internet service is solid.

What's the "something different" that makes this place interesting? Well, I mentioned the big screen patio that each efficiency has. And you know the breakfast coffee room in most hotels and motels? Well this is the "coffee room" at this place:
Not bad, eh?
(Today's miles: 50.8)

Monday, November 2, 2015


The Old Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge
My first visit to the Keys was when I was just 4 1/2 years old. My family was crossing the country with my father's job, living on military bases or in our family's tiny house trailer. When we got to South Florida, my mother took one look at base housing and drove the trailer to Marathon. Dad, she said, could commute to work. She and her children were living on the water's edge in Marathon. So I spent part of a glorious year exploring shallow aqua waters, discovering sea urchins, conchs, sea cucumbers, and a wondrous multitude of tiny tropical fish.

Marathon is just a 110 miles to the south of our current home in Miami, the perfect distance for a spur of the moment trip. Which is what we decided we needed a couple days ago. So here we are in Marathon.

Today we rode our bikes south, crossing the 7-Mile Bridge. We rode through Bahia Honda State Park, our favorite state park in all of Florida. Pedaling back to the East Coast Greenways bike path, we continued south to Big Pine Key. We criss-crossed the back roads of Big Pine Key, stopping at a grocery store for cold sodas. We rode over to No Name Key, headed back to Big Pine Key, then turned back toward Marathon, taking a detour down Long Beach Drive, a lovely ride which gave us our one and only sighting of a tiny Key deer.

The first half of the ride we had the tail wind so common this time of year when you are heading south. It was glorious. We flew down the road. The second half? Headwind, of course. We were dripping with sweat when we got back to our motel.

Needless to say, the post ride swim in the motel's pool was awesome.
(Today's miles: 63)
Bahia Honda State Park

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride

This week was the Everglades Bicycle Club's Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride. We've done this ride a number of times. As a metric century by ourselves. As a metric century with a peloton. And as a leisurely century by ourselves.

This year we were doing something new. The Freedom Ride benefits the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, a branch of Achilles International. This year we were going to be be cyclist buddies to one of Team Freedom's handcyclists doing the 65 mile route. So Sunday Al and I met Larry at ride headquarters at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. We chatted briefly with Larry's wife and some other folks who were there, then we all pedaled off on the ride.

Larry, it turned out, was an interesting guy. He was easy to talk to, friendly and unpretentious. We shared stories about who we were, what we did, and stuff like that. He talked about his handcycle and the handcycle he was hoping to get sometime soon. The new one would let him ride in a more recumbent position, a position that would be less stressful on his back. I hadn't thought about the nuances of the fit of handcycles. It was interesting stuff. Larry's cycling style was also interesting, particularly his approach to climbs. His face held a focused little half smile. His head tipped forward, and he cranked with a smooth steady rhythm that didn't slow a beat all the way to the top of whatever incline the road put in front of him. Our down-the-road team was Larry, Al and me, and RV, our Honda Gold Wing Motorcycle Club escort. RV (yep, that's his nickname) rode a luscious dark red motorcycle trike, and at rest stops we coaxed him to tell us a little about his travels on it. Fun stuff. Not long after heading out on the ride, we were joined by Carole, another EBC cyclist buddy. Even farther down the road we added Tom, another EBC cyclist buddy. It was a nice size group wheeling down the road.

And I'll admit there were some amusing incidents on the ride. Like when I "lost" my group at the start.

We were at the starting line. I was laughing and talking with some friends. The ride started. I heard Al call my name. But when I looked up to find Al and Larry, they had disappeared into the mass of rolling bikes.

Crap! I did this last year and "lost" Al at the start. It took me miles of pedaling before I found Al. I was soooooooo not going to hear the end of this. Two years in a row!

I headed over to a guy I thought was Al. It wasn't him. Trying not to look hysterical, I devised a strategy and put it into operation. I drifted back through the mass of riders, just in case they were behind me rather than out front. Most of the low handcycles had tall orange flags over their back wheels. So I sprinted from flag to flag. By the time I had done the mile and a half ride around the speedway, I hadn't found Larry or Al, but I got lots of amusing comments from friends as I pedaled furiously past them through the ranks of riders.

I continued my chase down the road. A team let me slide into their paceline, which gave me a bit of a rest as I continued chasing handcycle flags down the road. Finally I found them. There they were, chatting amiably as they pedaled down the road, no doubts in their mind that I'd get there eventually!

Then there were the flat tires I got on the second half of the ride. I managed to run over a nail that damaged my rear tire. The group rolled on down the road while Al and I fixed the flat. We caught up with Larry and the gang at Card Sound Bridge after a full-tilt boogie chase.

It went from amusing to annoying just miles from the end of the ride. The tire gave out and flatted again. This time Al said, "Wait here, I'll go get the car and come back for you." (My hero!) I parked my bike in the shade of a palm and gave the tire a thorough check. It was a new tire, but that nail had messed it up but good. We ride too much to keep a problem tire. My opinion was that there was no use fixing it. When Al returned with the car, he agreed. Time to get to the bike shop and pick up a new tire.

An interesting way to end this year's Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride, to say the least.
Waiting under a palm tree for Al to pick me up.