Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Ice Cream Ride

We were trying to decide on where to ride on Memorial Day. I had only one criteria: We were going to have ice cream on the ride.

We checked Facebook to see if there were any rides posted. Bingo, we had a winner. There was a ride to Robert Is Here with a group from Everglades Bicycle Club. Perfect.

We popped the bikes on the car and drove down to the meet up spot, Larry and Penny Thompson Park at the edge of Redland, the agricultural area just southwest of Miami. With Al's road bike still out of service, we were on our old bikes. It would be the third day in a row we'd ridden with road bike groups on our old bikes. I was definitely missing my road bike. On the other hand, it was a short ride (40 miles), and the pace was only 17-19 mph. I kept telling myself it was good training for increasing my power on the bike. I'd be pushing the biggest gears on the old mountain bike, just to keep up. Al was good with coming back from Robert Is Here on our own.

So we set off for Robert Is Here, Miami's legendary roadside fruit stand. The route was perfect. The group rode well together. It was an altogether lovely early summer morning.

Then we were there. Robert Is Here. Tropical fruit milkshakes. Yum. Al and I split a sapodilla-banana-coconut milkshake. Cold and delicious.

The perfect Memorial Day morning with EBC friends.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Early Morning on the 7-Mile Bridge

"Ready to get breakfast? I'm thinking the 7-Mile Grill," said Al. I thought it was a great idea.

Half the fun of staying on Big Pine Key is going to breakfast at the 7-Mile Grill. It means riding from Big Pine, past Bahia Honda Key and the state park, then over the 7-Mile Bridge to Marathon. Always beautiful, the trip is even more so with the early morning sun sparkling on the water. And when, I ask you, when can you bike seven miles on a bridge other than here in the Keys?

Before we headed out Al warned me. "It is going to be a headwind all the way to Marathon." Big deal, I thought. I'll do whatever it takes to get to coffee and a good omelet. So off we pedaled.

It wasn't just a little headwind. It was a 20 mph headwind! It wasn't that long a ride. Just 17 miles. But we had to work really hard. We laughed when we found ourselves flying over the bridge at an awesome 9 mph! By the time we wheeled into the parking lot of the 7-Mile Grill we were famished.

Before going back to Big Pine, we rode down the span of the original bridge that leads over to Pigeon Key. Now open only to non-motorized traffic, the old bridge seems too narrow to have been used by cars and large trucks.

The ride back to Big Pine, with the wind now a strong tailwind, was a treat. We were barely working at all and our old bikes were cruising at 20+ mph. I went over the bridge without much effort in my biggest gears. The downhill was a total blast.

We spent the rest of the day pedaling around back roads of Big Pine Key doing some research on possible places to stay on future trips. Because we will be back to ride the 7-Mile Bridge some more.
A span of the old railroad bridge.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Search of Key Deer

"Let's run away to the Keys," I said to Al. He liked the idea.

Many secondary roads and streets in the Keys are not road bike friendly. But what we are riding this week are basically old mountain bikes gussied up for city riding. Perfect for the Keys. Both of us thought of the same place down in the Keys: Big Pine Key. Close to the 7-Mile Bridge and home of the National Key Deer Refuge.

We drove down to Big Pine. Our favorite lodgings were booked, so we headed to a cheap fall-back, the Big Pine Motel. (We'd discovered it when we got hit by huge winds while riding from Key West to Marathon a few years back. We were literally being blown off the road, and we didn't think crossing the 7-Mile Bridge in those winds was safe. The motel is old and looks decrepit, but it is very clean and functional and the staff is great.) We arrived on Big Pine mid-morning, but the helpful motel staff had our room ready and checked us in. In no time we were out wandering around the island on our bikes.

We cruised the back roads of Big Pine and No Name Keys, stopping whenever we spotted one of the tiny Key deer. We wandered down some of the trails in the National Key Deer Refuge. We saw quite a number of Key deer, particularly over on No Name Key.

We stopped for a late lunch at the No Name Pub. And what was hitting up the pub patrons for a snack? Yep, a clever little Key deer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Back to Our Roots

Sunday Al saw a problem with one of his water bottle holders. Monday his bike went to the bike shop. There was a problem. A very big problem. There was a crack in the frame. These are moments when it is good to be dealing with a good company and a good bike shop. The frame was under warranty, the bike shop was efficient in dealing with getting the replacement, and things would be back to normal in no time.

But not for a week or so. So we will be riding our old bikes for a bit. We are using them for our regular long rides as well as for errands and other short rides. We'll scale back the length of long rides to fit into our done-with-the-fun-by-lunch schedule. Road bikes are speedy. The old bikes cruising speed is a comfortable 16-17 mph.

The up side to this struck us on today's ride. We cruised over rough pavement, cobble-pattern crosswalks, raggedy pavement, and patches of sand and gravel. In comfort. Let's hear it for good old mountain bike suspension! Slow but comfortable. And ever so nimble.

Makes me want to find some single track out in the palmetto praire.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Miami Coffee Rides

Four mornings a week we are out on long rides on our road bikes. The other three days we rest from that kind of cycling. Biking on the other three days is limited to short, easy rides on our favorite old bikes. These old bikes once were serious hard-tail mountain bikes. Now they are 20 years old and, like us, retired. Back when they were young we rode them on fire roads in the Blue Ridge Mountains, down remote desert trails, and around lots of other wonderful spots. In old age they've been fitted with Thudbuster rear suspension seatposts, their front suspension has been dialed down handle nothing more serious than choppy pavement, their handlebars modified, and their wheels sport city street tires. They are great touring bikes (if you don't mind slow) because you can take them on any road or shortcut you can come up with to get from point A to point B. And the gearing is awesome.

But this week they did their new job: meandering through Little Havana and Cora Gables for cafecitos. (A cafecito is an espresso with sugar, a Miami staple.) Little Havana is right next door to the neighborhood where we live. Lots of great places for coffee, snacks, breakfast, and lunch.

Traffic, it turns out, is not much of a problem. We're slow on the old bikes, and we stick to the more bike friendly routes. The ambiance of wheeling leisurely through these charming Miami neighborhoods is not to be missed.

This is adding a whole new dimension to living in Miami.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Urban Living, Part 2

We moved to Miami a smidge over 2 years ago. Part 1 of our transition to urban living was getting in the habit of not using our car. Almost everything we need is within walking distance or easily reached by either of Miami's two light rail systems (MetroRail or the free PeopleMover). So, after 2 years in Miami, we don't use our car much. It often sits gathering dust for a week or more. When it does get used, it most often is to transport us and our bikes someplace.

This year we are ready to start Part 2 of our transition to urban living. We will be using bikes as transportation in the city. If something is a mile or so from home, it is an easy walk. But there are things that are, say, 3-5 miles from home. Too far to walk. And often not on the route of the light rail system. It seems silly to use the car for such a short distance. We could take the bus. But it's even easier to use a bicycle.

So for the next few months we are going to make some changes. Instead of walking to the local coffee shop, cafe, or restaurant, we are going to pick one that is too far to walk to but just right for a short bike ride. No spandex bike clothes or clipless pedal systems either. Urban bike fashion only which is to say, regular casual clothes and shoes. (I toyed with buying an urban-style bike helmet, but decided against it. I find the urban-style helmets hot and uncomfortable compared to my regular road bike helmet. And I'm too much in the habit of wearing a helmet when I'm on any bike to go without, even for a short, casual city ride.)

It's going to be fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

If a woman doesn't chase a man a little, she doesn't love him. (E. W. Howe)

We are back on schedule with our riding. (Out on our road bikes four days a week.) The weatherman even treated us with a preview of things to come: heat, humidity, and rain. The Miami summer trifecta.

We've been getting back to the routines we follow when we ride by ourselves. No drafting. No whining and no bitching.

The no drafting thing is just safer, especially with distractions and traffic. I aim for 3 to 4 bike lengths between us. Following too closely is a major cause of car accidents. It's the same on a bicycle. When you are riding a bicycle in a paceline, drafting definitely makes riding easier. But, since we aren't racing or planning a pro career, why tempt fate when you aren't on a paceline ride? I just chalk the extra difficulty up to "training" - which makes work sound so much more smug and upmarket.

And the "no whining, no complaining" routine? That also is a safety rule. Whining and complaining may be one of the most overlooked causes of homicides among married riding companions.

Our last ride was a case in point. We had spent several hours pedaling furiously, dodging rain clouds (successfully), and finally were within a mere 12 miles of the ride's end. Al (who was up front leading the parade as usual) said he was going to do a series of local loops in the residential area near our home. That way if it started raining hard, we'd be close to home. OK, that sounded reasonable. But when we started the loops, my undercarriage did not like the raggedy road we were taking. Ouch! Ouch! So I whined about it. A bit too much. Suddenly Al signaled a stop. We stopped. He turned and gave me "The Look." "The Look" is that flat-eyed slightly squinted gaze that signals a man close to the edge. Oops. Time not to bicker. Time to quickly negotiate a new plan! Which we did. No weapons were drawn. No blood was spilled. We pedaled off briskly for a loop to Key Biscayne.

Routines are a very, very good thing.