One of the best annual event rides in South Florida is put on by the Everglades Bicycle Club in October just south of Miami. This year's ride, the Speedway Freedom Ride 2014, was going to benefit the Achilles International's Freedom Team of Wounded Warriors.
We lined up in the pre-dawn light. Then they opened the gates to the tunnel that led to the track. We slowly rode through the tunnel, turned on to the inner track, and pedaled down to the starting line on the main track. At the front were the ranks of hand cyclists in their low-slung hand-cranked recumbent bikes surrounded by their support riders. Minutes later we started our lap of the banked NASCAR track. It looked huge! At the banked turns some riders stayed low. Others rode the turns at the top. It seemed very scary up there on our two skinny road bike tires! But the view and experience were worth it.
Al pedaled past me as I was busy taking photographs. It wasn't until I was finishing the lap of the track that I missed him. "No problem," I thought. We were supposed to be riding in a large EBC pace line. He probably was already pedaling down the road with them. I rode along, slipping between groups on the road looking for him and our friends. Nada. Just as I was ready to stop and pull out my phone, I spotted Al. Together again, we joined the stream of riders. The large EBC pace line was long gone down the route. Not a problem. Soon we spotted friends from our weekend EBC rides and put together a tidy little double pace line.
No matter whether you were doing the metric (62 mile) or century (100 mile) ride, the routes were the same for the first 50 miles. So we had a wonderful ride with our EBC friends down to Key Largo and back to Homestead. The weather was perfect. The wind was just a breeze. The scenery was lovely. It was the type of uninterrupted riding that lets you lose yourself in the fun of the ride. Our pace line moved smoothly past other riders. "Join our group! Hop on the back!" we called as we passed them. Some did. Our group grew. Riding in the pace line made the miles easy. Everybody took their turn pulling at the front of the pace line. We had lots of energy as we crossed Card Sound Bridge. The view from the top of the sparkling waters and coastline was delightful.
Too soon we were at the rest stop where the routes for the metric and century rides spit. Everyone else in our group was doing the metric. We chatted and said goodbye. Then it was pedals up, and Al and I headed down the road by ourselves for the century ride.
We hadn't planned to be riding by ourselves. But we'd dawdled too long munching, talking, and generally having a good time with friends. The people we had planned to ride with were already down the road. The route was well marked. We were used to being a pace line of two.
Along the way we stopped and talked to some friends, slowed to ride with another rider with a problem, and had a fine time being bicycle tourists more than usual. We'd stopped for a photograph at Everglades National Park when we suddenly realized how late it was. (Oops.)
As we headed back from Everglades, I saw a SAG vehicle trailing us. It turned out we were the last riders on the route! "OK," Al said. "Somebody has to be last." We always said we were slow pokes. No one will argue with us now!
The last rest stop was closing down as we pulled in. They were a great group, and we had some laughs as we refilled our water bottles. We waved good-bye and pedaled away. Trailed now by two guardian SAG vehicles all the way to the Speedway. We thanked them and pedaled into the Speedway to join our friends.
No money can buy a memory like this.