Friday, June 16, 2017

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things. (Frank A. Clark)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a study in climbs and descents. The road tips up and down; it is virtually never flat.

We needed a plan for our bike rides here. We wanted to ride six consecutive days. Normally we decide how far to ride each day. On the Blue Ridge Parkway we decided to focus on how much climbing to do each day. We decided on daily rides with between 2000 to 2600 feet of climbing. We weren't out to meet any big personal goals. We just wanted a scenic, fun ride every day. No losing time to rest days. No overworked muscles.

We quickly slipped into our regular climbing riding style. We each found our own climbing rhythm and pace. On every climb Al quickly disappeared from my view as he pedaled ahead of me down the road. Which wasn't a problem since I knew he'd be waiting for me somewhere ahead.

We stopped a lot, sometimes for pictures, sometimes just to enjoy a cascade of water or a stunning view. Overlooks are a must as are creeks, bridges, and big displays of blooming anything. Why visit and ride an area if you don't take the time to see it?

We did two rides twice. My favorite I called the Almost Three Gap ride. The total climbing was about 2600 feet with about three quarters of the climbing being on the first half of the ride. Along the route we passed three signs for different gaps, the last being a sign that announced the gap ahead. (We didn't go all the way to that gap as we turned around at a scenic picnic area just short of it. Hence the Almost Three Gap ride.) The first half of the ride was a never-ending 7-8 percent grade climb, mile after mile, with false flats of 4-5 percent grades sprinkled along the way. (Find your rhythm, chugga-chugga-chugga.) The way back? An awesome series of long, fast descents. (Wheeeeee!!!) And the scenery? Hazy mountain vistas, heavily forested mountain slopes, wildflowers, mountain laurel, rock walls, split rail fences, and narrow strips of high meadow.

Riding a bicycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway reminds you of a simple life lesson. Every big climb is actually a series of smaller climbs. Achievable climbs.

Baby steps.



Friday, June 9, 2017

It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. (Lucille Ball)

The hazy Blue Ridge Mountains softly zig-zag along the horizon. The rich greens of the hardwood forest cover the mountains and fill the valleys. In the shade of the forest canopy, stands of mountain laurel fill corners and hollows with soft clouds of pale pink. Roads are narrow and winding.

Mountain laurel.
We are in North Carolina. We have taken a room in a comfortable motel in Mt. Airy. We are here to ride our bikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mt. Airy itself is a tourist town: neat, tidy, and curated to evoke memories of Mayberry and native son, Andy Griffith. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a quiet, limited access, narrow, low speed ribbon of pavement that runs 469 miles along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Being on it transports you back to a slower, simpler time.

Besides riding our bikes, we have scouted out the best ice cream shops in town. While in the area, there is one other culinary treat we relish: traditional Southern biscuits. We want lots of biscuits.

Lots of narrow roads to explore.
Today we met a flock of happy cyclists pedaling down the Parkway, accompanied by a large passenger van. Miles farther down the road we came across a cargo truck, a panel van, a bunch of bicycles, and a tidy SAG stop. We stopped for a chat. It was an Adventure Cycling tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway. They were getting ready to break down the SAG stop and move on down the Parkway to their next SAG stop location. Knowing they had work to do, we waved them goodbye and pedaled on.

Road trips are curious adventures. Other people's itineraries and routes may work when you are just spending a couple of days on a trip. Beyond a few days, the success of the road trip depends on your understanding of the things big and small that make you happy.
  • Ice cream.
  • Biscuits. 
  • Hazy mountain vistas. 
  • Mountain laurel. 
It pays to know what makes you happy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be. (Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh)


Cough, cough, cough.

Al and I have had chest colds for over a week now. Every time we increase intensity on bike rides, the coughing gets worse. Bummer.

The problem with having a cold is that there really isn't anything you can actually do about it. Drink lots of fluids. (Check.) Rest. (Check.) Wait for it to run its course. (Check.)

By my calculations, we will be over this before we start riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At least that's my hope. If not, we're going to have some interesting climbs. And it isn't like you can avoid climbing. The one thing I remember vividly from living up there was that there were no flat roads, just roads that didn't go up and down quite as much.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I've got those Blue Ridge Mountain blues. (Cliff Hess)

Some places have magic. They can form a special bond which remains even when you move far away. They can surprise you, sending you peaceful yet melancholy memories at random moments throughout your life. The Blue Ridge Mountains have that kind of magic for me.

We had two homes in the Blue Ridge. I particularly loved our first, a small log home perched on a low ridge surrounded by national forest. The large back porch faced the mountain where the Appalachian Trail crossed the highway at Neels Gap's Walasi-yi Center. At twilight they switched on the porch light there. It looked like a twinkling star up on the mountain. Sometimes I'd sit out on our porch as darkness fell, gazing at that twinkling light and listening to the sound of the evening breeze in the forest's trees.

I love the green lushness of South Florida. I love spotting peacocks, parrots, and macaws on our bike rides around town. I love the palm trees and the ocean at dawn. I love the busy causeways to the islands and the quiet tracks in the Everglades. But when a friend posts a photo from the Blue Ridge Mountains, or I hear a snatch of bluegrass music, I once again begin to long for hazy mountain vistas and the whispering sounds of the forest.

Al and I talked this spring. We needed to take a trip back to the Blue Ridge. We decided on going to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yet somewhere on the BRP that was new to us, somewhere we hadn't been to before. Why not Mt. Airy, North Carolina? A real place that most people know by a fictional name: Mayberry. It's the basis for the little country town of that old TV sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. The one with Sheriff Andy, Deputy Barney Fife, Aunt Bee, and little Opie. Lots of nice roads for long bike rides there, too.

I'm smiling just thinking about it.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I think sometimes the best training is to rest. (Cristiano Ronaldo)

Sometimes to go faster, you need to slow down.

I'm like everybody else. I measure my days by to-do lists. I hear a mental voice say "move!" when I curl up in a lounge chair for too long. I worry about "wasted" time.

But this isn't a healthy way to live. Finishing a to-do list is important, but getting enough sleep each night is more important. There was a time in my youth when I limped by on very little sleep. Now I understand that's just a goofy way to live. Your health is like a checking account. You can write big checks against it for only so long before it gets overdrawn.

Your body needs sleep to recover and replenish itself. Your mind also needs rest from constant activity and confusion. Some people meditate. Some read. Some garden. Some do yoga. Whatever clears your mind and refreshes you will work.

Sometimes to go faster, you need to slow down.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. (Michael Jordan)

I wanted a new project for the summer. As luck would have it, I found myself playing with a new camera, taking pictures of a fountain. A friend joked that I could be a modern Ponce de Leon searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth.

Boom! A perfect frivolous summer project was born. I would take bike lean pictures at fountains wherever we pedaled. 

This is going to be fun.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Everglades Bicycle Club Sebring Weekend Getaway (Renewed and Improved)

The Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) has been doing a Sebring Weekend Getaway for a lot of years. Three days of riding in beautiful Highlands County. Until this year it was based at Sebring's Kenilworth Lodge, a historic hotel that dated back to 1916. This past year the old place shuttered its doors and windows, ending a hundred years of continuous service.

The creaky historic lodge had sentimental memories for EBC, but its closing was an opportunity to upgrade. Event director Greg Neville was up to the task. He searched Sebring and chose the Inn on the Lakes, a modern hotel designed to mimic the elegant luxury of the hotels found in Sebring back in the 1920s. And that is how this past weekend, EBC found itself rubbing shoulders with a Porche club and a lot of golfers.

The lake view from the restaurant and pool is gorgeous, complete with a nearby colony of egrets. Al and I and some EBC friends sipped our breakfast coffee watching a little blue heron slowly walk past us on the shoreline while snowy white egrets came and went from their colony and an anhinga caught its breakfast near the shore of the lake. The nearby pool deck is dotted with tables, comfortable furniture, and a beautiful assortment of potted flowering plants and trees. Friday's wine and cheese social was held indoors in a large conference room. Saturday's barbecue dinner? Out on that gorgeous pool deck. This was a mini resort weekend with bicycles! (Thank you Greg Neville and all your helpers!)

The routes and SAG support provided by the Highlands Pedalers is a big reason EBC enjoys Sebring and Highlands County. They give us routes so that we can enjoy the gently rolling hills, the glittering lakes, the Spanish moss draped oaks, the pastures of cattle and horses, and the miles of citrus groves. And this year there was another treat. Legacy Bicycles, our favorite Sebring bicycle shop, had moved to a new location near the center of town. They surprised us by having a special sale while we were in town. And I ask you people: what cyclist can resist visiting a bike shop to do some sale shopping?

We had a great time. We will definitely be at the 2018 Sebring Weekend Getaway.
Beautiful rural Highlands County.
You don't find roads like this in Miami...
Gently rolling hills and trees draped in Spanish moss.