Saturday, November 22, 2014

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching. (William W. Purkey)

It was a gray windy Saturday morning. The weatherman said there was a chance of rain. Even coffee didn't make the day seem better.

We pushed our bikes to the elevator. Saturday is our day to ride with the Everglades Bicycle Club. We pedaled to city hall. Once we reached city hall, the smiles and greetings of friends made the day brighten a bit.

While we were standing around talking before the start, someone suggested we combine the ride groups into one peloton, just for the day. That sounded great to us. They took a vote. Every rider agreed to do one speed group. (Do we trust our ride leaders or what?)

We pedaled off to Black Point Marina. The riders from the slower groups put their hearts into the ride. They looked good. The ride leaders and one or two other strong riders did the pulling. (Very much appreciated when we were heading into the wind on the ride back.) One of the ride leaders slipped around offering suggestions about which gear to use and cadence and such. Nice. It was like having a personal coach.

When we arrived at city hall it got better. There was music. There was laughter. There was dancing.

Smiles all around. A bit of magic on a windy gray day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 2014 Horrible Hundred

This was our seventh Horrible Hundred.

The Horrible Hundred is an annual ride put on by the Florida Freewheelers, a ride up and down the best hills of the Lake Wales Ridge. (The Lake Wales Ridge is what remains of a string of islands that existed eons ago.)

The weather was perfect. It was going to be a fun day. We pedaled away from our motel heading for the start. We were right on schedule. Then Al turned his head and said, "Guess what we forgot in the room. Our ride wristbands."

We pedaled back to the motel at full speed, got our stuff, and headed back. We'd missed the start. But the route ran around the lake then headed east toward the first big climb, North Ridge. The lake loop part didn't have much interest for us. We decided to skip it and join the route where it turned east on Pitt. What with our biking back and forth to our motel, we'll have done the same number of miles as the lake loop anyway. A perfect solution for us.

That was the start of a great ride. We decided to ride alone. The problem with riding in a group is that you can't look around and enjoy the scenery. You have to concentrate on the person in front you or risk an accident. Drafting makes the ride easier, but less interesting. So we kept to ourselves and happily went up and down the hills.

Each year it seems a bit easier. Even Sugarloaf.

And that's a very good thing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. (Mark Twain)

An overnight bicycle trip is couples therapy on wheels.

We decided to trial run our road bike short trip luggage on an overnight trip to the Florida Keys. We picked a destination around 65 miles from home, Bay Harbor Lodge on the southern part of Key Largo. Not too expensive, but with pleasant touches we enjoy.

We rolled the bikes through our building's lobby, waved goodbye to the lobby staff, and headed down the road. The weather was perfect. A nice tailwind all the way to the Keys. After dropping off our little luggage bags in our room, we rode around Key Largo, finally ending up at the grocery. We wanted to buy a picnic meal for our dinner, as well as Gatorade for the ride home. We ran into three guys who were bike camping. When the guys pedaled off, we joked about our memories of riding fully-loaded touring bikes. (Credit card touring isn't as adventurous but it is a whole lot easier.) Back at our lodging we eyed the kayaks and paddle-boats but opted to do some reading instead. We wandered out to the Lodge's waterfront and watched the sun set. It was a perfect day.

The next day began with clouds and spotty showers. Our luck was good, though, and the rain was always over someone else. Soon the clouds were gone. The ride home was into the wind. We slowed our pace and took 3-mile turns pulling. Ten miles from home Al finally fixed a minor problem I was having with my rear luggage rack, and we rolled up to our building's front door with big smiles on our faces.

Like I said, taking an overnight bicycle trip is couples therapy on wheels. You still quibble about the same silly things you always do. But by the end of the trip you remember why you like the other guy so much, even after a lot of years and a lot of trips.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

There’s roads, and there’s roads, And they call. Can’t you hear it? (Bruce Cockburn)

Picking a place to visit by bicycle is really easy. You go online. Check out popular routes on Strava or MapMyRide. Use routes from East Coast Greenways or Adventure Cycling.

My favorite place is a blog, Bicycle Routes 305 (Descubriendo La Florida). It has ideas for rides all over the state of Florida. Take your bike on your car to the route's start for a day trip. Or string routes together for a multi-day adventure.

Use Google maps to find lodging, convenience stores, restaurants, and the like. It's not foolproof, but it works for the most part.

Go by yourself or take some friends. Don't you hear the roads calling?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Today we did a ride looping around the Rickenbacker, Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne with our new short trip bike luggage. We wanted to test all the adjustments and fittings.

Which was a good thing. A bunch of things needed tweaking.

The fun part, though, was checking out the reactions of fellow riders when they saw a couple of nice road bikes with (oh, no!) luggage. Road bikes traditionally have teeny tiny seat bags. Minimalist things. (Not unlike pasties on exotic dancers.) For those of you not immersed in cycling culture, it's all about aerodynamics and weight. Luggage is a no-no, simply profane and vulgar.

It was an amusing ride.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I get ideas about what's essential when packing my suitcase. (Diane von Furstenberg)

We do credit card bicycle touring. No tents. No sleeping bags. No cooking gear. Just us, our bikes, and the absolute essentials.

The easiest trips are for one or two nights on the road. Different people call these mini cycling adventures by different names. S24O is  one popular term. It stands for "sub-24-hour" overnight trip. And most for most people who do them, that means "overnight camping trip." But why camp in a state like Florida whose tourist economy has motels, hotels, and resorts quite literally everywhere? Al and I prefer air conditioning, a hot shower, TV, and WiFi.

We said goodbye to our old short trip bike luggage. It had paid its rent by serving us well for over 10 years. It couldn't be used on our road bikes with their carbon frames. And we wanted to take some of the trips using our road bikes.

After several months of searching and comparing, we finally settled on new bike bags. Our final choice was a rack and bag made by a Canadian company, Arkel. The Randonneur Rack and the Tailrider bag meet our needs. The rack is quick to attach to the bikes. The bag has excellent organizer pockets inside and out. It even has an integrated rain cover.

On the Key West to Fort Meyers Beach ferry a few years ago.
Over the years we've learned to pack light. You don't need a lot. When your suitcase is tiny, you don't carry things you don't absolutely need.

The rainy season has ended. Bike travel season is here. We're ready to go.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Homestead-Miami Speedway Freedom Ride 2014

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.